“The problem with money,” Lawrence Peters opined, “is that the ability to buy anything you want takes away the thrill of the chase.”

The others at the table nodded their agreement. None of them had yet reached forty-five years of age, and all of them had wealth measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars and growing steadily with each passing year.

Nate Bolton took a long sip of his Irish coffee before responding. “You know what I enjoyed as a kid? A treasure hunt. It’s too bad they don’t have treasure hunts for adults.”

Barry Julian snorted. “And what would the prize be? A car? A house? Some cash? That doesn’t seem like much incentive.”

“I could be the prize,” came a voice from behind them. Cheryl set down fresh cups of coffee and cleared away the empty ones. The four men gazed at her as they tried to absorb what she had said.

Marc Billups was the first to recover his composure. “What, exactly, are you proposing?”

Within an hour, the idea had been fleshed out. The young waitress would become a pawn in their game. The goal would be to hide her somewhere within the continental United States. One of the four men would pick a location, stash Cheryl there, and develop a treasure hunt that would lead the other three to the location. If everyone was stumped by a particular clue, the answer would be revealed one week after the clue had been given. The first to arrive at the destination would get three weeks alone in Honolulu with Cheryl.

For her part, Cheryl would be well compensated. There was a $250,000 signing bonus just for agreeing to the deal, and a salary of $1 million per year, deposited into her account in monthly installments. Her hideouts would be designed to be very comfortable – a luxurious bed, fully stocked kitchen, and cable TV among the amenities. The only limitation was her contact with the outside world. Cheryl would be forced to remain within her hiding spot, and she would only be able to communicate with the organizer of that particular game – to avoid her tipping off any of the players.

Cheryl would get six weeks in Hawaii at the conclusion of each game. The winner would leave after three weeks, setting up the next game.

Cheryl made it very clear – she was no prostitute. She was being paid for her companionship and for her time in isolation as the game’s prize. The four men readily agreed with her.

A month later, the game was ready to begin. Cheryl had been sequestered in a hidden location, and Nate Bolton was ready to kick off the great treasure hunt.

“OK, guys. The first clue is –“

And he promptly dropped dead.

 

 This is the first story in a new series.  New chapters will be added periodically (and I’ll include a table of contents once there is more than one chapter).  Where is Cheryl – and how long will it take the guys to find her, now that Nate isn’t around?

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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