The kid was doing it. His arm was dripping blood in a river (the tourniquet he’d applied had helped a bit) and his face was the colour of clean computer paper beneath the smudges of black mud.
“Come on kid,” I urged. I had both arms hanging down over the edge, my body pressed flat into the earth.
What are you going to do with that case, Rod? My mind asked. I shook the thought away. It was no time to think about that. I needed to get the kid up safely.
“Keep it coming kid, come on,” I said. Every step closer he came, the blood on his arm became brighter and brighter, the ragged wound in his forearm deeper and deeper.
Jesus that’s bad, I thought.
Every slip of his foot, my heart lurched forward, every time his fingers didn’t grip the hold he was reaching for I cried out. However, he made progress, and before I knew it, he was only a foot below my finger tips.
“That’s it kid, just a little more, I got ya,” I said, my fingers waved in anticipation. He pushed up a little further and his hands, greasy with mud and blood, wrapped around my forearms. I tried to get a grip on him but he was too slimy. I gripped him under the shoulders, but his weight threatened to tip me forward. I searched blindly with my feet for something to anchor myself to but found nothing.
The kid was mumbling something in my ear but I couldn’t understand what it was.
“Don’t worry kid, you’re gonna be alright,” I gasped. I was holding him up now, his head was tilted forward onto my shoulder and I was afraid he’d passed out.
“Kid!” I yelled at him. I was staring into the blackness below, where the majority of sticks had settled, forming another thin clot further down. They looked no less menacing or sharp though. “Skylar! You’ve gotta help me here.” There was no response though. His weight fell forward into me and his feet slipped from their perches against the rock wall. My back screamed and I felt something let go as his full weight pressed into me.
He slipped, and my arms unraveled from around his shoulders. I saw him frozen in mid-air. His eyes closed, his arms and legs all turned in different positions, the case resting against the skinny flat of his stomach. It was only a split second, and I reached out and snagged his belt with my free hand. I screamed as his weight yanked my shoulder forward. The rock cut into my armpit and I felt blood begin to flow.
I screamed, in pain and frustration. Blood was running down my own forearm now. I watched it ooze in a thin rivulet. Tracing a thin line through the dirt and grim I’d accumulated from laying on the ground. I watched it seep closer to my closed fist, threatening to lubricate the space and make me drop the kid. I screamed at the drop of blood. I cursed my lifeblood, swore at it, told it to stop. I recognized the irony of lifeblood causing death and started to laugh like a maniac. I held a kid’s life in my hand and I laughed into the open sky.
I screamed again, and with all the power I had in my one arm I pulled. The kid came up toward me. Slowly, ever so slowly, and when it felt like my arm was going to explode with the effort. I grabbed his hanging head with my other hand and yanked him up over the edge. His belt snapped, sending him falling on top of me and the case catapulted off his chest and slammed into my chest, cracking open. It landed in my lap.
The impact must have jarred him awake, as he landed on top of me he released a scream of pain to match my own. My shoulder was a ball of fire, like it were full of acid, and my arm was throbbing.
The kid was up, faster than I would have ever expected him to move. He stared around frantically.
“The case, where’s the case! Fuck, the case!” he screamed. His eyes were vacant. They reminded me of my brother who used to sleepwalk. His eyes look the same way.
They also look like Mom’s eyes don’t they? I ignored the thought.
I stared into my lap, where rows and rows of bills stared up at me. It was more money than I had ever seen, even during my days of running drugs. I stared at the gaping mouth of the case, dumbstruck.
Something inside me was waking up. A greedy feeling that slithered through me like a lizard.
Imagine what you could do with this money? You wouldn’t need that cocaine back in the van, you could just disappear off the face of the earth. With his kind of money, you could do anything.
I stared at the bills, each wrapped with a thin red elastic band around the middle. Whoever had gotten this money originally, had gone through pains to make it untraceable. No Bank of Canada bands here. This stuff had been laundered down.
I heard a click behind me, and my blood froze. It was a click I’d heard before, but how I could be hearing it out here I didn’t know. Without getting up, I slowly turned around to find Skylar pointing a small handgun into my face.
My eyes met his, and that blank look was gone, the eyes on the other side of that gun were clear and conscious.
“Now where the hell did you get that?” I asked him.
“Does that matter?” he asked. I looked at him, then at the gun, then back at him.
“Where does a kid like you get a gun?” I asked again.
“I said that doesn’t matter!” he yelled. “Close the case and put it down.” My heart was slamming in my chest, but I wasn’t afraid, not quite yet. I didn’t think Skylar was the type of person to shoot someone, especially someone who has saved their life twice in one weekend. I stood up, closing the case as I did, and hold it up before my chest,
“Put the gun down, Skylar,” I said.
“Put the case down, Rod,” he said.
“You don’t want to do this.”
“And I wont, if you put that case down and step away.” I stepped away, but I didn’t put the case down. I moved closer to the edge of the cliff, unaware myself of what I really planned to do, but I knew I wasn’t giving him the money.
“Stop,” he said, the mean look in his eyes wavered to one of worry for a split second, then returned. “Get away from the edge, Rod,” he said.
“No can do,” I said. I looked down at the case. “You haven’t even touched the money yet and look what it’s doing to you.” He stared at me his eyes didn’t waver though.
“Rod, please put that case down, I found it, it’s mine, you agreed to that beforehand, remember?” I nodded.
“I did,” I said, “but that was before I really considered what your grandfather told me, and how right he was.” I studied his expression, but got nothing from it. A steady stream of blood was leaking from the wound in his arm. The arm hung limply at his side.
“I don’t care what that old bastard has to say,” he said, “he’s just a junkie, like you Rod.” He paused letting the words sink in. “Now put that case on the ground.” I shook my head and moved it out over the edge.
“Shoot me and the money goes with me,” I said. He laughed. It put a cold ball of steel in my stomach, but I tried not to let it show.
“I climbed into that damn pit to get it out, do you think I won’t hike to the other side of this cliff to pull it from your dead fingers?” I was starting to get a little afraid now.
“Skylar, you don’t need this money.” I said.
“You’re right,” he agreed, “but I sure as hell want it.” I sighed. The sun was starting to sink low in the sky, it hung above the trees, a glowing red orb. I took it in, maybe for the last time.
“I don’t think you have the guts to do it,” I said, “but I’m not giving this case to you. I made a promise to your grandfather, and I’m a man of my word.”
“No,” Skylar said. “Just put it down and we can both walk away.”
“Skylar, think about what this money was originally destined for,” I let that sink in for a moment. “If this case is real, that means the whole legend is true, and if that’s true, then Sam stole this money to save the life of his dyeing daughter. And you’re going to take it and spend it on drugs, booze and fame.” I stared at him, hoping it was sinking in.
“It’s insulting,” I added. “So go ahead, I was going to end my life this weekend anyway.”
I had second to notice that the camera was gone from the front of his shirt, before he released a piercing scream, and the gun went off with a crash.