The Gold Hunt, Part 2:
Dave Everly, Vree’s cousin, was a year older than Vree and me. And according to the blue T-shirt he wore, his school may have been Ridgewood High, home of the Fighting Eagles. I didn’t ask.
He had thick, dark brown hair, bright, greenish blue eyes, and was scrawnier and an inch taller than me.
After we exchanged pleasantries in his driveway, we rode the blacktopped Ridge Road almost a mile before we ditched our bikes in a field of tall grass and followed a well-traveled deer path to a swampy outcropping along the eastern edge of Myers Ridge. Vree, our leader, put up her right hand for us to stop.
“This is where I spotted gold the other day,” she said. “Come on.”
Dave and I followed until we stood at the edge of a cliff. Twenty feet below us, water trickled from the hillside, fell, splattered on rock farther down, and fell again to Alice Lake far below.
“You spotted gold where?” I asked, peering over the edge.
“Trust me,” Vree said. She got busy and helped Dave with the rope she had brought. She tied her end to a young hornbeam tree, which some of my relatives call ironwood. Then Dave harnessed his end to Vree and lowered her to where water exited the side of Myers Ridge. She dug around at the wet ground, pulled up rocks, examined them closely, and tossed them away. After ten minutes, the process became boring to watch, so I returned to the hornbeam tree to make sure Vree’s knot still held. It did.
A red squirrel inspected the inedible raw leaves of a small patch of skunk cabbage past the tree where the ground turned swampy and muddy. It was likely looking for the plants’ hard, pea-sized seeds to carry back to its nest. That’s when Dave called me back.
We hoisted a grinning Vree to us and she proudly displayed a three-inch chunk of bright yellow rock. It was cold and heavy when I held it.
“Think there’s more?” Dave asked. His eyes were wide as he looked at the gold, then down at the cliff and back at the gold.
Vree shrugged and blew into her hands. “I should have brought gloves,” she said before taking the rock away from me.
“What are you going to do with it?” Dave asked.
Vree shrugged again. “Melt it, maybe, and make a bracelet. I’ve been reading up on how to make jewelry.”
“We should go down there tomorrow and look for more,” Dave said.
Vree sighed. “I have a dentist appointment in the morning and then shopping at the mall with my mom. We’d only have the evening to look for more.”
“How about this weekend?” I asked. “We could even check the mines you told me about.”
Dave’s eyes widened. “Are you crazy? Some of those mines have caved in. And they’re infested with rattlesnakes.”
“I’m not saying we go in the mines. I’m saying that the ground outside may have bits of gold that someone may have dropped.”
“I don’t know,” Vree said. “Some of the underground mines have caused sinkholes where the ground collapsed. Those things are just as dangerous as the mines.” She looked up at the evening sky. “It’s getting late. I have to get home. What’s your phone number, Steve? I’ll call you and we’ll discuss it.”
“I don’t remember,” I lied. “But I’ll be in town this weekend.”
We decided to meet at noon on Saturday at Dave’s driveway. Then we headed back. We had gone more than a quarter mile, perhaps 600 yards, when the flash of light caught out attention. It was sunlight reflecting off the chrome of a green sedan off in a field to our left. We stopped.
“That’s an abandoned road to one of the mines,” Dave said.
A field of teasels, wild grasses and ragweed hid the road, but a vehicle had obviously driven on it recently since the tires had flattened the grass.
“My Spidey sense is tingling,” Vree said. I chuckled at the comic book reference, and then stopped short when I saw the car back up to turn around.
“Hit the deck,” Vree shouted. We dove for cover among daisy fleabane and a large clump of purple and yellow New England Astor. I pressed myself close to the ground and hoped the handlebar of my borrowed bike would go unnoticed by whoever was inside that car.
The green sedan reached Ridge Road and stopped. We were ten yards away. Had the driver seen us? I kept still, even when a horsefly bit one of my sweaty arms and sucked my blood for what seemed like several minutes before the car turned onto the road and drove away.
I unclenched my jaw and let out a groan before I slapped at the murderous fly. Vree scrambled down the overgrown road, heading toward the mine. Dave and I followed and caught up to her at the mouth of the cave, which someone had boarded up with old barn wood planks. We pulled the boards away and Vree and I entered a musty smelling cavern.
“Snakes,” Dave said behind me.
I froze. “Where?”
“I’m just saying there could be rattlers,” he said, pushing past me. “Watch your step.”
The mine changed quickly to cool dampness and became darker the farther we went. We passed an old rail cart covered with empty burlap sacks.
A thought came to me that we should look inside the cart. Then, as though she had read my mind, Vree ran to it and pulled away the sacks.
We found 16-year-old Laurie Burnett bound and gagged inside. She seemed okay and was very relieved and thankful to be free. She was also very angry at the ordeal her captors had put her through, and she used some naughty words to describe them to us while we led her back to Dave’s house.
A day later, the police caught the two criminals, who turned out to be Emergency Medical Technicians at New Cambridge Hospital where Laurie’s dad was a surgeon. That Saturday, he drove to Dave’s house and rewarded Vree, Dave and I with one hundred dollars each. I split my money with Vree and Dave before we went looking for more gold.
We never found any.
More Ravenwood stories coming soon.