Diamonds in the Rust

It’s hotter than Satan’s balls out today. I’ve got my hair tied up off the back of my neck, but a few scraggly strands fell out and are plastered to my damp skin. They’re itchy, but not as annoying as the swarms of flies buzzing in my ears.

Why am I trudging through the thick, muggy air in this old junkyard, risking tetanus, injury, and heat stroke? Well, I found something the other day. Something strange that could change my life for the better–if I can just find what I’m looking for.

You see, I’m not the most well-off person. I don’t make a lot of money, but I’ve been smart enough to keep my credit score looking decent. Decent enough to get the deed to a run-down old farmhouse at the police auction last month.

It’s not the nicest place, but overall it’s cheaper than anything I could find for rent in town. I started cleaning it up about a week ago, and after umpteen heart attacks when I brushed an occupied spider web out of my hair, it’s finally starting to look livable. Livable by a human being, that is. The spiders are gone now. Mostly. I hope.

Anyway, the farmhouse had a wonky floorboard that was driving me bonkers every time I stepped on it. Since the house was an as-is package, I had to fix it myself. I’m not much of a handyman–er, handywoman, I guess–but I own a crowbar and a hammer, and I can find a slab of wood somewhere to fill in where the creaky board used to be.

No, I’m not in the junkyard to find a slab of wood. Let me finish.

Underneath that creaky board was a brittle, yellowed old envelope. The sticky stuff on the seal was all dissolved, so I didn’t technically open someone else’s stuff… the letter just kinda fell out. And came unfolded when it landed. And it’s not my fault it landed right side up. I couldn’t help but read it.

I didn’t know much about the history of the farmhouse until I did some research after reading that letter. Turns out it was owned by a pretty sketchy dude. I mean, assault-robbery-murder kind of sketchy. The robbery part is where the letter comes in.

The guy’s name was William “Switchblade Bill” Halder. Good ol’ Switchblade Bill knocked off a few jewelry stores a while back. He was caught and locked up, but he got shanked in a prison fight before the cops could find out what he did with the jewels. Not just any jewels: diamonds.

The cops must’ve been pretty dumb to auction off the house before checking any hiding spots, because the letter was from Switchblade Bill. I can’t read who it was addressed to–once the envelope came open, it pretty much disintegrated–but Bill went and wrote a letter to someone detailing what he did with the diamonds.

It’s been thirty years. The car was an old clunker even then, but no one has used this junkyard in over a decade. And I haven’t found any news reports about forty grand worth of diamonds being discovered there. So there’s a chance. A chance for things to go my way for once.

Just as I’m about to give up, when I’m on my last sip of the water I brought, I see it. A nineteen sixty-two Studebaker. It’s looking more shit-brown than the cherry-red it used to be, but I googled that car enough in the past week to recognize its corpse behind that old refrigerator.

I look down at the el cheapo lockpick set I ordered online. Just in case the glove box is locked. Not that I know how to pick a lock, but there’s enough of a cell signal out here that I’m sure I can find some kind of a tutorial online. It can’t be that hard, right? I mean, it always looks easy enough on TV.

My first real obstacle comes when I pull the handle and the door is jammed. It wiggles a bit, but it won’t come open. A nearby hunk of metal takes care of the dirty window, and I’m able to shimmy inside.

My clothes are drenched in sweat, and I’m not sure it’s entirely from the heat. This is it. This is where I get my life out of the fucking gutter. This is where I come out on top.

The lock turns out to be a bigger pain in the ass than I thought it would be. It’s beyond rusty, and the tumblers won’t budge. In the end, I have to climb out of the car window, find my hunk of metal, and climb back in.

It takes a few whacks to break the lock. My palm is sliced to shit from the rusty piece of metal. I’ll need to get a tetanus shot when I get back to town. Maybe a couple of stitches. It’ll be worth it, though.

I take a deep breath before I pull open the glove box. My heart is pounding, and I feel kind of faint. I reach out, and–

–and at first I think the sudden chest pain is from nerves. It takes me a second to look down at the growing red stain on my shirt.

That’s not supposed to be there. I know I’ve been crawling around a rust bucket for the last hour, but the stain shouldn’t be growing.

I hear laughing coming from outside the car, and now I’m really confused. I thought I was the only one here. Who’s laughing at my rust-stained shirt?

I turn my head and see a huge guy standing about twenty feet away. He’s smoking a cigar I think–there’s smoke of some kind coming from his hand, anyway.

I blink, and for some reason it’s a super slow blink. Slo-mo. Like someone is messing with the remote control for my life. The big guy isn’t affected, though, because in the span of that blink he’s right next to me.

It’s not a cigar he’s got in his hand. It’s a gun with a funny looking barrel, like the kind you see assassins using in movies. One of those things to make the gun quiet. What are those things called? I can’t think of the word…

“Thanks for finding my partner’s stash for me,” he says. “Saved me a buttload of trouble.”

Partner? I’m so confused.

I open my mouth to talk, but all that comes out is a wheeze.

The guy leans in the window and shoves me into the driver’s side seat. I flop over like a limp… something. Why can’t I think of words? And hell, why is everything still moving so slow?

I hear the clatter of something small and hard falling onto the floor beneath the glove box. I want to object to this guy’s thievery, but as my eyelids start to sag I smile a little at the irony. Here I was, shiny new lockpick set in hand, ready to rob a dead man, and now I’m getting robbed before I can do the robbing.

The car seat underneath me has a bright red stain too. Huh. Wonder where that came from.