Questionable Donor

Minerva walked over to the end of the pier and peered down at the water slapping against the barnacled pilings twenty feet below. She pulled out her phone and checked the time. The donor was late.

She sighed and Tweeted:

Standing on the dock in the bay, waiting for a man with no name. #nothowthatsonggoes #workisweird

Despite efforts by herself and a coworker to convince their boss this was a horrible idea, here she was waiting for an “anonymous donor” who was bringing artifacts of questionable origins. Her boss had decided that getting the items out of private hands was worth the headache and ethically gray area. Minerva was pretty sure there were rules or laws or something that said otherwise, but liked her job, and knew that in the long run, her boss was probably right.

A chill wind blew across the bay. Minerva zipped up her museum logo jacket and muttered, “Summer, my ass.”

The weather app on her phone said 63 degrees but here on the water with the wind, it felt much cooler.

Footsteps reverberated through the pier. Minerva tucked her phone in a pocket and fingered the envelope her boss had given her. While she technically didn’t know what was inside, it wasn’t hard to guess.

The man walking toward her was carrying a wooden box. The probably illegally obtained artifacts were supposedly from a local archaeological site. Minerva extended the smile most people misinterpreted as friendly, and took a step toward him. The sooner they got this over with the better for everyone.

The man’s eyes narrowed. “You from the museum?”

Minerva nodded.

The man looked back toward shore. There were few cars in the marina parking lot, most of them over by the boat launch. “Green car yours?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I talked with a man on the phone.” The man shifted the box to one side.

Minerva smiled more to cover up her irritation. She was used to being dismissed or ignored because of gender in this community, but it never failed to get under her skin. “My boss. He had a family emergency and couldn’t make it.” She pulled out the envelope. “He sent this.”

“How much?” asked the man, confirming her suspicions.
Her smile faltered. “Look, I don’t want to know. I can’t know. Don’t tell me.” She stepped forward with the envelope outstretched.

The man took the envelope and stepped back, as he ripped it open and counted the contents.

Minerva looked away, across the water toward the rhythmic noise from where they were doing experimental drilling, looking for bedrock under the sediment on the bottom of the bay. She strongly doubted they’d find any. The drilling must be scaring the fish. There weren’t any fishermen on the pier.

“Gimme your phone.”

“Huh?” Minerva turned back to find a gun pointed at her from under the wooden box. Most of it was obscured, but it looked like a .22 automatic. For a moment she considered arguing, then pulled out her phone.

He took it out of her hand. “You a good swimmer?”

“No.” Minerva looked back toward shore, which suddenly looked a lot further away.

“Get up and sit on the rail.”

Minerva raised her hands up next to her head. “Just take it. I’m not going to stop you.” Her uncle was totally going to kill her for not having her concealed carry permit if she got out of this.

“You got any cash?” The man was visibly perspiring, his eyes twitching all around.

“Just cards.” Minerva reached for her wallet.

“Get on the rail!” He switched the gun to his other hand.

Minerva stepped backward until the railing pressed into her back. It took her three tries to push herself up backward so she was sitting on the wide wooden rail. Her brain randomly speculated that the rail was probably totally coated in bird crap as she held on to it with both hands.

Movement on shore drew her eye, and her head followed her gaze. A police car was slowly cruising through the parking lot.

The man turned. “Goddamnit, I knew it.”

A loud pop echoed over the water, and a sharp impact slammed into Minerva’s gut. “Shiiit,” she said doubling over, one hand going to the wound.

A second shot hit her in the leg.

Aw hell, if she was going to get shot, why did it have to be with a smaller caliber? This wasn’t even going to kill her.

“Fucking bitch,” said the man, shoving the box into her midsection. “Fall.”

She hooked her uninjured leg around the railing and slapped him in the face with her blood covered hand. He pushed the box harder into her midsection trying to unbalance her. She grabbed his collar. He hit her in the head with the box.

As Minerva fell backward off the pier, she suspected there weren’t even any artifacts in that box.