Paranoid, fearing the notoriety of having in his possession a penny – for which he’d just plunked down $2,585,000 – would make him an instant target of thieves once he entered upon the street, he smiled and waved at the crowd and, as TV cameras rolled, he placed the highly-prized treasure, which was encased in its felt-lined box, into an outside pocket of his briefcase and pulled the leather strap through the buckle, all the while making much of the effort.
Then he made his exit, careful to hold the worn leather satchel in his left hand while waving at his admirers with his right.
Avoiding the elevator he took the steps down two at a time. At the mezzanine he opened the door and, cutting his eyes both directions of the hall he observed but two individuals within view, neither of whom paid him any mind, quite unaware of the transaction that’d taken place just one-half floor above.
Still, wanting to appear just another of the busy folks going about their business, his pace was measured, not fast but then not slow. Slipping into the restroom with yet another glance over his shoulder to assure himself he’d gone to this point undetected, he entered the only unoccupied stall, closed and latched the door and made the exchange.
He sat for a moment, balancing the briefcase on his lap, and from the felt-lined box he extracted his prize, holding it for a moment in the palm of his hand admiring his oh-so-rare purchase, then stood, slipping it into his right-hand front pants pocket.
With his left hand he would hold the briefcase.
The felt-lined box was then returned to the original location on the outside of the leather satchel but not before a cheap but remarkable likeness had been substituted.
Since he’d first seen the 1792 penny at a New York auction house thirty-four years previous, he’d hoped and planned and schemed and connived and conspired for this day.
It was the “Mona Lisa of coinage,” a most spectacular piece for which he’d paid a most spectacular price – the “most ever for one-cent.”
Hopefully the penny’s purchase and placement had not been conducted with too much fanfare but enough for any prospective thieves in attendance to witness.
For effect he flushed the toilet, skipped the wash basin, and entered the hallway. This time he was recognized.
‘What was he going to do with his treasure?’
‘Was he nervous about having parted with so much cash?’
‘I’ll keep it for the day it’ll have perhaps doubled in value and see what profit might be had in auctioning it once again,’ was his reply, smiling and glancing down at his leather briefcase swinging it a bit for show.
Well-wishers crowded around. Reporters wanted another quote. The story, after all, of what he’d paid for this penny would be national news.
But he had to be on his way he said – assuring all they’d hear from him again – and stepped out onto the sidewalk where his car awaited him directly in front, a spot reserved for such as himself: a most-preferred customer of the prestigious Orlando auction house.
It was raining, a downpour, a gully-washer and he’d forgotten his umbrella. The concierge however was quick to notice and just as quick to produce the desired equipment, accompanying him to the driver’s side.
As he reached into his right front pants pocket and pulled from there his keys, the kind of sound only a coin can make when flung against metal – in this case the side of his car – recast him in the merest fraction of a second from among the suave and the sophisticated to the incredibly stupid.
With a wail that many would recall later as something akin to that of a starving wolf having tracked and trapped its human prey in a dead end canyon – the canyon walls echoing the sound of the feast to come – the man flung briefcase and dignified demeanor aside and on hands and knees in the torrent gasped and grasped – too late – the coin as it turned and tumbled its way through the slats of the grate and into the city’s labyrinth sewer system.
Wisdom, an ancient proverb reads, is a panegyric. To obtain it is to be happy in the plural, worth more than all that can be imagined as valuable, for to possess it is to share it.