Trafika Europe 2 - Polish Nocturne
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137

1.

It was a bitter-cold December evening. The wind whipped

sleet into my face as I crossed Mannerheimintie Street. The

lights changed and I barely managed to whisk a half-blind

old woman safely out of the way of an approaching

streetcar. The conductor rang the warning bells and the old

woman thanked me effusively in Swedish. She called me

“young man.”

Stockmann Department Store was festively lit, as always in

the weeks before Christmas. The employee entrance was on

the Mannerheimintie side. A man was waiting for me at the

elevators. He was about four inches shorter than me. His

Boss suit fit elegantly. The frames of his glasses were the

latest thing, straight out of Vogue.

“Miss New York?” he asked. On the phone he had insisted

we use no names.

I nodded. The man summoned the elevator and took me to

the basement level.

“The employee lounge is on the eighth floor, but there’s a

secret conference room down here where we’ll be left

alone.” He opened a four-inch-thick steel door. Behind it

was an interior reminiscent of a Töölö drawing room in the

center of old Helsinki: a deep cushiony sofa, two classic Le