Recap: Oliver Crook Haigh shows up at the Wrights’ bike shop when Sender is alone there. He offers money for the Wright brothers’ plans, and when Sender refuses, he threatens he will cause an unexplained accident to occur to their flying machine if Sender says anything, and he demands the plans. Sender gives him the plans that are hidden in the safe because he doesn’t want anything to happen to the Wright brothers. Mr. Haigh leaves money on the counter to reinforce the idea that Sender was willing to give away the plans for money.
When Orville and Wilbur came in, they found me sitting in the back, next to the open safe.
“Sender, what’s going on?” Orville looked into the safe. “Where are our plans?”
“I…someone came and asked me for them.”
“What!” Orville’s face turned red. “You gave them to him?”
I wanted to just sink into the floor and disappear. I felt like such a low person, even though I knew I had no choice. What must they think of me? They’d been so kind. I thought of the chilul Hashem and that made my cheeks flame.
I shook my head slowly. A dark cloud crossed Wilbur’s face. He didn’t say anything. He just marched out of the room.
I wanted to tell him the truth. I felt the words ready to explode from my mouth, but then I thought of those evil men. They would have no scruples about tampering with the plane. I asked Hashem to please help me not to blurt out the truth. I had to protect the Wright brothers from harm.
If I told the Wrights what happened, those men would cause a terrible accident. I had to be quiet. I had no choice. I couldn’t exonerate myself at the expense of one of them being killed. This was so awful. They thought I had betrayed them. Orville saw the envelope with the money.
I didn’t know what to say.
Would they call the police on me?
They thought I took money for their plans.
Wilbur paced around, then he called Orville over to them. They were discussing me. My face flamed.
“You best head home now, Sender,” Orville said. He didn’t look me in the eye.
I plodded out of the bike shop.
“You can stop at the house to get your things,” Orville called.
I packed my suitcase. Tears streamed down my cheek. I trudged to the train station. I was going home with no bike and only a terrible, terrible shame that was not my fault. Why was this happening? I know Hashem always does only what is best. Why is this best? It was such a chilul Hashem.
At the train station, Orville ran over to me. “Sender, this doesn’t make sense. It’s totally out of character. Please tell me what happened.”
How I longed to do that. To pour out the whole awful story, but I remembered Haigh’s threat. He would follow through on it if I said anything. I had to seal my lips and pray Hashem would bring justice.
To be accused of something you didn’t do is such a painful experience. My stomach literally was roiling.
“I feel something is strange about this. I don’t believe you would do it. I just can’t…” Orville looked at me, pleading with his eyes for me to say I hadn’t done it. But how could I risk his life so I would feel better.
“I got the letter today from Washington,” he whispered. “They want to see my demo. I had hoped to take you.”
I hung my head. I had hoped to go.
The train pulled up and I quickly boarded without even saying goodbye.
I watched the station and Orville disappear into the distance. I did the right thing, I told myself. I had no choice. There was nothing else I could do. At least, they would be safe now.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber