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Lauren Kessler

Clever Girl – Excerpt

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In mid-October 1938, Comrade Brown instructed Bentley to meet him in Greenwich Village in front of a little restaurant on University Place. He had a new contact for her, a top man in the communist movement, he told her, a man she could trust. They rendezvoused at the appointed hour and began walking slowly toward Eighth Street when, at the corner, a small, stocky man in a shabby suit and scuffed brown shoes suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Bentley was taken aback. Brown merely nodded and introduced the man as “Timmy.” Timmy had a car parked around the corner, an old Dodge sedan, and the three of them got in and drove over to Fourteenth Street, where Brown got out and caught the subway. Then Timmy swung the car around and headed downtown. He knew a restaurant on lower Second Avenue, an out-of-the-way little place where they could sit and talk over dinner.

On the drive over, Bentley stole glances at Timmy, sizing him up. He was a short, homely man, probably in his late forties, with broad shoulders, large hands and a short, thick neck. He had a high, wide forehead and small, close-set eyes that seemed fixed in a perpetual squint. His nose was small for his face, his mouth, generous, with full, shapely womanish lips. There was a hint of the Slavic in his high cheekbones and his soft, rounded jaw. He was not, she thought to herself, an impressive-looking man. But she soon discovered that he was impressive in other ways. As they sat and talked through a two-hour dinner, she saw that he had a quick, sharp mind.

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