Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Velma's Journal--October 14, 1931

I went back to the speakeasy last night for my meeting with Professor Loockersmans. It was a a bit of a humbling experience to ask Dottie if she would accompany me. When I asked she simply looked at me and said, "You wanna go back? On a Tuesday night?" I told her that it was for purely academic reasons. She laughed and said she would gladly bring me there. I'm not quite sure but the idea of her going with me, comforted me. I thought that if anything were to go wrong, Dottie wouldn't hesitate to jump in and protect me. An irrational thought to be sure.

Much proceeded as it did the last time I went to the Bakery. The secret codes, the dark alley, Mick and Rick or Rick and Mick. I did not don the trench. When I arrived inside Dottie headed for the bar and engaged the bartender, Fox, in conversation. She came over to me standing sheepishly in the corner. "Fox says Look is sending someone down to bring you to his office." She looked at me and winked. My heart sank. I realized she thought I was going to engage in some indiscretion with my professor. "Dottie, it's nothing like that?"

She smiled, "Sure alright. There's nothin' wrong with workin' for your grades." She nudged me on the shoulder. "Girls do it all the time."

"How disgusting!" I gasped.

Dottie ran over to Fox and ordered two whiskies. She brought one over to me. "Look, this time, not so fast, unless you think you can handle it."

I hesitated and then in one breath thought it might just help me relax since my nerves had been getting the best of me for the past week. I took a small sip. The burning sensation was indescribable. I gagged a little. Then I took another sip. It wasn't so bad. Neither was the third sip.

"Thatta girl," Dottie was almost proud. She took a large sip of hers. "You know Abby is having it off with her literature professor." I nearly choked. "No one's suppose to know. So that's between you and me. Got it?"

"Yes of course," I said smiling a little bit on the inside. Dottie confided in me and Abby was not the perfect girl she tried so hard to be.

"Girl's got no self-esteem. I don't get rich dames."

"You two seem to be very close." I said now feeling comfortable to say it.

Dottie grimaced, "Nah. She was using me for booze. Howie had a connection to get some bottles onto campus. She wanted them for entertainin' her other society dames. Not my scene. Once she got the hooch, she booked."

"She went home with you though," I said.

"No. She couldn't handle Brooklyn. Ma says those girls have broomsticks up their asses. You think I'm refined, you should see ma."

In the middle of our conversation Mick or Rick came up to me. "Hiya Velma, Mr. Look is ready to see you." It really bothered me that I was not able to distinguish between the two of them.

I downed the rest of my whisky. "Good luck," Dottie said.

I handed her my glass, "Thanks." I followed Mick/Rick to the back of the room where a black curtain was pulled back to reveal a black door. It was opened from the inside. We walked in and down a hallway lit by gaslamps, which I found strange. We stopped at the end of the hall. "Mr. Look. I got Velma here."

The door again opened from the inside. Professor Lockersmanns was sitting behind a huge mahogany desk in a room stacked high of books and ancient maps. He stood up. "Rick, be gracious and refer to her as Miss Graydon."

"Sorry, Miss Graydon." Rick said.

"I don't mind using Velma." I said nervously.

"Thank you, Rick, you can go. Wait outside until we're done." He left and the door was closed by Harold who was standing behind it. "You remember Harold?" Loockersmans asked. "Have a seat, please." He motioned to one of the chairs opposite his desk.

"Yes, hello Harold." I sat.

"Hello," He said standing in the corner.

Loockersmans sat. "I'll make this brief, Miss Graydon. I'd like to offer you a job. A way for you to make not only a side-income but also contacts that could help you in the future."

I squirmed in my seat. "What type of job?"

He smiled, "I need you to be a messenger for me. But not just any ordinary messenger. You will be delivering top secret transmissions to different members of one of the oldest societies in this city. It is a job that will require you to be alert, focused, and most importantly, to be fluent in many languages."

"But I'm not," I blurted.

"But you are and you will be. I've seen your records. I've searched far and wide for you, Miss Graydon." There was a pause and I really had no idea what to think of that statement. "Who do you think it is who approved your scholarship? Who do you think it is who placed you in Dutch when German was closed?" My throat felt like it was closing up. I couldn't swallow. "Don't look so frightened you are a student of the utmost promise. You don't realize how important this job I am asking you to do is."

I felt Harold staring into the back of my head while Loockersmans grinned his way through his offer. "What do I have to do?" I scraped from the back of my throat.

"Do you accept?"

"Do I have a choice?"

He smiled wider. "Of course you do. You are not obligated to this. Although If I were you I would view it as an honor and a privilege, it does not affect the status of your scholarship."

I wanted to say no right then, but there was something greater in me that hesitated to say anything. "I honestly do not know what to say, Professor."

"Why don't you try it and if it does not suit you, then you are free to leave and continue your studies... I assure you Miss Graydon, there is nothing unlawful or nefarious about these dealings. This operation is a separate dealing. Your work would only deal with bringing and at times translating messages between members of this society."

"What is the society?"

He shuffled in his chair. "If you except, you will meet the President and he will be able to explain more to you."

I said nothing. I was still not assured of anything with him obviously withholding information.

"Take a week to think about it. You can give me your answer at any time before then. But I want you to seriously think about it."

"I thank you for the offer Professor, I am honored. And I will consider it." I'm not positive I meant what I said. "Am I free to leave?" I stood up.

He stood, "Of course. Thank you for coming." Harold opened the door. "Oh and Ms. Graydon, feather to left is Rick, and feather to the right is Mick." I did not quite understand him.

When I walked out into the hallway, Rick was waiting for me. The first thing I noticed was his hat. The was a yellow feather pinned to the right side of it. My immediate thought was, how in the world did Loockersmans know I was struggling with identifying those two?

So I went back and found Dottie. We had another whiskey. All in the course of an hour I became a card-carrying law breaker.

And I have not an ounce of guilt for it.

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