Previously, in Parts One, Two, and Three, young reporter Bev Wikowski shows up at a bar looking for a loutish quote. Instead, she happens upon Andy O’Brien, who claims to be pals with the infamous hijacker DB Cooper. Cooper, says O’Brien, wants him to round up a posse to go dig up the loot he buried a year ago after parachuting from a passenger jet. If what he says is true, Bev anticipates instant fame. If what he says is false…well, reporters don’t rise to the top if they’re not willing to take a few chances…
O’Brien dropped the smile, but he showed no anger. “How smart would it be for a man to lead folks into the woods looking for marked trees and digging holes, and all of it’s a scam? All he’d get is a bunch of pissed-off people.”
“Maybe you do think you know where the loot is, but maybe you’re a crackpot and all this talk about knowing DB Cooper is just your way of finding a bunch of fools to help you out.”
“No one’s twisting your arm, Ted. You’re free to go. I’ll still pick up the tab for your beer. Hell, have another one and go shoot some pool.”
“Now, wait a minute. Who said I’m not interested?”
“What a riot,” exclaimed the young woman by the wall, at O’Brien’s side. The smirk on her carnation lips gave the rest of her face a hard edge. Sandy blonde hair flowed halfway down her back. She wore bellbottom jeans, a lavender cashmere turtleneck, and a light blue knit cap. She had her arm around a young man bigger than anyone in the group, six-three or six-four, with thickly coiled dust-colored hair and a matching close-trimmed beard. He looked uncomfortable when Bev and the others turned their attention to the woman at his side.
“Suppose we find the money,” continued blondie. “Fifty thousand divided by six—that’s more than eight grand. I’ll bet that’s more than you make in two years, Tanya. You, too, Jim. But it’s not ours. Bet you I could make more than that selling the story to the National Enquirer.”
Everyone looked at O’Brien, who took a draw from his cigarette and let out a slow exhale of smoke.
“I tried to tell Cooper it’d be complicated to round up a search crew,” he said. “About the money—the airline will get reimbursed by its insurance company. As for selling the story, or telling it for free, Cooper and I talked about that, too. We don’t care who you tell, as long as you wait until the day after we return. Whatever you decide, assuming we find the money, it would be unwise to spend it or put it in the bank. Every financial institution in this country is looking for those twenties. Hang onto it for a few years. Wait for this whole DB Cooper thing to blow over.”
Bev let the smoke ease out her mouth.
For her, telling someone would be the whole point. It would be the biggest scoop of the year. Put that on her resume. She’d say adios to the Beacon and move up to a real newspaper like the Oregonian, and she wouldn’t be stuck on the women’s pages or the family section or whatever they wanted to call it. She’d cover real news with real impact.
Hell, maybe it would be her ticket to someplace even bigger, the New York Times or the Washington Post. That would take Sandra away from her grandmother, but with the salary she’d be making, Bev could hire an au pair, maybe a French girl, and Sandra could learn another language. She wouldn’t have to grow up in Troutdale, drab suburb where they lived now. In a year she’d start kindergarten, and she’d be around kids from all over the world.
And Billy—her heart felt squeezed again and she pressed her lips together—he’d be proud of the little daughter he’d never met. If there were an afterlife and he was watching them, he’d be pleased to watch her grow into a sophisticated young woman.
She decided, if anyone asked, that she was a secretary for a heating and air conditioning company. These people sure as hell wouldn’t want a reporter tagging along.
“Wow, man,” said blonde chick’s boyfriend, if that’s what he was. “You must be snorting some fine shit. You think you can walk in here and round up a posse, no problem. I’ll bet you everyone here has somewhere to be on Thanksgiving besides some logging company’s land.”
O’Brien put down the stub of his cigarette and picked up one of the topo maps.
“This wasn’t my idea,” he said, rolling the map. “I’ve got somewhere to be tomorrow, too. Tell you what. We all go to our families for Thanksgiving. Friday morning 5 a.m., anyone wanting a share of $50,000, show up in front of the hotel. You won’t see me, but I’ll be watching to see who shows up. If we have enough people, we’ll find a tree with one of Cooper’s marks. Like this young lady said, if there’s six of you, that’s over eight grand. If there’s four, that’s over twelve grand, and I’m guessing that’s more than three years’ wages for most of you. If it’s just me, I’ll do my damnedest to find one of those trees on my own and Cooper won’t have to share with anyone but me.”
He put a rubber band around the topo map and picked up the other one.
“Don’t be blabbing about this and don’t bring anyone else with you,” he said. “If I see someone different with any of you, I’ll leave all of you in front of the hotel and go looking on my own. Don’t bring any kind of weapon. People can get a little funny when they’re carrying large quantities of cash.”
“How about grass?” said blondie’s boyfriend. “I’ve got some righteous weed.”
Under-ager guffawed. “I knew it,” he said before spitting.
O’Brien stood. “Just don’t bring any hard drugs,” he said. “I’ll be driving, and there will be no smoking dope in the vehicle. Now. Let me ask.”
He scanned the faces of everyone around him.
“Anyone here know for sure that you won’t be here Friday morning?”
Bev scanned the others, who were busy scanning the others, too. Nobody raised a hand. She wanted to raise hers—the whole proposition was ridiculous—but for some reason, she couldn’t.
And here ends the Cooper’s Loot excerpts. I’m more than a third finished with the second draft of the full work. If I’m fortunate, it’s a novel that someday will wind up on a bookstore shelf. Thanks for reading!