The suitcase landed on its bottom edge with a dull thud and a shower of plaster. Josh dropped to his khaki covered knees onto the worn wooden floor boards before the scuffed plastic face.
“Go get me a screw driver,” he said with a lick of his lips. The taste of sea salt and sweat bloomed on his tongue and he stroked an oil and charred tinted hand across his brush cut hair. His wide eyes lingered on the rusted flat locks along the top crease of the gray plastic case. Dark key holes sat ominously at each end of the rectangular latches. The metal and plastic reeked of mothballs and sat in a cloud of age.
Sam strode off to the cabin’s kitchen drawer with a flap of his recently acquired sandals and a grumble.
Josh bit back a resurgence of their last argument. So he had lost the key in the wake of the explosion ending the boat chase through the nearby marina. The trade of the keys for the implication they were dead seemed fair. They hadn’t had a tail on them since crawling out onto the beach. They’d have to live with not recovering the tiny silver key, but there were always other options.
After a set of tugs and a grunt, Josh heard the stuffed drawer open. A rattle of tools that ranged from a set of Allen wrenches to a dull zester drifted across the squat tiled kitchen and musty living room.
Josh’s attention however remained on his rough hands. They stroked down the sides of the case and came away covered in a thick layer of dust. His fingers prodded at the grimy creases in search of some spot of weakness. The edges were as tight as the top row of latches, working as its designer had intended to keep out unwanted eyes.
Josh was not about to let that, or the lost key stand in his way.
Sam came back after a rustle through the drawer and a quick step. Even with burnt patches and a lingering dampness, his loose button down shirt fluttered.
“Think this will work?” He extended a tool with a long flat head and neck like a giraffe.
“Perfect,” said Josh with a wide smile. He took the bumblebee striped handle. “Help me hold it…”
Sam took his direction from a wave of the screwdriver, leaning over the top in order to put his weight upon the case. Pressing down caused the floor boards to creak but the case was frozen in place. Once Sam was set, Josh turned the rounded tips of the square head towards the rustiest area around the left hand lock.
A shower of crimson flecks coated his hand as he dug the tip into the crease. Beneath his rolled sleeve, his arm strained as he wedged the screwdriver along the stubborn lock. Sam leaned into the suitcase to keep it from flying beneath the prodding effort.
“Try wiggling it,” said Sam beneath tight teeth.
Josh cast a frown up at Sam and then glared down at the stubborn lock. He shifted position, traded the screwdriver into his other hand and struck out against the second latch.
The square tip slid into a deeper groove, one void of rust or clotted with decades of residue.
“You got it?”
Josh shook his head and rose up on his knees, adding more of his weight into the new found opening. The screwdriver’s handle dug into his palm and the grain of the wooden floor bit through his scorched slacks. He pushed and wiggled and heaved. His shoulder began to burn, and then the screwdriver slipped up to his fingers beneath the plastic.
“Ow,” Josh yelped, his hand flying away from the crisp metal edge with a shower of curses. The screwdriver stayed lodged like a diving board, waiting for a final plunge. Josh shook out his hand. He gave the tool and then his fingers a glare. Wet, scarlet scrapes glinted back at him amidst the grime and plaster.
“You alright?” Sam, who had dropped into a relaxed crouch once his weight was no longer needed to keep the case still, spoke only after the swearing had ebbed.
“Yeah,” said Josh. He stood and stalked into the kitchen for a towel to wrap around his fingers. Dingy daisies lined the gray terry cloth hanging from the oven’s handle. The towel smelled cleaner than it looked. Josh pressed it against his hand, holding it fast with a tight fist.
Sam had left open the drawer and the gleam on steel caught Josh’s eye. Josh’s good hand pushed aside the top layer, growing more urgent with the arrival of a devious notion. He scooped up the heavy hammer resting on the bottom of the splitting drawer. The wooden handle jumped in his hand as he tossed the tool in order to test the weight. With smirk he turned and waved the heavy head with menace towards the still jutting screwdriver.
“You’re gonna break it,” said Sam with a shake of his head.
“That’s the idea.”
Sam stood and pushed upon the case once more. Josh picked his angle of attack. He laid his wrapped hand on the lock, pinning the screwdriver head in place. With a vicious glint, he drew the hammer head back. The metal face smacked into the end of the screwdriver with a clang. The neck sunk deeper beneath the latch.
“One more,” muttered Josh. Another swing and the latch snapped with an ice-like crack.
Sam reached down to hold the screwdriver in place as they turned their attention to the second latch. Josh managed the other tool as they widened the crease with a bit more hammering. The square head slipped under the remaining lock and with another pair of swings the metal face sprung free.
Sam crouched on one side, Josh on the other. Their hands gripped onto the bottom and top lids.
“One,” said Josh, “Two…”
On three they both pulled. The hinges groaned. Josh’s hand stayed latched onto the lid while his eyes swarmed down into the open suitcase. Bare edges and the frayed cloth interior looked back up at him.
“We,” Sam murmured, barely loud enough so Josh could hear, “are going to be in so much trouble.”