Today's Reading

"You call around," Haber offered. "Check references. Clarify people really are who they say they are."

Schwinn sniffed and put down the pretzel. "People can fix those things."

Wagner leaned back against the back of the booth and spread his legs wide. "Some of the jugend told us they saw you taking down license plates in a notebook after last night's meeting here."

"Ah, yes," Haber said, laughing nervously. "That was nothing. A misunderstanding with some overenthusiastic young men. I've already told you—I was writing a note to myself to pick up milk and eggs." He blanched. "Hermann, I would never—ever—You know how loyal to the cause I am..."

Schwinn nodded. "Good to know, good to know. It's just—we can't be too careful these days. Germany's taken France, Britain's next—and things are about to get serious here. The war here's already begun, even if most Americans don't realize it yet."

Haber grinned widely, revealing square white teeth. "You know I'm loyal." He placed a hand to his throat, rubbing it.

"Are you okay?" Wagner asked the waiter. "You look a little pale, my friend."

"Just tired. Almost the end of my shift—and it's been a long day of celebration." Haber rose. "Excuse me, gentlemen—I gotta see a man about a horse."

*  *  *  *

Haber went down the long back hall to the staff men's room. Inside one of the stalls, he took a deep breath. When his hands finally stopped shaking, he went outside and walked down the darkened street to the pay phone. Inside the illuminated booth, he lifted the black receiver and dialed a series of numbers. The line crackled and hissed as a voice on the other end answered. He said without preamble, "They know."

Despite the booth's closed doors, Haber could still hear the hum of traffic, the shouts of the newsboys, and a siren in the far distance. "They know," he repeated, his voice rising in pitch. "They don't trust me." There was a long pause as he listened. "Do you know what a necktie party is? Do you? Because they mean nooses!"

He shifted his weight and leaned against the glass. "This is my last shift here. It's not safe anymore. After tonight, we're done. I'm out. You're never gonna see me again." He slammed down the receiver so hard the telephone's bells jangled, and went back to work.

When his shift was over, Haber walked to Deutsches Haus's parking lot, to his dented Ford V8, which displayed the bumper sticker KEEP U.S. NEUTRAL next to BUY AND VOTE GENTILE. He saw shadows move from the corner of one eye. "Damn coyotes," he muttered, trying not to panic. He'd already taken his car key from his pocket when he heard something behind him. But before he could reach the footboard and open the door, his head smashed into the driver's side window. The tempered glass broke but held, creating a radial crack pattern like a silvery spiderweb.

As Haber's body slid to the ground, the man who'd assaulted him knelt to take his pulse. He was a hulk of a man in a long black leather trench coat, with a shaved scalp and a face as creased as a balled fist. "Damn it, he's still breathing," he said to his companion. The waiter's skin was turning waxy; but even with a smashed skull, his face was intact.

"Can you hear me?" the other one asked, shorter and thinner but also in leather, shaking Haber by the shoulder.

Haber tried to speak, a drop of red sliding from his ear, but could only moan. Around his head, blood began to pool. He panted for air, then gasped. He was dead.

"Finally," the attacker muttered as he rose, giving the body a final kick in the midsection with his dusty thick-soled boot.

The smaller man began pouring a bottle of whiskey over Haber's body. "Let's make it look like he was blotto drunk."

"Or maybe an epileptic fit?" 

"How about both?"

They laughed as he smashed the emptied bottle on the pavement. The harsh scent of alcohol rose, while down an alley, a stray dog barked.

"Ding-dong, the spy is dead," the assailant said. "Now let's get outta here."


June 19, 1940 
New York City

"And now, may I introduce to you our very own Lois Lane, the intrepid editor of the award-winning Hunter Envoy, and the winner of the prestigious National Pacemaker Award for excellence in American student journalism: Veronica Grace!"

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