Monday, August 01, 2005

The Treasure Detector

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“You might think that treasure would have a positive reading,” said Dad. There was something about the tone of his voice that made me look at him sharply. “But, it doesn’t. Generally speaking, the aura of hidden or buried treasure is negative -- usually infinitely negative.” His new piece of equipment flickered blue plasma and tiny purple bolts of magnetically charged light as the Vector Generator, a shiny gold, quartz, and palladium cylinder, turned slowly on its base. I averted my eyes. I knew by now that if I stared at it too long, I would either go into a trance-like state or worse.

I had just entered Dad’s basement laboratory to review the Blue Cave near Jacob Lake, Arizona, and to take a look at the original historical documents. According to numerous accounts, a team had made a name for itself in the late 1860s and 1870s as the Pink Lady Bandits. While they targeted outlaws and bank robbers, they saved their real energy and innovation for the bands of outlaws that preyed upon wagon trains of settlers heading to California, or on cross-country stagecoaches carrying coins and jewels back from the gold fields.

Sometime later, it was discovered that one of the ladies was a man, and that they were a husband and wife duo.

Dad opened the shutters to a row of windows that extended the length of the wall. As bright sunlight poured in, I was reminded that the lab was not completely underground like a typical basement, but was partially a split-level affair, with a wide, high window where the chin-level sill was at ground level.

“History is a construct. It is an invented narrative,” he read slowly from a yellowed pamphlet. “This is a translation of a Russian historian who died in the gulags in the 1930s.”

“Do you go along with that?” I asked. “And if so, why do you collect all these maps and books on the gold fields of Nevada, California, and Arizona?”

The vertigo that Dad’s Vector Generator had created in me was beginning to subside. I was still feeling mentally vulnerable, and apt to blurt out any kind of thing that came to mind. Impulse control was an afterthought at best.

“I’m just saying that there’s a lot of window-dressing on the truth,” he said. He leaned over the map he had been examining.

“Window-dressing?” I asked.

“Embellishment. Exaggeration. Cleaning up.” Dad held the map up to the light. “I’m not sure what to believe about the history of the Blue Cave and the so-called The Pink Lady Bandits, for example.”

“Do you remember when you and I went to the Blue Cave?” I asked. “It was the summer after we lived in Lovelock, Nevada. We were on our way back.”

“Yes. That was interesting. I didn’t have the information I have now – but, perhaps it would not have made any difference. The ownership was problematic. That’s why we never did anything with it, even though the copper mineralization was pretty high grade,” said Dad. “I’d like to go back in the next month or so.”

“I was eight years old,” I said. “Yeah. What a time. Right after that, when we stayed in Flagstaff, I had my first seizure.”

I looked down, suddenly filled with sadness. Life with a seizure disorder had not been an easy one, but now was not the time or place to indulge myself with a round of self-pity. Perhaps we were onto something with this. The palladium inserts in the Vector Generator were definitely giving it a magnificent charge. It could, in theory, be used to calculate the distance between two places bearing the same charge. If we put old gold coins in the Vector Pod, it would calculate the distance between that and all the old gold coin occurrences of like frequency. To make it effective, we needed something that had once belonged to one or both of the Pink Lady Bandits.

Suddenly an ear-piercing animal shriek rent the air. Without thinking, I stared into the Vector Generator, which had flared with a thousand simultaneous miniature lightning bolts. As much as I tried, I could not seem to detach my gaze from it, even as I heard more screams from outside the laboratory door.

“Dad,” I felt myself starting to tremble. “Dad. Please. Help me.”

Dad moved swiftly across the lab, grabbed a large canvas rock bag and shoved it down over my head. An eccentric remedy, by any stretch of the imagination. However, it worked. I found myself coming back around. Grabbing me by the arm, Dad helped me up the stairs and out of the basement laboratory.

Once into the fresh, cool morning sunshine, my head cleared. Dad stopped abruptly as the hideous shrieks erupted again.

“You didn’t tell me Stanton was going to come by,” Dad said. His tone was dark, but amused. “Where did he get that thing?”

“That?” I looked at the back of Stanton’s pickup truck. He had a large cat carrier, and in it was an extremely bulky and extremely unhappy feline.

“Perhaps the better question is “why.” What are you planning to do? Do you really imagine you can make something work this time?” said Dad softly. He paused, then continued. “Don’t set yourself up to be hurt.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aside from "God's Hostage" episodes, I noticed that Susan is developing another story about her "Scientist Dad". Ophelia and Stanton have roles in both stories but one can easily distinguish the "God's Hostage" episodes from the "Scientist Dad" episodes. Susan's "Scientist Dad" episodes contain humor as she describes the "Scientist Dad" laboratory experiments and machines, mention many Midwest historical facts, and dwell on the love-hate relationship of Ophelia and Stanton. Both "God's Hostage" and "Scientist Dad" episodes are well written, entertaining, and informative of places and history. -ARR