Chapter Thirty Four of Angel Maker by Barry B. Wright: Aunt Martha’s Tea Set

To say that Captain Friedrich Cole was not happy would have been an understatement.  Already two hours late leaving the Port of Liverpool, he paced the bridge of the SS Armagon. ‘The old man’ as he was called by his crew was a hardnosed veteran seafarer with a stickler for detail and for being on time. But, tonight, his orders were to wait. When he saw the truck with the Blue Funnel insignia on the dock coming towards him, he sighed a relief and galvanized his men into action. He had hand-picked his crew for tonight. No where near the full complement of crew, each man, nevertheless, was a seasoned sailor, knew his duty and the real reason for the voyage.

When the wooden crate had been hoisted up and placed in the hole, Captain Cole gave the orders to cast off. Once clear of the harbor, the ship went to FULL SPEED.

For a while Captain Cole remained on the bridge of his humble 7,250-ton merchant vessel as it ploughed a lonely course across the gentle Irish Sea toward Dublin. The partially full moon shone like a high-powered spotlight in a cloudless night sky, sparkling with stars. The rendezvous should be an easy one, the Captain mused, satisfyingly, when he left the bridge and headed to his cabin.

About to enter his cabin, his wireless operator, Wilhelm Scholtz, arrived breathlessly to hand him a cable. “Wilhelm, why are you always in a hurry? You’ll be amazed how much more life you’ll have time for if only you would slow down.”

Without replying, Wilhelm came to rigid attention and handed him the coded message. “Heil Hitler!”

“Yes…Heil Hitler,” returned Friedrich’s distracted, unenthused reply and salute. Completely absorbed in the cable, he entered his cabin and shut the door behind him. Sitting at his desk, he took out his code book and began to decipher the message.

When he had finished, he pulled out his Vauen pipe from the drawer and filled its bowl from a can of Edgeworth tobacco. Lighting it, he sat back in his chair and purged the smoke through his nostrils. “The devil does take a hand in what’s not thought out clearly or done in haste.” Furrows formed at the bridge of his nose as he shook his head in disbelief. “Stupid. Arrogantly stupid.” He made a quick mental calculation. There’s roughly 120 bags of mail. He glanced at his watch. There should be enough time. He called up to the bridge and told his First Officer, Helmut Schmidt, to choose five of his most trusted men to go to the mailroom. When asked “Why?” he replied that they would be searching for a slender green bag and any mail prominently labelled official communications. Once completed, the items were to be brought to his cabin. Hanging up the receiver, he poured himself a glass of schnapps and sat back to enjoy his drink and smoke. This has turned out to be a more profitable trip than expected, he thought raising his glass and downing its contents. Pouring another schnapps, he propped up the pillow on his bed and stretched himself out to wait.

At 4 a.m. the officer of the watch spotted a distant ship and the word went out to alert the ‘The Old man.’

Captain Cole was awakened by the acrid smell of smoke and banging at his door. His pipe had fallen from his mouth and the ash had begun to burn through the woolen blanket. In a litany of profanity, he frantically smothered the errant ash. Gathering himself together, he opened the door.

On the bridge, Captain Cole peered hard through his binoculars. The mail he had asked for was in his cabin but he was unable to discern whether the approaching ship was the rendezvous vessel or some nosey British Coastguard cruiser. On tenterhooks, he continued to observe it. Time slid by. The Irish Sea had become rougher. When the signal came, it came with much relief. Far too much was now at stake to be lost to happenstance. Leaving his First Officer in charge, he quickly returned to his cabin to retrieve the mailbag containing the pertinent materials he had asked for.

Once the crate and his men had transferred over to the armed merchant-cruiser, Berliner, Captain Cole gave his wireless operator, Wilhelm, the order to send the Mayday.

Standing on the deck of the Berliner, Captain Cole watched as the Berliner turned its 5.9-inch guns on the Armagon and fired.

Rudolf Steiner, the crusty, forty-five-year-old captain of the Berliner turned to Friedrich Cole with a questioning expression as he nodded towards the mailbag he was carrying.

“The contents of this mailbag…goes to a level of ineptitude that’s beyond comprehension…certainly mine.”

“I don’t understand,” replied Rudolf. “The floor safe in that crate was the only item I was told to secure. If it fell into the wrong hands it would have severely compromised German intelligence gathering in Britain by exposing OTTO.”

“I don’t know anything about this OTTO you refer to. But, I do know that in my hands I’m holding a mass of reports and correspondence destined for British military and intelligence outposts in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.”

Rudolf’s jaw dropped speechless.

“I had the same reaction, my friend.”

“How…?”

Friedrich waved him off.  And they watched in silence as the Armagon was dispatched to the bottom.

_________

When Louise was finally conscious, two days had passed since the incident at her house. She was surprised to find Inspector Collier by her bedside.

“What happened?” she asked.

“You gave yourself a nasty bump when you dove for cover.”

“Hard-headed Anna, that’s me.”

“Thank god there’s nothing in there to do damage to,” he chuckled.

“Watch it, Sandy Collier! Or I’ll give you a fat lip.” She tried to sit up but thought better of it.

Collier smiled. “That exchange tells me you’re on the mend.”

“I think so too,” came a voice behind him.

Turning, Collier greeted the doctor and the nurse. “I’ll just be outside in the corridor,” he assured Louise.

When he returned and regained his position on the chair beside her bed for a long while neither of them spoke. “Everything okay?” She nodded. “There’s something I need to ask you.” She rolled onto her side to face him. “Before the shots rang out you were coming out of the house waving something in your hand.”

She closed her eyes and tried to remember. Her head ached as she reached back to the moment. “Yes…now I remember. It was a freight receipt for my aunt Martha’s tea-set.”

“Why was the tea-set so important?”

“It was Irish Belleek china… Very expensive…It was supposed to be my heirloom,” she replied, indignantly.

“What am I missing in this conversation?” he asked, somewhat discombobulated.

“The floor-safe was included in that receipt.”

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Part Twenty-Seven of Angel Maker: The Visit by Barry B. Wright

Ahead, twenty-nine Edgestone Road loomed. Once, its grounds had stood alone; reluctantly, over time, it had been forced into the lesser company of others. A caste within a framework of its own making, the grandiose dwelling’s pores had once oozed with majesty and pomp. Its lustre vanquished, the building’s chinked outer skin was now snarled in unkempt vine. The elites who had played, lived and eaten behind its walls would have become, for the most part, invisible scratches in footnotes to history had it not been for coin paying curious who walked in their past.

The Wolseley came to a stop in front of the museum. A woman who was weeding and planting in one of the front flower beds stopped what she was doing and looked up.

It had been a very long time since he had either spoken to or seen her. Still, Collier knew that the woman was her. Taking in a deep breath, he let it out slowly and sat back in his seat.

To say the surroundings had changed would have been an understatement. The long, winding, tree-lined drive to her home no longer existed. In its place was a residential neighbourhood packed with housing.

Collier had been aware of the financial short-falls that had short-circuited the rising star of the Moodie household. Except for the patch of land where the home stood, the City of Bournemouth had expropriated the remainder for an undisclosed amount.

Exuberant sounds of children from the nearby school grounds were refreshing to his ears as he exited the vehicle. There’s something soulfully cleansing and hopeful about their sound, he thought, while he waited for the others to join him.

“Inspector?”

“Ah? Yes, Captain Hall?” he replied, distracted. His gaze attended the route along which they had just travelled.

“Is there something wrong?” she enquired.

Collier’s reply was hesitant and thoughtful. “I hope not…but…I think we may have been followed. The car at the far corner, it parked shortly after we arrived and no one has exited.” The troubled expression on Captain Hall’s face forced him to look at her in an askance manner.

“Sorry, it’s not like me to mess up like this. Quite honestly, I did spot it when we exited the pub. But, I never much gave it thought,” she lied.

“Should I check it out, Gov?” Sergeant Snowden volunteered, moving in the direction of the vehicle.

Captain Hall’s outstretched hand stopped him. “I think it better we carry on with our business,” she interjected. “Don’t you agree, Inspector?”

“Can I assist you with anything?” Louise called out through the iron-rod fence. Tilting her head toward the sign on the gate she continued. “As you can read, we’re closed today.”

Collier glanced at Captain Hall and whispered. “Do you have any idea why Klaus Becker would have left the package here?” She shrugged. “We’re here on official business, Miss Moodie,” he shouted back before returning his attention to Captain Hall. “Don’t you think…considering the uninvited visitors…it might be wise to give me the rest of the code?”

“Planning for the worse, are you?”

“I recognize that voice. Official business, is it? And, what kind of official business would you be up after all these years, Sandy Collier?” chortled Louise, opening the gate and waiting for his arrival.

About to turn away, Captain Hall grabbed Collier’s arm. “The first five lockers touched only twice. That is, prime numbered lockers touched only twice.”

Collier smiled. “Got it. You don’t trust many, do you?”

“I don’t trust anyone?” she retorted with a cold stare. “The Sergeant here should stand guard.”

Collier nodded and he could see that the Sergeant agreed.

“Nothing’s changed,” commented Louise as she ushered them through the opened gate.

Astonished by her remark, Collier replied: “Louise, everything’s changed.”

“I meant…” Quickly, she dropped what she was about to say. “Follow me, then.” She led them along a path to a nicely appointed patio at the rear of the building and encouraged them to sit at one of the wicker seating ensembles that had an umbrella. “If the sun’s bothersome don’t hesitate, “she encouraged, indicating the closed umbrella. “I’ll tidy up and join you. I won’t be long.”

Collier watched her as she entered through a door that at one time only servants had used. Life takes curious twists and turns, he mused. He couldn’t deny, there was a part of him that wished he had stayed in touch. A tinge of sadness grabbed him when the door closed behind her.

Twenty minutes later she joined them carrying a tray of tea and goodies. She wore sandals and a flowered summer dress that rippled in the gentle breeze. This was in stark contrast to the boots, cover-all and headscarf under a wide rimmed hat she had worn earlier.

As she approached, the sun’s rays danced off the golden sheen in her freshly groomed hair. Barely a wrinkle creased the delicately formed features of her face. A pearl beaded necklace adorned her neck.

For a surreal moment, time stretched backwards for Collier. He could not take his eyes off her.

Placing the tray on the table in front of them, she sat in the wicker loveseat opposite. “I made those,” she said proudly, pointing to the cakes on the plate. “I guess a lot has changed, wouldn’t you say, Sandy?”

He smiled and nodded. “Gardening, too, I thought you’d be the last…”

“I know,” she interjected, “the last to be caught dead doing such a thing. Me too. But, my gardener got up and quit before Christmas.”

“Who was he? Maybe I can have a wee chat with him,” Collier replied. He could feel her eyes scrutinizing him.

“Your civility is insulting to me. And from what I know about you, and it’s quite a lot, demeaning to you. So, enough of your small talk, let’s get to why you are here,” she insisted. “You said earlier it was official business.”

Captain Hall, sensing Collier’s sudden discomfort, shifted forward in her chair and asked, “Klaus Becker, how do you know him?”

For a moment, Louise said nothing as her gaze shifted between them. “It’s best that I show you. Come inside.”

They followed her along a narrow hallway, past the washroom and bedroom, to an open area that contained both living-room and kitchen.

“Did you see where she went?” he asked.

Collier and Captain Hall glanced at each other in disbelief as they surveyed the room.

“I’d ask you to sit,” Louise called out, “but I think you’d need a map to find your way in and out of this labyrinth of furniture and what-nots. Stay where you are, I won’t be long.”

“I think…her voice came from somewhere over there,” Captain Hall chuckled, pointing in the direction she thought it came from. “Did you know she was a hoarder?”

“Not a sausage,” he replied. “I just hope you’ll have easy access to the vault.”

Louise’s hand appeared from behind a wall of mahogany furniture and Indian rugs waving some papers. “Got it!”

When she joined them, she handed Collier a dog-eared old photo. “As you can see that’s me and my brother, Reginald. Do you recognize the person beside him in uniform?”

Collier took the photo for closer scrutiny. Shaking his head, he handed it back.

“I’m not surprised. Quite dashing, don’t you think? I had a big crush on him, then. That’s Klaus Becker except I knew him as Peter Townsend. Before my brother, Reginald, passed away, he visited a lot. I guess that’s why Reginald did this.” She handed Collier a deed to the property in which Reginald had signed over ownership to Townsend. “The week before Klaus…I mean Peter…died in that explosion he signed it back to me.” She handed him the second document. “Now that surprised me. Mind you, our home had long since been turned into a museum and not much of the original property remained. As you can see,” she continued, sheepishly, “I attempted to save as much as I thought prudent to preserve the Moodie legacy.”

“Is there a vault or safe on your premises?” Collier enquired.

“In the museum section there is,” Louise replied. “Why?”

“Do you have access?” Captain Hall asked.

“Not to the safe but I do to the museum. It’s in the Co-ordinator’s Office. My key opens both.”

“Would you mind getting it and giving it to Captain Hall?”

A mischievous smirk appeared on her face and she said: “It’s right here tucked warmly and safely between my peaks.” She undid her necklace and handed the key over.

When Captain Hall left, Louise turned to Collier holding out her necklace. “Do you mind?”

“I’ve never been very good at doing this,” he said as he fumbled a few times before successfully placing it around her neck and closing the clasp.

“What happened to us?” she asked.

“Me. Lila. Everything. Do you remember telling me “focus on what you love doing, the rest will follow”?”

“I do. It was out on that patio in the loveseat where I was just sitting.”

“What I wanted to do wasn’t what you or your family wanted me to do.” He took her hands in his. “And, you didn’t see it. Or, didn’t want to see it. How could I have expected anything different?” He sighed and let go of her. “Like all youth, you were rebellious against your family. As was I against mine. We were just instruments in each others flight to independence. Our love…our infatuation…was its vehicle.” Movement outside the window distracted him. “Are you expecting someone?”

She shook her head.

Collier ran down the hall and outside onto the patio. Captain Hall’s voice yelled his name from inside the house. He had no time to react. The pain in his head was crippling. And he fell, uncontrollably, into a dark, inky deep well.

 

 

Part Twenty-Six of Angel Maker: The Berlin Connection by Barry B. Wright

Luftwaffe officer, Harro Schulze-Boysen had been a Soviet NKVD agent since 1935. In fact, it was he who had approached them through a contact to offer his services. No one within the Nazi echelon had any idea of his real political convictions. Known by the codename ‘Corporal,’ he became a highly-placed asset for Soviet Intelligence within the Goring Air Ministry. A gregarious personality, he easily befriended Hermann Goring, who was similar in nature. Soon after their initial meeting a close relationship began to develop. So much so that in 1936 Goring gave away the bride, Libertas Haas-Heye, at his wedding.

Well placed in Goring’s inner circle, Harro forged several contacts within army staff communications, among Abwehr officers, and with Hans Henniger, a government inspector of Luftwaffe equipment.

At about the same time Harro was recruited, Arvid Harnack, a senior civil servant in the economics ministry, was also recruited. He was given the code name ‘Corsican.’

The information flowing out of Berlin from Schulze-Boysen was at first slow and sporadic. Always suspicious, Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s Head of the NKVD, scrupulously examined every detail of information sent by Harro for its authenticity.

Then, in the summer of 1938, Beria wrote a report for Hozyain, Stalin, on the extent and health of the forest of Soviet espionage networks in Germany. In that report, he particularly praised the Rote Kapelle and Schulze-Boysen/Harnack groups for their reliability, integrity and excellence in intelligence gathering and reporting. “The Red Orchestra,” he concluded, “is securely in place in Berlin.”

Attached to his report was a Department E typescript from the Geheime Staatspolizei, 8 Prinz Albrecht Street, Berlin. The document focused on security and counterintelligence in the Reich. In this three-page addendum, Beria highlighted, “…’limping lady’ actively engaged…subversion…resistance networks in Germany.” He also referenced, “…British Intelligence…thought to be American…”

Pavel Sudoplatov knew about Beria’s report through his good friend Richard Sorge who had just recently transferred from Berlin to Tokyo. He also knew that Captain Hall was likely the ‘limping lady’ mentioned in the Gestapo typescript.

Pavel lit up a cigarette and offered one to Anatoli, who took it. From their vantage point they had a clear view of Ringwood Pub. Their vehicle was situated far enough back so as not to arouse any obvious suspicion by either Captain Hall or Inspector Collier.

Two evenings ago, during dinner, Gunther Stein, a journalist, had presented him with a package from their mutual friend Sorge. Wrapped like a present, inside the ‘gift’ was a tie. Sewn into the tie, now worn by Pavel, was a coded message from Sorge to be delivered to Beria in Moscow. Gunter did not know the content of the coded message.

Over several drinks of Vodka, Gunter described a meeting he had with Harro Schulze-Boysen and his wife, Libertas, during a short stay in Berlin the previous week. According to them, the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, would sign a German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in August with the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Beyond that, he knew nothing further about the agreement.

Pavel cringed. Nevertheless, he thought Hozyain had made a wise decision. Since the purging of top military leadership, the Russian military was in disarray. Latest classified projections estimated Russia’s readiness for war with Germany to be sometime in either 1943 or 1944. This Pact would buy valuable time.

Two additional pieces of information shared by Gunter, troubled Pavel the most. The Japanese ambassador to Germany, Hiroshi Oshima, informed Hitler of Japan’s plan to test Soviet military strength on the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier. Confident of quick success, Hitler readily gave Oshima his blessing. It was agreed, though, that the attack would occur ahead of Ribbentrop’s visit to Moscow.

Pavel inhaled the cigarette smoke and purged it through his nostrils, his hand gently stroking his tie, while he reviewed the conversation. His brother was stationed in the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier under the leadership of Georgy Zhukov. And he feared for his well-being.

Pavel had already concluded that that was most likely the coded message hidden in his tie.

Now it makes sense, he mused. That’s why Anatoli is temporally taking over the operation here.

When Pavel had received the plane and train tickets, he felt no small degree of trepidation over his sudden recall to Moscow.

Before Gunter and he had departed that evening, Gunter asked him if he had ever heard of Operation Gleiwitz. To Pavel, Gleiwitz was nothing more than a location in upper Silesia, so he shrugged and told him he hadn’t.

“Well, when you do hear,” Gunter called back with slurred speech as he wobbled away, “I’ve been told it’s a false flag.”

Jarring him from his train of thought, Anatoli pointed in the direction of Ringwood Pub. Captain Hall, Inspector Collier and Sergeant Snowden had exited the tavern and were standing on the sidewalk engaged in a lively conversation.

Rolling down his window, Pavel flicked out his half-finished butt and encouraged Anatoli to do the same.

When Collier’s vehicle slowly left the curve-side and travelled down the street, they followed at an unobtrusive distance.

Pavel hoped that before boarding the plane to France that evening, he would have Otto’s identity in hand.

Who knows, he thought, perhaps Hozyain might decorate me, even give me a dacha for smashing this Nazi ring.

“What’s so funny?” Anatoli asked.

Pavel stared at Anatoli sternly. “Keep your eyes focused ahead and don’t lose them.”

Further back and out of sight, Werner Gruener followed them. His mission was to protect Otto’s identity at all cost.

 

END OF PART ONE: RIDING THE BACK OF THE HUNGRY OLD LION

Part Twenty-Five of Angel Maker: Facing A Hungry Old Lion by Barry B. Wright

Anger and resentment percolated inside him.

“Are you alright, Gov?” Sergeant Snowden asked, concerned, as he glanced at the Inspector in the rear-view mirror.

How do I answer him? Collier mused. Life had suddenly become more complicated. And, he felt its unwelcome weight squarely on his shoulders. Mustering up a smile, phoney though he knew it was, he nodded and returned to his thoughts.

The inside pocket of his jacket contained the blurred photo of Werner Gruener which Captain Hall had given him and two sketches. One drawing was based on the description provided by the train baggage handler and the other an attempt by Andre Bertillon, his forensic artist, to capture Werner’s present appearance sans disguise.

The murder of the three Russian agents in their vehicle on his street earlier that morning had unsettled him. It was too close to home. He cringed with the thought that if it had occurred two hours later, innocent children on their way to school could have been caught in the cross fire. Now, he feared that Lila’s life could be in danger.

He glanced at the headline of The Echo lying on Captain Hall’s lap and cracked a meagre smile: ‘Queenie Found Murdered. He hoped this ruse worked. Time was at a premium. The lives of his son, Richard, and Elsa, his finance, and her family depended on everything proceeding according to plan. Captain Hall’s game plan had missing pieces. And that haunted him. Though she had ensured him that the children in Elsa’s family would soon be delivered safely out of Germany to Bournemouth via kindertransport, her silence on the remainder had left him with a deeply sickening feeling. He felt the vehicle slowing down as Ringwood Pub came into view. A cold sweat glistened on his forehead. Flashbacks to the horrific events in the trenches hammered at the door to his mind. He felt queasy. It had been more than two years since he last fell off the wagon. And, the gift of sobriety was a clarity he had no intention of losing. The pub’s owner and many of its patrons shared an untellable nightmare he could not and would not revisit. He felt Captain Hall’s hand press gently on his forearm.

The past, he thought, is indeed like a hungry old lion. You can ride its back only so long before it decides to eat you. Maybe it’s my day to be eaten.

Closing his eyes, he took in several deep breaths before wiping his brow clear with his handkerchief. Then, after a reassuring glance at Captain Hall, he focused ahead.

Many of the pub’s patrons earned their drink money by doing odd jobs throughout Bournemouth. And, as a result, he thought that there was a very good likelihood that someone would recognize Werner from either the photo or sketches. The truth was that he wanted to delay the next stage of today’s agenda.

When the vehicle stopped, he stepped out onto the sidewalk. The sun felt good against his face. While he waited for Captain Hall and Sergeant Snowden to join him, he felt a growing confidence that he had the mettle to face whatever lay beyond the pub’s doors.

Twenty-Nine Edgestone Road, the next leg on today’s roster, was high up on his never to visit again list. Suzanne Moodie, who still lived at that address, was someone over the years that he had scrupulously managed to avoid. And, in Bournemouth, that was not an easy task to accomplish. But, Klaus Becker’s clandestine message necessitated that Captain Hall and he make that visit. Unfortunately, from his point of view, Captain Hall had still not divulged to him the critical piece in Klaus’s puzzle, namely the words that would identify the combination to the vault. And that troubled him.

“Captain?” he said with a smile when she joined him. “I have a question to ask you before we go in.”

“Shoot.” She replied.

“That puzzle of Becker’s…I’ve worked out that ten lockers remained open…but…I don’t know the words in each.” She nodded matter-of-factly. “Well…Are you going to share?” he asked, not hiding his disgruntlement.

“In time, Inspector” Her attention turned to reconnoitring the street before her gaze returned to Collier. “But, right now, first things first.”

Briefly, Collier thought of pushing the issue but her demeanor told him otherwise.

“Is there a problem, Captain Hall?” asked Sergeant Snowden.

“Why are you asking?”

“Well…it’s just…that you appear… preoccupied…tense.”

She scratched the back of her ear and shrugged. “I get a sense we’re being watched.”

“We are,” chortled Snowden, thumbing over his shoulder to the pub’s window. Quentin Hogg’s fleshy nose was pressed against the window like a sausage patty while his face went through numerous contortions. Hovering above him were Jock Mahoney and Patrick O’Grady performing rude gesticulations.

Sergeant Snowden inserted himself to block Captain Hall’s line of vision to the errant behaviour in the pub window. His profuse apologies being quickly silenced by the wave of her hand as she motioned toward the door.

“Captain!” Collier called out, “You can’t go in.”

Confused, she asked, “Why not?”

An uncomfortable state of awkwardness began to wash over him as he attempted to release the words. “You’re…a…woman and…women aren’t…” His words quickly evaporated. He realized that he had just said something comparable to holding up a red flag to a bull. The only word that speared his mind repeatedly like a broken record was the word “SHIT.” This was a serious brain burp that had no resemblance to what he intended to say.

Her eyebrow raised in defiance while her tone remained calm, she replied: “I see.”

An uneasy silence slammed down between them like a lead curtain.

Finally, Collier managed to eke out an attempt to correct his infraction. “What I was trying to say was that the Sergeant and I have a history with those men inside…a very personal one that has been shaped by war. Your presence might upset the applecart. That’s why I’m asking you to stay outside while we conduct our business with them.” Briefly, he held his breath waiting for her answer. He knew she could see right through his little scam.

“I can accept that…for the moment,” she replied, nodding her head.

Once they had entered, she began to count off sixty seconds on her wrist watch. The beeping of a car horn momentarily distracted her. When her moment was up, she entered the pub.

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 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.