THE COIN COLLECTOR CAPER
This is Auntie Carol. Oh, Lord me, I have been on a most scintillating of capers involving major coin heist, fraught with a menagerie of perplexing characters. I cannot see why people are so complex, so full of byzantine curves, and malice. My motto is “Do Unto Others”, the greatest precept of all time. All criminals are just dastardly bastards and malicious Machiavelles. In fact, some of them are not even normal, Sacre Bleau!
My victim, one Mona Tarry, of Bryn Mawr, Pa, was robbed of her most valuable coin collection, the Pfenige collection of the most rare coins on earth. I was singularly amazed at the looks and attire of Ms. Mona Tarry. She, being a woman of seventy-nine years, was as thin as a broom, and wore long dresses reminiscent of the late great Loretta Lynn. The cloth was either black velvet or dark green velvet. She had long, lusterless black hair which thundered down her back and had the clearest violet eyes I had ever seen. She was spry and quick to get to her feet, agile and somewhat athletic and I suspect quite stoic. The fragrance of lilac permeated the air. I suspect she was a real lady. This a rare thing in this world. Yet when she opened her mouth this perception was horridly dashed.
“Those goddamned little fuckers have stolen my coins and I cannot prove it. It’s my nephew, Enoch Schmute (with umlaut) and his tarty paramour, Chantalle le Boom Boom. It’s because they tried to poison me by peppermint, and truly, I nearly died. They put peppermint oil in a yellow cake and my throat closed up my face became swollen and I could not breathe. Fortunately, I had on hand some benadryl and it saved my life. Enoch just stood by during the whole ordeal, saying, “Auntie, how may I assist you?” Butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth and I am not entirely sure he won’t try again by some more nefarious means. It’s that woman he became involved with who put him up to it. I know a rank slut when I see one. Tits out to here and a Renaissance ass with a 24 inch waist. And the worst maid ever, tried to clean the windows with Murphy’s Oil. Then she tried to scrub the stove with dishwater soap. Her, I threw out and that was her just comeuppence, and she kept saying “But, Madame, what have I done to displease you?” I replied, “Nearly everything, dear. Then there’s the murder attempt.” She swore she had no knowledge of my allergies, and then offered me some expensive designer peanuts covered with sugar, two of my most severe allergies.” I laughed, and said, “Let them eat cake, and you would do well to eat them yourself, dear. If you’re going to be a murderess, you’d better get better at it. I expect in a murder there would be lurid writings in blood on the walls such as ‘she had it coming, the tainted wretch, or at the very least, some very noir poetry, and I’d expect dismemberment, perhaps my head in the freezer. Blame it on the psychos. That is always the best way. Murder for passion, dear, not money. Perhaps I reminded you of your dear old necromancer mom who made you drink goat’s blood. A murder should be like a Shakesperean drama, dear. Now off with you and never darken my door again. Tell Enoch he may stay in the attic where’s there’s no heat and he shall eat bread and drink water for the duration of my sometimes tempestuous life.” Well, Enoch was so frightened, I have seen neither hide not hair of him for three months but I hear sobbing coming from the attic, and he writes little poems for me on notebook paper. Things like “My, how the world shineth,” and the like. Poor Enoch, thirty-four and no means for a gainful employment as he refused to go to college or find a job. Until recently he was content to watch me die. Yet I am healthy as a horse and run two miles every day and I eat only natural, organic foods, and drink naught but one glass of red wine per day.”
She rambled on about herself which is the hall mark of someone who is gregarious and fond of people, and she ordered tea and crumpets and petit fours for us to snack on as she told her tale. It seems she was the only person who had the combination to the safe, and yet he was allowed to put up the coins and bills in the safe as she watched so his prints appeared on the safe as well as Chantal’s who claimed she was dusting the safe. Yet, she confided in me expressing the feeling that she believed neither of them were brilliant enough to pull a treasure heist. I asked to see Enoch and interview him. If one’s relatives cannot mess one over then what’s a world for, I say.
Enoch, her nephew, looked at once befuddled, and grateful for the presence of a human face in his extreme solitude. I saw he had been playing with toy soldiers of the Civil war and had just knocked over Ulysses S.Grant for being a “wise ass” in this own words. He told me Grant had a bad attitude just because he won the war and needed to be put in his “place”. Enoch was one of the class of people who end up being clerks, pale, wan, dejected and colorless. He was truly Hemingway’s Everyman. His hair was thinning and was of a sandy quality and his eyes floated in a mist of tears, and were the color of a pair of brown shoes and lusterless. He facial features were singularly regular and I deign to say, common. His pale lips made one thin line across his face as if a third grader had drawn them in. He was as dull as his aunt was flamboyant. He decried his innocence, and wept over the cruelty of his “Auntie”. He rambled incessantly about his grievances and kept saying that he gave her eighteen years of his life. Then he got a preternatural gleam in his eyes, holding up a handwritten manuscript of his life in the attic and about the familial cruelties he had suffered at her hands including the incidence of being forced to wear starched underwear. It was to be “The Great American Novel.” I told him it was a brilliant idea while thinking I would not deign to wipe my derriere with it. And I made as quick an exit as possible wondering whether he might try to hang himself from the rafters or sneak out and fling himself into a large chasm. Such was his pain. I made a note to mention to her that the “quality of mercy was not strained” and to convey my feeling to her that perhaps he had suffered enough. I also did not want for another horrendous book going to press.
Now there is the matter of the value of the coin collection. They were the most valuable coins in the world as they were all one of a kind as the “artist”, Herr Otto Pfenige (Penny in German), destroyed the plates after making each singular and beauteous coin or paper money he made. For thirty years he worked at the Franklin Mint in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pa without incident. Then being an artist and decidedly mad he decided to strike out at a world which he felt had excluded and ignored him. The anonymity of it! The sheer drudgery of doing exactly the same thing over and over again like an automatum completely unhinged his fragile psyche.
I shall inform you that the first coin was Abraham Lincoln in drag on the penny. The second, on the dollar bill was a depiction of George Washington and his dear wife, Martha, having a “dalliance”. Then on the fifty dollar bill, Grant was shown pissing off into a river while on a bridge, and on the bill the words, “Don’t take me for Granted, Ulysses.” On some bills instead of in God We Trust he modified it to In God we Thrust. In the Grover Cleveland, a one thousand dollar bill, he put spiky high heels on his person which were in stark bas relief to his dark pin striped suit. He was fond of putting Dali moustaches on very austere male personages or pirate parrots perched on their shoulders. Perhaps his “piece de resistance” was the Marie Antoinette on the hundred dollar bill showing her body in the stocks and her severed head rolling around like a loose bowling ball. On that the wordage was ,”Let Them Eat Cake.”At this point he became visibly and completely unhinged and proceeded to dress in robber baron style garb, (picture an Errol Flynn swashbuckling picture) and to speak in Chaucerian Middle English when queried by anyone.
They discovered, too late, what he had done and promptly secured him a room in El Hotel Looney in which he would supposedly stay for most of the remainder of his tragic life. Yet after a reprieve he was finally set free. Mona Terry was able to secure the complete collection of his works by guile and by wealth with all his pieces included. When he died some years later in a fire (he had been released on his own recognizance), Mona Terry gave him a hero’s send off, a magnificent fete with champagne, wheels of brie, pate de foix gras, Carr’s crackers, various towering fruit displays, and a marching band playing amongst other things, “God Save The Queen”, and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” There was nary a dry eye at the grave site and resplendent Renaissance angels, and fawns and doves adorned his elaborate tomb. It was simply a stupendous party. And hoards of poets spoke their verse, and dancers interpreted the imagery. The words on his tomb eulogy were ironically, “Money is the Root of All Evil.” To the tune of “Amazing Grace” the revelers departed one by one like ghosts in a fairy tale as the sun went behind a rain cloud.
My instinct told me that the pathetic duo, Enoch and Chantal, did not commit the crime or they would have if they could have. It was likely the former. It was not that they had the motive: they had not the means, (intelligence). Two such bumbling sociopaths I have never seen. My psychic instincts impelled me to go to Paris, the artist’s favorite city to see if the treasures had been hocked or sold to the Notorious Paris Under World of Art Criminals.
Jean Baptiste Bon Chance, a shady character, in black fedora and rain coat, agreed to meet me for a thousand Euros in the Louvre one afternoon. He slid in on the other sides of the dying sun’s rays, and made no sound as he came up behind me as I admired some portraits by Marie Cassatt. There I learned an astounding fact, Herr Pfinege was alive. Alive! And he had secured a job in Metallurgy making casts of artist’s sculptures, of course, doing his own work as well. At seventy-eight years old he was now finally living life among his peers and kindred spirits.
I found him and I told him I knew he was the one who did the coin heist. He looked relieved, this old man with the wondrously strange gray eyes, relieved and happy. His skin was yellowed and pale like the skin of an onion but he was still robust physically. He spoke in a hushed baritone that filled my heart.
“Mona and I were secret lovers for years but it was a love that drained us, both. Intense, volatile, passionate. A love that hurt us both like a double edged sword. She was hungry for my spirit like a glutinous dog. I could not stand the intrusion for I was an artist which is by nature a solitary activity. I had to flee her, and my frustration with the mundane job I was doing drove me mad and then I began to make my own creations. Then I found my true calling. And now that I’m old I know I may not spare a minute from my creations as I was locked away ten long years. But, in that time, I got more powerful, more determined, more sane. Yes. I took them. I love the young girls, so uncomplicated, so fresh, like a field of daisies. So unlike Mona. She was like Diana, the Huntress, a mistress who must be served. You must not tell her, Auntie Carol. Take this coin of Abraham in drag. It was her favorite. Say you found it in a pawn shop. Say you could not find the others.”
So glorious was this human spirit. I could not countenance imprisoning him again. I took the coin back to Mona who clutched it to her chest with tears in her eyes. “He was not mad. He was a great, great artist,” she said and sighed.
“Yes,” I repeated, “A great artist.
Written by CAROL ANN author of Poems of Thunder @ Amazon.com & BN.com