Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21
The thing about money, it changes your life. It touches everything, some things for the better, some for the worse but it never leaves anything alone.
When Randall Marsden opened the letter he was sure it was a scam or a practical joke by one of his students. He threw it away without a second thought. But, a week later on a foggy Friday afternoon a man in a grey fedora, a double breasted tan suit, brown and white wing tip shoes carrying a leather briefcase showed up at his door. The man took a cashiers check for a million dollars out of the briefcase and handed it to Randall.
“We sent a letter,” said the man, “but you didn’t respond. Mr. Fishbeck insisted we deliver the check to you in person. The money is yours. No strings attached.”
Before Randall could respond, the man returned to the black limousine from whence he emerged and the car disappeared around the corner.
There was a note attached. It read as follows:
The enclosed check for $1,000,000 payable to Mr. Randall Marsden is a bequest from the estate of Albert Fishbeck. All applicable taxes have been paid. Very Truly Yours, Jonathan Fishbeck, Executor.
Well, whispered Randall to himself, I’ll be a horse’s ass. This old man Fishbeck, who the hell is He?
Randall taught mathematics at Pine Grove High School. His students were always playing jokes on him. But, this seemed over the top.
On the weekend Randall googled around the internet, called all the friends he could think of, contacted mortuaries, cemeteries, and scoured the news outlets. He said nothing about the check. He was sharp enough to know that he could trust no one until he could make sense of this bizarre situation.
There was no Albert or Jonathan Fishbeck to be found. Anywhere. That’s not exactly true. He found a few names but none with the resources to leave him a million bucks.
This man’s a sly old fox, he thought. Was a sly old fox, he corrected himself. We’ll see about this. We’ll just see about it.
Everyone knew Randall as the math nerd who loved the arts. “Remember,” he was prone to say, “Einstein said he would have been a musician if he weren’t a physicist.” Randall was also known for his strict moral code. He stuck up for the less fortunate and called out bullies. He lived alone. His social life consisted of attending school plays, concerts, and art openings although he never participated himself. He had no illusions about his own artistic abilities.
On the Monday morning after receiving the check, he called in sick. He then drove a hundred miles to the closest medium sized city, Savory Pines. He walked into the First National Bank of Savory Pines, opened an account and deposited the check. To his surprise, after consulting with the manager who verified the checks authenticity, the check was accepted. The teller said the money was in his account and could be accessed at will. The manager offered to discuss investment options with Randall, but he told the manager he wasn’t interested. He was no fool. He knew where that would lead.
“I want to buy three $250,000 cashiers checks made payable to me,” he told the wide-eyed female teller. “I’ll leave the rest here at your bank. Am I correct that my account here is insured by the FDIC up to $250,000?”
“Yes Mr. Randall, that is correct. This is a brochure that explains the insurance and the other services we provide at Savoy Pines.” Their hands touched when she gave him the brochure. For one brief moment his mathematical certainty eluded him.
“Thank you,” said Randall. When their eyes met a strange electric sensation pulsed from his head to his toes. Am I physically attracted to this girl? he wondered. Good God! I think I am. Whoa! Slow down Randall, business and pleasure don’t mix. You know that.
Randall cleared his throat and tried to regain his composure. He noticed the girl’s name tag: Diwanna Love.
“I would like to order a credit card, Diwanna, and I’d like some checks to take with me in case I need to access some funds before the credit card is issued.” Randall hoped he didn’t sound too familiar.
“You … know me?” said Diwanna with some hesitation looking pleased but surprised.
“Your name tag,” said Randall.
Diwanna looked down at her blouse. “Oh, of course,” she smiled.
“Certainly Sir!” she said with a flick of her eyelashes. “I’ll be back in a flash.” He watched her wiggle away to get the paperwork, streams of red hair flowing down both sides of her head. Cute, he thought, damn cute. I’m rich. New vistas are opening up already.
After he dealt with the details, Randall walked out of the First National Bank of Savory Pines with three cashiers checks, a book of starter checks on his new account, and a promise that he would receive a credit card within two to three weeks. As he left, Diwanna’s coy smile encouraged him to think he might see her again. She likes me, he thought, and that electric sensation pulsed through him a second time.
He crossed the street and opened an account with a local branch of Wells Fargo using one of the cashiers checks. He arranged for wire transfers into his Savoy Pines account should he need access to the funds. Then he drove home to Pine Grove.
He opened two more accounts with two different banks and established wire transfers as before. The money was now safe and insured and accessible. He still had to find out who this Fishbeck fellow was and what this was all about. Randall wasn’t skilled with money matters but he knew about deposit insurance. And he was frugal. His father’s savings disappeared into a black hole when an uninsured local bank went bust. He grew up poor. He knew how to make money last.
It was late in the afternoon. As he walked out of the bank, Randall met a fellow teacher, Tom Foresight, who taught English.
“Hey, Randall. You feeling better?”
“Yea,” said Randall. “I thought I had the flu but I think it was just something I ate. Did I miss anything important?”
“You haven’t heard?” said Tom.
“Don’t tell me,” said Randall. “They cancelled the music program again.”
“Yep, used the money to outfit the football team,” said Tom. “I’m sorry Randall.”
“Music and the arts always get second fiddle,” said Randall. “I wonder if we could find a sponsor or something.”
“I can’t imagine,” laughed Tom. “There’d just take the money and use it for the sports program anyway.”
“How could they do that if the money was earmarked?” asked Randall.
“I don’t know,” said Tom, “but they’d find a way. See you tomorrow. I’ve got a bundle of essays to grade tonight.”
As Tom walked away, the wheels in Randall’s head began to turn. Could I pull this off, he wondered. Maybe I could fund the arts program anonymously. He went home, took out a beer from the frig and tried to sort things out.
Two weeks went by. Randall couldn’t find out a thing about the Fishbecks. As far as the world was concerned, they didn’t exist. Then something happened that took his mind off the search.
On Saturday afternoon there was a knock at his door. When he opened it a girl stood in front of him that took his breath away. It was a minute before he recognized her.
“Wow! Diwanna Love, right?” He was shook.
“Hello Mr. Marsden,” said Diwanna. She knew from his eyes the effect she had on him. A good start, she thought.
“My goodness, uh, well … come in. What … I mean … why are you here?” Randall felt his pulse beat faster.
“Thank you Mr. Marsden.” Diwanna looked into the living room. Piles of paper were scattered on the coffee table and on the floor.
“Please, call me Randall. Come on in. I’m sorry about the mess. I live alone. I wasn’t expecting company.”
Diwanna entered and Randall cleared a space for her on the couch. He sat facing her in a straight-backed chair that he pulled away from the kitchen table. There was an awkward silence while Diwanna shuffled through her large leather purse.
“I brought your credit card. For some reason it came directly to the bank. I thought you’d like to have it as soon as possible.” Diwanna’s skirt poked open as she handed him the envelope with the card. Randall got a glimpse of her shapely legs. He swallowed hard.
“You drove all the way from Savoy Pines to deliver my credit card?” Randall was flabbergasted. “On a Saturday?”
“It was a beautiful day for a drive. And, my Aunt Sally lives here in Pine Grove. She invited me for the weekend,” said Diwanna.
“That’s very thoughtful,” said Randall. “The least I can do is take you out to dinner. It will give me a chance to try out my new card. I’d be happy to have your Aunt join us.”
“I’d love that,” said Diwanna. “My Aunt is bedridden. She never leaves her house. It’s very kind of you to invite us. I’ll meet you here at your place. What time should I drop by?”
“How about 7 pm,” said Randall. “I’m sorry about your Aunt. I’m happy to pick you up.” He couldn’t believe his good luck.
“It’s better if I meet you here. I’ll see you at seven,” said Diwanna.
There was something about the way she spoke. Randall wasn’t sure about the vibes he was getting. It didn’t matter. He was excited about spending some time with her.
She stood up and shook his hand. She was gone before he could think of anything else to say. He smelled her fragrance on his hand. His chest constricted. He took a few puffs on his asthma inhaler. He called to activate the credit card and put it in his wallet.
Dinner that Saturday night was the first of a series of events that changed everything for Randall. The next Saturday Randall drove to Savoy Pines, and the next, and the next. It wasn’t long before he and Diwanna moved in together. He’d never had a real girlfriend. He was completely helpless around her. She, on the other hand, was completely comfortable with him.
“Isn’t it a little quick to be living with a girl you just met?” asked Tom. “Where did you meet her?”
“I went shopping in Savoy Pines. Met her in a coffee shop. One thing led to another and here we are. Can you believe my good luck?” said Randall.
“She’s a helluva catch,” said Tom. It was obvious that Randall was infatuated. Tom was happy for him but he didn’t want his friend to get hurt. “Be careful man, girls can change your life.”
“Maybe it’s time I change my life, Tom. It’s been pretty boring until now. I appreciate your concern. I’m going into this with my eyes open. So far, so good.”
School was out for the summer break. Randall had nearly two months off. Diwanna told him he should take the European vacation he’d always wanted. He’d never been able to afford a major trip but now he could. He threw caution to the wind.
“Why not,” he told Diwanna. “I’ve always heard that my family was from somewhere in northern England in the Lancashire area. Maybe I could find out something about my roots. You’re coming with me, right? I’ll pay.”
“Wow! I’ve got relatives in Edinburgh,” she said. “It’s not that far away from where you want to go. Maybe we could do both.”
Randall and Diwanna flew to London. Randall bought a book on walking tours in the city and they explored as much as they could on foot.
“I could spend weeks walking along Portobello Road,” said Diwanna, “But God, Smithfield Market leaves me sick to my stomach with all the dead animals and blood.”
Randall was in awe of London. His favorite was the Tate where he had a chance to study William Blake’s paintings. Blake had been a favorite since he himself had been in high school. Unfortunately Diwanna was wearing a new pair of boots on the day they visited the Tate. Her feet got blisters. She sat on a bench and removed her boots while Randall paced the gallery.
One of the guards admonished her. “You’re not allowed to remove your shoes in here ma’am. Please put them back on.”
Randall saw her give the guard a nasty look. He knew, reluctantly, they would have to cut their visit short.
Diwanna had expensive tastes. She begged Randall to take her to trendy places like The Savoy Grill, Inigo Jones and the ancient historic Rules in Convent Garden. Randall knew he was spending more than he should but he couldn’t say no to Diwanna. He hoped she would tone things down when they went north. Perhaps prices would be lower outside the city.
They travelled on BritRail stopping at Cambridge, York and Leeds. BritRail was convenient and cheap. They took some side trips to Blackpool and Lancaster where Randall did some research on his family name. He traced the Marsden name back as far as the 12th century. That was quite satisfying but he was unable to discover his connections. All in all it was a bust but at least he had tried.
On the train to Edinburgh Randall noticed a change in Diwanna’s demeanor. She became quiet and withdrawn. Maybe she’s just tired, thought Randall. He spent his time looking out the window and gave her some time to herself.
Their first day in Edinburgh Diwanna said she needed a day alone to visit her relatives. She wasn’t sure how they would receive her and she was afraid taking Randall with her might upset them.
“The last time I saw them we got into a big argument,” she said. “I want to test the water before I subject you to my Scottish clan.”
“I get it,” said Randall. “That’s fine. I’ll just take the day to see the sights. I want to see Adam Smith’s grave and maybe visit the castle.”
The day went well. Randall had relaxed about the money. Whatever he spent was worth it if he and Diwanna had the time of their lives and grew closer.
After a simple lunch of fish and chips Randal went for a long walk to settle his stomach and clear his head. After several hours he found himself looking at the mansions along Ann Street. As he turned the corner, to his surprise he saw Diwanna speaking with a man on the entryway of the largest house. How strange, he thought. He stopped in his tracks. Diwanna and the man seemed to be in a very heated discussion.
Randall positioned himself behind some large heather shrubs where he couldn’t be seen. After several minutes Diwanna left and the man went inside.
Randall stepped out from behind the hedge and nearly bumped into a woman walking along the street.
“I’m sorry ma’am. Excuse me. Whose residence is that?” He pointed to the mansion where Diwanna and the man had been meeting.
“Oh, that’s old Mr. Albert Fishbeck’s place. He’s one our richest men,” said the woman a little shook.
“Fishbeck?” said Randall flabbergasted.
While they were speaking, Randall saw the man he’d seen with Diwanna leave the house.
“Yes sir, Mr. Albert Fishbeck. That young man who just left, that’s his son, Jonathan. Word is the father and the son don’t get along but I wouldn’t know.”
“Thank you,” said Randall and the woman went on her way.
Randall knew what he had to do. He climbed the stairs of the massive residence and knocked on the door. A butler answered and inquired as to the purpose of Randall’s visit.
“I’m here to see Mr. Albert Fishbeck about the million dollar check his son Jonathan had delivered to my home in Pine Grove Illinois.”
The butler’s eyes flashed. “Please wait inside here. I’ll return shortly.”
Randall sat in an elegant art nouveau oak chair that was in the entryway. A few minutes later the butler escorted Randall to Albert Fishbeck. Fishbeck was an old man propped up in bed with a removable oxygen mask.
“Now what’s this about a million dollar check?” said Mr. Fishbeck.
Randall explained the sequence of events that led him to Mr. Fishbeck. Albert reclined quietly in bed and listened. He breathed oxygen from the mask from time to time. It took awhile but Randall wanted to be thorough.
“Hmph.” said Albert. “You say you set up insured bank accounts with the money?”
“Yes,” said Randall. “I’m sorry, however, but I’ve spent some of the money on this trip. My intent was to hold it until I found you but that turned out to be impossible so I gave up. Until today when I found you quite by accident.”
“That’s no concern,” said Albert. He closed his eyes for several minutes. Randall saw him push a nurses button and a nurse arrived immediately.
“Sofie,” said Albert, “please have Callum come immediately. Have him bring his computer with all the accounts.”
“Certainly Mr. Fishbeck.”
“We will shortly get to the bottom of this, Mr. Marsden. You’ve done well to secure the money. I appreciate your efforts to find me. I’m sorry it was so difficult for you.” Albert took several breaths of oxygen.
In a few minutes a young man arrived with a computer in hand.
“Randall, this is my accountant, Callum,” said Albert. “Callum, this is Randall Marsden. Mr. Marsden informs me that he recently received a check for a million U.S. dollars from us. Can you find it?”
Callum punched a few keys on the computer. “There are no checks to Randall Marsden but there is a million dollar withdrawal from our HSBC account in the U.S.”
“That’s the name of the bank of the cashiers check I received,” said Randall.
“Why wasn’t I informed of this withdrawal Callum?” asked Albert. He sounded annoyed.
“Jonathan told me you authorized it so I assumed you knew,” said Callum.
“You know better than that,” said Albert.
“I’m sorry Sir,” said Callum.
Albert closed his eyes, apparently lost in thought.
“Okay, here’s what we will do Mr. Marsden. You and Callum will freeze the four bank accounts you set up immediately. I understand this will impose a financial burden on you so I will have Callum arrange for a credit card in your name that you can use in the interim. I will sort things out inside my family. I’m afraid my son Jonathan is not to be trusted. I’m sure he plans to raid your accounts if he has not done so already. Once I’ve dealt with my problems here, the money is yours to keep Mr. Randall. I appreciate your diligence and honesty and I wish you well. Good day.”
Before Randall could speak he was ushered out of Albert’s room. Callum accomplished everything just as Albert requested. A taxi was called to take Randall back to his hotel.
When he arrived, Randall took the elevator up to his room on the sixth floor. Her heard arguing in the room next door. He was sure he heard Diwanna’s voice.
“I can’t Jonathan. I refuse to do any more. I’ve kept my end of the bargain. Just pay me and I’ll leave while I still can.”
Randall knocked on the door and the voices went silent. Randall knocked again, louder. This time Jonathan opened the door.
“What’s going on here?” said Randall. “Diwanna, what are you doing here?”
Randall went into the room.
“I can explain,” said Diwanna.
“No, you can’t!” said Randall. “That man you’re with is Jonathan Fishbeck and he’s a scheming bastard. And it looks like you’re working with him. I can’t believe my eyes.”
Diwanna rushed to Randall. “It’s not true, you’ve got everything wrong,” said Diwanna.
Randall pivoted away from her. He paced around the room. “I can’t believe you took advantage of me. I loved you Diwanna. I trusted you. What have you done!”
Jonathan hadn’t said a word. His eyes went wild. Suddenly he lunged at Randall. Randall lost his footing. Jonathan pushed Randall against the window with both hands. The window shattered. Randall fell to his death six stories below. Diwanna screamed and cried. “My God Jonathan! My God!”
Jonathan gulped a few deep breaths to regain his composure. “It was an accident. You’re gonna say it was an accident Diwanna. Randall raced toward me. I moved and he flew out the window. Otherwise we will both end up in prison.”
“I’m sorry Jonathan, but what you did is inexcusable. Accident or not, you’re no son of mine and I’m not leaving you a damn cent.” Albert Fishbeck sat up in his bed and scowled. Then he put his oxygen mask back on and took a few deep breaths.
“Come on Albert,” said Jonathan. “This Marsden fellow is a crook and a scammer. He took advantage of us. I can straighten this all out if you give me a chance.”
“Don’t bullshit me Jonathan. I know what you did and I know why. You couldn’t wait for your inheritance, could you? And you couldn’t bear that I might give some of my precious money to charity. Money that I earned with my own hard work .”
Time to kill the old man right here, right now, thought Jonathan. He took the poison solution from his briefcase and injected it into the IV bag.
Albert saw the evil smile on his son’s face. His heart sank. It had finally come to this. Any father whose son raises his hand against him is guilty of having raised a son who raises his hand against him. Albert’s failure as a father was all too apparent in this moment and it broke Albert’s heart.
“I know what you’re thinking, Jonathan. But you’re too late. I’ve already finalized everything with my attorney. Everything is going to needy causes. You’re not getting a cent.”
Jonathan glared at his father. “Goodbye you bastard. I hope you rot in hell!”
“I’m afraid you’re counting your chickens before they hatch as usual,” said Albert.
Albert pushed the nurses call button on his bed. The nurse and police officer who’d been waiting outside his room immediately appeared.
“When you’re wealthy everyone’s got their hand out,” said Albert. “What you did to Randall Marsden is inexcusable, Jonathan. It’s vile. One of the bequests I’ve made is to support the art and music program at Pine Grove High School in perpetuity in Randall’s name. I hope the poor man can rest in peace. Goodbye son. I’m sorry I failed you so miserably.”
The nurse took away the IV bag. She had removed the syringe from Albert’s arm before Jonathan arrived. She hooked up a new IV bag and left the room. The police officer put the cuffs on Jonathan and took him away.