101 Bell Whistle
Chapter 10: The Treasure Room

Copyright© 2010 by JimWar

As day broke the next morning thoughts of the exploration were the furthest thing from my mind. Our evening had extended into the early morning as we planned our future together. Agreeing to be married and agreeing on the circumstances of that marriage is not necessarily the same thing.

Audra was adamant that her parents were not to be invited to our wedding. She had no other relatives that she knew of, as her mother and father had run away and married at an early age. As soon as Audra told me that she suddenly became introspective and then with some trepidation said, "Joe, I've never told you this but ... well, I'm not like you expect."

I was puzzled and, seeing the possibility of another road block popping up, a little irritated. I waited and when she didn't say anything I said, "You're right, every time I think I know you, you surprise me. That's a good thing, right? Every one of the things I've found has given me another reason to love you."

Audra hesitated and then said, "This one won't. It doesn't make a lot of difference to me now, but it did to a lot of people while I grew up. It may make a lot of difference to some of your relatives and friends."

I was curious and totally puzzled as to what she meant. I had to clear up one thing for her so I said, "Unless you're a mass murderer I can't think of a single thing that could change my opinion of you. You know most of my friends and they all love you. I'm not close to what's left of my family and their opinion is irrelevant."

I looked at her, hoping that I had resolve her problem. I was still curious but in my mind it really didn't matter. I knew her and accepted her along with whatever shortcomings she perceived. I could only hope that my loving gaze across the pillow communicated that to her. Looking into my eyes she almost whispered, "Joe, I'm not white like you."

It took me a moment to sift the mean out of what she had said. Of course she was white like me. The first thing I thought was that she was going to tell me she had some trace of Indian blood but what she said next surprised me. "Joe, my grandfather was a negro. My mother looked white but my father once let it slip that they had worried that I might be dark skinned."

I interrupted her at this point and asked, "Do you think that matters to me? I thought you knew me better than that."

I didn't know what else to say. It didn't matter to me. That was something that did mean something to some people. I was almost ashamed to think that it would have made a difference to my parents and probably would make a difference to some in my family. My family consisted of various aunts and uncles and were scattered out across five states. None were likely to make the trip to attend the wedding of a nephew they hardly knew. My mother had died less than a year after my father's passing several years back. I honestly could care less what any of them thought.

Audra weakly smiled at me and said, "I just thought I needed to mention it. It was obviously more important to some 'friends' that I had in high school than I would have thought. I didn't think it was important and mentioned it to some of them and suddenly several of my 'friends' started avoiding me. It wasn't just white 'friends' either."

I could tell that talking about it had affected her deeply. I hugged her to me and just held her. After a few minutes we kissed and the kiss ended our discussion of the wedding for a while. Later when the subject of our pillow-talk returned to the wedding, Audra was unyielding that her parents not be invited. She was also resolute that her parent's former employers be extended an invitation. She still felt the need to mend fences with them and hoped that this would help.

We both agreed that our neighbors, Elise and Edward be invited. I added Hector and Jorge and their immediate families. When I stopped there Audra insisted that I also invite Kelli and her mother. Audra later talked to Hector and Jorge, trying to find out if they felt anyone was being left out. Hector mentioned Angelo and Maria from the diner. He winked at me as he said something to Audra in Spanish. I later found that he had told Audra that Maria was sweet on me and might want to fight for me.

As I said, we were up until the early hours of the morning. So late that again we found the rude door buzzer again acting as our alarm clock. I dressed quickly and went down stairs to find Hector and Camilla standing on the porch. Hector was quick to exclaim, "Boss you need an alarm clock. You should be up way before ten in the morning."

I invited them both in saying only, "Late night."

Camilla made her way to the kitchen and started preparing the coffee while I ran back upstairs to finish dressing. Audra had a head start and so was in the kitchen excitedly talking to Camilla in that rapid fire Spanish that I still needed to learn when I opened the kitchen door. As soon as I opened that door Hector jumped up from the table and said, "Felicitates! You are one lucky hombre."

I couldn't help but grin as I answered, "Don't I know it."

Both Hector and Camilla hugged me as I eyed the coffee pot. I struggled loose from their embrace and finally got a cup of my morning eye opener. About that time the door buzzed again and of course it was Elise and Edward. I introduced them to Hector and Camilla and soon there was a discussion about the most important topic of the day, which was not unlocking the room. Both Audra and I took congratulatory hugs from Elise. Audra also got a hug from Edward but I settled for a handshake. The three women began to converse in Spanish. Elise's Spanish was not as rapid fire as Audra and Camilla's but it was obviously understandable.

As soon as we all had a cup of coffee in hand we started making plans for the day. My stomach was growling and so I offered to drive down to Dennon's for a box of donuts. Audra nixed that idea after Camilla said something to her in rapid fire Spanish. Hector and Edward both shrugged and before I knew what was happening Camilla, Elise and Audra were pulling out frying pans and cooking breakfast.

Hector took both Edward and I aside and apologized for Camilla's decision about breakfast. Neither Edward nor I understood what she had said to Audra so it really didn't bother me. Hector explained that Camilla was old school and wouldn't even let him near the kitchen at home. He then grinned and told us she was a very good cook who was responsible for almost all of the extra pounds that he carried.

While breakfast was being prepared we went to the garage to scout out the tools that we would need to open the door of the room we had discovered. Hector had never been in the garage and began drooling when he saw the selection of tools available. I had assumed that we would use a hacksaw to cut the shackle of the old padlock. Hector told me that he had seen some antique padlocks in worse shape than the one locking the room sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay. He suggested that rather than destroy the lock we cut the iron staple on the door catch instead. It made sense and would take about the same amount of effort. We also managed to find several eight foot two by fours and several near half-sheets of plywood to use to stabilize the brick wall. I smiled when I realized that these were probably leftovers from Audra's father's tunnel construction.

We didn't tarry long in the garage as I was still hungry. By the time we returned to the kitchen Elise and Audra were setting breakfast on the table. My first surprise was that the eggs had been scrambled southwestern style with bacon, jalapeños and onions. Hell, I didn't even know we had bought jalapeños when we were at the grocers. Biting into one of those hot pepper bits will certainly wake up your morning, especially when you aren't expecting it. Audra was snickering after my first bite. I tried not to show any affects from the hot peppers but the more I ate the more my lips heated up. Finally I could stand it no more and I rushed to the cupboard and grabbed a water glass.

Audra laughed and said, "See, I told you he was stubborn."

Hector, who didn't let the heat stop him from devouring his plate of food, said, "He's not used to Camilla's cooking. This only has Anglo jalapeños in it. Wait 'til she uses some of her home grown habaneros. They'd set el Diablo himself on fire."

Audra, Elise and Edward seemed to eat the eggs with no apparent outward reaction as I finished my water and massaged my sore lips. Looking at Camilla I said, "Just warn me before you serve me anything like that so I can have plenty of water nearby."

She laughed and said, "Water don't help. Bread and milk help some but it's mainly something you have to get used to. Don't worry; I'll warn you before I cook anything really hot."

I managed to finish off my eggs, which except for the fireworks were quite tasty. I tried to get to the sink to do the dishes to show my appreciation but Camilla was having none of it. While Camilla, Elise and Audra jostled with each other to wash up the breakfast dishes Hector and I gathered up the industrial gage extension cords that I had brought in from the work site and began laying them from the basement down the tunnel toward the locked room. It took all the cords that I had brought to reach that far. We draped the cords over the torch brackets to try to keep them off of the floor, which was damp in spots.

Edward had carried down a halogen stand light that we put into place facing the door of the room. When we plugged in the extension cord and turned on the light the area was almost too brightly lit. Edward was fascinated as we explained how Hector had climbed the wall and almost been buried in the rubble as the wall collapsed. Next we retraced our steps and with the ladies' help brought in the plywood, two by fours, and other tools we needed. After two trips and an hour's work we had the brick walls shored up to where we felt more comfortable and began work on the door.

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