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.”

Below the Window by B. B. Wright

Window in Below the Window

Below the Window

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

“The warm wedge of light passing through the window washes over me as I sit in its glow reading my grandfather’s diary. My back rest is an old wooden chest that he crafted before he left Latvia as a young man in search of work.

Based on the stories I’ve heard,  grandfather was only eighteen when he began this journey. Homesick, hungry and often searching for reasonably priced and suitable shelter, grandpa worked at odd jobs scant in both money and time employed for over a year until good fortune finally smiled on him and he landed a steady job in Munich.

Then, according to dad, one day everything changed for grandpa.  For some reason, dad never elaborated on what he meant by that statement.

Though, by the looks of this page, grandpa recorded that eventful day in bold lettering:

Dienstag 02.35, Hackerhaus, München, 10. Oktober 1938

Tuesday at 2:35 in Munich on October 10, 1938.

Beside it, he wrote in German: I’ve just met the most beautiful girl in the world at the Hackerhaus pub and I’m going to marry her. Her name is Emma.

Wow! I wonder what she looked like at that moment?

As I brush my index finger carefully over each letter he wrote, I hope (and I know it’s silly) to capture something of that moment. Oh how I wish I had my very own time machine! I would…Come to think of it I already have one—his diary.

Still, I would have liked to have been there at that very moment when they first met..

Wait.

My grandmother’s name isn’t Emma. Who the heck was  Emma? To my recollection, my family has never mentioned her. Not even grandpa when he was alive.

Strange.

Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the next pages.

Nothing?! Only blank pages?!

Several pages have been ripped out. Why would someone do that?

Let me check now…there…toward the end of his diary there are more entries. But, it’s several years after the War. The depth of detail in those pages is quite mundane and sparse compared to his earlier writing. What once was written in stylish cursive is now… weak and poorly written. Whatever happened to cause such a seismic change?

Chores! Damn! I forgot.

I’LL BE THERE IN FIVE, DAD.

I wonder if there’s something more in this old chest. Hmm…How did I miss these tied up old envelopes? By the looks of them, they’ve gone through some real rough times. There are some photos, a postcard and newspaper clippings in this one. Well I’ll be damned! It has the year 1938 written on it.

Let’s see…If I spill the contents on the floor and spread them out,  it should make it easier for me to see everything at a glance.

Dad sounds angry.

I’M COMING!

kristallnacht-grandpaThis photo looks like grandpa… sweeping up broken glass below the window of a shop? Quite a lot of damage, I wonder what happened? On the back of this photo her name appears again: Emma’s parents store-Nov. 10.

I’ll leave it here on top of the chest. Maybe dad can explain what happened.

I’M COMING NOW DAD! STOP THE SHOUTING. I’M NOT DEAF.”

A rush of air fluttered through the photos and news clippings to haphazardly expose some and hide others when the door to the attic was closed sharply.

Kristallnacht3

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3137566548_1_2_nRXIOuYdGERMANY-HISTORY-JEWS-HOLOCAUSTkristallnacht Poster1400259330429185932Munich GrandpaHitler in Munich

The statement “Then… one day everything changed for grandpa” had much deeper and more profound meaning than the young person could ever have imagined. Though the October 10 date written in the diary was eventful it was not the “change” the father meant.

The pictures and news clippings begin to give the clue.

Who was Emma you may ask? She was the grandfather’s first love whom he lost one month after they met during a very dark time in history.

What will the dad finally share? Click on the bold underlined statement above to learn.

Angel Maker: Part Six by B. B. Wright

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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 6
The Hunch

Two significant clues had been discovered in the missing girl’s hospital room: a Winchester bottle under her bed with several fingerprints on it and on the highly polished floor the stockinged impressions of an adult male’s footprints. It had been established early in the investigation that Rebecca Grynberg had been the sole patient in this room.

Though the immediate objective was to account for all fingerprints found on that bottle, Collier, who recalled the hospital administrator’s odd sock combination, asked his good friend, Leonard Scoffield, who was the senior officer in charge of the forensic side of the crime scene, to check Becker’s foot size first against the stockinged impressions left in the room. Also, after he had cleared it with Leonard, Collier took the photo of the little girl with her family from its frame on the bedside table and placed it in his inside pocket.

Diane, poked her head around the corner to the entrance of the room and tried to get her uncle’s attention. Leonard noticed her first and directed Collier’s attention toward the doorway.

Massaging the taut muscles in his neck Collier walked over to where his niece was standing.

“Is everything alright?” he asked. “You have a worried look about you.”

“I see your neck’s bothering you. We do have Minnard’s liniment here.”

Shaking his head, he replied: “That foul smelling stuff? Nice diversion…You’re not getting off the hook that easily. Now what’s troubling you?” He cupped her elbow and led her down the hall away from the room’s entrance and into a small alcove.

“It’s about tonight’s dinner,” she replied, “and I can’t help but feel stressed over it especially if you’re not there to…support us.”

“Oh…I see. You’re afraid that you and Lenny might not be able to handle facing your mother on your own.”

She nodded.

“I shall be there. I promise you. But, if I am late for whatever reason, your Auntie Lila can handle my sister quite handedly at the first sign of trouble.” From Diane’s expression he wasn’t sure she had bought into what he had just said. “May I make a suggestion?”

“Of course uncle!”

“If I’m going to be late I’ll forewarn your Auntie Lila. You call her first to get the lay of the land and then me at the station to coordinate our arrival times. I think that should allay any concerns you may have. What do you think? Does it work?”

She wrapped her arms around him. “It works uncle!”

“We’ll tame your mum by evening’s end,” he assured her. “Now off to do your work. I too have much to accomplish by day’s end. And, again, congratulations on your engagement.”

By the time Inspector Collier left the hospital to return to the station with Constable Dubin, he was satisfied that Sergeant Snowden had everything well under control. This included securing the exits and monitoring the comings and goings at the hospital as well as a plan to ensure that all personnel were fingerprinted in the solarium

The actual fingerprinting of hospital personnel was the responsibility of Leonard Scoffield’s team who also matched and validated names and addresses associated with each set of fingerprints as well as the foot size of males. Based on the list the hospital administrator, Klaus Becker, gave them, there were over 2000 people—2017 to be exact—to be processed. At least a month’s worth of work to complete.

The sunshine and nipping chill felt good against his cheeks as Collier descended the steps from the hospital to the Wolseley parked at the bottom. Though he still felt some discomfort from his fall earlier on the same steps it had become quite bearable.

By the time Collier had reached the bottom of the steps, he had decided to follow a hunch that had been bubbling in his mind since he learned of the girl’s disappearance and ‘Queenie’s,’ recounting to him of her reoccurring dreams—though he would have described them as nightmares.

He directed Constable Dubin to make a detour to the local cinema rather than returning directly to the station.

The crowds from the Remembrance Day ceremonies had long since dispersed and the streets were relatively quiet as Dubin parked the vehicle in front of the Palladium Cinema. The unlit marquee above its entrance advertised The Divorce of Lady X starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier and Collier could see someone cleaning up in the main foyer behind the glass doors.

By the time Constable Dubin and he reached the front doors of the cinema whoever had been in the front foyer had disappeared and they were left with no other choice than to bang heavily on the doors with their hands to attract attention.

After several fruitless and loud attempts, an elderly gentleman with tufts of white hair on a mostly bald head and sporting a white handlebar moustache and work clothes appeared. Barely paying attention to them, he pulled out his pocket-watch, pointed to it and waved his bony arm for them to go away. Their persistent banging against the doors drew his full attention and forced him to maneuver his glasses from their strategic position just above his forehead to his nose. Once he saw Constable Dubin’s uniform he quickly traversed the foyer to open the doors.

“Sorry aboot that. Thae auld een o’ mines dinnae see as guid wi’oot thae,” he apologized pointing to his glasses.

“May we come in?” Collier asked.

“Aye o’ coorse ye kin.”

After Collier and the constable stepped inside the doors, the elderly gentleman relocked them.

“Ye cannae be tae canny.”

Collier smiled replying:”No you can’t. Best to be too careful than not careful enough.”

“Aye. Noo whit kin ah dae fur ye?”

“I’m Inspector Collier and this here is Constable Dubin. What’s your name?”

“Robert, Robert McTavish.”

“Is the owner…Harry Mears by any chance here, Robert?” Collier asked, casually surveying the surrounding environs.

“Na tis juist me. Cleaning up afore tomorrow’s matinee.”

Collier reached into his pocket and pulled out the photo. “Have you seen this little girl around here recently?”

Robert looked at it long and hard before answering.

“She doesn’t keek kenspeckle. Bit thae auld een see a lot o’ fowk while th’ week while this auld brain o’ mines doesn’t mind as weel as it used tae.”

“Too bad, I wish you had. Do you mind if we look around?”

“Na nae at a’. Ah will tak’ thae garbage bags oot back ‘n’ return shortly.”

“Thank you, Robert. You’ll find us in the lower section of the theatre.”

As Collier opened the doors to the theatre, he could hear Robert loading the garbage bags onto his trolley. Turning back he watched him wheel the garbage down a dark corridor to the back entrance.

“Tell me gov, did you understand everything he said to you? I know I had trouble following him.”

“Pretty much. The Scottish brogue was a daily part of my life growing up. My family on my mother’s side was Scottish and they often took care of me while my parents worked.”

“Do you mine gov if I ask another question?”

“Not at all.”

“What do you hope to find here?”

“I really don’t know, Constable, except that little girl safe and sound and hiding somewhere in here.”

“But why here?”

“For now, let’s just call it a hunch. Now check along the rows on that side while I check this side. After we’re finished here we’ll head upstairs to the balcony.”

Barely into their search the doors behind them burst open and Robert McTavish,  frantic and breathless, stood partly into the opening clinging to the door handles on either side of him.

“Mah god! Mah god! Come quickly! ” he screamed, pointing behind him as he turned and exited.

Tears swelled Collier’s eyes once he stepped out into the back alley behind the theatre and saw the child’s lifeless and broken body in a pool of blood. Unable and not caring to hide his emotions, he hunched down in front of her sobbing.

Dull as stone and open, her eyes stared back at him.

Angel Maker: Part Four by B. B. Wright

Unwanted Journeys One

Angel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) found in the text of the story.

Part 4

Unwanted Journeys

 

A broad stroke of salmon pink across the morning horizon was beginning to fan out and to dance among the silvery grey clouds. Silhouettes of chimneys atop buildings black as newly laid coal in a burning fire poked smoke into the awakening skyline.

Inspector Alexander Collier felt a shiver of apprehension as he closed the door of the Wolseley and looked up at the hospital. It reminded him of the one that once housed him during Christmas 1917. Strobe lit memories like unfettered celluloid on a reel gone mad dashed through his mind as in that moment he began to relive the constant rain and the blood soaked mud and horrific sounds of death that once surrounded him and eventually took him to a hospital  in Paris. Over the roar of death, in that brief illusionary skirmish with unwanted memories that were thought so well sealed, he saw and heard his brother, Joe, as they neared the crest of their objective.

Survivor’s guilt—Why me?—had ensnared him as he struggled daily to come to terms with the horrific days leading up to that November 6. 1917 day when the unfulfilled promise he had given to their mom lay dying in his arms while the battle for the crest and town of Passchendaele swirled around them.

The usual jauntiness in his step was absent as he followed Sergeant Snowden up the stairs to the hospital’s entrance.

When the cinema in Collier’s mind went black and its doors opened once again to release him into the fresh, uncertain clarity of the present, only then, did he hear Sergeant Snowden calling out to him.

“Watch your step, sir.”

Too late, Collier stumbled, hitting his knee against the sharp edge of the next step.

Sergeant Snowden quickly extended his hand and helped Collier to his feet. “Sir?…Are you alright?”

“That’s what I get for not paying attention, Sergeant.” Feeling embarrassed, he preoccupied himself with brushing away the dirt from his pants. “I’m alright,” he lied, feebly attempting to reassure the sergeant while rubbing his knee vigorously to allay the pain. “Carry on, sergeant. I will be more circumspect from here on.”

On the opposite side of the street and in the shadows of the closed shops, the outline of a woman nodding in his direction and motioning him with her hand to move on caught his attention. He would have sworn it was Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a. ‘Queenie’) but dismissed it as his imagination when he looked back again to find that she was gone.

Sergeant Snowden opened the heavy wooden door to the hospital and stepped aside to allow Inspector Collier to precede him.

Collier hesitated, took in a deep breath and slowly let it out, before limping across the threshold. As he stood in the open, empty marble foyer he remembered when a similar floor space had been at a premium and movement next to impossible. The paintings on the walnut grid wall panels reminded him of the ones he had forced himself to memorize to escape the smells, sounds and agony of the multitude of others, who, like him, waited for hours on stretchers for medical attention.

“Greetings Inspector Collier! A pleasure to meet you, a pleasure indeed! I have heard lots about you from your niece.”

Collier looked up to see a tall, lean, clean shaven man in a three piece business suit with an outstretched hand quickly moving across the foyer from an office beside the stairwell to greet him.

“And… who…are you?” Collier asked, shaking the man’s hand.

Collier reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out his notepad and fountain pen.

“Oh, of course, forgive me. My name is Klaus Becker. I’m the hospital’s administrator.”

“Are you normally here this early, Mr. Becker?”

Becker chuckled nervously and shook his head while unsuccessfully attempting to discern what Collier was writing in his notepad. “Normally I wouldn’t arrive until mid-morning. But…well…exceptional circumstances, don’t you think?”

“Yes…Exceptional. Do you mind?” Collier’s knee was throbbing as he pointed his pen in the direction of a small desk with two chairs a short distance behind them.

“We could use my office, Inspector.”

“No, this will suffice,” Collier replied curtly, hobbling quickly to the chosen destination. Relieved to be sitting and rubbing his knee, he waited for Becker to join him.

“Is there a problem, Inspector? You appear to be in obvious discomfort?” Becker asked as he sat opposite him.

“It’s nothing more than discomfort to give me a sharp reminder not to be inattentive,” he replied with a smile. “Thank you for your concern.” He rubbed his knee a few more times before picking up his pen and opening his notebook. “Now, Mr. Becker, when did the young girl go missing?”

“I was told that she was discovered missing during 4 A.M. rounds.”

Collier checked the time on his wrist watch and re-read something he had written earlier in his notepad. “How frequent are these rounds?”

“In the section of the ward Rebecca was located, they are every two hours.”

Collier looked at him quizzically.

Becker crossed one leg across the other and leaned back in his chair. “The frequency of the rounds depend on the severity of the problem. In Rebecca’s case she was well on her way to recovery from pneumonia. In fact, she was scheduled to return home by mid-week.”

“When were you informed, Mr. Becker?”

For a man so meticulously dressed, Collier was surprised to see that Becker wore mismatched socks.

“I’d guess shortly after 4 A.M.”

“Why did it take you so long to call the police?”

Becker sat straight up in his chair, shifted uncomfortably and with a shrug replied: “It’s not the first time a child has pulled a prank on us. I thought the little girl may have been playing some sort of hide-and-go-seek game on us. So, I directed the staff to check every possible nook and cranny where she may have hidden.”

“I see…So she was that kind of little girl?” Collier asked with a slight smile.

“No…Yes…I really don’t know. I was just covering the bases.”

“I see. We’ll come back to what bases you were covering later. What I need from you right now, Mr. Becker, is an auditorium or meeting hall that could temporarily house the staff presently on duty. Do you have something like that? ”

Becker thought for a moment before answering. “The only room large enough to do that, Inspector, is the solarium on the top floor. But, I’ll need to get to the intercom in my office before the shift changes to alert the various departments.”

Collier noticed that his niece, Diane, had just come down the stairs and was walking over to Sergeant Snowden.

“When do you expect the Grynbergs? Rebecca’s mother and father?” Collier asked.

Becker’s eyes went blank and he said nothing.

“I take it from your reaction that you haven’t yet informed them? Why?”

Shifting on his chair and looking away, Becker replied: “I thought that would best be done by the likes of you, Inspector.”

Collier looked at him long and hard before continuing. “I guess that’s a fair statement though I’m not sure what you mean by “the likes of you,” but no matter.  Is it normal hospital procedure to do that, Mr. Becker?”

Becker leaned forward and locked eyes with Collier. “There’s nothing normal about what has happened or the times we live in,  wouldn’t you agree, Inspector?”

“To my very point, Mr. Becker…still, I wish to know if this was normal procedure for all patients. Or, was it just for your Jewish patients?”

The small smirk at the corner of Becker’s mouth told Collier what he needed to know and he decided it would be unwise and fruitless at this time to pursue this line of inquiry. He noted it in his notepad.

“How many exits does this hospital have?” Collier asked flatly.

“Four.” Becker stood up and began to chop through the air with his outstretched arm as he turned: “North, South, East and West.”

“Well, Mr. Becker, before this shift heads home I need them in the solarium. It’s imperative that no one from this shift leaves.” He recorded the time in his notebook. “Why are you still here, Mr. Becker?” And, he derisively dismissed him with the wave of his hand.

With a deep sigh, he watched Becker scurrying back to his office and wondered whether he knew or cared that the time-wasting search he had sanctioned may have cost the little girl her life. Before he closed his notebook he wrote: Could Becker have had another reason to delay the call to police other than his obvious anti-Semitic attitude? Closing his notepad and replacing the cap on his fountain pen, he returned both to his inside pocket and stood up and with a slight limp walked over to where his niece, Diane, and Sergeant Snowden were standing. He took Diane’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze before turning to Snowden, who had already come to attention.

“Sergeant, no one can leave this hospital. Time is of essence. I need constables to cover the four exits.”

“Yes sir! How soon do you need them?”

“Four hours ago.”

Angel Maker: Part Three by B. B. Wright

Pocket Watch

 Angel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) found in the text of the story.

Part Three

The Killing Time

The front door opened and closed and Lila could hear the floor boards creaking under his weight as he made his way along the hallway to the kitchen. She glanced up at the clock on the wall and shook her head.

“Sandy,” she called out, “you sure took your time about it. I tried to keep your breakfast warm but I’ll make no apologies for the result. As for your tea , you’ll just have to wait.”

Putting on her oven mitts, she opened the oven door and pulled out a plate of dried up wrinkled bangers, eggs and toast and placed it on the table. She returned the oven mitts to the drawer and had just placed the kettle on the stove to boil the water when he wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the floor.

“Put me down you silly old thing before you do harm to the both of us!” she chortled.

He held his grip fast and snuggled into her neck showering it with kisses as he turned her around. “Oh how l love you.”

“You had jolly well better,” she giggled, cupping the back of his head with her hand and pulling him closer. “Now put me down. You’re making me dizzy.”

When her feet landed back on the floor and he had released his grasp she turned and looked up at him.

“Now that’s better,” she said with a lascivious look as she rose on the balls of her feet and kissed him full and deep.

“Wow!” He glanced over at the table while still holding her in his arms. “Breakfast can wait. Don’t you think?”

He undid the sash around her waist and let it drop to the floor.

She stepped back and playfully swatted him with the tea towel and said:  “Oh it can, can it? Not much of a leap to know where your mind’s going.”

“Nor yours with that kiss,” he replied, taking off his jacket and draping it across the back of his chair.

Stepping closer to her, he reached out to undo the buttons on her top when the high pitched whistle from the kettle on the stove conspired with the telephone ringing in the hall to shatter the moment.

Briefly, they looked at each other in exasperated silence and shrugged before breaking out in laughter. She then turned to make the tea and he trundled off downcast to answer the phone.

He let out a long sigh as he placed the receiver on its cradle. Slowly, he returned to the kitchen but stopped short of entering. Leaning against the door frame to the kitchen, he crossed his arms. “That was Sergeant Snowden. He told me he had called several times. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her back to him, she picked up the tea cosy from the counter and put it on the teapot before turning. “Sandy…” she began, biting her lower lip before she continued.  “Today of all days you should know why. You should be marching in today’s ceremonies.”

She placed the teapot on the table and waited for his reply.

He walked into the kitchen and put on his jacket. “Lila, it’s my duty. No one knows that better than you!”

“Duty is it?! You also have a duty to yourself, Sandy. Was it your duty that kept you so late this morning?! Tell me, Sandy, where did you go after dropping off our niece?”

He lowered his eyes and chewed on the inside of his cheek. “I was going to tell you over breakfast. ’Queenie’ I went to see ‘Queenie.’

Her eye brows rose in astonishment.

“What on earth for?”

“After Kristallnacht…I needed to…know…her powers might have told me, Lila, if our son, Richard, was safe.”

Lila sat down and asked softly: “And… you really believe she is able to do that… better than our contacts in London?”

He pulled out his chair and sat down and reached across the table and placed both her hands in his.

“No, not really,” he confessed, “but we’ve heard nothing and I really didn’t think a visit would do any harm.”

She withdrew her hands from his and looked at him long and hard.

“Should I be worried about you?” she asked with a disconcerting look. “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?”

“I’m neither cavorting nor gullible and my head‘s right where it should be.” When he saw she was about to interject he held up his hand to stop her. “First off, she’s never been jailed. She was arrested for fortune telling but that case was thrown out due to lack of evidence.”

“Sandy, you should hear yourself talk. No matter, it’s how the community sees her. It would not be good for your career if anyone found out. Surely, you know how quickly gossip travels in this community.”

“No one will find out. That’s why I went so early in the morning.”

He shifted uneasily in his chair.

“Lila, when have you known me to turn my back on a possible resource to help solve a crime, no matter how strange the resource may be?”

“So it’s a crime now not hearing from our son?” Lila crossed her arms tightly across her chest as she sat straight up in her chair.

He shook his head. “No, I was just trying to make a point. I’m still steadfast with the Home Office. It is the best and most reliable and logical choice to protect our son while he’s in Germany and to ensure Elsa and he return home safely. That has not changed. Nor will it.”  He took in a deep breath before continuing. “That telephone call, Lila, from the Sergeant…just changed how I now look at ‘Queenie.”

She nodded. “Go on.”

“A little girl has gone missing…from the Ward Diane works on.”

“Oh, Sandy! How horrible! ”

“Right now, all I know is that she’s missing.”

She cupped his hands in hers.

“But, Sandy, what does this have to do with that Mrs Stoddard?”

“Queenie, Mrs Stoddard, told me of reoccurring nightmares she’s been having up until yesterday. In it, a rhyme was recited by whom she called ‘a sinister man in dark shadows’ to a little girl. According to her, the scene and the rhyme reoccurred until the little girl was killed in a rather horrific way (which I’ll keep to myself) in her final dream last night. ”

“What does this have to do with that phone call? Oh, I’m not sure I want to know.” She covered her ears and looked away. “I hate these times.”

He gently pulled her hands away. “Lila, please, it’s important you hear. I want you to understand why I now look at ‘Queenie’ in a whole different light.”

Lila’s eyes bubbled up in tears as she nodded for him to continue.

He sighed deeply before continuing. “The rhyme Queenie related to me from her nightmares was: ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men- Couldn’t put Humpty together again.’”

“But what does that have to do with that girl’s disappearance?”

“Please, Lila, let me finish. She said she had heard it in the movie The Divorce of Lady X. But, I know that’s not true. When she told me the little girl’s name…Rebecca Grynberg…well…that’s when that phone call I just took from Sergeant Snowden sent a chill up my spine.”

His attention momentarily drifted toward the window over the sink before returning to her.

“There’s something else,” he continued. “And if this doesn’t send another chill up your spine, nothing will. She said she saw and heard all these dreams through the eyes and mind of that dark shadowy figure. She told me that she had felt his uncontrolled and raging sickness. Also, pasted across her dreams was a collage of young girls’ faces. And, she got a sense that these faces were somehow connected and carried some sort of meaning for him but that she had no idea what it was.”

“Sandy, she’s a grifter who’s put together a good enough story with just enough drama to suck you in.”

“Maybe you’re right. But I’ve asked her to come to the station later this morning to see if we can get a drawing of those faces in her dreams.” He reached inside the pocket of his jacket and pulled out Stoddard’s book Psychic Glimpses and pushed it across the table to her with a shrug and an awkward smile. “You might want to give it a read.”

Reluctantly, she slid the book toward her and asked: “Tell me, what did she say about our son?”

“That he’s not in the spirit world.”

The bridge of her nose pinched together as she tried to understand what he had just said.

“A huh! Grfter or not, I think there’s part of you who wants to believe.”

She rolled her eyes back. “Just get on with it.”

“It means, sweetheart, that… according to her…our son is alive.”

Mustering up a feeble smile, she then looked away.

The slamming of a car door told him that Sergeant Snowden had arrived. Standing up, he bent across the table and kissed her on the top of her head. “I’d better go.”

She wiped away the tears with the back of her hand and asked: “You haven’t forgotten, have you?”

“Forgotten? You mean tonight’s supper? No. Of course not.”

She nodded, trying to smile while fanning through Stoddard’s book.

He picked up the dried sausage from his plate and took a bite. “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Diane and Lanny are engaged.”

“Thank you for the forewarning,” she replied, still wiping away the tears as she followed him down the hall to the front door.  “This may turn out to be a post Guy Fawkes dinner, fireworks and all. I do hope you gave Diane our congratulations?”

“I most certainly did,” he reassured her, stuffing the remainder of the sausage into his mouth.

“I was so hoping to see you march today in the Remembrance Day ceremonies.”

“Can’t be helped,” he replied, picking up his umbrella from the stand by the front door.

”We both know that’s not true.”

“I don’t have time to argue with you.” He swallowed the last of the sausage. “About this evening, don’t worry about my sister. I can handle her. Bye, luv.” And he pecked her on the cheek before closing the door behind him.

“Huh…” she replied skeptically to the closed door, “said the praying mantis to her mate.”

For a moment, she randomly flicked to a page or two in Psychic Glimpses and read it before she walked down the hall to the kitchen and threw the book into the garbage.

Angel Maker: Part Two by B. B. Wright

Pile of Hebrew prayer booksAngel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) found in the text of the story.

Part Two

Chilling November Days

Diane Waumsley pulled her woolen hat over her ears and jacked up the collar on her coat to ward off the damp, chilling November wind when she stepped out of the vehicle. Before closing the car door, she leaned back in.

“Thanks Uncle Sandy. But…are you sure you don’t mind? It’s six…and…well …I could’ve found…”

Alexander Collier shook his head and smiled. “I appreciate your concern, Rebecca, but if I’d minded I wouldn’tve offered. I’m up much earlier than this most mornings.”

As was his habit, Collier was already dressed for the day in his 3-piece “London Drape” suit.

“But, Uncle Sandy,  it could be a week…Maybe more.”

“Be off with you. Your Auntie Lila’s waiting with my breakfast,” he lied, knowing that breakfast would not be on the table for at least an hour, “and I dare not test her mood so early in the morning.”

“Especially this Sunday morning,” she added, stretching across the seat and kissing him on the cheek. Her expression took on a more sombre veil as she asked: “Are you… sure you’re ready for today, uncle?”

Until two years ago, every Remembrance Day her uncle had shut himself away in his study and drank. Last year was the first time he had gone to watch the ceremony. She was proud that this year he would later don the uniform and participate in the march.

Remembrance Day ceremonies on the second Sunday of November each year had always been a difficult time for her uncle. He had never spoken about his experiences during the last World War—the so-called war to end all wars—but she had learned bits and pieces from her mom, his sister. Still, she never knew or understood why her uncle had not participated in the ceremonies. All she knew was hinted through family gossip and that it had to do with the loss of his brother, Joe, in 1917. As she grew up, she had come to accept that her uncle was a private man who contained many deep, dark secrets hidden in the antic of his mind.

He removed his Homburg hat and combed his fingers through his salt and pepper hair.

“This day…” His gaze drifted before returning his attention back to her. “Conjures up much that I would prefer to forget…But, it’s time,” he replied with a reassuring smile. “Now, wipe off that concerned look. Aye, I’m ready. I’ll do fine.”

Knowing that he had not touched a drop of liquor in two years, she felt reassured and squeezed his hand to convey her love and support.

“You’ll be coming to supper this evening?” She nodded. “Good. We’ve…invited your mom. I hope that’s okay?” he asked with a disconcerting look.

For a moment she didn’t know what to say and she slipped onto the passenger seat and closed the car door.

“I really don’t…”

“If your mom could have taken back her words…”

“What?! And have her lie instead?!” She interjected, unsuccessfully trying not to raise her voice and firmly folding her arms across her chest. “Obviously, she told you what she said?” she continued, her voice breaking slightly. He nodded. “I’m sorry uncle. But, then you also know that they were cruel, hurtful and anti-Semitic words against my fiancé.”

“I do… Wait a minute…did I just hear you correctly? You and Lanny are engaged?”

“A month ago.”

Taken off guard, he felt hurt to discover about their engagement this way.

“I take it that your mom already knows?”

“No! It occurred after our row.”

“I see…Well…Congratulations!”

He decided against asking why he had not known sooner preferring to wait for a more opportune time.

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” he continued. “He’s a fine young man. I should think supper should be interesting…very interesting, indeed,” he chortled. “Still, it will be a grand time to celebrate!”

He bit the corner of his mouth as he carefully thought out his next words.

“Surely, Diane, you know that your aunt and I would be the last to defend or support your mom in her beliefs. We support you. Always! And that having been said, you can’t solve anything without confronting it head on. I should know. At least tolerate her for this evening. Let’s see where it goes.” He shook his head. “Heaven knows how your mom came about to think that way, though I do have my thoughts on the subject. At least give it try.” He sighed deeply. “Did you know that Richard’s in Germany with Elsa.”

She looked at him quizzically.

He took in a few deep breaths before continuing. “He’s there to help Elsa get her family, her Jewish family, safely out of Germany. I’ve been trying to help through contacts in London. And, in light of what has just happened in the last few days, I’m deeply concerned for their safety.”

“Shouldn’t their British passports be safeguards enough?”

Collier shrugged. “Ninety per cent of the new reality in Nazi Germany is perception especially when it comes to Jews. If Richard and Elsa disappeared, they would be difficult if not impossible to trace. That’s why I’ve got the Foreign Office doing the best they can to keep close tabs on them. That may be the best and only safeguard my son and Elsa have got.”

“Have you heard from them?”

“Not since Kristallnacht on the ninth. I’ve been told that they went into hiding. So, your aunt and I are waiting it out. No news is good news…I guess.”

He adjusted his position to fully face her.

Contrary to his skepticism and logical disposition he had prearranged a visit (his second visit in two years) before breakfast with the psychic, medium Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a. ‘Queenie) to talk about his son. And, time was running short. Her book Psychic Glimpses, tucked away in his inner pocket, pressed uncomfortably against his chest each time he moved and acted as an unwelcome reminder.

“Diane, let’s get back to you for a moment. I understand how you feel about your mom, I’m not happy with her either, but shutting her out doesn’t solve anything.”

“It’s worked for me,” she retorted.

“Really?” he asked, raising his eyebrows in disbelief. “So does that mean you’re now not coming to supper?”

Her expression softened as she thought through her reply.

“I’d like to bring Lanny with me, if that’s okay?”

A broad smile creased his face as he shook in head in despair. “Diane…Diane…I wonder at times if you’re really listening. Of course you may. It wouldn’t be a celebration without the two of you present. And, I won’t take no for an answer.” He adjusted his hat back on his head.

“Good, then it’s settled. I’ll…we’ll come. Thank you, Uncle Sandy.”

The two them held hands tightly in silence before she finally exited the vehicle.

As she watched her uncle drive off, she was surprised to see him turn left at the intersection rather than continue straight through which would have been the direct route home. Giving a slight shrug, she turned and ran across the road toward the hospital.

Normally, she would not have begun her shift until 4:00 P.M. and supper with her mom would not have entered into the equation but the shift switch as a favor for her friend, Gillian, had changed all that. Fearful of sleeping through the alarm, she had had a broken sleep and felt tired. The thought of supper now with her mom made her feel frustrated and edgy and she resented this additional concern being added to her day.

Ninety minutes early for her shift, she still hoped to be running at full tilt by the 7:30 patient briefings.

Her stomach growled as she made her way up the steps to the hospital. Mentally, she chastised herself for not accepting her aunt and uncle’s invitation to breakfast. Maybe, she thought, it would have been a more ideal time and location to talk about her impending supper with her mom. She had forgotten that her cousin, Richard, was dating a Jewish girl. And, she was more than surprised to learn from her uncle that the two of them were now in Germany.

She hadn’t grasped the urgency of their mission.

Preoccupied, she misjudged the next step and stumbled but quickly regained her balance.
Composing herself, she looked at the few stairs remaining to the front door of the hospital and attempted to focus her attention on the day ahead but hunger pangs began to press her immediate needs like a thirsty day in the desert without water. Pushing aside The Observer newspaper that peeked out from her oversized purse, she began to rummage along its bottom.

“Ah! There you are you little rascal.”

Pulling out a Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp, she quickly unwrapped it and continued to traverse the remaining distance. Though, she had her toast and egg sandwich, sliced and wrapped, and digestive biscuits, the chocolate bar for the moment took precedence—a kind of reward for her just being here at this god-awful time—and she wolfed it down.

After she had changed into her nurse’s uniform in the locker room, she tucked The Observer under one arm, picked up her bag with the egg sandwich, biscuits and thermos of tea and headed to the stairwell for the walk up the three flights of stairs to Ward CH3.

She looked forward to using her extra time before patient briefing for getting her head together and to satisfying the grumbling needs of her stomach in the small lunch room off the hall leading to the nursing station.

When she opened the door from the landing onto the Ward, she was stunned to find the staff in frenzied panic. Whatever had happened, the staff was functioning at critical levels.

Her newspaper fell to the floor when she grabbed the upper arm of one of the nurses she recognized running by.

“Judith, what’s wrong?” Diane asked, alarmed.

“Oh, Diane…She was my patient, under my watch…she’s missing! Please! Let me go!”

Judith pulled away and disappeared into one of a series of patients’ rooms lining the hall on either side before reappearing and heading to the next.

“Who’s missing?” Diane called out, picking up the newspaper and stuffing it under her arm as she scurried after Judith who had disappeared into another room.

“Did you see anyone on the stairwell?” Judith asked when she reappeared.

“No…but…”

“Search the two rooms on that side and I’ll finish up along here.”

“Judith? Whom am I looking for?”

“Rebecca…Rebecca Grynberg,” Judith replied breathlessly, unable to fully avert her eyes from Diane.

“Rebecca? But…how? When? She was too ill to…”

“We know. We all know. Please, Diane, do what I asked. We’ll talk… later.”

For a brief moment the two of them stood in silence facing each other until Diane broke the silence.

“Then…if you all know…that…Judith, what are you not telling me?”

“We think she may have been taken.”

“Taken? Then, the police must have been…?”

“No! The administration told us to thoroughly check the hospital first,” Judith interjected.

Diane’s lunch bag crashed to the floor along with The Observer as if to punctuate the uncomfortable awkwardness that had suddenly been thrown up between them.

Judith knows I’m the niece of Inspector Collier, Diane thought. And, she still expects me to blindly follow these dumb orders? I can’t. “How long do you think she’s been missing?”

“No more than two hours.”

“Two…?! Let’s quickly finish up here so we can call the police.”

“We?! No! You can’t do that! I just told you admin…”

“Maybe you can’t Judith but I can and will!”

 

Dear Reader:
I do hope you are enjoying the story so far. There is much yet to learn about Inspector Alexander Collier and his family as well as the times he lived in.

The procedure used to eventually solve Rebecca’s murder would have been impossible in the United States because of the Fourth Amendment.

The unprecedented growth of discovery, technological and scientific (medical) advances we take for granted in our modern age often blinds us into thinking that this is always the way it was. The link (at “nurse’s uniform”) to the interview with Mildred Brown Shaw R.N. says otherwise. Her experiences, as a nurse in the United States during the 1930’s, provides rare practical insight to nursing during this period and what Diane Waumsley may have experienced during each of her shifts in Ward CH3.

Thank you for giving your valuable time to follow this series. Hopefully you will continue to enjoy the series as much as I do writing each episode.

Best Regards
B. B. Wright

Angel Maker: Part One by B. B. Wright

Palladium Cinema

Angel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) found in the text of the story.

Part One

All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

A heavy grey mist had settled over Bournemouth and since it was well past the ten o’clock closing for pubs and the last of the trolley buses had been docked for the night, very few people wandered about on its damp, cold streets. The doors to the 550 seat Palladium Cinema had been locked for at least an hour and the marquee which had highlighted that evening’s show of The Divorce of Lady X starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier had been plunged into darkness.

Fish and chips news wrappers and other detritus carelessly tossed aside from earlier that day blew about like tumbleweed. For an ephemeral moment the front page of the Guardian was pasted against a wall by the wind to expose once again what should have been a troublesome headline:

Germany’s Day of Wrecking and Looting
Gangs Unhampered by the Police
Synagogues Burned Down in Many Cities

A young man with a potato sack across his shoulders hurried along Fisherman’s Walk. Lamplight splashed his shadow across the Guardian headline like a stain as he turned into the alley beside the Cinema. He felt the limp, small body he carried in his sack stirring as the chloroform he had given her was beginning to wear off. Quickening his pace, he continued down the alley to the back of the building.

He laid the sack down in a sheltered area in the glow of the light from the lamp above the back door to the Cinema. Untying the sack he took out his knife and slit the sack open from top to bottom. Folding the blade in, he returned it to his pocket.

He liked his prey young, very young and their innocence made what he was about to do to her that much more pleasurable. She was more than just a receptacle to feed his needs; she was an unblemished treat of virgin purity. He sat down beside her and waited for her to wake; he stroked her hair and ran his hand along her white legs and up under her gown. He needed her conscious. He enjoyed their struggle and pain; it made him even more excited.

He had strangled his last victim but, tonight, he had planned a different thrill for himself.

Astride her and fully satisfied, he released his grip on her and stood up and fastened his pants. He watched her as she curled up into a fetal position, whimpering. And he smiled.

“Do you believe in angels?” he asked her softly.

Her nod was hesitant.

The sight of blood on her gown between her legs etched terror on her face as she looked up at him.

“Yes, I thought so,” he continued. “Now there, there, Rebecca. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He reached out to touch her but she pulled away. “I am an angel maker. That’s right. And, tonight is your lucky night.

He came closer and went down on one knee next to her.

“Have you ever played broken propeller before?” he whispered into her ear.

She shook her head and pulled herself in even closer.

“No, of course you wouldn’t’ve. I just invented it. Tonight you will be first to play it with me. But I must secure you to ensure the game is played correctly.”

He forced her to straighten out and took a rope from his pocket and wound it around her several times so as to fix her arms tightly to her sides. Then after several failed attempts, he finally stuffed her underpants into her mouth.

“That last bite hurt, Rebecca.” And, he slapped her hard across the face making her unconscious. “No!…No!…That won’t do! Damn! You must be awake to play this game!”

Several minutes passed before she regained consciousness.

“Good! Now we can play my game. But, first I must remove your ribbon so that your hair hangs loose.”

Removing it, he placed it in his pocket.

He grasped her slender ankles and began to swing her around and around, the speed increasing with each turn.

“Humpty Dumpty splat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great bawl. Broken propeller,” he yelled out and let go his grasp.

The lamplight over the door highlighted it all until the moment her small foot sliced through it sending everything into darkness as her head cracked against the brick wall.

He stepped closer to observe her lifeless body.

“All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, definitely can’t put poor little Rebecca together again. Now you are an angel.”

Pulling out his knife, he cut off a thick strand of her hair and placed it in a locket and returned both to his pocket.

His trophies of her hair and ribbon in hand, he returned to the loneliness of his flat to wait. He had no idea when the urge would erupt again or who would be his next prey. Yet, somehow in his socially inept mind, living on the edge of society, he understood it would not be long because he had already recognized that the time between killings was becoming shorter.