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.

Advertisements

Part Twenty-Two of Angel Maker: Out of Dawn’s Awakening by B. B. Wright

bournemouth-1277469_960_720The sun’s rays were just peeking above the horizon when Sergeant Snowden parked in front of Inspector Collier’s home.  Twenty minutes earlier than usual and without his second cup of tea, he was grumpy. What made matters worse, the local newspaper, The Echo, was not yet out, and that meant no cross-word puzzle to work on while he waited. He took notice of a black limousine, five doors down on the opposite side, containing three men. Glancing at his pocket watch, he mentally recorded the time. The sleepy slumber of the neighborhood encouraged him to do the same. And, with a disheartened sigh, he crossed his arms and settled back to wait.

He wondered why the Inspector would want to go to 29 Edgestone Road. That 2-story, stone clad house to blokes like him peered down with the self proclaimed majesty of a pompous, overbearing lord. In short, as far as he was concerned, the house and occupants fitted well together. That’s why he never understood how Collier and Suzanne Moodie had come to meet and fall in love; he was from the Working Class, and she…well she was from the snooty Privileged Class. He could only put it down to the old adage that love knows no boundaries.

Still… he mused.

As for her brother, Reginald, now that was a different story. He had been Collier’s Divisional Commander. And, based on the tidbits he had heard, Collier had held him in low regard. What little he had had completely dissipated in the mud mired madness of senseless slaughter and butchery during the assault at Passchendaele. Britain lost thousands from their best assault divisions; among them was Collier’s brother, Joe. Salt was rubbed into this grievous wound when he learned that General Douglas Haig, chief architect of the carnage and a close friend to the Moodie family, had awarded Reginald the Victoria Cross for Valor. Knowing it was not deserved, Collier had vociferously voiced his displeasure. Sickened by Reginald’s sense of entitlement, along with that of his family, he broke off all contact with Suzanne. She had continued to profess her love for him but, as the story went, Collier would have none it. He had moved on. It was around that time that he had begun to date Lila.

Before returning to the Front, Collier was unexpectedly promoted to Captain. He suspected the Moodie family had a part to play in it. Whoever was behind it or however it came about, the end result was that Collier spent the remainder of the First World War, out of harm’s way, in Military Intelligence, Section 6.

Snowden clicked his tongue. An uneasy smile formed at the corners of his mouth. Suzanne Moodie had never married. And, since her brother’s death, she was now the sole proprietor of 29 Edgestone Road. Unrequited love carried lots of baggage: bitterness and cynicism: melancholy and despair. And, whatever the reason for Collier’s visit, he did not want to be stuck in the middle.

He glanced at the black limousine ahead. Only two silhouettes now appeared in the vehicle. Were they part of the surveillance Collier had told him about? He decided to investigate.

The door to Collier’s home swung open and Lila stepped out. “Sergeant,” she called out, waving invitingly. “Come in, will you, and have some tea. The Inspector is running a wee bit behind this morning.”

Briefly, Sergeant Snowden continued to eye the limousine while acknowledging her entreaty with a wave of his hand. Fate had smiled on him. And the decision to turn back was an easy one. He would receive his much needed second cup of tea.

Werner melted into the shadow as the officer entered the Collier home and the door closed behind him.

He had been watching the three men in the black limo all night. They worked on two hour shifts. One of the men had entered the back seat to sleep forty minutes ago.

The sun’s rays continued to rise and scatter across the horizon.

Patiently, Werner waited.

Pavel was supposed to be one of these three men. The photograph and description left by Otto had been seared into his mind. Werner licked his lips. Today, he would dole out Nazi justice for the murder of his comrade, Klaus Becker.

He attached the silencer to his weapon. The key elements were stealth and swiftness. He wanted to be gone before the neighborhood was aware of what happened.

When a bright shiny ball formed by the sun reflected off the middle of their windshield, he casually walked to the front of the vehicle and fired.

Pop! Pop!

Dead fish eyes of the two men in the front seat stared back at him.

Pavel was not among them.

The third man did not do as expected and remained hidden. Werner crouched beside the front wheel and waited. He did not have to wait long. A splay of bullets pierced the back door. Werner grunted satisfyingly. The hole-pattern in the door told him the man was lying on the floor. Not wanting to lose his brief advantage, he quickly crawled under the vehicle and let loose a deadly spray of bullets along its floor-board.

Rising to his feet, he guardedly peered through the window.

The man’s bloodied head lay in obscured darkness. He concluded that the man was too thin to be Pavel.

The street had come alive with people.

No time to verify, Werner turned and ran along the alley from whence he had come. His car was parked on the street two alleys away. He glanced over his shoulder. No one followed. Still, his instincts told him he was not alone. He stopped. Blood vessels pulsated in his temple while he watched and listened.

Surprisingly, he discerned no immediate danger. Still, his instincts remained pricked as he began to walk.

An odd uneasy, deep rooted discomfort settled over him as he sat behind the wheel of his car. Experiential knowledge of any kind of feeling was never his long suit. He readily accepted his emotional impoverishment. Anyway, it had suited well the life he had chosen.  So when he shifted into gear, gun ready at his side, he was fully prepared for whatever life was about to dole out to him.

Slowly, he drove along the street. His eyes skirted side to side. Intermittently, he checked the rear mirror.

The neighborhood was slowly awakening.

Where was Pavel? Otto had told him that he would be there.

He saw no unusual activity.

Ahead, police cars herald their approach.

He waited for them to pass on the main road and, then, drove in the opposite direction.