The words spoken by the attorney had a delicate, surreal quality to them, as though encased in a giant soap bubble. I thought that if I reached out to burst that fragile orb the words would spill to the ground in a fine mist and dissipate. They would make as much sense then as when first uttered.
I glanced at my brother. He, the attorney, and I sat at a small oaken conference table scarred by too many cigarette burns and whitened rings from spilled coffee. My brother’s mouth hung open. I checked mine and found the need to deliberately close it.
The numbers were stunning. “Four million, three hundred seventy two dollars I bequeath to my daughter, Rachel, and likewise to my son, Martin.” Such an odd amount given to each of us. Where did it come from?
Dad never had much money. It surprised me that he’d actually retained an attorney for this occasion – a low rent attorney – but one just the same.
I could hear the wheels turning in my brother’s head. He saw me staring at him. Defensive as always, he said, “I’ll do with it what I please, Rachel.”
No doubt. His lost weekends due to his drug exploits were legend. I tried not to focus on his arms. Under his shirtsleeves they were a mass of needle tracks.
The money was transferred. Because I had a bad feeling in my gut about it my portion of the inheritance sat in my bank account. I ran into my brother every couple weeks and regretted every penny he’d received. His face grew more haggard, his already thin frame gaunt; his eyes became like hard starbursts. He said with a harsh laugh that he’d made much progress in working his way through Dad’s legacy.
Dad didn’t have much in the way of possessions. His tiny apartment held nothing of value: no books or mementoes of any kind. In a way I was thankful. My brother would have been useless had there been more belongings. Taped to the underside of a drawer in the lone dresser I found a safe deposit box key.
Upon proving to the bank clerk I had the right to gain access, I took the metal box from the vault into a closet-sized room. It held a newspaper clipping, nothing else. I froze. The headline: “Mysterious Death Haunts Family of Heiress – Where’s the Money?” She was eccentric, lived alone, and against all advice kept significant cash stashed in her home. She had told her nephew the exact amount: eight million, seven hundred forty-four dollars. It hadn’t been discovered following her death.
I did the math. Half to Martin, half to me. Dad hadn’t touched a dime. Blood money. Truly ill-gotten gain.
Martin snorted when I called him. It was probably from more than just derision; likely white powder going up his nose. “Give it back? Sis, are you on something? You don’t want yours, just give it to me. I’ll put it to good use.”
Our father had probably killed this woman, then stole from her. Keeping the money now that we knew would make us accomplices. More than that, the moral implications staggered me.
I’d recently begun attending church for the first time in my life and in my nascent faith I comprehended that I had a decision to make. My father had broken two of God’s Ten Commandments. Unless he had a deathbed conversion he was dead in his sins. Martin was squandering what wasn’t his. If I remained silent, I’d enable him right into the grave. If I alerted the authorities it wasn’t a stretch to envision Martin spending quality prison time.
What about me? The money never felt like it was mine. I didn’t have much but what I had I’d earned. I thought of Proverbs 10:2 that I’d read this morning: “Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.” This money could lead only to greater heartache. My path was one of seeking deliverance. If I gave the money back, I had to reveal Martin’s portion.
I made my decision. Everything we’d gotten from our father’s illegal deeds must be returned. I’d live with the consequences to Martin.
Martin removed the needle from Rachel’s neck. Such a shame. Too bad she’d left her journal out when he’d come to visit. Reading what she’d intended he had only one choice. He looked forward to the goodies her money would buy.
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