She was beautiful popping out of the water like a cork exploding from a champagne bottle. The flaming-hair female was sitting in a small saddle secured to a large, green leatherback.
“This is hard to believe. Gosh, I thought it was a myth when I read about her in a local newspaper,” mumbled a dark-haired fellow with sweat pouring down his forehead.
Someone sitting next to him replied, “She’s our special secret weapon for bringing in paying spectators.”
“I can certainly see that,” nodded the younger man.
They watched as the girl rode the bucking alligator around the man-made pool a couple of times before diving back under the water.
After her departure, a four member, blue-grass band took up their instruments and began playing from a stage off to one side.
“Well, that’s it,” said the older man beginning to rise. “Oh, by the way,” he added, “Where’s my manners. My name is Al and I own this entertainment establishment.”
Al stuck out his hand. The younger man shook his hand and smiled, “My name is Tom.”
“Where are you from?” asked Al.
“From New York City,” replied Tom.
“Hmm — New York City, you say,” mumbled Al. “Are you here to make me an offer about buying some of my alligators?”
“What?” asked Tom.
Al cleared his throat before continuing. “I’m sorry, but I’ve changed my mind about selling the alligators that are native to this area. They’re — . um — gone. The new breed sort of gobbled them up.”
Tom stared at the heavy-set man. “I’m sorry — but you really have me confused with someone else.”
Al blushed. “I’m sorry.” Rising up out of his seat, he added, “Excuse me. I need to see if the buyer is here. I really don’t need him snooping around.”
Tom watched Al dash off.
‘Good,’ he thought. ‘I did not come all this way to spend time chatting with some over-weight owner of this gator farm. Now, where is she?’
Tom scanned the area looking for the girl with hair the color of fire. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the gator gal. The girl stood near the stage clapping her hands to the beat of the song the band was playing. She had changed out of her costume and was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a cut-off tee shirt. The words, “I like it rough,” was spread across the front of her shirt.
‘Yeah, I bet you do,’ thought Tom as he headed in her direction.
Tom walked up to the gator gal and introduced himself as a journalist interested in interviewing her for a possible feature article.
The gator gal noticed this so-called journalist did not look in her eyes when he mentioned why he was interested in her.
‘What is he really after?’ she wondered.
Glancing around, Tom added, “Is there someplace we can go that’s more quiet?”
The gator gal moved away from the stage motioning for him to follow.
“Is this better?” she asked.
“Now,” she added. “Tell me what you really want!”
Speechless, Tom stared at the female standing in front of him. She had her hands on her hips stomping one foot. It was obvious that she meant business. Tom knew the charade was over. He may as well come clean.
Looking directly into her eyes, “You’re very perceptive. What I told you was a half-truth.”
The gator gal cocked her head to one side. “So!”
“I have a business proposition for you,” Tom stated.
She whispered the word ”¹…”proposition’ to herself and then she slowly raked her eyes over his frame. “Mmm — is this something you think I normally do on the side?”
Tom started coughing. “No, I didn’t mean that?”
The gator gal grabbed his arm. “Then what did you mean?”
“Ouch!” Tom muttered removing her hand off his arm. “You got one hell of grip!”
Once again, gator gal placed her hands on her hips tapping one foot on the ground. “This is the last time I am going to ask you. What is it you want?”
“Treasure,” Tom mumbled. “I want to find the Billings’ Treasure.”
The gator gal shook her head as if trying to clear it. “Say that again.”
“You heard me,” smiled Tom. “I’m after a pirate’s loot that’s buried in the heart of the Everglades.”
“Mmm,” she smiled back. “Let’s go somewhere more private. There are eyes and ears everywhere around here and I’m not talking about the alligators.”
The gator gal walked away, while Tom followed. It did not take long for him to spot a couple of rustic cabins up ahead.
When Tom walked into Gator Allie’s cabin, the scent of pine drifted throughout the cabin.
“Nice,” he mumbled. “Your cabin was constructed from pine.”
Gator Alley merely nodded pulling out a chair from under a small table near the door.
“Sit,” she said abruptly. “I don’t have time for small chat.”
Tom gave the inside of the cabin a once over before sitting. He noticed a twin-size bed with a homemade quilt in the corner of the room. There was a separate bathroom, a kitchen cubby and a shelf with a number of hanging hooks containing an assortment of clothes, mostly swimsuits.
“I guess you’re not into shopping,” Tom said nodding at the swimsuits hanging on the hooks.
Gator Allie cracked a smile. “I guess it looks that way, doesn’t it?”
Gator Allie stretched out her hand and placed it on top of Tom’s. With her index finger, she began to draw circles lightly over the skin.
“Do you think that’s enough small talk?”
Tom’s eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. Stuttering he muttered, “No — .I mean I didn’t come for that!”
“Really — sweet” murmured Gator Allie.
Gator Allie leaned over and kissed Tom.
Tom could smell the earthy scent of her and he wanted more.
When Tom stood up to pull her next to him, Gator Allie pushed him back into the chair.
“I had to know if you were a man and you certainly passed the test,” whispered Gator Allie.
Anger flooded through Tom. He wanted to slap her. But, he needed her. So, Tom stared at the floor to calm down.
Gator Allie waited a few moments before asking, “What did you come to see me about?”
“You know,” he stormed, “If I did not need your help, I’d get up and leave right now.”
“I know,” she grinned.
“Are you always this cynical?” he asked.
“I do what I have to do,” she replied.
‘She’s sick,’ thought Tom.
They locked eyes for a moment. It was Gator Allie that lowered hers and murmured, “What can I help you with?”
“Buried treasure,” he replied.
Tom was surprised she did not show excitement or at least lift her head to look at him.
‘Strange,’ he thought. ‘It’s as if she knows about it.’
Tom hesitated. Maybe, he should just get up and go. As if she were reading his mind, “Don’t go — tell me more.”
She lifted her eyes to look at him and waited.
“The treasure is buried in the Cherokee Reservation.”
“I’ve never heard of any treasure buried there,” sniffed Gator Allie. “Are you sure someone is not pulling your leg?”
“No, I’m sure of it,” declared Tom.
Tom stood up to unbutton his back pants’ pocket. He took out a folded brown envelope. He opened it to remove an old piece of paper. “It’s a page from Don Billings’ journal during the Civil War. Apparently, he was a Confederate paymaster during the Civil War. He wrote in his journal that he had to bury the payroll in the Everglades where two creeks met and where the land rises up resembling the head of an alligator. The treasure is buried on the west side, supposedly the mouth of the alligator.”
“Hmm — that area is nothing but swamp land. I guess that’s why you need me. Not too many people have the expertise of diving into water that is full of alligators,” replied Gator Allie.
Without warning, she reached for the paper.
Tom moved the paper out of Gator Allie’s grasp. “Not so fast,” he mumbled. “If you need to see it, just ask.”
“Okay, let me see it!”
Gator Alley examined the paper carefully. “I don’t think it’s a fake.”
Tom reached to get the paper back. When Gator Alley continued examining it, until Tom snapped his fingers and said, “Give it back.”
“Where did you get this?” she asked staring at it as she handed it back to Tom.
“Recently, my grandfather passed away. He left me his entire collection of books. I was searching through his collection to decide what to keep or give away. The journal page was tucked inside a book containing a collection of maps used during the Civil War.”
“Wow! I guess it is true,” exclaimed Gator Allie. “So, what’s in it for me.”
“A cool ten percent,” winked Tom.
“Really,” smirked Gator Allie standing up. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
Smugly, Tom glanced up at her. “All I got from my grandfather was some books. That old man was worth millions.”
“And?” said Gator Allie.
“That treasure buried in the swamp is my way of getting what I should have gotten in the first place,” stormed Tom.
“Excuse me,” replied Gator Allie. “I need a glass of water. How about you?”
“I’m good,” he said. Tom watched Gator Allie walk over to the small sink in the kitchen cubby. She removed a glass off the dish rack. She opened the small refrigerator door and took out several ice cubes tossing them in the glass. While filling up the glass with water from the faucet, she called over her shoulder, “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” he mumbled.
“Hmm — ” she winked. Taking an ice cube from her glass, she began to lick it.
Tom watched her. He still wanted her and she knew it. She caught his stare and smiled. Gator Allie placed the ice cube between her lips and began to suck on it moving it in and out with the tips of her fingers.
Removing the ice cube, Gator Allie mumbled, “It’s just not doing it for me. Nothing can replace the real thing, if you know what I mean.”
“You know I want you,” said Tom in agony.
“Mmm — ” Gator Allie said huskily. “But, first the water.”
“I don’t understand the water thing, but if you do me the same as that ice cube, I’ll take a sip,” said Tom.
‘I can’t believe I just said that,’ thought Tom. ‘I really should just leave.’
Gator Allie handed him the glass and muttered, “Drink the water.”
He took a sip. “It taste funny.”
“It’s alligator brew,” she whispered.
He began feeling light-headed. “You drugged me.”
Tom fell on the floor near Gator Allie’s feet. He grabbed her ankle, “Why?”
“Because,” she grinned, “I’m always looking for fresh talent.”
“I don’t understand,” he muttered.
“You will,” she muttered watching his skin turn green.
Stepping away from Tom, Gator Alley walked to the door and yelled, “Got another one for you, Al.”
“I thought we had enough alligators in the pond,” said Al.
“We do,” agreed Gator Allie. “But the fools just keep coming.”
Al snorted. “What did this one want?”
“The same thing — as the last one — that buried treasure over at the Indian reservation.”
“Yeah,” laughed Al. “That Billings’ guy sure has a lot of male descendants.”
“Yes,” giggled Gator Allie. “He sure does.”