The Package, Finders Keepers Short Story

Finders Keepers. I have not edited or looked at this since 2008 when I wrote it. I’ll look at it tomorrow.

The divorced retired head West Australian policeman and his girlfriend pulled off the Australian outback dirt road for a comfort stop and refreshments. She grabs food from the 4-wheel drive while he lights a fire. The scream of a car tearing by meant nothing until the bulging travel bag lands at her feet, minutes later the police car roared past.

In the bag is a fortune in used notes. The money solves all their financial problems. So what does the ex-copper do when asked if he knows anything.

Ex-Chief of West Australian Police force James Cartwright was enjoying driving north to Ningaloo Reef. From his home Perth its 1,500 miles away. It’ll take five days to reach this beautiful remote area.

With him is Joan Simmons. Both are divorced and they’ve been together for nearly two years. For James, it’s been the worst two years of his adult life. His ex has cleaned him out. He’s broke. Her lawyers were better, plus her fees were paid by her new wealthy boyfriend.

Joan’s alcoholic husband drank and gambled her into bankruptcy. James and Joan are as devoted as anyone. They’re heading north for a break, some fishing, and Joan can get back into her profession as a photographer.

Chapter 1

James pulled off the outback dirt road for a comfort stop and refreshments. Joan grabs some food from the Esky perched on top of the camping gear all loaded in James old creaking 4-wheel drive. James is lighting a primus stove under the shade of the only tree for miles around in the West Australian outback, 1,000 miles north of Perth.

 

The scream of a car tearing by meant nothing until the bulging travel bag lands at Joan’s feet, minutes later the police car roared past. Joan was livid because the two swirling dust trails that flopped over her and inside the vehicle. She ducked away trying to avoid the dust. She is smothered in it. Coughing whilst swamping water in her eyes.

 

James dashed up the slope and stared at his beautiful girlfriends’ rust color from the red dust.

‘Stupid twit,’ she cursed lifting off her blouse and shaking it, and slipping it over her head, ‘Look at the state of me?

James continued looking at her. ‘Yes. What a state.’

Joan sniggered, ‘is the kettle on? As she stepped forward she tripped over the bag, James just about stopped her tumbling headfirst down the slope. ‘What the? She called out. Staring at the battered holdall. She kicked it so hard it rolled down the slope, eventually stopping in some scrub.

 

Just then the dirt-covered police car pulled up behind James 4WD. Two coppers got out, brushed down their uniforms and strolled down to the couple. The sergeant smiled at them then realized who James was. ‘Good god, it’s you.’

‘No sergeant, I’m not god, I’m not a policeman. I’m a civilian on holiday with my partner and wife to be Joan. How are you?

The men embraced each other. With the introduction over, they swigged back mugs of tea.

‘Seems nothing’s changed in the outback,’ James says.

‘Life goes on. But these illegal Indonesians aren’t into fishing anymore. They’re raiding the Oyster farms and pinching the Pearls. The guy we were chasing is on his way to buy those pearls. He doesn’t know we let him go. He’s driving into our trap fifty miles up this track. The Oyster thieves are waiting for the cash he’s carrying.’

‘Well, I hope it works out for you Sergeant, Sarah, and family Okay?

‘Sure, loving it up here. Have a good trip, nice to meet you, Joan. Say, if you want to have a cold beer and some grub, just call in, the same place.

 

‘How honest are you now? Not being a policeman I mean? Joan asks.

‘That’s a strange question.’

‘I know. But I need a straight answer. So let’s have one.’

‘I’ll have to think about that. Let’s get moving.’

As James packs the stuff in the 4WD. Joan has grabbed the holdall and stuffed it out of sight without James knowing.

 

It was almost dark by the time the tent was pitched Joan washed their clothes and hung them out to dry. Then after a quick dip, they sat down.

‘So are you an honest man?

James chuckled. ‘So what is it with you? Okay, I’m still an honest man. Satisfied?

‘Well in that case. I’ll put it another way. You owe your solicitor and the bank about one-hundred-and-fifty thou. Is that correct?

‘Plus interest accruing at about a hundred a week.’

‘You’re homeless. Own nothing except what you stand up in. Little prospect of finding work-unless you take a job in security strolling around a Perth shopping center. Somehow I don’t think that’s your style. I mean no one wants us crinklies. We’re over the top at fifty-five.’

‘Okay, what’s eating you?

Joan goes to the 4WD grabs the holdall and drops it at James bare feet. ‘Feast your eyes on this.’

‘Never bloody well seen it before. Whose is it?

‘Mine.’

James lifts it up and plonks it on his lap. With difficulty tugs back the snagged zip. ‘Jesus Christ. How? He whispers, glaring at the fifty-dollar notes.

‘This landed at my feet as the first car roared past. The crook must’ve flung it out presumably. He was on his way to pay for and pick up a load of Pearls. Without this cash, he’ll get away.’

 

Whilst Joan explained her detective theory, James flicked through the wads of notes. ‘I estimate there’s about two million here.’

‘So do I.’ Joan replied. ‘But we’ve got a problem.’

‘We, what do you mean we? I thought we agreed to keep our finances separate until we get married? This is yours remember?

‘Now answer my question.’

James sat there, sipping back the last of his wine. Joan refills his glass and smiles at him. ‘Okay, I’ll employ you as my consultant. If your recommendations are acceptable I’ll pay you a commission of a quarter-of-a-million. That’ll clear your pressing probs. In case if you want? Keep the taxman at bay.’ She says chuckling, hoping she’ll get the best advice available from Australia’s top cop.

James is uncertain if Joan is having him on. She has this Brit humor you see.

‘Make it half-a-mill? James asks flinching.

Joan chuckles again. ‘Three-fifty tops. Take it or leave it?

‘You’re a hard bitch. He says, not meaning it in the true sense.

‘Shake on it then.’ Joan says extending her hand.

James grabs it and tugs her toward him. Holding her tight he kisses her passionately.

 

‘Out here in the dirt. Always a first time.’ James says.

‘ooooww we are feeling native. If you think you can get more out of me. Your right.’

The next morning as they munch Cornflakes, James says. ‘We can’t bank it-least not in large quantities, even regularly in small doses. The banks have to alert authorities.’

Just then they hear the police car pull up.

‘Cuppa Sergeant? Joan asks. As he approaches them.

‘Thanks Joan, another time. We’re going back over the dirt road. We cannot charge the driver unless we find the loot. I reckon he lobbed it out somewhere-so he can pick up later. The trouble with these dirt tracks. They’re so bloody dusty. It could be anywhere. Don’t suppose you noticed anything?

‘I didn’t.’ Joan quipped shrugging her shoulders. ‘I slept most of the way.’

The Sergeant looks at James shaking his head from side to side.

‘Errr, no Sergeant. It could be anywhere.’

‘That’s the trouble. Anyway, have a good trip. Oh if you find anything? You let us know.’

‘Why of course. What is it we’re looking for?

‘A large bag.’

‘I’d figured you right.’

‘Really, and what’s that?

Her reply has to be funny. Suggestions anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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