Sunnyvale by Barry B. Wright

sunnyvale

Prologue

Darkness surrounds him and lies deeply within him. Tonight, his approach to her bedroom window is stealthier than his previous visits. Because he has killed, the community has become alerted to his presence but they do not know who he is.

He draws closer to her home. Her lover’s car is parked in the drive. The light in the bedroom turns off. Satisfyingly, he nods. Soon they will leave. He glances at his watch. For once, they are on time.

The evil within him enhances and distorts his motivations. He neither understands why he does what he does nor does he care nor feel compelled to change its outcome.

The face of his previous lover swept across the desert he called a mind. Disappointed, he thought he had completely purged her from his life. No harm was meant when he had locked her in his basement. To him, she was a delicate and beautiful butterfly that needed his love and protection. But, he had been wrong again. Like all the others, her lies and mean-spirited ways had shone through. He had no choice. His hand followed the scar she had gifted him along his jaw line. He had tried. But, she had refused his love. Killing her, then, became easy and right. He took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. Now he had a new lover to watch over.

Cautiously, he approached the bedroom window. Like so many times before, this choice for his new love had left it open. The ambience of her bedroom was his eye candy. The perfume permeating the air was a gratifying delight, a banquet of celebration to her existence. This time he knew he had chosen correctly. He smiled to himself. Never since he had begun his “nightly visitations” long ago, and he had visited many bedrooms even while they slept, had he felt so strongly about someone.

His earlier voyeurisms of her led him to the correct dresser drawer. Opening it, he scooped up its contents and drank in her essence. Undergarments, closest to her skin, created sensual images of him peeling them off her. The thought of tasting her made him hard as his excitement grew to a feverish pitch.

A car door slammed. He froze. His heart-beat slammed against his chest. He took the trophies he wanted and carefully returned the rest. She must not know that he was there. Surreptitiously, he slipped across her room to the open window to make his escape.

He heard their angry voices surfing the warm night air. Then, there was silence.

Her key entered the front lock as her lover’s vehicle drove off. The quickness of her step surprised him when suddenly her bedroom door swung open. Her cellphone rang. And she turned away to answer it. If she hadn’t done that her fate would have been sealed. She would have clearly seen him captured in the wedge of light.

He did not want to kill her. That would shatter his dreams of being her lover. But, he was fully prepared to act on life’s unexpected twists and turns. Tying the length of her pantyhose in a knot, he stepped back into the darkness of the room and waited to discover her fate.

Her tone told him who she was talking to on the phone. And, he hated him intensely. A car horn beeped in her drive. The light in the living room turned off. Her key in the front door told him she had left.

For a while he lay on her bed in his imaginary world drinking in the smell of her undergarments, his trophies from this visit.

When he closed the window to her bedroom and climbed the fence into the field behind her property, he had made his decision.

Tomorrow, he thought, I will begin tomorrow.

Part Twenty-Two of Angel Maker: Out of Dawn’s Awakening by B. B. Wright

bournemouth-1277469_960_720The sun’s rays were just peeking above the horizon when Sergeant Snowden parked in front of Inspector Collier’s home.  Twenty minutes earlier than usual and without his second cup of tea, he was grumpy. What made matters worse, the local newspaper, The Echo, was not yet out, and that meant no cross-word puzzle to work on while he waited. He took notice of a black limousine, five doors down on the opposite side, containing three men. Glancing at his pocket watch, he mentally recorded the time. The sleepy slumber of the neighborhood encouraged him to do the same. And, with a disheartened sigh, he crossed his arms and settled back to wait.

He wondered why the Inspector would want to go to 29 Edgestone Road. That 2-story, stone clad house to blokes like him peered down with the self proclaimed majesty of a pompous, overbearing lord. In short, as far as he was concerned, the house and occupants fitted well together. That’s why he never understood how Collier and Suzanne Moodie had come to meet and fall in love; he was from the Working Class, and she…well she was from the snooty Privileged Class. He could only put it down to the old adage that love knows no boundaries.

Still… he mused.

As for her brother, Reginald, now that was a different story. He had been Collier’s Divisional Commander. And, based on the tidbits he had heard, Collier had held him in low regard. What little he had had completely dissipated in the mud mired madness of senseless slaughter and butchery during the assault at Passchendaele. Britain lost thousands from their best assault divisions; among them was Collier’s brother, Joe. Salt was rubbed into this grievous wound when he learned that General Douglas Haig, chief architect of the carnage and a close friend to the Moodie family, had awarded Reginald the Victoria Cross for Valor. Knowing it was not deserved, Collier had vociferously voiced his displeasure. Sickened by Reginald’s sense of entitlement, along with that of his family, he broke off all contact with Suzanne. She had continued to profess her love for him but, as the story went, Collier would have none it. He had moved on. It was around that time that he had begun to date Lila.

Before returning to the Front, Collier was unexpectedly promoted to Captain. He suspected the Moodie family had a part to play in it. Whoever was behind it or however it came about, the end result was that Collier spent the remainder of the First World War, out of harm’s way, in Military Intelligence, Section 6.

Snowden clicked his tongue. An uneasy smile formed at the corners of his mouth. Suzanne Moodie had never married. And, since her brother’s death, she was now the sole proprietor of 29 Edgestone Road. Unrequited love carried lots of baggage: bitterness and cynicism: melancholy and despair. And, whatever the reason for Collier’s visit, he did not want to be stuck in the middle.

He glanced at the black limousine ahead. Only two silhouettes now appeared in the vehicle. Were they part of the surveillance Collier had told him about? He decided to investigate.

The door to Collier’s home swung open and Lila stepped out. “Sergeant,” she called out, waving invitingly. “Come in, will you, and have some tea. The Inspector is running a wee bit behind this morning.”

Briefly, Sergeant Snowden continued to eye the limousine while acknowledging her entreaty with a wave of his hand. Fate had smiled on him. And the decision to turn back was an easy one. He would receive his much needed second cup of tea.

Werner melted into the shadow as the officer entered the Collier home and the door closed behind him.

He had been watching the three men in the black limo all night. They worked on two hour shifts. One of the men had entered the back seat to sleep forty minutes ago.

The sun’s rays continued to rise and scatter across the horizon.

Patiently, Werner waited.

Pavel was supposed to be one of these three men. The photograph and description left by Otto had been seared into his mind. Werner licked his lips. Today, he would dole out Nazi justice for the murder of his comrade, Klaus Becker.

He attached the silencer to his weapon. The key elements were stealth and swiftness. He wanted to be gone before the neighborhood was aware of what happened.

When a bright shiny ball formed by the sun reflected off the middle of their windshield, he casually walked to the front of the vehicle and fired.

Pop! Pop!

Dead fish eyes of the two men in the front seat stared back at him.

Pavel was not among them.

The third man did not do as expected and remained hidden. Werner crouched beside the front wheel and waited. He did not have to wait long. A splay of bullets pierced the back door. Werner grunted satisfyingly. The hole-pattern in the door told him the man was lying on the floor. Not wanting to lose his brief advantage, he quickly crawled under the vehicle and let loose a deadly spray of bullets along its floor-board.

Rising to his feet, he guardedly peered through the window.

The man’s bloodied head lay in obscured darkness. He concluded that the man was too thin to be Pavel.

The street had come alive with people.

No time to verify, Werner turned and ran along the alley from whence he had come. His car was parked on the street two alleys away. He glanced over his shoulder. No one followed. Still, his instincts told him he was not alone. He stopped. Blood vessels pulsated in his temple while he watched and listened.

Surprisingly, he discerned no immediate danger. Still, his instincts remained pricked as he began to walk.

An odd uneasy, deep rooted discomfort settled over him as he sat behind the wheel of his car. Experiential knowledge of any kind of feeling was never his long suit. He readily accepted his emotional impoverishment. Anyway, it had suited well the life he had chosen.  So when he shifted into gear, gun ready at his side, he was fully prepared for whatever life was about to dole out to him.

Slowly, he drove along the street. His eyes skirted side to side. Intermittently, he checked the rear mirror.

The neighborhood was slowly awakening.

Where was Pavel? Otto had told him that he would be there.

He saw no unusual activity.

Ahead, police cars herald their approach.

He waited for them to pass on the main road and, then, drove in the opposite direction.

Part Twenty of Angel Maker: Third Party Malice by Barry B. Wright

Man in the Shadows Two

Happenstance had changed Lynn Hall’s life. Her lifelong goal—a career in Foreign Service—had come to an abrupt end four years ago when she stumbled and shot herself in the leg during a hunting expedition in the Kizilcahaman District of Ankara, Turkey.

She glanced at ‘Cuthbert,’ her wooden prosthesis, lying on the table beside her.

The past according to her way of thinking was better left where it was, in the past, and forgotten. Still, the memory she wished forgotten clung steadfast and fresh as yesterday. This vulnerability was concealed by a carefully crafted façade.

Captain Hall was a controlling and cerebral person; emotion of any kind made her uncomfortable. It wasn’t that she eschewed empathy, quite on the contrary; it was more that she had never connected it to herself. Feeling sorry for oneself was a luxury that she could ill afford especially since war appeared more imminent.

Sullenly, she stared at the inflamed stump below her knee. Unaware of the tears that streamed down her cheeks, she continued to gently apply the soothing cream to her stump. Strange, she thought, as she examined it. My eyes have always been either closed or directed elsewhere. Why did I do that?

She already knew the answer in its fullness.

Placing the lid back on the jar of cream, she stopped what she was doing and sat back in the chair.

Time washed through her until no more tears could flow.

She glanced at the wall clock. Two hours had passed.

Gathering up several tissues she wiped away her tears, throwing the soggy ball into the wastebasket. With a deep sigh, she rewrapped her stump and attached ‘Cuthbert.’

Standing at the bedroom window and seeing her reflection she smiled and said “I’m okay now.” And she knew that she meant it.

A light knock at the door startled her. At first she thought it was her imagination until she heard it again. It was three in the morning. Had she awakened Inspector Collier and his wife? They had been kind enough to open their guest room to her overnight. Her face flushed with embarrassment.

In a barely audible tone, she called out: “Yes?”

The door opened slightly and Lila poked her head into the room. “Are you alright, dear? I don’t mean to be nosey but I…thought… I heard you crying.”

“Everything’s okay, Mrs. Collier,  I didn’t mean to…”

“Shush, no need to apologize.” Tucking her dressing gown across her chest and readjusting the waist strap, she broadcast a large smile. “I’m often rumbling around this house at the strangest hours, especially when Sandy’s not home.” She fell into a brief silence. “Nasty stuff about our niece…I’m going downstairs to make myself some tea and have one of those custard tarts. Should I count you in?”

Captain Hall nodded.

“Jolly good then,” Lila replied rubbing her hands together. About to leave, she stopped herself in mid flight.  “Would you mind starting the coal fireplace in the living room?”

“Consider it done, Mrs. Collier,” Lynn assured her, without the slightest hint of hesitation.

“Lila…please call me Lila.”

Lynn was stoking the fireplace when she heard the front door open and close. The rattling of dishes and the high pitch whistle of the kettle suddenly stopped. Splintering floor boards and low exchange of whispers melted away along the hall toward the kitchen at the far end of the house. Unable to decipher whether the exchange of words were happy or sad, she forced herself to concentrate on the fireplace. Hopeful that the news about their niece would be good, she crossed her fingers and continued to poke at the fire. The tray of goodies being placed on the table behind her startled her.

“Oh…I…” Lynn almost lost her balance attempting to stand. A sharp burning sensation traveled up her stump leg and briefly settled in her hip. She smothered the sensation to flinch.

“We didn’t mean to startle you,” Lila injected, proffering her hand.

“I’m alright, really I am.” She fussed with her clothing. “It’s so not like me to let my mind drift off like that.”

“We have good news.Though the doctor thinks it’s best to keep her in the hospital a few more days, Diane is alright. ” Lila wrapped her arm around Sandy’s and gave it a tearful hug.

The explosion at the Cricketer’s Arms had taken an emotional toll on both of them. From the moment the Inspector had learned that his niece had been found among the rubble, he had never left her side.

Arms fully extended, Lynn embraced them.

Happy tears flowed between them until Lila, stepping away and wiping her face with her apron, said: “I’d better finish what I was doing. I’ve decided we’re going to have a picnic right here in front of the fireplace to celebrate.”

“Picnic? At three thirty in the morning? You’re daff, girl,” replied Sandy in astonishment.

“Maybe so, Sandy, but nevertheless it’s going to happen.” She grabbed a large multi-colored knitted blanket from the back of the couch and thrust it in his direction. “You, two, move the coffee table back and place this rug neatly in front of the fireplace.” Satisfied that it had been done to her liking she turned to Sandy. “Remember, Sandy, what you agreed to in the kitchen. You’ve got five minutes. And I’ll set the timer to keep you honest. So make your minutes count.” With a large smile on her face, she scurried out of the room and down the hall to the kitchen.

Flummoxed, Lynn searched the Inspector’s expression for clarification.

Lila bellowed from the kitchen: “You’re on the timer now, Sandy Collier.”

During the ordeal of the last twenty-four hours, uncharacteristic bags had formed under his tired eyes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his pipe and pouch of tobacco. After he had filled his pipe and lit it, he began.

“Does the name Pavel ring a bell? A balding, possibly Eastern European, heavy set fella in his early forties with thick, round glasses.”

Captain Hall stared at him long and hard before answering. “Pavel Sudoplatov comes close to that description.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a NKVD operant. Up to recently, he worked only out of the Rotterdam area. But, about a month ago, one of our agents sighted him in London. We put a tail on him but he shook it off a week ago.”

“Any idea why Pavel would have been with the hospital administrator, Klaus Becker?”

“Is Becker alright?”

“No, Captain Hall, he isn’t. Klaus is very much dead.”

A brief silence reigned between them.

“Do you remember me telling you, Inspector, that the NKVD and British Intelligence are often at cross purposes? He nodded. “Well, this is one of them. And it’s a doozy SNAFU.

The timer in the kitchen went off.

“Otto Imhoff,” she continued. “I mentioned his name during the drive home from Lambton Manor the other night?”

“Wasn’t his coded signature on…?”

“That’s right,” she interjected. “Klaus was a double agent and he had discovered Otto’s identity. On the day of the explosion, he was supposed to transfer the dossier on Otto to me. Earlier that very same day, I received this envelope. In it was a letter with a riddle.” She handed him the envelope.

He carefully examined it. “Do you normally open at the side?”

“Yes. Why are you asking?”

“This envelope has been opened and resealed. As you can see here there are two distinct glue lines along the seal. By the way, how did you know it was from him?”

“By these triangular three dots, Inspector, in the upper right corner of both the envelope and note.”

He carefully scrutinized the riddle:

 

You have everything you need to solve this. There are 100 lockers each hiding a single word. You and 99 others are each assigned a number 1 to 100.

# 1 opens every locker

# 2 closes every 2nd locker

# 3 will change the status of every 3rd locker (that is if the locker is open, it will be closed; if the locker is closed, it will be opened.)

# 4 will change the status of lockers 4,8,12,16,20,24,…

#5 will change the status of lockers 5,10,15,20,25,30,…

Etc.,

# 99 will change the status of locker 99

#100 will change the status of locker 100

The words in the lockers that remain open at the end will help you crack the combination lock on my locker.

 

“Was this his normal manner of communication with you?

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Have you already solved this riddle?”

“I have, Inspector.”

“”…combination lock on my locker” Then, do you know where the locker is?” he asked, returning the envelope and letter to her.

She shrugged. “First time I’ve heard about it. I’ve been his contact barely a year. And the few meetings I’ve had with him, four to be exact, were at carefully chosen out of the way places.”

He chewed on the end of his pipe. Pulling aside the curtain on the living room window, he peered through the slit.  “Hmm… Perhaps you hadn’t chosen carefully enough.” He stepped aside to allow her to survey the street.

The figure she saw, as if on cue, disappeared into the shadows of the housing opposite.

She sat on the far arm of the couch, her shoulders slumped and facing away from him.

“There’s no time here for self-chastisement, Captain. Accept it, and move on.” He heard her sigh and watched her straighten up. “Let’s assume, like you, that they’ve already cracked this riddle. Then the locker location is the only thing missing.”

“Klaus was too careful to leave that kind of information lying around in his apartment,” she added as an afterthought. She heard the rattling of dishes coming down the hall. “If Otto was onto Klaus…”

“Then, there’s good likelihood that both the NKVD and Otto have you under surveillance.” Collier tapped his pipe on the ashtray and returned it to his pocket. “And, they think you will lead them to the locker.”

“If Klaus knew that he had been found out by Otto, and the riddle supports that, where did he conceal the information about the whereabouts of the locker? He must have thought it would be obvious for me to find. And something else, Inspector. Why did Pavel kill him?”

“Times up, Sandy Collier, open this door,” Lila called out.

“I fear that I may have put you and Lila in harm’s way. But, right now, there’s no time to explain, we must get to the morgue. I think I know where he hid it.”

 

 

 

 

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

1180476-snow-covered-country-road

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

Captain Hall turned on the overhead light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What code?”

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

“You took it? Was that wise?”

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

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

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

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

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

“What is?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Russians are part of this?”

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

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

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

He sighed deeply. “You appear concerned.”

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

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

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

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

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

__________

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

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

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

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

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a greater understanding and/or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted and underlined) sometimes found in the text of the story. From time to time, I may return to a part of the story to add the link(s).

Part Seventeen
The Trap is Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“American?” Werner asked, scrutinizing her.

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

“Your accent…it’s American?”

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

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

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

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

Silhouetted Man on Pier

Angel Maker

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a greater understanding and/or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted and underlined) sometimes found in the text of the story. From time to time, I may return to a part of the story to add the link(s).

Part Sixteen
Captain Hall Returns

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

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

“Surprise? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collier cocked an eyebrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And, my son, Richard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her cold stare unnerved him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Fifteen of Angel Maker: The Phone Call by B. B. Wright

200-phone
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 Fifteen
The Phone Call

Kindertransport—the transport of Jewish children out of Nazi occupied Europe—was underway. The first arrivals had disembarked in Harwich on December second. Blindly, Collier and his wife, Lila, had gone with the hope that their son and his fiancé would be among them. But, their hopes had been quickly dashed.

Now, two days before Christmas, Collier still had no word about his son and he was beginning to fear the worst.

He took another file from the top of a stack of files beside him and opened it; like all the others it contained paperwork that could have waited until after Christmas. Ephemeral diversions, they represented a feeble attempt of respite from the emotional turmoil that brewed beneath his carefully crafted calm exterior.

It was 4 p.m. This close to Christmas, Collier would have normally packed up and gone home. But these were not normal times. He had two murders to solve: Rebecca Grynberg and the man in the wardrobe steamer trunk. The week preceding Christmas and the week following New Year were generally set aside for staff  holidays. This year was the exception. During this period, all would follow a schedule of staggered hours designed by he and Sergeant Snowden.

Copies of the fingerprints found on the trunk—promised last month by Detective Inspector Ellis Smyth of Scotland Yard—had still not arrived. After several attempts to obtain them, Collier felt he was being stonewalled and it puzzled him. The lead suspect in that case, Robert McTavish, had disappeared. Corporal Dubin and he had discovered remnants of a well-used make-up kit exclusively associated with thespians in a trash can in the maintenance room of the cinema. Putting together the information from the baggage handler at the train station with this new revelation they quickly concluded that Robert McTavish had been a cleverly contrived disguise. Fingerprints found on the kit were too smudged to be useful.

Collier lit his pipe and sat back in his chair. Was his suspect, he mused, likely to have a repertoire of disguises similar to the actor Lon Chaney—the man of a thousand faces? That, he concluded, was too much to expect.

Collier had already accepted that the Meintner family had gone into hiding with Queenie. Fearful for the lives of their two children, Otto and Lise, time pressed hard against him to find them. Growing self-doubts and feelings of helplessness were beginning to ooze in.

He glanced at the electoral map of Bournemouth. The residents in the northern district had all been accounted for and fingerprinted. But there were no matches to the fingerprints on the Winchester bottle found under Rebecca’s hospital bed.

Collier purged the smoke through his nostrils. He had hoped for the impossible. Catching a break this early and this easily would have painted his Christmas with some color instead of the grey and black of growing depression.

His ruminations were interrupted by the phone ringing on his desk.

“Inspector Collier here,” he said, placing his pipe in the ashtray.

“It’s nice to hear your voice again, Inspector.”

“Captain Hall?” The words stumbled out of his mouth as he attempted to speak through the large lump that had formed in his throat. “My… son…?”

“It’s imperative that we talk, Inspector…Today…and not over the phone.” She insisted. “Richard and Elsa are safe…for the moment.”

“For the moment?” he finally managed to blurt out. “What the hell does that mean “for the moment”?”

Captain Hall did not reply.

“Well, Captain? Loss for words?”

Clearing her throat, she continued. “Have you come across the name: Werner Gruener?”

Collier reflected long and hard before answering. “I can’t say I have. What does he have to do with Richard?”

“Nothing, that is, until two weeks ago when Mrs Elizabeth Stoddard put a direct call through to… ”

“Queenie?” Collier interjected.

“We have much to talk about, Inspector…Much.”