Treasure Lake – Like a deer in the headlights

The canoes split the water silently as they glided across the small lake seeking cover. With great care, all four paddlers dipped their paddles into the still water with almost complete silence. Whatever sounds their might have been – whispered words or a paddle lightly touching a gunnel – were drowned out by the mating songs of a million insects and amphibians.

Suddenly the lake was alight. The airplane had turned on its landing lights for a last look around, and there they were – two canoes and four young people. They couldn’t see anything when they looked back at the plane because the intense light blinded them. Especially after the complete darkness. The sound of a small outboard motor came across the water.

“Shit!” Solly Cohen said. “They have a motorboat!”

“Paddle like hell for the weeds,” Rob Snitzer ordered.

“The weeds will slow us down!” Phyllis Snitzer said. “It harder to paddle, pushing through the weeds.”

canoe

“Shouldn’t we be looking for the swiftest way to go?” Caroline Rich said.

“The weeds will slow us down,” Rob said, “and if the motorboat guy doesn’t know better and follows us into the weeds, he’s gonna be stopped dead.”

“Why?” Caroline said.

“Those weeds will be caught by his propeller, and it will wrap around and around until the pressure pulls it in through the space between the propeller and its housing. It will stop the engine with sheer pressure, preventing the propeller from spinning,” Rob said.

“How do you know?” Caroline said.

“I’ve done it myself. Motored through a weed patch and took fifteen minutes to cut and pull the weeds out of the propeller shaft,” Rob said.

“What if he has a weedless propeller?” Solly said.

“We’re fucked,” Rob said.

“Well, what are we going to do, Rob?” Phyllis cried.

“We’re gonna paddle like our lives depend on it… because they do!”

With that, Rob plunged his paddle into the water and pushed. The others fell into his rhythm and the canoes cut through the tall weeds and soon they escaped the light from the plane in an area of dense foliage. Rob asked everyone to stop for a moment and listen. The motorboat was approaching. The engine began to sound strained, like it was labouring under an excessive load. At last, it stopped completely, and just in time.

Caroline could see it through the brush. The boat was illuminated by the plane’s lights, and two men were arguing. They tipped up the engine and began reaching back to grasp at the weeds that were tightly wound around the propeller shaft, as hoped.

The way to safety was clearer now, and they paddled steadily and without strain. They discussed the next problem they would have to face.

“If we tell the cops about the dead guy,” Solly said, “they’ll soon know about the gold, too.”

“If we don’t tell the cops,” Phyllis said, “and we keep the gold, what do we do with it?”

“I think I know what the perfect answer should be,” Caroline said.

“So do I,” said Rob. “We tell the authorities about the dead guy, and we turn the Krugerrands in wherever stuff like that goes. They will probably know who owns it, and are probably looking for it as we speak.”

They told the authorities about the corpse and gave them the gold. They expected the corpse to be killed, and the theft had been fairly recent. They solved the murder and the grateful Bank of South Africa gave each of the young canoeists one hundred thousand dollars. Everybody is happy.

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