Money – a whole load of cash in trays, not the sort of old tobacco tins I keep my book fair change in… I have no idea where I got them. My dad used to smoke a pipe, but I’m not sure these are the same brand. I just acquired them the way you do in life.
Money is the prompt for this week’s writephoto, based on this great photo from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. I had an idea, which grew. I even consulted my brother over the weekend after I’d thought of things like: shouldn’t this cash be declared as part of the contents for probate? The inspectors generally look around for hidden cash, apparently, but accept that most people just pocket the loose change. It’s the house that matters, and signs of any hidden wealth like original paintings. My brother asked how they missed the bottle, but maybe it was Friday afternoon and he wanted to get home….
This piece is undoubtedly part 1 of something longer. But as it’s already scraping the ceiling of 1000 words, it’ll have to stop with a cliffhanger of sorts. Either the second part will appear on here later, or the whole lot will develop into something else entirely. You can have some fun guessing what I think she’ll find behind the key.
The bottle at the bottom of auntie’s wardrobe was full of coins.
They’d probably be foreign ones from her travels. Just make sure.
About a hundred slid out onto the bed spread, glinting and jangling against each other. Some old, some still pretty shiny. Yes, several old pound coins. Pound, not franc or drachma or Peruvian.
How many coins were in this bottle, almost a jeroboam. One of those things you made wine in. Lots.
Where’s the phone?
Her brother Michael had given her a free hand to clear auntie’s house so they could put it on the market and split their inheritance. “Nothing of value in her house, she only kept rubbish, and paintings done by unknown friends.”
“But some will be worth going to the charity shop, even to auction.” she’d protested.
“Do whatever you want. I leave it entirely up to you. I don’t want any of it, just get it cleared so I can sell the house.”
She didn’t want the hassle of selling the house, so she was happy to clear it. But… this money… Michael would be cross if she pestered him. Make up your mind, for once.
The stopper went back in the bottle, and she put it with the other things she was taking with her.
The cardboard box under the bed was a surprise. Under the paintings, unframed, was a stash of notes. Small ones, fives and tens, but a lot of them. Some euros, too. Should she tell Michael?
When she found the suitcase in the roof, with the bundles of fifties, all in paper wrappers, she made a decision.
She called Michael and tapped ‘record’. “Hi Michael. I just wanted to update you. I’ve found several bundles of cash, Auntie obviously had a fear of being left without any. Do you want me to account for it, or just…”
“For heavens sake, I’ve already told you. Do whatever you need to with the contents, I’ll do the house sale. I think I’ve got a buyer lined up but he won’t wait.”
“Okay. Message received and understood. Over and Out.” She tapped to stop the recording, saved it carefully, and put the phone down. Sometimes it was best with Michael to revert to the old radio protocols. Buyer lined up, eh? Okay, shady deal in which he’ll make money not part of the actual sale price. Fine. She’ll keep anything of value in the house. Sounds like a fair split, really.
A day or so later, she settled at her dining room table to count the loot. Piling the coins into towers of ten, each of the same currency and value, she soon had the table covered. Once she reached the bottom of the jar, she started listing each coin type and putting it in a doubled plastic bag. She doubted whether a bank would give out cash bags without questions.
This total can’t be right. She added it up again. Same answer.
She made a cup of tea, and started on the notes in the cardboard box.
An auntie gone slightly gaga, but not enough to need care, might have hoarded this cash over the years. Some of the fives and twenties were out of date, and having checked at the Post Office about an old twenty a few weeks before, she knew they were still legal to use. Only about fifteen pound coins were old round ones, but she’d have to pay those into her account if she want to use them. The euros might be a problem too, although… maybe a holiday in Europe once they were finally able to travel without it costing thousands in covid tests and visas.
But the suitcase…
How had auntie acquired a suitcase of new–the latest edition–bank-wrapped fifties, totalling nearly two hundred and fifty thousand pounds?
And more importantly, was it going to raise alarm bells if she tried to spend them? There was no chance of banking them. Money-laundering and all that. In fact… it was one bundle short of the round number. Had auntie already spent some?
She poured a glass of her best Jura malt whisky.
This was going to need a Plan.
Including how to make sure Michael didn’t get suspicious.
Well, no need to do anything with it until he’d sold the house. Then she could spend her inheritance openly.
But, what had auntie done to get such a large sum of money, all neatly wrapped, and in a suitcase? It smacked of intrigue, subterfuge, and possible criminal activity.
What clues had she found among auntie’s possessions?
Painting. What were the paintings on top of the cardboard box with the smaller notes?
Savouring the Jura as it slipped around her mouth, she studied the small pieces of ordinary drawing paper with scenes in ordinary acrylic-type paint. It looked a bit like a Monet they’d done in school as an exercise. She’d enjoyed copying that. In fact, auntie had commented on it when she’d visited at the end of term. “You need to pay attention to the way the artist uses his brush, his exact brushstrokes, in fact.”
Why did she remember that? She’d laughed at the time saying she didn’t want to be an artist, she wanted to be an astronaut. Auntie had said she could be both, they weren’t incompatible. They had both been out of her reach and everyone knew that.
There was something else in the box, taped to the bottom. An envelope, with sheet of paper and a key.
Handling it brought tingles to her bones.
What other secrets had auntie been hiding?
Michael had taken charge of all auntie’s finances. But there had been nothing from Coutts, the elite people’s bank. She had been through it all before packing it up for him.
The paper said ‘Coutts’ and a long number, followed by ‘remember the paintings.’
So: the first step in the plan is to go to London with the paintings, the number and the key, and see if auntie had a safe deposit box.
© J M Pett 2021