Dave’s pace quickened when he saw the puffs of dust shooting up from the rock pile. At last, this was it! It was the same place that had appeared in his recurring dreams, and it fit every detail that Santana had once described to him.
As he approached the rock pile he was stopped dead in his tracks by strange sounds, like muffled voices. No wonder Santana believed evil spirits lived here—it sounded like a conference call from hell around those rocks.
Dave slowly circled the rock pile looking for an entry point, but could find none. When he went over to the cliff’s edge and looked down at the original entrance into the cave, which was on the side of the cliff, it quickly became obvious that it was going to be impossible to access the cave there without rappelling equipment.
He returned and circled the rock pile again. Its base was about 10 feet in diameter and it was about 5 feet high. Dave started on the seaward side of the pile, removing one stone at a time and carefully stacking each one out of sight behind the pile. Whenever the wind gusted, plumes of dust rose up and irritated his eyes, nose, and throat. Dave did his best to ignore the dust, and eventually exposed enough of Santana’s original hole to take a peek inside.
He attached his flashlight to a stick and lowered it into the hole. The first thing he saw at the cave’s bottom was a suspicious looking mound of dust—and then next to it, human bones. No wonder Santana was freaked out by this place, he thought. The strange sounds and the human bones were enough to spook him too! Suddenly Dave heard a booming voice.
“Who goes there?”
It was the hungry monk Lambini coming towards him with three girls following him at a safe distance. Dave came out from behind the rock pile. The monk was relieved to see that it was him instead of the vicious three-fingered cook out searching for the girls. Dave quickly reminded the monk about the oath he had taken, not to tell anyone else about the potential treasure site.
Dave went on, “And tell the girls not to worry, at least not for now. The cook is busy negotiating with my dad to build him a house overlooking the chicken ranch.”
“I’m a peaceful man of God,” exclaimed the monk, “I never asked for this trouble, and I don’t know what to do. The first girl, Gretchen, ran away from the ranch because she was with child and she wanted to keep her baby. When the cook came looking for her, the other girls, Delaney and Delilah, ran away too and now all three of them are hiding up here—there’s no peace. The girls can see the cook when he comes up the path and they run for the caves. He tried sneaking up here at night but Santana’s old terrier, Arf, attacked him and nearly gnawed thru his Achilles tendon, while the Australian stock dogs shredded his kimono. If I hadn’t come to his rescue the dogs would’ve killed him—he was barely able to limp back down the hill.”
“No kidding,” said Dave, “a pimp with a limp,” and he laughed. “Pop said that the Japanese Investment Group hired the cook to look after their operation, and that if he doesn’t get those girls back, or a suitable amount of money to replace them, he will be forced to do the honorable thing and offer up another one of his fingers for amputation.”
“That’s not my problem,” said Lambini the monk. “All I want is peace and quiet. We’re not bothering anybody up here. The girls should be free to live wherever they want and it’s the sheriff’s job to protect them. Or is he on the take?”
“The sheriff’s a good guy,” said Dave. “I know he will do whatever is right, especially since he’s up for re-election and the do-gooder’s are on him like stink on crap.”
“The girls have taken over the milking job,” said the monk, “and if the cook takes them back to the ranch, cheese production will drop, and I can’t keep up as it is. How much do the yakuza want to replace the girls?”
“Why does it matter,” asked Dave, “You don’t have enough money to pay them.”
“Maybe I do have the money,” said Lambini.
Dave pointed to the rocks and said, “Not that money!”
“No, not that money,” the monk reassured him. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but I found Santana’s stash yesterday.”
“No kidding,” said Dave. “Big Jessie and the sheriff searched this island high and low for Santana’s money. Where did you find it?”
“Come to the shack,” said Lambini. “I’ll show you, but first you must swear an oath. Do you solemnly swear to always conceal and never reveal our secret?”
“Yes, of course,” said Dave.
They re-stacked the rocks and covered any evidence that the pile had ever been disturbed, and then the two amigos headed back to Santana’s old shack. Dave told the monk about the human remains and suspicious looking pile, and Lambini told him about the assortment of dollars, pesos, pound sterling notes, French francs, and a tub full of old silver coins he found, and—the most valuable thing of all—Santana’s secret formula for the anti-fungal nut-butter. It alone had the potential for a profit much greater than all the cash.
Dave could hardly wait to tell his dad about finding the human remains and what surely must be the pile of gold escudos, but keeping Lambini’s secret would be a supreme test of his personal integrity. To be continued…