Blood Money (Part 2)

Blood Money Part 1

Foy plucked a dried fragment of brimstone from a carpet fiber with a pair of tweezers and dropped it into a plastic vial. “All right, Detective History Channel, if we can’t touch the coins…”

“Or the pot,” Elodie added.

“Okay…or the pot, then how are we supposed to bag them as evidence?”

Elodie pulled out her phone, scrolled through her contacts and dialed a number. “This is Detective Elodie Arcement, Badge One Point Six One Eight. Suspected religious artifact at the scene, possibly cursed. Requesting Pure Soul dispatch as soon as possible.”

Foy raised an eyebrow. “Pure Souls are immune to religious curses?” she asked.

Elodie shrugged. “More immune than you or me, I reckon. If it turns out they’re not and the smotening happens to them as well, then it’s their fault for not knowing their limitations.”

“First of all, smotening?”

“I don’t know how to conjugate smote, do you?”

“Second,” Foy continued. “Your regard for the preservation of human life is astounding.”

“I know. It’s my gift and my curse,” Elodie said, inspecting the living room. “When your team comes in, make sure they collect any phones, tablets and computers they find, as I don’t see any in here.”

“We know how to do our job, Detective Arcement,” Foy said, the arctic front blowing off her shoulder dropped the room’s temperature by ten degrees.

“I know you do, Mara. I was just thinking out loud, that’s all,” Elodie offered her friend and colleague an apologetic smile, before leaning into the foyer to call for the uniformed officer guarding the front door of the house.

“Yes, Detective?” said the baby-faced cop, Nelson by his nametag, mid twenties at best, green as grass.

“Gather up all the available uniforms to question the crowd for witnesses and do a door to door with the neighbors to see if they’ve noticed anything suspicious going on in the neighborhood recently,” Elodie said.

“On it,” Nelson nodded and left to carry out his instructions.

“You’re treating this like a murder investigation,” Foy asked. “I thought we were classifying it as Divine Misadventure?”

“We are, I’m just covering my bases in case this entire thing was staged to make it look like an Act of God.”

Before Foy could comment, a man with a briefcase appeared in the living room entryway. He was at least a head higher than what society considered to be tall, and was undoubtedly the recipient of thousands of the air up there must be thin comments throughout his life. And even though he was too tall for his build, looking like he had been stretched on a torture rack, the isolation suit fit his lanky frame perfectly. Elodie groaned at the sight of him.

“Elijah Richardson, Eleventh Level Pure Soul, ID Number 937781, reporting as requested,” the man said.

“I know who you are, Richardson,” Elodie said.

“I am required by law to state my name, rank and identification number when first entering a crime scene,” Richardson replied.

“And you’ve done that, so can we please get on with this?” said Elodie, exasperated.

“I should have known you would be here, Detective Arcement. These types of cases have a way of finding you, don’t they?” Richardson said, giving Elodie the once over. “Still ignoring regulations, I see. Pity your shoes have to pay the price for your independence.”

Elodie was about to respond when Foy chimed in, “Marabel Foy, Forensics.” She proffered her hand and Richardson glanced at it a moment before ignoring the gesture completely.

“Where is it, then? This potentially cursed artifact?” Richardson asked.

“Can’t you sense it?” Elodie asked with a wry smile. “Aren’t you attuned to the vibrations of objects replete with religiosity? Or is all that rhetoric you spew a load of bunkum?”

“The only vibrations I can feel are the jealousy and shame emanating from you,” the Pure Soul retorted. “Must be hard for a lapsed Catholic to have to rely on someone else to do a job she was deemed unworthy for.”

Foy’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “You were a Pure Soul?”

“A novitiate,” Elodie corrected.

“Who couldn’t make the grade,” Richardson added.

“I found some of the teachings hard to swallow.”

“Too bad that was the only thing you found hard to swallow,” Richardson said, extremely pleased with himself.

Elodie’s temper flared from zero to sixty. “That’s a dirty sticking rumor with no basis…”

“Enough!” Foy interrupted. “You two can get a room later and hash out your differences. We have business to attend to. The artifacts are right this way.”

Kneeling before the clay pot and coins, Richardson set his briefcase down on the carpet, careful to avoid a smoldering brimstone puddle, and inspected the items. “Shekels of Tyre,” he said.

“And take a look at the pot…” Elodie said.

“The clay looks to be circa AD 30 – 36 and it was obviously smashed and pieced back together,” Richardson said.

“Can someone please tell me what the significance of this pot is?” Foy asked.

Elodie was about to explain when Richardson beat her to the punch. “There are several contradicting accounts of what Judas did with his payment when he learned the price Jesus paid for his betrayal. One version stated he was commanded by God to give the money to a potter to create a clay pot. When finished, the potter smashed the pot on Judas Iscariot’s grave.”

“So, you’re suggesting that this pot may be the only vessel that can hold these coins?” Foy asked.

“The only logical explanation as to why anyone would go through the trouble of gluing the pot back together,” Elodie said.

Richardson opened his briefcase, revealing a smaller case inside, and in that case was a pair of white gloves embossed with an ornate cross. He said a prayer under his breath and touched each glove to his lips before slipping them on.

“And if these artifacts are cursed, you can safely handle them without retribution?” Foy asked, gesturing to the charred body that Richardson seemed to ignore entirely.

“I suppose we will find out soon enough, won’t we?” Richardson said. “I advise you both to stand back.”

Elodie and Foy took two giant steps back from the coins and the Pure Soul.

Richardson recited another prayer under his breath, blessed himself by making the sign of the cross, and reached for the coins.

To be continued…

©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Blood Money

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.

“Why not?”

“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