The Engraved Mammon Cuff

Ten years ago, I was doing all right for myself. Having my father’s legacy behind me helped bring in clients, I had enough money to live comfortably and I enjoy my work.  

At the same time, twenty six year old Anthony Brekke was enjoying his life too. He was working his dream job as a firefighter. He’d just gotten married to the love of his life, Heidi Shaw, about three months prior. They’d just moved into their first house and were looking into adopting a dog.  

Their life seemed ideal until the fire that burnt down the home of an elderly widow named Martha Church. Martha was nearly eighty seven when the fire took place, the cause appearing to be a short in the wiring near the bedroom. She and four of her six cats did not make it out of the blaze, the old place went up like a matchstick.  

Despite being a librarian for most of her life, Martha had a taste for expensive jewelry, all reported to be destroyed in the fire. However, at least four pieces turned up in pawn shops surrounding the small town. Whether these were stolen by Anthony or some of his fellow firefighters taking advantage of the situation I could never confirm.

But either way, this was the only notable incident that took place before Anthony began to change.

Anthony and Heidi had always lived quite modestly, but this took a turn the week after the fire. Anthony’s father suddenly died in a freak accident at his work, a quite gruesome affair that could’ve been easily avoided. The payout was quite extraordinary. Heidi told me that when the exact number was read out to them, Anthony’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull.  

Money couldn’t replace his father, Heidi told herself, a good portion would go to taking care of the funeral… or so she thought.  

Anthony went and bought himself a brand new sports car with that check. Redid his entire wardrobe, most of which had been from the local Goodwill, with all this flashy and fashionable clothing that he’d never thought about wearing before. She found his old clothing in the garbage and asked him why he didn’t even try to donate it.  

He sneered.

“No one wants that garbage. It’s mine anyway, I can do what I want with it.”

The funeral was so embarrassingly bare bones that Heidi was mortified to attend. Anthony seemed like he didn’t even care how his father was put to rest, which was particularly strange with how his father had raised Anthony all on his own after his mother had died. They were close. But bring up paying for something as simple as flowers and Anthony would give you such a wicked look and the subject would be dropped.

Of course, living so luxuriously will dry up your funds quickly. Anthony resolved this by taking advantage of the houses he was helping save from flames. Several incidents followed where he practically dived in head first into the flames to ‘make sure’ there was no one left in the blaze. He did end up saving a life or two this way, but he also put his fellow firefighters at risk… not to mention he certainly had other less honorable motives.

Heidi came to me about six months after the Martha Church housefire to let me know most of what you read above. She was becoming suspicious and started snooping. Anthony’s bank account was not in the red as she suspected but in fact had grown by a substantial amount. Not to mention that she’d stumbled across credit cards that were not in either of their names, stashed away in a box in the closet.

But that’s not why she came to me.

She came to me because he’d taken out an incredibly large life insurance policy on her and the house.

Anthony had distanced himself from his soulmate to the point where they were no longer sharing a room. He’d leave for work later and come back to the house after midnight. Heidi had initially wondered if there was another woman, but she was worried it was something worse after she’d casually asked Anthony for some grocery money. It was usually her responsibility to handle the grocery funds, but that week she’d had to take some unpaid time off to go see her sick sister. Surely about fifty to sixty dollars wouldn’t kill him?

You might as well have asked Anthony to cut off his thumb and chew on it like bubble gum. He completely blew his lid to the point where I quote Heidi, “I thought he was going to hit me. He would’ve, maybe, if I hadn’t ducked and his fist hadn’t gone through the wall instead.”  

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but you don’t hit your wife. That’s disgusting. Anthony had apologized afterward and she felt he was sincere, but then he pulled away once more. Perhaps the thought had came into his mind then. Kill his wife, burn down the house, take all the insurance money while destroying any evidence of his thefts.  

I went digging, delved right into the darkness that was Anthony. He hadn’t been a firefighter for about four months by the time Heidi came to me, lying all this time about his occupation. His time were now spent at high class establishments, I managed to sneak in there myself and found out that Anthony had become a gambling man. Once he was a frugal man who hadn’t even played the slots when he was in Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party. Now he was running games in the shadiest kinds of places.

And he was winning a lot too. Unnaturally so. Money poured in and he started a side business of running bets for just about any sport one could think of. Anyone who bet against Anthony was doomed to lose, but there was one guy who didn’t get the memo.  

His name was Charlie Cooper. Charlie had actually won the lottery about two years before this, but by now he’d become a washed up drunk. Not anything I hadn’t heard before. But Charlie was already shit at gambling it didn’t help that Anthony just had this bizarre run of luck.

Charlie had checked into the emergency room six times since Anthony became his bookie. Broken thumb, snapped wrist, one time he’d come in looking like he’d taken up being a boxer’s punching bag for a night. He never said what happened to him, only that he’d ‘gotten into a fight’ or that ‘it was just an accident’.  

I went to find Charlie, I knew what it looked like when someone wasn’t paying his bets.

Charlie was gone.  

His landlord hadn’t seen him in a week. All his typical haunts showed no sign of the pudgy man with a bad comb over. I even checked the drunk tank at lock up, maybe I’d just kept missing him and he was cooling his heels in there. Nope.  

The final straw was when I found a witness who said the last time they saw Charlie was with Anthony. Anthony was guiding Charlie into a car, and Charlie didn’t look so good.

That’s when I went to the cops with all the evidence I’d managed to gather up against Anthony Brekke. Good thing I did too- that night a goon was caught pouring gasoline around Heidi’s bed where she was tied up and beaten near unconscious. But not dead. I do not want to think what could’ve happened if those cops were ten seconds later.

The goon gave up Anthony with little prying and Anthony’s ass was dragged into lock up. He never gave up the fate of poor Charlie, although rumors range from being cut open and dropped into the river to being fed to pigs. Whatever happened, I hope he’s at peace.

I was in the station filling out some paperwork out when Anthony was brought in. Our eyes met and I felt the hairs on my neck stand on end.

I felt the same evil my father felt when he saw Heather Jones.  

I managed to look through Anthony’s belongings after the locals were done doing a once over. I technically wasn’t allowed to do this but by then most of the cops didn’t bother to look over my shoulder. I found something that didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the items.

A golden cuff, clearly made for a woman but could probably squeeze onto a man’s wrist given some shoving. It was set with a citrine stone and there was a Latin engraving on the inside. The translation a friend of mine gave me- Satisfaction is for the man who gives up.  

I’m glad I managed to spare Heidi the same fate as Heather’s little brother Mark, at the very least, but I knew what that cuff was when I held onto it. It was just like that spoon. Both went into my safe, locked away from any wandering fingers and greedy eyes.  

Strange, curious and dangerous. No one would think such innocuous objects could result in the death of at least two people. But I figured it was just coincidence that I found them at all.  

I almost completely forgot about it until another trinket fell right into my lap.

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