- A Generations-Old Secret Uncovered
- Helped out by Rufus, who removed sand much faster than the dirt he was accustomed to digging in (and usually scolded for), Mal found cool relief from the warm air as he stretched himself in the little trench. Even cooler sand greeted his heels as he dug them in deeper.
- Mort sat down in the shade a few feet away, thankful for the excuse not to continue the taxing climb up Mount Baldy. There weren’t many people on the trail today and even the birds were taking an afternoon nap. Mort enjoyed the silence, taking in the scenery and imagining he was far from civilization. He composed fragments of poetry in his mind, planning to write them down when he had the chance. He closed his eyes, leaning against a small tree trunk as he waited for Mal to get bored with lying in the sand.
- Meanwhile, Mal discovered that, the deeper he dug his arms and legs into the trench, the sand got cooler and just a bit damp. He could feel the small roots from the nearby bushes, as they grew downward in search of moisture. Rufus joined in the game as Mal wiggled his way further into the sand.
- Suddenly, Rufus started digging really energetically, intent on uncovering the source of whatever the unusual scent was at Mal’s feet. Mal felt something with his toe that wasn’t sand or root and joined Rufus in the effort.
- His daydreaming interrupted, Mort came over to see what Mal and Rufus were up to.
- “Dad. There’s something buried in the sand!”
- “It’s probably just someone’s trash.” Mort knew that lots of people have little respect for the environment, thinking that their litter somehow evaporates if they can’t see it.
- “No, Dad. It’s not paper. It feels like cloth or something.”
- “Ok, let’s take a look and see what you and Rufus found.”
- It would have been a funny sight, if anyone else had been there to see Mort on one side of the small trench, Mal inside the trench and Rufus on one end, head-to-head with Mal. This was no careful archeological dig. Sand was flying out between Rufus’ back legs and a good amount of sand they dug out fell back into the trench.
- The “something” turned out to be a small, plump canvas sack, its drawstring pulled tight. Mort took charge of the find, gingerly lifting it out and away from both Rufus, who wanted to play with it, and Mal, who wanted to claim it as his own.
- “Someone obviously lost this, probably awhile ago. It looks kind of old. See these water stains?”
- Because of the stiff material and the brittle drawstring, it took a few minutes for Mort to open the sack. He suspected what was in it and didn’t want to damage its contents.
- Rufus lost interest in the sack by the time Mort worked the opening wide enough, so he and Mal were able to sit down in the shade to examine the “loot” undisturbed. And loot it was. Thin stacks of $10 and $100 bills were packed tightly inside the sack.
- “Let’s just take one stack out to look at and leave the rest in the bag,” Mort said as he pulled out a stack, carefully holding it on two sides so as not to touch the top or bottom surface.
- “1928! Just before the Great Depression!”
- Mort quickly estimated the face value of the currency in the bag and then realized that collectors would pay more, possibly up to ten times more than the amount printed on the paper bills.
- First Impressions
- It’s amazing how quickly all sorts of thoughts can rush through your mind in a situation like this. “We need to report this to the police.” Where can I find a good currency appraiser?” “I wonder whose money it is.” “My family will never have to worry about money.” “We could donate to a bunch of charities.”
- Mal’s voice broke through Mort’s jumble of ideas. “Gee, Dad. What are we going to do? Can we keep one stack?” Mal knew his dad well enough to realize that the money was not theirs to keep, but didn’t want to give up the possibility for at least some gain.
- “We need to report this. Let’s get down to the car and find a police station right away.” Preoccupied by the sack, Mort completely forgot about his wife and daughter who were trudging up Mount Baldy.
- An attendant at the local gas station gave Mort directions to the town’s police station. It was only a few minutes away. Mort gave his name and asked for the desk sergeant, who glanced at the bundle in Mort’s hand and immediately led them into a tiny conference room.
- “So, what brings you here this fine afternoon?”
- Mal was so excited, disjointed words tumbled out. “We were at Mount Baldy, it was so hot, I dug unto the sand with Rufus, Mom and Mel went up the trail...”
- “Hold on there a minute, young man. Mr. Maloney, would you please tell me why you’re here? I presume it has something to do with that bag.”
- Mort wasn’t much better than his son at first. “Omigosh, I completely forgot about Ag and Mel. I guess they’re ok. Ag should be calling me soon.” And then he calmed down and explained how they came to find the bag of money.
- “Stacks of $10 bills and $100 from 1928, eh? Seems like there might have been a robbery. Probably in ’28 or early ’29, given their clean condition. Let me look in the online archives.”
- “Don’t you keep a police blotter?” Mort asked.
- “We do, but that’s only for crimes committed locally. My guess is that the bank heist took place some distance from here and the robbers wanted to get rid of the evidence temporarily. They probably planned to come back a year or so later to pick up the money after the investigation tapered off.”
- A Forensics Interpretation
- “Gee, how do you know all that, sir?” Mal was confused by the sergeant’s matter-of-fact statement.
- “Well, first of all, we can be pretty sure these were taken from a bank, not a grocery store or place like that. It’s a lot of money and the bills are neatly bundled. Second, anyone from around here would know that the dune is “alive” so whatever you bury in it, after some time it won’t be in the same place you put it. No, the money had to come from some distance. Third, because that was a lot of money for the times, there would have been a lot of publicity, plus the investigation, and the robber or robbers didn’t want to risk getting caught with the money. And finally, once the Great Depression began, they’d have nowhere to spend it without causing a lot of suspicion. By the time the Depression was over, the robbers could have been dead, especially since they may have been gangsters.”
- “That’s really neat! I’d like to learn how to do that too.” The sergeant’s reasoning genuinely impressed Mal.
- “You might do well in the forensics field. After all, you were curious enough to dig up something that you knew wasn’t part of the dune,” the sergeant said encouragingly.
- “I don’t know anything about foreign sickness. Besides, this happened here.”
- Mort and the sergeant laughed, having never thought about how the word “forensics” might sound to a seven-year-old. They explained that in this case “forensics” meant the scientific investigation of a crime.
- “Aha, we have something promising here.” The sergeant found a description of a bank holdup in Chicago: March 1929. $80,000. Money never recovered. Suspects, but no one charged for lack of evidence. “Let’s see how much is in the sack.”
- There was no need to count each bill, as each stack had either $10 or $100 bills.
- “Well, well, well,” the sergeant said as the amount of the final stack was added to the total. “Exactly $80,000. The bank in Chicago has been bought and sold quite a number of times since 1929, but it still exists. They’re not open on Saturdays, and I think this can wait until Monday, given it’s been close to 90 years since the robbery. I’ll speak directly with the bank president.
- “We’ll lock the sack and money in our vault and have us both sign a statement that this police station takes possession and full responsibility for the money’s safety until the bank decides what to do with it.
- “And young man, you deserve a reward,” said the sergeant, addressing Mal.
- “The reward is in doing the right thing,” Mort quickly responded before Mal could say anything. He didn't want his son thinking that you only do a good deed if there's a reward waiting for you. “And regardless of what the bank decides, I have one request to make.”
- “Certainly.” The sergeant was happy to oblige, thinking about the boost this could have for his own law enforcement career.
- “No publicity for any of my family. We value our privacy and don’t want to subject anyone, particularly Mal, to such kind of public attention...reporters and all. I’m sure my wife would agree. Oh, speaking of Ag, she and our daughter should be reaching the top of Baldy soon.”
- “I appreciate that and completely agree. Of course. I have no idea who you are, right?’” The sergeant had young children of his own and understood a father’s concern.
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- LINKS: BOOK 1 TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION TO THE BIOFABLES SERIES
BioFables 1 Teaching Brief
BioFables 1 & 2: Word Counts, Reading Levels