“Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand
Angelica Barsini watched
as a clerk for the State Treasurer’s Office
placed the last stack of Bearer Bonds back into the steel bank box, locked it
and smiled at her.
“An incredible find
for our Unclaimed Property program. This is one of the
largest monetary amounts we have returned to the rightful owners since the
program was created. More incredible is that it sat in your attic for eighteen
years with no one discovering it until last year.”
He pushed the box, the key,
and the Claims Closure Form across the desk to
Angelica. She signed the form and returned it to the clerk.
“Yes, it is quite
amazing. We went back and tried to go through the house
four weeks after Katrina. The water had finally returned to the Mr. Go but the
mud, debris and the bodies that were still there were just too much for my mom.
We took the few things she wanted and since the attic was basically on the
ground after the house washed off the foundation, and considering the fact she
never went up to store things, we saw no reason to search there.”
“Your father is, or
was, the original owner of the bonds. Didn’t he tell
your mom about them? Why wouldn’t he have taken them with him when the
hurricane was sure to hit in the Ninth Ward?”
Angelica stared at the box.
“He was my stepfather
and he refused to leave. He stayed and was washed
away in the flood waters. We never found him and he never told us about the
Angelica kept her composure
as she silently remembered the bastard:
‘He would have never
let mom know he had anything of value. He let her cover
all of the bills for the house she had bought before he married her and moved
in. Even after I begged her not to, she put him on the title and he still insisted
it was her property, that he just ‘stayed’ there. He said odd jobs around the
house paid for his ‘room and board.’ Where the SOB could have gotten his hands
on those bonds is a mystery to me.”
She looked at the clerk
“I really can’t
imagine when or where he got those bonds. But I’ve been
away at school for several years.”
“Well, water under
the bridge, uh, sorry about that. It’s over now and as
the only heir you’re entitled to everything.”
“Thank you for your
time and assistance.”
She stood and picked up
the bank box.
“Wait, you need to
go retrieve the chest. We have some men who will help
you take it to your car.”
“Chest? What Chest?”
“It was found under
a pile of mud and rubble about three years after the
flood. It had your dad’s name and Naval ID on the top, It’s still locked and in
pretty good shape. It’s been sitting in storage all this time until we could
set up this program. I am sure your dad would want you to have it.”
“He was my stepfather
and I forgot about it. Where is it?”
“Just head over to
the warehouse across the parking lot and show your
claim form to them. Someone will get it for you.”
Walking across the lot Angelica
remembered that chest well. Her stepfather
would take her into the attic, starting when she was about five, while her mom
was at work. He told her she could play in the chest while he did more than let
her play. Even that young she knew it
was wrong. But he said if she told, something bad would happen to her mom.
For years the man molested
her every chance he got. She always managed to prevent
him from penetrating her body. Unfortunately, the penetration of her mind and
soul were harder to prevent.
In her teens, Angelica made
up her mind to tell what was going on but by
then her mother was battling cancer.
“Caro, I am so sorry
you do not like your father. I don’t know why because
he is such a good man. I need him now that I’m sick and you are going away to
college soon. Please try for me.”
She couldn’t take
away the man who had become the ‘rock and soul of her
survival’ as her mom called him, so Angelica said nothing.
Graduating from high school
at seventeen, she moved to California to stay
with relatives and attend college. She visited as often as possible as her
mother’s cancer grew. Finally, in her senior year the phone call came:
Aunt Louise. Your beloved mother and my only sister, Francesca,
passed last night. Father Corlini gave her the Last Rights and she cried out
“Where was he, aunt?
Was he there?”
“He wasn’t there.
He has a new, young woman over in the Garden District.
He spends his time with her. Her father has a large corporation and the new
woman lavishes gifts on him. We saw in the paper that there was a problem with
some kind of bonds missing. We don’t have anything to do with that. Please come
Angelica returned for the
funeral as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the
city. She went to her mother’s house the night before landfall to gather some
personal mementos. Sitting at the bottom of the attic ladder was the chest.
Frozen with fear and shame
Angelica stared at it. Then she walked over,
turned the key in the lock and yanked the chest open. Inside lay several of his
Navy service weapons and his discharge papers. There were also several of her
childhood dresses and her Raggedy Ann doll. She had always taken it up with her
and clung to it as he touched her, his breath smelling of cigarettes and booze.
Picking up the doll she heard the front door open.
“Well, well. It’s
my precious Angelica. And still holding the doll that
gave you so much comfort while we played in that chest. I thought you would
probably be at the funeral and come here. So, I thought we could play some
games again without fear of your precious mom finding us! What do you say?”
He came up to her and Angelica
could smell the cigarettes and booze on his
Eighteen years later she
stared at the chest in the back of her car. After dark she returned to her family
where much of the debris had been removed. But closer to the levee, bulldozers
continued to clear the land for the new houses to come.
Parking near a pile of debris,
Angelica pulled the chest out of the car
and over to the levee. She took a chain from around her neck and removed the
key she had worn for those eighteen years.
Fitting it in the lock she
opened the chest. His perfect skeleton stared
up at her. The WWII KA-Bar knife still protruded from where she had shoved it
into his heart that night.
Angelica pushed the chest
on its side and the skeleton rolled out in
parts. She removed the knife and tossed it into the water. Then she picked up
the bones in bunches and tossed them after it. The skull was last to go. It
didn’t leer at her or smell of cigarettes and booze. With a great yell she
released it into the swirling water knowing it and he would soon be out in the
gulf sleeping with the sharks.
She replaced the chest in
the car and returned to the city. Two weeks
later the doorbell rang at her Napa, California home. The UPS truck unloaded a
crate into Angelica’s backyard.
Opening it, she removed
a small chair. Then what was left of the chest,
now a pile of wood, was tossed piece by piece into the fire pit.
“Hello Angel. How’s
my favorite fiancé? And what is this you’re burning?”
A man smiled down at her,
offering a glass of champagne.
“Hello Jeff. Thanks
for the drink and let’s toast to eliminating the last unclaimed
From her seat in the chair
made of reclaimed wood from the chest, Raggedy
Ann’s button eyes gleamed as the flames rose and she smiled.