The Robbery of Mr. Gobb
It happened on a dark night. You know, like every night.
Mr. Gobb had been dead for two hours by the time they got his body to the boat.
“Let’s get him in,” Borscht said.
Plum cupped his hands into the armpits of Mr. Gobb. Borscht grabbed his feet.
“One, two, three!”
They hoisted the body up and flung him into the side of the boat.
Thunk. Mr. Gobb fell into the muddy brink of the lake.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Plum?” Borscht yelled at his companion. “You’ve gotta put some muscle into it. Use your back for crying out loud.”
Plum’s face fell. “Sorry boss,” he said. “My hands are slippery from the mud and I just…”
“Your hands are slippery from the mud! Your hands are always slippery! If it’s not from the mud, Plum, it’s from the blood or gasoline or chicken grease. What kind of criminal are you anyways?”
“Sorry boss,” Plum said.
“Okay let’s try this again.” Borscht licked his lips. Plum wiped his hands on his denim overalls. Mr. Gobb laid in the mud.
“One, two, three!” Borscht called.
Mr. Gobb flew into the air, clearing the side of the boat and landing THUD on its wooden bottom.
“Heh heh heh,” Borscht laughed that laugh criminals love to laugh—you know the one?—while rubbing the palms of his hands together. “We got him now!”
Plum thought they had got him awhile ago when they wrung his neck with a bandana, but what did he know. He was just the strong hand. And apparently the slippery hand.
“C’mon, let’s get this baby out of here.” Borscht said. Plum thought it was odd that Borscht had referred to the dead middle-aged man as ‘baby,’ but he had to agree—despite his heavy five ‘o’clock shadow and dark undereye circles, Mr. Gobb did have a baby face. He was even missing a few teeth.
The two men approached the boat together. Each began to swing his leg over the wooden side, then promptly swung it back to shore.
“After you,” Borshct said to Plum.
“No, you first boss,” Plum said to Borscht.
“Of course me first, dimwat!” Borscht swung his leg over once more and tried to find his footing around Mr. Gobb. He grabbed Plum’s shoulder for balance. “Don’t you dare move, Plum,” he spat.
Borscht swung his other leg over the side of the boat just as a fly landed on Plum’s left ear. If only it had landed on his right—he never would have felt the pest due to some nerve damage he sustained in an accident involving a yoyo and a toilet. But that story is for a different time, one where there is plenty of booze to ease the pain of hearing it. Anyway, just then the fly landed on Plum’s left ear and made him jump nearly out of his boots (his left ear was the sensitive one!). On account of all the yelping and the jumping from Plum, Borscht lost his balance and tumbled into the boat, still gripping Plum’s shoulder with the talons of a hawk holding onto its prey. Plum, by the strap of his overalls, was hoisted into the boat, head over heels.
“Eeeee—yow!” Borscht shouted.
“Oooo—eee!” Plum yelled.
“…” Mr. Gobb said nothing.
Borscht fell smack down on Mr. Gobb, and Plum fell smack down on Borscht.
The three men were stacked on top of each other like a pile of the saddest, most misshapen pancakes Big Al at the local diner ever thumped in front of you.
“Get off me, you birdbrain!” Borscht yelled over his shoulder.
Plum rolled to his side, squeezing between Mr. Gobb and the side of the boat as Borscht climbed to his feet. He still looked like a terrible pancake, but a solo one.
Plum was squeezed in there so tight that he couldn’t free himself any easy way. He put one hand on Mr. Gobb to get some leverage and felt something firm. And no, it wasn’t that kind of firm! His hand was on Mr. Gobb’s chest, so get your mind out of the gutter!
So, he felt something firm and rectangular. “That’s odd,” he said. He reached his hand into Mr. Gobb’s vest pocket and pulled out a little black notebook. “Hey Borscht,” he said, “look at this!”
Borscht was fiddling with the oars when he looked up. “Oh wow! A notebook!” Plum beamed with pride. “Let me tell you what to do with that, Plum. Why don’t you just turn around and shove it up your – “
“Okay, okay!” Plum shouted. “I just thought it could be interesting, that’s all.”
“Interesting! Yeah, interesting if you can read! I don’t even think you passed the second grade, Plum…” Borscht continued muttering under his breath as he turned around and fit the oars in their place. “Reading… my butt… Although I’d like to read about butts…”
Borscht looked up. Plum’s back was to him, and he was reading through the black notebook. “Hey Plum,” he said. “Anything about butts in that notebook?”
“No…” he said. His eyes darted around all shifty and he stuffed the notebook in the front pocket of his overalls.
Borscht got curious. He always got curious about shifty eyes. “Plum, bring that over here…”
Plum hung his head and scooted around Mr. Gobb to the other side of the boat. “There’s really nothing interesting…”
Borscht snatched the black notebook from his front pocket. “Now let’s see what has so captured your pea-brain, Plum.”
He opened the notebook and began reading.
“’My dearest daughter Petunia, I know you want your inheritance money earlier than I kick the bucket. You’ve been begging me for years now. You should have listened to me when you married your husband. I knew his sticky hat business would never take off.’”
Borscht looked up from the book, “I would love a sticky hat…” he said. “Anyway, moving on…
‘I have decided to give you the money early. That’s right, all $20,000. Of course, you know I would never trust a bank to deal with that sum of money, so I’ve exchanged it for gold bars and hidden it somewhere safe. In order to find it, you must do something.’”
“Holy cow!” Borscht yelled. “Is he gonna say where he hid the gold?”
“'Remember when you were a child and you used to love those scavenger hunts I created for you? Well, I’ve made another. The most intricate one yet. At the end you will find your inheritance, in full amount, waiting for you. Now, whenever you are ready to begin, turn the page…”
“Plum, Plum!” Borscht yelled. “Do you understand what this means?”
“Well, if we follow the clues…”
“I’m rich!” Borscht threw his hands in the air. “And all thanks to my dear, dear Mr. Gobb. We might have got off on the wrong foot, pal, but I think we’re gonna get along just fine.” He bent down and kissed the top of Mr. Gobb’s head. “Yippee!”
Plum looked uncertain, and was a bit jealous that the dead Mr. Gobb earned a kiss from Borscht. Plum had never so much as gotten a pat on the back. His love language was physical touch, so that kind of thing was important to him. “You know,” he said, “scavenger hunts can be hard. What if we can’t figure out the clues?”
Borscht scowled. “You questioning my intelligence, Plum?”
“No… it’s just…”
“It’s just, it’s just…” Borscht spat. “I can read at a sixth-grade level, you nincompoop. Of course I can figure out the clues! And besides, we don’t have to figure them all out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Looks like Mr. Gobb never got around to distributing the clues, so they’re all here, Plummy boy.” Borscht flipped through the notebook. Plum had been a man for decades now and hated being called ‘boy.’ “That means we just have to turn to the last page and figure out the final clue. That’s the one that will lead us to the gold anyway.” As Borscht cackled into the night, a fly flew in his open mouth (a different one than landed on Plum’s ear earlier), and Borscht’s cackling turned into a coughing fit. Plum waited patiently.
“Alright,” Borscht choked out finally. “Let’s see what’s on the last page…” He thumbed his way carefully over each clue, building up the suspense for his audience of two (although, one of them was very much dead and not paying attention). “And one more page,” he said as he grinned up at Plum with his yellow teeth. Plum widened his eyes.
“Wait a minute,” Borscht stopped. “It’s not here!”
“The last page! It’s… why it’s been ripped out!”
Borscht showed Plum the notebook. Sure enough, where the final clue should have been was instead just the remnants of a page ripped out close to its seam.
Plum gasped. “No!”
Borscht thumbed through the book again. “I don’t understand it. Why would Gobb tear out the final page?” Borscht started getting frantic as he turned the book in every different direction.
Plum, who in his free-time had been practicing the art of calming his mind, stopped Borscht from his hyperventilation. “Just breathe,” he said. “Maybe he tore off the final page and put it in his pocket.”
Borscht looked up with glee. “Yes! You’re right Plummy boy. Maybe the final page is in one of his pockets.”
Borscht flung himself next to Mr. Gobb and started rummaging through every pocket the man had. And, as someone sporting a three-piece suit, he had a lot. Plum sat down next to Mr. Gobb and began carefully trying to remove his hat.
“Find anything yet?” Plum asked.
“Nothing, nothing, not a thing!” Borscht started whimpering.
“Hey, Borscht, I can’t get this damn hat off,” Plum said.
“Of course!” Borscht yelled with glee. “The sticky hat! The final clue is under Gobb’s sticky hat!”
Borscht pushed Plum to the side and positioned himself in front of Mr. Gobb’s head. He pulled and grunted and pulled and grunted, and finally the hat ripped off (with a decent chunk of Mr. Gobb’s hair attached). There, inside the sticky hat, they found… nothing. Not a single thing!
“Damn sticky hat,” Borscht said. “See if I ever buy you now.”
“Okay, so it doesn’t look like the final clue is here after all,” Plum said. Borscht began to wail into his hands. “But that doesn’t mean we still can’t find it. Remember when we first saw Mr. Gobb tonight? He was at that campsite, and it looked like he had a pile of books and papers with him, remember?”
Borscht stopped sobbing. “Yes! Yes, you’re right, Plummy boy! The last clue must be there still!”
Borscht jumped out of the boat. “Plum, this is a one-man job. I’ll go look, since I know what to look for. You stay there and guard Gobb. Don’t you move a muscle!” Borscht took off into the woods.
As soon as he was out of sight, Plum looked at Mr. Gobb. “Borscht is never going to find that clue,” he said to Mr. Gobb. He reached into his front overall pocket and pulled out a tiny piece of paper shoved into the corner. “Because I have it right here.”
Oars in hand, Plum pushed off from the shore and started rowing into the night. He knew exactly where to go to find that inheritance.
After all, he had a sixth-grade reading level too.
“Just you and me, Mr. Gobb,” he said. “We’re going to be rich.”