This day was just getting worse by the minute.First I followed a riddle to a place that’s closed down for the next couple years. Then Kittie got all weird on me and bailed for no apparent reason, appointment with her aunt my ass.Well, I could drown my sorrows in meatloaf and mashed potatoes from the over-priced restaurant designed like an upscale turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor located in the American History Museum. And at least I managed to get what brought me to the Washington Monument in the first place: namely an envelope I hadn’t had time to open yet. Ordinarily there’d be no time like the present, but I was anxious. I needed to get back to 18th to pick up today’s “per diem” from my Masonic friends.
The mood I was in dictated that I hike my way over instead of taking a cab. Exhaustion has a way of calming me down and a good long walk usually does the trick. As I talked myself down, my plastic Au Bon Pain cup in my hand, I started wondering what the hell was going through Kittie’s mind, ditching me in the middle of our greatest adventure to date. It was funny. Though we’d only parted ways a couple hours ago, I missed her more in that moment than I ever missed my own mother since the day she died.
My reverie was broken by a sudden weight in my cup. I looked up expecting to see another Mason leaving me today’s “allowance”. Instead, I saw the old, well dressed man from before, bowler hat and all.
“You should know, Mr. Dickerson, that your friend Francis didn’t die of natural causes,” he began. His voice was pure, polished BBC. Overall, I’d expect a guy like him to be a member of the British House of Lords, not walking around the District following a still legally homeless guy like me.
“Of course he didn’t,” I replied, “Frank had been boozing and pill popping hisway his way to death for decades.”
“I’msure that’s what your friends the Masons would want you to think, young man,” he continued, “but those of us who are male, shall we say enlightened, would say otherwise. By all means wait for your Masocia contact, and enjoy my present. We’ll be talking again soon.
In my surprise, I had forgotten that he left something in my cup. I looked down and saw an envelope, with one of those old-fashioned wax seals, like they used to use before pre-gummed lickable envelopes were invented. I carefully slipped it into my pocket next to the Masonic envelope I got that morning.
It wasn’t too long before the same Mason that blessed me before walked up and placed a wad of bills into my cup.
“You’ve taken the first step of an infinite journey today,” hesaid smiling, “and already you’ve gone further than your predecessor. Frank’s faith in you was well-placed indeed. Tomorrow take your next step. I hope to see you on the square soon.”
“And may we always meet on the level,” I said in reply, hoping I remembered the proper countersign to his reference to the square.
Masonic references to the square and level have a double meaning. They came from two tools used to make sure that a ceiling is perfectly flat and perpendicular to the floor beneath it. They also ensure that the joists supporting them are aligned perfectly straight, in a 90 degree angle to the floor and ceiling. The Masonic references indicate equity, truth and fairness. I’ve always thought that the Masonic meanings were the orgins of the phrases “fair and square”, meaning without guile and “on the level”, meaning true.
My Masonic acquaintance flashed me a toothy smile and said, “Mr. Dickerson, you are definitely an interesting person to know. I hope to get to know you better.” And with that he walked away.
I looked down into my cup and saw about a dozen images of Ulysses S. Grant looking back at me. That’s about twice what he had left me the day before. At this rate, I’d have a year’s rent in the hood by the end of next week. How the hell did Frank blow this opportunity? Blowing this much cash on booze and drugs should have killed the poor guy years ago.
(to be continued)