The four of them sat in silence around the torn brown-paper parcel. It reminded Nick of a cartoon he had saw as a kid. He could picture an animated cat holding it in his oversized paws. It was rectangular, twice as long as it was deep. A perfect little package except for the ripped corner.
Mrs Jones sucked air through her cherry red puckered lips and leant forward to inspect the exposed corner of the expertly wrapped parcel, the carefully crafted string knot, which finished the top, almost touching her nose.
“Do you think it’s real?” she asked, “It smells real. It’s got that shitty smell when you get so many old notes together.”
Jemima gasped, “My, my Mrs Jones. That’s a terrible thing to say!”
“it’s true!” she protested, “when punters pay me in fivers the bundle always smells like that, like shit. These look more like twenties though.” She sucked air through her perfected white teeth again.
Nick picked the parcel up once more. He still wore the black latex gloves Mrs Jones had given him when she had come to inform him about the parcel sitting at the bottom of the close.
The torn corner, which had exposed the wad of twenty pound notes, extended towards the centre of the package coming to a stop surrounded by a sticky white residue. The tacky substance implied that some sort of label must have sat there originally, but it was now missing and there was nothing else apparent on the parcel, no return address, no stamp, nothing.
He turned the parcel a few times in his hands admiring is symmetry and density. It was the most perfectly wrapped item he had ever held, the corners were tight, the depth of the folds consistent, the tape kept to a minimum and the string wrapped around it was thick, sturdy and surgically precise in its placement.
“So what are we going to do with it?” asked Mrs Jones.
Nick sat it back on the kitchen table and looked around at his neighbours.
Jemima spoke first, “It could be a test? Or a trap? You know, someone wanting to see how people would respond to something like this, like a TV show or reporter or something, just waiting outside or filming us to get a reaction…” her voice self-consciously trailed off.
“Bollocks!” Exclaimed Mrs Jones, amused at the shock it brought to Jemima’s face.
“I say…” began Richard, dropping his clasped hands from in front of his mouth for the first time since they had sat at the table, “I say we keep it.”
Mrs Jones let out a low dirty laughed and pat Richard on the back, amused at the concern the physical contact caused him, “That’s more like it.”