Trolling with Wordsworth by B. B. Wright

Trolling with Wordsworth

Trolling with Wordsworth

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

 

Hardly able to contain myself, I stepped down from the driver’s side and took in several heaping lungfuls of the sweet pine air. Memories of my childhood made me giggle in its rush.

“It feels so good to be here again. Don’t you think, Julie? It’s been far too long. Aaah-oooooooooooooh! Aaah-ooooooooooooooh!”

“What the hell are you doing?” She asked as she exited the passenger side of the vehicle.

“It’s my wolf call.”

“I guessed that. But w-h-y? Do you think that’s wise?”

Having a low tolerance for such tomfoolery, I assumed she was somewhat discombobulated by my attempt at mimicry.

“Wise? It has nothing to do with being wise. It’s all about letting go and embracing the moment, Julie. Anyway, there aren’t any wolves in the area…I don’t think. Do you hear it?”

“What? That distant howling?” And, with a dismissive wave, she headed to the back of the SUV.

“I don’t hear any howl…Oh…I see…you’re just joshing me. You’d think I would have learned after forty years of marriage.” Joining her, I said: “Julie, just stop and listen for a moment.”

“What am I suppose to hear?” she asked as she opened the trunk of the van.

“Nothing. Only the serenity of silence and nature. And those smells! Aren’t they wonderful?”

Her askance look bellowed ‘ARE YOU CRAZY OR SOMETHING?’

“Julie, why don’t we leave the unpacking till later, eh? And run down to the dock?”

“Run? Down that rocky path?” She asked, cocking her head in the direction of the pathway. “You’ve got to be kidding?! You are kidding aren’t you? You’re not are you?!”

“Okay! Okay! I get it! Not run then. We’d go… carefully. It could be a serendipitous moment. What do ye say?”

The call of a loon caught our attention and for a moment we stood in silence listening until Julie piped up with: “I’m starving, you know? It’s long past my lunch time.”

I broke out into a cold sweat.

Unfortunately for me, I’d been on the wrong end of Julie’s mood swings when, in the blink of an eye, I’d seen her change from Jekyll to Hyde. And, it always starts with “I’m starving.”

My thoughts are already rushing ahead to ‘circling the wagons’ and screaming: FEED HER! FEED HER, NOW! AND QUICKLY!

Tentatively I asked: “Julie? There is a barbeque at the dock and we could cook that partial package of wieners we have in the cooler on it?”

Immediately, she stopped pulling out her suitcase.

I had struck the right chord.

“Picnic?” she queried.

Breathing a sigh of relief and trying to contain my excitement over this totally unexpected possibility, I replied: “Yes dear…a picnic.” Eagerly, I pulled out the cooler and set it on the ground. “We can use the picnic table already down there to eat on.”

“We’ll need a table cover to put the plates on, John.”

“It should still be in the boathouse. Let’s go.”

Twenty minutes later, we had finished our lunch of hotdogs and salads. Or at least Julie had. As for me, I was tucking away my third dog while I watched her place the lids back on the salad containers.

The lake was as smooth as glass and it was early enough in the season that the lake wasn’t abuzz with motorboats and the general busyness of cottagers.This was the opportunity I was waiting for: a romantic row on the lake. I had even remembered to tuck a collection of Wordsworth poetry in my pocket for the occasion.

“Julie? Once you’ve put the salads in the cooler, why don’t we take a row on the lake?”

“That sounds wonderful, John.”

“Well…there is a hitch.”

“A hitch?”

“Ah…yes…You’ll need to do the rowing.”

Her look was less surprised than it was darn right scary. The kind of look which shouted: IF I COULD KILL YOU RIGHT NOW I WOULD.

“Only initially,” I continued. “You see I have a romantic surprise for you. And I’ll need to sit at the back of the boat to do it justice.”

After a few awkward moments entering the boat, the two of us took up our positions, she at the oars and me at the stern, and pushed away from the dock. Five minutes out, I retrieved my small, telescopic fishing rod from my inner pocket and unrolled the line with the fly I had tied from the previous evening. From my other pocket I pulled out the first page of poetry entitled Love from my shirt pocket and, as I trolled, I began to read it to her:

“All Thoughts, all Passions, all Delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal Frame,
All are but Ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.”

A momentary tug at my fishing line interrupted my reading. Testing the line I decided it was a false alarm and I continued to read:

“Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the Mount I lay
Beside the Ruin’d Tower…”

And, I thought, this moment could not be better: Wordsworth and fishing.

“Isn’t this romantic Julie?”

“URRRRRGH !”

Angel Maker: Part Seven by B. B. Wright

A Storm is Brewing

Angel Maker

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Seven
The Gathering Storm

 

Preoccupied with the disturbing crime scene he had just left, Alexander Collier made his way down the hall to his office oblivious to the pitter-patter of shoes following closely behind him.

Leonard Scoffield and some of his team had been pulled from fingerprinting hospital staff to process the crime scene in the back alley of the cinema while the remainder of Leonard’s team at the hospital had been placed under the command of Sergeant Snowden.

Collier wrapped his hand around the doorknob just about to enter his office when he was startled by a brisk tap on his shoulder. Turning, he came face to face with the classified section of The Echo held up by a rather agitated ‘Queenie.’

His eyes gave it away immediately to her. “Oh…” Her hand which was holding the classified section dropped to her side. “This is one of those times I wish that I had been wrong. I can see that you’ve found her.”

Collier slowly nodded: “Yes…she was where you dreamed she would be. But…How…?” Abruptly he waved off the question and stepped aside to let her in.

“Then what I have here takes on a higher degree of urgency,” she continued, slipping past him into his office.

“How can I help you, Mrs Stoddard? …Please…here…sit down,” he encouraged. His encouragement was nothing short of insincere since she was the last person he wanted to see at this moment. He pulled out the chair in front of his desk. “I’ll make us some tea.”

Still standing she retorted: “I don’t give a sausage about the tea, Inspector” And, she slammed the classified page down on his desk. “The lives of two little children are at stake and I have no idea how long we have before…he kills them.” Her eyes frantically skirted his desk in search of a writing utensil and finding a worn down pencil she picked it up and circled an address. “They’re here at this boarding house.”

Turning on the kettle, he sighed deeply. When he replied, he did not attempt to hide his incredulity: “How could you possibly know such a thing?” Mentally he chastised himself for even remotely believing in her predictive powers.

“Inspector, I’m a medium. And a damn good one I might add. This is what I do. Why would you have visited me early this morning if you had thought otherwise?”

Collier had attended his share of murder scenes but the murder of small children had been especially heinous and most difficult for him to shake off.

Unable to provide ‘Queenie’ with an answer that even he could remotely accept, he decided to listen further.

The eyes of the dead girl staring back at him continued to haunt him as he picked up the classified section and looked at the location ‘Queenie’ had circled: “Point made, Mrs Stoddard… Continue.”

“The man is pure evil, Inspector. He is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I know you are skeptical of me but we do agree that he is real and so are his murderous intentions.”

He nodded his agreement.

She took the page from him and spread it out on his desk. “There are two small children, a boy and a girl, at this location. I don’t know the family’s name but I’m almost certain that they are Jewish. He’s going to kill both of those little children. I think he thought I was blocked out when he circled that rooming house. And, there’s something else.”

She opened her purse and handed him a small pocket notebook size sheet of lined paper. On it, she had written: AOSS DTLLTFUTK ITOS IOZSTR.

“What’s this?”

‘Queenie’ shrugged and shook her head. “It was written beside the cross-word. The one was circled in the puzzle, also. After that he blotted me out singing ad nauseam some Irish ditty.”

She had decided not to mention to Collier that the murderer had got into her head. A chill went up her spine when she remembered the image he had sent her of her impending murder. The focus had to be on saving the two children. Not on her. For the moment she felt relatively safe since the murderer didn’t know who she was. But she knew that that would only last for a short time until he discovered that she was the only medium in the Bournemouth area.

The whistle on the kettle heralded that the water was boiled.

Collier poured some of the water into the tea pot and swished it around before pouring it out.

“Are you sure you don’t want a cup?” he asked looking back at her. Seeing her nod, he reached for another cup. “Mrs Stoddard,” he began as he busied himself making the tea, “why should I believe or for that matter why should anyone believe anything you say? This business of who is in whose head is difficult to swallow. Don’t you agree? You see my dilemma, Mrs Stoddard, is that I must be able to justify my decisions. Always.” He tested the tea to ensure that it had been brewed just right. Putting the tea-cosy on the tea pot he poured the tea. “You still take two sugar and milk?”

“I’ve learned to do without,” she replied, sitting down.

“I too, or should I say my wife encouraged…no…insisted on it,” he chuckled as he patted at his waistline.

Collier passed the cup and saucer across to her before sitting behind the desk. And, for a long time the two of them sat opposite each other without saying a word as they drank their tea.

Finally, ‘Queenie’ leaned forward and said: “I recollect him saying something about a mission.”

In light of the unsettled political and military conditions in Europe, the word “mission” conjured up a number of troublesome thoughts as Collier pressed forward against his desk.”Mission? What mission?”

This conversation was beginning to make him feel uncomfortable as he felt his rational, no nonsense thinking was on a sharply descending and slippery slope. He did not believe in the powers inherent in this medium or any medium no matter how contradictory at the moment that statement appeared and he had no intention of becoming loony like her.

‘Queenie’s’ forehead became deeply furrowed with concern for the fate of the children.

She pushed her empty tea cup toward Collier and asked: “Would you mind? It might help me…find more clarity.”

Collier refilled her cup and placed it in front her then regained his seat.

She took a long sip and then slouched down and tried to pluck from her memory anything that might have defined the mission.

When she sat bolt upright it was obvious to Collier by her demeanor and facial expression that a light had definitely clicked on in her head.

“Does the name Eberhart Von Stohrer mean anything to you?”

Collier sat back in his chair massaging his chin.

“He’s the recent German Rumanian ambassador,” he said after much thought. “If my memory serves me correctly, there was a failed attempt to assassinate him about a month ago. Why? “

“Well…it has to do with that attempt on Stohrer’s life. Some kind of revenge is my guess.”

She quickly finished her tea and stood up.

“On another point,” she added, “I’ve had a lot of thoughts and images about your son since we met this morning.”

“Uh-Huh. “ Collier picked up the pad of paper with the coded message written on it. As he perused it, Lila’s words from earlier that morning echoed through his mind: “Should I be worried about you? It’s not like you to cavort with the likes of her. My god! She’s been in jail. She’s known for swindling gullible people. Where’s your head, Sandy?”

“Inspector?”

Collier glanced up from his preoccupation with the code with a disturbed look on his face. “Yes, Mrs Stoddard. I’m listening, ” he lied.

“You will be receiving a phone call later today from Home Office about your son. There is a Captain Hall you will soon want to meet that may be able to find him.”

“Now wait a minute, Mrs Stoddard…how could you possibly…?”

“Inspector, please don’t finish that question,” she interjected. “Let what I just said unfold first. Perhaps then you will see me through a different set of eyes. And by the way, you’re not going loony. It’s perfectly natural what you’re experiencing.”

She began to walk toward the door but stopped and turned around.

“I am very sorry for what happened to that little girl but please don’t let your personal bias against me cloud your judgment. Because if you do, you will be sending those two children to their death,” she implored, pointing at The Echo’s classified section on his desk. “Oh…and there’s something else, Inspector. His fingerprints won’t be found among the hospital staff. But I can assure you that he is a resident of Bournemouth.”

“Before you go, Mrs Stoddard, may I ask you something on an unrelated matter?”

“Nothing is really unrelated, Inspector. But if it’s about your supper today, your niece and her mother will never see eye to eye but they will agree to disagree.”

Dumbfounded by what had just occurred, Collier stared at the closed door for a long time after she had gone.

Everything for Collier had suddenly become more complicated. With ‘Queenie’s’ revelations, he was not only trying to find a murderer now but he was also caught up in a race against time to find and protect that Jewish family and to decipher a code.

 

The Road by B. B. Wright

Unsplash Eight“Should I approach? How long has it been since I last saw them together? Saw them, now there’s a lark. I don’t give a hoot about them. It’s only her I care about. Silly after all this time not being able to shake her from my thoughts but, then, I haven’t really tried very hard.

I remember a time when I thought she was THE ONE. Funny thing… she still is. Love has a tendency to do that I’ve been told. He told me that…my best friend did. Still, did she ever think I was THE ONE if even only for a brief moment? A part of me says “yes” she must have because when you’ve shared “I love you,” there is no other answer. Or is there? Come to think of it, I’ve never explored that other side before. And I don’t want to.

She’s looking back this way; I’d better pretend I’m entering this doorway.

I thought I had come to know her; that she had revealed all her fascinating, even mysterious and frustrating complexity. But, by the time our relationship ended I had discovered that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of her inner life. That revelation still confounds me. Yet, I must admit that all that time we spent together was nothing short of miraculous. For me, that is. Was it for her?

How did our relationship become unglued? Was I blind or just too preoccupied with my own needs to forget that she too had needs? I remember the day she left as if it were yesterday. The vindictiveness in her tone is still raw in my memories. I cringe with the thought that she was right when she called me a “selfish jerk.” I do hope that I have changed since then. God knows how hard I have tried.

Why are they here though? This was our favorite location not theirs.

The sound of metal hitting metal still reverberates through my memory with its angry sound; it still fills me with deep remorse and sadness. Why did I drink so much that evening? I should never have been driving. That damn accident became an ever widening ink-spot on our relationship.

How was I supposed to have known she was pregnant?! She never told me. Come to think of it, why didn’t she? Was she seeing him at the time? Maybe it was…no, I won’t go there.

Should I smile if we shake hands? Can I do that? The bastard now holding her hand once was my best friend!

I’ve been told time heals but it doesn’t. I know I can’t change what happened. No one can.

Did she ever forgive me? I would never expect her to forget. How could she. I can’t.

There’s…a small child with them…I guess I am pleased…

She’s moved on with her life. But I can’t. What happened continues to lay waste to my present.

Strange…I’ve rehearsed over and over again what I would say and do if this unlikely opportunity occurred and now that it’s here…well…I’m traumatized to say the least.

I must leave. My thirst for liquor pulls at my vulnerable strings and my oath to the soul of my unborn daughter “to never drink again” may be shattered if I stay. I will not let that happen.

The road ahead leading into the Town Square and in the opposite direction is wistfully reassuring. I must quicken my pace. Unfortunately for me I have chosen a direction that provides no resolution.

Who is it that runs so quickly behind me? Her voice, its lilt, though breathless, is familiar to me.”

“Gerald! Wait! We must talk,” she called out.

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

 

Wishful Thoughts with Occasional Humor by B. B. Wright

Thinking BearWishful Thoughts with Occasional Humor
Volume One
by
B. B. Wright

That anyone who has been hurt by the actions or words of another forgives and goes in peace;

That our politicians no longer opt for partisan point-scoring and begin to point-score on sound policymaking;

That if chaos threatens the present World Order, our expectations of what governments can achieve is balanced with what is feasible;

That we remember to work together collaboratively on the global economic and political fronts to combat pestilence, war, climate change and neglect, so that no country suffers;

That it is better for the public and politicians to over-react than under-react when it comes to delineating whether or not the nature of a threat (like Ebola) is clear;

That nationalism—the most enduring of the “isms” that begat so many wars from the previous centuries—be dampened and re-directed to more benign activities like ping-pong;

That the unshaven slacker that dwells in my basement will finally move out;

That Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s Supreme leader, smiles more but not at our expense;

That Alice in Alice in Wonderland has a big birthday party in 2015;

That magic enjoys a golden period despite the illusion-destroying spoilers who Google;

That all cartoonists have a hay-day during all upcoming political elections;

That we rethink the long-hours culture and the tyranny of technology so that we can escape without being tracked down;

That people put down their cellphones and video games and actually interact with people face to face;

That the marketplace never trumps our stewardship of the earth;

That all children can attend schools worldwide without fears of any kind;

That as I age I can stay awake past eight o’clock in the evening;

That I continue to hate the frequency and number of TV commercials that ruin a good program and put me to sleep;

That The Big Bang Theory continues to bring lots of laughter;

That my personal video recorder (PVR) continues to function so that I do not need to watch commercials;

That Jimmy Fallon continues to do his zany skits;

That the internet shall be free and open and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired in perpetuity;

That all my children leave home before their retirement;

That we never set precedents that validate terrorists’ actions;

That I successfully foil my cat’s plot to kill me;

That I will begin to record all the funny things my grandchildren say and do;

That my grandchildren stop recording on YouTube all the funny things I say and do as I age;

That my grandchildren stop hiding my glasses and false teeth when I’m asleep;

That someone will design a sock that toes will never poke through;

That someone will design nail clippers that catch the clippings;

That I remember to…I forgot;

That I always have enough Viagara so I don’t pee on my slippers;

That the year 2015 be the best ever for everyone;

It’s the Way it Is: by B. B. Wright

shoreline A

It’s the Way It Is

Sharing some thoughts

by

B. B. Wright

 

The rhythmic sound of the waves lapping against the shore still casts its hypnotic spell upon me.

The ocean’s mist comes to me and stains my soul with its sludge of distorted life and predictable death. Once, my nostrils welcomed the ocean’s unique, defining self but now I shed tears in its passing.

Was it only yesterday when the tide rolled in carrying life’s creations that burrowed and buried their future within the sand and crevice-filled landscape? No, it was not. Now they are relegated to digital books in the halls of learning.

The shore-line stretches its lifeless black snaking ribbon into the distance until it dissolves in the fiery blood of a setting sun.

I breathe deeply, my hugged knees drawn closer, and I let this moment wash over me.

Overhead, the seagulls still call their familiar call, engraved within an aging and precarious time work.

Eternal, night’s layers gently begin to blanket the evening’s cloudless sky; I await night’s ghost-jeweled carpet overhead unfolding.

A school of fish jump in the distance; while a colony of starving seagulls gleefully plot their route.

Upon this hill where I sit, barely a handful of bees—one of life’s essential ingredients—gather the last of their day’s pollen; late in the summer, they are the first I have seen.

This new air fills my lungs. I’ve been told it is refreshing and cleansing. Will my mind and body ever really know? Or will I be lulled by a modern day  magus into accepting it is so?

My pond has run dry not far from where I lie. When did the Whole become infrastructure thoughts and credit-default swaps? Grist to the mill I’ve been sold, where economic efficiency trumps all in its obscurantism and exclusion of everything else. Cost to all and benefit for few, an obdurate mind consciously chooses the equation he used; propagandized within carefully crafted words and images explored, its intent is to unobtrusively bend and reshape my mind-filled spirit for support. I will not.

Night’s carpet is unfolding in the sky; I am lonely among the ghosts. The death of a star heralds its footprint by its light from a deep history millions of light years ago.

My footprint with others are recorded differently on this grain of sand and may never be known.

I root my feet in at the top of the hill and reflectively breathe in this world which I’m part. And I wonder: Are we (figuratively speaking) witnessing the last tree to be felled on Easter Island? A premature death carelessly imposed.

If I am the product of what I was when, then so must be the world’s decision makers.

Can we learn to think differently?

It is already happening.

Angel Maker: Part Three by B. B. Wright

Pocket Watch

 Angel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Three

The Killing Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eye brows rose in astonishment.

“What on earth for?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Should I be worried about you?” she asked with a disconcerting look. “It’s not like you to cavort with the likes of her. My god! She’s been in jail. She’s known for swindling gullible people. Where’s your head, Sandy?”

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

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

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

He shifted uneasily in his chair.

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

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

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

She nodded. “Go on.”

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

“Oh, Sandy! How horrible! ”

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

She cupped his hands in hers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That he’s not in the spirit world.”

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

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

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

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

Mustering up a feeble smile, she then looked away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”We both know that’s not true.”

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

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

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

Angel Maker: Part Two by B. B. Wright

Pile of Hebrew prayer booksAngel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Two

Chilling November Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I really don’t…”

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

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

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

“A month ago.”

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

“I take it that your mom already knows?”

“No! It occurred after our row.”

“I see…Well…Congratulations!”

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

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

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

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

She looked at him quizzically.

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

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

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

“Have you heard from them?”

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

He adjusted his position to fully face her.

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

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

“It’s worked for me,” she retorted.

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

Her expression softened as she thought through her reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She hadn’t grasped the urgency of their mission.

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

“Ah! There you are you little rascal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No…but…”

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

“Judith? Whom am I looking for?”

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

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

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

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

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

“We think she may have been taken.”

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

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

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

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

“No more than two hours.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Best Regards
B. B. Wright

Angel Maker: Part One by B. B. Wright

Palladium Cinema

Angel Maker

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her nod was hesitant.

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

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

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

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

She shook her head and pulled herself in even closer.

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

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

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

Several minutes passed before she regained consciousness.

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

Removing it, he placed it in his pocket.

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

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

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

He stepped closer to observe her lifeless body.

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

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

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

Murder with a Twist by B. B. Wright; Fateful Choices: The Finale

evacuees to bournemouth

Fateful Choices: The Finale

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

Duped
A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

The weeks passed quickly and by Saturday, August 19, 1939, news about the murder of Arthur Brodley and related stories with respect to the capture and incarceration of his murderer, Joseph ‘Philly’ Morris, had slipped into the middle pages of the Echo. Throughout most of the month, the Monte Carlo Ice show, Akhbar’s Indian show, complete with a levitating woman, Max Miller, who was considered to be the rudest comedian that ever lived, and the crowning of Miss Betty Meadus as Queen of High-Cliffe, graced the front pages of the Echo. Toward the end of August the front page of the Echo shifted dramatically with the signing of the ten-year non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23. On Tuesday, August 29, the Echo announced: “Children Evacuation to Bournemouth Begins Tomorrow.” Herbert Morrison, leader of the London Country Council, was quoted to have issued this advice: “Children—be kind to each other. Parents: Make the kiddies cheerful. Others: Show a British smile.”  As August drew to an end,  the pages of the Echo were filled with the growing crisis; still, it made room on the front page to report on a jewel heist from Knibbs & Son in Boscombe. No mention was made on any of its pages about the Brodley murder or the compelling circumstantial evidence against ‘Philly’ Morris as argued by his lawyer, Richard Bell, or that the trial would begin on Tuesday, April 30 at the Central Criminal Court in London, commonly known as the Old Bailey.

On Friday, September 1, Hitler invaded Poland. Two days later, on Sunday, September 3, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced in deeply sad undertones that war had been declared against Germany.

Everyone in Britain awaited a calamity after the German invasion of Poland but none materialized; they had expected a robust response to the German invasion of Poland but little of military importance took place. Only stilted sameness existed between people as they went about their daily business trying to absorb and adjust to the torrent of prohibitions of what they could not do and what they had to do. Their transition to this new normalcy ached for relief from the portentous suspension they found themselves in and they willed their attitudes to shift away from Hitler’s machinations to the greater pleasantries and possibilities inherent in holiday planning that smacked with the wholesome and real camaraderie of family and friends. The children who had been evacuated to the Bournemouth area for their protection began to return to their families as reality’s tenuous hold on the preciousness of time regrouped to momentarily follow a different drummer. This period between September 1939 and April 1940 became known as the “Phoney War” or “Sitzkrieg.”

Legal sparring between the Crown and ‘Philly’ Morris’s lawyer, Richard Bell, had pushed the trial to Tuesday, June 25. During that summer of 1940 the fate of Britain hung in the balance as the battle for Britain was fought out overhead between the British Air Force and the German Luftwaffe.

Satiated and exhausted with the daily news of death, the usual curiosity seekers that filled a courtroom during a murder trial had lost their taste for its details and, apart from those actually involved in the trial, the courtroom in Old Bailey was empty.

Norman Steffens had a square face with a jaw line that could chisel granite. Noted for being incredibly outspoken and self-assured, the 34-year old newspaper reporter had developed a reputation for not only his disconcerting ability to analyze events and detect underlying patterns but his uncanny ability for crystal clear language in his articles. As a result, he had developed a sizeable readership. Fixated on this trial, he had turned his finely oiled skills to champion ‘Philly’ Morris’s innocence. His first ‘shot across the bow’ of the Prosecution’s case was a carefully crafted and well received article that challenged the credibility of the saliva test to identify blood type.

On the morning of September 7, Chief Inspector Collier entered the courtroom and nodded in Steffens’s direction when their eyes met as he sat down on the bench at the opposite end to him. Time marched by slowly as Collier reviewed the critical parts of the trial in his mind while he awaited the jury’s verdict. Indelibly seared into his mind were the words of Morris’s lawyer when he had held aloft one of the cigarettes butts and asked the jury “…how is it possible that invisible traces of saliva could even remotely determine the blood type of an individual? In all conscience, could you send a man to the gallows on such skimpy evidence?” Bell’s all-out assault on the credibility of the saliva test had been immediate as seen on the faces of the jurists. It had become quite obvious to Collier that the well-presented case by the prosecution had just been usurped and that it had been reduced to a single scrap of disputed evidence.

When the jury entered, Collier glanced in Steffens’s direction and found him looking at him with a smirk on his face. It didn’t take long before Collier felt the red-hot heat of anger and disappointment begin to leave its imprint as it crawled up the back of his neck.

In a smog-filled room of cigarette smoke at the Strand Palace Hotel positioned close to Trafalgar Square, River Thames and Covent Garden on the north side of The Strand in London, ‘Philly’ Morris celebrated his newly won freedom with the newspaper reporter Norman Steffens by opening a second bottle of champagne. Well on their way from being just inebriated to blindly drug, Steffens watched as Morris lollopped about the room slurping his drink and singing Andy The Handy Man.”

“T’is George Formby’s best song, don’t you think? “ He poured another glass and offered more to Steffens.

“Damn it, ‘Philly,’ it’s barely pass noon and I can barely feel the end of my nose,” Steffens chortled, waving ‘Philly’ off.

“Noon…schmoon…who cares.” Bottle in one hand and the glass in the other, Morris flopped down on the couch opposite Steffens, spilling the contents of his glass on himself. “Fock! “ He exclaimed. “What an arsehole, I am!” Placing both bottle and glass on the table in front of him, he wiped himself down with the cushion beside him. More or less satisfied with the result, he poured himself another glass of champagne. “This, my good friend, is for you and me lawyer,” and he began to sing his rendition of the George Formby song:

“Now he’s a jack-of-all-trades as busy as a bee
Should anything need fixing, just get in touch with Steffens
If you’re water cisterns frozen, or the baby’s face turns blue
Ring Lawyer Bell on the telephone, cos he knows what to do
They call me ‘Philly’, Winner ‘Philly’, a lucky man indeed.”

Morris’s face turned red as he choked on his own laughter.

When Morris had stopped laughing, Steffens shifted forward on his chair and leaned across the table separating them. “Tell me something, ‘Philly,’ and this has been something I have never been able to figure out, how do you think the murderer gained access to Brodley’s safe and where does the hair curler figure in?”

Morris suddenly took on a sober demeanor. He finished the small amount of champagne in his glass and returned it to the table between them. Sitting back in the couch, he spread his arms along its back. “My guess… and …I’m only guessing ‘Steffie’ old boy…but I’d put my money on his granddaughter.”

“Hmm…that’s interesting, why her?”

“She gained a lot from the old man’s death.”

“You mean his estate?”

“And its contents. Worth a fortune.” He poured himself another glass of champagne and swirled the contents around.  “I think old chum that the murderer and her were in cahoots….Like you and me…a real win-win situation. Salut!” And, he drank the contents of his glass in one gulp.” As for that hair curler…” He shrugged.

“I think I’d better head off while I can walk,” Steffens said, standing up.

Unable to stand up after several attempts, Morris glared at him. “But, its way too early to go! Stay and celebrate!”

Fending off Morris’s entreaties to remain, Steffens weaved across the room to the door and left.

Several hours later, Steffens was awakened from a deep sleep by someone banging on his door. Disoriented, he stumbled out of bed and after stubbing his toe and tipping over a chair as he made his way across the room, he finally opened the door.

“Jesu… ‘Philly’…” The vomit and alcohol stench was too much for Steffens and he backed away in disgust.

Morris stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. Sobbing and using the wall as a brace to hold himself up, he blurted out: “I can’t live with it anymore…I’ve got to tell somebody. The jury was wrong…I killed the old bastard.”

Appalled, Steffens began to pace the floor. He and the jury had been duped and there was nothing he could do. British libel laws were stringent. He was the only one present to hear his confession and once tried and found innocent, Morris could never be tried again for the same offence. If he reported what he had just heard he knew Morris would deny it making him libel for massive financial damages. And, he had no intention of giving Morris that satisfaction.

The mournful, wailing sounds of air raid sirens echoed across the City as Steffens descended the stairs to the bomb shelter. He felt no qualms or remorse about leaving Morris’s drunken and unconscious body in his room, only despair at being so thoroughly duped. He hoped that if luck worked in his favor, Morris would be found dead amongst the rubble and he could reveal his confession.

Brodley’s granddaughter, Valerie, was in London that evening too, staying in a hotel a discrete distance away from the Strand Palace Hotel. Unfortunately, her hotel took a direct hit and she died before she could leave her room for the bomb shelter.

The outcome of the trial bothered Chief Inspector Collier  until the truth was finally revealed a full decade later. As ‘Queenie’ Stoddard predicted, his career blossomed but, not without much heartache. Confounded by ‘Queenie’s’ uncanny ability to forecast future events, his curiosity and analytical mind finally got the better of him and he visited the Stoddard household.