Friday, January 25, 2008

November 5, 1931

We drove down a street called Henry which was lined with tall trees and admirable townhouses all different in their architecture. 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.

"Ms. 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, Ms. 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 Ms. Velma. He calls you Ms. 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, Ms. 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.


"Ms. 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, Ms. 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, Ms. 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, Ms. Velma," Rudy said slamming the coffee on the desk.

I wanted to pass out.

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