“Is there anything else I can get you?” Delphia asked as she set the cocktail filled teacups on the table. The patrons barely shook their heads. Their attention was on the jazz singer on stage. She darted to another table and invisibly bussed the used dishes. She flashed a smile to a diner who noticed her and disappeared to the back of the house. She turned her tray over to the kitchen staff and headed back to the bar.
“Delphia, right?” a new waitress stopped her. Delphia nodded. Her eyes didn’t leave her next drink order on the counter to be delivered. “Seymour sent me to find you. There’s a telephone call waiting for you upstairs.” Delphia finally looked at the girl in the eyes. Who would be calling her here? The girl with the large eyes and bottle blond hair stared back at her. Pretty, no wonder she was an upstairs girl.
“A telephone call?” she asked. The girl nodded. Delphia took her elbow and pulled the girl to the bar. She put a tray in the girl’s hands and started putting the drinks on it.
“These need to go to table fourteen,” she said and pointed at each quickly, “Blue dress, green dress, grey suit and uh, glasses, mousy guy. Got it? Go!” She thrust the new girl in the direction of table fourteen. The girl started to weave through the crowd as Delphia watched. Then Delphia went to the back staircase and darted up. She appeared in Seymour’s upstairs bar.
“There you are, girl. It’s about time,” Seymour said. He pointed at the telephone. She hesitated briefly thinking about Agent Spiegel. If it was him, he would only call back if she hung up. Delphia nervously picked up the receiver and huddled near the corner of the bar for privacy. The music still echoed up from below. She stuffed a finger in her other ear to block out the sound.
“Hey Doll.” A wave of relief washed over Delphia.
“Oh, Micky! Where have you been?” she exclaimed. She caught Seymour glancing over at her. Delphia turned to face the wall and resolved to lower her voice.
“I’ve been busy, workin’ the Farm. I don’t get near a telephone too often.”
“I just about gave up on ever seeing you again,” she whispered.
“You gotta have more faith than that, Dollface.”
Delphia stifled a laugh. In the background, she heard someone say ‘hurry up’ and Micky replied with an unruffled ‘Fuck off!’
“I gotta hit the road, Doll. I need you to write down this address,” he said with less playfulness. Delphia scrambled for her notepad and pencil.
“Um, okay. What is it?” She wrote out the address on an order ticket.
“You need to go there in the morning and talk to Viola Hodgekin. Got it?”
“Yeah, this isn’t anything illegal is it?” Delphia asked. Now it was Micky’s turn to laugh.
“You crack me up, Doll. Go there in the morning. I’ll try to make it up in the next few weeks or so.” He hung up without a farewell. Delphia slowly set the ear piece down in its cradle and wondered why this address was important. She tore the ticket off the pad and tucked it away safely with her tips.
The next morning Delphia did as she was told and made her way across town to the address. She stepped off the street car and looked around at the little shops that lined the street. A grocer stood outside sweeping the sidewalk. He smiled as she walked towards him.
“Good morning, I’m looking for Liberty street. It is nearby?” The man stopped sweeping and leaned on his broom as he studied her.
“Another one of those girls, huh? Well, you got off the street car a little early,” he said. Delphia cringed, what was he referring to? One of those girls? She watched the street car make its way into the distance. The man continued, “But you’re in luck it’s only another two blocks down.”
Delphia relaxed. She didn’t want this mysterious errand to take up any more of her time. She thanked the grocer and started walking. A large building looming in the distance caught her eye. It was a three story brownstone with large arched windows on the first floor. It stood on the corner and had a tiny fenced patch of grass out front with a lovingly, nurtured rose bush. Delphia took out the address again and looked up at the brass numbers mounted in the stone. This was it. She climbed the steps and rang the bell for Hodgekin.
A woman in her forties answered the door. Her hair was wrapped in a scarf and a cigarette hung loosely from her lips. She wore a bulky cardigan despite the late summer temperature.
“Can I help you?” she said suspiciously as she eyed Delphia.
“I-I was told to come see you.” Delphia felt like wilting under the woman’s gaze, but she forced herself to stand up straighter. “My name is Delphia Fitzgerald.”
“Well, it’s about time,” the woman grumbled as she stepped aside and let Delphia into a foyer. An ornate staircase joined to the marble tiled space. A hallway extended towards the back of the building. Several doors lined it. The first of these sat ajar. The woman grabbed the doorknob and pulled it shut protectively. “Follow me.”
Delphia hesitated briefly before following the woman up the stairs. They reached the second floor, doubled back to the front of the building and climbed a slightly less grandiose set of stairs. On the third floor, they walked down the hall towards the back of the building. The woman dug in her cardigan pocket and pulled out a set of keys. She opened a door and led Delphia inside.
When Delphia stepped into the little sitting room, she wasn’t sure what to think. It was furnished with a davenport and wing back chair on one side. On the other end, a small table with chairs sat. She could glimpse the black and white tile of a galley kitchen to the left and a short hallway on the right. The bedroom door was open and she could see a highboy against the wall.
“You know, you’re not exactly what I expected,” the woman said.
“I’m sorry?” a confused Delphia said as she turned back to the woman. She was more interested by Delphia than the room.
“They’re usually more…flashy,” the woman waved her hand over the waitress’s appearance.
“I’m still not following, Ms. Hodgekin. Do you mind telling me why I’m here?” An edge of impatience broke in her voice. The woman sucked on her cigarette with a grin and let out a deep, smoky laugh.
“Oh I like you!” The woman took Delphia’s hand and pressed the keys into it. “This apartment is yours, darling. Most of the girls here are mistresses, that’s what I meant when I said you’re not what I expected. They’re always so spoiled and bratty by the time they snag real estate. But you’re a real girl and if you’re Delphia Fitzgerald, then the apartment is yours.” The woman laughed again. Delphia stared at the keys in her hand.
“But Ms. Hodgekin…I can’t afford this…the rent must be…” she said in disbelief.
“It’s all taken care of, Miss Delphia.” She put her hand on the doorknob and started to pull it shut. “The girls all call me Viola and we have a little rule around here that whatever is seen or heard here is plum forgotten once you walk out the door. It ensures my tenants’ privacy and that of their visitors. Enjoy!”
Delphia was left standing baffled and alone in the apartment.
“Micky did this?” she whispered as her fingers played with the keys.