A short story by B. B. Wright
An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery
Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) sometimes found in the text of the story.
Particles of dust danced in the thin wedge of light that sliced through the narrow opening between the curtains before fattening out across the lower half of the bed. At the foot of the bed against the wall was a sparsely filled clothing armoire with a jacket hanging from its opened door. Toward the window angled at the corner was a chair cluttered with his previous day’s clothing with a pair of highly polished shoes and a pair of scruffy work boots neatly placed under it. Beside the window was a three drawer dresser squeezed into the space between the wall and the head of the bed while on the opposite side was a small bed table with a light on it.
Lately, Werner Gruener was afraid to sleep. His dreams were being touched by an intruder. He knew the same way someone knew or sensed that their private belongings had been violated. He rolled over to his side, his back to the window, and began to drift off until he felt her probing presence. He had not established in his mind how he knew it was a woman intruding into his thoughts but, somehow, he just knew. He had a good sense for such things. This morning he had planned a very special surprise for her; a set of images that she would soon not forget. Perhaps, he mused, she would enjoy the images of her demise to the tune: I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. The unexpected sound of a key entering his lock spoiled his moment and slipping his hand under his pillow, he gripped his Luger.
The door to his room opened and quickly closed. Pressed against the door was a man submerged in the thick morning grayness of the room. A deep black shadow masked his face.
“You are awake, Werner?” The man whispered.
Werner did not answer as he slowly withdrew the gun from under his pillow and pointed it at him.
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” the man snickered. “It’s me, Heinrich.”
“I didn’t recognize your voice.”
“It’s this damn cold. English weather and me don’t get along.”
Werner threw back the covers and sat up and turned on the small light by his bed. “Heinrich…Ernst was explicit.”
“The drop off point has been compromised. I had no choice but to come here. Surely you knew that?”
Werner went to the window and peered through the curtains looking for any unusual activity on the street below. Seeing none, he turned back. “Where’s the message?”
Handing him the sealed envelope, Heinrich said: “I was careful, Werner, very careful.”
Without responding, Werner placed his gun on top of the dresser and picked up his pants from the chair and pulled out the switchblade he had used to cut a lock of Rebecca Grynberg’s hair not more than eight hours ago and slit open the envelope.
“So the drop off has been compromised?” he asked, returning his knife to his pant pocket and then pulling out the expected neatly folded page of the Bournemouth Echo classified section and unfolding it.
“The Boemelburg cell has been arrested. I thought you knew?!”
“I didn’t,” he replied disconcertingly, as he read the coded message along the side (AOSS DTLLTFUTK) and bottom (ITOS IOZSTK) of the crossword puzzle:
The QWERTY code was easy for him to quickly translate in his head. Used sparingly and only to communicate immediate action, it was hoped that its location associated with a cross-word puzzle would be attributed to the idle scribbling associated with the puzzle solver and therefore of no significance to anyone except to the solver.
Turning over the page, Werner smiled when he saw the circled rental. “Good,” he mumbled under his breath.
The final Jewish family in Werner’s assignment had been found and his task now was to shadow them and to strike when the opportunity was ripe. Unlike the previous two families, this family had both a boy and a girl at the right ages and he had to ensnare both at the same time to ensure fulfillment of his fantasy.
Werner licked his lips with anticipation.
“Good? Surely, Werner, you don’t…”
“No, Heinrich,” he interjected.”My comment is about an entirely different matter. You are sure that you haven’t been followed?”
“Absolutely, Werner! Absolutely!”
Waving the page at him he asked: “Exactly how much, Heinrich, do you know about these messages?”
Heinrich shook his head. “Nothing. Except that they come directly from Ernst himself. That’s all I or you need to know. Why are you asking?”
“Would you like to know? Surely, you’ve felt a twinge of curiosity from time to time?”
“Like you, Werner, I follow orders. Again, why are you asking?”
Werner shrugged and waved it off.
“No matter. I was just curious, that’s all.” He opened the armoire and took down a half empty bottle of J&B and a shot-glass and passed it to him. “I know it’s rather early but one or two for the road should do you no harm,” he said smiling and knowing full well that Heinrich was an alcoholic and unlikely to refuse.
“Not going to join me?” Heinrich asked greedily grabbing the bottle and glass and beginning to pour.
“I must get something from the dresser first and then I’ll join you. There, sit there on the bed and make yourself comfortable. It won’t be long.”
With Heinrich’s back toward him, Werner watched him drink and waited while repeating under his breath: “Oh, a drink in the morning is good for the sight, and twenty or thirty between that and night. Drink it up, go to bed and just think it no sin to get up in the morning and at it again.”
The ditty reached a frenzied crescendo when Heinrich finished the bottle and Werner pounced on him and snapped his neck