The phone rang. It was eleven at night and I wondered who would call me this late. I answered the phone and instantly recognized the voice saying ‘hello’.
“Hello John” I said, “Man, it sure has been a long time since I talked to you; well, let’s see, I think it was last November.”
John’s voice sounded kind of faint. “Yes, old friend, it’s been a while and I’m calling to unburden my mind, so to speak. My doctor told me I only have weeks to live and there are some things I want to put straight before my time is up.”
“But John, I don’t understand. Last time we talked, you were just fine. What’s the matter with you?”
“I felt OK last we talked, but sometime after that I began feeling a bit of a pain in my stomach. I passed it off as nothing to worry about, but it kind of persisted and after a few months I went to see my doctor. He sent me for some tests and the results were bad news. I have advanced pancreatic cancer with no hope of a cure.”
“My God, John, this is hard to believe. Have you had a second opinion?”
“Yes and the result was the same.”
“How long have you known, John?”
“I got the bad news 5 days ago and I”ve been drunk for three of them, trying to come to terms with the situation; but look, I’m calling you, not to get your sympathy, for you know all too well I don’t go for that sort of thing,–no, I’m calling to make a confession.”
“What do you mean ‘confession’?”
“Well, it goes back a couple of years, when we were working in Central America. You remember we couldn’t reconcile the gold bullion production with mill head assays. We concluded that someone was stealing some gold and both of us figured it had to be the mine manager and the mill superintendent in collusion and that there wasn’t much we could do about it, unless we could find out just how they did it and then nail them.”
“Yes, how well I remember. We never did find out just how they managed to do it and the theft kept going on. I figured the loss was about 100 ounces a month or more.”
“Well, the reason you never found out is simple. I was in on it right from the very start. The three of us each got about 30 to 40 ounces every month and it went on right to the end, when the mine closed. I took home a total of 2800 ounces, which I hid in my house here in Colorado. I sold some every now and then on the black market, which, given the high gold price, provided me with a very good living.”
“John, I find it incredible you would stoop to that. Why, John? You had a good salary and everything you wanted.”
“That’s true, all but for one thing. I would never get a pension, given that I worked overseas for most of my life and rarely paid any taxes here in the US, and all three of us were in the same predicament. That’s when we decided to create our ‘own’ pension fund. You were the one that suspected something wasn’t right and I went along with you, just so we could keep you from discovering the truth.”
“But why are you telling me now, John? There is no reason for me to know, especially since the mine closed and the company went out of business.”
“Well, old friend, there is a very good reason for me telling you now. In a few days, you will receive several parcels containing small bars of gold. They are shipped and declared as ‘brass metal bars’. I know what you are thinking right now,- it’s stolen goods, but what the hell, I can’t return them and I won’t need them where I’m going, so take them and enjoy life on the sunny side of the street. Buy yourself a nice villa on an island somewhere in the Caribbean
and watch the tropic sundown with a bottle of rum and some Latin music. It’s my gift to you for being my best friend for so many years.”
“I don’t know what to say John.”
“Don’t say anything. Thanks for all the good times and don’t call me back. I intend to speed up the arrival of the grim reaper with my colt 45.”
“John, no John!”
The phone went dead.
NOTE: Written in memory of my good friend John Ross, who passed away some time ago. The story is mostly fictional, but John’s life was filled with adventure and I had the privilege of sharing some of it with him.
This work by K. Larsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.