Gladys Johnson was a prisoner of her own accord. At the moment she was doing her time as cleaning service manager at the Painted Dunes Motor Lodge.
It had taken her 30 years to work her way into management but still, her take-home pay barely paid her bills let alone have any left over for her retirement fund. Fortunately and most convenient for her retirement fund, Gladys had a flexible code of morals.
Gladys was presently holding court in the corner of a dark dingy basement that was her office.
It was the end of shift for the day crew and her charges were filing in for the assessing of the shwag.
Gladys’s definition of shwag was anything valuable left behind by a guest that could be turned into cash. She had a few “no questions asked” arrangements with some of the local pawn shops. They didn’t ask any questions about the items she took in for cash and they received a small percentage of the take. Her nest egg was currently growing at a rate that would ensure she would not have to work into her 80’s. She may even retire before her 70th.
The day’s take was fairly modest and all but one of her employees had checked in. She wasn’t worried. The last to arrive was always Nadine but she more than made up for it in thoroughness in both the cleaning up and cleaning out departments. Gladys was not sure why Nadine’s swag was always the best.
Nadine had assured her that she never stole anything and that for some reason her rooms were always occupied by absent-minded guests. That was enough for Gladys.
At precisely 4:15 the sounds of a woman humming the tune to Chuck Berry’s Nadine strolled around the corner and into Gladys’s office.
“Nice of you to grace us with your presence Nadine,” pronounced Gladys.
“Oh, hush, you know I’m your best worker. Besides I’ve got something special today.” With a flourish, Nadine pulled out a metal briefcase from under her cart and presented it to Gladys. Gladys took one look at it and like the sands of an hourglass the color drained out of her face and settled in her shoes.
“You take that back where you found it Nadine,”
“If you don’t want it then I’ll keep it,” replied Nadine.
In a tone so low that Nadine could barely hear her Gladys whispered, “I have only seen one case like that Nadine. Long ago, one of the other girls, Thelma, found it and decided to keep it to herself. The next day she didn’t show up to work. People searched for her for over a year. One day some hikers came out of the desert saying that they had found some remains. Along with the remains was a necklace. I had never seen a necklace like that except on Thelma.”
“Nice campfire story Gladys but I’m going to have to call shenanigans on that one.”
“Suit yourself Nadine. Don’t expect me to come looking for you in the desert.”
“Ha, don’t you worry you won’t need to. These are the kind of briefcases that have a ton of money in them so you can come looking for me on a beach somewhere. I just need to crack the lock on this and I’ll show you.”
“You take that home and open it. I want nothin to do with it.”
“Fine with me. If I’m not here tomorrow, I’ll be on a beach somewhere,” replied Nadine.
“If that briefcase is what I think it is you’ll be under the sand not on it.”
Nadine laughed, shook her head and left with the briefcase.