Windfall

The McPhersons hadn’t been expecting a delivery that morning, but their doorbell rang at 7:03 while they were eating breakfast. Blain left his bowl of oatmeal and trudged to the door, fully expecting to give a fake smile to some hapless postal worker or delivery person and sign for a package with as little chit chat as possible. But he opened the front door to a nondescript sack at his feet. He picked it up, surprised at how heavy it was, and brought it into the kitchen. There was no mailing slip, no name, no address. Just a small tag attached to one handle. Whit noticed the note first:

I suspect this money has arrived just in time. Spend it as you will: it will always be with you.

Someone had left fifty thousand dollars cash on their doorstep. After they got over their shock, the couple laughed the bizarre note away and got to work discovering its source. They didn’t need to know much. As long as no banks or wealthy business people had been robbed, the money was fair game, right? After waiting two days and noticing no announcements on the news, they relaxed and divided the funds between themselves.

Whit went on a shopping spree. After investing a couple thousand in a designer bag and coordinated shoes, she treated herself to an afternoon at the city’s most acclaimed spa and salon and put the rest away.

And Blain? There was a car in the lot down the street he’d been eyeing for weeks. So he did something he’d always dreamed of and bought it cash, relishing the salesman’s expression when he stacked the bills on his desk.

He drove the new car back home, satisfied. But when he walked inside and found the bag once again full, his jaw dropped. He’d counted the money. Fifty thousand dollars. Whit wasn’t around, so there was no need to tell her. He took the money out and stashed it in his desk, leaving several stacks out to put in the bank.

When he returned from the bank, the bag was once again full. Blain danced around the kitchen with joy. The bag was magic! Every time you emptied it, it would refill with money. He would never need to work again.

He stuffed money into his wallet and went on a shopping spree of his own. The things he bought — a computer, the latest cellphone, a designer watch, a flat screen TV. When he got home, he couldn’t wait to tell Whit of their good fortune, but when she came into the house, her expression was grim.

“What’s wrong?” Blain asked.

“The bank called,” she said. “They said I’m overdrawn. And the mall declined my card. I checked my account. They’re right, but I put the money in before I went shopping.” She gave him a quizzical look. “Did you have any trouble?”

“No,” he admitted. “I paid everything in cash.”

Well, not everything. He checked his own account and almost collapsed. He too was overdrawn. What had happened? He had to put more money in the bank quickly. He ran into his office and opened his desk for his stash. Whit followed him, but he didn’t mind. They had endless amounts of money now.

But when he opened his drawer and checked his lockbox, his stomach and his hope plummeted. It was empty. There was nothing but the few bills he’d had in there before.

“No,” he whispered.

“No what?” Whit asked.

Blain rain into the kitchen and opened the bag. It was full to the brim with money.

“No…”

“No what?”

He took out a stack and handed it to Whit.

“We need to count these. Make a note of the numbers.”

So they did. They grabbed a scrap sheet of paper and wrote the identification of each bill. Then Blain took it. “I’ll be right back,” he said.

He ran outside and dropped the stack of bills in the closest gutter he could find. He watched as the water from the day’s rain washed it away. Then he returned home, and he and Whit counted the money.

“Forty-six thousand,” Whit announced. “What is this about?”

“I think it’ll be back,” Blain answered.

“What will be back?”

“The money.”

In an hour, they counted again. Blain sat on a stool and stared at the bag on the kitchen island. It was such an uninteresting bag — made of beige canvas and held closed with a drawstring. But it was a curse.

“How much?” He asked. With any luck, Whit would say something other than—

“Fifty thousand,” Whit said, her voice hoarse.

“All the same bills?”

“All the same.”

Blain slumped in his seat. The note on the bag caught his eye. He fingered it, reading it again. Spend it as you will: it will always be with you. He flipped it over, noticing a sentence on the back for the first time. Congratulations on your ill-gotten gains.

Four sharp knocks sounded at the door.

“Open up! This is the police.”

 

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