Inclining his head toward the ornate door and accentuating the action with his gun hand, the masked intruder demanded an explanation. A twinkle surfaced in his eyes that gave new meaning to his rudeness of the evening. He had not seen the door before.
“You, in the plaid suit, come over here. Come on, move it”! Bellowed the intruder. “What’s behind the door”? Unable to suggest an answer, the man received the butt of the pistol upside his head. Blood flowed from the injury as the man attempted to push the life force back into his head.
Looking around the room, the masked intruder riveted his attention on one of the scantily clad women. He liked how she looked and thought he would satisfy his curiosity.
“Okay, I want everybody to strip. You’ll make sure they strip”.
“Boss, you want us to uh, to uh get them naked”? Asked one of the four interlopers, who were also masked.
“Say whaaaaaat. Naw, just make them take off their clothes and get all their jewelry and money. Hurry it up”.
It took quite a while for all fifty guests to be deprived of their evening’s finery. This was to have been another memorable occasion. Boushee was hosting his usual party in Harlem at an invitation-only event.
Leonard Boushee had lived in Harlem since his arrival from New Orleans circa 1900. Upon his arrival, he purchased the brownstone and entertained the uptown clique.
It was also being noised abroad that the brownstone held secrets known only to a few, but then most rumors were just that; rumors.
It was just those rumors that had brought the uninvited guests to Boushee’s home this particular evening. It was those rumors that had contributed to his guests standing unceremoniously in their underclothing.
One gentleman rebuked the intruders by telling them they could have spared the women the ignominy heaped upon them. The said gentleman was advised to keep quiet or bashed in his head.
Accepting their fate, the guest of Leonard Boushee began apprising their situation. Some were taking mental notes to be redeemed after the fiasco. Women were noticing some of the more significant attributes of the men, as well as the men reminding themselves to speak with certain ladies later.
All in all, the night had its redeeming qualities. Giggles were heard as there were observed irregularities in one under attire. These irregularities could be dismissed considering the circumstances, but tongues would wag.
Harlem was a tight-knit community where nearly everyone knew everybody. For instance, it was known that only one person in Harlem used the exclamation, Say whaaaaaat. Regardless of wearing a mask to disguise himself, that individual was known as Say-Say. Several members within the naked ranks knew this.
Say-Say saving grace thus far was that he had not allowed his underlings to assault Leonard Boushee. Say-Say admired the man and wouldn’t let himself see Mr. Boushee publically undressed. Leonard Boushee stood among his guests, wholly dressed.
Leonard walked over to Say-Say and politely said, “There is nothing behind that door that would interest you. I beg you to take what you have and leave my guests and me to enjoy the rest of the evening”.
The rift raft that had accompanied Say-Say saw their chance to remark that they should take what they had and leave. Small minds are easily satisfied during times such as these.
Say-Say was patting the pistol into his left hand as he looked into the eyes of Leonard Boushee. He had never seen the man up close, and the cold stare that emanated from those grey eyes unnerved Say-Say. Say-Say tried to play it hard, but those eyes of Leonard never wavered in intensity.
“Say whaaaaaat. Mister, I just can’t leave until I know what’s behind that door. I figure you must be hiding something. Why look, there isn’t a door handle on the door. Why do you think that is”? He was retrieving his lost nerves, and he felt pumped. Even a couple of his boys yelled, “Yeah, what you trying to hide, huh”?
“You’ll shut up! Mr. Boushee, I don’t want to cause you any further trouble, but I’ve got to know what is behind this door. How come it doesn’t have a handle”?
“They call you Say-Say, don’t they,” said Boushee.
“How, how do you know my name Mr. Boushee”?
“Look, if you allow my guests to put their clothes back on and leave without taking anything from them, we’ll forget that this ever happened.”
Say-Say appeared to be in deep thought. The thought wasn’t that deep as Say-Say had no intentions of walking away empty-handed. Neither did his boys.
The guests began murmuring and crowding the armed men when Boushee spoke again. “Alright. Since you’re so interested in what is behind the door, I will show you.
Boushee took a white card from the table near the door and wrote something. As Boushee attempted to slide the written card under the door, Say-Say stopped him.
“Hey now, wait a minute. How do I know what you’re doing? You can tell your peeps behind the door to shoot me or something”.
“Say-Say, the way this thing works is that there is no door handle that you can plainly see. The only way to open the door is for me to write on the card and slip it under the door”.
Several of Boushee’s guests said that the only way to open the door was with a written card.
“Say-Say said, “Let me take a look at what you done wrote.”
It was also common knowledge that Say-Say could neither read nor write. Say-Say looked at the white card, turned it over, and handed it back to Boushee.
“I implore you not to open this door as there is nothing there for you. Please listen to me”.
“Naw, we gonna open the door. Slide that card under the door”. As Boushee reluctantly slid the white card under the door, the accomplices gathered around. They wanted to see what lay beyond the door.
There were more murmuring and gasps from a few in the crowd.
The door with no handle swung inward as Say-Say urged two accomplices to precede him into the room. The room was dark with no lighting. Say-Say looked back at Boushee and followed his two men into the room. The third offender was pushed into the room by Boushee as the sizeable ornate door closed behind the four men.
Leonard Boushee turned to his guest and admonished them to get dressed. The affair transpired quickly as Boushee announced that the drinks would be on the house for the rest of the evening. This was welcome news in the time known as prohibition.
A dozen or so of the in-crowd guests surrounded Boushee and asked him, “Boushee, what did you write on the paper”?
Boushee answered, “Devil’s Island.”
The In-crowd guests knew well what had transpired with the ruffians. They had been sent to Devil’s Island penal colony, where they would spend their lives.
The door that did not have a doorknob was a coveted gem of Boushee’s Brownstone. It was a doorway to any place on Earth that one desired for a price. The only entrance to the door was the writing of the destination on the white card, the white card that Say-Say could not read.