journey Mr. Dickerson went on to pick up his “per diem” from his Masonic friends. During Dickerson’s journey, he encounters a man who gives him the impression that his friend, Francis, died in a different way then he was told. After this mysterious man leaves, Dickerson noticed he left a sealed envelope for him, which he decided to read later. Moments pass, and the Masonic friend of his whom blessed him before, arrives and hands him a wad of bills (enough bills, that in a week should cover Dickerson’s rent payment).
Checking the time on a nearby parking meter, I saw it was time to start hiking to Books-A-Million over at Dupont Circle. Besides, it was Thursday, which means that new comics were on the shelves. Losing myself in the latest adventures of the Avengers and the Justice League would hopefully keep me from giving Kittie a mouthful when she finally showed up.
By the time I got there, I had decided not to open the Masonic envelope until she arrived. I was hoping to play if off like I was patiently awaiting for her to arrive and see if it would guilt-trip her. I was going to keep the contents of the other, more fancy envelope from my British acquaintance to myself. She chose not to be there when I got it, so she had no right to be mad about its contents. (Looking back I have to say this was the most juvenile idea I had had in about a decade).
I entered the bookstore and immediately headed to the magazine section and browsed the comics. Picking out whichever one of my favorite titles had issues that I hadn’t read yet, I then walked over to the cafe area. My favorite barista, Walter, was on duty as usual on a Thursday afternoon. He had already poured out a large cup of my favorite vanilla nut flavored coffee. We made idle chit-chat for a few moments then I sat down and opened the envelope from the old British guy.
Using a plastic knife from the cafe as a letter opener, I carefully tore the top off the envelope, preserving the ornate wax seal as carefully as I could. Inside was a small stack of about a dozen hundred-dollar bills and a folded piece of cardstock. I stuffed the bills into my pockets, making sure no one saw them and opened the card. It was printed in such a way that the background looked like a piece of aged parchment with words printed to look like handwriting done in red.
“A _______ saved is a ______ earned. I could have been talking about daylight but I wasn’t, though I see plenty of it as I see the people walk by. Present yourself to me when the tower above chimes its hours glory, and you are sure to be rewarded on the morrow. Count the streets but avoid the unlucky number.”
Beneath the writing was a sketch of a hand holding a candle, done in the same printed red ink as the riddle. There was no signature. I slipped the mysterious note back in the envelope and slipped them both into my pocket. A few minutes later, Kittie came bounding through the door. She all but skipped right up to me and planted a couple of quick kisses on me.
“I’m sorry I had to bail on you Bill” she started, taking a seat beside me, but keeping an arm around the small of my back, “but running into that creepy British guy reminded me that I had to go see Aunt Iola”.
Every alarm instinct I had went off at that moment. Bowler Hat never spoke to us when Kittie was present. How the hell she she know he was British? What was going on here? Only one way to find out…Act naturally! I look to her and say, “That’s okay, babe. Just don’t pull any more surprises like that anytime soon–it gets the imagination running in really messed up directions”. “Okay, I won’t. But we really need to talk when we get to the hotel.” With that she got up and walked over to get a cup of cocoa from Walter’s bar.
(To be continued)