She took a deep breath and tried to steady her shaky nerves. She gripped the edge of the bed with one hand as she stuck the other further into the compartment.
There was definitely something inside. What had she gotten herself mixed up in?
Laural Jaecks was just an ordinary woman, living an ordinary life in the quaint city of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Always eager to help, she was the neighborhood’s Good Samaritan. Church fêtes, school board meetings … Laural would be there.
Even after a recent store robbery, she had comforted the victims and helped paste the “Did You See This Man?” notices up on the telephone poles.
Laural and her husband had learned early on how to turn around every cent. Laural didn’t need ‘the finer things in life’. She was quite content.
Sometimes, however, an emergency would crop up and money had to be spent. Little did she know, life was about to throw her a massive curveball.
The couple’s house and its contents had seen a good many years, and something was bound to break. But Laural hadn’t expected both the oven to cook its last meal and the bedroom furniture to crack within the same month!
The new oven had already cost them dearly. Where would they find more money for a new bedroom set?
Laural and her husband didn’t have spare cash to buy completely new furniture. “Why not try Facebook Marketplace?” a friend suggested. She could probably find exactly what she was looking for, they would surely find a good deal there.
The idea was tempting. But buying from a complete stranger? Laural wasn’t so sure.
She had a look anyway, and soon got a hit: a guy nearby was selling second-hand furniture. What did she have to lose?
She’d heard many horror stories of people getting swindled out of their hard-earned money, or not getting what they’d imagined. But she could never have prepared for this.
Immediately upon arriving at the sale, Laural spied a beautiful bedroom set, a dresser and headboard. Her husband was convinced it was 100% wood and Amish-made – really good quality. The question was: would they be able to afford it?
It was also clear that all the furniture pieces were selling like hotcakes. Would someone else snatch away the bedroom set they’d set their hearts on?
Laural approached the seller and took her chance: “Would you consider $325?” It was all the cash they’d brought along. Without blinking, the surly-looking guy said yes and grabbed the money before moving on to the next customer.
Not even the guy’s dour attitude could dampen Laural’s spirits. The bedroom set was theirs!
What a steal! Laural thought excitedly. But on their way home, she couldn’t help but wonder why the seller had agreed to such a low price. It was as if he’d just wanted to get rid of the furniture. Had she just made a big mistake?
Well, what was done was done. But when they moved the new set into their bedroom, they were in for a nasty surprise.
“Oh, they don’t quite fit!” Laural exclaimed after her husband had tried to install the bedroom set in their room. The dresser was slightly too big for the space behind the door. But somehow she would make it work.
It was indeed a beautiful piece of furniture. Laural sat down on the edge of the bed and examined their good buy more closely. She ran her hand along the grain of the wood… and almost missed the tiny piece of metal jutting out from beneath one of the drawers.
She called over her husband to feel it for himself. He seemed to think it was just a random piece of metal, or part of a fixture. But Laural wasn’t convinced. She first tried pulling on it, but nothing happened.
Conceding that it may just be an anomaly, she and her husband went to bed. But, as Laural lay there, she had a strange feeling that she just couldn’t shake.
Why would there be a flaw in the piece of furniture? She knew that the Amish prided themselves on their craftsmanship. There had to be more to it. Unable to sleep, she decided to investigate further.
She depressed the area and then she heard a faint click. A hidden compartment! She suddenly recalled how quick the guy had been to sell them the furniture. Had he known about this secret cache?
She really should check inside. How could she go to sleep now, knowing there was something unknown tucked away right next to her bed? It could be anything.
Could the seller have hidden stuff in there? Had he or the owners of the furniture wished to do away with something? Her mind was racing. There was only one thing for it.
Laural’s mind began spinning with theories: something bad, something incriminating, something stolen, evidence… what could someone have hidden inside?
Putting her fears aside, she carefully reached into the crevice and felt around the back with her fingers until she felt something that definitely wasn’t supposed to be there. She yelled for her husband to wake up… she didn’t want to uncover whatever it was on her own.
Her husband woke up with a start. “I was right… there’s something in here!” Laural whispered nervously. With her husband looking on, he himself now equally intrigued, Laural carefully reached inside with her hand again.
Would it contain jewelry? Cash? Antique items? Valuable collectible cards? They fantasized about so many things. But when Laural finally pulled the object out, they were stunned.
There. Pushed far toward the back of the space. It seemed to be some kind of bundle wrapped in paper. Laural brought it out slowly, as if it were fragile. An old brown envelope.
She held it gently with both hands and sat staring at it, dumbfounded. “Well, don’t just sit there, open it up!” was her husband’s impatient reply. She peeked inside, and a few seconds later looked up at him with wide eyes.
Reaching inside the secret compartment again, Laural brought out another envelope, and then another. She opened the first envelope and couldn’t believe her eyes.
When the first bundle was opened, it contained a stack of real twenty-dollar bills. Laural was so surprised to see that it contained a significant amount of money that she almost dropped it! But what about the other envelopes?
They grew even more excited and nervous than ever. There were still two bundles that had to be opened. Could they contain the same thing? What else were they about to find?
The second package held something even more intriguing. It had a stack of 50 dollar bills. But what about the third envelope?
The third envelope held hundred-dollar bills. A lot of them. Just looking back at her from inside the envelope. She threw them all out onto the bed, eliciting a gasp from her husband. Something was nagging at the back of her mind…
And then she remembered the recent store robbery. The authorities had never found the stolen loot. Could it be that they had just stumbled upon the thief’s hidden stash?
After counting everything, they placed the money in neat piles on the bed – a swathe of blue bills that matched the pattern on the quilt. $11 000 in total. There was no doubt in Laural’s mind about what to do next: Report their find to the local police.
In the meantime, her husband had stuck his own hand into the space and rummaged around further. Lo and behold, out came another bundle.
This time it was just a bunch of old bank statements. Laural’s mind wandered as she examined them, and suddenly it hit her: she had recognized the Facebook Marketplace seller!
She would get to the bottom of this, she thought to herself as she logged on to Facebook again. The minute she saw the seller’s profile, she knew she was right. It was him. Should she tell him what she knows?
Laural dialed the seller’s number. How would she approach the call? She would just lay it all out, she decided. She calmly told him about her find in the secret compartment and that she knew it had something to do with him.
She had recognized the surname on the bank statements: De Pere.
De Pere was the same surname as that of the seller. Yes, he told Laural, the bedroom set had belonged to his late parents. The furniture had been part of their estate sale.
He had wanted to get rid of everything, to bring closure. But he hadn’t been aware of their hidey-hole – would Laural return its contents?
Laural had thought long and hard about how she could use $11,000. She could pay off her granddaughter’s student debt, renovate her old house, or go on a relaxing holiday.
But she didn’t indulge these wild fantasies for long. As a woman who prided herself on her moral compass and strong values, she didn’t even hesitate to do the right thing.
Of course, she immediately returned all the money and the bank statements. The seller was the rightful owner, after all. His parents had worked long and hard and saved for that money. Yes, it would’ve been great to be $11 000 richer, but she was no thief…
One good turn deserves another: As a reward for her honesty, the guy gifted the Good Samaritan some of the money she had returned. How many of us would’ve given back such a large sum of cash?