James jumped out of the car and ran into the house; the other two were close behind. He stood in the doorway with his moth agape. It was pretty clear in one glance that the house had been broken into and ransacked. It was a total shambles.

James pulled out his cell phone, and dialled 911. He waited for someone to answer.

Yes, hello. I'd like to report a break in. I don't know for sure when it happened, but I've only been away an hour or so.”

James listened to the response on the other end and then put his hand over the receiver and spoke to Brad, his brow furrowed. The police will be here in a few minutes. We should try to figure out what was taken.”

Brad searched the upstairs, and James walked into the kitchen to survey the damage. Cabinet drawers were on the floor, utensils and cutlery spread everywhere. Linda stood at the back door, inspecting the hole where the knob had literally been cut out and the dead bolt sawed through. Linda pulled a small weapon out of her purse that looked like a cross between a water pistol and a slinky toy.

What is that?”James asked with wide eyes.

“It's a sound ray blaster,” Linda answered, not even bothering to come up with a story to cover over the futuristic nature of the thing. “It's only on stun. I'm not out to kill anybody. If somebody comes after me, I'm going to defend myself.”

James shook his head, choosing to ignore the strange gun. Maybe Brad was right, he thought reluctantly.

Is that absolutely necessary? I'm sure they're long gone. I can't imagine what they could be looking for. My flat screen TV and other valuable electronics are still here. I don't have any jewellery or extra cash in the house.”

What about the emerald crystal? Is it still here?” Linda stood beside the back door, gun raised as though she expected a team of bandits to come bursting through it.

James frowned at the implied violence. The crystal couldn't be all that valuable. It didn't even reflect light well. He went into the living room and knelt down beside the computer table. The cardboard box containing his ancestors' letters and journals was still there, but it was on its side, papers spread out on the floor. He rummaged through it until he found the softbound brown covered journal that the crystal had been in. It was open, face down on the floor, the pages splayed out to either side. He picked it up and rifled through the pages – nothing. He went through all the other material from the box, and still found nothing.

It's not here. They must have taken it.”

Hmm?” Linda looked up. She was engrossed in the letter that James had opened earlier. It was the one that mentioned J. D.

It's not here,” James repeated.

I suspected as much.” Linda knelt down and began putting all of the letters and journals back into the box.

Is there any more of this material anywhere else?” James shook his head, and Linda got up, brushing her knees off.

This box is a treasure trove. When Liverpool finds out what was left behind, his thugs will be back. We've got to get out of here – now!”

She stood up and headed for the door. Brad came downstairs just at that moment.

Where are we going now?”

The museum – it has a very secure safe. I have the combination.”

James put a hand on her arm and stopped her in her tracks. “Wait a minute. That's my stuff you're walking off with there. Never mind if it didn't seem to be worth much before. It's still mine. Who is this Liverpool guy?”

Linda took a deep breath, trying to decide how much to tell him.

“I know it's yours, and it will remain so, as long as I can protect it. There is a  man—Mr. Liverpool—that wants this information very much. The crystal is only part of it. There are names, dates, business information that would be very dangerous in the wrong hands. Mr Liverpool's hands would be the worst possible. I'll explain more in the car. We may have wasted too much time already.”

Linda walked out the door with the box and climbed into the passenger side of James' car. James got into the driver's side. Brad got onto the back seat and decided it was pointless to lock the front door now. Linda was leaning forward to input the museum's address into the GPS system when the squeal of tires on the other end of the block made them all look back. Two sleek, black vehicles came careening down the other end of the long block.

Go go go go go!” Linda screamed.

James put the car into reverse and backed out of the driveway faster than he had ever in the past. When he stopped just long enough to drive forward, the lead car rammed their back bumper. Luckily the seat belts held as everyone ducked instinctively. James gunned the engine, and the car jumped forward but not before a sudden blast shattered the back window. The plexi-polymar material simply imploded within itself, most of the glass falling back onto the trunk in a gluey mess. Brad brushed off the few pieces that had fallen his way.

Everybody stay down!” Linda yelled, as she shot her own weapon out the now open back window. The lead vehicle swerved to one side and jumped the opposite curb with a flat tire. The one behind it pulled forward and followed James in hot pursuit.

The End

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