By Bass Mitchell
Dad crawled out, stood up, and started looking up and down the street. I noticed he held in one hand a shotgun. But it was unlike any I had ever seen. It had a short single barrel. It looked old. In his other hand was a small gray metal box. It was larger than a cigar box and had a small lock on it. It was dirty and a little rusty. It looked old, too.
My father examined the gun. With a click, it opened and both of us could see that it still had a shell in the chamber. Dad shook his head. I could tell this was worrying him, especially when he started to look around us again. I did, too, not knowing exactly why. We were on a side street. Nothing unusual and no one else around as far as I could see. Dad tried to gently remove the shell but apparently, it had been in there so long that it wouldn’t budge. He laid the shotgun carefully on the ground and told me not to touch it.
He sat the box on top of a small brick wall beside us. He seemed a little uncertain or even afraid to touch it, considering, I suppose, that a gun was found beside it. But he picked it up and tried to open the lid. He did with little effort. We both looked inside – it was empty save for some dirt and a narrow slip of paper that looked like had been wrapped around something. It was brown with no writing on it.
“What is it?” I asked him. He looked around again for a moment. “I’m not sure,” he said. “But this could be a safety deposit box or cash box of some kind. That would be my guess, anyway.” “But what about the gun?” I asked, pointing at it.
“Well, it’s just another guess, but I’d say someone robbed a bank or store around here years ago, ran by here, opened this door and threw these under there, after having taken the money. He must have been in a real hurry. Maybe the police were hot on his trail.”
We both looked at the shotgun and box, and could almost replay that very scene in our minds, like something from a crime movie. Now I understood why he was looking around and seemed anxious. But that bad guy or guys had long ago disappeared.
I had no idea that carpentry was so exciting, and said so. Dad assured me that it wasn’t and he would be most thankful to the Almighty it nothing ever like it happened again. But I thought the whole thing was cool.
We ended up taking the box and shotgun to the police station which was just a few blocks away. Later we did hear that some years ago, there had been a robbery in town by a man using a sawed-off shotgun. He was never captured. Now, that wasn’t so cool, for the thought came to me, “What if he comes back to that building where we were working, looking for his gun?” I sure felt a bit uneasy over the next few days, looking over my shoulder from time to time.
Now after this Dad wasn’t all that excited about going back under that old building. But I could hardly wait. There was no telling what else we might find under there. So, it was a real bummer that he wouldn’t let me go with him and said afterwards that he didn’t find anything else anyway. I got the feeling that he didn’t look very much or at least everywhere under this building, which took up almost a third of a block. Yes, the thought crossed my mind to sneak under there but I thought better of it. Okay. I chickened out. Happy?
The discoveries we made outside and under that strange, old building were cool, at least to a twelve-year-old kid. But it was what I found inside that I will never forget and that to this day still impacts my life.