Part Thirteen of Angel Maker: “The Lady Vanishes” by B. B. Wright

220px-The_Lady_Vanishes_1938_Poster

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 Thirteen
The Lady Vanishes

The phone book smacked against the wall beside him. “Bloody hell!” Closing the door, he picked up the phone book and hesitantly approached the inspector. “Bad day, Gov?” He placed it on his desk.

“You might say that, Sergeant,” replied Collier, feeling embarrassed by his outburst. “I’m sorry about my…little show of frustration. Don’t take it personal.”

“None taken.” Snowden bit down on his lower lip. “Perhaps Gov… we should wait for a better time to do this?”

“I wish there was a better time, Sergeant.” Collier stood up and walked to the electoral map of Bournemouth on the side wall. “Pressure’s mounting again to solve this little girl’s murder and Christmas holidays are fast approaching.” Massaging his chin, he perused the districts. “My thoughts are we begin the fingerprinting here…before Christmas.”

“Oy. I don’t think the men are going to like this.”

“If this doesn’t go well, Sergeant, I’m likely to find several pieces of coal in my stocking this Christmas and next,” Collier chortled. “So I depend upon you to smooth things out as best you can.”

Snowden sighed deeply. “I’ll do my best, gov.”

“I know you will, Sergeant.” He replied reassuringly before redirecting his attention to the map. “To help you in that endeavor I chose to begin, here, in the northern districts. Not highly populated, it’s composed of residents unlikely to be traveling this time of year. It should easily be completed before the holidays. More importantly, it would allow an opportunity to work out any kinks in the process without undue stress to staff.” He glanced over at Snowden. “Did you mark off the names from the electoral register of those fingerprinted at the hospital?” The Sergeant nodded. “Were there any from these districts?”

Snowden opened the register and thumbed through the pages. A few moments later he shook his head. “No, sir, none.”

“I see…Well, Sergeant, time’s a wasting, so we’d better get at it.”

They located a table and two chairs in front of the electoral map. Collier gathered pencils, pens, and both lined and unlined paper from his desk and placed them on the table. “Now, Sergeant, let’s see what we can come up with.”

The next four hours passed by quickly. The two of them assigned responsibilities within all of the electoral districts and completed the framework of the how, when, where, who and why of the full operation. They estimated it would take five months to complete. Since the pool of people they had to draw on was small, scheduling of personnel had become the main stumbling block. The thorn in their side would be that all staff would have to do double duty to ensure completion within the time frame. Collier knew that this would draw the ire of many of them. January to May, generally a lax period before the onslaught of tourists, was when most of his staff booked their vacation. Now, all leaves would have to be cancelled until this operation was completed. It was decided that the staff would be informed during this Friday’s meeting.

Collier glanced at the wall clock. “You up for a late niter Sergeant? We daren’t go into Friday’s meeting without that schedule completed.”

“I’ll have to let my old lady know. She’d box my ears if I didn’t show up for dinner without telling her.”

“Can’t have that now, can we?”

“Any idea how late, gov?”

“No later than when it’s finished and we’re both satisfied.”

There was an earnest knock at the door. Sergeant Snowden was about to answer it when Corporal Dubin barged into the office waving a sheet of sketch pad paper high in the air. Arriving in excited, overzealous mid-spiel, his talk charged ahead of him making it less than intelligible.

“Hold on Corporal! Stop and get your breath!” implored Snowden.

Dubin took in a deep breath and thrust the sketch in Collier’s direction.

Collier recognized the face of the man in the sketch immediately. “I’ll be damned. Are you a Margaret Lockwood fan or a Michael Redgrave fan, Corporal?” he asked ecstatically.

Nodding his understanding, the corporal smiled at him. “I’ll get the car, sir.”Heading out the door he yelled, “Redgrave fan, sir.”

“You’re going to a movie? What about this schedule?” Snowden asked unable to hide his feelings of indignation.

“Can’t be helped, Sergeant. I can only hope The Lady Vanishes doesn’t mean our suspect has vanished too. I’ll explain later.”

Gathering his hat and jacket from the coat-tree, he exited.

After phoning his wife, Sergeant Snowden settled in for what he expected would be a very long night.

Part Twelve of Angel Maker: Hoping For A Break by B. B. Wright

Pipe and Pouch

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 Twelve

Hoping For A Break

Shortly after Captain Hall had shut the door behind her, Collier retrieved his pipe and pouch of tobacco from the side drawer of his desk. Filling his pipe he returned the tobacco to the drawer and walked over to the window. He hadn’t smoked in several months but as he drew in the smoke and purged it through his nostrils he found it soothing almost liberating in its effects.

Experience had taught him that the unexpected always happened and, no matter his attempt to deny it, he had self-imposed a discomforting litany of cruel possibilities for his son’s fate. He understood the difference between what he could affect and what he couldn’t. Still, he found it agonizingly difficult to not only reside in absolute secrecy but to relinquish control of his son’s fate to another.

He walked back to his desk and sat down.

Collier had no direct experience in the kind of battle Captain Hall was about to wage because her battle would be fought in the shadows of the garden of beasts. And the special set of skills of cloak and dagger inherent in her, he knew he did not possess. Yet, there was commonality joining them. It existed in the hot blood coursing through their veins and the shared knowledge that losing was far more dangerous an option than winning.

An hour had drifted by unnoticed since Captain Hall’s departure and he snarled at himself for allowing such a wasteful lapse in time.

The public and newspapers had let up somewhat on the Rebecca Grynberg Case. But, like hot coals, their stinging words had left their mark on the unsolved investigation. Now, with the Wardrobe Steamer Trunk Case, he had a second murderer on the loose and sparse resources for follow up.

Hoping for a break in at least one of the cases, Collier grabbed the phone book from the table behind him and began to slap through its pages, stopping long enough each time to record two numbers on his ink pad.

His first call was to the Bournemouth train station. Robert Shaw, who was the shipping agent, told him that November 16 was one of his slowest days of the month and, as a result, he remembered the wardrobe steamer trunk quite well. When Collier asked him if he could describe the person who sent it, he assured him that he could and went on to explain why.

According to Shaw, the elderly Scottish chap, who owned the trunk, was associated with the London Corinthian Theatre. This news had garnered great interest for Shaw because he had been one of the Theatre’s original members in the Cambridge play-reading group and, as a result, knew the Theatre’s founders: Jonathan Doone and Archibald Medley. The lengthy exchange of catch up history which had ensued between them ensured that the trunk owner’s image was securely locked in Shaw’s memory.

Assured of Shaw’s willingness to wait at the station until a constable arrived, Collier made his second call to Andre Bertillon owner of the Bertillon Art Studio located in town. Though a commercial artist, Andre was a damn good forensic artist, too. His sketches had helped Collier to develop leads with subsequent identification and arrests in three previous cases. He held his breath as he waited for Andre to pick up at his end. Christmas was only a couple of weeks away and he knew that Andre would most likely be short on time. After the tenth ring, Collier was about to hang up when he heard Andre’s voice. Keeping his conversation brief and to the point, Collier explained the urgency of his call while sweetening his request for assistance by suggesting he would add a few more quid to Andre’s usual stipend. A short squabble ensued over the exact amount to be added until Collier finally complied with Andre’s demand. Though the amount was greater than he would have liked, Collier was satisfied that it would be money well spent.

Hanging up, Collier called Constable Dubin into his office. He briefed him on the Wardrobe Steamer Trunk Case and then sent him on his way to pick up Andre for their interview of Robert Shaw.

Collier let out a long sigh as he looked at the map of Bournemouth on the wall opposite the window. His decision to have all males over the age of sixteen fingerprinted in the Rebecca Grynberg Case suddenly felt daunting. He knew, though, that if ‘Queenie’ was right, it might very well save the lives of two young Jewish children slated for death by the same hand that had murdered Rebecca.

Are ‘Queenie’ and her husband hiding those children and their parents? He thought. The porcelain doll and child’s blanket found at the Stoddard’s residence points in that direction. Or, are they already dead? Bloody hell! People as well known as ‘Queenie’ and her husband don’t just disappear into thin air without someone seeing them.

Pushing the intercom button, he asked Sergeant Snowden to bring in the electoral register. He was about to make what he knew would be a very unpopular decision. Scrooge would be the kinder of labels he expected soon to be thrust on him.  He picked up the phone book and threw it toward the door that Sergeant Snowden had just entered through.

Part Nine of Angel Maker: Hamlet’s Ruse by B. B. Wright

Steamer trunk

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 Nine

Hamlet’s Ruse

Collier was preoccupied with a phone call from Detective Inspector Ellis Smyth from Scotland Yard when Sergeant Snowden popped his head around the partially opened door to his office. Waving him in, Collier directed him towards the two chairs in front of his desk as he swiveled about to open his notebook on the table behind him.

“So the dead man hasn’t been identified yet?” Collier asked Smyth.

“Not yet. What we have is a wardrobe steamer trunk that had been sent from Bournemouth on November 16 containing his body, the dead man’s fingerprints and a number of prints lifted from the trunk.” Smyth replied.

“There must be a record of who had sent it?”

Smyth chuckled on the other end of the line. “Funny you should ask. Does the name Shakespeare Hamlet ring a bell?”

“Oh…To be or not to be, that is the question…”

“You know your Shakespeare, Inspector. Check the train station at your end. My thoughts are that sending an unaccompanied wardrobe steamer trunk to Vic Station would be out of the norm. So, there’s a good chance whoever tagged it will remember what the sender looked like.”

“Will do. Could you courier copies of those prints to me? Hopefully, I can come up with something at my end. Any ideas about when he died and how?”

“Decomposition was quite extensive but the examiner figured three maybe four weeks. His neck was snapped. I’ll send along a copy of the autopsy report as well. You should have everything in your hands sometime late tomorrow morning. If something breaks, I’ll let you know.

“I will do the same and thank you, Detective Inspector.”

Turning back to hang up the phone, Collier noticed that Sergeant Snowden was still standing at the door. Beside him was a tall slender woman in her late twenties dressed in a tweed skirt with matching jacket and white blouse.

“Um…ah…Sergeant?” Collier stammered as he slowly returned the telephone receiver to its cradle.

Sergeant Snowden stepped forward and introduced Captain Hall

Collier couldn’t hide the shock that registered on his face since he had never entertained the thought of Captain Hall being anything other than a male. Clearing his throat, he recovered his composure and came around his desk to greet her.

Walking to him with a noticeable limp, she reached out and firmly shook his hand.

Her eyes were cold and grey like gun barrels that had him firmly fixed in their cross-hairs. And, as he released his grip, it was the first time he felt slightly unnerved in someone’s presence.

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.

 

Angel Maker: Part Six by B. B. Wright

500ml_clear_winchester_1

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 6
The Hunch

Two significant clues had been discovered in the missing girl’s hospital room: a Winchester bottle under her bed with several fingerprints on it and on the highly polished floor the stockinged impressions of an adult male’s footprints. It had been established early in the investigation that Rebecca Grynberg had been the sole patient in this room.

Though the immediate objective was to account for all fingerprints found on that bottle, Collier, who recalled the hospital administrator’s odd sock combination, asked his good friend, Leonard Scoffield, who was the senior officer in charge of the forensic side of the crime scene, to check Becker’s foot size first against the stockinged impressions left in the room. Also, after he had cleared it with Leonard, Collier took the photo of the little girl with her family from its frame on the bedside table and placed it in his inside pocket.

Diane, poked her head around the corner to the entrance of the room and tried to get her uncle’s attention. Leonard noticed her first and directed Collier’s attention toward the doorway.

Massaging the taut muscles in his neck Collier walked over to where his niece was standing.

“Is everything alright?” he asked. “You have a worried look about you.”

“I see your neck’s bothering you. We do have Minnard’s liniment here.”

Shaking his head, he replied: “That foul smelling stuff? Nice diversion…You’re not getting off the hook that easily. Now what’s troubling you?” He cupped her elbow and led her down the hall away from the room’s entrance and into a small alcove.

“It’s about tonight’s dinner,” she replied, “and I can’t help but feel stressed over it especially if you’re not there to…support us.”

“Oh…I see. You’re afraid that you and Lenny might not be able to handle facing your mother on your own.”

She nodded.

“I shall be there. I promise you. But, if I am late for whatever reason, your Auntie Lila can handle my sister quite handedly at the first sign of trouble.” From Diane’s expression he wasn’t sure she had bought into what he had just said. “May I make a suggestion?”

“Of course uncle!”

“If I’m going to be late I’ll forewarn your Auntie Lila. You call her first to get the lay of the land and then me at the station to coordinate our arrival times. I think that should allay any concerns you may have. What do you think? Does it work?”

She wrapped her arms around him. “It works uncle!”

“We’ll tame your mum by evening’s end,” he assured her. “Now off to do your work. I too have much to accomplish by day’s end. And, again, congratulations on your engagement.”

By the time Inspector Collier left the hospital to return to the station with Constable Dubin, he was satisfied that Sergeant Snowden had everything well under control. This included securing the exits and monitoring the comings and goings at the hospital as well as a plan to ensure that all personnel were fingerprinted in the solarium

The actual fingerprinting of hospital personnel was the responsibility of Leonard Scoffield’s team who also matched and validated names and addresses associated with each set of fingerprints as well as the foot size of males. Based on the list the hospital administrator, Klaus Becker, gave them, there were over 2000 people—2017 to be exact—to be processed. At least a month’s worth of work to complete.

The sunshine and nipping chill felt good against his cheeks as Collier descended the steps from the hospital to the Wolseley parked at the bottom. Though he still felt some discomfort from his fall earlier on the same steps it had become quite bearable.

By the time Collier had reached the bottom of the steps, he had decided to follow a hunch that had been bubbling in his mind since he learned of the girl’s disappearance and ‘Queenie’s,’ recounting to him of her reoccurring dreams—though he would have described them as nightmares.

He directed Constable Dubin to make a detour to the local cinema rather than returning directly to the station.

The crowds from the Remembrance Day ceremonies had long since dispersed and the streets were relatively quiet as Dubin parked the vehicle in front of the Palladium Cinema. The unlit marquee above its entrance advertised The Divorce of Lady X starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier and Collier could see someone cleaning up in the main foyer behind the glass doors.

By the time Constable Dubin and he reached the front doors of the cinema whoever had been in the front foyer had disappeared and they were left with no other choice than to bang heavily on the doors with their hands to attract attention.

After several fruitless and loud attempts, an elderly gentleman with tufts of white hair on a mostly bald head and sporting a white handlebar moustache and work clothes appeared. Barely paying attention to them, he pulled out his pocket-watch, pointed to it and waved his bony arm for them to go away. Their persistent banging against the doors drew his full attention and forced him to maneuver his glasses from their strategic position just above his forehead to his nose. Once he saw Constable Dubin’s uniform he quickly traversed the foyer to open the doors.

“Sorry aboot that. Thae auld een o’ mines dinnae see as guid wi’oot thae,” he apologized pointing to his glasses.

“May we come in?” Collier asked.

“Aye o’ coorse ye kin.”

After Collier and the constable stepped inside the doors, the elderly gentleman relocked them.

“Ye cannae be tae canny.”

Collier smiled replying:”No you can’t. Best to be too careful than not careful enough.”

“Aye. Noo whit kin ah dae fur ye?”

“I’m Inspector Collier and this here is Constable Dubin. What’s your name?”

“Robert, Robert McTavish.”

“Is the owner…Harry Mears by any chance here, Robert?” Collier asked, casually surveying the surrounding environs.

“Na tis juist me. Cleaning up afore tomorrow’s matinee.”

Collier reached into his pocket and pulled out the photo. “Have you seen this little girl around here recently?”

Robert looked at it long and hard before answering.

“She doesn’t keek kenspeckle. Bit thae auld een see a lot o’ fowk while th’ week while this auld brain o’ mines doesn’t mind as weel as it used tae.”

“Too bad, I wish you had. Do you mind if we look around?”

“Na nae at a’. Ah will tak’ thae garbage bags oot back ‘n’ return shortly.”

“Thank you, Robert. You’ll find us in the lower section of the theatre.”

As Collier opened the doors to the theatre, he could hear Robert loading the garbage bags onto his trolley. Turning back he watched him wheel the garbage down a dark corridor to the back entrance.

“Tell me gov, did you understand everything he said to you? I know I had trouble following him.”

“Pretty much. The Scottish brogue was a daily part of my life growing up. My family on my mother’s side was Scottish and they often took care of me while my parents worked.”

“Do you mine gov if I ask another question?”

“Not at all.”

“What do you hope to find here?”

“I really don’t know, Constable, except that little girl safe and sound and hiding somewhere in here.”

“But why here?”

“For now, let’s just call it a hunch. Now check along the rows on that side while I check this side. After we’re finished here we’ll head upstairs to the balcony.”

Barely into their search the doors behind them burst open and Robert McTavish,  frantic and breathless, stood partly into the opening clinging to the door handles on either side of him.

“Mah god! Mah god! Come quickly! ” he screamed, pointing behind him as he turned and exited.

Tears swelled Collier’s eyes once he stepped out into the back alley behind the theatre and saw the child’s lifeless and broken body in a pool of blood. Unable and not caring to hide his emotions, he hunched down in front of her sobbing.

Dull as stone and open, her eyes stared back at him.

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

 

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.