The Scavenger Hunt
It was a Friday night or maybe it was Thursday, difficult to remember that summer, all the days and nights seemed to run together. I remember it though, even now, like it was yesterday.
Mike was excited, which usually meant that we were going to have a long and interesting night. Earlier that morning he had told us all he had an awesome idea for our evening entertainment.
A scavenger hunt.
I know what you are thinking, how childish, but when you had as much free time as we did it became quite a chore to fill all those long hours of freedom. Anyway, Mike told everyone to meet at my house at nine pm where he would explain the rules of the hunt.
“All right, here is how this is going to work.” Mike began after Stanley and John finally showed up thirty minutes after nine. We were all there now, the best friends I have ever known. Stanley, the arrogant jock, John, the quiet poet, Benny, the pyromaniac, myself of course, the nerd, Chuck, the rich kid and Mike, the leader. I say Mike was the leader, but there was always some question whether the leader was Mike or Stanley. Mike was out going and fearless and usually came up with the ideas, but Stanley, in a much more subtle way was a notorious instigator. It made for even more entertainment for the rest of us.
Anyway, I got off track a little.
Mike was saying, “We are going to split into two teams. I have made up a list of items that can be found and how many points you will get for each.” He handed a scrap of paper to Stanley then to me.
“So what are the teams going to be?” I asked.
“Well that is what we can decide now, I cannot do everything.”
“Are you serious about some of this stuff?” Stanley said with his condescending laugh.
“What!?” Mike replied indignantly.
“Road Kill, hub cap, a girls thong, it’s just stupid that’s all.”
“So don’t come.”
“Hey man, don’t get bent out of shape, I am coming.”
“Why didn’t you put a duck on here?” Chuck asked after looking over the list.
“Can we get points for how many cats we hit while we are driving?” Benny chimed in.
“Guys, come on, just chill out, we are going to waste the whole night arguing. We are doing what is on the list, and that is that.” Mike shouted in exasperation.
“Yes sir.” Stanley whispered loud enough for everyone to hear.
Thankfully Mike ignored him.
“I was thinking we could do me, Stanley, Greg and Benny. Which leaves Chip, Chuck, John and Bill.”
“John and I are staying together just in case something better comes up.” Stanley interjected.
“Fine, I will go with them, and Jay can go with you. Is everyone happy with that?”
We all were fine with the groups.
“It is almost ten; we will meet back here at 1:00 and see who wins” Mike said looking at his watch.
“See you suckers later!” John called out as he, Stanley, Benny and Greg piled into Stanley’s truck.
“Something bad is going to happen to them.” I said as they tore out of the drive way.
“O well.” Mike said in reply.
Chuck and Bill were going over the list, while Mike and I piled stuff that we thought we might need throughout the course of the night into the back of my black civic. An ax, rope, shovel, bungee cords and other things. The night was getting on when we all got into my car and began our hunt.
It started off quite promising. We already had a number of street signs, a girl’s thong, and a sack full of golf balls and a menu from a restaurant. We were driving down a long stretch of disserted road when it happened. Bill, who was sitting in the back with Chuck and just so happened to glance behind us, said “Dude, there is a cop following us.”
“What!?” Mike exclaimed while looking in the rear view mirror (I never drove when we did stuff like this). “How long has he been back there? I have not been speeding or anything.”
“I don’t know, but he does not have his lights on so I don’t guess it will be a problem.” Chuck said reassuringly.
The road widened so there were now two lanes going in our direction. The police car picked up speed and soon past us driving as if he was in a hurry. We all breathed a sigh of relief. We should have gone home after that.
The item that was next on our list was a speed limit sign. Mike said he knew where there was an out of the way road that had just what we needed. He pulled onto a lightless side road and sure enough there was a sign leaning over as if someone had recently hit it. Mike pulled the civic off the road and we all got out.
“I have got to piss,” Bill said as he strolled off into the trees hands already at his fly.
Chuck was rummaging in the trunk looking for a wrench to undo the bolts on the sign. Mike was examining the bent up post and I was on the phone staring at the street we had just come from. In just a few short heart beats my eyes opened wide and I turned around and said, “Guys, there is a cop coming.”
Mike’s head whipped around as he moved away from the crooked sign. Chuck slammed the trunk and walked to the side of the car. Bill zipped up his pants and knelt down as if tying his shoe.
We were (expletive deleted)
We had enough street signs in the car to start our own illegal pawnshop, not to mention all the tools and such that would no doubt raise suspicion in the police officers mind. I could see no way out of this one.
The police car came to a stop. The headlights went off and the driver’s side door opened. The distinctive brown round of a state trooper was just visible in low light from the street lamp on the main road.
“How you boys doing tonight?” he said with no preamble. “You need help with something out here?”
I am not sure what we would have done if Mike had not kept his cool. I never knew that anyone could lie so effortlessly, it was like watching a painter work his magic on a canvas.
“We are doing great, Officer.” Mike answered. “My friend had to pee real bad so we just pulled off. I apologies if that is against the law.”
For a minute I thought the officer was going to take that as a smart ass remark. If he did he gave no indication that it had bothered him.
“What are you boys doing out this late, going to a party or coming from one?”
“We are doing a scavenger hunt with our youth group.” Mike lied shamelessly and expertly. I would not advise trying this but in the Bible belt the mention of youth group has the tendency to change the playing field just a bit. I just hoped that it was going to work.
The police officer stood for a moment looking at each of us in turn. I hoped that the minimal light would hide any hint of guilt on any of our faces.
“What do you have in the trunk? Mind if I take a look?”
My heart started to beat so fast and so loud I was sure everyone could hear it. This was a test, I felt sure. The cop was baiting Mike into making a mistake. If Mike said there was nothing in the trunk and the cop looked in, we were screwed. If Mike told him what was in the Trunk, we were screwed. If Mike said he could not look in the trunk, he would of course look in it any way and we were screwed. Oh how I wished we had just gone back after that first cop.
“No, not at all,” Mike said “We have some shovels and an ax and stuff from our house project last Saturday.”
The officer just nodded and made no move to further investigate.
I could not believe it. We were not in trouble. This night was not going to end in disaster.
“You boys headed down this street?” the officer asked suddenly, indicating the road we had turned off of to get the speed limit sign.
“No,” I said, “we were going to continue on our way after out pit stop.”
All right then. See that you don’t go down there, wouldn’t want nice boys like yourselves to get in to any trouble. We all looked at the officer with quizzical expressions on our faces. We then turned to look down the road. It was too dark down that way to see very far.
“What’s down there of…?” Bill began when we all turned back around. But the police officer, squad car and all, were gone.
“whoa, what the hell was that?” Chuck said.
“Let’s get out of here.” Mike declared, voicing what everyone was feeling. We all climbed back into the civic and Mike put it into gear and headed back to the main highway. I looked back at the crooked speed limit sign just as we drove out of sight and I could have sworn that something was moving toward it from the deeper shadows of the trees.
As we headed back to my house, Mike called Stanley. “Dude, hunt called off. You guys win. You are not going to believe what just happened to us.
And of course, no one did.