Back in November, a Brazilian immigrant named Carlos was rummaging through some old books at the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility when he opened one up and found something slightly more interesting than your average breezy mystery about a pet rabbit who sneaks out at night to investigate high-end art theft: Cash. Lots of it. Somewhere north of $20,000 that someone had stuffed into the book after hollowing out the middle like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Excuse me, I’m going to take the afternoon off and tear my local library apart.
What did Carlos do with the money, you ask? Did he run off and take an expensive vacation? Did he pay off some bills? Did he get in on the ground floor of my exciting Robot Dog Bartender project? Nope. He decided set it aside for six months — until May 8 — to see if someone claims it.
He advertised an e-mail address – Ipatimaga2005@comcast.net – in a Wellesley newspaper and received at least 180 responses from around the world. Most congratulated him on his discovery and his pursuit, but at least nine, he says, were simply greedy people. “They tried to explain the book belongs to their family, a grandfather, or grandmother,” he says. “But they couldn’t give me the right information.”
He won’t reveal the title of the book, but says the rightful owner would know, and also be able to describe the cutaway pages and estimate the amount. None of them could. He now believes the book likely came from a family estate, someone never knowing the treasure inside.
You know how this is going to end, right? He’ll be sitting at home on the final night, eagerly watching his inbox with one eye and the clock with the other, counting down the seconds until midnight. Scammers will flood him with claims. “Oh, it was my great uncle’s book,” “No, it’s mine and I lost it when I moved,” “It belongs to me, the Duke of Fakingtonshire” and so on. Delete, delete, delete. With a few seconds left until the deadline he’ll take a deep breath, smile, and start closing open browser windows. It’s his. It’s finally his.
His cell phone will ring. Who could possibly be calling at this hour?
“Hello, Carlos. I believe you have my book.”
“Excuse me?” Carlos will stammer, knowing full well he had not included his last name or telephone number in the information about claiming the book.
“My book. The tattered copy of Oliver Twist that you’re probably looking at right now. The one with ‘To my dearest Margaret’ written on the inside of the front cover.”
“But I … how did you …”
“There will be time for that, Carlos. For now, put on a tuxedo and meet me at the planetarium. We have much to discuss.”
COMING FALL 2014: National Treasure: The Illuminati’s Revenge