John dug into the ground with his bare hands.

“My people buried the mask deep, John. Here.” Niru handed John a shovel. John looked up at the hot Pacific sun and wiped his brow. They dug.

"I had a job once digging holes while everyone around me got rich." John said. “Now it's my turn.” He gestured towards the ground. "Even the Winter Hill gang never made a score like this."

The sun drew long shadows on the sand as they lifted the mask out of its grave. "I'll carry this back to the boat." Niru said.

“No, I'll take it.” John pulled the mask away. Niru watched as John turned to put the mask away. Suddenly, a feathered dart hit John's neck. He pulled it out and looked around. “Niru, run! They found me...!”

Niru held up is hands as if to ward off an attack. "I poisoned you, John."

John was stunned. "Is this about what happened in Brisbane? I thought we trusted each other. I never pegged you for a murderer."

"I don't want you to die, John." Niru eyes squinted. "I'll make you a deal. I'll give you the antidote if you let me take the mask. You have 24 hours."

"Is that the best you can do?" John scoffed, "Why, my old man used to..."

“For three years I sought the mask of my tribe.” Niru said, "Please, we don't have time."

"We?" John sized him up. Niru looked nervous. "This isn't about me, is it? You're in trouble." said John. "That's why you ditched me in..."

"John, I..."

"Look, remember when that Santa Cruz gang caught up with us? You said we were both alike."

"No, I said we were both going to die."

"Well, it made me realize that friends - true friends - have to stick together. I'll make you a counter offer. You give me the antidote and I'll go with you."

"But I betrayed you."

"That's OK, I knew you were up to something. Hey where's that antidote? I'm starting to feel a little woozie"

"Um, John, there is no poison. I lied."

John's eyes glared, “You son of -” Suddenly, several helicopters flew over them.

"Hey, John, why is the Japanese military here?" Niru yelled.

John yelled back, "There's something I forgot to tell you!"

“Oh hell! This is Brisbane all over again!”

“What are friends for?!”

Copyright © 2016 James Barrett. All rights reserved.

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