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.

It Happened One Morning by B. B. Wright

The Path Ahead

It Happened One Morning

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

Black coffee is my elixir for the morning blahs. Definitely not a morning person, I am quite happy to hermit myself away in the den to suck on my over-sized mug of coffee and to read the morning newspaper quietly. It’s not that I’m a growly bear or anything close to it because I think of myself as being quite amiable and pleasant to be with during this time. I just don’t engage in conversation other than the pleasantry of an occasional grunt or nod. You see, in order for conversation to be even remotely considered by me, the cobwebs layering my brain must be fully dissolved and my body must be working more or less on all cylinders. Generally, this occurs after I have finished my third mug of coffee. I say “more or less” because conversation is often hindered by feelings of exhaustion brought about by the number of times I have had to pee. But, nevertheless, at precisely that point in the morning, I am ready, willing and able to gleefully meet the world head-on.

I had poured my first mug of coffee and picked up the morning paper from the hall table when I was distracted by a knock at the door. The bucked tooth Cheshire cat smile of Molly Beaverbottom beamed back at me through the leaded glass window of the front door. Unable to hide, I half-heartedly smiled back and opened the door.

Dressed in an undersized rainbow-colored tracksuit that did nothing to flatter her figure, she said: “Good morning, John. Where’s Julie?”

Juggling my coffee mug and paper with one arm, I used the other to thumb over my shoulder toward the kitchen.

Molly was someone I never relished talking to no matter the time of day. Her voice reminded me of nails scratching on a chalkboard and her chatter had the unpleasant sound of a very pissed off squirrel. Okay! Okay! I’ve exaggerated somewhat. But, I think you get my point.

As I watched Molly waddle down the hallway toward the kitchen, her thighs made the strangest flapping sound, almost like farts, which caused me to giggle. And, for the first time, I thought her surname was well claimed.

I had barely stepped into the den and shut the door when there was another knock at the front door. At first I ignored it until its persistence beckoned me to do otherwise. Slamming my morning paper down on the table beside my LAZ-Y-BOY chair, me and my Marvin the Martian mug exited the den.

Six boisterous and rather intimating women, whom I have never met before, barreled through the open front door causing my coffee to splash over my new shirt, down my pants and onto the floor. Without salutations and blind to the spillage, my mug initially had somehow captivated their attention. Uncomfortable to say the least and feeling like a stranger in my own home I was about to thumb them in what I thought would be the correct direction, when Molly, playing the part of The Pied Piper, whistled this herd toward the kitchen.

“JULIE!” I shouted, not making any attempt to hide my displeasure.

Julie’s cherub-like face appeared around the door of the kitchen: “Yes, dear?”

Oh how I sometimes hated her sweet angelic face and her lilting melodious tone. Especially now.

“May we talk for a moment?” I asked.

Stiffening my resolve, I had every intention of giving her a piece of my mind.

She glanced behind her, said a few words to whoever was nearby and came down the hall to me.

“Ummm…” I stammered.

As always, my resolve turned to mush when she looked up at me with those damn hazel eyes of hers.

“There’s paper towel under the sink in the guest bathroom,” she began. “I’d suggest you change your clothes. Bring them directly to the laundry room and give them a good scrubbing before putting them in the washing machine.”

“Julie? What’s going on?”

“You mean the girls? It’s my new yoga club. We’ve decided to meet here in the mornings, Monday to Friday. It would mean, though, that you would have to give up the den.”

“I would?”

“Yes. It’s the only room large enough to lay out our mats? And, I couldn’t very well ask them to do that in our dirty and dusty unfinished basement. Now could I?”

Julie’s logic per usual was impeccable. She had a way of blending in touchy history with a stinging remark without actually coming right out and saying it.  But her point was crystal clear to me.The history in this case was my misplaced promise to her to build a games/family room in the basement.

Guilty as charged and without any further thought, I gracefully relinquished the den.

“Later we’re going for a run along the path you and I used to run in the mornings. You know the one that…”

“That leads into the woods and comes out along the Port Credit River. Yes I know the one,” I interjected.

“Do you think you might want to come along?” she asked.

“I’m not in the greatest shape, Julie.”

“None of us are. That’s why we’re doing it. Who knows? Maybe your example will draw out their husbands.”

“M-a-y-be. Let me think about it. In the meantime I’d better clean up this mess and get dry clothes.”

“Before you do that, would you mind getting some dishes down from the cupboard over the fridge?”

Prying my way into the kitchen through the jocular squeals gathered at the fruit bowl table, I poured myself some coffee and looked around for the antique step-up Julie and I had bought over thirty years ago. I remembered that she often stored it in the pantry cupboard and, finding it there, I pulled it out and I set it up in front of the fridge and began to climb. When the top step disintegrated under my weight everything went into slow motion, from my fall, to Marvin the Martian smashing on the floor, to the startled look on the women’s faces.

Real time hurt began the moment I crashed onto the floor. Before  passing out, I remembered the weirdly contorted configuration of my leg still stuck through the top step.

A quick call to 9-1-1 and eight hours later I reentered our home in a leg cast and on crutches with Julie’s help. I was told by the doctor that I had broken my leg in three places and that I was to keep my leg elevated as much as possible. It was going to take several months of healing and rehabilitation once the cast was off before I would walk properly again.

Since the television was in the den along with my LAZ-Y-BOY chair, I had, without trying, recaptured the peace and quiet of my enclave.

Julie’s care for me during this period was nothing short of exemplary.

Two weeks into my convalescence, I had found a reputable company to build the room Julie had designed for the basement. “Her dream basement,” as she often called it was now underway.

As for the yoga club, well…somehow that had died as quickly as it all started. Maybe it all had to do with me keeping a promise to her and to myself? I’ll never know. But, I will not engage in hypotheticals.

I now get up two hours earlier to have my three cups of coffee and read the morning paper. Thanks to Molly Beaverbottom, I have another Marvin the Martian mug which she bought while vacationing in Florida and sent to me. Maybe I’ll make a strong effort to have her and her husband over for supper once they return. Who would ever have ‘thunk’ I would have entertained such an idea. Life’s funny in a strange sort of way, isn’t it?

Why get up two hours earlier, you may ask? Because rain or shine now, once Julie wakes up, she and I go for our run every morning on the path into the woods and along the Port Credit River. She has even got me into yoga. And to my surprise I like it. I even feel and look better for it.

The days pass by too quickly now. Our pace has slowed down and is more carefully measured. But when all is said and done, what is important to me is that Julie and I are together helping each other achieve their best in life.

Angel Maker: Part Eight by B. B. Wright

Nazis Enter Austria

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 Eight
Dicey Premise

Collier had unwillingly missed another Remembrance Day. He had hoped for new beginnings to his healing process but circumstance and devotion to duty steered him along a different path. The trauma of trench warfare and the emotional ties associated with the death of his brother at Passchendaele remained raw in his psyche and continued to insinuate itself into his well hidden daily nightmare. The killing he had done and seen had taken a piece of his soul that he knew he would never get back again. A product of his past, he was slowly learning how to live beyond just existence within its memories. But the glowing embers across Europe woefully interjected in his transition by casting its ominous shadow across the landscape. Feeling the fresh air of his hopefulness being sucked away from him he watched as the world plummeted into the stale, tangibly evil and sociopathic morass of failed yesterdays.

Aware of the orgy of anti-Jewish disorders in Germany and the wrecking and looting of Jewish shops and burning of synagogues, he worried for his son, Richard, and his fiancé, Elsa. The news out of Vienna was no better when he learned that Jews waiting outside the British Consulate in the hope of getting visas were all arrested—ten thousand in all—and sent to a concentration camp. Nationality did not matter. If you were either Jewish or a Jewish sympathizer, irrespective of your nationality, you became part of the roundup.

As it turned out, only one of Mrs Stoddard’s (a.k.a. ‘Queenie’) predictions had come true. Namely, Collier did find out from the Foreign Office that his son had likely been imprisoned either at Lemberg or at Posen near the Polish border. But, they had been unable to corroborate it. Collier had concluded that they really knew nothing about either his son or about Elsa and her family.

When he had inquired about Captain Hall, Collier had been unceremoniously cut off. When the Foreign Office had called him back a half hour later, he found himself the interrogatee to a barrage of questions none of which he could comfortably answer without revealing that his source was a psychic. And that he had no intention of doing. At the end of it all, Collier had concluded that Captain Hall did exist but learned nothing more. Whoever this Captain Hall was left no doubts in Collier’s mind that the Foreign Office had no intention of sharing it with him. And that pricked his curiosity even more since he now wondered how ‘Queenie’ could have known that name.

On the same day that ‘Queenie’ had told Collier about the Jewish family and the fate of their two children, he and Constable Dubin had gone around to the boarding house late that evening. But, to his chagrin, none of the families living there met the criteria she had related to him. He and the constable had then driven to the Stoddard household only to find it in darkness with the front door open. Within minutes of entering the home, they had quickly ascertained that neither ‘Queenie’ nor her husband was present. Their bedrooms and consulting rooms in disarray, whatever their reason, the notorious couple had vanished into the night in great haste. Fearful for ‘Queenie’s’ safety in light of what she had told him, Collier had sent Leonard Scoffield’s forensic team to the Stoddard household the next day to sniff it out for clues. Except for a porcelain doll and a child’s blanket found in one of the bedrooms, nothing of useful consequence had been discovered.

By the time Collier had finished that day’s investigation, he had broken a promise along with one of Lila’s ten commandments: “When you make a commitment, follow through with it.” Not showing up for dinner—especially this dinner—was the major gaffe on his part. And the Hyde who met him at the door had every right in his opinion to hold back nothing in her stinging rebuke of him. He had retreated into silence so as not to inflame an already volatile situation with weightless excuses. After all was said and done, he reluctantly accepted the fate that she had meted out and moved his belongings into the guest room. Other than the very casual of conversation, real communication in his household had become mute. He had learned later from his very irate niece Diane that her mother, his sister, had delivered a tongue lashing to all present that evening before taking her “anti-Semitic ass out the door.” It was a dinner that never was and he rightly blamed himself for allowing it to occur.

The coded message left by ‘Queenie’ turned out to be easy to decode. On reexamination, it had become painfully obvious to Collier that it was the QWERTY code; a code often used in his youth to keep messages exchanged between friends secret. For him, the circled one in the crossword had been the giveaway because it told him where to begin the alphabet: namely to place the A under the Q. If it had been a two or three circled then the A would have been placed under the W or E, respectively.

QWERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVBNM
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
AOSS DTLLTFUTK ITOS IOZSTK
KILL MESSENGER HEIL HITLER

When Collier had finished decoding, a cold chill ran up his back. It meant that another murder had been committed and it had not yet been discovered.

A month had passed and still there were no leads in the murder investigation of seven year old Rebecca Grynberg. The Divorce of Lady X, which had been showing at the time at The Palladium, had been replaced by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes staring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. People had become distracted by the approach of Christmas and by the heightening tensions with Germany as the possibility of war grew more likely since Hitler’s successful diplomatic coup over their Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, for control of The Sudetenland in October. As a result, the news worthiness of her murder had slipped from the front page of The Echo to languish in the inner folds of the paper.

In a way, the police were happy to see this shift in attention since it gave them a reprieve from the enormous public pressure to solve this heinous crime. But, the shift in public attention neither lessened their efforts nor did it allay the emotions that ran hot in the precinct. It was these pitched emotions that Inspector Collier feared could potentially shroud good police diligence with lapses in judgment stained by expediencies and improprieties. As a result, he tightened his grip on the investigative process.

Accepting what ‘Queenie’ had told him about the murderer being a resident of Bournemouth, Collier began to formulate a method to catch him. He knew its application would be exhausting for his limited personnel; if it worked, though, its science would be irrefutable in a court of law. Unfortunately, the premise was dicey since it was based on the comment of a psychic. Nevertheless, he decided to forge ahead with his plan.

To catch this murderer, Collier had decided to widen the search and to fingerprint the whole adult, male population of Bournemouth over the age of sixteen. Using the electoral register as a guide, the police would go house to house fingerprinting. Anyone who had left the area or who had travelled abroad would also be included. So as not to alert the murderer, The Echo and surrounding newspapers would be asked not to report on it.

Collier had not had a good night’s sleep since becoming a nightly outcast to the guest bedroom. He had hoped with Christmas approaching and with the family traditions surrounding it that civility would once again reign within their household. But, Lila had still not budged from her position and remained non-communicative. With no resolution in sight, Collier unwillingly resigned himself to the impasse. Though possible solutions seemed few and far between, he nevertheless knew he had to find a solution, and soon. So, he decided that he would phone Lila later to tell her that he needed time to think through their situation and in order to do that he would be staying overnight in his office. He had already decided to risk the gossip likely to erupt when he used the local Bathhouse to clean up the next morning.

Rocking to and fro in his chair, Collier shifted his attention back to his plan to capture the murderer when his intercom buzzed. Rolling his chair closer, he flipped open the switch. “Yes…Sergeant?”

“There’s a Captain Hall here to see you, sir.”

Trolling with Wordsworth by B. B. Wright

Trolling with Wordsworth

Trolling with Wordsworth

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

 

Hardly able to contain myself, I stepped down from the driver’s side and took in several heaping lungfuls of the sweet pine air. Memories of my childhood made me giggle in its rush.

“It feels so good to be here again. Don’t you think, Julie? It’s been far too long. Aaah-oooooooooooooh! Aaah-ooooooooooooooh!”

“What the hell are you doing?” She asked as she exited the passenger side of the vehicle.

“It’s my wolf call.”

“I guessed that. But w-h-y? Do you think that’s wise?”

Having a low tolerance for such tomfoolery, I assumed she was somewhat discombobulated by my attempt at mimicry.

“Wise? It has nothing to do with being wise. It’s all about letting go and embracing the moment, Julie. Anyway, there aren’t any wolves in the area…I don’t think. Do you hear it?”

“What? That distant howling?” And, with a dismissive wave, she headed to the back of the SUV.

“I don’t hear any howl…Oh…I see…you’re just joshing me. You’d think I would have learned after forty years of marriage.” Joining her, I said: “Julie, just stop and listen for a moment.”

“What am I suppose to hear?” she asked as she opened the trunk of the van.

“Nothing. Only the serenity of silence and nature. And those smells! Aren’t they wonderful?”

Her askance look bellowed ‘ARE YOU CRAZY OR SOMETHING?’

“Julie, why don’t we leave the unpacking till later, eh? And run down to the dock?”

“Run? Down that rocky path?” She asked, cocking her head in the direction of the pathway. “You’ve got to be kidding?! You are kidding aren’t you? You’re not are you?!”

“Okay! Okay! I get it! Not run then. We’d go… carefully. It could be a serendipitous moment. What do ye say?”

The call of a loon caught our attention and for a moment we stood in silence listening until Julie piped up with: “I’m starving, you know? It’s long past my lunch time.”

I broke out into a cold sweat.

Unfortunately for me, I’d been on the wrong end of Julie’s mood swings when, in the blink of an eye, I’d seen her change from Jekyll to Hyde. And, it always starts with “I’m starving.”

My thoughts are already rushing ahead to ‘circling the wagons’ and screaming: FEED HER! FEED HER, NOW! AND QUICKLY!

Tentatively I asked: “Julie? There is a barbeque at the dock and we could cook that partial package of wieners we have in the cooler on it?”

Immediately, she stopped pulling out her suitcase.

I had struck the right chord.

“Picnic?” she queried.

Breathing a sigh of relief and trying to contain my excitement over this totally unexpected possibility, I replied: “Yes dear…a picnic.” Eagerly, I pulled out the cooler and set it on the ground. “We can use the picnic table already down there to eat on.”

“We’ll need a table cover to put the plates on, John.”

“It should still be in the boathouse. Let’s go.”

Twenty minutes later, we had finished our lunch of hotdogs and salads. Or at least Julie had. As for me, I was tucking away my third dog while I watched her place the lids back on the salad containers.

The lake was as smooth as glass and it was early enough in the season that the lake wasn’t abuzz with motorboats and the general busyness of cottagers.This was the opportunity I was waiting for: a romantic row on the lake. I had even remembered to tuck a collection of Wordsworth poetry in my pocket for the occasion.

“Julie? Once you’ve put the salads in the cooler, why don’t we take a row on the lake?”

“That sounds wonderful, John.”

“Well…there is a hitch.”

“A hitch?”

“Ah…yes…You’ll need to do the rowing.”

Her look was less surprised than it was darn right scary. The kind of look which shouted: IF I COULD KILL YOU RIGHT NOW I WOULD.

“Only initially,” I continued. “You see I have a romantic surprise for you. And I’ll need to sit at the back of the boat to do it justice.”

After a few awkward moments entering the boat, the two of us took up our positions, she at the oars and me at the stern, and pushed away from the dock. Five minutes out, I retrieved my small, telescopic fishing rod from my inner pocket and unrolled the line with the fly I had tied from the previous evening. From my other pocket I pulled out the first page of poetry entitled Love from my shirt pocket and, as I trolled, I began to read it to her:

“All Thoughts, all Passions, all Delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal Frame,
All are but Ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.”

A momentary tug at my fishing line interrupted my reading. Testing the line I decided it was a false alarm and I continued to read:

“Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the Mount I lay
Beside the Ruin’d Tower…”

And, I thought, this moment could not be better: Wordsworth and fishing.

“Isn’t this romantic Julie?”

“URRRRRGH !”

Angel Maker: Part Seven by B. B. Wright

A Storm is Brewing

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 Seven
The Gathering Storm

 

Preoccupied with the disturbing crime scene he had just left, Alexander Collier made his way down the hall to his office oblivious to the pitter-patter of shoes following closely behind him.

Leonard Scoffield and some of his team had been pulled from fingerprinting hospital staff to process the crime scene in the back alley of the cinema while the remainder of Leonard’s team at the hospital had been placed under the command of Sergeant Snowden.

Collier wrapped his hand around the doorknob just about to enter his office when he was startled by a brisk tap on his shoulder. Turning, he came face to face with the classified section of The Echo held up by a rather agitated ‘Queenie.’

His eyes gave it away immediately to her. “Oh…” Her hand which was holding the classified section dropped to her side. “This is one of those times I wish that I had been wrong. I can see that you’ve found her.”

Collier slowly nodded: “Yes…she was where you dreamed she would be. But…How…?” Abruptly he waved off the question and stepped aside to let her in.

“Then what I have here takes on a higher degree of urgency,” she continued, slipping past him into his office.

“How can I help you, Mrs Stoddard? …Please…here…sit down,” he encouraged. His encouragement was nothing short of insincere since she was the last person he wanted to see at this moment. He pulled out the chair in front of his desk. “I’ll make us some tea.”

Still standing she retorted: “I don’t give a sausage about the tea, Inspector” And, she slammed the classified page down on his desk. “The lives of two little children are at stake and I have no idea how long we have before…he kills them.” Her eyes frantically skirted his desk in search of a writing utensil and finding a worn down pencil she picked it up and circled an address. “They’re here at this boarding house.”

Turning on the kettle, he sighed deeply. When he replied, he did not attempt to hide his incredulity: “How could you possibly know such a thing?” Mentally he chastised himself for even remotely believing in her predictive powers.

“Inspector, I’m a medium. And a damn good one I might add. This is what I do. Why would you have visited me early this morning if you had thought otherwise?”

Collier had attended his share of murder scenes but the murder of small children had been especially heinous and most difficult for him to shake off.

Unable to provide ‘Queenie’ with an answer that even he could remotely accept, he decided to listen further.

The eyes of the dead girl staring back at him continued to haunt him as he picked up the classified section and looked at the location ‘Queenie’ had circled: “Point made, Mrs Stoddard… Continue.”

“The man is pure evil, Inspector. He is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I know you are skeptical of me but we do agree that he is real and so are his murderous intentions.”

He nodded his agreement.

She took the page from him and spread it out on his desk. “There are two small children, a boy and a girl, at this location. I don’t know the family’s name but I’m almost certain that they are Jewish. He’s going to kill both of those little children. I think he thought I was blocked out when he circled that rooming house. And, there’s something else.”

She opened her purse and handed him a small pocket notebook size sheet of lined paper. On it, she had written: AOSS DTLLTFUTK ITOS IOZSTR.

“What’s this?”

‘Queenie’ shrugged and shook her head. “It was written beside the cross-word. The one was circled in the puzzle, also. After that he blotted me out singing ad nauseam some Irish ditty.”

She had decided not to mention to Collier that the murderer had got into her head. A chill went up her spine when she remembered the image he had sent her of her impending murder. The focus had to be on saving the two children. Not on her. For the moment she felt relatively safe since the murderer didn’t know who she was. But she knew that that would only last for a short time until he discovered that she was the only medium in the Bournemouth area.

The whistle on the kettle heralded that the water was boiled.

Collier poured some of the water into the tea pot and swished it around before pouring it out.

“Are you sure you don’t want a cup?” he asked looking back at her. Seeing her nod, he reached for another cup. “Mrs Stoddard,” he began as he busied himself making the tea, “why should I believe or for that matter why should anyone believe anything you say? This business of who is in whose head is difficult to swallow. Don’t you agree? You see my dilemma, Mrs Stoddard, is that I must be able to justify my decisions. Always.” He tested the tea to ensure that it had been brewed just right. Putting the tea-cosy on the tea pot he poured the tea. “You still take two sugar and milk?”

“I’ve learned to do without,” she replied, sitting down.

“I too, or should I say my wife encouraged…no…insisted on it,” he chuckled as he patted at his waistline.

Collier passed the cup and saucer across to her before sitting behind the desk. And, for a long time the two of them sat opposite each other without saying a word as they drank their tea.

Finally, ‘Queenie’ leaned forward and said: “I recollect him saying something about a mission.”

In light of the unsettled political and military conditions in Europe, the word “mission” conjured up a number of troublesome thoughts as Collier pressed forward against his desk.”Mission? What mission?”

This conversation was beginning to make him feel uncomfortable as he felt his rational, no nonsense thinking was on a sharply descending and slippery slope. He did not believe in the powers inherent in this medium or any medium no matter how contradictory at the moment that statement appeared and he had no intention of becoming loony like her.

‘Queenie’s’ forehead became deeply furrowed with concern for the fate of the children.

She pushed her empty tea cup toward Collier and asked: “Would you mind? It might help me…find more clarity.”

Collier refilled her cup and placed it in front her then regained his seat.

She took a long sip and then slouched down and tried to pluck from her memory anything that might have defined the mission.

When she sat bolt upright it was obvious to Collier by her demeanor and facial expression that a light had definitely clicked on in her head.

“Does the name Eberhart Von Stohrer mean anything to you?”

Collier sat back in his chair massaging his chin.

“He’s the recent German Rumanian ambassador,” he said after much thought. “If my memory serves me correctly, there was a failed attempt to assassinate him about a month ago. Why? “

“Well…it has to do with that attempt on Stohrer’s life. Some kind of revenge is my guess.”

She quickly finished her tea and stood up.

“On another point,” she added, “I’ve had a lot of thoughts and images about your son since we met this morning.”

“Uh-Huh. “ Collier picked up the pad of paper with the coded message written on it. As he perused it, Lila’s words from earlier that morning echoed through his mind: “Should I be worried about you? It’s not like you to cavort with the likes of her. My god! She’s been in jail. She’s known for swindling gullible people. Where’s your head, Sandy?”

“Inspector?”

Collier glanced up from his preoccupation with the code with a disturbed look on his face. “Yes, Mrs Stoddard. I’m listening, ” he lied.

“You will be receiving a phone call later today from Home Office about your son. There is a Captain Hall you will soon want to meet that may be able to find him.”

“Now wait a minute, Mrs Stoddard…how could you possibly…?”

“Inspector, please don’t finish that question,” she interjected. “Let what I just said unfold first. Perhaps then you will see me through a different set of eyes. And by the way, you’re not going loony. It’s perfectly natural what you’re experiencing.”

She began to walk toward the door but stopped and turned around.

“I am very sorry for what happened to that little girl but please don’t let your personal bias against me cloud your judgment. Because if you do, you will be sending those two children to their death,” she implored, pointing at The Echo’s classified section on his desk. “Oh…and there’s something else, Inspector. His fingerprints won’t be found among the hospital staff. But I can assure you that he is a resident of Bournemouth.”

“Before you go, Mrs Stoddard, may I ask you something on an unrelated matter?”

“Nothing is really unrelated, Inspector. But if it’s about your supper today, your niece and her mother will never see eye to eye but they will agree to disagree.”

Dumbfounded by what had just occurred, Collier stared at the closed door for a long time after she had gone.

Everything for Collier had suddenly become more complicated. With ‘Queenie’s’ revelations, he was not only trying to find a murderer now but he was also caught up in a race against time to find and protect that Jewish family and to decipher a code.

 

My Mind’s Eyes by B. B. Wright

Picture is a Thousand Words

A picture says a thousand words but what if I were blind?

Would the photo framed and hanging there keep its words confined?

If I were born that way, how would each image be assigned?

Images formed in my mind must certainly be redesigned.

Touch would guide my mind if I were so inclined.

But distant nature’s best can only be aligned

Through the carefully crafted words on an artist’s canvass assigned.

Gently she takes my hand an elixir in demand

And guides me along the path to the very spot behind

Where shutter and lens defined

That very picture consigned.

Earthy smells and craggy ground combined

Lift my mind to distant echoed sounds entwined

To form complex images perhaps unclear to many in their design.

Nevermind!

It does not matter because the picture is solely mine.