Fractured by B. B. Wright

She felt nothing and everything. An explosion of panic juxtaposed with the terror of what she had just done drove her mindlessly along the slippery and dangerous path once again. Wind driven rain smashed against her face. Her hands had been washed free of his blood but her mind still saw it.

She couldn’t take it back. She couldn’t undo it.

She grasped the knife tighter.

Her action had been a terrible, grievous mistake. A temporary rigor mortis of the soul. Now it was filled with stinging, profound shame and guilt.

She had loved him. She had trusted him.

Whitecaps danced at the rocky shoreline; beckoning her, entreating her to join in.

She slowed her pace.

Her breath arrived in gulps as she began to pick her way sideways down the last fifty meters to the water’s edge.

Unnoticed by her, the knife had dropped from her hand.

She stopped.

Once bathed in the sunlight of joy, what was supposed to have been her dream home glared, menacingly down at her. She saw it anew through dark, deeply recessed shadows.

The neighbors had warned them. Tragedy would be your ill-fated companion. Don’t buy it. The water is treacherous, its depth comes quickly.

Seductively, the cold water slipped across the gravel and embraced her bare feet and back into itself.

She twitched.

His blood clutched her body through her rain soaked summer dress and weighed her down.

She stepped forward. So cold, it was so cold. And, she gasped.

Hypnotically, the water churned as it formed ankle chains below her gaze.

Still, she was drawn deeper.

Water circled her thighs.

Like an absurd umbrella, her crimson spattered white dress rose as if to be washed and bleached in the sun.

Stumbling, she felt a hint of her resistance but the wicking water drew her deeper. When its blanket lay across her head she spread her arms wide about to embrace it.

Girl under Water

“Judith, wake up!” he screamed. He shook her with such fury that the bed’s headboard slammed against the wall. When he stopped, tears streamed down his cheeks. “I thought I had lost you.”

She lay there, quite still, staring up at him, her pajamas soaked in perspiration. “I’m still here,” she finally replied. A smile barely registered on her face.

“These nightmares of yours…they’ve gone on far too long, Judith. You must see the doctor.”

“Must I?” Her words were said hesitantly but enunciated slowly for emphasis.

The bridge of his nose pinched together. His eyes peered at her through slitted lids as he scrutinized her. “Is there something you’re not telling me? Heaven knows how secretive you are about your thoughts, your emotions. Come to think of it, you haven’t even told me what your recurring nightmare is about.”

“Would it matter?” she replied in an accusatory tone.

The slight smile which had been etched on her face vanished.

“Well…yes…of course it matters.”

She turned on her side, away from him. “Patience…tomorrow…all will be revealed tomorrow. Until then, I will still be here.”

“Still be here, what the hell does that mean?”

She did not reply.

There was a time when she fell asleep cradled in his arms. Distance between them had now become the norm.

He could not wash out the scent of the other woman. And, it sickened her.

Sleep had become elusive as she waited for the morn. “Sweet dreams, Phillip,” she spat out. His angry grunt made her smile. She knew he too would get little sleep tonight. And, what sleep he did get would be in a nightmare of his own making.

Under her pillow, her hand rested on the handle of a knife.

Part Seventeen of Angel Maker: The Trap is Set by B. B. Wright

math, puzzle, Betrayal of Trust, author, indie pub, writing tips, theory, story, novel, book
Dear Reader: If you are a puzzle solver you may enjoy deciphering the coded message sent to Werner in this chapter. The clues to its translation are found within this chapter and in one of the earlier chapters. If it’s not for you, carry on; all will unfold as Angel Maker moves to its finale.
Angel Maker

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).

Part Seventeen
The Trap is Set

There was an unexpected bite to the late January air. Overhead, the moon danced a hot hash do-si-do with dark cotton-ball clouds while from the tree-lined shadows boughs crackled in the wind.

He wished he had worn his jacket. Clothed in a thin woolen shirt, work pants and Wellingtons, he hastened his pace across the thinly snow-clad lawn toward the rendezvous point among the oak trees which lined the rear of Lambert Manor Estate. It had been a fruitless and unrewarding journey he had completed every evening at ten since he had become the Estate’s handyman and grounds keeper before Christmas.

Unbeknownst to him, Queenie circumspectly peered out through a slit in the curtains from her darkened top floor bedroom window. She has discretely kept tabs on him since his arrival.

His employment at Lambert Manor, largely inconsequential, boring and unchallenging, did not matter to him. Soon he would be leaving. He had learned all he needed to know. Bending down he rolled aside the large rock at the foot of the designated tree. A smile rippled upwards from the corner of his mouth. He grasped the envelope and with the tips of his frozen fingers pushed it deeply into his pant pocket. Rubbing his hands briskly and blowing into them to warm them up, he then carefully returned the stone to its original position.

As he began to return to the Manor he heard a vehicle approaching along the drive. Hugging the ground, he watched as the car rolled to a stop opposite the front entrance. Chilled to the bone, he barely breathed as he observed in stillness. Two people exited the car. Their chatter to each other indicated that one was a man, the other a woman. The man was about to knock on the door when it opened. After warm greetings and a brief exchange, he stepped across the threshold, followed by the woman who limped in after him.

Teeth chattering and now back in his bedroom, Werner found it difficult to remain still. He stripped two heavy woolen blankets from his bed and clutched them around his shoulders while he stoked the fireplace and added two more logs. Curling up in the only chair in his room, he waited for the warmth to sink in.

When his body finally stopped bucking and heaving from the cold, he threw off his cloistered wrap and stretched out his legs. A log fell forward on the crate capturing his attention. For a brief moment he tempted fate as he stared at the precariously hanging log and dared it to fall onto the floor.  He snickered. Standing up, he grabbed the poker and adjusted the log before retrieving a pencil and pad from his overcoat which hung on the wall hook. Throwing the blankets aside, he withdrew the envelope from his pocket and sat down.

As expected, the communiqué was in code. He smiled when he saw the encoded initials of Otto Imhoff at the end of the communication. To ensure its validity, he matched the count total in each line to the dot total at the end of the line. Then he summed the dots and calculated their digital root. The result matched Otto’s signature of nine dots. The exclamation in the code beside his signature carried another import, namely, April 18. The sabotage of the SS Paris at the docks of Le Havre, France was now confirmed. Werner and Otto would decide the rendezvous point and time and then inform their group.

The grandfather clock on the floor above his bedroom chimed the half hour. It was 10:30. He had already chopped wood and apportioned the household’s coal for the next morning. A chore that he had  completed earlier than usual.

Werner (a.k.a. Robert McTavish) was always last to go to bed. Anna the cook, a not uncomely Glaswegian spinster from Clydebank, had taken to the kindly habit of leaving him a bedtime snack each evening in the kitchen. The snack consisted of a pot of tea and an assortment of her home baked goods. In his role as McTavish, Werner was sure she had designs on him and, until this message arrived, he had hoped to taste more than just her home cooking.

Refocusing his attention, Werner quickly went about translating the message.

9 14 20   5 12 8   9 7 8   5 19 20   16 18 9   15 18 9   20 25 >> ………
7 12 5   9 23 9   20 26 3   15 14 6   9 18 13   5 4 >> ….
16 18 5   16 1 18   1 20 9   15 14 19   6 15 18   6’ 1’ 12’   12’ 23’ 5’   9’ 19’ 19’   3 15 14   3 12 21  4 5 4   (1*)(*10)(8!)> …..
(………) “R “Q “I !

Werner made his way down the labyrinth of hallways to the kitchen. When he entered, he was surprised to find a woman pouring herself a cup of tea and sampling one of his treats. He cleared his throat to herald his presence.

“Oops! What a shock this must be for you? It sure is for me” she said, turning to face him. “The owner told me that all the staff would be in bed and soundly asleep by now…and…that it would be okay to come down and help myself. I must admit I didn’t expect to find all these goodies waiting for me.”

“American?” Werner asked, scrutinizing her.

“Pardon?” she replied puzzled, glancing down at the pastry in one hand and the tea in the other.

“Your accent…it’s American?”

“Oh…yes. How silly of me. I thought…oh…never mind. ” She popped what was left of the tart into her mouth. “You should try these. They’re really yummy. I hope you don’t mine?” Not waiting for an answer she lifted the last tart from the plate. “Well…Ta ta.” Broadcasting a large smile, she limped passed him and out the door.

Werner smirked as he watched her disappear along the hallway. Too much money and not much upstairs, he surmised. I wonder why she and that other fella would be visiting so late in the evening? He shrugged. No matter. Lifting the teapot and the plate of remaining sweets, he headed off to his bedroom.

By the time all would awake next day in the Manor, he intended to be gone.

Massey Hall 1971 by B. B. Wright

Massey Hall Doors TorontoMassey Hall 1971

A Short Story

by

B. B. Wright

“It’s not like them,” I said, perturbed by their tardiness. I sank into my jacket like a tortoise into its shell. “It’s so freaking cold my face feels like one huge boil.”

“Huh?” Mark replied, embracing himself and flapping his hands against his shoulders and stamping his feet to keep warm.

I shook my head and turned away. “Ah…forget it.”

“You should have dressed warmer,” he retorted, restlessly surveying the mass of people who filtered through the Massey Hall doors opposite us on Shuter Street. “Anyway, whose smart idea was it not to pick up our tickets when we had a chance?”

My mouth swung open about to propel words I knew I would regret but I thought better of it. Quietly I counted to ten. And, then, took in a few deep breaths. Slowly, I bit off my next words through my snout encrusted moustache. “We did, Mark.”

Somewhat flummoxed by what I had just said, his eyes shifted upwards as he massaged his chin in a thoughtful pose. “Uh-huh! I guess you’re right. Well, kinda right. But, only because you convinced me.”

“I con con-vinced you?” If I could have wiped off his silly smug expression right then and there I would have done it, but I was too damn cold. “Con-vinced you! How?” My enunciation was somewhat hampered by a mouthful of chattering teeth.

“Jeanne,” he blurted out.

“Jeanne?”

“Oooo mysterious benefactor,” he replied, air quoting his remark with his fingers. “If I’m recollecting correctly, it had something or other to do with her dad knowing someone and obtaining free tickets.” His right eyebrow shot up. “So who was it? Someone he knew at The Telegram?” He drew closer and peered down at me. “She does have them? Her father did get them? We’re not standing here on a maybe? Are we?”

“No.” I insisted. “She’s got them.” I could feel the seams in my jacket pockets begin to give way as I forced my hands in further.

He thrust his wrist watch in front of my face. “She’s half an hour late. The concert begins in less than ten minutes.”

“I know. I know. Get your arm out of my face,” I demanded, pushing it away.

I, too, was concerned but more for selfish reasons than for their safety and wellbeing. I should have felt a twinge or even a prick of guilt but I didn’t. The forlorn expression on Mark’s face mirrored how I felt at that moment. Tonight was a big deal. Neil Young was doing a live performance. It was being recorded for his upcoming album. And, here we were. Without tickets. Freezing our buns off.

Our eyes shifted to the doors opposite as another set of patrons entered. Some sort of strange sounding chant began to erupt from Mark’s lips. I surmised he was praying for a miracle. Whatever he hoped to achieve worked. The center doors suddenly swung open, Jeanne holding one, Jill the other. Jeanne waved the tickets high in the air while Jill motioned for us to join them.

Stunned, Mark and I stared at each other in astonishment.

“Well! Are you coming or not?” Jill yelled out.

Heedless to traffic, we quickly joined them.

Still dumbfounded by what had just happened, neither Mark nor I pressed for an explanation or an apology. Our time was at a premium. We followed the girls to our seats in the orchestra section. Middle seats, third row, right in front of the stage. At that point, even if I had wanted to say something, I could not have. Simply put, I was speechless.

We had barely taken our seats when a gentleman in the seat in front of us stood up and turned around with an outstretched hand.

Jeanne introduced both Mark and I as we shook hands.

“Don’t be too hard on the girls,” Scott Young said, addressing both Mark and I. “It was my fault or rather my son, Neil’s fault. We got caught up backstage learning about tonight’s performance; we lost all sense of time. So apologies all round. Jeanne, I still hope you and your friends will be joining Neil and I for supper after the show?”

Jeanne was about to reply, when, in unison, Mark and I rejoined: “We sure will.”

Scott Young smiled and regained his seat as his son, Neil, took to center stage.

I took Jeanne’s hand and we settled in to what we knew would be a great concert and an unforgettable evening.

Part Sixteen of Angel Maker: Captain Hall Returns by B. B. Wright

Silhouetted Man on Pier

Angel Maker

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).

Part Sixteen
Captain Hall Returns

Captain Hall and Inspector Collier sat facing each other across his desk. Sergeant Snowden poured coffee into her mug and, before he left, he placed the thermos containing the remainder of the coffee on the table under the electoral map.

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Collier took a couple of sips of tea. When the door closed he placed his cup and saucer on his desk. “I must admit, Captain Hall, I was taken by surprise when you mentioned Mrs Stoddard’s name in our earlier phone conversation.”

“Surprise? Why?”

“She’s part of a case we’ve been working on. And, quite frankly, we have no idea of her whereabouts.”

“I see. Do you have any suggestions as to how she would have obtained the direct line into Stewart Menzies’s office? British Intelligence—to say the least—would dearly like to know.”

Collier shrugged and chortled. “She does profess to be a psychic.”

“I wouldn’t dismiss her…special abilities, Inspector, if I were you.”

Collier leaned forward. “I’m more interested in how she’s connected to my son.”

Captain Hall reached into her bag on the floor beside her and withdrew two envelopes and placed them on his desk. “It’s not so much her… as it is a man by the name of Werner Gruener.”

Collier sat back in his chair, puzzled. “In what way?”

Captain Hall finished her coffee and placed the mug on his desk. “Before we go any further, open the envelopes. The larger one contains copies of the prints promised last month.”

“And this smaller one?” he asked, waving it at her.

“A mug shot of Werner Gruener and his fingerprints.”

“Mug shot?” he asked, opening the envelope.

“He was accused of raping and killing two young girls in Munich a few years back but it never made it to trial.”

“How did you get your hands…?” Her smirk stopped him dead in his tracks. “Your right, I should know better than to ask.”

He dumped the contents on his desk and picked up the picture of Werner. “Why was this Werner chap never tried?”

“He belonged to the Schutzstaffel or SS and the girls were Jewish.”

He sighed deeply. Spilling the contents from the other envelope, he noticed there was a letter from Detective Inspector Smyth. His forehead became deeply furrowed as he read it. When he finished, he excused himself and exited his office with the fingerprint files. Several minutes later he returned without the files and regained his seat.

“How does Mrs Stoddard fit into all of this?”

Captain Hall shifted uncomfortably in her seat and was about to reply when there was a light knocking at the door. Leonard Scoffield opened the door and popped his head around it. “Your hunch was right, Alex; it’s a confirmed match on both.”

A smile broke Collier’s somber expression. “Thank you, Leonard. Now go home and enjoy your family. See you and your family Christmas Eve.” Collier took out his pipe from the side drawer. Filling it with tobacco, he lit it before returning his attention to Captain Hall.

“Well…well…that information implicates Werner Gruener in the two murders we’ve been working on.” Scrutinizing her, he added: “Why do I get the feeling that you already knew that?”

“Because you’re damn good at what you do, Inspector.”

Collier placed his pipe in the ashtray and stood up, coming around his desk to sit on the corner closest to her. “My guess is that Queenie is hiding the Meintner children from Werner. Do you know where she is?”

“Yes we do. And he’s with her.” She looked at him long and hard before continuing. “Queenie is quite an extraordinary woman, Inspector. I don’t think Werner appreciates how exceptional her skills are. And there lies our advantage. Do you mind?” she asked, nodding toward the thermos.

“That’s what the Sergeant left it for,” he replied with a smile, returning to his chair. “You said he’s with her?”
Collier watched her limp to the table. Her gait appeared more exaggerated since their last meeting. Unconsciously, his line of sight shifted to her prosthetic leg. She had lost the portion of her leg below the knee during an unfortunate hunting accident in Turkey.

Coffee mug filled, she surveyed the electoral map. “He’s securely in her grasp, but, not in the usual way one would think. More importantly, he doesn’t know it.” She returned to her chair. “Have you ever heard of a group known as the Thule Gessellschaft?”

Collier cocked an eyebrow.

Taking his reaction to mean that he hadn’t, she carried on. “It’s a secret society of occultists. Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer of the SS, is a member. Strangely enough, he’s in the outer circle,” she chuckled, waving off his attempt to ask a question. “Please, don’t ask me how I know. Suffice it to say that I just know.” Taking a few sips of coffee, she peered over the rim of her mug at him. “The inner circle is reserved for a special type of…should I say…gifted person…like Queenie and…Werner Gruener.”

“Are you saying that Queenie is a member?” He asked with a slight hint of incredulity in his voice.

“No. I’m saying if she had been, her talents are worthy enough to place her in their inner circle. And that’s a big deal. That’s why she’s so dangerous to them.” She placed her mug on his desk and shifted forward on her chair. “There were five members from that inner circle, including Werner, here in the U.K. gathering intelligence. Now, there are four. We are sure that the murdered man in the steamer trunk was one of them. Our sources are reliable on that count.”

“British Secret Intelligence usually is. But, what does this have to do with my son? Menzies is usually up to something. So what kind of game is he playing that includes Richard? You forget. I worked with him during the last war.”

“The only game, as you call it, that is being played out is one of mutual advantage to both our Country and you.”

Collier crossed his arms tightly across his chest and waited for her to continue.

“Thule Gessellschaft is aware of your intention to capture Werner. Your fingerprinting campaign has caused quite a stir in their ranks.”

“I’m happy to hear it. Should I send out for champagne?” Collier replied sarcastically. He stood up and walked over to the window and stared out. “Does Menzies want me to stop, then?”

“On the contrary, he wants you to follow through with the fingerprinting campaign. To do otherwise at this juncture would alert them to the mole in their ranks.”

“And, my son, Richard?

“I can assure you that Richard, his fiancé and the children are…comfortable. The Thule Gessellschaft group is retaining them as their trump card if it needs to be played.”

Collier turned to face her. “In other words, I can’t arrest Werner or else…it becomes a tit for tat.”

She acknowledged with a slight shrug and nod. “Werner is critical to discovering who the three remaining members are of his group. And, this must be done without the Thule Gessellschaft finding out.”

For a moment he weighed what she had just said. “There’s more, isn’t there?”

Slowly, she nodded her acquiescence. “War is inevitable with Germany. Once it’s declared, and we expect it to be soon, we intend to use his group as a conduit to feed false information. But we can’t do that until all pieces of the puzzle are securely in place.”

Collier returned to gazing out the window. “I am sworn to uphold the law. So where does that fit into your scheme of things?”

There was a long silence before she answered. “Sometimes… no matter how cruel it may seem…compromise must take precedent.”

“Cruel is an understatement,” Collier harrumphed. “He murdered that little girl. Where’s the justice for her?!”

Her demeanor remained stoic and non-committal. Finally, she stood up and walked over to him.

“Sometimes, for a while, justice must pretend to be blind. War clouds are quickly gathering, Inspector. For the present, take solace in knowing who he is and that he’s securely in our grasp.” She reached out with an empathetic hand but withdraw it.

Defiantly, he turned to face her. “And, if I don’t?”

“Do you really want them to play that trump card? There’s a lot at stake. Not only the life of your son but your Country.”

Her cold stare unnerved him.

“Inspector, the three remaining members of his group must be found. Werner is the only link to them. Trust us. We’ll bring your son, his fiancé and the children entrusted to them home safely. But, we must do it our way.”

“It wasn’t that long ago when Menzies used the exact same words you just used: “Trust us”…and…”we must do it our way.” It resulted in the death of my brother.” His eyebrows popped up defiantly. “No… I need time to think this through.”

“But, Inspector…” She grabbed her jacket from the coat tree and followed him out of the office.

Cold air rushed at Collier as he put on his hat and exited the building. Pulling up his collar, he huddled deeper into his tweed overcoat. But, he found no respite. The bone chilling wind sliced through him. He trudged down the pathway towards the pier. The angry roar of the ocean crashing against the shore mirrored his emotional state. An unwelcome decision, personal and compromising, had to be finalized this late evening. Or? There was no or. At least he couldn’t think of any. Time was against him. Gritting his teeth, he hunched down and pushed his chapped hands deeply into his pockets and marched into the wild fury swirling the pier.

“Well…are you coming?” Collier yelled back, not waiting for her.

Captain Hall slipped as she hastened to follow him. Grasping the rail, she remained upright. She wanted to follow him but her instincts said otherwise. And, she relinquished him his space.

At the end of the pier, he raised his head high to welcome the full blast of the sting from the icy ocean spray and screamed out his son’s name: “RICHARD.”

Part Fourteen of Angel Maker: Lambert Manor by B. B. Wright

Ensbury Manor One

Angel Maker

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).

Part Fourteen
Lambert Manor

Atop the stone perimeter wall, hidden within the boughs of a leafy oak tree that overhung it, Werner Gruener peered through his binoculars at Lambert Manor. Slowly, he scanned the windows. In his tweed overcoat pocket was a copy of Psychic Glimpses by Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a ‘Queenie’). Chapters twenty-five and twenty-six had brought him there. He stopped. There was movement at a window. Adjusting his focus, he lingered and watched. A slow twitch at the corner of his mouth erupted into a smirk. He had come to the right place.

In a low hateful tone filled with loathsome fanaticism for the horde inside the manor, he murmured: “Humpty Dumpty stands on this wall; his goal about to bring a great fall; all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t stop Humpty from killing again.”

Barking dogs in the distance caused him to quickly scramble down from his perch. He twisted his ankle in the descent. Crouching low, he massaged his ankle as he hugged the outside wall and waited. The sounds of the dogs receded. He had not been discovered.

In her book, Queenie’s grasp of British history was naïve to say the least. But, that was of no matter to Werner. He was intrigued by the locations she had cited for her encounters with ghosts– Bryanston House, Shaftesbury Abbey, Hamworthy Rectory, Scaplen’s Court in Poole. He had ordered his coterie of likeminded souls to each of those sites to scratch out whatever information they could from the locals. His attention, though, was twigged by Lambert Manor. Unlike the others, she had devoted two meaty chapters to it that detailed her encounters with a cast of spectral characters from Elizabethan ladies to bewigged gallants. It had been the only one honored by several sketched images peppered throughout its chapters. Also, he had learned that she and her husband were members of the spiritualist group Druid Circle which met there every Sunday night.

But, ultimately, it had been her dreams that had given her away. Queenie’s several incursions into his dreams had left him an entry portal to her dreamscape. Though she had not invaded his mind recently, he had invaded hers and found dreams filled with images of Lambert Manor.

Under Queenie’s wing, the Meintner family was protected. If his ploy to gain access worked, only the time factor was troublesome. It would mean several months with close proximity to Queenie. He had no idea how it would affect her ability to invade his thoughts, awake or asleep. Though a potential pitfall, he was confident of his ability to outwit her. Still, he wondered whether he would need a different set of mental barriers. Soon, he decided, if all went well, he would know.

Hobbling alongside the wall toward the entrance to the estate, he stuffed the binoculars into a small knapsack he carried over his shoulder. He snickered hatefully. Having no further use for it, he pulled out her book, Psychic Glimpses, and tossed it into the deep ditch, parallel to him. He worried. London authorities had already found the body in the wardrobe steamer trunk. According to an article buried deep in the pages of The Echo the severely decomposed body had not yet been identified. There was no mention of the description of the sender in subsequent publications. No matter, he mused. He chastised himself for talking so long with Robert Shaw, the shipping agent at Bournemouth train station. I wonder if he knew. Thespians have a keen eye for such things.

Christmas was fast approaching. Werner hoped to find the household in a generous mood. He cocked his tweed cap slightly to the right and grasped the large brass ring and knocked it against the front door twice. He heard footsteps approaching from inside.

A rigidly straight, lean gentleman answered the door. He gave the impression that he was starched from top to bottom, including his personality. He peered down at Werner. “Goodness man, I haven’t got all day. What do you want?”

His haughtiness immediately captured Werner’s ire but he kept this festered boil hidden.

“Mah nam is Rabbie Mctavish. I’m haur about yer ad fur a grounds keeper.”

Werner had decided to murder all in this household when the time was ripe. He scrutinized this arrogant bastard. You’ll be the first, he thought.

Dismissing Werner with the flickering wave of his hand, he directed him to go round to the rear entrance and slammed the door shut.

The Train Ride by B. B. Wright

Portrait of Flirty African-American in the car with mobile phoneThe Train Ride

A Short Story

by

B. B. Wright

My day begins in darkness and ends in darkness. The bitter damp wind off Lake Ontario makes me want to hibernate till spring. After another lousy day at work, I was looking forward to some respite on the train ride home. In the middle of quarterly reporting, my mind was abuzz with checking and rechecking the numbers spewed out by our computer. Always a hectic time, it was especially so for me because of my recent advancement to the numero one honcho of this section. The constant flurry of activity in my new role was unrelenting. There was just too little time and so much to learn. And, the swirling craziness of the winter storm outside my window did nothing to alleviate my deepening moroseness. The meteorologists said it was the worst snowstorm to hit Toronto in a century. Ugh!

I should have been basking in the unusually warm temperatures of Vancouver. Not here. Six weeks ago, this damn province hadn’t been on my radar. I miss my walks in Stanley Park. No matter the time of day I traversed it to reach my condominium, it was always a pleasant walk. All of that changed when the person who had occupied this position was fired. And, voila! Here I am in the thick of things. As a single person, a Harvard business grad and highly motivated by money, I should love challenges. And I do. But this takes the cake. The good news? Not more than five minutes ago I was assured by my administrative assistant, Lila, that the other three seasons are simply wonderful. Somehow her comment hit a dead spot in my brain as I glanced out the window.

By the time the big hand hit twelve and the little hand seven on the wall clock, I was walking out the revolving door of the TD building. The roads were congested with traffic so hailing a taxi was out of the question. Sharp pellets of snow sand-blasted my face. The swirling wind uplifted my jacket depositing its bone chilling bite. The profuse drippings from my nose froze solid on my mustache. Damn place! I hunkered below the collar of my jacket. Wishing I had snowshoes, I shielded my face with my briefcase and trudged off to the nearest subway.

Three hours later, the GO train slowly left Union Station. I had taken off my shoes and socks to dry at the wall heater. Since I disembarked at the end of the line in Burlington, I hoped this would provide enough time for them to dry. Though the train was full, I found it strange that no one sat beside me.

Often I tried to catch up on some paperwork during the journey but this evening I decided to veg out and snooze. A slight bump against me and the sweet smell of perfume caused me to open my eyes. To say the person sitting beside me was stunning didn’t do her justice. Cellphone glued to her ear, she carried on an animated conversation apparently oblivious to my presence.

“No Keith …of course I love you.” She said. “There is no one else. I had no choice. I had to work late at the office. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to see you tonight. Oh don’t be such an idiot. This snow storm has locked in the city. I’m lucky to be on this train at all. It’s the last one. Why do you have to be this way? There’s no need for you to be jealous. I’ve told you till I’m blue in the face, he means nothing to me. Only you do.”

Like a ping-pong match, the conversation batted back and forth. I began to wonder about the jerk she was talking to. Then it hit me. Because she was beautiful, he was obviously insecure with her beauty. Since I wanted to get to know her and all’s fair in love and war, I decided right then and there to make my move.

Leaning closer to her and in a voice loud enough for whomever she was talking to to hear, I said: “Hang up and come back to bed.”

The end result wasn’t what I expected. The Go train had to make an unscheduled emergency stop for the paramedics to take me to hospital.

The nasty gash on my forehead stitched up, I sat on the gurney trying to figure out where I would stay the night.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “You always pick up girls with that line?”

I was taken by surprise. Though I was more than pleased to see her, I thought the likelihood of her being there was less than nil. Mouth agape, eyes wide open, I must have appeared like an idiot.

Her smile reassured me as she hesitantly approached the gurney. Sheepishly, I managed to stutter out a reply. “You must admit it is a unique pickup line.”

“If you say so,” she replied, scanning the emergency ward. “But, honestly, I think you could have chosen a much better introduction.”

I don’t remember what we talked about during the next six hours as we sat in the emergency lounge waiting out the storm. We talked about nothing and everything and we laughed a lot. Before she left, she gave me her phone number.

Something indescribable happened during our time together. There’s no single word to describe it. All I knew was I had to see her again. Maybe living here will be alright after all.

Part Thirteen of Angel Maker: “The Lady Vanishes” by B. B. Wright

220px-The_Lady_Vanishes_1938_Poster

Angel Maker

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).

Part Thirteen
The Lady Vanishes

The phone book smacked against the wall beside him. “Bloody hell!” Closing the door, he picked up the phone book and hesitantly approached the inspector. “Bad day, Gov?” He placed it on his desk.

“You might say that, Sergeant,” replied Collier, feeling embarrassed by his outburst. “I’m sorry about my…little show of frustration. Don’t take it personal.”

“None taken.” Snowden bit down on his lower lip. “Perhaps Gov… we should wait for a better time to do this?”

“I wish there was a better time, Sergeant.” Collier stood up and walked to the electoral map of Bournemouth on the side wall. “Pressure’s mounting again to solve this little girl’s murder and Christmas holidays are fast approaching.” Massaging his chin, he perused the districts. “My thoughts are we begin the fingerprinting here…before Christmas.”

“Oy. I don’t think the men are going to like this.”

“If this doesn’t go well, Sergeant, I’m likely to find several pieces of coal in my stocking this Christmas and next,” Collier chortled. “So I depend upon you to smooth things out as best you can.”

Snowden sighed deeply. “I’ll do my best, gov.”

“I know you will, Sergeant.” He replied reassuringly before redirecting his attention to the map. “To help you in that endeavor I chose to begin, here, in the northern districts. Not highly populated, it’s composed of residents unlikely to be traveling this time of year. It should easily be completed before the holidays. More importantly, it would allow an opportunity to work out any kinks in the process without undue stress to staff.” He glanced over at Snowden. “Did you mark off the names from the electoral register of those fingerprinted at the hospital?” The Sergeant nodded. “Were there any from these districts?”

Snowden opened the register and thumbed through the pages. A few moments later he shook his head. “No, sir, none.”

“I see…Well, Sergeant, time’s a wasting, so we’d better get at it.”

They located a table and two chairs in front of the electoral map. Collier gathered pencils, pens, and both lined and unlined paper from his desk and placed them on the table. “Now, Sergeant, let’s see what we can come up with.”

The next four hours passed by quickly. The two of them assigned responsibilities within all of the electoral districts and completed the framework of the how, when, where, who and why of the full operation. They estimated it would take five months to complete. Since the pool of people they had to draw on was small, scheduling of personnel had become the main stumbling block. The thorn in their side would be that all staff would have to do double duty to ensure completion within the time frame. Collier knew that this would draw the ire of many of them. January to May, generally a lax period before the onslaught of tourists, was when most of his staff booked their vacation. Now, all leaves would have to be cancelled until this operation was completed. It was decided that the staff would be informed during this Friday’s meeting.

Collier glanced at the wall clock. “You up for a late niter Sergeant? We daren’t go into Friday’s meeting without that schedule completed.”

“I’ll have to let my old lady know. She’d box my ears if I didn’t show up for dinner without telling her.”

“Can’t have that now, can we?”

“Any idea how late, gov?”

“No later than when it’s finished and we’re both satisfied.”

There was an earnest knock at the door. Sergeant Snowden was about to answer it when Corporal Dubin barged into the office waving a sheet of sketch pad paper high in the air. Arriving in excited, overzealous mid-spiel, his talk charged ahead of him making it less than intelligible.

“Hold on Corporal! Stop and get your breath!” implored Snowden.

Dubin took in a deep breath and thrust the sketch in Collier’s direction.

Collier recognized the face of the man in the sketch immediately. “I’ll be damned. Are you a Margaret Lockwood fan or a Michael Redgrave fan, Corporal?” he asked ecstatically.

Nodding his understanding, the corporal smiled at him. “I’ll get the car, sir.”Heading out the door he yelled, “Redgrave fan, sir.”

“You’re going to a movie? What about this schedule?” Snowden asked unable to hide his feelings of indignation.

“Can’t be helped, Sergeant. I can only hope The Lady Vanishes doesn’t mean our suspect has vanished too. I’ll explain later.”

Gathering his hat and jacket from the coat-tree, he exited.

After phoning his wife, Sergeant Snowden settled in for what he expected would be a very long night.

Part Twelve of Angel Maker: Hoping For A Break by B. B. Wright

Pipe and Pouch

Angel Maker

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).

Part Twelve

Hoping For A Break

Shortly after Captain Hall had shut the door behind her, Collier retrieved his pipe and pouch of tobacco from the side drawer of his desk. Filling his pipe he returned the tobacco to the drawer and walked over to the window. He hadn’t smoked in several months but as he drew in the smoke and purged it through his nostrils he found it soothing almost liberating in its effects.

Experience had taught him that the unexpected always happened and, no matter his attempt to deny it, he had self-imposed a discomforting litany of cruel possibilities for his son’s fate. He understood the difference between what he could affect and what he couldn’t. Still, he found it agonizingly difficult to not only reside in absolute secrecy but to relinquish control of his son’s fate to another.

He walked back to his desk and sat down.

Collier had no direct experience in the kind of battle Captain Hall was about to wage because her battle would be fought in the shadows of the garden of beasts. And the special set of skills of cloak and dagger inherent in her, he knew he did not possess. Yet, there was commonality joining them. It existed in the hot blood coursing through their veins and the shared knowledge that losing was far more dangerous an option than winning.

An hour had drifted by unnoticed since Captain Hall’s departure and he snarled at himself for allowing such a wasteful lapse in time.

The public and newspapers had let up somewhat on the Rebecca Grynberg Case. But, like hot coals, their stinging words had left their mark on the unsolved investigation. Now, with the Wardrobe Steamer Trunk Case, he had a second murderer on the loose and sparse resources for follow up.

Hoping for a break in at least one of the cases, Collier grabbed the phone book from the table behind him and began to slap through its pages, stopping long enough each time to record two numbers on his ink pad.

His first call was to the Bournemouth train station. Robert Shaw, who was the shipping agent, told him that November 16 was one of his slowest days of the month and, as a result, he remembered the wardrobe steamer trunk quite well. When Collier asked him if he could describe the person who sent it, he assured him that he could and went on to explain why.

According to Shaw, the elderly Scottish chap, who owned the trunk, was associated with the London Corinthian Theatre. This news had garnered great interest for Shaw because he had been one of the Theatre’s original members in the Cambridge play-reading group and, as a result, knew the Theatre’s founders: Jonathan Doone and Archibald Medley. The lengthy exchange of catch up history which had ensued between them ensured that the trunk owner’s image was securely locked in Shaw’s memory.

Assured of Shaw’s willingness to wait at the station until a constable arrived, Collier made his second call to Andre Bertillon owner of the Bertillon Art Studio located in town. Though a commercial artist, Andre was a damn good forensic artist, too. His sketches had helped Collier to develop leads with subsequent identification and arrests in three previous cases. He held his breath as he waited for Andre to pick up at his end. Christmas was only a couple of weeks away and he knew that Andre would most likely be short on time. After the tenth ring, Collier was about to hang up when he heard Andre’s voice. Keeping his conversation brief and to the point, Collier explained the urgency of his call while sweetening his request for assistance by suggesting he would add a few more quid to Andre’s usual stipend. A short squabble ensued over the exact amount to be added until Collier finally complied with Andre’s demand. Though the amount was greater than he would have liked, Collier was satisfied that it would be money well spent.

Hanging up, Collier called Constable Dubin into his office. He briefed him on the Wardrobe Steamer Trunk Case and then sent him on his way to pick up Andre for their interview of Robert Shaw.

Collier let out a long sigh as he looked at the map of Bournemouth on the wall opposite the window. His decision to have all males over the age of sixteen fingerprinted in the Rebecca Grynberg Case suddenly felt daunting. He knew, though, that if ‘Queenie’ was right, it might very well save the lives of two young Jewish children slated for death by the same hand that had murdered Rebecca.

Are ‘Queenie’ and her husband hiding those children and their parents? He thought. The porcelain doll and child’s blanket found at the Stoddard’s residence points in that direction. Or, are they already dead? Bloody hell! People as well known as ‘Queenie’ and her husband don’t just disappear into thin air without someone seeing them.

Pushing the intercom button, he asked Sergeant Snowden to bring in the electoral register. He was about to make what he knew would be a very unpopular decision. Scrooge would be the kinder of labels he expected soon to be thrust on him.  He picked up the phone book and threw it toward the door that Sergeant Snowden had just entered through.

Part Eleven of Angel Maker: Wish Me Luck by B. B. Wright

Kindertransport-children

Angel Maker

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).

Part Eleven

Wish Me Luck

 

“Whatever I tell you must remain between you and me. Do you understand? No one else must know.”

Collier slowly acknowledged his understanding with the nod of his head.

Satisfied, Captain Hall regained her seat and made herself comfortable before continuing.  “A little back history is needed first. In 1933, members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Reichstag voted against the Enabling Act which gave Hitler unlimited constitutional power. The result of the SPD’s action was that the Nazis forced them to disband and to flee into exile but not before they established a very sophisticated underground organization to oppose the Nazi regime called Roter Stosstrupp. Your son, his fiancé and some of her family members were being hidden by them. This was verified with the SPD located in Paris.”

“Were?” Collier interjected.

“Word has come back to us that recent widespread arrests by the Gestapo had forced Roter Stosstrupp to pass your son and his entourage over to the remnant of another group known as Neu Beginnen for safe keeping.”

She sighed deeply before continuing. “Unfortunately, most of the active members of this group have already been arrested. So, needless to say, time is of the essence before the Gestapo completely shuts them down.”

A knock at the door diverted their attention as Sergeant Snowden entered carrying a tray with a steaming mug of coffee and the necessary prerequisites of sugar, cream and spoons. Apologizing for the interruption, he brought the tray directly to Captain Hall and after she helped herself he placed the tray on the side table under the window, apologized again for the interruption and promptly left.

“Damn good coffee! Double thumbs up to your Sergeant.”

Collier stood up and walked over to the window and looked out.

“So how do you hope to extract them?”

“After the wide-spread pogroms of Kristallnacht, Chamberlain’s government worked out a deal with Germany in favor of allowing unaccompanied Jewish children to enter Britain as refugees. Parliament recently passed support. It doesn’t affect your son and his fiancé who are protected by their British passports but it does affect the children with them.”

“And the elders and parents they have with them, how does it affect them?”

“Only the children will be allowed to leave.”

Collier turned away from the window to face her with a solemn look.

“How do you fit into all of this?” he asked.

She looked at him for what Collier thought was a long silence before answering him.

“I’m part of the delegation traveling to Germany. The delegation is tasked with saving as many of these children as it can. This window of opportunity is brief and closing fast. My hope is that you will see your son, his fiancé and the children they have in their company early in the New Year.”

Tears swelled up in his eyes as he said: “Christmas gift…best Christmas gift ever.”

She finished her coffee and stood up and approached him. Her demeanor had softened slightly but her well-trained intelligence shot through like arrows as she scrutinized him.

“When I leave your office, Inspector, under no conditions are you to contact anyone about what we have spoken about. Lives will depend on your silence. For all intents and purposes, I do not exist once I walk out your door. The hard part will be harboring our secret while you’re waiting. I don’t envy you that.  Even when your son returns home, you must continue to remain silent.”

“Not to worry.” Pinching his thumb and forefinger together he drew it across his lips and said. “Captain, my lips are sealed.”

“Okay now,  we need to come up with a foolproof story as to why I was here if anyone should ask and I need to know everything about your son, especially the things that only he would know. I think you know why I need this?”

Collier reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his wallet; inside was a picture of his son. Hesitating briefly, he reluctantly handed it to her. “Keep him safe.” He felt a chill ripple up his spine when he remembered that those words were the exact same words his mother had said to him when he and his brother went off to war. It became a promise made that he was unable to keep. Along with the photo, he knew the words he was about to share with Captain Hall would act as his son’s passwords; they would ensure the validity of his identification and the safe return home for all with him.

For the next hour the two of them sat opposite each other at his desk while they worked out the reason for her visit and he told his son’s story.

When all was said that could be said and she stood at the door to leave, she turned and asked: “Wish me luck?”

Collier was too choked up with emotion to reply.

Part Nine of Angel Maker: Hamlet’s Ruse by B. B. Wright

Steamer trunk

Angel Maker

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.

Part Nine

Hamlet’s Ruse

Collier was preoccupied with a phone call from Detective Inspector Ellis Smyth from Scotland Yard when Sergeant Snowden popped his head around the partially opened door to his office. Waving him in, Collier directed him towards the two chairs in front of his desk as he swiveled about to open his notebook on the table behind him.

“So the dead man hasn’t been identified yet?” Collier asked Smyth.

“Not yet. What we have is a wardrobe steamer trunk that had been sent from Bournemouth on November 16 containing his body, the dead man’s fingerprints and a number of prints lifted from the trunk.” Smyth replied.

“There must be a record of who had sent it?”

Smyth chuckled on the other end of the line. “Funny you should ask. Does the name Shakespeare Hamlet ring a bell?”

“Oh…To be or not to be, that is the question…”

“You know your Shakespeare, Inspector. Check the train station at your end. My thoughts are that sending an unaccompanied wardrobe steamer trunk to Vic Station would be out of the norm. So, there’s a good chance whoever tagged it will remember what the sender looked like.”

“Will do. Could you courier copies of those prints to me? Hopefully, I can come up with something at my end. Any ideas about when he died and how?”

“Decomposition was quite extensive but the examiner figured three maybe four weeks. His neck was snapped. I’ll send along a copy of the autopsy report as well. You should have everything in your hands sometime late tomorrow morning. If something breaks, I’ll let you know.

“I will do the same and thank you, Detective Inspector.”

Turning back to hang up the phone, Collier noticed that Sergeant Snowden was still standing at the door. Beside him was a tall slender woman in her late twenties dressed in a tweed skirt with matching jacket and white blouse.

“Um…ah…Sergeant?” Collier stammered as he slowly returned the telephone receiver to its cradle.

Sergeant Snowden stepped forward and introduced Captain Hall

Collier couldn’t hide the shock that registered on his face since he had never entertained the thought of Captain Hall being anything other than a male. Clearing his throat, he recovered his composure and came around his desk to greet her.

Walking to him with a noticeable limp, she reached out and firmly shook his hand.

Her eyes were cold and grey like gun barrels that had him firmly fixed in their cross-hairs. And, as he released his grip, it was the first time he felt slightly unnerved in someone’s presence.