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-Four of Angel Maker: Ringwood Pub by Barry B. Wright

The afternoon edition of The Echo’s banner headline blared out at him:

‘Queenie’ Found Murdered

“Your ‘boat,’ Jock,” chortled Quentin Hogg, observing Jock’s facial expression from the end of the bar. Quentin turned and alerted the others to take notice.

Nothing about Jock Mahoney was small. He was massive in everyway. His eyes were piercing and intelligent on a canvass shaped by an earlier life in bare-knuckle boxing.

“What about it?!” growled Jock, owner of the Ringwood Pub, taking up his position behind the bar and still immersed in reading the front page of the paper.

“It looks like it’s been to the ‘deadly nevergreen’ and back, don’t it boys?”

Low muffled “ayes” and nods to the reference of “gallows” rumbled in unison from the patrons.

“Cheese it!” Jock bellowed as he slammed The Echo down. The room went still. “Now that you’ve stopped your ‘cackle,’ get off your ‘bottle and glass’ and gather round.” He pointed at the headline. “Read and weep. Crime’s takin’ us over, boys. Our Bournemouth’s goin’ to hell in a handbasket.”

The cook, Patrick O’Grady, a burly red-faced man, emerged from along the hallway that led to the kitchen. Above his shoulder, he carried a large circular brown tray. On it was a traditional full British breakfast of bacon, sausages, black pudding, hash browns, bubble and squeak, baked beans, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, scrambled eggs and coffee. Patrick placed the heavy load on an empty table and served the customer. Once he was satisfied that all was well, he joined the others.

Pavel Sudoplatov placed some bacon and a section of scrambled egg on a slice of his toast as he listened to the men gathered at the bar. As he ate, his trained eyes slowly scanned each nook and cranny of the tavern.

“She was no straight-cut, Jock. She got what she deserved.” Phil piped in making no bones about hiding his malice toward ‘Queenie.’

“She did, did she? And the two children too?” retorted Patrick.

On either side of the main entrance, tables and chairs each fronted a large window. Deep seated booths lined the side and back walls. Opposite the long wall of booths, the bar stretched from the front to the hallway opposite Pavel. Freedom of movement in front of the bar was afforded by an open space that was free of tables and chairs, while sawdust on the floor’s surface ensured an easier cleanup following the usual assortment of patron mishaps.

Three-quarters of the pub’s area was cast in a grey hue. Pavel thought that a mirror positioned behind the bar could have made better use of the natural light that flooded through the front windows. Though from his vantage point, the resulting shadow casted him in the proper light.

The darkened hallway opposite him, narrowed considerably by a variety of boxes precariously stacked to the ceiling along one side, led to the exit, washroom and kitchen. At the corner to this passageway was the sign: Wobbling Topples, Keep Your Wee Johnny in Line. Scrawled above Johnny, which had been crossed out, was Wee. Below the sign was a bucket of soapy water with a mop in it.

Patrick noticed Phil purloining Quentin Hogg’s whiskey glass and downing its contents. “You fockin’ burarco.” And he shoved Phil. “Guard your drinks boys,” he warned, his index finger pointing downwards and hovering above Phil’s head.

Quentin noticed his whiskey glass was empty and, clearly understanding Patrick’s siren complaint, turned to pummel Phil.

Jock stretched his muscular arm across the counter and grabbed Quentin by the shirt. “Pull back, Quentin, if you want two on the house.” Assured he had Quentin under control, he locked eyes with Phil. “Get the fock out! Now!”

Phil stumbled back, raised his hand to contend his forced expulsion, quickly thought better of it, and exited.

“Is he ever sober?” Patrick asked rhetorically, turning his attention to The Echo unfazed by what had just occurred.

“Uh?” Jock replied, distracted as he filled two whiskey glasses and placed them in front of Quentin.

“No matter. Here, did you see this, Jock? Three ‘bolshie’ murdered in their car. Shooter at large. Isn’t ‘tat on the same street where the Inspector lives?”

Shocked by this news, Pavel’s ears perked up and he stopped eating.

“Aye, so it is,” replied Quentin and Jock in unison as the others pressed in to read the article.

Pavel had no doubts that this was retribution for the explosion that killed Klaus Becker at the Cricketer’s Arms. His mind churned as he rethought his options. Now, only he and Anatoli remained. He noticed a black Wolseley pulling up outside. Reflexively, his hand pressed against the .32 automatic in his jacket. Dropping a guinea on the table, he surreptitiously slid out of his booth and along the hallway to the exit.

The sun’s brightness momentarily blinded him. Teary streams smeared his cheeks as he eased along the wall toward the sidewalk. Wiping his eyes clear with his shirt sleeves, he peered around the corner. Sergeant Snowden and Inspector Collier were waiting for Captain Hall to exit the Wolseley. After she joined them, a brief discussion ensued before they entered the pub.

Wishing he had overheard their conversation, Pavel earnestly began to scan the largely vacant street for Anatoli’s vehicle. He must have followed them, he mused. Unless he too…His eye twitched in a rare display of nervousness. He shook off the thought. But, where is he? A horn beeped. Too preoccupied in his surveillance, he ignored it. But, when two halting beeps followed in succession, it gathered his attention.

Part Twenty-Three of Angel Maker: The Stoddards by Barry B. Wright

At the beginning of 1939, the English south coastal resort of Bournemouth proudly proclaimed a population of one hundred thirty thousand. The natural beauty of its cliffs and the wide sweep of its bay embraced a magic carpet of sand while the Bourne River—fringed with parkland and public gardens—stretched into the heart of the coastal community. Bournemouth’s outstanding characteristic and attraction was its breadth of view and openness. The ideal vacation destination, it attracted all types of tourists searching for a place of respite.

Vacationers wanted something different, exciting and unique that contrasted sharply with the commonality of their usual daily existence. That’s what drew the Stoddards to Bournemouth in 1934; they had a service that fitted the bill. And they had no qualms about relieving their clients from the burden of carrying too much coin.

When they found a house suitable for their business and had it suitably furnished, Mary Elizabeth proudly hung out her shingle displaying her shtick: a psychic, medium, spiritualist, mental healer, psychic-analyst, and folklorist. While her husband, Lawrence, advertised his prowess in the local newspaper, The Echo, as a “powerful deep-trance medium.” They did not have to wait long before the clients flooded in. Within the first six months of setting up shop, so-to-speak, their business had surpassed their wildest expectations.

Mary Elizabeth had been known only as ‘Elizabeth’ in the many towns she had visited. Though rarely her choice, she had never stayed long in any town she visited. More often, than not, she had been unceremoniously ushered out of town by the local constabulary.

The line between law and outlaw in her business was razor thin. But, as in any business, experience finally paid dividends. The key to her success was learning how to stay out of reach of those who would have preferred her jailed.

As her business flourished, overtime a comfortable coexistence developed between the Stoddards and the local community of Bournemouth. As far as the community was concerned if she stayed within the letter of the law, the occasional grey areas could be ignored. The Stoddards attracted commerce to Bournemouth during the high season. And, when all was said and done, that, by itself, made everything tickety-boo.

On December 11, 1936 King Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite. He was reluctantly succeeded by his brother, Albert, who became King George VI. His wife, Elizabeth, became the queen consort.

Mary Elizabeth and her husband, Lawrence, were gregarious, convivial individuals. People easily succumbed to their charming, warm and inviting ways. So, it was, though not without reservation, that they eventually became an integral part of the landscape that defined Bournemouth. And, Mary Elizabeth became fondly known in the community by the nickname, ‘Queenie,’ after the queen consort.

Mary Elizabeth’s ‘special gifts’ unexpectedly expanded in 1937. Haste was a virtue to her way of thinking. The very thought that haste made waste was outside her immediate experience. And, when Lawrence encouraged her to slow down and had pointed out that she had become more accident prone, she dismissed it as a ridiculous observation. That is, until she fell down the flight of stairs in her two-story home. Rushed to hospital, she remained unconscious for two months.

During her convalescence, her usual dream-scape changed. She discovered that within days of her dreams, the events she dreamt about showed up in the news. The frequency of occurrence convinced her that this was no lucky coincidence. Turning this newly found gift into a monetary venture was never in question for Mary Elizabeth or Lawrence. What was in question was how to safe-guard it since they had no idea how long lasting her ability would be.

When Inspector Collier phoned her shortly after Kristallnacht, she was genuinely taken by surprise. Not an ardent fan of hers, she was suspicious of his request for an early morning visit. Still, it could not have been timelier. Her most recent nightmare necessitated that they meet. Witness to the horrific murder of a young child and experiencing it through the eyes and mind of her killer had left her discombobulated and chilled to the bone. So, she easily acquiesced to their rendezvous.

Lawrence poured two glasses of Port and handed one to Mary Elizabeth. They sat opposite each other in silence in front of the unlit fireplace.

“So…What are you going to tell him?” He crossed one leg over the other.

“The Inspector?” He nodded. “The truth. There’s no need to be concerned, Lawrence. So, wipe that look off your face. I have to tell him about what I dreamt.”

“I guess I understand…But…don’t you think he’ll think you’ve gone crackers? He’s well respected in the community. I’d hate to lose what we worked so hard to create.” He got up and poured himself another glass of Port. She refused when he proffered to refill her glass.

She let out a long sigh. “It’s a chance I must take,” she continued. “You didn’t experience the horror I lived through the other night. It was a child…The son-of-bitch murdered a child.” She pulled a hanky from her sleeve and wiped the tears from her eyes. “I may be the only one who’s got the goods on that bastard.”

“Maybe so…I’ve learned on too many occasions never to cross you when your mind is made up, Mary Elizabeth.” There were playful undertones in his comment. He took a sip from his glass and scrutinized her long and hard. “And his son?” He asked raising an eyebrow. “What are you going to tell him about his son?”

She bit down hard on her lower lip and, with a slight shrug, replied: “I’ll have that worked out before the mornin’. But, I can assure you that whatever’s said about his son the Inspector will leave with lots of hope and promise.”

Lawrence returned to the side table and poured another Port.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Lawrence?”

“I feel I’m on the verge of quicksand,” he replied, ignoring her question. “Is playing him a good idea?”

“I would never do that.” Joining him, she wrapped her arms around him. “I will never forget that for such a brief time, we, too, were parents. I can feel what he feels. No, I only want to allay his pain until I can learn more, nothing else. I’ll be careful about how tell him.” She took his hand and led him back to sit down.

“Are you alright, Mary Elizabeth? Since the night our wee Robbie passed, I’ve never seen such a forlorn expression.”

“I’m afraid.”

“Whatever for?”

“These new powers or abilities, whatever you call them…they’re growing. And, the murderer of that little girl has them too.”

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

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

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Seventeen
The Trap is Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“American?” Werner asked, scrutinizing her.

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

“Your accent…it’s American?”

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

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

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

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

Silhouetted Man on Pier

Angel Maker

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Sixteen
Captain Hall Returns

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

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

“Surprise? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collier cocked an eyebrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And, my son, Richard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her cold stare unnerved him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

200-phone
Angel Maker

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery

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

Part Fifteen
The Phone Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Hall did not reply.

“Well, Captain? Loss for words?”

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

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

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

“Queenie?” Collier interjected.

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

Part Fourteen of Angel Maker: Lambert Manor by B. B. Wright

Ensbury Manor One

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 Fourteen
Lambert Manor

Atop the stone perimeter wall, hidden within the boughs of a leafy oak tree that overhung it, Werner Gruener peered through his binoculars at Lambert Manor. Slowly, he scanned the windows. In his tweed overcoat pocket was a copy of Psychic Glimpses by Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a ‘Queenie’). Chapters twenty-five and twenty-six had brought him there. He stopped. There was movement at a window. Adjusting his focus, he lingered and watched. A slow twitch at the corner of his mouth erupted into a smirk. He had come to the right place.

In a low hateful tone filled with loathsome fanaticism for the horde inside the manor, he murmured: “Humpty Dumpty stands on this wall; his goal about to bring a great fall; all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t stop Humpty from killing again.”

Barking dogs in the distance caused him to quickly scramble down from his perch. He twisted his ankle in the descent. Crouching low, he massaged his ankle as he hugged the outside wall and waited. The sounds of the dogs receded. He had not been discovered.

In her book, Queenie’s grasp of British history was naïve to say the least. But, that was of no matter to Werner. He was intrigued by the locations she had cited for her encounters with ghosts– Bryanston House, Shaftesbury Abbey, Hamworthy Rectory, Scaplen’s Court in Poole. He had ordered his coterie of likeminded souls to each of those sites to scratch out whatever information they could from the locals. His attention, though, was twigged by Lambert Manor. Unlike the others, she had devoted two meaty chapters to it that detailed her encounters with a cast of spectral characters from Elizabethan ladies to bewigged gallants. It had been the only one honored by several sketched images peppered throughout its chapters. Also, he had learned that she and her husband were members of the spiritualist group Druid Circle which met there every Sunday night.

But, ultimately, it had been her dreams that had given her away. Queenie’s several incursions into his dreams had left him an entry portal to her dreamscape. Though she had not invaded his mind recently, he had invaded hers and found dreams filled with images of Lambert Manor.

Under Queenie’s wing, the Meintner family was protected. If his ploy to gain access worked, only the time factor was troublesome. It would mean several months with close proximity to Queenie. He had no idea how it would affect her ability to invade his thoughts, awake or asleep. Though a potential pitfall, he was confident of his ability to outwit her. Still, he wondered whether he would need a different set of mental barriers. Soon, he decided, if all went well, he would know.

Hobbling alongside the wall toward the entrance to the estate, he stuffed the binoculars into a small knapsack he carried over his shoulder. He snickered hatefully. Having no further use for it, he pulled out her book, Psychic Glimpses, and tossed it into the deep ditch, parallel to him. He worried. London authorities had already found the body in the wardrobe steamer trunk. According to an article buried deep in the pages of The Echo the severely decomposed body had not yet been identified. There was no mention of the description of the sender in subsequent publications. No matter, he mused. He chastised himself for talking so long with Robert Shaw, the shipping agent at Bournemouth train station. I wonder if he knew. Thespians have a keen eye for such things.

Christmas was fast approaching. Werner hoped to find the household in a generous mood. He cocked his tweed cap slightly to the right and grasped the large brass ring and knocked it against the front door twice. He heard footsteps approaching from inside.

A rigidly straight, lean gentleman answered the door. He gave the impression that he was starched from top to bottom, including his personality. He peered down at Werner. “Goodness man, I haven’t got all day. What do you want?”

His haughtiness immediately captured Werner’s ire but he kept this festered boil hidden.

“Mah nam is Rabbie Mctavish. I’m haur about yer ad fur a grounds keeper.”

Werner had decided to murder all in this household when the time was ripe. He scrutinized this arrogant bastard. You’ll be the first, he thought.

Dismissing Werner with the flickering wave of his hand, he directed him to go round to the rear entrance and slammed the door shut.