I had only met Miss Newberry once. It was late spring. I’d brought her a package, a heavy package. The package had to be signed for, which meant the value was higher than fifty dollars. Usually, packages worth more than fifty dollars went to a general store or a shop, not to a resident’s home. But here I was delivering this package. It was probably from one of her admirers.
It was winter, and I came late in the evening, past seven o’clock, after the sun retired. I wanted to be certain she was home.
She answered the door, her dress casual in nature, plain, but not a working dress. More the kinda lady might wear for a dinner party with friends.
The package was too heavy for her to carry, and she asked me to bring it inside. Her place was not ordinary; actually, it was different than most homes I’d entered. Hers had decorated halls, the sitting room had several pieces of beautiful artwork, a painting of a Tuscan village, an autumn day in the hills, several sculptures the length of my arm, and then there was the sofa and couch. They were made of fine fabric, the inlaid wood polished to a high finish.
After I was done with the package, she offered me a drink. I wanted to share Miss Newberry’s company, and I knew I was not a man of means who could attract her, but I accepted anyway. After our drink, I promptly left.
Tonight though, here in the Harken at the bar, I felt more alive and prepared to say whatever I wanted to Miss Newberry. Encouraged, I suspected, by the bourbon I’d consumed earlier. After all, she did have a drink with me in her home, so why not have one with me now? I wouldn’t mind, and it would give me a chance to find out the name of her acquaintance.
I carefully edged out of my chair and strolled along the wooden pathway. People were having a grand time, drinking, smoking, enjoying the loud music. I went directly to Miss Newberry, ignoring her friend, and stood in front of them.
“Miss Newberry, it’s so wonderful to see you.?” I gave a slight bow.
She angled her head to one side and studied me a moment. The man sat upright, leaned his head back, his eyelids lowered, his chin stuck out. His finer clothes told me he didn’t work with his hands. Maybe he was a desk clerk or a manager of one of the hotels downtown. I would know more once I found his name.
“Yes, Mr.…,” she said.
“Mr. Stockhelm.” I nodded knowing she remembered me from our drink.
“Ah, Mr. Stockhelm. Please refresh my memory,” she said.
“You don’t recall me?”
I could see her searching.
“I’m your mailman.”
I watched as the recognition finally dawned on her, and I lost hope she was play acting. She turned to her friend. “Darling, this is my mailman. Mr…”
As she conveniently forgot, I reluctantly offered my name again. “Mr. Stockhelm.”
I turned to him.
“How do you do, Mr….?”
The man straightened, sitting more upright, then said, do you know that several ancient cultures believe that your name is the most powerful thing you have?”
He caught me off guard, “I did not.”
“Yes, yes. In Scotland, you never tell a baby’s name until they are Christened to prevent anyone from putting any dark magic on them.”
“Is that true.”
“And you don’t want to tell me your name because….?”
“Well, sir, to be frank, I just don’t know you. You are probably a fine fellow being an official government courier, but a man just can’t be too careful.”
I stood there a moment deliberately keeping my mouth closed as I pondered what the gentleman was implying.
The man leaned forward and put one foot on the floor. “Why don’t you fairy on and be a good sport about it.”
I put my glass down and turned to Miss Newberry. I was slightly annoyed she didn’t remember me.
“You invited me to have a drink.”
She nodded and with an elegant motion scooped her drink in hand and sipped, then put it back on the counter. “Yes, that one time you made my life difficult. That’s good manners dear.” She rolled her head. “Do you mind?” she said to her friend, who brought his hands up and began to massage her shoulders. “You have such strong hands.”
The unnamed man gave me a cat’s grin.
“You do remember me.”
“I do remember, and since you did bring that heavy package inside for me,” she said through a smile, “I felt obligated to offer you a drink.”
Despite knowing she offered the drink out of politeness, I felt a sting when she mentioned the formality.
She took another sip of her drink and placed it on the counter. The music made it difficult to hear her, and so I moved in closer.
“You were supposed to deliver that package the day before, but it didn’t arrive in time.”
“I brought it as soon as I could.”
“It came late,” she said and sipped her drink with graceful movements, “at a late hour.”
“I wanted to make sure you were home.”
“I had to put off two nights waiting on that package.”
I remained silent.
She looked toward her companion. “He doesn’t understand.”
“Government officials rarely do.” He leaned forward. “Poor fellow is lost. Maybe he should run off like a good little boy,” he said.
“He should.” Her gaze moved from me to her companion.
Her friend waved the bartender over. He nudged Miss Newberry, who took out a few coins and passed them to the man who then slid them over to the bartender. “Can you tell this gentleman that we’d like to drink in peace?”
I loosened my fingers to get the blood back into them and tried to relax. I wanted them to see I wasn’t going to cause any problems. Not because of a beating I might get from the bouncers, or the beating I’d give that stranger. I could get to him before the bartender had his goons pounce. It wasn’t that at all. None of that really mattered to me. It was a matter of the bartender being paid for their peace, and I became concerned about what Miss Newberry might do. I didn’t want her to report me to the postmaster.
She might not be able to report that I was late on a delivery, but she could report me for character and being out of line in public. That would likely end my career. It wasn’t worth the risk.
I held up my hands in surrender. The two seemed content, but before I left them alone, I pried once more. “What’s your name?” I said to the man, who merely glanced over to the bartender, who gave me a stern look.
Knowing I wasn’t going to get the man’s name, I moved away from Miss Newberry and her companion. The bartender watched me as I walked to the far end of the bar where there was an empty seat. I sat, shoulders high, my head cocked, and drank from my glass. I wanted to know the name of Miss Newberry’s acquaintance.
The barkeep was satisfied and went back to his chores. I, however, was not satisfied.