Part Nineteen of Angel Maker: Cricketers Arms by B. B. Wright

Bournemouth Pub Explosion in Angel Maker

Famished and well past noon, Diane Waumsley parked her bike outside the Cricketers Arms on Winham Road. Securing the bike with her combination lock, she entered the pub.

She wore a woolen sweater with a slight roll at the neck and flared pants. One pant leg had been tied off to prevent it from becoming ensnared in the bicycle chain. A bob of her long hair was enclosed in a loosely knitted snood which held it close to her nape.

It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dim interior. There were booths on both sides and tables in front of her. The smell of spilt beer and fish and chips permeated the air. Her stomach gurgled. It was busier than she expected.

Someone at one of the tables called out: “Don’t be shy lass, come in and sit with me,” he suggested, patting his lap.

“Put a sock in it, Gordie. Leave the girl alone,” the bartender bellowed from the bar. “Or you’ll be out on your duff.”

It was a straight bar counter painted brown with thick yellow imitation graining on the front panels. Four yellowish white china handles with shiny brass atop stood up from its counter. Behind the bar rows of bottles and glasses reflected themselves on shelves along a large mirror.

The bartender-proprietor leaned on the counter. “What can I do for you young lady?” he asked, watching her approach him.

“Have you got a menu?” Diane asked.

A broad smile filled his face. “Nothing fancy here,” he replied. “That’s it…” he continued, thumbing toward the sign beside the bar. “But…”

The signage written in chalk read: Fish and chips, BLT and ham sandwich.

He came around the bar and erased the first two. “We’re fifteen minutes away from the two thirty closing,” he said with a shrug. He waited for her reply.

“Two, then, please, wrapped to go.” she replied.

A heavy set man strolled into the bar with a box under his arm. Before he sat at one of the booths he tilted his cap; the bartender-proprietor returned his salutation with a slight dip of his head.

“Two ham sandwiches it is. You must be hungry?” She nodded. Distracted by a group of men at the far table he yelled out: “Enough there… you blokes finish up and get on your way. As for the rest of you, the same goes. I want you all gone by the time I return. He smiled at her. “We’ll see what we can put together for you out back.”

Pressing his fists in on either side of his waist he put on the stiff, stern demeanor of a drill sergeant and waited until the tables began to clear. The pub almost empty of clientele, he disappeared along the hall beside the bar.

“Miss Waumsley? What a surprise. Please, join us.”

This unexpected and familiar voice took her by surprise. She glanced at the mirror. Klaus Becker’s reflection greeted her from around the arm of one of the booths. She turned to face the hospital administrator. Not knowing what to say, she nodded and smiled back. He continued to beckon her to join him. Half looking back for the bartender, she walked to his table.

“What a coincidence, we were just talking about you…I mean your uncle,” Klaus said cheerily. “Do you normally come here?”

“No, it’s my first time.” She glanced back at the bar. “Actually, I’m on my way to see him and I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“Forgive my rudeness, this is my friend Pavel. He’s come all the way from Murmansk. Are you sure you don’t want something to eat, Pavel. Maybe I can get this establishment to put together something for you.”

Pavel declined.

On the table was a handsome box of chocolates with the Ukrainian crest on it. Klaus noticed Diane eyeing it. “Perhaps you and Inspector Collier might like some?” He reached out to undo the wrapping when Pavel’s hand stopped him.

“I do have another box, Klaus. If you’ll tell me where to have it delivered, I’ll send it around today.” He glanced at his watch. “Now, I really must go. Supper at Bournemouth pier this evening is set, Klaus. There’s nothing you need to do. I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Waumsley.” He said standing. “I’m sorry it had to be so short. ” As he shook her hand, his attention was diverted behind her. “I think your sandwiches may be ready. Remember to always do what the bartender tells you, it could mean the difference between life and death,” he chortled.

“Pavel, what a strange thing to say,” complained Klaus. “Explain yourself.”

“All I’m saying is that a great deal can be learned from listening. Unfortunately most people don’t listen but bartenders generally do.”

“Here’s to listening then.” Klaus agreed and lifted his glass of Burton in salute.

Pavel smiled, bade Klaus farewell, and exited the pub.

The bartender gestured to Diane for her to join him. After a brief conversation, he escorted her down the hall beside the bar.

Pavel was a safe distance along the street by the time he heard the sharp explosion. A timing device had detonated the bomb in the chocolate box.

Consequences by B. B. Wright

Unsplash Four

“Where are you going?” I dared to ask as I watched her put on her boots.

“Out,” she retorted.

I glanced at the window. “Winter’s on the war path. Are you sure that’s a wise choice?” A cavalcade of chills rippled up my backside. “You’ll barely see beyond your nose. You’ll get lost.”

She peered at me through a curtain of auburn hair. Whatever she was about to say I could tell she was sizing me up for impact. You get to know those things after living together for a year. We planned to marry in the spring.

I slowly backed away. My only comfort at that moment was the pleasant warmth of the fireplace against my backside.

“Maybe that’s what I want…to get lost.”

My heart sank.

She cocked one eyebrow. “Anyway, what’s wrong with my nose?”

Ugh, I thought, I’m caught in a double whammy. Diplomacy should have shot to the top of my list but my genetics lack dearly there. I have always been told to speak from the heart. Begrudgingly, though, I have learned that my fate is generally more akin to the poor bull in the china shop. Well here I go into the valley. Mine is not to reason why, only just to do and …die? Hmm.

“I’m sorry…I shouldn’t’ve done it.” I tried to muster a smile. “Judith, we can work this thing out. Stay. There’s a nice fire. Your favorite wine is on the counter. And goodies are in the fridge. What do you say? Huh? Oh, and by the way, there’s nothing wrong with that cute pug nose of yours”

Figuratively speaking, an iron curtain suddenly thwacked between us.

“If you think you can placate me with a romantic fire, goodies, wine and appending my appearance to a boxer or pug dog, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Ouch! Calling her a pugilist or a flat nosed wrinkly faced pooch was not my intention.

“Button nose, I meant button nose.” My legs felt like they were being seared by the fire.

She brushed aside her hair and stared at me. “Babies, young children and maybe some teens but adults, no, adults don’t have button noses, Arthur. Now, let me finish.” She held up her hand to silence me. “What’s happening has nothing to do with any of this and you know it. You broke the honesty and trust between us the moment you read my diary. You did it without my permission. And then you had the gull to lie to me.”

Tears bubbled up in the corner of her eyes.

I drew up a chair beside her and sat down. “I’m sorry. I’m such a schmuck.”

“Yes you are.” She looked at me long and hard.

Words stuck in my throat. I could only shrug and shake my head. An eternity of silence passed between us. Her demeanor softened.

“Arthur, please help me. I’m trying to comprehend why you did it.”

I stood up and walked to the window in the living room. Winter’s fury continued to rage outside. “I could say I was thoughtless, in an unthinking sort of way.” I turned to face her. “But, unthinking it was not. Foolish, yes, but my actions… were deliberate. The truth, sometimes, can be a bad thing. This is one of those situations.” I returned to the chair beside her and sat down. “Judith, I have loved you from the first moment I saw you. And still do, even more so. Yet…I allowed doubt to get in the way of that love.”

“Doubts about me?”

“Yes,” I sighed.

“I see… I don’t know what to say.” Taking off her jacket, she neatly placed it over the back of her chair and walked to the kitchen counter. She offered up the bottle of Bordeaux.

I nodded.

When she returned, she handed me my glass and suggested we move the couch so that it faced the fireplace. After we had done that I threw a couple of logs on the fire and joined her. For a long while neither of us spoke. We sat sipping our wine.

There are four essentials to a healthy relationship: trust, honesty, communication and cuddle time (non-sexual touching). And I, being the idiot I am, demolished the first three. What can I say? The curiosity bug had bitten me. To be honest, I have always wondered what she wrote in her diary every day. It had become just too damn tempting not to have a peek. When I saw her with that other guy… well… that just broke the camel’s back. Jealousy did the rest. Who was he? Huh-huh! I thought. There is justification! As I saw it, I now had my moral compass to rifle through her diary.

“Arthur?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What kind of doubt?”

Taking in a deep breath, I curled my leg up on the couch and faced her. “Who was that guy I saw you with last Wednesday outside SideKicks Café?”

I could see a smile curling up at the corner of her mouth. “So that’s your excuse.”

“You deny it?”

She shook her head. “I’m disappointed in you. No, I won’t deny it. What I don’t understand is why you didn’t just ask me? Instead, you let your imagination run away with you.”

She stared at the fire, rolling the goblet between her hands.

“You’re leaving me for that other guy?”

She turned so sharply to face me I recoiled. “That other guy was my brother, you jerk.”

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.

History Tends Everything by B. B. Wright

reflection in a window

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

She glanced at him. Then, she turned back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay?” She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

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

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

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

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

“What is it that garners your interest there?”

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

.
.

I Will Visit With You by B. B. Wright

Sail Boat in Mist OneToday, I have finally returned. I thought it had only been three years since I was last here but my neighbors, John and Ruth, just told me it’s been eight. They said they had pictures to prove it.

My askance expression must have been the reason that they pressed their point so vehemently. Ruffling their feathers was definitely not in my agenda nor, I must add, was perusing photos I knew too well.

Still, John’s Type A personality pressed the issue forward as he entered his cottage returning in short time with the photo album. He thrust it in my direction. I backed away. Or should I say, rolled away. Not wanting to be rude nor in need of their pity, I mustered a smile and, in the most pleasant way I knew how, suggested that I would gladly look at their photos upon my return from the beach. Though, in all honesty, I possessed no such intention.

More crow-like than human John and Ruth looked down their beaks at me. It was as if they could read my true intention. I would have sworn at that very moment if they had been party to a murder of crows they would have poked my eyes out. Grasping the wheels on either side of my wheelchair I slowly maneuvered onto the flat stone pathway. Still smiling of course, I glanced back and gave them a begrudging but cheery wave and hastily escaped toward the beach, my crutches rattling at my back.

At the path’s end I stopped and locked the wheels. Lifting my legs one at a time I dropped my sandaled feet onto the pristine, plump white sand. Before me, the fresh water of Lake Huron stretched out in either direction and touched the horizon like one vast ocean.

The refreshing coolness of the onshore breeze washed over me. I was mesmerized by the lazy to and fro pendulum of the lapping waves upon the shore, sweeping in and then out again.

But, I know there is a witch beneath the Lake’s rolling surface. She can turn waves from minutes to hours when the gales come slashing. Today, at this moment, she is kind.

Pushing myself up and onto my crutches I take time to catch my breath. The ha-ha-ha-ha of seagulls overhead floods my mind with memories. Thirty meters in front of me, the dock stretches lonely into the water. Punching my walking aids into the sand, I will myself forward. Aft of me, deep, wavy lines through the sand bear witness to my journey.

My boat is shrouded in mist. At the helm, the gossamer image of my friend Tom waves me on; tattooed on his face, as always, was his huge, welcoming smile. Busy at the stern, wearing his Greek fisherman’s hat—he was sensitive about his baldness—Jock glances over his shoulder and nods.

They are no more.

Sadness clouds my very being, my eyes bubble with tears. I think of all the memories I have and all the things we did back then.

Keow the seagulls call. Keow.

My eyes bubble with tears. My mind floods with memories.

The sweet gentle sound of water lapping against the boat’s hull is a gesture from God to my ears. I stop. My heartbeat knits into the tapestry of surrounding, soothing sounds. And, I let them wash through me.

El Niño is responsible for the unseasonably warm weather this time of year, the strongest in fifty years. It occurs when the Trade winds stop moving. Perhaps that is why the Lake is busy with all size of tankers this day.

Ensconced on the deck of my boat—our boat, I sighed in great relief. Much effort was expended by me, a feat worthwhile indeed.

Slurp. Slurp. The boat bobs in the water. And, like a small child in his mother’s arms, I found solace in her cradled rocking.

Why we didn’t turn back that day when the first wave broke over the railing, I do not know. When the rigging screamed out in distress it was too late. The storm was upon us; the witch beneath us was angry and she swallowed us whole.

I do not remember more. I don’t want to remember more.

Memories of my chums lie deep within me; as I breathe so do they.

Why me? Why should I have lived and they not? This is my guilt.

I can only hope the one verse from Amazing Grace, don’t ask me how I remember it,  is true, namely:

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

As time goes by and until the evening tide comes in, I will visit with you, my dear friends, by this dock in the bay watching ships roll by and away again.

Merry Christmas dear friends, I can feel your warmth wrapping around me. Your home-fire, my succor, is a beacon to lead me safely home again.

Fractured by B. B. Wright

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

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

She grasped the knife tighter.

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

She had loved him. She had trusted him.

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

She slowed her pace.

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

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

She stopped.

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

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

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

She twitched.

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

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

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

Still, she was drawn deeper.

Water circled her thighs.

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

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

Girl under Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well…yes…of course it matters.”

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

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

She did not reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Seventeen
The Trap is Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“American?” Werner asked, scrutinizing her.

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

“Your accent…it’s American?”

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

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

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

Massey Hall 1971 by B. B. Wright

Massey Hall Doors TorontoMassey Hall 1971

A Short Story

by

B. B. Wright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jeanne,” he blurted out.

“Jeanne?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heedless to traffic, we quickly joined them.

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

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

Jeanne introduced both Mark and I as we shook hands.

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

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

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

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

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

Silhouetted Man on Pier

Angel Maker

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Sixteen
Captain Hall Returns

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

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

“Surprise? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collier cocked an eyebrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And, my son, Richard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her cold stare unnerved him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 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.”