LOCATION: United States, Mid-Atlantic
You miss too much these days if you stop to think - U2
You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start - Everlast
The wasabi is running a bit hot tonite, thought McBrae, as he
gazed out the restaurant window and watched a hot air balloon
with a "Safeway" logo drift lazily thru the gap between Mounts
Misery and Joy to the north. "The coldest sushi platter",
McBrae overheard the red-bearded man in the Armani suit at the
next table mutter, as the waitress approached his table.
Jeremiah Fox had just been released from Graterford Prison, and
McBrae had been observing his every move since that time, which,
up until now, had consisted of nothing more than driving here
and getting a table. McBrae was right -- he knew Fox would
make for the dough even before visiting his own mother. McBrae
was kicking himself -- in the five years that Fox was in the
joint, he had come up empty on the loot himself, despite his
possession of a purloined, tattered copy of Fox's cryptic
directions and half a dozen tries. It seemed easy enough,
follow Fox's footsteps, and dig up the dough while Fox rotted
But he always seemed to end up not quite sure of himself, several
yards southeast of a huge oak tree on a hill's northern spur,
puzzling out "where the tool and barrel maker be", befuddled.
Even though his copy of the riddle was illegible and incomplete
in a few places, he still felt like the idiots in Its a Mad Mad
Mad Mad World must have felt as they walked by the "Big W" for
the thousandth time, unseeing, while the audience laughs to
itself -- "how can those morons not see that?".
Now McBrae was in the unenviable position of following and
carefully observing every move the man made in order to figure
the missing pieces. He had no idea how he was going to come
away with it at the end -- Fox was bigger, stronger, and
probably packing. But a quitter McBrae was not; he would get
a lucky break, as he always did. Hell, he recently managed to
trick the Panda into figuring out the last riddle he was
McBrae paid his check and cracked open his chocolate-covered
fortune cookie while Fox was gathering himself to leave.
"Its the journey, not the destination", McBrae chuckled aloud.
"Where do they find this inane tripe?".
McBrae followed Fox out and watched him get behind the wheel
of a small U-Haul rental truck, as he fired up his 911
Carrera convertible. "Treasure hunting has been good to
me", he mused. The U-Haul turned left out of the parking
lot, then right onto the semi-main road, where it eventually
eased into the left turn lane at a light. McBrae followed
it under the underpass, and down this road for a while 'till
it turned off to cross a creek. McBrae knew this area well:
though you couldn't tell from the surroundings, it was the
only place in his life where he ever found religion, not to
mention the end of another similarly baffling quest.
McBrae grabbed his shades from the glove box, but the evening
sun didn't bother him too much as he followed the truck down
the road, about two and a half miles, where Fox pulled off at
the old one-room school house. As Fox got out to check the
numbers engraved on the wall, McBrae, without stopping the
Carrera, deftly grabbed the info with his Nikon Coolpix
Digital Zoom and turned up the hill, Fox none the wiser.
McBrae took it slow, allowing him to make sure Fox maneuvered
his truck up the hill behind him. McBrae took a quick peek
at the digital photo and recalled from the riddle that the top
number reversed and divided by 781.226, was the map's X
Fox would start to get suspicious, McBrae feared, if he kept
hanging around. As he crested the hill and smoothly shifted
into high gear on the downside, he decided this would be a
good time to make himself scarce. He was pretty sure of the
next part anyway -- once Fox finally caught up to where he was,
McBrae figured he would go straight, turn left at the carpet
place, drive a ways, turning right at the stop sign, past the
ostentatious display of success (and excess), then thru the
tunnel, north, then pretty soon onto a short, cleverly-named
road, then down to the old town hall at the T, then record
the date it was built, reverse the digits, add 14, then
divide by 185 to get the page number.
Meanwhile, McBrae cruised directly over to the movie studio
where Steve McQueen made his starring-role feature film debut,
and walked around the little village waiting for Fox to arrive.
He figured Fox might get there by making a quick left past the
town hall, pass the old graveyard, go right at the T intersection
and up the hill, then left onto the road named for one of McBrae's
favorite mysteries, then right onto the road General Washington
and his men most likely used to get to this village as well,
well over 200 years ago.
McBrae was walking around the iron spring when the U-Haul
pulled up and parked along the side of the road, near an old
gas pump. McBrae hid in the brambles a few feet to the south,
and watched as Fox recorded the number of wooden planks
covering the spring. McBrae calculated the bearing by
multiplying that number by 10.
Fox got back in his truck and left the village in an
easterly direction. McBrae followed, wishing he was
driving something lame and boring, like the ubiquitous
SUVs that kept trolling around here, while hoping Fox
was too engrossed in his own activities to notice his car
again. When the road hit a four-way intersection just
past a bridge, Fox turned right, passed the horse doctor,
then turned left and made a fairly quick right, crossed
the stream for which the road was named, then passed
thru a tiny village for which the cross road was named.
When the road crossed the stream again, Fox stopped on the
bridge and noted the year the bridge was built. McBrae
thought better of the tactic of angrily honking his horn
to play the impatient commuter; the less attention he drew
to himself, the better. He discreetly snapped the date with
his Nikon as the U-Haul made its way down the road in the
downstream direction. When they came to the fork in the
road, he chuckled the famous Yogi Berra quote, then
followed the truck as it headed north, then right on the
first thru road, then north again when that road ended.
He now had the Y coordinate as well -- the bridge date
reversed divided by 195.402 -- that along with the pace
count of 5 times the menu number of Fox's sushi order
gave him all the numbers the riddle spoke of, so he
figured. He was almost done.
McBrae remembered that the next direction from the riddle
was a bit tricky, something like "cross the last creek
you crossed at the first place you can", but as he followed
Fox, it seemed obvious now. As he followed Fox past the
township building, recalling the equally cryptic "cross the
first creek you crossed at the last place you can", he
wistfully wished he had the complete original. Perhaps
he would be able to re-assemble it someday ...
Straight thru the light and up the hill they went, bearing
left, past the place where a few years go, four threes
seemed significant, but so not today. He followed as Fox
followed the signs to the first road they originally passed
under, and merged into the heavy northbound traffic
of 18 wheelers and commuters, Sting appropriately belting
out 'Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes / Contestants
in a suicidal race' on the Carrera's 10 speaker Alpine sound
McBrae wasn't sure he could stomach the two and a half mile
ride thru the pure surburban hell, but after what seemed like
hours, Fox turned right at the four-way intersection, and after
two-fifths of a mile, turned right again into the parking lot
of a business McBrae knew very, very well. Fortunately it was
Wednesday, the only day the place was open in the evening.
Fox got out of his truck and headed for the door, not showing
any awareness of McBrae's presence. As Fox tossed
a cigarette butt in the trash can and headed for the restroom,
McBrae saw his chance and quickly went for the DeLorme atlas
rack, picked up the state's topo atlas and leafed to the proper
page. Then, just like Emma Finch in 'World, he finally saw
his Big W. As he heard Fox coming back, he made a quick
purchase and was gone. Thank god he had the Porche, he thought.