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
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