The strangest turn of events happened today. I woke and went to class nearly forgetting that Professor Loockersmans would be back from his language symposium. When I arrived he was standing at the door looming over everyone entering. I nervously passed by him and he placed his hand on my shoulder.
I stopped and turned like a little child caught by father, "Yes, Professor?"
"Come to seem me after class in my office."
It was all I could to look him in the eye, "Yes, sir."
The class itself seemed to drone on for hours. The Professor offered no explanation as to why he was absent the last two weeks, which I found unprofessional. He went right into the text speaking of negation. All I kept hearing was "neit," "neit," "neit." I was not paying attention at all. Suddenly, Professor Loockersmans barked at me, "Mw. Graydon, luister u?"
I jumped out of my daze and quickly replied, "Ja, Professor." I noticed the students looking around at each other in amazement. It just came out of me and I'm not quite sure from where. We really had not started conversing in class since it was an introductory course. I saw a slight smirk come across his face.
After class, the Professor asked me to walk with him to his office. We crossed over Broadway to Columbia's campus. He did not say a word the entire way and neither did I. It felt like a death march honestly. I pictured a scaffold and hooded executioner waiting for me.
We took the stairs to the third floor of one of the smaller nondescript building facing Barnard's campus. His office was ample, centered around a large mahogany desk and a wall that was covered, floor-to-ceiling with massive old tomes. His window looked out onto Barnard. I noticed a lantern sitting on his desk, which struck me as immediately odd.
He asked me to sit at one of the two chairs opposite his desk. I thanked him. He sat and said, "You are disappointed in me for running a speakeasy?"
I couldn't open my mouth. There was something about his demeanor. I was completely unsettled by him.
"I understand. You're idealistic. But I know for a fact, in time, Prohibition will be over and sooner than you think."
"But it's illegal at the moment," I couldn't believe I said it.
"Charming, Miss Graydon. Really."
I couldn't find anything to say and become nervous with the silence. "Professor, why am I here?"
"I assume you wanted to tell me you were dropping my class because I am a criminal." He smirked and what a cold one it was.
How did he know? My next thought was that Dottie told him. "I was seriously considering it," I mumbled. I was more frightened than I wanted to be. I wanted to fearless.
"What if I told you my establishment was run in cooperation with the City of New York?"
I did not speak.
"Miss Graydon, there are many forces at work, in these times. The world is in grave danger and we are coming upon greater troubles. People are starving, governments all over the world are falling and rising, and there are people with dangerous ideas taking advantage of this."
I still had nothing intelligent to say.
"So, you see. Consumption of alcohol is the least of our problems."
Harold barged in through the door. "Ohhh, Professor, I didn't realize you were back."
"Yes Harold, the door being shut, should have been an indication."
He looked down at the floor. What an awkward thing. "Yes, Professor."
"No matter, Harold, you know Miss Graydon?"
"Nice seeing you again, Harold," I said.
He smiled not saying anything to me. "Professor, Mr. Rapalje telephoned. He said if you could ring him as soon as possible."
"Thank you, Harold. I will."
Harold shut the door and the Professor rolled his eyes, "He's really quite intelligent. I know it doesn't show." He looked at me frozen still with fear. "Miss Graydon, you are here for another reason. To put it bluntly, I need you."
My heart lept up to my throat. "Whatever for?"
"Believe it or not, not only are you a gifted linguist, but you are also a keen observer. And I have a job for you that will require all of your skills."
"I don't understand. I just arrived last month. How ever can I help?"
"Tell me, Miss Graydon, what was the color of the first door of the speakeasy?"
"And the second?"
He smirked again, like he did after I answered him in him in class, "Now if I asked my two doormen, they would not have a clue, neither would any of the other patrons for that matter."
"I still don't understand how I can be of service to you."
"If interested, and I know you are, I will explain it all to you. Meet me next Tuesday night at my establishment. Ask for Rick to take you to my office. And I assure you, I'm not asking you to bootleg alcohol."
He stood up from behind his desk and went to his door. I stood with what seemed like my knees knocking. "Thank you, Professor," was all I could utter.
"Don't be nervous, Velma. The world is opening wide to you now."
Harold came to the door and showed me out of the office. I was in such a state I was nearly hit by a checker cab crossing on Broadway. My stomach is still in knots and the world has completely turned upside down.