lies that bind

By Michele Bardsley

“I CAN’T BELIEVE HE left them to me!” crowed Tom as the lawyer read his name and inheritance. He threw Angelica a smug look as he settled back into his chair. So the old man took my threats seriously! Tom wanted to laugh in his sweet little cousin Angelica’s face. Tom barely listened to the rest of the will. The lawyer’s monotone droned on and on until all of Grandfather Tucker’s meager estate was imparted.

As everyone rose to leave, Tom followed Angelica out of the office. “So gramps left you a stamp-collecting book. Pretty generous—considering I got the stamp collection. Some of those babies are worth a bundle!” Tom grinned as his cousin swiped at her tears. “Now cousin, don’t worry! I know you need the money! But don’t count on me to help!”

Tom walked away, snickering. He had finally beaten that old coot! And now he had possession of the collection. Only three of the stamps were valuable—he had them secretly appraised while poor Grandpa Tucker lay in the hospital. The rest of the stamps were worthless, unless you counted the sentimental value, which he didn’t.

He left the building and walked through the parking lot. Angelica and Grandpa Tucker had poured over that collection as if it were gold coins instead of little square pieces of paper, Tom thought in disgust. The old geezer would have given Angelica everything if I hadn’t threatened to contest the will! Now his money problems were over. He’d be able to get Gino off his back. Grandpa Tucker’s cancer couldn’t have had better timing. Sure, gambling with Gino’s money had been stupid, but now he had the means to pay the debt. Tom suddenly grinned. Why pay back Gino at all? He could use the money to move to the Bahamas and live comfortably.

As he got into his car, Tom’s triumph felt complete. He wouldn’t even give his little goody-two-shoes cousin the small comfort of keeping the collection’s worthless stamps. He’d throw them away after he cashed in the valuable ones. Laughter boiled up through him. He had won.

ANGELICA TOUCHED THE red cloth cover of the book. The Art of Stamp Collecting emblazoned the cover. The lawyer had given it to her after the reading of will along with his condolences. Her throat tightened and she wiped at the tears that threatened to fall. Memories of sitting next to her grandfather as he explained the history of each stamp overwhelmed her.

She loved the collection as much as her grandfather had. She knew Tom had no respect for it, except in a monetary sense. Her cousin had a difficult time seeing past the dollar signs permanently attached to his corneas. Grandpa Tucker’s last legacy once again beckoned her. She opened the book. On the flap was a note scrawled in her grandfather’s writing.

Dearest Angelica,

I know you understand my decision. I love you, angel. You must also know, my dear, that I would never leave you in a bind.

—Jeremiah Tucker

Angelica blinked away her tears. She missed him so much. The stamps would have been good memories. She sighed. The truth was that she needed to sell the valuable stamps to pay off the medical bills and to keep her house—the old Victorian she had shared with her grandfather as she nursed him through his illness. Why had he left those stamps to Tom? She read her grandfather’s message again. The last word caught her eye. Bind.

Angelica frowned as she thumbed through the book. Nothing was concealed in its pages. She lifted it with one hand and shook it, but nothing fell out. Bind. Biting her lower lip, she slipped two fingers into the hole the book’s spine made when opened. She almost stopped probing but then her fingers grasped something slick. Slowly she drew out a vellum envelope. Three stamps, perfectly preserved and worth more than just memories, met her gaze.

The blatant ringing of the phone drew Angelica away from her unexpected find. She picked up the receiver unsteadily. “Where are they?” screamed Tom.

“Where are what?”

“You know what I’m talking about. The stamps! I have to have them. Gino, he’s—” Scuffling noises replaced her cousin’s voice. She heard a sharp crack, like a fist connecting with bone then the line went dead.

She hung up the receiver and smiled.

Angelica had known awhile about Tom’s money troubles. Apparently his gambling had gotten him into debt with a loan shark. That’s why she had called Tom earlier and made plans to meet him at a bar on Main Street. The only reason he agreed was because she had told him she had important information about the stamps. Then Angelica had placed a call to Gino Strailli. In exchange for his promise to give her the stamp collection in Tom’s possession, Angelica had given Mr. Strailli the address of the bar. Even if her grandfather hadn’t been so clever, all the stamps would have belonged to her.

For sentimental reasons, of course.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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