Part Eighteen of Angel Maker: The Noose Tightens by B. B. Wright

1180476-snow-covered-country-road

Inspector Collier turned onto the road outside the gates of Lambert Manor. Earlier, light snow had fallen making the road slick. An inky, cloud spattered and brooding sky blotted out the moon. Gusts of wind rattled windows in the Wolseley. His unfamiliarity with the country route made driving conditions treacherous. He slowed down. At each turn, light from his headlights splashed off the embankments but on the straightaway barely sliced through the moist-laden darkness. The route’s edge had become his only means of navigation as it shimmered at the periphery of the car’s beams. Beyond the shoulder lay deep, unforgiving gullies. A film of perspiration had formed on his forehead

Captain Hall turned on the overhead light.

“Oi,” complained Collier. “Turn off that damn light.”

The car swerved one way then the other before sliding to a stop.

He reached up to turn the light off when her hand locked onto his wrist like a trap. Gently with strength she redirected his intent.

If Collier could have spit bullets he would have done it right then and there. Biting down on his lower lip, he let his eyes say it instead.

For a long moment neither said a word. Finally she broke the silence.

“I’m sorry.” She looked out the windshield before turning back. “I was thoughtless. But, I thought if I could decipher the code before we got back to the Station…Well…it would speed up things.”

“What code?”

“The one I found in Werner’s bedroom.” She pulled up her collar and wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the chill.

“You took it? Was that wise?”

She smiled. “No, I didn’t take it, at least not in a manner of speaking. It’s here.” She pointed to her head.

“Uh-Huh. Okay. Is he likely to know that someone has been rummaging through his things?” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Not likely, there wasn’t enough time. The paper the code was scribbled on was in plain sight. So either he hadn’t decoded it or he had and hadn’t yet dispensed of it in the fireplace. I think his sweet tooth got the better of him. Remember? That’s how I met him, in the pantry.”

“I remember. You took a bit of risk doing that.”

“Perhaps,” she replied with a dismissive shrug. “It’s interesting, you know.”

“What is?”

“When your quarry doesn’t know he is the quarry and that he’s been found by the hunter.”

“Well…” About to rebut, Collier rethought it. “So, what did you think of him?”

She stared at him for a long moment before replying. “I felt as if I’d been licked all over by a cat and now I’m in need of a bath.”

Collier shivered from the image she had just conjured up. “Evil, aptly described.”

“Since we’ve stopped and the light…well…it’s on, do you mind?” She held up her notepad and pencil retrieved from her shoulder bag.

He cleared his throat and surveyed the weather outside. “Weather doesn’t…appear…to be…getting worse. I guess not. But, are you sure it can’t wait…”

His words trailed off when he realized she was no longer listening to him. He watched with great interest as she wrote numbers grouped in threes on her page.

“How could you possibly remember all of that?” he asked, pointing at her notebook.

“I have an eidetic memory.” She hesitated. “It has its good side and bad side.”

She scrutinized the coded message for a few seconds before shaking her head in disgust. Hurriedly, she began to translate it:

INTEL HIGHEST PRIORITY
GLEIWITZ CONFIRMED
PREPARATIONS FOR FALLWEISS CONCLUDED 20 AUG.

When she was completed, she hammered the point of her pencil into the page. “There! Now, why anyone would continue to use a QWERTY code is beyond me. No matter. This here, I think, ” pointing to (………) “R “Q “I ! “is the signature of the sender. And, based on our Intel, there’s a very good likelihood that signature belongs to an Otto Imhoff—a key person in Werner’s sleeper cell. Beyond that we know nothing else about him. The informant who was to pass that information on to us disappeared. And, the NKVD whom we believe do know won’t—to say it politely—share with us.”

“The Russians are part of this?”

“As it turns out, the NKVD is important to getting your son and his fiancé safely home. Whether you know it or not the Soviet Union has the most active and best-resourced intelligence organization in the world. Our asset is that they hate fascists. But, more often than not we are at cross-purposes. And there, Inspector, lies the rub.”

He attempted to discern the full translation but was unable to since most of it was in shadow. “Any idea what GLEIWITZ CONFIRMED means?”

She nodded. “Thanks to ‘Queenie’ we do. But I can say no more.” She closed her notepad and returned it along with the pencil to her bag. “Queenie has an important job to do this night if our plan is to work.”

He sighed deeply. “You appear concerned.”

“Not about that.” She opened the car door. “Switch spots.”

Before Collier could complain she had made her way around to the driver’s side and pulled him out, taking his place. “Hurry up,” she shouted, patting the passenger seat. Once he was seated, she turned and smiled at him. “I thought it best.”

Putting the vehicle in gear the back wheels spun. Then, with a sudden jerk, the wheels gripped the road and the Wolseley sped off.

“I don’t know whether I told you, Inspector, but I used to drive racing cars State side. So, you’re in good hands. Anyway, from where I come from, I’ve had a lot of experience driving in this slop.”

Unnerved by her driving, Collier held on tightly to his seat as they slid, yet again, into another bend in the road.

__________

Humpty Dumpty once on Lambert’s wall stood
His intent to bring a great fall within;
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t stop Humpty from killing all within.

Werner Gruener felt a great deal of satisfaction as he walked through the gates of Lambert Manor. The Robert McTavish disguise discarded, he was ready for the next leg of his mission.

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History Tends Everything by B. B. Wright

reflection in a window

Aaqif rolled onto his side and reached out. The impression left by her body was filled with cool warmth and the lingering sweetness of her scent. He feigned sleep. Through the slits in his eyelids he watched her at the bedroom window.

She glanced at him. Then, she turned back.

Etched on the window pane was the mirror image of her face as she peered upon a landscape she did not see.

Seating his head upon the palm of his hand, he called out her name softly: “Zahra.” Had she heard him, he wondered. “Penny for your thoughts.”

“Only a penny?” She sighed, continuing to gaze out the window. The usual lilt in her voice was broken and joyless. “Our pasts, Aaqif, swallow us up. Nothing will be forgotten or forgiven. Too many years, too many years say it is so.”

Scrambling out of bed, Aaqif embraced her. “Shush…shush my love.” She trembled in his grasp. “What is wrong? I’ve never seen you this way before.” He drew her tighter to his breast.

“I’m afraid… for us,” she sputtered between gushing sobs.

Aaqif led her to the edge of the bed and they sat down. Several minutes passed without a word being spoken. Only her soft whimpering resonated through the silence.

“Do you remember the days I wept love poems for you?”

She swept her cheeks dry with her hands. “I pretended that I had not read them.”

“I knew you did. Your eyes couldn’t hide the truth.” He cupped her face in his hands and stared into her eyes. “You told me you burned them. Did you?”

“They are safely tucked away in here and here,” she replied, touching her head and chest. Her demeanor suddenly changed, almost panic driven, as she wrapped her arms around him. “Sheikh Nimir al Nimr…his execution… has changed everything for us.”

He sighed. “Only, if we allow it.” Gently, he kissed her forehead. “Breathe deeply. Now, again. And, again. Better?” She nodded and smiled. “You’re right, we are our pasts. But, Zahra, that’s our advantage. Don’t you see? We both share a deep understanding of those pasts. It means today and all of our tomorrows will be whatever we want them to be. Nothing will smash our love, Zahra, nothing. Not even the execution of the Sheikh.”

She stood and walked to the window and scanned the streets and tenement buildings below before sitting on the sill facing him.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “You look…distracted.”

“Okay?” She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

“Zahra? We must give it a try. We can’t give up now. I know our histories do not smile kindly on us, yet here we are, you a Shiite and me a Sunni. Now, I call that hope.”

The cityscape and its activity below the window captured her attention again and she lingered for awhile before replying. “Are we being naive?”

He bit hard on his lower lip while he gathered his thoughts. How to answer her? He too shared her diet of fear. “Our love crosses our history’s divide. In that lies the wisdom no matter how soon death may be. Tomorrow we will leave Spain and travel a thousand light years away to begin a new life.”

She slipped off the sill and took his hands in hers. “It won’t be far enough.” She crossed her arms and returned to the window. “Our families’ reach is long. Their dogma fuels their journey.”

“What is it that garners your interest there?”

“Death and hope burnt into a desert filled with loneliness.” She looked through her reflection to the two men on the street below. When he arrived at her side, she pointed out the answer to his query. “That is my husband and my brother.”

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