The Man From AUNT CLARA
By Jeff Baker
I had to tell Brad that AUNT CLARA wasn’t my Aunt and wasn’t a reference to that old TV show. He actually believed me when I acknowledged it was a secret intelligence organization and I belonged to it.
“Nobody at school would have figured you having anything to do with intelligence,” he said.
He was smirking when he said that.
Well, they’d recruited me just after college. AUNT CLARA specialized in what you’d call “Cold Cases.” Sleeper agents. Hidden information. That sort of thing.
Brad was really suspicious when I told him I needed to get into the basement there at the bank. Actually the offices across the street from the bank, not into a vault. And Brad had a key to the door. He was security after all.
The basement area was usually locked. It was always locked Saturday afternoons, which is when we went down there. Hardly anybody at the offices or downtown for that matter at that time of the week. Brad unlocked the door, we trotted down the short flight of stairs, which were marble or faux marble with an ornate railing. This building had been the original bank before they built the one across the street in the 70s.
“Just make sure you lock that door behind you,” I said.
“Sure,” Brad said. “Trust me, Adrian, it’s locked.”
We reached the bottom of the stairs, the room was dim but there against the wall was an ancient mailbox, maybe three feet off the floor, about another three feet in height. It looked like brass, it was probably some painted metal. There was a mail slot with a little door which I tried. It had long ago been sealed.
There was a small sign in magic marker where the card telling the mail pickup times would be. It read: “Do Not Use. Not In Service. USPS.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Thought so.” I felt the keyhole at the side of the box where the Postman would have collected the mail.
“What’re you gonna do, Adrian?” Brad asked. I said nothing.
I got down on one knee where I could feel under the mailbox. I pulled out a penlight, which was easier to use than my phone. Then I pulled out the key that was on a chain around my neck.
Maybe Brad had thought I was a little nuts at the start of this, he didn’t right then. I found the keyhole under the mailbox, inserted the key and after a couple of tries it turned.
The bottom of the box fell open; a door to a small compartment smaller than a cigar box. A fat, brownish envelope, not big enough for inter-office mail fell out.
I picked up the envelope. It was several decades old and wrapped with several rubber bands, the thick kind Brad and I would have treasured back in grade school.
I stuffed the envelope in my inside jacket pocket and closed the little door.
“Now what?” Brad asked as I stood up.
“Now I take this where it needs to go.” I said.