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.”

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Angel Maker: Part Five by B. B. Wright

1930 England Two

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 deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) sometimes found in the text of the story.

Part 5

The Visit

Particles of dust danced in the thin wedge of light that sliced through the narrow opening between the curtains before fattening out across the lower half of the bed. At the foot of the bed against the wall was a sparsely filled clothing armoire with a jacket hanging from its opened door. Toward the window angled at the corner was a chair cluttered with his previous day’s clothing with a pair of highly polished shoes and a pair of scruffy work boots neatly placed under it. Beside the window was a three drawer dresser squeezed into the space between the wall and the head of the bed while on the opposite side was a small bed table with a light on it.

Lately, Werner Gruener was afraid to sleep. His dreams were being touched by an intruder. He knew the same way someone knew or sensed that their private belongings had been violated. He rolled over to his side, his back to the window, and began to drift off until he felt her probing presence. He had not established in his mind how he knew it was a woman intruding into his thoughts but, somehow, he just knew. He had a good sense for such things. This morning he had planned a very special surprise for her; a set of images that she would soon not forget. Perhaps, he mused, she would enjoy the images of her demise to the tune: I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. The unexpected sound of a key entering his lock spoiled his moment and slipping his hand under his pillow, he gripped his Luger.

The door to his room opened and quickly closed. Pressed against the door was a man submerged in the thick morning grayness of the room. A deep black shadow masked his face.

“You are awake, Werner?” The man whispered.

Werner did not answer as he slowly withdrew the gun from under his pillow and pointed it at him.

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” the man snickered. “It’s me, Heinrich.”

“I didn’t recognize your voice.”

“It’s this damn cold. English weather and me don’t get along.”

Werner threw back the covers and sat up and turned on the small light by his bed. “Heinrich…Ernst was explicit.”

“The drop off point has been compromised. I had no choice but to come here. Surely you knew that?”

Werner went to the window and peered through the curtains looking for any unusual activity on the street below. Seeing none, he turned back. “Where’s the message?”

Handing him the sealed envelope, Heinrich said: “I was careful, Werner, very careful.”

Without responding, Werner placed his gun on top of the dresser and picked up his pants from the chair and pulled out the switchblade he had used to cut a lock of Rebecca Grynberg’s hair not more than eight hours ago and slit open the envelope.

“So the drop off has been compromised?” he asked, returning his knife to his pant pocket and then pulling out the expected neatly folded page of the Bournemouth Echo classified section and unfolding it.

“The Boemelburg cell has been arrested. I thought you knew?!”

“I didn’t,” he replied disconcertingly, as he read the coded message along the side (AOSS DTLLTFUTK) and bottom (ITOS IOZSTK) of the crossword puzzle:

The QWERTY code was easy for him to quickly translate in his head. Used sparingly and only to communicate immediate action, it was hoped that its location associated with a cross-word puzzle would be attributed to the idle scribbling associated with the puzzle solver and therefore of no significance to anyone except to the solver.

Turning over the page, Werner smiled when he saw the circled rental. “Good,” he mumbled under his breath.

The final Jewish family in Werner’s assignment had been found and his task now was to shadow them and to strike when the opportunity was ripe. Unlike the previous two families, this family had both a boy and a girl at the right ages and he had to ensnare both at the same time to ensure fulfillment of his fantasy.

Werner licked his lips with anticipation.

“Good? Surely, Werner, you don’t…”

“No, Heinrich,” he interjected.”My comment is about an entirely different matter. You are sure that you haven’t been followed?”

“Absolutely, Werner! Absolutely!”

Waving the page at him he asked: “Exactly how much, Heinrich, do you know about these messages?”

Heinrich shook his head. “Nothing. Except that they come directly from Ernst himself. That’s all I or you need to know. Why are you asking?”

“Would you like to know? Surely, you’ve felt a twinge of curiosity from time to time?”

“Like you, Werner, I follow orders. Again, why are you asking?”

Werner shrugged and waved it off.

“No matter. I was just curious, that’s all.” He opened the armoire and took down a half empty bottle of J&B and a shot-glass and passed it to him. “I know it’s rather early but one or two for the road should do you no harm,” he said smiling and knowing full well that Heinrich was an alcoholic and unlikely to refuse.

“Not going to join me?” Heinrich asked greedily grabbing the bottle and glass and beginning to pour.

“I must get something from the dresser first and then I’ll join you. There, sit there on the bed and make yourself comfortable. It won’t be long.”

With Heinrich’s back toward him, Werner watched him drink and waited while repeating under his breath: “Oh, a drink in the morning is good for the sight, and twenty or thirty between that and night. Drink it up, go to bed and just think it no sin to get up in the morning and at it again.”

The ditty reached a frenzied crescendo when Heinrich finished the bottle and Werner pounced on him and snapped his neck