Racheal Is Picked Up
The courier arrived with a note the day after the strange woman had come with her ridiculous offer. Her father had seen the note and responded. If it was from the woman, it didn’t matter to Rachael. To her, the woman was another person who, in the end, would find her wanting for some odd justification – with the real reason being unspoken on both sides. Jews weren’t needed for top engineering spots. They were fine in repair or jewelry shops. Her great aunts and grandfather would speak of the Cossacks and the pogroms of the Old Land. This was just a slower, quieter version of the same bigotry.
Rachael cleaned the gears of the clock and slipped them into place. One small cog had a broken tooth. She used a caliper to find the exact size and went to find a blank disk to match it. There were 50 teeth on the edge of the faulty cog. She did a quick calculation and determined the size for each tooth and set the grinder and began to work. She wore trousers, arm guards and a cotton shirt for this work. Chips and stray pieces made short work of fine clothes. Her hair was in a tight braid and covered in a babushka in a throwback to the Old country. She wore safety goggles to protect her eyes and a set of fitted leather gloves to protect her hands. She began the cutting of the small metal disk. The whine of the wheel and squeal of the cutting metal drowned out everything else.
When the gear was finished, she turned off the machine and compared it to the old gear. As she was inspecting it, her father commented “you have a note”
She continued to inspect the gear. “Who is it from?”
“Millicent,the lady from yesterday.”
“There is nothing she will say that I want to hear. “
Her father considered the note carefully. “Really? It is an invitation to dinner.”
Rachael paused in her inspection of the gear. A dinner offer was unexpected. Usually, after a look at her name, she didn’t hear anything beyond the first interview. She moved to the buffing machine and used the padded wheel to remove burrs from the cutting process. If the original maker had taken this step, she wouldn’t be doing it now. At least others incompetence seemed to work in her favor some of the time.
While she worked the gear in the padding, she asked “What does it say?”
Her father switched from his cockney sing song to a Yiddish tone “I put you through school and University to read you your mail?”
Rachael smiled as he reverted to the old cliché. “I miss Uncle Morris. He did that so much better. Really much better. Now, what does it say? My hands are full at the moment.”
Back to the Cockney, “You change the subject when you want your way. It’s for you. You read. Oh – I’ve already accepted you don’t have to worry about a reply.”
Rachael stopped buffing and turned to him. “What did you accept?”
He looked at the ceiling, raising his hands and said “Now she’s interested. You want to know? Read. I am going to make a pot of tea.”
Trying not to seem like she cared, she finished the buffing and then slipped the gear in place. It was a very close fit, but the hands of the clock seemed to turn easily with the new cog. She took off the gloves and slipped the googles up to the top of her head and picked of the note.
Dear Miss Weiz,
I hope this note finds you well. Your presence is requested tonight. I want you to meet some of the group and give you an opportunity to meet someone who has been in the position you are in now. I will not ask you to commit to anything tonight. However, a matter has come up that requires you in person to deal with. You can expect my driver to pick you at Six pm tonight. Dining will be casual so dress comfortably and warmly. Bring a change of clothes as you may be detained overnight. I look forward to seeing you.
Rachael brought the letter into the kitchen. She took off her apron and hung it on a hook. Her father looked at her over a cup of tea and said, “You can’t say she is anti-Semite. A little clumsy, but it was nice of her to try. I think your brown dress will be fine.”
Rachael got a cup down from the shelf and poured a bit of milk in and then the tea on top. “It doesn’t matter. I won’t be going”
He set his cup down. “I don’t decide much for you these days. I haven’t tried to find a match for you – may your mother forgive me. On this, I have decided. You will be going tonight. You need to listen to what she says. There may not be another chance like this. She isn’t asking you to sign anything. Just go. What’s the harm in going?”
“We know nothing about her. Where is she from? Who does she represent? She’s very vague about this job other than I have to leave everything,” she protested using one arm in an animated way. Her uncle used to talk with both hands occasionally knocking over valuable items.
“Well tonight you should find out some of those things,” her father replied looking very satisfied that he had answered her question. Rachael fumed over her family’s love of dialectic.
She closed her eyes and took in the aroma of the tea. It was a Russian blend, dark and smoky with a hint of citrus. Rachael took a small sip of the tea. “I don’t want to leave you.”
“Ah tateleh. You must. It’s what children do. Whether you leave the building or London or you go with her, this place is where you need to be from. This woman, I think she is giving you a chance you should jump at.”
“Is it so wrong to work here?” she pleaded and then drank her tea, set the cup down and stared at it. She knew her father would have some reason she should go.
Mordecai drank his tea for a sip or two before he answered. “If you mean Merry Olde England, no. But, I don’t have a say on that. If you mean this little shop, then I have a say and I say you need to leave. You can do so much more than repair clocks. I would love to see what you are truly capable of. Even more, I want you to see what you are capable of. “
“What if this is just a tease? She will turn me away for some strange reason. Maybe it is just me. Maybe I am just not good enough.” Her voice caught as she struggled with the last phrase.
Her father’s voice suddenly got stern, “Hoy. None of that. I will not have those bigoted bastards tear you down.” In a kinder voice he said, “This woman was quite taken with your train and your work. I will be surprised if she doesn’t practically beg you to join her. And if she rejects you…well…she will answer to me.” He walked around the table and gave her a hug and stroked her hair. “Your mother would be so proud. She loved to read and write. To see her little girl smarter than any boy in Stepney. Smarter than any prig from the west side! I think she might even been willing to wait a year or two before she had you married just to say ‘my daughter – the engineer.’ Now you are going tonight. That is that. You don’t have to agree to anything tonight and you get a dinner out of it. “
He held the hug for a bit. She broke off “then I will need to wash up a bit before.”
“That’s my girl,” he said with warmth.
Rachael finished the job she had been working on and two others that involved springs. People always wound their clocks too hard. When it was 4PM and with no urging, she put away her work apron, goggles, and sleeves. She headed upstairs and cleaned up a bit by washing her face and arms down. She wore the brown dress her father had suggested. It would not do to show up to an interview in her shop leathers. It was a simple pattern in dark brown and trimmed with black. She braided her hair simply and let it fall down her back. She chose a small gold Star of David she normally only wore to services. She decided that her origins should be up front. For her shoes, she picked some easy lace up items with moderate heels. Viewing herself in the mirror, she decided she was presentable. For some reason, she thought having some of her work to review would be useful. She grabbed the volume from her last two years and headed down the stairs.
Her father was at the base of the stairs looking up her as she came down. His smile felt good tonight –reassuring. He commented “you look perfect. Why are you bringing that dusty notebook?” with a twinkle in his eye.
“It’s my work. She has seen the train, but naught else.” She said proudly. And then with a bit more nervousness, she added, “I have some designs for music boxes she might like to see.”
“Aye – now you’re thinking right. That’s my little girl,” he said beaming.
She reached the bottom of the stair and kissed his head “How can I be little when I’ve been taller than you since I went to University.”
“You say that like it is an accomplishment. John O’Mallley was taller than me when he was eight. Now that’s an accomplishment. “ He paused and looked at her again. “Your necklace. Pretty, but…”
“She said she doesn’t care. I want to know for sure. Besides, it goes with the dress.” At that moment, the door opened and the cacophony of the track began.
“Oy. That madness” and he headed for the front office.
She called out as he left, “I have something else I want to add in my notebook.” Her father stopped at the door, looked up and inhaled deeply. Then looked out the door – the taxi driver had arrived and was staring at the ball as it made its progress around room. She opened the book and looked at the diagrams. There were places she might correct but now was not the time. She closed the book, she inhaled deeply and walked out the doors. She passed her father coming back in.
“Have him wait for a moment or two. I have a note to write and send to Miss Morgaine. Tell him we’re on Stepney time, “ Mordecai said.
Racheal stepped out into the front room as the ball came to rest and was lifted back into its starting place. The driver was tall and broad and wore a long coat over a black vest and held a felt hat in his hand. His eyes seemed to jump from one clock to another or to the music box and then back to a gonging clock. He was quiet until the tumult stopped.
“Cor. I don’t remember this. I think the last time I was here it was just the cuckoo clock.” His accent sounded like he could have been a next door neighbor.
“I did that when I was 14. It’s been 7 or so years and I have been adding since.”
“You did all this Miss?”, the driver asked.
“Oh aye. During summers. I got bored in the back. I think I did a new part for each year. I also got to practice some of what I learned in class,“ she said with a bit of pride.
“Criminy. I can see why Miss Millicent wants you. Speaking… we need to go. I’ve got someone else to pick up besides you,“ he said making for the door.
“We need to wait a tick. My father had a note he needed to write for some reason,” she said.
“We’re rushed, but alright,” the driver said.
“He says it is important. I’ll show you some things on the track while we wait.” She had him come around the back of the counter and showed him the switches, counter weights and traps. She made the mechanical doll dance a bit. “I did that year before last. She is a bit jerky, but it was my first try at such a complicated doll.”
“And she was only 20” said Mordecai as he came out the door. “Take this to the lady” handing the taxi driver the note. “And keep my daughter safe.”
“That’s the point of tonight sir. I will see Millicent gets the note. Now Miss, your carriage awaits.” And he bowed ceremoniously.
“Hey, young man. That’s my daughter !” Modecai shouted in mock indignation.
“Aye sir, I’ve heard that often. I return them just the same,“ winking at her father. Rachael giggled and blushed a bit at the by play of the two men and headed out the door. The cacophony started again with her father shouting and muttering. Rachael said “I really need to figure out how to make that ‘in only’”.
They walked down Gold Street to where his hansome cab was parked. The horse eyed her and flicked it’s ears. The driver scratched the horse’s neck and said “I expect a proper ride out of you. We’ve good people tonight” and then to Rachael as he assisted her up into the cab, “I’ve got to pick up John O’Malley and then we’ll be off.” She started at the name. She and John had both been from Stepney, but he had tried to fit in with the West Enders. Unfortunately, he had taken on some of their more obnoxious traits. She was surprised he was still in the neighborhood. They probably never saw him as an equal.
The cab only went a short distance and parked next to a lamp. “The O’Malley’s are over on the other side of the field.”
“I know miss. It seems that John Jr. don’t have proper permission to come out tonight or some such. We’re to meet him here,“ the driver said dryly.
A voice called from the dark and a refined tone, “and I am here. Liam O’Hannigan.”
“There ye are lad. Sorry we’re a bit late. It’s Stepney ya’ know,” the driver said and hopped down.
“Tis fine. I had to work a bit to get my bags out of the shop window anyway.” Lapsing a bit into the East ender accent.
The taxi driver, Liam, moved into the shadow. She heard him exclaim, “Lord, son, how did you carry those things. This is going to take a bit.”
Rachael couldn’t see much as they shifted the bags. A couple of times the cab seemed to tilt a bit. The two men had maneuvered the bags on top of the cab. The last one seemed heavy as Liam grunted it into place, “Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph. What is in that box? Bricks?”
“Books, Liam. I brought what I could.”
“You left some back?” And the driver was silent as the implication sunk in. “Millicent said you were trapped. You’re taking this jelly sight unseen?”
John slipped into his Cockney, “Twon’t be anything but an Irish mechanic here.”
“Listen to what the lady says carefully, lad. You may be getting more than you bargained for,” the cabby said urging caution.
At that point, John climbed into the cab. “Miss Weiz, I didn’t know she asked you.”
Liam piped up, “Miss Millicent has no truck with class. And she only wants the good ones. Now sit down you damn ox while I get the two of you to dinner.”
“Surprised, Mr. O’Malley?” Rachael smirked.
“I knew she was asking others, but I hadn’t known who. She had hinted about you. She wasn’t even subtle about it now that I think about it. I just didn’t connect the dots.” he said and sighed. “She said I would need to revise my view of the world. I’m working on it.”
Rachael snorted at the unintended insult. “What’s with all the bags?”
“I’m taking her offer. I’m leaving,” he said simply.
Rachael looked surprised in the dark. “You don’t know what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be. You won’t see your friends or family for 10 years or more. That seems rash for you.”
John looked ahead, “I can’t take my Dad’s shit at home and work anymore. University was my refuge; my way out and I still ended up a mechanic. Poppa’s my boss.”
Rachael tried to be positive, “And I ended up in the clock shop. It’s not so bad.”
John was quiet for a bit. “Not for you. I always envied you. Bet you didn’t’ guess that. Your da’ and uncles helped you in school. If I had half that support, I might think twice of leaving here. Life was a bit different in the O’Malley house.”
Rachael had never heard this side of John, “How so?”
“My da’ had no use for education. The teacher, Mr. Brown, came and made a special appeal to Da’ so he’d let me stay. Otherwise, my father would have yanked me from school and I would have ended up like him. He barely finished his letters and numbers. I got into the University and Mr. Brown arranged a scholarship. Didn’t get a penny from Poppa. Summers I would come home and he would make me do janitor’s work ‘to keep me humble’ he’d say. I had to hide my notebooks because he would rip out pages when he was on a drunk roll. He knocked books out of my hands if I started reading. At least until I was bigger than him. When he couldn’t knock the books, he would have the other mechanics start fights with me. He said he was ‘toughening me up…getting all the English lace outta me’.” He looked at his hands and clinched his fists and opened them. “After a few rounds the other mechanics stopped trying to fight even if he threatened them.”
Rachael was shocked. She knew other families weren’t quite as nice as hers but she had no idea. Her house had always valued study and even broke old world tradition so she, a girl, could study on her own. She couldn’t imagine John’s life. The idea that leaving was easier than staying was beyond her ken. She stuttered, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s not something I talk about. Not sure why I am now. Mostly I wanted to hide my home life. I figured everyone thought I was rube. I didn’t see a reason to give them one more reason to believe that.” He smiled, “Me hanging out with the Westenders made him positively barmy.”
“My da and uncles were always reading or debating some strange nuance of law or rule. They would go to the temple library, bring me along and read there. Others were shocked that a girl was there, but Morris and Poppa always defended me. But I never thought anyone would have a problem with a boy doing that.”
“Try meeting a poor Stepney Irishman on his third pint. We haven’t been known for our scholarship,” John said a bit bitterly.
“That’s not true. You read Johnathan Swift. What of Robert Boyle? I think you sell the Irish short,“ Rachael said a bit defensively.
“It’s hard to see the diamonds for all the coal,” John looking out to the side.
“Piffle. How come you didn’t get a job? You certainly had all the right friends,” her voice held a bit of mocking.
John snorted this time. “I was a fool to think that would work. I spent four years bowing and scraping and generally being an arse. When it came time and I needed an opening, all of my supposed new friends couldn’t find a place for me, the Stepney lad. Oh … I might have gotten on with one of the airship companies, but I’d be a mechanic and never much more. I would never get into designing. Aristotle was right ‘To thine own self be true.’” He looked at her and asked, “Why didn’t you get a job? Your work was brilliant.”
She dangled the Star of David, “It seems there were no jobs for Jewish Stepney lasses either. If I even got an interview, I was given some excuse about tight times or that I wouldn’t be a good fit with the company culture.”
He looked at the piece of jewelry and sighed, “I’ve had a few months to think while I repair engines. Da’ was right about me needing a bit of humility. I am not very proud of how I acted at University. I tried everything I could do to get connected to the posh types. I thought if I acted like they did and read the same things and had the same flaws that somehow I could be them. “
She came back at him “But they wave their old school ties in a semaphore you can’t quite understand.”
“I found out that breeding is apparently just that. And an Irish lad from Stepney don’t have it,” John looked at her with a sad smile.
From above they heard, “Oy lad, I know you and you are worth 10 of those priggish garden tools. Same for you Miss Weiz.”
Rachael laughed and asked, “Who is that man?”
“It is Liam O’Hannigan, taxi driver, guide, and roustabout. He is very sharp at getting things done. He always knows who to talk to,” John said.
The taxi driver, Liam, replied “That’s right lad. I also think you are going be glad you didn’t get hooked by those titled gits.”
John leaned back and said “He’s right. I look at myself and how I acted. I have no friends left in Stepney. Last summer I thought that was a great thing. Now I am not so sure.” He was quiet for a bit. “Ah well. Done is done. So if you and I have been asked …who else?”
Rachael mused, “Probably Jason. He knows electronics. That’s not much use. But he knows chemistry, he is brilliant and he couldn’t get any positions either – that damn school tie thing. He’s very sharp, but he has a load of debt too– he didn’t get much help either.”
John answered back to her, “Eleanor. She ended up back at her family furniture factory. I still can’t figure out why she wasn’t taken by some airship company.’
Rachael replied, “Those American and Old Europeans aren’t comfortable with dark skinned engineers. They would probably have to rethink their current practices in the colonies.”
“Lord, I thought being Irish was tough,” John said and whistled.
“I could change my name and get by. Eleanor is a bit stuck,“ Rachael said.
John smacked his head “Oy that is a pickle. Most of the airship work is done by Europeans or Americans.”
Rachael mused “Apparently having the world set against you is a primary qualification for Miss Morgaine’s positions.”
They rode in silence for a bit, the horse making a clip clop on the cobble stones. The fog of the night was just starting to creep in along the river. The warehouses and tenements of Stepney were starting to give way to store fronts and flats.
Rachael sat back and caught her breath. “Do you think it will be better?”
John pulled his eyes from the shocking device, “What are you talking about?”
“This job that Miss Morgaine is offering – do you really think it will be better? Different?”
“You’re wondering about that?” John asked in amazement.
“It’s important. Do you think it will be better? That it won’t matter if I am Jewish or you’re poor Irish or Eleanor is negro? Is that really possible?” Rachael asked.
“Truth be told, wouldn’t it be better if such things were true. Rachael – you are smarter than the lot of those wealthy Protestant bastards. You’re not getting a job was just wrong and it was stupid. Who the hell should care if their music box was designed by a Jew? And Eleanor? Have you seen her designs? She will change aviation. If I were to work with her, I would be lucky,” John waved his arms in excitement as he made these statements.
Rachael stared at him, “that is a new tune for you. For four years, we were the wrong people. And you were the worst of the lot.”
John looked to the side, “I said I wasn’t proud of what I had done in the past. I guess I had to find out that my new friends viewed me with contempt. That left me a bit short on options. I can be like John Sr. and hate them for having the power and hate others below me because I have something to be above. Maybe I have come to hate Dad so much that the best way to get back at him is to not hate. Everything has gone wrong and I am not sure what to think. All I know is that I have much to make up. “
“Aye you do, priggish idiot…” Rachael said but the anger was fading from the words.
The taxi started to slow. Liam banged on the roof. “I think we got trouble ahead. Miz Weiz, you got protection?”
Rachael replied, “Ain’t daft. Got two knives.”
Liam said, “You’re gonna need em’ both.” He handed something down to them, “John, take this. Press the button, put it on someone, and they fall.”
John looked at the small device with two prongs. He was confused, but took in the directions. Rachael looked it over and the directions seemed straight forward. Through the fog she could see another carriage blocking the way and three people out.
Liam shouted, “Oy. Move your arses. This is a public road.”
The middle man shouted back, “In a moment Mr. O’Hannigan. But I want your passengers to join me.” Strangely, he seemed to be wearing a waist coat as if he just finished polishing the silver.
Liam set the brake and hopped down. Rachael could see he opened his coat as he landed. John got out on one side. Rachael exited on the side with Liam. The people resolved in the fog. The man on the left could have been Charles Wayland, but he didn’t look right somehow. The woman on the right was Winifred Stanhope and Rachael could see she had a sword with her.
The man in the middle, “Thank you Mr. O’Malley. Mis Weiz. That makes our task so much easier.”
Liam looked over at John who nodded slightly and then Liam whipped out a pistol and shot the man in the center twice. He dropped quickly. But Liam’s opponent got a shot off as well and Liam crumpled. John rushed forward at Charles Wayland screaming. Charles stood there wide eyed as John rushed forward and eventually bowled him over. Winifred rushed towards John. Sensing she needed to act, Rachael threw one knife. The blade hit Winifred squarely in the back but bounced off. Winifred turned and grimaced. She stared at Rachael and sneered, “Jewish bitch, you are going to payyyyyyeeee…shit.” She dropped like a rock on the ground twitching. John stared at the device in his hand opened eyed.
Liam coughed, “Move you gits. “He pulled himself up next to the cab.
John said, “I’ll drive. You get in the cab.”
Liam coughed and nodded and Rachael pushed him up into the passenger compartment. She could hear John release the brake. Liam shouted, “go right and then up to Whitchapel Road and turn left.” He smacked the horse’s rump and muttered sorry girl and then leaned back.
John urged the horse on snapping the reins and the cart moved. Rachael said, “Where are you hit?”
Liam groaned, “Right side, chest…oh that smarts.”
Rachael was alarmed. That shot would kill him quickly. She looked over his chest, but she saw no blood. There was a hole in his shirt. She looked at it. There was a silver knob she pulled at and Liam winced. It was a pistol shell that was mushroomed. She stared wide at it and then handed it to Liam.
He laughed, coughed, groaned and said, “Damn vest worked.” He eyed it. Then something caught Rachael’s eye. Some odd orb was floating in front of them. Liam saw the orb as well and pulled out the pistol and shot at it twice more. Bullets hit it and ricocheted and then it seemed to spin wildly to the right. Liam pounded the roof and shouted, “Faster boy. Faster,” and he collapsed on the seat groaning.
That cart rocked back and forth and John made another precarious turn to the left when they entered the main road. John slowed a bit. Liam occasionally shouted directions telling him to turn right or left while they wound their way through the maze of London streets.
 Ihulim Levaviim- best wishes
 Tateleh – Yiddish for small child, endearment
 Jellied Eel – Deal
 Garden tool – fool