Down By the River
By Jeff Baker
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The prompts for this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were a thriller set in a sewer involving a suitcase. For my two other stories about my husband-and-wife detectives the Reidels, see the links on the side or the bottom of the page.—–jsb.
The old stone sewer wasn’t that wet but it smelled and Donna Reidel was certain she heard rats in the dark. She shone the flashlight down the tunnel and saw a trickle of water running down the middle, several inches deep.
“We keep to the sides and we can stay out of that water,” Sean said. “There’s no telling…”
“No telling how deep it is,” Donna finished.
“Shine that light around, maybe we can see the…” Sean started to say but was interrupted by the noise; a clattering sound from above. Donna turned the flashlight off. When they were first married they had spent time in an old house with a tin roof on the back porch. It had hailed one night and the sound had sounded like a gun battle. That was almost what the clattering noise was like. There were several metal barriers on the ground, but hopefully the pursuers wouldn’t find the way into the old sewer which was hidden in the overgrowth.
After about ten minutes, Donna turned the light back on, and began a meticulous search.
Donna and Sean Reidel had been hired to track down information that had been stolen from an agency so secret it didn’t even give its name. All they knew was they needed to recover it before it fell into the wrong hands, which were in hot pursuit. And they needed to find it before their own government found about the lax security. The only clue to the location was a handwritten note from the thief which said something about being hidden in a “valise.” The thief’s sputtered out last words said something about a sewer. The agency had a set of waterproof suitcases and one was missing, so this was what they were looking for.
“If the water gets any deeper it’s probably hidden there,” Sean said, kicking the stream with a foot. “I was going to sing Down By the River but that might not be a good idea.” Donna smiled and nodded.
“What’s that?” Donna said after walking a few minutes shining the light from side to side.
“Newspaper,” Sean said, reaching for the paper stuck in a crack in a wall. “No, wait…music paper…this is a song! But nothing else written here…”
The clattering started again, this time from up ahead. There was a sound of something heavy being dragged and clearer sounds of voices.
“This way!” Donna said, turning off the light and grabbing Sean’s hand as he stuffed the paper into his jacket. They felt along the walls until they reached the entrance, well aware of the confused sounds from behind them and the squeaking of the rats.
When they were outside they rushed through the overgrowth to their car and drove away. Sean still had the paper in his jacket. On closer examination, the notes and words to the old waltz were a code, delivered by the Reidels to the proper hands. The information was not in a valise, but a “valse.” A waltz.
Sloppy handwriting and a mistranslation. But at least it didn’t all go down the sewer.