by Gary Hoffman
Enjoy this never before published mystery short story! And check out the rest of our Irish filled issue of KRL!
“Yeah, but we’ll never have to pay it. And look at the free advertising. I mean who’s going to bring in a real leprechaun? That new minister at HICC is having a treasure hunt for part of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. We’ll add another item on the list and offer big money for anyone who can bring in a leprechaun.”
“But what if someone does?”
“Dave, get real. There’s no such thing as a real leprechaun. They’re from folk tales.”
Daniel O’Sullivan was the new minister of the Hollyhock Independent Christian Church (HICC). He said he was as Irish as forty-three shamrocks hanging from a leprechaun’s hat. Back in January he started planning for the people in the town of Hollyhock to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
One of the events he wanted to have was a treasure hunt for his church members. Two people would make up each team. They would be handed a list of seventeen items they would have to find in three hours. The team with the most items found would win or the team who came in first with all the items would win.
The local newspaper picked up the story after the eighteenth item was offered with a hundred thousand dollar prize. Rev. O’Sullivan planned on charging each team a two-dollar entry fee. The church would get half and the other half would be paid to the winning team. He made up his list for items for each team to find, but kept it carefully guarded until the day of the treasure hunt. His list included:
1. a shamrock—real or cut from paper
2. a penny dated 2017
3. a dill pickle—slice, wedge, or whole
4. sock with a hole in it—preferably clean
5. leaf of cabbage
6. old playing card
8. ball point pen—out of ink
9. any flower
10. tea spoon of flour
11. a nail
12. broken shoe lace
13. half an apple
14. little bit of clean cat litter
15. empty pill bottle—may be used to hold cat litter
16. a dead battery
17. anything other than something already on the list that is green
Another event Rev. O’Sullivan planed was a marathon run. It was to be for thirty meters—about nine hundred and seventy-five feet. His reasoning was that anything after that was no fun. And anyone could enter and get a certificate of participation. It didn’t matter how long it took them to run, walk, or crawl it. One of his ninety-year-old members said she planned on entering, and she figured she would put a lawn chair half way through the race course so she could take a break. Timing for the race was not important. The person who did come in first would get a trophy made from empty soda cans. The excitement generated for this race was minimal.
“What do you mean we’d have to join a church?” Johnny ‘8 count’ Jockey said.
“The treasure hunt is only for people who are church members,” Tony ’Terrible’ Throttle said. “So we join the church and never go. What’s the big deal?”
‘8 count’ only had three fingers on his left hand. He lost two of them while on a frog gigging expedition, but the details were always sketchy. ‘8 count’ and ‘Terrible’ lived together and were always trying to find ways to make easy money, legally or illegally.
‘8 count’ came by his name honestly because all his friends said he could only count to eight now, without taking off his shoes, and no one wanted to be around when he did that. It was rumored the odor coming from the inside of his shoes was actually green looking. ‘Terrible’ gave himself the nickname because he said he wanted to sound real bad, like a hood or someone.
“I’ve seen this guy over by Brickington,” ‘Terrible’ said. “He looks really strange and is short. He carries this little hammer around with him. Leprechauns are said to repair shoes. I think he might use the hammer for that.”
“Or maybe as a weapon since he’s short.”
“The hammer’s too little to do much damage.”
“Yeah, that’s what they told me about frog gigs,” ‘8 count’ said.
“Look, tomorrow we’ll head into town and find this guy at the church and join up.”
“As long as there’s money in it. I don’t want to join any church that would ruin my reputation.”
“So have you boys been to any of my services?” Rev. O’Sullivan said.
“A few. We’re not what you would call regulars, but we probably would be if we were members.”
Rev. Sullivan shook his head slightly. Oh, well, a new member is a new member, he thought. That’ll look good to the church council for me to start getting new members right away. He had them fill out the new members applications. ‘Terrible’ had to remind ‘8 count’ of his past church affiliations, but ‘8 count’ had a difficult time spelling Episcopalian.
On the day of the treasure hunt, the two leprechaun hunters showed up early, but had to wait until nine o’clock to register. As soon as they paid the two dollars—‘8 count’ had most of his dollar in pennies—they took off for Brickington.
After digging up a few wino type people, they found out where the little guy lived. They found the house and parked a ways down the block to watch for a few minutes. As soon as nothing happened, they decided to go ring the door bell and see what kind of reaction they could get from the little man they were looking for.
The name on the mail box said Ian Callaghan. ‘8 count’ had a difficult time understanding how a person could have a first name that didn’t sound like anything he’d ever heard before. ‘Terrible’ was in the process when a short man opened the door.
“You know what day it is?” ‘Terrible said.
“Saturday. Why? You totally lost?” the man said. He had a long reddish beard.
“No, I mean it’s a holiday. Aren’t you going to celebrate?”
“And just how would I celebrate?”
“I don’t know,” ‘8 count’ said. “Maybe dress up in a green suit.”
“First of all, why would I dress up in a green suit? Second, I don’t even own one.”
“Aren’t you a leprechaun?” ‘8 count’ said. ‘Terrible’ cringed.
The little man laughed. “If I was, I certainly wouldn’t tell you. Leprechauns are loners. We…I mean they don’t enjoy much company.”
“Well, sorry to bother you, sir. Have a good day,” ‘Terrible’ said. “Come on ‘8 count,’ let’s leave this gentleman alone.”
As soon as they got back to the car, ‘8 count’ started in on ‘Terrible.’ “Why’d you let him go so quick? Now we’ll never know.”
“Oh, we’ll know alright. I could see into his bedroom. There was a green suit laid out on the bed. Maybe he’s going someplace where there will be other leprechauns. We’ll make a big fortune.”
‘8 count’ rubbed his hands together. “Boy, I could sure go for a big fortune. A small one even. Twenty or thirty bucks would look pretty good right now. I had to get into my poker money to pay for the fee to enter this contest.”
“Who lets you play poker anymore where you can use pennies?”
“Not many people. Come to think of it, no one at all for a long time now. Agnes and Shirley used to play on Wednesday afternoons, but Agnes died so that put the kibosh on that.”
“Maybe that was before I knew you.”
The two sat in the car and watched Ian Callaghan’s house. When he did come out, he was dressed in a green suit and a green hat with a flat top on it. He went quickly from his front door to the garage, backed out, and headed down the street. The first chance he got, he went up a ramp to the interstate.
After a few miles, he turned off onto a side road. From then on, all his turns were to smaller and less traveled roads. His final turn was onto a dirt and gravel road. His car was kicking up large clouds of dust.
“Be easier to follow him this way.” ‘Terrible said. “He won’t be able to see us in his rear view mirror.”
They saw ten leprechauns in a clearing in the woods. It appeared they were just talking to each other.
“Ten,” ‘Terrible said. “That’s a million bucks.”
‘8 count’ looked at him, and ‘Terrible’ stared back. They both had dollar signs in their eyes. When they looked back at the clearing, it was empty.
“What the…!” ‘8 count’ said.
There was a voice behind them. “And just what are you two doing here?”
When they turned around, the ten leprechauns were in a semi-circle behind them. “Well, we have this way of making some serious cash, and you are all involved in it.”
“And just what that might be?”
‘Terrible’ explained the treasure hunt.
“Yeah, I saw that in the paper. And if you took us in, just how were you planning on splitting the money?”
“Half and half, I guess,” ‘Terrible’ said.
One of the leprechauns pointed toward the clearing. “Look a naked lady leprechaun!”
“Terrible’ and ‘8 count’ spun around to get a good look. There was nothing there, and all the leprechauns had disappeared. “I forgot,” ‘Terrible’ said. “If you take your eyes off them, they can disappear.”
“What’s going on here?” ‘8 count’ said.
“Why should we split the money with you when we can keep it all for ourselves,” the man they had been following said.
Out in the woods, the ropes holding the two men to a tree fell off, like magic.
After all ten leprechauns turned themselves in, the owner of Hollyhock ?Ford said he just didn’t have that kind of money. When he got back to the dealership, all his cars, new and used, were coated with something that looked baked on adobe mud. He said paying the million to the leprechauns would have been cheaper.
Someone named Eddie Foyer won the real treasure hunt, and an eighteen-year-old named Simple Simon won the marathon. Last place was to a ninety-year-old woman whose was timed at an hour and forty-six minutes.
Rev. Sullivan thought the whole day was great for HICC. They cleared nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. Someone was short a penny to enter the treasure hunt, but he let them enter anyway.
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