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 greater understanding and/or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted and underlined) sometimes found in the text of the story. From time to time, I may return to a part of the story to add the link(s).
When Captain Lynn Hall had worked at the U. S. Embassy in Turkey in 1936 her high intelligence and language proficiency had not gone unnoticed. A career in Foreign Service—her lifelong goal—had been well within reach.
While hunting in the Kizilcahaman District of Ankara, everything she had aspired to become changed when she stumbled and shot herself in the leg. The bad news came a few days later in Ankara Numune Hospital when she learned that the surgeons had amputated her leg below the knee.
When finally fitted with a wooden prosthesis, she immediately called it ‘Cuthbert’ after Saint Cuthbert whose feast day had fallen on the same day as her accident.
Since amputees were barred from employment in the Foreign Service, her convalescence had bubbled over to despair and confusion.Unwilling to be defeated by her dilemma and to combat her growing depression, she packed up her essentials and began to backpack across Europe in search of new adventures.
Shortly after her arrival in London, her newly found friends introduced her to Stewart Menzies at one of the many late night parties she attended. She continued to meet him at similar venues until he recruited her as a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service.
“Stewart Menzies sends his regards,” she said.
Collier had worked with him in the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) during the early stages of World War One and knew that Stewart Menzies prided high intelligence and did not suffer fools lightly.
“He’s now a Lieutenant Colonel, I’ve been told.”
“Your accent…you’re American?”
“Born and bred in Baltimore, Maryland…” she replied.
“You’ve traveled quite the distance.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Inspector. And I won’t bore you with the details.”
“Please, maybe it’s just my inquisitive nature or snoopiness but I encourage you to bore me” he replied warmly. “Then, you must have family here?”
“None. My close friends form my family here.”
“Excuse me, Inspector,” Sergeant Snowden interjected, “but I’d bet the Captain would like a good ‘cup of Joe.”
“I haven’t had a good cup in a while,” she chortled, welcoming the interruption. “It would be welcomed, very welcomed, Sergeant. But, are you sure you’re up to it? The English aren’t known for great coffee.”
The Sergeant chuckled. “My mother’s side of the family live just outside Cincinnati and twice a year they send me a case of Eight O’Clock coffee. I understand it’s quite popular in the United States”
She beamed a large smile. “It is and I would love some, Sergeant.”
“Would you like some tea, sir?” Snowden asked Collier.
“No thank you, Sergeant.”
As the two of them stood facing each other after Sergeant Snowden had left, an awkward silence developed between them until Captain Hall walked over to the window to look out.
Collier bit his lower lip when he realized she had a prosthesis.
“My love for an English garden, it knows no bounds. I will never have to ask for pardon, as I stroll these lovely grounds.” She turned to face him. “Bernard Shaw’s English Garden captures the beauty I see out there, don’t you think Inspector?”
I’m surprised you would know it that well.”
“The Liberal Arts program I took at Radcliffe College built my love for poetry,” she replied. She looked at her watch. “Times running short and there’s lots to cover.”
Collier invited her to sit at one of the two chairs fronting his desk while he regained his seat behind it. As they sat opposite each other, he knew her eyes were scanning him and he felt a sense of helplessness from her reach.
“I’ve got some good news,” she finally said. “But it doesn’t come without great risk and possible dire consequences.”
Her words cut his breath short as he waited in anticipation.
“Your son and his fiancé have been found.”
A painful expression washed over his face as he looked at her long and hard.
“You call this good news?!” he retorted. “I already know they’re imprisoned at either Lemberg or Posen. And, unless you can free them, there is no room for further discussion.”
“They are not imprisoned. What you were told turned out to be false. For the time being they are in safe hands. What are you doing?”
“I’m phoning Lila, my wife, to let her know.”
Captain Hall quickly rose from her chair and placed her hand over Collier’s: “No, put the receiver down, NOW.”
He replaced the receiver and slumped back in his chair to wait for what he fully expected to be soul-wrenching news.