Recap: Ezra was going to tell the principal what Kalman had done to him, but the principal was in a meeting. He had to walk home alone and that was a big mistake, because the bully is waiting for him and attacks him.
Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. How I wished I wasn’t alone in the shop with this man. He looked like a snake, slowly unraveling before it pounced, ready to sink its fangs into me.
“We have a lot of Van Cleve bicycles.” I had to say something. If only he would leave.
“I didn’t come here for a bicycle!” He spat on the floor.
Just then, a woman wearing a bonnet and shawl and holding the hand of a little girl around seven or eight years old, strolled into the shop. They were looking around at the bicycles.
“Can I help you?” I asked. I tried to think of a way to get her to help. I reached for a pad of paper but Mr. Haigh somehow sidled behind me and, keeping his gun hidden, he shoved the barrel into my back. “Get rid of her,” he whispered.
“We’re looking for a child’s—”
“Please come back in an hour. I can’t help you right now.” If only she could help me.
“The sign said OPEN.”
“I’m really sorry. Please go.”
“Strange way to do business.” The woman and the little girl left. Then Haigh turned the open sign around to CLOSED and he pulled down all the shades.
“Where do they keep their plans and their photographs!”
His beady eyes bored into me like a knife.
“I don’t know, sir.”
“You expect me to believe you don’t know? Do you need some more convincing?”
I shook my head. My heart was pounding. Now what? Would he try to hurt me? I remembered the scar on Wilbur’s forehead. I glanced toward the door. Could I run past him?
I started slowly toward the door. He put out his foot and I tripped.
“You’re not getting away.” He marched over to the door and locked it. Then he pushed a bicycle in front of it.
“Let’s not waste more of my time. Just take me to the plans and then all will be well.”
I was shaking.
“You met my friend Mr. Scram. He was here and he offered you a nice amount of money. I don’t know why you didn’t take it. Well, some people need more convincing. His voice was low and menacing like the growl of a grizzly bear. “Mr. Scram is ready to go to the prairie and disable one of the planes so your friends will have an accident. He’ll tamper with the wing or the motor. Course we wouldn’t want that to happen, would we? You cooperate and hand over the plans and we’ll let them alone.”
He clicked the hammer of his gun and poked the gun at my chest.
“You see I mean business. Now!”
He would tamper with their plane and he’d have no compunction about it. The tall man Mr. Scram was the same way.
I plodded towards the safe. How could I stall him? What should I do? Hashem, please help me.”
“Good, good. Now open it.”
My hand was trembling so much I could barely turn the knob for the combination.
I tried a few times.
The man poked the barrel of his gun in my back. “You’ve got three minutes before I signal Mr. Scram to tamper with the Wrights’ plane. He’s out there waiting for my signal.”
This felt like a terrible nightmare. My hand trembled.
I turned the knob once to the number 8 clockwise and then counterclockwise to 10 and then clockwise to 8. The safe clicked and Mr. Haigh rushed over and pushed away the door. He reached inside and pulled out the precious plans and photos.
I felt nauseous. This wicked man was holding their work and it was because of me.
“Now, you just sit there.” He shoved me onto the nearest bench. A bike fell over and hit my lap hard. I didn’t even feel the pain. I was too distraught.
“Thank you for your help. By the way. If you tell the Wrights you were forced to give these away, then one of those little accidents will happen.” He placed the envelope with the $3,000 by the register, and then he strode out of the store carrying the Wrights’ plans and photographs.
My first reaction was I needed to run to Orville and tell him what happened but…that Haigh had said that if I told him then they would tamper with the glider.
What should I do?
I sank onto the chair and started asking Hashem to help me. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t let any accident happen to the Wrights, even if this looked like I had purposely given away their plans.
Just thinking of what they would think about me was so painful it was like a million needles jabbing my heart.
They trusted me. They’d been so kind and it would be a terrible hilul Hashem.
I had to go to my rav and ask him what to do. I couldn’t let them think this about me. I just couldn’t.
If only I’d never come here at all. If only I was back lugging ice with Mr. Corman.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber