Thursday, January 31, 2008

Velma's Journal--November 8, 1931

Received a letter from mother today. She said that fall in Saratoga has gone by slowly and has been especially cold. She has taken on additional time at the spa to bring in more money for the upcoming holiday, but the customers have been fewer and fewer. There was also a note saying that my father is proud of me for taking on a side job even with my studies. He has always been my biggest champion. If only he knew the people I were working for. If only I knew the people I were working for. Each one has seemed nice enough, but that speech from Mr. Rapalje seemed like nonsense talk. Perhaps these Lightkeepers have an inflated sense of purpose. Perhaps they’re a cult.

Mother also mentioned that she saw my good friend Darla Lowe at the grocery the other day and she mentioned her engagement to our classmate Douglas Bradley. The opportunity was taken by mother to remind me that a woman of my age should be concerned with finding a husband and raising a family. In my return letter, I will respond to her comment with only a note of congratulations to Darla. I doubt mother and I will ever see eye-to-eye as women.

After starting this job, I have been dreaming again. I am having trouble remembering whole dreams, but I know images have been racing about in my head. Perhaps I shouldn’t read so much before I sleep. Dottie says she never remembers her dreams. Of course, she never remembers most of her waking hours past 8 PM.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Velma's Journals--November 5, 1931

We drove down a street called Henry which was lined with tall trees and admirable townhouses. Behind the houses I could see the entire southern tip of Manhattan. We stopped at a large house set on the corner of Henry and another street who's name I found strange: Joralemon. There were two giant gas lamps on either side of the door both lit even though it was 2 in the afternoon.

When we pulled up Rudy said, "That's Mr. Jack's house." He pulled over got out of the car and opened the door for me.

"Thank you," I said.

"Anytime for such a pretty young lady." His cigar was still smoking. "Just knock on da door. I gotta park the car over in da garage around da corna."

"Ok, Thank you, Rudy." I walked over to the large door and saw a gold eagle's head in the center with a ring in its beak. I used it to knock and almost immediately a man as tall as myself answered. There was a large smoking pipe in his mouth, large circular tortoise-shell glasses over his eyes and a perfectly cut head of silver hair. His eyes were a captivating blue and his smile was immediately warm.

"Miss Graydon?"

"Yes, I am here to see-"

"Me. You're here to see me. Jack Rapalje. Welcome. Come in." He motioned his hand inside. I walked through with my satchel in hand. The first thing I noticed was the smell of coffee lingering under the cherry of his pipe. It was delightful. "Is this your first time in Brooklyn?"

"Yes, sir."

"What do you think so far?"

"Nothing like I expected. It's breathtaking, really."

"Well this is only the start of it. There's much more further south of us. Come, follow me." He walked in front of me. We passed into a long hallway lined with large portraits of women and men from a bygone age. At the end long hall was the only open door. It led into a large, bright room. The ceilings were impossibly high and the large windows looked out onto New York Harbor and the south of Manhattan. It was a view much like the one from the Brooklyn Bridge. One that was distractingly beautiful. "Please Ms. Graydon, have a seat." He motioned to one of two chairs opposite his desk. On the top of his desk was another old looking lantern, similar to the one in Loockersmans office, but this one was larger.

"Thank you, Mr. Rapalje."

"Enough of that," he said. "Call me Jack. You'd never think it by my surroundings or the company I keep, but I despise formality." He looked at me as I opened my satchel and delivered the document to him. "Thank you. You may not realize it, but this was extremely important." He opened the envelope and looked at the document. "Welcome aboard, Miss Graydon."

"Thank you sir. I'm not exactly sure what I'm aboard at the moment."

"Right, and I suppose that's my job."

"So I was told."

He smiled. "Would you like some coffee? I'm sure Caroline sat and drank tea with you like a real lady."

"We did, yes."

"Well here you get coffee. Of course I have tea if you want it."

"No, no, coffee is fine."

"Great." He smiled. "RUDY!"

"YEAH," I heard Rudy's voice from down the hall. "Two cups of coffee, bring some cream and sugar for Miss Velma. He calls you Miss Velma, right?"

I chuckled. "Yes."

"Do you mind?"

"Not at all," I said.

"You may notice the aching absence of a wife here."

"I hadn't actually."

"There isn't one. There was mother, then the war, then mother until she died. I never had the time to find one and now look at me, old. Of course you don't need to know all this." There was a pause because I awkwardly said nothing. "Ok, so this is how it goes around here. This document you delivered was an approval of your employment. You have officially been approved by the top three members of a society as old as the Dutch settlement of this fair city. We call ourselves the Lightkeepers, for reasons too involved to get into at the moment. You, Miss Graydon, have been earmarked in a process also too involved to get into at the moment, as someone gifted not only in the art of languages, but also in the art of perception. Is this true?"

I was dumbfounded. "Well, I don't know if that's--"

"Right! You don't realize your gifts yet. That's fine. It's all part of the process."

I knew I was blushing at the thought of me being gifted in anything.

"You speak, French, Spanish, Latin, and ancient Greek. You are learning Dutch, I've heard at an accelerated speed."

"I do hope so."

"RUDY, THE COFFEE!" He yelled behind him.


"Miss Graydon, we need you. Not so much the you now, but the you you will become."

I froze with fear. I was hoping this man would unravel the mystery of the past few months, but he seemed to be shrouding it even further. "I honestly, don't understand all this."

"Of course you don't. I can't rightfully explain it to you and I won't have to. All you need to know is, there is a time coming upon us that will be dark and dangerous. It will threaten not only the balance of this city, but the entire world." He pointed to the lantern on his desk. "We are holding the light that can get us through it safely." Then he pointed at me. "You, Miss Graydon, are the spark."

Rudy plowed into the office. "I got your coffee here."

"Finally," Jack said.

"Hey, next time don't give Rosey da day off. I'm not a good homemaker."

"How do you take your coffee, Miss Graydon?" Jack asked.

"Mr. Jack, she looks green."

Jack chuckled. "I just told her she has to help us save the world."

"Ah, all in a day's work around here, Miss Velma," Rudy said slamming the coffee on the desk.

I wanted to pass out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Velma's Journal--November 4, 1931

Today I returned to Mrs. Vanderford's to pick up the signed document. It was from there that I had to travel to Brooklyn Heights and see my charge safely to Mr. John Rapalje. When I arrived Robert was there to hand me the document. "Mrs. Vanderford is playing tennis. She instructed me to give this only to you and call you a motorcar to take you to Brooklyn." His accent was slight, but just enough to pepper his words with intrigue.

"That won't be necessary," I said. I could barely look up at him. "I can take a train."

"Don't be foolish, the car is on it's way." He smiled adding a quiet pause to our interaction. "I play on Friday and Saturday nights at the Big Apple. If the mood strikes you. It's up in Harlem."

Suddenly a horn was blown from outside. "Thank you," I knew my face was turning red. "Is that my car?"

He opened the large door and peered out. "It is ma'lady." He held the door for me and then quickly opened the door to the car waiting by the curb. "Safe travels to Brooklyn." He shut the door before I could thank him again. I must say, and I only admit this to the page, Robert is the most charming man I have ever met.

"So we're going to da Heights, huh?" The capped driver said through his large cigar. "To Mr. Jack?"

"Excuse me?" I asked through the haze of smoke.

"Is this thing bothering you? The ladies never like it."

"My roommate loves them," I said thinking of Dottie shooting pool and smoking cigars. "It's fine."

"She must be some dame."

"Oh she is... Who is Mr. Jack?"

He looked in his mirror. "Da man you're going to see."

"His name is John Rapalje."

"Right and everyone who knows him well calls him Jack." I was amazed at his ability to drive while never looking at the road.

"You know him well?"

He smiled wide, "I'm his driver."

I felt a twinge of embarrassment. I forgot how green I am about some things. "He sent you all the way up here for me?"

"Uh huh. By da way, I'm supposed to be a proper gentleman and introduce myself. These was his instructions. I'm Rudy. My mudda called me Rudolpho but that was back when the nuns would hit me with rulers." He extended his hand into the back seat.

I shook it, "Nice to make your acquaintance, Rudy. I'm-"

"Miss Graydon. I know. I got your whole run-down. I'd love to go up to them tracks up in Saratoga one day. I love playin' the ponies."

At this point, little shocked me, especially that people I would've ever dreamed of knowing knew more about me than my hall mates. "Oh in Saratoga they're horses, not ponies."

He started laughing through his cigar. "You're funny, Miss Velma. Can I call you Miss Velma? I hate last names. They're so formal"

"I see. Of course. You can actually call me Velma."

"No, no, not to a lady. It wouldn't be proper."

"Whatever you choose."

"Horses," he continued to laugh. For the life of me, I still can't figure out what he found so funny.

Some minutes later, he made a series of sharp turns and then one giant left turn onto a grand bridge. "Ever been to Brooklyn Miss Velma?"

"No, this will be my first trip."

"Ever seen da Brooklyn Bridge?"


"Well you're on it. A marvel of human engineerin'."

He wasn't kidding. We drove through the cathedral-like towers and seemingly floated over the river. I'm not sure I had ever been that high in my life. Or at least high enough to see the entirety of Manhattan Island and the low rolling hills of Brooklyn. It looked like a patchwork of brownstones and churches. The river was spotted with ships and to the left, two other massive bridges. And then for the first time, I saw the Statue of Liberty. All at once I lost my breath.

"You've never seen dis have you? Your nose is on da glass."

He was right and my fingers too. "I apologize," realizing I was leaving smudge marks on the glass.

"No, please. It isn't often I show someone dis site for the first time. People, they forget when they do dis all the time. People forget you can see da ocean from here. Makes me proud to be home, Miss Velma."

"I'll bet it does."

We made it over to the Brooklyn side and landed in a small neighborhood of quaint homes. "This is what they call Brooklyn Heights. I guess cause it's so high up."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The entry ends here and continues onto the November 6th. Velma offers no explanation as to why she stopped there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Velma's Journal--November 1, 1931

The ladies of Hewitt Hall sponsored an All Hallow's Eve party. There was punch and we wore masquerade masks decorated to look ghoulish. A girl from Syracuse suggested bobbing for apples, which was a favorite fall activity in Saratoga when I was a child. It was fun. The most enjoyable thing was to watch Dottie and Sarah's reaction to putting their heads down into a bucket full of water. I believe at that moment they bonded as two girls from the city amongst many who weren't. They talked for near an hour, laughing and joking with one another.

When we went upstairs Dottie said, "I was pretty sure that Sarah girl was a wet sock, but she ain't really."

"I'm sure she'll be happy to know it," I told her. When we walked into the room, I expected Dottie to go right out and ready herself for a night at the Bakery. "Not going out tonight?"

Dottie smiled deviously. "Nah. Tonight is a night in. She pulled out a clear bottle of amber liquid. The hooch came to us."

I was immediately panicked. "DOTTIE, if they catch you you'll be expelled. They'll expel me for letting you do it."

She started laughing, "Who's gonna catch us? The head mistress has gone to a Halloween party over at Columbia. Besides, we're having a guest." Almost on cue there was a knock on the door. "Speakin' of the devil." She went over to open the door. When she did, Sarah was standing on the other side.

"SARAH!" I yelled out. "You should be home."

"Listen, mother, Ira knows I'm here. I told him I was spending the night uptown with my highly responsible friend, Velma." She shut the door and pulled three glasses out of her bag. "His response was, as he was handing me these three glasses, 'loosen that goyishe girl up.' So if anyone asks, this was an Ira-sponsored event."

"With a little help from Howie," Dottie said as she poured, what I assumed, was whiskey into the glasses. Dottie passed around the glasses. She raised hers up. "To the real spirits."

Sarah said, "To breaking Velma out of her school marm costume."

I started laughing as we clinked the glasses. And we drank. All night.

I'm neglecting to report how awful I feel at this moment for it's not the memory I want to keep.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I found this in my gmail inbox on Saturday evening. It was the inspiration to explain why I had taken a week off. Apparently I'm being watched.

Dear Mr. Rivers:

Hello, my name is Nick Fish. I am Velma Graydon's current assistant. Although we haven't met, I know quite a bit about you from Ms. Graydon. She speaks highly of you. In October she informed me that you would be "blogging" her journals and was happy that you had volunteered for the job. She also said that you and a counterpart are working on a graphic novel involving some of the incidents covered in said journals. All of these projects sound exciting, but I was a bit dissappointed to see that you have neglected the blog now for over a week. I have not reported this to Velma, but she has asked me to begin printing the entries out so she can read them (more for her own amusement, I think). I told her I would start next week since we are both busy on a project and she would have little time to peruse them now. Consider it a friendly heads-up.

Also, Velma has finally completed the profile request you asked her for in November. She spent a great deal of time on the content. I will put the letter in the mail come Monday morning. Lastly, Velma said that, through a friend, she has come across a series of letters from Edwina Tulip of Brooklyn, New York to her sister Hazel Bumble of Southampton, England. She wanted me to relay that if you had interest in them, the Tulip family was ammendable to your using them in your research. Please let me know and I will pass those along as well.

Thank you for your time,


Nick Fish.

My response:

Dear Mr. Fish,

Glad to meet you albeit over gmail. I assure you that I haven't abandoned the project. Just took some time off to rest the fingers. By Monday I will be back in action moving at a greater speed (I hope). As for Velma's letter, I greatly appreciate it and would love nothing more than to look at the letters from Edwina Tulip. I assume you have my address in Brooklyn.

Have a good one,

Velma's Jounal--October 28, 1931

I doubt there will ever be anything like seeing Park Avenue for the first time. At 8:49 AM I stepped up to the heavily gilded door of an opulent building numbered 519. When I rang the bell, a valet appeared immediately asking if I was Miss Graydon. I said yes and he let me into a large flower-filled foyer. White lilies everywhere. At the top of the stairs was a woman in a plain black dress donning a large strand of pearls around her neck. She also had the earrings to match. Resting over the pearls, was a thin chain with a pair of spectacles at the end. I did not assume it was Mrs. Vanderford. For some reason I expected her to be more lavish.

She descended the stairs. "You are early, Miss Graydon. A very admirable quality. One Professor Loockersmans told me to expect of you. And one I thank you for."

"My pleasure, Mrs. Vanderford," Although I was nervous in these surroundings, once I heard her voice I was at ease. She was a calm presence amidst the stuffy wealth around her.

"I've been told this is your first assignment."

"Yes ma'am, it is."

"I apologize that your first task is so dull. I assure you, there will be more interesting things to be done." She motioned toward two large doors on our left and we walked in that direction. A striking young gentlemen opened the doors. "Would you enjoy a cup of tea, Miss Graydon?"

"Thank you."

"Good, I would as well." She nodded to the gentleman at the door. He closed it behind us and she offered me a seat opposite her petite desk. "I'm glad you are here." She smiled. "We so need someone young in our numbers."

I smiled not knowing what she meant.

"You haven't met the others yet have you?"

"No ma'am, I have not."

"And Professor Loockersmans hasn't informed you who you work for?"

"I was assuming it was him, ma'am."

She sat back in her chair staring out the large window that overlooked Park Avenue. I noticed her forehead gathering over her brow. "No, Miss Graydon. He found you, but you do not work for him." She averted her gaze to the near-bare desk and picked up the lone fountain pen that rested on it. She began twirling it slowly. "I am not at liberty to say anything more. You must meet Mr. Rapalje. He will tell you more." The tall gentleman walked into the room with the tea. I was shocked at the speed of the delivery. The service was of course silver. "Thank you, Robert. Miss Graydon how do you take your tea?

He placed the service on the desk and began to pour into the china cups. "One sugar." He fixed one with two sugars and a dash of milk and handed it to Mrs. Vanderford who promptly placed the pen down on the desk.

"Thank you, Robert."

He went ahead and placed one sugar in my cup and handed it to me.

"Thank you." I said sheepishly.

"Robert is a musician, Miss Graydon. Well, when he isn't here slaving over me." She smiled. "He plays the trumpet. Isn't that right, Robert?"

His face became rosy. He looked a bit embarrassed. "Yes, Mrs. Vanderford." I noticed the slightest hint of an accent. It was Anglo in nature but I couldn't immediately place it.

"I asked him to play for me, but he said it wouldn't be proper. Then I asked where he plays and said it wouldn't be proper for a lady of my standing to attend. So it's a pinch really. Perhaps Miss Graydon can go and report back to me."

I felt my face go red with embarressment. Robert simply smiled.

"Thank you, Robert." He nodded his head and left the room.

"He plays that jazz that everyone loves up in Harlem. His parents came over from Scotland when he was six. His father manages my stables up in the Bronx."

I decided not to contribute that my father had a ranch in Saratoga. I made it my business not to become too friendly. I would be courteous and professional.

"Well Miss Graydon, I'll take my package now."

"Oh, yes." I opened up my green satchel which I purchased especially for the job. I took out the envelope and handed it to her carefully.

After placing the spectacles to her eyes, she opened the document, took the pen and signed the front sheet. "That's that, then. It is done." I wanted to ask what, but I didn't. "Your next duty will be to see this safely delivered to Mr. John Rapalje of Henry Street, Brooklyn. Unfortunately he will not be in town until next Friday. Thus I will keep the document and you can return it then." She smiled and then sipped her tea. "Seems like such a waste, all this running about for signatures."

I said nothing but sipped my tea politely.

"You'll see it all clearly, Miss Graydon. The pieces will fit together nicely some day."

She kept telling me it was important work that I was doing. I just kept thinking that I had no idea what I had seen myself into.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Velma's Journal--October 27, 1931

After class I went to Loockersmans's office for my first assignment. When I arrived, Loockersmans was no where to be found. Harold said that he was unexpectedly called away and he had left a package for me to deliver. He took a large yellow envelope out of the giant desk drawer and handed it to me. Upon my initial examination I found no addressee.

"Where does it go?" I asked Harold.

He looked at me blankly for a moment and then it occurred to him. "Oh right, I'm supposed to give this to you as well. Follow me."

We walked to Harold's desk outside of Loockersmans's office and there was a white envelope with my name across it. "He told me to give this to you." He handed it to me sheepishly. "I still don't know why I can't do this for him. I AM his assistant."

I looked at him a bit taken back by the jealous tone of his voice. "I'm not quite sure either. Perhaps he doesn't want to bog you down with useless tasks."

"No, you're special. He says it. Only you can do this for him."

Of course, I was very uncomfortable by this. Amidst my confusion as to what it is I am actually doing, I still was not sure why the professor found me so promising.

"I'm sure its nothing like any of that," I said to him. "Thanks for your help, Harold."

"Good luck," he said to me. I thanked him again and left.

Once I returned to my room I opened the white envelope.

It said simply:

Deliver this package to a Mrs. Caroline Vanderford at 519 Park Avenue. It is between 59th and 60th Streets. She is expecting you tomorrow morning by 9 AM.

And so it begins.