The Case Of The Missing Envelope
“Oooowa! Okay, I give in. You can have it. Just leave me alone.”
I had always been treated badly by Richard. He would take anything that he wanted from me. He was bigger, stronger and with the ability to hurt people. His anger seemed to know no bounds. Having spent most of my childhood trying to keep out of his way, I was now dreading the upcoming holiday in Spain, where we would be sharing a room for two weeks.
Richard is my step brother. His father walked out on him when he was four years old. Soon after their divorce Mum married Dad and I arrived very soon afterwards. None of us liked Richard. He was always getting into trouble at school and at home. It seemed as though he carried an angry cloud round with him, wherever he went.
Except for odd times when he was in a good mood. This normally happened when Dad was away on a business trip, and it was just the three of us. Mum then also relaxed and had more time for us. I especially remember us falling about laughing while playing tiddlywinks in front of the blazing fire, on those freezing cold evenings in winter. But that was only when Dad was away.
During these moments Richard was more than a step brother. He was also my friend. How he would quickly transform his attitude when Dad came home.
Mum had been saving all year towards our holiday. She had taken the habit of putting some money by each week, just as her parents had done when she was a child. It gave her a feeling of achievement to see the money pot grow until; at last, the holidays were upon us.
We had booked an apartment on the Coast Duarada in Spain. I dreaded being confined in a bedroom with Richard. I would come home with some new bruises for sure. Only two weeks to go.
One morning Mum opened the chest drawer to put another twenty pounds into the envelope, only to find that it had gone. She searched for over an hour; Took all of the clothes out, removed the drawers and checked it all again. The envelope with nearly eight hundred pounds was gone.
We all sat around the table. Dad was almost purple with anger. Mum was crying.
We all knew that Richard had taken the money. He was the only one who would do such a thing, during one of his moments of tantrum. We were all quiet for a while.
Mum spoke first. “If whoever took the money owns up now, we will say no more about it. Just bring the money here. Put it on the table and leave the room.”
“Oh, let’s just stop all of this nonsense. We all know who it was. This bloody son of yours; Come on! Admit it. We all know it was you. You are nothing but trouble. I don’t know why I ever…..”
He stopped before he said what we also all knew. He hated Richard. He seemed to blame him for his father’s bad ways. I watched Richard and saw him wince at the words “that bloody son of yours.”
Mum tried very hard not to show bias and asked me first.” David, did you take the money? Or do you know anything about where it could be?”
I hesitated. My mind was racing. Maybe if I said that I did it, in order to protect Richard, he would be grateful and be my friend in future. No more bullying. Oh, how I wanted him to be my proper friend and big brother.
My hesitation made them all wonder if I could be the guilty one after all. However, after a minute or so, I shook my head and murmured that I had not taken it or had any idea about it. I looked at Richard with sorrow in my eyes because I couldn’t lie for him. Our eyes met, and I thought for a moment that he had understood.
“Ok David. Can you please go to your room? I want to speak with Richard now.”
As I walked out I turned my head to see Richard looking hopelessly at our parents. There was fear in his eyes. He knew what was coming next.
Mum spoke calmly and softly. “Richard, I ask you the same question. Did you take the money?”
I stopped in the doorway to watch the reaction. No-one noticed that I was still in the room.
“I hate you all. He hates me anyway and is always horrible to me,” he shouted pointing to Dad. “And you Mum, you stopped caring about me the day Pop left. I am just in the way here. I hate you all.”
He burst out of the room, brushing me aside and running up the stairs to his room. Mum was close behind shouting, “It’s not true. It’s not true. I love you.”
We all went into Richard’s room. He was now crying and lying face down on the bed. Mum sat on the bed saying nothing. I stood in the doorway.
After some time Richard turned his head. He looked Mum deeply in the eyes and said, “Yes, I took the money and I am glad I did. I don’t want to go on any stinking holiday anyway. But it’s gone. I gave it all to a tramp in the town centre this morning.
Hell at home.
Richard became the black sheep for sure now. There was no holiday.
We hardly spoke. He would just stay in his room sulking. Dad treated him like a criminal. He had no time for him and certainly made no secret of the fact. It was as though the whole family had now given up on Richard. Even I could see no way for us to be a real family.
One day, at breakfast, Richard was putting some cereal in his bowl when the inner packet slipped out of the cardboard outer, spilling muesli all over the floor.
“Can’t you be more careful? Are you stupid as well as a thief?” Dad shouted with a harsh grimace.
“Darling, please don’t talk like that to our children. It was an accident.” Mum tried to calm things down.
“Our children! Our children! No child of mine would ever act like that I can tell you.”
I watched as Richard cooked inside. He was bursting. I became afraid at what could happen next.
“You are the only bastard in this house,” he fired at Dad.
Dad jumped up, raising his hand as he did so. Mum sprang between him and Richard, but Dad brushed her aside with his other arm, knocking her against the kitchen sink. She winced as her hip caught the cupboard door handle.
Richard jumped up, grabbing the bread knife as he lunged forward, screaming “leave my Mum alone you bastard.”
Dad was quick and managed to get hold of Richards’s knife arm and they fell over on the floor, grasping and gauging at anything they could get at.
Mum screamed for them to stop. I ran to Mums arms and we stood holding each other tightly.
Dad managed to get the upper hand and with a very sharp blow, punched Richard hard into one cheek, which split instantly, pouring blood onto the kitchen floor. The blow seemed to bring everyone back to their senses. Richard was oblivious to the cut on his cheek. The tears were mingling with bright red blood as he just kept repeating. “I hate you all. I hate you all.”
Dad slowly got to his feet, exhausted and with blood smeared across his white business shirt. “Call the police,” he demanded to Mum.
“No Brian. We can’t. He is our, my son.”
“If you don’t, I will,” he retorted. “He pulled a knife on me. Do you want to wait until he kills someone?”
Mum picked up the phone, trembling and slowly called the local police. We were both sent to our rooms until they arrived.
I felt terrible. Despite all the bad treatment and terrible things that Richard had done, I still had some feeling in my stomach that it wasn’t right. Those lovely evenings, when Dad was away, were still in my memory; Evenings when Richard was as nice as anyone can be. I knew that he had a good side.
I crept into his room. The blood was untreated, drying on his cheek. I fetched a wet flannel from the bathroom and went back to him. “Here, let me wipe that for you. Is it bad?”
“Go away. I don’t need you.”
“I only wanted to help Richard. Dad gave you a real beating.”
Richard looked up to me with wild anger and hatred in his eyes. “I am getting out of here. I only said that I took that money to save your bacon. Now, you can have them all to yourself, just like you always wanted.”
“But that’s not true Richard. Of course you took the money. How can you do such things to your own family?”
We could hear whisperings downstairs and shortly afterwards a policeman was standing in the doorway of Richard’s bedroom.
“Well, young man. It looks like you have got yourself into a lot of trouble. I am placing you under arrest and taking you down to the station.”
I watched from the bedroom window as Richard, in handcuffs, was led out to the police car.
The neighbours were all agog. Mum was at a loss for words. Her family was breaking up before her eyes.
Richard was charged with intent using a dangerous weapon. The theft of eight hundred pounds was also considered with his case. He admitted guilt to both crimes.
He was sentenced to eight months in a secure training centre, after which time he would be reassessed for suitability to return home or to be placed into care.
We were only allowed to visit twice per month. It was always the same. Richard didn’t want to see us. Dad never came in with us. He seemed to have washed his hands of Richard completely. Mum and I would sit, hardly saying anything. It was a terrible time.
I could see more clearly by each visit how Richard was losing all hope for a future. He believed that the world was against him. He thought that no-one loved him. Mum was torn between me, Dad and Richard, who didn’t make it easy to receive his share of Mum’s affection.
I began to feel very sorry for him. Despite all he had done, he didn’t deserve to be kept in this prison, away from us all.
One time, when we were returning home after such a visit, I said, “when Richard’s time is up can we try to make sure he comes home to us? Mum, please, can we give it a try?”
Dad jumped straight in saying that there was no chance. He doesn’t want that thief back in the house. “He probably still has that money stashed away somewhere, for all we know.”
Mum said nothing, so as not to enrage Dad again. It seemed that Richard’s situation was quite hopeless.
Richard’s sentence was due to end next week. Mum had worked quite hard on Dad to get him to agree to accept him back into the family home. Dad wouldn’t budge.
One time he even said, “Susan, it’s me or him. You need to choose whether you want a violent thief in the house, or me. I don’t want him back here disrupting our lives anymore.”
He said this as he left for the airport. He had planned a business trip to Paris for three days. I was looking forward to a few days with just me and Mum.
There was a new film on in town, which she had promised to take me to; Ice Age 3. It was really nice to sit cuddled up to her, eating popcorn. We both laughed at the crazy stunts in the film. At one point I became serious at the thought that this is exactly what Richard had been missing. How would I feel if I had been deprived of this loving closeness? Again, Richard’s situation filled me with sympathy. I pulled Mum closer.
We arrived home in the early evening. “Well, I thought the Mammoth was the funniest,” I giggled as we walked up the driveway. Mum went for her key only to find that the door key had somehow fallen from the key ring. We were locked out of the house.
Mum suggested that we should break the downstairs window, but it would be quite expensive as we had sealed double glazing. She was just about to give it a bash with a brick when I had an idea.
“Hold on Mum. I am small enough to get in the bathroom window. I bet it’s open.”
We walked round to the back of the house and sure enough, it was open enough for me to crawl in.
“But how can you get up there David? It’s too high and the ladders are kept in the shed. Only Dad has the key on the fob with his car keys.”
We went to the shed and one of the windows was not on the latch. By lifting it up I was able to crawl in and open the shed door from the inside. “Hey presto!” I said, smiling as I opened the shed door.
Mum went in to lift the ladders down from the shed wall. As she took it from it’s hooks, she froze and dropped it onto the floor, breaking a pile of small flower pots. “Mum, what’s wrong?” I shrieked.
She slowly reached down onto the workbench and placed her fingers gently onto a brown envelope. “It cannot be,” she spluttered. “How could it….? Only Brian comes in here.”
As she slowly realised that something very terrible had happened, the strength left her legs and she sank to the shed floor.
“But Mum, what’s wrong? Are you ill?”
She was focusing on the corner of the envelope. In faint pencil was written 780. The paper was worn where someone had rubbed out the number each time in order to change it to the new figure.
I had no idea what was going on. “My poor boy. My poor poor boy,” she said.
“No Mum, I am fine,” I replied.
She turned towards me with a loving sad smile. “No David; I don’t mean you. I mean Richard. We have to get him out of there.”
Our Dad never did come home. I saw him only once a month for the weekend for a while, but that soon fizzled out. He always seemed unshaven and smelled of stale beer.
Now we are a proper family again. Well, if you can call two boys and a Mum a proper family. Richard has changed. We are now true brothers.
Mum loves us both.
I can’t wait for the next time in front of the fire on a cold winters evening, playing tiddlywinks with my little family.