Recap: Bubby sent a telegram telling Sender to come home. When he came home, she informed him that he would be staying home now and working for Mr. Corman the iceman. He works for him the first day and it’s grueling and he misses working with the Wright brothers. Someone comes to the door, and he realizes that it’s the stranger who had leaned over him on the train.
“So, I need to see those photos you took of the Wright brothers’ flight and their plans.
“Why?” I asked, wishing I wasn’t alone with this man. There was something menacing about the way he stood so close and the way he spoke with so much authority.
“Look kid, I’m representing an important man. He doesn’t have time to waste on a kid. He has a proposition for you. Think it over and call me. My client always gets what he wants one way or another.” He removed his dark glasses and glared in a threatening way when he said the word “another.” Then he stabbed the address and phone number on the business card with his finger.
Before I could protest or ask anything else, he strode away.
I glanced at the name on the business card: Oliver Crook Haugh. Crook – what a strange middle name.
My first thought was that I should contact Orville and Wilbur and let them know someone knew where the camera and plans were. That wasn’t good. I wasn’t interested in doing any business with this man or his client.
I ran to the telegraph office and sent off a telegraph. In as few words as possible, without alerting anyone who might see it, I described the problem and the name of the man who wanted to see their photos and plan.
A return telegraph came the next morning, as I was preparing to head to work with Mr. Corman.
Bubby handed it to me. “Don’t know what those Wrights want now,” she said, as she cleared the breakfast plates.
I tore open the letter and read: “DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING TO THAT MAN. NOTHING! Wilbur is heading to Paris to discuss our glider with the French. We look forward to your return. Your friend, Orville.
The day dragged on as I dutifully dragged huge blocks of ice up flights of narrow staircases and down alleyways. My shoulders ached and my fingers were numb from the ice. How I missed the days in Kitty Hawk with the Wright brothers.
When I got home, Ruchy met me at the door. “Look what was in the paper today.” I read the headline: “Wilbur Wright Goes to Paris to Make Deal on His Flying Machine.”
I read all the details. Wilbur was heading there this week and the French were serious about negotiating with him. He was going to France to talk about his flying machine. The article detailed how Wilbur and Orville had made 105 flights. They had contacted the US Department of War. Congressman Nevin had explained about the flying machine to Secretary of War William Howard Taft. The Wrights’ proposal had been rejected.
I looked up from the paper. “So, of course they’re going to another country. I can’t believe our country rejected them. They wanted to see that the machine could be of service abroad first.”
Wilbur once told me that it was their practice to sell to those who wished to buy, instead of trying to force goods on people who didn’t want them.
Ruchy limped towards the kitchen. Watching her painful steps, my secret pressed against me and I realized again how much I wanted to earn that bicycle for her.
I davened hard that night, begging Hashem to let me go back to work for the Wright brothers.
In the morning, when the sky was ribboned pink with sunrise and I heard birds warbling outside my window, the best news arrived.
Mr. Corman knocked on our door. That was strange because I always met him at his house. “Sorry to disturb you so early,” he whispered.
“I’ve got my brother-in-law coming today to help me. He’s feeling better, so I won’t need your help, son, for at least until after Pesach.”
He handed me an envelope with payment. Bubby, dressed in her night robe, appeared at the door. Mr. Corman explained the reason for his early visit. I handed Bubby the envelope.
“So you don’t need him right now?”
A bubble of joy floated inside. I was free. I could go back to the Wrights. Please, Hashem, let Bubby say yes to me going back to Dayton. I wanted to see Orville flying at Huffman Prairie. They needed me to take photographs.
After Mr. Corman left, I dressed and davened and, at breakfast, I broached the subject.
Bubby was busy stirring a pot of oatmeal.
“I know you want to go. I just don’t like all this new-fangled…all these inventions. Why do we have to do things differently?”
I didn’t try to argue. I wouldn’t convince her and it would not lead me to a positive outcome.
Ruchy thumped down the stairs. That was how she had to go down, on her bum leg. I hated it. She had to get that bicycle. She just had to.
“All right. It’s just for a few weeks. But you don’t go up in any of those contraptions. You hear?”
So, that was Bubby’s worry. They wouldn’t let me.
“Thank you!” I didn’t promise I wouldn’t go up because if they asked me to, I would jump at the chance. “Thank you!” I jumped up and gave her a hug.
“Now, enough of that. You best go send them a telegram and then get packed.”
It was at the train station that the man with dark glasses approached. I wasn’t expecting to see him again and my neck muscles tightened.
“I want to offer you some cash for information.”
He held an envelope towards me. I noticed that he wore black leather gloves, though it was a warm, sultry day.
“There’s $3,000 in here. My boss wants the Wright brothers’ plans in exchange. It’s quite a bit of cash for you. Wrights don’t have to know what happened to their stuff.”
I would never double-cross the Wrights. Never. I moved closer to a crowd of people waiting to board the train.
“No, thank you, sir,” I said. “I would not be interested.”
Just then, a train pulled into the station, belching steam, and a conductor stepped onto the platform. “All Aboard, train to Dayton,” he bellowed.
I followed the crowd heading onto the train.
“You’ll be sorry,” I heard the man call to me.
I didn’t turn to face him. To me, he was like an evil shadow. I was glad to have shed him for good.
If only that had been true…
To be continued…
By Susie Garber