Chapter 11: Land of Dreams

Whitney and I were driving north through the Caheunga Pass, just where the Hollywood Freeway crests and begins its descent down into the San Fernando Valley. In the space at the rear of the pickup's cab, we had our millions stashed.

"We have to turn the money in," I declared.

"What? Why?"

"We found it on city land. So it belongs to the city."

She signed. "You are just like my father. Just like him."

"Sorry."

"Oh, don't apologize. It's a compliment. How many men would be willing to give up tens of millions of dollars because it's 'the right thing to do'?"

"Yeah. Well, we have to do it," I repeated.

"Ted darling, how much do you know about California treasure trove law?"

"About what?"

"Treasure . . . trove . . . law."

I shook my head. "I don't know nothing about no treasure trove law."

"Well, it turns out that California law rewards those whose industry and hard work turns up valuables which have been lost, even if the treasure is located on someone else's property. This is because, without their hard work, the treasure would remain lost and of no use to anyone."

"So you're saying the treasure is legally ours?"

We drove passed the exit for Universal Studios, where dreams are metamorphosized into sparkling reality.

"There're a few provisos, of course. You can't be an employee of the landowner because employees owe a special duty of loyalty to their employers. You don't work for the city, do you?"

"No."

"You can't be a trespasser. But we weren't trespassing today. We were following well-worn pathways on public land, heading for a public venue."

"So the treasure is ours?"

"According to treasure trove law, yeah."

I was still uneasy. "We'll need to spend it before the curse kicks in."

"There's not going to be any curse." She took one hand off the wheel and fished the golden medallion from out of her cleavage. "See this lady here, her with her cactus crown and her red-snake accessories?"

I leaned over for a closer look . . . supposedly at the medallion. (Okay, I glanced at it too.) "Yeah?"

"Her name's Chantico. She's the Aztec goddess of treasure. She is very protective of hidden treasure. Very protective. Since this treasure comes originally from Mexico, who else would have cursed it except for Chantico? So for the last several months, I've been wearing her next to my heart. She and I have become vast friends. I know I could never have found the treasure today if she didn't want me to have it."

We made the transition from the Hollywood Freeway onto the Ventura Freeway.

"So we have both the treasure trove law and the Aztec goddess of treasure on our side?"

"Right. So Ted, what do you think?"

I thought for a long moment. She had it all figured out. If she were right in what she was saying (and I was sure she was), the $35,000,000 was ours! Could life get any better? I shouted, "I think this is the best first date ever!"

Whitney laughed.

We drove along for a while, laughing.

Then Whitney nervously cleared her throat. "All my life," she said, "I've been looking for a man who compared to my dad, who had his bravery, his machismo, his strength of character, and his honesty. In the last two days, I've come to realize that I've finally met him. In truth, I've wanted to pounce on you since the first moment I laid eyes on you back at the gym. And this morning, when we were in mortal danger during that car chase, but you still found time to check out my legs, my god, I've never felt so sexy in all my life! So what I plan to do now is to drag you home and take you to bed."

I don't know how far my mouth fell open.

She took my stunned silence as a sign of reluctance and shivered. "That is, I mean, uh, if you want to."

My mouth finally started working. "I think the moral of this story is that, just when you think life can't get any better . . . IT DOES!"

I may need to remind you that I do love ugly girls. I really do. But y'know beautiful girls-there's a lot to be said for them too!

THE END

+ + + AUTHOR'S NOTES + + +

In the original "Last Action Hero" movie, the characters moved between the real world and an action-movie world. This story didn't lend itself to that. So, I set this action story in the real world. Every place named in this story actually exists, with two small exceptions. I've never been a qualified scholar, so I've never been inside the Huntington Library. That setting is made up. Of the cul-de-sac at the end of Los Tilos Road, all I've seen are overhead photographs. It looks there might be a steep slope there, but I'm guessing.

The cursed treasure of Cahuanga Pass is an historical fact. As far as anyone knows, millions of dollars of gold and gems remain buried somewhere on the slopes near the Hollywood Bowl. The long string of deaths associated with the treasure is also an historical fact.

California's treasure trove law is much as I described it. There is one wrinkle which I glossed over. The treasure trove law is only applicable when the true owner of the treasure is unknown. Here, the true owner is the Republic of Mexico, and so if you find it, you cannot legally claim it at yours (as I understand the law). On the other hand, since everyone who comes near the cursed treasure dies a precipitous death, legal complications may be the least of your problems.

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