Reasonable Doubt is a crime and legal thriller inspired in part by the true story of Forrest Fenn and his famous treasure. Author Rick Fuller looks at what could happen when greed meets an iconic treasure hunt.
Heaving the backpack to the ground, Richard Frost sat on a log to catch his breath. Time was short, but he was exhausted and desperately needed a break. He took a great gasping breath that caught in his lungs. Coughing strenuously, he leaned forward, covering his mouth with his gloved hand, a habit ingrained in socially accepted standards, though there was nobody around to take offense. Getting the coughing under control, he looked down at the palm of the glove and paused for a moment staring at the blood splattered on it. Shaking his head, he wiped the glove in a patch of snow, spitting to clear his mouth before opening his water bottle and drinking the last drops.
He took just another moment, enjoying the solitude, the quiet and the beauty of the natural world surrounding him. This is what had sustained him throughout his life, what had allowed him to work so hard for so many years. Knowing the wilderness was always waiting had let him push through the long weeks, looking forward to the one day each week he always set aside to spend in the woods. He was sorry his life was coming to an end like this, but glad he’d found a small path to immortality in the backpack at his feet.
Standing at last, he suffered through one more coughing spell, saying a quick prayer that it was the last or that the next would hold off at least for a couple of hours. He still had a lot of work to do and darkness was fast approaching.
He grabbed the backpack and gingerly picked his way down the embankment to the place he’d chosen so carefully. He’d spent months looking for just the right spot. The conditions he’d set as the standard while searching for the perfect location had required a lot of thought. He had no idea how long it would be before someone came looking for this cache, and it probably needed to survive years, quite possibly decades.
He opened the backpack and then leaned into the concealed cavity, dragging out the titanium box, grunting under its significant weight. He felt another coughing spell coming on and he paused while he fought it down. The spells had recently become serious enough that he’d passed out on two occasions, unable to control his breathing, blood spraying in the air as he fell to the ground; a recurrence of that now would be disastrous.
After a brief moment his lungs began to work smoothly and he said a silent prayer of thanks. The danger averted, he swallowed down the small amount of blood that had bubbled up from his ravaged lungs and then returned his attention to the box. He opened it and smiled at the sight; he’d worked hard his entire life and he never tired of looking at the fruits of that labor. He turned to the backpack and, reaching in, removed seven small objects, one at a time. Though small, the objects were heavier than they appeared to be. Each item was perfectly shaped, manufactured to be exact in size and weight.
He added the seven items to the box that already contained thirteen identical objects he had packed up on two earlier trips. He then pulled three small sacks from the backpack. The sacks were made of oilskin which he hoped would protect them for many, many years. He made sure they were closed securely and then piled them in around the twenty heavy objects, pushing the sacks down with his hands so the lid would be able to close securely. It was surprising even to him, a man used to dealing with items such as this, how small a box was required. Someday in the future, somebody would be surprised at how heavy such a small box could be.
Before he closed the lid, he removed a piece of paper from the backpack, the paper laminated and enclosed in a Ziploc bag. He placed it on top of the items in the chest, smiling at the thought of someone reading the words sometime in the future.
There was no point in locking the box, none at all actually, but old habits die hard, and Richard found himself fighting the urge to snap the padlock onto the reinforced clasp. He’d wanted the complex, secure lock when he originally had the box made, but it wasn’t needed anymore. He would have given the padlock a symbolic toss into the lake but, being a lover of nature and a hater of those who would despoil it in any way, he turned and dropped the lock into the backpack instead. He would pack it out, along with any other evidence of his presence, just as he’d done his entire life.
He turned back to the box and, leaning down, put his entire body into it, shoving it back into the place he’d discovered, the place that would keep it safe for as long as necessary.
Moving all of the logs and sticks back exactly as he’d found them, he stood and surveyed the scene. There were definite signs that someone had been here…footprints and drag marks, vegetation crushed, a rock unearthed, but he wasn’t worried about that. It was getting dark and it would snow tonight, covering all signs of his visit.
Richard Frost picked up the nearly empty backpack and slung it over his shoulders. This part of his life’s journey was nearly over. He’d never see this place again, so he took just a moment to enjoy one last look around before he began working his way back to the path that led to his car.
The distance wasn’t far but, in his weakened condition, it had taken him the entire day to make the three trips needed to carry it all here. He smiled to himself as he remembered a time when he would have carried a load like that in just one trip. He missed the days of his youth when nothing had seemed impossible and the world lay at his feet.
Richard worked his way down the slope, finding the trail and following it to his car, arriving right at dark. A few snowflakes began to fall as he unlocked the door. He got in and drove away and didn’t allow himself the luxury of one final look back. The deed was done, the past was the past, and the future belonged to somebody else.
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