Recap: The Wright brothers review the glider flight and what went wrong. Sender tells them about the stranger who was shooting photos.
Back in the bike shop, Orville and Wilbur were hard at work with plans and sketches for improvements on the glider. They included me in their meeting in the back room of the bike shop, and I was learning so much about aviation and steering and how a plane takes off and lands. I took photos of the sketches and plans. I was busy taking notes and listening to Wilbur. None of us noticed that a customer had entered.
When I folded up the plans, I glimpsed a man standing near the doorway to the back room. There was something familiar about him, but I couldn’t place what it was.
“I’m looking for a Van Cleve bike?”
I went over to him. He walked around, looking at each bike.
“Do you want to test-ride one?” I asked.
He spent a very long time wandering around.
“Do you have any questions?”
He shook his head. He kept peering into the back room.
“Are you looking for something in particular?”
Another customer came into the room, and I became busy with him.
After that customer left, the man was still walking around the shop.
Wilbur strode into the room and signaled me to come to the back.
He started showing me an improvement they’d made for the propeller.
I photographed it and I became so distracted I forgot about the man who was still wandering around the shop.
When Wilbur finished explaining, I headed back to the front room, but the man was gone.
“We’re heading to the Huffman Prairie later today to see if it will work. It’s too expensive to keep making those trips to Kitty Hawk. Huffman Prairie is close by, and we just hope it will work for us. “Our science class used to make field trips to this prairie,” Wilbur said. “Can you come with us?“
“Yes, G-d willing. I’m excited to come.”
Later that day, we took the trolly and headed off at the prairie stop. It was a private cow pasture. There were barbed wire fences and trees at the borders and a number of trees in the pasture. Wilbur pointed to a honey locust that was 50 feet high. There were tons of groundhog hummocks. We exited the trolley. “Passengers are gonna get a birds-eye view of us,” Orville said. “Nothing we can do. That electric interurban trolley line from Dayton to Columbus got here first.”
“At least it’s on the edge of the prairie,” I offered.
“Sender,” Orville said. “I’ll miss my mockingbird here. Oh, well. We’re going to have to master how to launch ourselves into the air and also how to bank and turn a motor-propelled machine and land safely. We’ll have to learn to accommodate to this space.”
“It’ll be fine.” The brothers strode across the prairie, measuring and surveying. As the sun was dipping behind the clouds, we headed back to the bike shop. I davened Minchah before we left the prairie.
When we arrived, there was a telegram there addressed to me.
My hand shook as I opened it. Telegrams can mean bad news. Did Bubby find out that I was in Kitty Hawk?
“Need you to come home. Stop.”
I looked up from the telegram. “I’m needed at home for a while.” Why did Bubby send a telegram? Was something wrong at home?
“Of course, you can take some time off,” Orville said.
I arranged to go home the next day. It was as I was saying good-bye to the Wrights that I suddenly realized something. Hashem puts things in our minds at just the right time! I turned to Wilbur. “That man who was in the bike shop yesterday looking at bikes for such a long time: I just realized why he looked familiar.”
Wilbur was busy oiling the brakes on a bike. He looked up at me with his piercing blue eyes.
“He was the man I saw shooting photos of your flight in Kitty Hawk.”
“He was in the shop a long time yesterday, you say. Did he buy a bike?”
I shook my head slowly. “He just kept wandering around the shop.”
“Was he listening in on our meeting?”
Orville and I exchanged worried glances.
Wilbur’s forehead creased. “Listen, I think it best that you take the camera with all the photos and our plans back with you to Cincinnati. I don’t want anything lying around in our office if we have someone trying to take it.”
I packed the precious items deep in my suitcase. The whole way to the train station the next morning, I kept looking behind me to see if anyone was following. I had the strangest feeling someone was…
To be continued…
By Susie Garber