Kenneth Lawson: The Treasure Box


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The Treasure Box

Kenneth Lawson

Benny sat on his bed, head in hands, as a thought kept floating around in his head like a line from a song playing on auto-repeat. What if Carrie hadn’t died?

But she had, and he knew why and how. But what if she hadn’t? The what-if’s nagged at him until he decided he had to find out one way or the other.

Benny knew the truth. She died because she stood up for what was right. They killed her over the truth.

He slammed his hands into the mattress so violently he could feel the sharp springs. His anger grew as he replayed her death scene in his mind. 

He’d been powerless to stop them from killing her in the street, in broad daylight. There was nothing he could do. No one blinked at what happened. They were all brainwashed with the party line, and anyone who didn’t toe the official line was a target. She had not toed the line privately or publicly, and her efforts were getting results—results they didn’t like. She became not just a minor annoyance but a serious problem. Serious problems tended to disappear by design, and she was “disappeared,” but not before they made an example out of her.

Benny knew who had given the order to have her eliminated publicly, who ordered the State Guards to kill her and display her body as a trophy. As much as he wanted to kill the man responsible, that action would only cause more deaths, including his, so another solution had to be found.

Carrie’s last words to him before hell broke loose and they murdered her echoed in his mind. She said she would always remember her past, safely tucked inside her treasure box, the old wooden box of trinkets and keepsakes from a past life to which neither of them wished to return.

Benny had seen most of the bits and bobs in the box before—birthday cards, various pieces of jewelry, and several love letters he had written to her in another place and time. He couldn’t bear to look at them, but he knew he had to look through the items. He had to know what Carrie meant by her past was safe.

Carefully, he took everything from the box, laying the mementos of her life onto the bed one item at a time. He stared at the items. Nothing looked out of place or suspicious. Absently, he picked up the box and noticed something was off. The interior wasn’t as deep as it should be from the outside depth.

It looked as he remembered, scratched, its finish worn. He had teased her because she carried the box wherever she went. She would tuck it in an oversized purse or a backpack when they went camping. It was never far from her side, even in the house. Now it was all he had left of her, but something was wrong.

Suspecting a false compartment, Benny ran his fingertip along the sides of the bottom surface until he felt a barely perceptible difference in the edge. He pressed down, felt the surface spring pop loose, and gently pried open the false bottom. 

Inside was a single slip of paper—a note in Carrie’s small, neat handwriting dated years before.

Benny,

If you’re reading this, I am dead, likely murdered. I always knew it was possible but hoped you would never have to suffer through my death. 

You never knew the truth or scope of my work—now you must. The phone number I have included will put you in touch with someone who will explain everything. But you must not be overheard, so ensure you are alone.

Think carefully. If you call this number, your life will change, and you will be in grave danger. I understand if you choose to walk away. If you decide not to make the call, burn this letter and never think of it again.

Love always, Carrie.

Benny replaced the items, except for the note, back into the box exactly as he found them. For hours he sat on the edge of the bed, his mind reeling. 

Near midnight, under cover of darkness, Benny stood on a deserted street and made the call.

Please visit Kenneth on his website: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com

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