Kennia looked at the assembled Coquettes. Outwardly she was still laughing but the experience had not been nearly as carefree as she made out to her audience. She still replayed the events of that evening in her head as she lay in bed at night. . .
She was up north on a mission, out by herself, and trying to be discrete. Her plan was to pretend to be a charwoman sent by an agency to clean offices. She figured this would give her an opportunity to peek into drawers and filing cabinets undetected. Cleaning crews weren’t well paid for their hard work and so people often quit on short notice and were replaced so no one would think it was odd to see a strange woman appear one evening. Kennia was dressed in a well-worn old woolen frock that would be typical for a working-class woman coming to the big city to look for employment. She had successfully carried out this plan on several other occasions. In fact this engineering firm was the last place left on her list and she was becoming increasingly worried that she would not find what she was after: plans, or at least a detailed description, of a rumored doomsday weapon.
The fabric of the old frock she was wearing was scratchy and she periodically stopped to adjust it, hoping for more comfort. She had a wooden bucket filled with soap and rags hung over her arm. And in the bottom of the bucket was a bit of oilskin in which to wrap any finds that she might make. Kennia sighed, straightened her bonnet for the fourth or fifth time, and walked up to the office building. The women from the regular cleaning crews were already waiting in the alley behind the building. One of them was the contact that had tipped Kennia about the likelihood of the plans being there but she couldn’t read very well and wasn’t sure which papers, if any, were useful. Kennia was careful not to show that she recognized the woman but just followed her and the others into the building.
The woman, Mary, turned to Kennia, “New gal, I gotta show ya what ya gotta clean,” and led her up several flights of stairs to the fourth floor.
“Here. I reckon this is a good place for you to start workin’. But first get ya some water in that bucket and get your soap and rags all lathered up just fine.”
Kennia smiled. “Thank ya, kindly. I’ll just get to work now.”
The other woman grimaced. “Be careful now.” As she hurried down the corridor towards the stairs, she looked over her shoulder one last time and gave a little wave to Kennia.
The entire fourth floor of the building was occupied by an engineering firm, McMasters and Tate, but much of the space was used as laboratories. After fetching some water, Kennia took the first office on the right and began pretending to dust. Although there were locks on the desk drawers, none of them actually were locked. She rifled through them and through the filing cabinet without hitting pay dirt. Kennia sighed. Another dead end. She proceeded to the second office, one that was large and contained several filing cabinets and cupboards as well as a massive, mahogany desk.