And yetunlike the Sergeant, who worries out of consideration for me the Lieutenant Detective doesn't seem particularly concerned that I'll hear something that will violate my supposedly pure feminine mind. To be honest, I'm not at all sure what he's searching for in my face. He is very likely wondering if I'll faint and crumple face-?rst over the stenotype. Who knowshe may even have a betting pool going with the other officers. But we live in a modern age now, one in which women have enough to do without having to trouble themselves with the obligation of fainting all the time, and I wish the Lieutenant Detective, for all his other modern manners, would stop glancing at my face like a curious puppy and simply let me do my job. Which, by the by, I'm quite good at. I can type 160 words per minute on the regular typewriter, and can get up to nearly 300 on the stenotype. And I am largely indifferent to the content of the confessions I must take down and transcribe. Like the typewriter itself, I am simply there to report with accuracy. I am there to make the official and unbiased record that will eventually be used in court. I am there to transcribe what will eventually come to be known as the truth.
Of course, I have to be careful not to let my pride over these facts get the better of me. On one occasion, as we emerged from the interrogation room, I called out to the Lieutenant Detective in a voice that was perhaps a bit louder than I'd intended and said, "I'm not a ninny, you know."
"Pardon me?" He stopped and spun around, his eyes traveling up and down the length of my person, that scientist-observing an-experiment look on his face again. He took a step or two toward me, as though we were being con?dential, and I breathed in another soapy hint of cigars and leather. I straightened my posture, gave a little cough, and tried to make my stand again, this time with more poise.
"I said I'm not a ninny. It doesn't frighten me. None of it. I'm not a hysteric. You can forget about having to fetch the smelling salts." I said that last part for effect; we don't really keep smelling salts at the precinct, and I doubt anyone travels with them in their pockets anymore these days. But I immediately regretted the exaggeration. It made me sound too dramatic, like the hysteric I had just claimed I wasn't.
"Miss Baker . . . ," the Lieutenant Detective began to address me. But the rest of the statement trailed off. He stared at my face for several seconds. Finally, as though someone had suddenly pinched him, he blurted out, "I have every reason to believe you could take the confessions of Jack the Ripper himself and not bat an eye." Before I could formulate an appropriate rejoinder, the Lieutenant Detective turned on his heel and strode away.
I am not sure he meant it as a compliment. Working in a precinct full of policemen, I am no stranger to sarcasm. For all I know, the Lieutenant Detective could have been having a laugh at my expense. I don't know much about Jack the Ripper. I do know that he was rumored to have been abnormally skilled with a knife.
I let the subject drop and did not bring it up to the Lieutenant Detective again. Life went on at the precinct in a more or less predictable harmonythe Sergeant kept to his uneasy pact of cooperation with the Lieutenant Detective, and in turn the Lieutenant Detective kept to his courteous- yet- always- curt interactions with me.
It all went on harmoniously, that is, until they hired the other typist.
I recognized something was happening the very second she walked in the door for her interview. On that particular day, she entered very calmly and quietly, but I knew: It was like the eye of a hurricane. She was the dark epicenter of something we didn't quite understand yet, the place where hot and cold mixed dangerously, and around her everything would change.
Excerpted from The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Rindell. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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