I found myself in a wide corridor with dark hardwood floor, covered by an Oriental rug runner. There was a laundry room to my left, a small bathroom to my right. Straight ahead was the kitchen and from the plans I knew that Conwell’s study was around the corner to the right at the end of the hall.
The architecture looked elegant and expensive, with wide white woodwork and the extra details you won’t find in cheaper construction. The furnishings I saw were similar, rich and heavy and expensive-looking.
I moved quietly down the corridor, alert for any sound. I could hear the soft ticking of a clock from somewhere in the house, and some distant refrigeration or air conditioning system quietly cycling on and off, some soft creaking that you’ll hear in almost every house when it’s quiet enough. There were no sounds of other people stirring about. I hoped they had all gone to bed.
I reached the heavy oak door to the study. I paused a moment, then turned the knob and quietly pushed the door open.
The study was dark. The only illumination came from the security lights outside, filtered thought the thin curtains on the windows. The room was furnished in a masculine style, with dark wood and leather. The desk looked big enough for a game of ping-pong. One wall was lined with bookshelves, loaded with leather-bound books. What looked like an expensive Oriental rug covered the middle of the floor. Framed pictures and certificates hung on the walls.
I crossed the room to the small closet opposite the desk, where I knew I would find the wall safe. It was installed in the wall of the closet, covered by a hinged door that looked like the kind that would hide an electrical panel. I swung the door out of the way, revealing the safe behind it.
Some years ago I had acquired a handy little electronic device that was designed for this very purpose. It had a short lead with a suction cup at the end, which I stuck to the door of the safe next to the dial. I turned the dial until the first tiny light came on. I turned the dial back the other way until the second one lit up, continuing until all the lights were lit. I grasped the handle of the safe and opened the door, put my little toy away and shined my tiny flashlight inside.
There were some papers in binders, a couple of banded stacks of cash and a small dark blue box a couple of inches square, about a half inch deep. I took out the box and opened it, shining my light on the object inside. It was a gold coin slightly less than an inch-and-a-half in diameter in a protective plastic case. It featured a lady in flowing robes who appeared to be marching straight ahead off the coin. She carried a leafy branch in her left hand and a flaming torch in her right. Her left foot was placed on a small rock in the foreground, and just above the rock near her left leg were the embossed figures 1933. The object I was holding was a 1933 double eagle twenty-dollar gold piece, the rarest and most valuable coin in the world.
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