CURVE BALL

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Chapter four

Pytor Rakowski strode into the lecture hall at the University of Warsaw. At six feet tall with a full head of blond hair his presence was noticed. He looked every inch a Pole. Few knew that underneath his brown tweed suit he kept the covenant of Abraham. He smiled at the small group of students. He was about to start his lecture “Today’s topic: Chopin and Franz Liszt.”

Gen Dobrai, Good morning. Nearly a hundred years ago, Fredrick Chopin began his career at this University. He stopped speaking to let those words sink in. “He may have sat in this very room.” He pointed to a spot in the third row. “Or perhaps, he sat in front near the piano.”

The students’ eyes widened.

Rakowski glanced at his notes. When he looked up, the door of the lecture hall opened and a young lady walked towards him.

Szanowny Panie Profesorze, Professor Rakowski, you must come with me. There is a telephone for you.”

He looked down at his paper and frowned. When he looked up the girl was only a foot away. The corner of her mouth twitched and her face was pale. Had he been discovered? Was it bad news?

He stared and fought to appear outwardly calm. He saw her mouth move, but the words didn’t reach him. She gestured for him to follow. He moved away from his rostrum.

“Excuse me,” he said to the class, “I’ll return as soon as I can.” He bowed his head, and followed the girl out.

The heels of his brown leather shoes clacked on the immaculate marble hallway as they hurried to Doktor Jazinski’s office. He thought of asking whether she knew what this was all about, but he suspected she wouldn’t say.

They climbed three flights of stairs and entered a carpeted hallway that led to the department’s chairman’s office. The girl opened the floor to ceiling door, and held it for him. “Doktor Jazinski is waiting,” she said.

Dziękuję, thank you,” and stepped through the door and lifted his hand to straightened his tie.

Jazinski was behind his desk the phone to his ear. “Dah,” he said and motioned Rakowski over. He covered the speaker and said, “the Foreign Office wants a word with you.” He handed him the phone.

Rakowski took it and raised the receiver to his ear. “Yah?”

A bored male voice spoke. “Doktor Rakowski, the Foreign Minister would like to meet with you. Would later this morning be convenient?”

Although he asked it as a question, Rakowski knew it was an order. “Of course,” Rakowski said, “Jozef Beck wants to meet with me?”

“Please be at the ministry at 11:00 a.m. and ask for his minister’s secretary. You will be directed from there. Thank you.”

There was a loud click. He had been disconnected. Rakowski handed the phone to Jazinski. The Chairman put the phone back in its cradle. “I’ll send Helina to inform your class you will not be returning this morning.” He looked down at the papers in front of him. “Professor you have done good work here, …” he let out a sigh. “ But, General Pilsudski is dead and in the two years since his passing, Poland has changed and not for the better. Good work is no longer enough.” He stood up. “Good-luck.”

“Thank you, Sir. You make it sound like a finality.”

Jazinski came around from his desk and placed a hand on his arm. “No, no, you have intellect and charm. Your position is safe as long as I’m here.”

A silence settled over the room, but for the ticking of a clock. After several seconds, Jazinski cleared his throat. “I heard you recently became a father. Did you have a boy or a girl?

“A boy--- Franciszek Frederick -- like Chopin.”

“That’s very nice, but it is a mouthful. Yes?”

“To tell you the truth, I just call him Yak or Yakub because of his cheeks. He’s three weeks old.”

Jazinski looked past him. “Yacub, hmm?”

“That’s my nickname for him.

“Yes, I see. Congratulations.”

Rakowski nodded and left the office. He had the feeling he had made a mistake.

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