A man renovating a house knocked down a loose brick to discover a strange key inside. He followed the trail of the key and learned an important lesson.
John Smith was one of the dozens of young men out on the streets looking for a means to support themselves and, in several cases, their families. They were all chasing the American dream, looking to become millionaires.
He had primarily lived in his small peaceful town until he got an opportunity to study at a university in the city. Of course, tuition was a lot which is why he had to pick up jobs to support his mom, whose shoulder had to carry most of the household burdens since her husband passed away years before.
John found a strange key while working. | Photo: Shutterstock
John watched his mother struggle to put food on the table while making sure he and his sister went to good schools. Only he knew how his mother always nursed swollen knees after long shifts at different jobs.
He vowed to change things for their family. He was so determined; he kept postponing his visit to his mother and an actual call with his sister.
John was too busy working and learning. He read every book about the world of finance, but everything told him building wealth like that took years. He needed it now to care for his family and himself.
Then his life changed one summer while he was working as a construction worker in New York. That day, his boss had briefed him on his task — knocking down the inner walls of an old, dilapidated mansion the team was renovating.
It was hard work; engines that could make it easier could not reach the insides of the building, so they had to use heavy mallets that zapped strength with each swing. John was sweating in minutes.
John was knocking down walls at work. | Photo: Getty Images
Once, a drop of perspiration slid into his eye, causing a burning sensation that made the already stressed John annoyed. He blamed the wall and aimed a particularly strong swing at it which knocked a ton of bricks apart, including one that dropped on his leg.
"Owww!!!" he shouted.
"Quit your yapping boy!" one of the older workers yelled from his post.
Veterans were like that. They didn't like whining, and John did not like getting reprimanded for expressing his feelings. He blamed the brick, so he attacked it.
He grabbed it and was about to throw it against the wall when he noticed the inner section was hollowed out in the shape of a key, but it was gone. A quick look around revealed the key lying on top of the sandy heap of bricks he had dislodged in anger.
It was a strange-looking key, and John could have sworn no lock existed for it. Still, something made him withhold the discovery of the key to his supervisor or other workers.
John found an old key. | Photo: Getty Images
He took it home with him and puzzled over it for hours, thinking about various conspiracy scenarios it could be linked to. Careful inspection of the key revealed a strange symbol and the initials, "E.I."
After hours of poring over internet articles and documents, he found out that the bricks were made in a factory that belonged to a wealthy man who reached the peak of his wealth towards the end of the 19th century. His name was Egan Ivanovsky.
John was excited. He knew he was onto something, and even though his brain told him trying to find the lock for the key would turn out to be a wild goose chase, his guts told him to follow it to the end.
If there's even a chance that there are riches at the end of this road, and I can get them right now, why shouldn't I try? It's what I wanted, isn't it? John thought to himself.
His school was on break that summer, so he had time to make a trip to the factory he read about in the web article. Most of it was in ruins, and after poking around for several minutes, John found nothing.
John visited the old factory looking for clues. | Photo: Getty Images
He was about to give up when he tripped and fell. Again his annoyance got the best of him, and he stomped on the offensive ground. Only he heard a wooden thud instead of a muted one.
Closer inspection revealed a trap door built into the ground like a bunker. It was secured with a strange-looking lock that miraculously opened as soon as he inserted the key he found to reveal a staircase that went deeper underground.
The sunlight that spilled into the vacuum only reached as far as the fourth step, but it did not stop the brave, desperate John from stepping inside. When he stepped in, it was pitch black, and a musty smell hit him.
Luckily, he went prepared with a backpack full of emergency tools, including a torch which made it easier for him to see. He was surrounded by riches; old dollar bills, fur coats, and paintings, most of which had gotten ruined by dust, moths, and vermin.
Seeing such treasures go to waste infuriated John. He had spent days tracking down the lock, and it had indeed led him to riches — only most of it was ruined. He left the place untouched and returned to his apartment.
John was in deep thought about giving up. | Photo: Getty Images
After a few days, he decided he would keep his discovery a secret until he had valued the contents. He still hoped to get a decent sum of money for them.
He could not find an official to value it for him, so he enlisted the help of a history student named Madeline. A girl he had liked since his first year on campus but had never had the nerve to speak to for fear of what to say.
"Hey," he called out to her one day. "I'm John."
"Madeline," she replied. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, please. See I have this thing I want to —uh — value. It's of — um — historical importance," he stuttered.
He cursed in his mind; even when he had a topic and a reason for speaking to her, he was still doing a terrible job of it.
"Okay? What is it?" she asked, a glint entering her eye.
John called Madeline for help. | Photo: Pexels
It was the same glint John had in his eye when he took up the challenge to find the lock. It calmed him.
"Come with me and you'll see," he said, suddenly confident.
John took Madeline to the factory, and after she examined the room, she confirmed that it had all belonged to Egan Ivanovsky. "He was a wealthy immigrant from the Russian Empire who once owned a brick factory in New York," she told him.
"Continue," John said.
"Well, according to the books, Ivanovsky was a very greedy person who coveted everything he saw. Once, a landowner near bankruptcy came to ask a favor from him, and in return for his help, Ivanovsky asked for his daughter's hand in marriage."
John told Madeline to come with him. | Photo: Shutterstock
"He had seen the comely woman — her name was Meredith — and one day he approached her but she refused him. What she didn't know was what Ivanovsky wanted, he got.
"In fact, some speculate, though with no proof, that Ivanovsky was somehow responsible for her father's bankruptcy. He knew her father would come begging and when the man did, he asked for his daughter. That same week, the two were married."
"He was terrible," John said, horrified.
"That's not the half of it. With the money he got from Ivanovsky, Meredith's father bought land and built a factory that thrived. Ivanovsky set his sights on that as well and he used his influence to frame his father-in-law for a crime so he could take over the factory."
Madeline explained Ivanovsky's selfish lifestyle to John. | Photo: Pexels
"When it seemed like the man would get out, Ivanovsky arranged for him to die in prison. Meredith put two and two together and committed suicide to spite her husband. Her death shook him. He lived a lonely life for his remaining years. He had no friends, loved no one and nothing but his money.
"When he died, no one shed a tear or said anything kind about him and as it turns out, his wealth also turned to dust," Madeline finished.
"But why did Ivanovsky chase money when there was no one to spend it on?" John wondered.
He pondered what he had learned all day and decided it was important to report his discovery to a historical museum and take no interest in it. Later that day, he called his family and really remained present through his conversation with them.
He also kept seeing Madeline while working hard to make his first million.
John pondered why Ivanovsky chased money with no one to spend it on. | Photo: Getty Images
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