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The Thanksgiving Case

George set his pole down beside his chair and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, nearly hypnotized by the motion of his bobber bouncing on the still, shimmering surface of the pond. It was as close to relaxed as he’d been in nearly a year. Bad crops, bad health, bad everything had brought him to the brink of bankruptcy, and he knew this might be his last chance to fish in his pond before the bank owned it. “It’s Thanksgiving,” he thought. “Try to find something to be thankful for.” He caught a whiff of the turkey Greta was preparing inside. A good turkey dinner. That would have to do for gratitude this year, he thought as he dozed off.


“Excuse me, sir?”

George startled. A dirty, bruised and bloodied man, carrying a suitcase and wearing what was once a smart navy suit, stared down at him. At first glance, George half thought that someone had beaten up one of the men from the damned bank and dumped him on his property.

“My name is Dan,” said the man. “I’m so sorry to bother you on a holiday, but I wrecked my car a few miles up the road. I’ve been on sales calls all week, and was I hurrying home to my family. Guess I should’ve slowed down.”

“Are you okay?” asked George.

“I think so,” he said. “I’m kinda shook up, but it could’ve been a lot worse.”

“Would you like to come in?” George asked, reluctantly. He wasn’t keen on sharing his hard-earned holiday with a stranger.

Dan wrung his hands anxiously as he answered. “Oh, I wouldn’t think of imposing, especially on Thanksgiving. I hate to even ask, but if you could give me a ride into town, I can get a tow truck and call my wife.”

“Suit yourself,” said George, relieved. “Let me run in and grab my keys.”


Greta was waiting for George as he walked through the door.

“Who’s that man?”

“Some guy got in a wreck up the road. I’m running him into town.”

“Look at this,” said Greta, frantically pointing toward the TV. “They’ve been breaking in with this all morning.”

Behind the anchorman was a police sketch of a man in a suit, clean cut, dark hair – a dead ringer for the man standing out by the pond.

“They said he hijacked an airplane and jumped out with a suitcase full of money somewhere around here last night,” said Greta. “He had a parachute, but the police don’t think he survived. The name he gave on the plane was D.B.Cooper.”

“This guy said his name was Dan, and he was on his way home to see his family,” said George. He looked out toward the pond again. As unlikely as it sounded, it was quite a coincidence.

“Greta, go lock yourself in the bedroom. I’m calling the police,” said George, turning toward the kitchen.

“Wait,” said Greta.

“Greta, go, now!”

“They said he had around $200,000 in the suitcase.”

George stopped in his tracks, then slowly turned.


“We owe $50,000 to the bank, and it looks like there’s a criminal out back with four times that in his suitcase. And the police think he’s already dead.”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“Maybe. Maybe the thought of losing this place after we’ve worked our butts off has made me crazy. Maybe seeing the government spend millions to put a man on the moon while we’re losing everything has put me off my rocker. I’m sorry, but taking ill-gotten gain and putting it to honest use sounds like the sanest thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

George wanted to argue, to take the moral high road. But after the past year, he had to admit to himself that he was having trouble finding it.

“How?” said George. “I’m not saying yes. Theoretically.”

Greta coolly looked out the window toward the pond.

“Looks perfect to me. You’re twice as big as he is – overpower him, hold his head under, then we tie him to one of those concrete blocks we have in the barn.”

George stared out the window. He’d always admired Greta’s strength, her take-charge attitude. But this – this was extreme, even for Greta. But these were extreme times.

It was too perfect.


Dan was kneeling beside the pond, washing his face, when George walked out. As he snuck up behind him, wave of doubt washed over him. But it was quickly taken over by a wave of fear at what he stood to lose.

George lunged down and wrapped his thick hands around the man’s neck. Dan bucked back and swung his arms, but George tightened his grip and easily pushed his head under the water. The flailing seemed to last an eternity, but finally he went limp.

George fell back, spent. Greta now stood behind him with a length of rope and a cinder block she had dragged out. Without a word, they finished the task.


As the last piece of Dan submerged, Frank heard a set of wheels turning on to the gravel driveway. He turned to see a familiar, presently unwelcomed black car pulling in.

“Hey George!”

George nervously began to shift from one foot to the other.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Sheriff.”

“You haven’t seen anyone on walking by, have you?”

“Nope, not a soul. Why?” Greta chimed in before George had a chance to open his mouth.

“I came up on a real bad accident a couple of miles up the road. There was no one around when I stopped to check it out. Thought whoever it was might have taken off on foot. I was gonna offer a ride into town if I found them.”

“Oh – I sure hope they’re okay,” said Greta, in a tone so sympathetic even George almost believed her.

“Well, if you see anything, call the station and they’ll radio me. Enjoy your turkey!”

“Thanks Sheriff, Happy Thanksgiving,” Greta sang out as the sheriff’s car pulled out.

George stood paralyzed for a minute, processing the conversation. He turned and fixed an intense gaze on Greta.

“What did you make me do?”

“I didn’t make you anything. We decided. Together. And you don’t know anything, it’s probably coincidence, a lot of people wreck on that curve past the bridge,” said Greta.

“That’s one too many coincidences for today,” George mumbled as he snatched up the suitcase. Greta followed as he ran into the house and threw the case on the sofa. She stood over his shoulder as he frantically fumbled with the latches, clumsily tugging at them until case finally popped open. Folded shirts, pants, underwear – no cash. George turned the case upside down, spilling the clothes. A secret compartment, maybe? Maybe the money was hidden in the clothes.

Tears welled in George’s eyes as he pick up two items that fluttered out behind the cloths. A photo – the stranger, flanked by his wife and two young boys – and a business card:

“Daniel Elgin – Salesman of the Year, 1970.”


Cathy Bible is  a full-time marketing professional and aspiring writer.


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