One-Page Story

Highest Bidder

“God knows what we’ll find in here!” Hanna said excitedly, pulling the trunk toward her. She looked at her friend. “It could be anything!”

Her friend Julie didn’t seem to share her overflowing enthusiasm, but she did manage a smile. “It was kind of fun,” she allowed, “to bid on something like that.”

“Right?” Hanna said. “I knew you’d like that part.” She put a screwdriver up against the rusted lock of the trunk and began rocking it back and forth. “We’ll have it open in no time,” she promised. True to her word, the lock sprung away from the weathered wood with little effort on Hanna’s part, and she let the screwdriver clatter to the floor so that she could lift the trunk lid with both hands.

The trunk was only one of many items found in the storage unit; the owners of the facility held auctions once a month for the contents of abandoned units, and Hanna had come to many of them, bidding as high as she could but only rarely beating out the others. Today, though, Julie had agreed to put some money into it, expressing curiosity about this hobby of Hanna’s. She thought it was fascinating that someone would care enough about things to put them in storage, and then just forget about them. “I suppose maybe they’ve died somewhere,” she guessed. “And had no next of kin who cared.” She found such a notion sad, but also intriguing, and while Hanna occupied herself with bidding against others at the auction, Julie had imagined possible scenarios for the lives of these forgotten people.

In addition to the trunk, there were several boxes full of journals, books and documents; the subjects of the books suggested that their original owner was a scholar of some sort. “Maybe an explorer!” Hanna said in delight. She tipped back the trunk lid and looked inside.

The trunk contained only one item – an ornately carved piece of ivory, shaped like a dagger, its edge as sharp and deadly-looking as any metal blade. “Wow!” Hanna breathed, picking it up. “This is amazing!” She put the dagger down and reached over to one of the books. “I think this is on the picture on the cover,” she said. “This thing must be really special!”

Julie had crouched down beside the trunk, and now reached in and pulled out the dagger. She looked suddenly very serious. “The Calahuolco,” she said. “It’s supposed to have magical powers.”

Hanna had flipped open the book. “This says it belongs to a professor,” she said, reading the inside cover. “I guess we were right about him being a scholar.”

“Dr. James Benton,” Julie said. She turned to Hanna, who looked at her curiously.

“How did you know that?” Hanna asked. “Is it written in the trunk?”

“No,” Julie said. She pivoted toward Hanna, and plunged the ivory dagger into her friend’s chest. As blood flew out, spraying over Julie’s hand and face, she held the dagger tightly, and tilted her head to one side. “I’m sorry, Hanna,” she said. “I really am. I didn’t have enough money to bid for the unit myself.” She pulled the dagger out of Hanna’s chest and wiped the blood from it with a corner of Hanna’s shirt. “Thank you,” she told her friend, who collapsed forward, her breath coming in ragged gasps until, finally, it stopped altogether. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

She tucked the dagger into her bag, and, shouldering the bag, walked out of Hanna’s garage and into the sunlight. She looked back over her shoulder at Hanna’s still form lying on the concrete, then she smiled, and made her way down the street.

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