Detective Elodie Arcement arrived on scene shortly after 3 a.m., the so-called hour of the wolf, when things of this nature usually occurred. She flashed her credentials to the uniformed officer standing at the barrier of black-and-yellow crime-scene tape and was intercepted by a second officer attempting to hand her a forensic isolation suit, which she waved off. Those things never fit right and she found them difficult to walk in because they always managed to bunch up at her feet.
Arcement entered the victorian terrace house, and the air stank of sulfur, largely due to the drops of brimstone that fell through the shattered skylight, creating puddles in the remnant of the living room shag carpet. Although avoiding the puddles as best she could manage, her shoes were getting ruined. She cursed herself for not slipping on the isolation suit when she had the opportunity.
In the center of the living room, Forensic Scientist Marabel Foy, in her isolation suit, was kneeling over the charred remains of a body, conducting her preliminary examination.
“Someone took their sweet time getting here,” Foy said without looking up from the corpse.
“Give it a rest. I wasn’t on call tonight. Shumway called in a family emergency and guess who gets to pick up his slack?” the detective said. “What do we know so far?”
“It’s early days yet, but I believe I can officially list the cause of death as: Smote,” said Foy. “Don’t you just love biblical crime scenes?”
“Gotta give Shumway credit for ducking out on this one. Can you ID the victim?” Arcement asked.
“Ellie, I can’t even tell you if it’s male or female. I need to get what’s left of the body back to the lab.”
“Everything been photographed?”
Foy nodded. “My team’s been over the scene twice. I always find it odd that a bolt from the heavens can reduce a human body to ashes and leave everything else undamaged.”
Tell that to my shoes, Arcement thought, before noticing that the corpse’s right arm was extended and just beyond its reach was a clay pot lying on its side with coins spilling out of it.
“Has anyone touched these?” Arcement asked, gesturing at the pot and coins.
“No. Like I said we were waiting on you…”
“Good. Tell them not to,” Arcement cut her off.
“Because these coins bear the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart along with the Greek inscription ΤΥΡΟΥ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ which, if they’re genuine, makes them Tyrian shekels.”
Foy waited for an explanation and when none came, asked, “Meaning…?”
“Tyre is a Phoenician city in what we now call Lebanon. They issued silver coins from roughly 130 B.C. to 70 A.D., but no two are alike due to their primitive minting process.”
“And you know this how?”
“By having a theologian and coin collector for a father,” Arcement answered. “Like I was saying, shekels were struck by hand with a four-foot-long hammer whose head had the face on it and the minters stood four feet back and struck the coin and even the most skilled minter wasn’t able to get a perfect strike every time, making the images off-center.”
“I’m still not following,” Foy said.
“Okay, how many coins do you see?” Arcement asked. “I count nineteen on the rug and I’m willing to bet the number still inside the pot is eleven, which would bring the total to thirty. Think about it, thirty pieces of silver.”
“You’re not saying that…”
“This may be the blood money Judas Iscariot received for betraying Christ, and if I’m right then these coins are cursed and may be the reason our victim is now a charcoal briquette.”
To be continued…
©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys