He looked around the cluttered room. Most everything was just as worthless as it appeared at first glance. But there were treasures scattered about too. The trick was to spot the treasures, and in particular to find the one thing that would make a difference.
The room was perhaps a thousand square feet. About half of that was devoted to tables, with a workbench in the corner. The rest was shelves floor to ceiling. The shelves appeared to be packed with bits and pieces, for the most part stored in orderly piles, bins, and boxes. The obviously functional things were sorted by function, and the less functional were sorted by material. The tables held more complete objects, in various states of assembly. The workbench was well appointed with tools, and was clearly in active use by day.
He wandered among the tables, waiting for something to speak to him, to attract his attention. He wasn’t precisely sure what he was after, he had only been told that he’d know it when he saw it.
The nearly complete Jacquard loom caught his eye, but he quickly noticed it was missing its card reader and couldn’t possibly function without it. The lovingly restored automaton of a peacock was striking. But also too showy to be it. There were a number of timepieces ranging from skeleton pocket watches to a full scale church tower clock dominating a corner of the room. Still, none of them seemed to be in any way out of the ordinary aside from their place in this collection. Finally, at a table located far away from the workbench, he spotted them.
The typewriter was a lovingly restored Remington Portable 1. It looked to be complete and working. Evidence of the latter fact was found in the form of a sheet of paper in the machine, with the words “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out” written on it.
Next to it was a substantial pile of paper. A quick glance through the top few sheets revealed that the writing was not improved over the first few sentences.
Beyond that was an elaborate gramophone, with a large brass horn, rosewood, ivory, and ebony inlays on a mahogany cabinet, and a full sized turntable for the newer flat records. In all details, this was a classic Berliner Gramophone. But the record waiting to play was a complete anomaly: a recording of Bohemian Rhapsody labeled as recorded in 1875. Clearly that was about as real as a $3 bill. On closer inspection, there was more wrong with the gramophone as well. The horn was clearly of modern manufacture. The case was real inlay work, but clearly performed on a modern plywood cabinet.
He didn’t need to set the need to groove to know that there was just too much wrong with that toy.
The typewriter, on the other hand, revealed detail after detail that spoke to its true value.
He closed its case, collected the novel beside it, and made his way out before anyone noticed the intruder.