It was a Saturday afternoon in July, 1989, the hottest day of the year, when nine-year-old Dominic Pointer found buried treasure in the basement of his house. Hidden in a dusty box in the far corner beneath an old issue of Missouri Conservationist, Farrah Fawcett held a martini olive pick to her lips and smiled out at him from the cover of the 1978 Playboy Christmas Gala issue, promising to reveal the mysteries of the female anatomy in all its glory.
She sat atop a collection that spanned several years and filled two boxes. When Dominic showed his neighbor Seth what he had found, the latter’s entrepreneurial instinct kicked in immediately: fifty cents admission, five minutes in the basement, two kids at a time. Soon they would have the adjoining garage filled with boys from the neighborhood, respectfully lined up and waiting their turn.
They made out with $17.50 before Dominic’s dad caught on to what was happening. To avoid mutual shame and scandal, his mother was not informed of the incident, and they came to a tacit agreement on the matter, man to man. Dom quietly did his time, a week with no TV, and then life returned to normal. The next time he ventured into the basement, the magazines were gone, as if they had never existed.
“Dude, do you really think he got rid of them? Not a chance. They’ve just been transferred to a more secure location.” Seth was on a Mission Impossible kick. “You know what that means, right?”
“Yeah. Game over.”
Seth shook his head. “Who are you and what have you done with my friend? No, man. Game on! An extraction job.”
“But we don’t even know where they are.”
“A simple recon mission will solve that. Besides, it’s pretty obvious.”
“Am I missing something?”
“They have to be in their bedroom, fool. Most likely the closet. Possibly the dresser, in the sock drawer.”
Seth had walkie-talkies and everything. After Dominic’s dad had left for work and his mom headed out to the grocery store, they made their move. Dom took point, and Seth climbed the pine tree in the front yard and kept a lookout.
None of it was necessary. Dom was in there for less than a minute. The collection had been reduced to just ten issues, probably his dad’s favorites, and they were right there in the bottom drawer of the dresser, underneath a pile of dress socks.
He grabbed three issues—Farrah was among them—from the bottom of the stack, stuffed them into his backpack, and replaced them with Better Homes and Gardens so the count would match. Phase one, complete.
Phase two involved finding a secure location of their own for the contraband. Seth’s father had built him a treehouse in his backyard the previous summer, and that seemed like the obvious solution.
Farrah found her new home in a secret compartment Seth had cut into one of the floorboards, alongside a bottle of schnapps he’d nicked from his parents’ liquor cabinet. But he insisted that the other two issues should be stashed elsewhere. Risk management.
So they readied themselves for the final phase of the mission (duct tape, plastic wrap, flashlights, bottle rockets, sling shots), and headed for the sewer tunnels that emptied into a drainage ditch next to the interstate. The opening was a graffiti-covered concrete passage that ran under the highway, the site for numerous feats of daredevilry and experiments in homemade pyrotechnics.
It had hardly rained all summer, so the tunnels were dry, which allowed for deeper exploration than was normally possible. From the underpass, two tunnels branched off to either side, and these in turn opened into smaller tubes. Each time the boys made it to a new opening, they fired an exploratory bottle rocket, to scare off rats and provoke any other lurking horrors to show themselves. In the case that anything actually did, the sling shots would deal with them.
They had been spelunking like this for what must have been an hour or so when they saw a light twinkling at the end of the tunnel they were crawling through. They reached the end, and found themselves in a sprawling red brick chamber, with storm drains on its edge peering out onto a street. It was a hideout that would have made a ninja turtle proud.
Each magazine was wrapped in plastic and duct taped to the ceiling before the boys headed home. They turned in on their street just as the first flashes of lightning strobed on the horizon. Those wayward magazines were never seen again, but at least they had Farrah.