The First Vice-President of the William Howard Taft National Bank and Trust Company, the gentleman to whom Miss Orison McCall was applying for a job, was not at all the public picture of a banker. His suit of hound’s-tooth checks, the scarlet vest peeping above the vee of his jacket, were enough to assure Orison that the Taft Bank was a curious bank indeed. “I gotta say, chick, these references of yours really swing,” said the Vice-President, Mr. Wanji. “Your last boss says you come on real cool in the secretary-bit.”
“He was a very kind employer,” Orison said. She tried to keep from staring at the most remarkable item of Mr. Wanji’s costume, a pair of furry green earmuffs. It was not cold.
Mr. Wanji returned to Orison her letters of reference. “What color bread you got eyes for taking down, baby?” he
“What kinda salary 长沙桑拿服务 you bucking for?” he translated, bouncing up and down on the toes of his rough-leather desert boots.
“I was making one-twenty a week in my last position,” Miss McCall said.
“You’re worth more’n that, just to jazz up the decor,” Mr. Wanji said. “What you say we pass you a cee-and-a-half a week. Okay?” He caught Orison’s look of bewilderment. “One each, a Franklin and a Grant,” he explained further. She still looked blank. “Sister, you gonna work in a bank, you gotta know who’s picture’s on the paper. That’s a hunnerd-fifty a week, doll.”
“That will be most satisfactory, Mr. Wanji,” Orison said. It was indeed.
“Crazy!” Mr. Wanji grabbed Orison’s right hand and shook it with athletic vigor. “You just now joined up with our herd. I wanna tell you, chick, it’s none too soon we got some decent scenery around this tomb, girlwise.” He took her arm and led her toward the bank of elevators. The uniformed operator nodded to Mr. Wanji, bowed slightly to Orison. He, too, she observed, wore earmuffs. His were more formal than Mr. Wanji’s, being midnight blue in color. “Lift us to five, Mac,” Mr. Wanji said. As the elevator door shut he explained to Orison, “You can make the Taft Bank scene anywhere between the street floor and floor five. Basement and everything higher’n fifth floor is Iron Curtain Country far’s you’re concerned. Dig, baby?”
“Yes, sir,” Orison said. She was wondering if she’d be issued earmuffs, now that she’d become an employee of this most peculiar bank.
The elevator opened on five to a tiny office, just large enough to hold a single desk and two chairs. On the desk were a telephone and a microphone. Beside them was a double-decked “In” and “Out” basket. “Here’s where you’ll do your nine-to-five, honey,” Mr. Wanji said.
“What will I be doing, Mr. Wanji?” Orison asked.
The Vice-President pointed to the newspaper folded in the “In” basket. “Flip on the microphone and read the paper to it,” he said. “When you get done reading the paper, someone will run you up something new to read. Okay?”
“It seems a rather peculiar job,” Orison said. “After all, I’m a secretary. Is reading the newspaper aloud supposed to familiarize me with the Bank’s operation?”
“Don’t bug me, kid,” Mr. Wanji said. “All you gotta do is read that there paper into this here microphone. Can do?”
“Yes, sir,” Orison said. “While you’re here, Mr. Wanji, I’d like to ask you about my withholding tax, social security, credit union, coffee-breaks, union membership, lunch hour and the like. Shall we take care of these details now? Or would you—”
“You just take care of that chicken-flickin’ kinda stuff any way seems best to you, kid,” Mr. Wanji said.
“Yes, sir,” Orison said. This laissez-faire policy of Taft Bank’s might explain why she’d been selected from the Treasury Department’s secretarial pool to apply for work here, she thought. Orison McCall, girl Government spy. She picked up the newspaper from the “In” basket, unfolded it to discover the day’s Wall Street Journal, and began at the top of column one to read it aloud. Wanji stood before the desk, nodding his head as he listened. “You blowing real good, kid,” he said. “The boss is gonna dig you the most.”
Orison nodded. Holding her newspaper and her microphone, she read the one into the other. Mr. Wanji flicked his fingers in a good-by, then took off upstairs in the elevator.
By lunchtime Orison had finished the Wall Street Journal and had begun reading a book an earmuffed page had brought her. The book was a fantastic novel of some sort, named The Hobbit. Reading this peculiar fare into the microphone before her, Miss McCall was more certain than ever that the Taft Bank was, as her boss in Washington had told her, the front for some highly irregular goings-on. An odd business for a Federal Mata Hari, Orison thought, reading a nonsense story into a microphone for an invisible audience.
Orison 长沙桑拿体验 switched off her microphone at noon, marked her place in the book and took the elevator down to the ground floor. The operator was a new man, ears concealed behind scarlet earmuffs. In the car, coming down from the interdicted upper floors, were several gentlemen with briefcases. As though they were members of a ballet-troupe, these gentlemen whipped off their hats with a single motion as Orison stepped aboard the elevator. Each of the chivalrous men, hat pressed to his heart, wore a pair of earmuffs. Orison nodded bemused acknowledgment of their gesture, and got off in the lobby vowing never to put a penny into this curiousest of banks.
Lunch at the stand-up counter down the street was a normal interlude. Girls from the ground-floor offices of Taft Bank chattered together, eyed Orison with the coolness due so attractive a competitor, and favored her with no gambit to enter 长沙桑拿最好的场子 their conversations. Orison sighed, finished her tuna salad on whole-wheat, then went back upstairs to her lonely desk and her microphone. By five, Orison had finished the book, reading rapidly and becoming despite herself engrossed in the saga of Bilbo Baggins, Hobbit. She switched off the microphone, put on her light coat, and rode downstairs in an elevator filled with earmuffed, silent, hat-clasping gentlemen.
What I need, Orison thought, walking rapidly to the busline, is a double Scotch, followed by a double Scotch. And what the William Howard Taft National Bank and Trust Company needs is a joint raid by forces of the U.S. Treasury Department and the American Psychiatric Association. Earmuffs, indeed. Fairy-tales read into a microphone. A Vice-President with the vocabulary of a racetrack tout. And what goes on in those upper floors? Orison stopped in at the restaurant nearest her apartment house—the Windsor Arms—and ordered a meal and a single Martini. Her boss in Washington had told her that this job of hers, spying on Taft Bank from within, might prove dangerous. Indeed it was, she thought. She was in danger of becoming a solitary drinker.
Home in her apartment, Orison set the notes of her first day’s observations in order. Presumably Washington would call tonight for her initial report. Item: some of the men at the Bank wore earmuffs, several didn’t. Item: the Vice-President’s name was Mr. Wanji: Oriental? Item: the top eight floors of the Taft Bank Building seemed to be off-limits to all personnel not wearing earmuffs. Item: she was being employed at a very respectable salary to read newsprint and nonsense into a microphone. Let Washington make sense of that, she thought.
In a gloomy mood, Orison McCall showered and dressed for bed. Eleven o’clock. Washington should be calling soon, inquiring after the results of her first day’s spying.
No call. Orison slipped between the sheets at eleven-thirty. The clock was set; the lights were out. Wasn’t Washington going to call her? Perhaps, she thought, the Department had discovered that the Earmuffs had her phone tapped.
“Testing,” a baritone voice muttered.
Orison sat up, clutching the sheet around her throat. “Beg pardon?” she said.
“Testing,” the male voice repeated. “One, two, three; three, two, one. Do you read me? Over.”
Orison reached under the bed for a shoe. Gripping it like a Scout-ax, she reached for the light cord with her free hand and tugged at it.
The room was empty.
“Testing,” the voice repeated.
“What you’re testing,” Orison said in a firm voice, “is my patience. Who are you?”
“Department of Treasury Monitor J-12,” the male voice said. “Do you have anything to report, Miss McCall?”
“Where are you, Monitor?” she demanded.
“That’s classified information,” the voice said. “Please speak directly to your pillow, Miss McCall.”
Orison lay down cautiously. “All right,” she whispered to her pillow.
“Over here,” the voice instructed her, coming from the unruffled pillow beside her.
Orison transferred her head to the pillow to her left. “A radio?” she asked.
“Of a sort,” Monitor J-12 agreed. “We have to maintain communications security. Have you anything to report?”
“I got the job,” Orison said. “Are you … in that pillow … all the time?”
“No, Miss McCall,” the voice said. “Only at report times. Shall we establish our rendezvous here at eleven-fifteen, Central Standard
Time, every day?”