Chapter Thirty-Six of Angel Maker by Barry B. Wright: An Unexpected Visitor

Avenue Foch is one of the most prestigious locations in Paris. Located close to the Champs Elysees, its location provides easy access to bakeries, cafes, restaurants and superb shopping.

Using one of the riding trails as a footpath, Lynn and Melissa hurriedly made their way through the Bois de Boulogne. Lynn’s apartment sat near the edge of the park. Their route was criss-crossed by alleys canopied by chestnut trees against a background of ornamental lawns filled with the aroma and eye-candy from the plethora of exotic flowers and plants. Unfortunately, they had no time to appreciate this special kind of arboretum they travelled through.

When they stepped out onto Avenue Foch, Melissa stopped. She could no longer resist. Wide-eyed, she took in the palatial dwellings and lush verges and elegant chestnut trees which lined the Avenue.

The avenue was extraordinarily wide, one-hundred twenty meters, and Lynn was well into crossing it when she realized Melissa wasn’t with her. Glancing back, she understood Melissa’s awe and her need to take in the Avenue’s elegance. She, too, felt it each time she visited. But today was different. She returned and pulled Melissa along with her.

Once inside her apartment, Lynn drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly while she absorbed her surroundings. “It’s my little slice of heaven. But, I fear it may not be for long.”

“Are you referring to what happened at the Hotel Crillon or Daladier?”

“Both, really. For a while, there’s been a call for a good dose of authority in the Republic. And, Daladier delivered up last month by proroguing parliament. It’s unprecedented in peacetime.” Deep furrows began to form on her forehead. “He’s too cozy with the Munich bunch for my liking. Reinhold and his Nazi friends strutting around at the Hotel forebodes darker days sooner than later.” Briefly, she chewed on her thoughts. “How we enter Germany may have to change.” Escorting Melissa into the living room, she encouraged her to sit while she began to pace the floor.

“Do you really have to do that?” Melissa asked. But, it appeared Lynn did not hear her. “One-Zero-One-Two-Zero?”  she injected loudly with a smirk, assured it would capture her attention.

Lynn stopped. Her eyebrows pinched together at the bridge of her nose. “Okay, I’ll bite.”

“Reinhard’s SS number.”

“Why would you ever need to know that?” she asked in astonishment.

Melissa lit up her cigarette and, swinging her legs over the arm of the chair, dislodged her shoes from her feet. They flopped onto the lush carpet with a gentle thud. She purged the smoke through her nostrils. “Sometimes my penchant for knowing such things has made the difference between life and death.”

Lynn stared at Melissa long and hard. “Are we in one of those situations?”

She returned her enquiry with a matter-of-factly, who knows, sort of shrug. “Whereas in Berlin…it could very well be a different story.”

“I’m not sure I understand… unless…you think my meeting Reinhold has somehow compromised our mission.”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Melissa bit down on her lower lip and glanced away. Swinging around, she sat upright in the chair. She needed time to think.

“My vote is never with those who say it can’t be done. You’ve known me long enough to know that. We’ll think our way around it and if need be through it. This mission shall be done.”

“Why don’t you open one of those expensive bottles of red wine from over there and then we’ll talk.” She watched while Lynn fastidiously perused the wine bottles behind the glass-fronted mahogany cabinet doors situated against the far wall.

When Lynn had finally chosen the bottle, and had popped out the cork, Melissa shivered in delight. “What a sweet sound to my ears.”

With her glass in hand, Melissa gently swirled the wine and enjoyed its nose before taking a sip. “Wow! This is yummy Bordeaux.” She lifted the bottle of Lafite-Rothschild from the coffee table between them and examined the label. She could feel Lynn’s stare boring a hole straight through her. “Nectar from the gods, surely, Lynn, you’re going to pour yourself a glass?” She quickly discerned that her jovial invite had fallen flat.

Lynn’s right eyebrow hoisted to full mast. “How the hell can you take what transpired at the Hotel Crillon so nonchalantly?”

Melissa shifted forward and placed her glass on the table. “Lynn, you know just as well as I that deception is the name of the game we’re playing in. Believe me, I’m not taking what happened lightly.” Silence met her ears. “But it does make our mission that much more dangerous. Don’t you agree?” Lynn sighed and nodded reluctantly. “That’s reassuring.”

“What’s reassuring?”

“That we’re on the same page.”

“Melissa, that has never been in question, at least, not in my mind.” She scrutinized her closely before finally pouring herself a glass of the Bordeaux. “I get it.” She slammed the bottle hard onto the coffee table. “Damn that Reinhold! It’s a goddamn SNAFU!” Limping Lady, the Gestapo’s nickname for her, invaded the swirling cauldron in her head. Exasperated, she stood up, her elbow knocking the phone onto the floor from the table beside her. “And damn it too!”  She marched to the window and peered out. “You do know we’ve been followed here.” She glanced back at Melissa, who nodded as she picked up the phone and returned it to the table. “I should have known as much. When?”

Melissa butted out her cigarette in the ashtray and crossed the room with her wine glass in hand to join her. “The moment we left the hotel. I thought you picked up on it, too.”

“Well…I didn’t. And, that bothers me.” Lynn returned to staring out her second story window at the plumpish, moustachioed man on the other side of the street leaning against the lamp post. “Strange.”

“What’s strange,” Melissa asked, taking a sip of wine from her glass.

“He makes no attempt to hide his presence.” Her eyebrows knitted together. “I wonder…” She crossed the room to the telephone. While she dialed, she strolled down the hallway toward the bedroom.

When Lynn returned, Melissa said with an askance glance, “You look rather pleased with yourself, what were you up to?”

“You’ll see. It shouldn’t take long.”

Ten minutes later, a Citroen pulled up and two men got out. They had a brief discussion with the moustachioed man and a scuffle ensued. One of the men then forced him into the back seat and climbed in after him while the other entered the driver’s side and drove off.

“Should I ask?” Melissa enquired unable to hide her astonishment.

“I’ll tell you while I’m changing. Right now, we’ve got to get our asses out of here.”

Melissa turned too quickly to follow Lynn and sent the remainder of her wine splashing across the front of her blouse. “Shit!”

“While you’re squeezing out the last few drops,” Lynn chortled, pretending to capture drips with her tongue, “I’ll find you a clean one.”

In the bedroom, Lynn handed Melissa a passport. “It’s time to put your make-up artistry to good use.”

“Pardon? I haven’t done that sort of thing since…”

“Good old Radcliffe College days.” Lynn interjected.

“What was the name of that play? It was an Agatha Christie play. I think it was her first.”

Black Coffee and you’re right it was her first.” Lynn pulled out a large black case from the closet and set it beside her make-up table. “Well you up to it?”

“Who’s… Madame Henriette D’Amboise?” Melissa asked, staring at the signature on the passport then the photo.

“Me,” replied Lynn. “That is, it will be me once you help me make the transition to her. By the way, there’s a clean blouse in the dresser, bottom drawer.”

“I would have chosen to be someone more fashionable instead of some crusty old bird,” Melissa said as she put on a clean blouse. “What do you want me to do with this?” She held up the wine stained blouse.

“Oh…just leave it on the bed. The crusty old bird idea was Pavel’s. He thought this was the better choice considering…” she tapped on her prosthetic. “We agreed that the Gestapo would more likely be looking for a young woman with a limp than an old woman with a cane. It was a role I expected to play exiting, not entering Germany. Reinhold changed that. So, this will be me for the duration of the mission.” She screwed up her face in disgust.

Time squeezed together like a closed fist as Melissa worked quickly and fastidiously to transform Lynn’s facial features.

“Finished! What do you think?”

“Get me the wig in the hat box on the shelf in the closet and I’ll tell you.” When she received it, she carefully adjusted it on her head, then strategically placed some pins to secure it in place. For a moment, she stared at the stranger staring back at her in the mirror. “Melissa…you haven’t lost your touch.”

“And you sound like The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.” With a chuckle, she pretended to shiver with the thought. “Maybe you can tone it down just a tiny bit?”

Lynn picked up Georges Duhamel’s Civilisation from the nightstand and read a passage. “Is that better?”

“Ah-Huh. Works for me.” She began to return the items to the make-up kit when she stopped. Scrutinizing Lynn, she asked: “Maybe I’m being a little too hasty…Did Pavel have something planned for me?”

Lynn smiled. “Nothing too drastic. Here, you can see for yourself.” She opened the drawer to her night table and pulled out the Bible. “Relax. It’s not what you think.” She opened it to the middle. In a shallow, hallowed-out section, a passport was snuggly in place. Teasing it from its enclosure, she passed it to Melissa.

Melissa pouted. “I look like a plain Jane.”

With time running short, Lynn chose to ignore her remark. “As you can see your new identity is Mademoiselle Pauline Auberjonois. You are my nurse and companion.”

“And a spinster.” Melissa stared at Lynn. “Both passports…are they from Pavel’s section in Paris?”

“I assume so, why?”

Melissa flicked her eyebrows. “How naïve of me to think that I was the only one Pavel took…photos…of….” Lynn’s face flushed. “At least some went beyond souvenirs.” She wagged the passport in the air.

“Sit down and wipe your face clean of make-up. I’ll get your uniform from the closet.” Turning, she began to cross the room when she heard a knock at the door. She signaled to Melissa to remain quiet. Tiptoeing out of the bedroom and down the hall to the front door, she peeked through the peep-hole. Bumping up against her, Melissa jockeyed for position. “Me too,” she whispered. Pushing Melissa aside she opened the door. “You are the last person I expected to see.”

“I thought you might need my help. Proximity makes everything work better.”

“Melissa, I’d like you to meet Mrs Elizabeth Stoddard, better known by the name Queenie.”

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Part Twenty-Six of Angel Maker: The Berlin Connection by Barry B. Wright

Luftwaffe officer, Harro Schulze-Boysen had been a Soviet NKVD agent since 1935. In fact, it was he who had approached them through a contact to offer his services. No one within the Nazi echelon had any idea of his real political convictions. Known by the codename ‘Corporal,’ he became a highly-placed asset for Soviet Intelligence within the Goring Air Ministry. A gregarious personality, he easily befriended Hermann Goring, who was similar in nature. Soon after their initial meeting a close relationship began to develop. So much so that in 1936 Goring gave away the bride, Libertas Haas-Heye, at his wedding.

Well placed in Goring’s inner circle, Harro forged several contacts within army staff communications, among Abwehr officers, and with Hans Henniger, a government inspector of Luftwaffe equipment.

At about the same time Harro was recruited, Arvid Harnack, a senior civil servant in the economics ministry, was also recruited. He was given the code name ‘Corsican.’

The information flowing out of Berlin from Schulze-Boysen was at first slow and sporadic. Always suspicious, Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s Head of the NKVD, scrupulously examined every detail of information sent by Harro for its authenticity.

Then, in the summer of 1938, Beria wrote a report for Hozyain, Stalin, on the extent and health of the forest of Soviet espionage networks in Germany. In that report, he particularly praised the Rote Kapelle and Schulze-Boysen/Harnack groups for their reliability, integrity and excellence in intelligence gathering and reporting. “The Red Orchestra,” he concluded, “is securely in place in Berlin.”

Attached to his report was a Department E typescript from the Geheime Staatspolizei, 8 Prinz Albrecht Street, Berlin. The document focused on security and counterintelligence in the Reich. In this three-page addendum, Beria highlighted, “…’limping lady’ actively engaged…subversion…resistance networks in Germany.” He also referenced, “…British Intelligence…thought to be American…”

Pavel Sudoplatov knew about Beria’s report through his good friend Richard Sorge who had just recently transferred from Berlin to Tokyo. He also knew that Captain Hall was likely the ‘limping lady’ mentioned in the Gestapo typescript.

Pavel lit up a cigarette and offered one to Anatoli, who took it. From their vantage point they had a clear view of Ringwood Pub. Their vehicle was situated far enough back so as not to arouse any obvious suspicion by either Captain Hall or Inspector Collier.

Two evenings ago, during dinner, Gunther Stein, a journalist, had presented him with a package from their mutual friend Sorge. Wrapped like a present, inside the ‘gift’ was a tie. Sewn into the tie, now worn by Pavel, was a coded message from Sorge to be delivered to Beria in Moscow. Gunter did not know the content of the coded message.

Over several drinks of Vodka, Gunter described a meeting he had with Harro Schulze-Boysen and his wife, Libertas, during a short stay in Berlin the previous week. According to them, the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, would sign a German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in August with the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Beyond that, he knew nothing further about the agreement.

Pavel cringed. Nevertheless, he thought Hozyain had made a wise decision. Since the purging of top military leadership, the Russian military was in disarray. Latest classified projections estimated Russia’s readiness for war with Germany to be sometime in either 1943 or 1944. This Pact would buy valuable time.

Two additional pieces of information shared by Gunter, troubled Pavel the most. The Japanese ambassador to Germany, Hiroshi Oshima, informed Hitler of Japan’s plan to test Soviet military strength on the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier. Confident of quick success, Hitler readily gave Oshima his blessing. It was agreed, though, that the attack would occur ahead of Ribbentrop’s visit to Moscow.

Pavel inhaled the cigarette smoke and purged it through his nostrils, his hand gently stroking his tie, while he reviewed the conversation. His brother was stationed in the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier under the leadership of Georgy Zhukov. And he feared for his well-being.

Pavel had already concluded that that was most likely the coded message hidden in his tie.

Now it makes sense, he mused. That’s why Anatoli is temporally taking over the operation here.

When Pavel had received the plane and train tickets, he felt no small degree of trepidation over his sudden recall to Moscow.

Before Gunter and he had departed that evening, Gunter asked him if he had ever heard of Operation Gleiwitz. To Pavel, Gleiwitz was nothing more than a location in upper Silesia, so he shrugged and told him he hadn’t.

“Well, when you do hear,” Gunter called back with slurred speech as he wobbled away, “I’ve been told it’s a false flag.”

Jarring him from his train of thought, Anatoli pointed in the direction of Ringwood Pub. Captain Hall, Inspector Collier and Sergeant Snowden had exited the tavern and were standing on the sidewalk engaged in a lively conversation.

Rolling down his window, Pavel flicked out his half-finished butt and encouraged Anatoli to do the same.

When Collier’s vehicle slowly left the curve-side and travelled down the street, they followed at an unobtrusive distance.

Pavel hoped that before boarding the plane to France that evening, he would have Otto’s identity in hand.

Who knows, he thought, perhaps Hozyain might decorate me, even give me a dacha for smashing this Nazi ring.

“What’s so funny?” Anatoli asked.

Pavel stared at Anatoli sternly. “Keep your eyes focused ahead and don’t lose them.”

Further back and out of sight, Werner Gruener followed them. His mission was to protect Otto’s identity at all cost.

 

END OF PART ONE: RIDING THE BACK OF THE HUNGRY OLD LION

Part Eleven of Angel Maker: Wish Me Luck by B. B. Wright

Kindertransport-children

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 Eleven

Wish Me Luck

 

“Whatever I tell you must remain between you and me. Do you understand? No one else must know.”

Collier slowly acknowledged his understanding with the nod of his head.

Satisfied, Captain Hall regained her seat and made herself comfortable before continuing.  “A little back history is needed first. In 1933, members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Reichstag voted against the Enabling Act which gave Hitler unlimited constitutional power. The result of the SPD’s action was that the Nazis forced them to disband and to flee into exile but not before they established a very sophisticated underground organization to oppose the Nazi regime called Roter Stosstrupp. Your son, his fiancé and some of her family members were being hidden by them. This was verified with the SPD located in Paris.”

“Were?” Collier interjected.

“Word has come back to us that recent widespread arrests by the Gestapo had forced Roter Stosstrupp to pass your son and his entourage over to the remnant of another group known as Neu Beginnen for safe keeping.”

She sighed deeply before continuing. “Unfortunately, most of the active members of this group have already been arrested. So, needless to say, time is of the essence before the Gestapo completely shuts them down.”

A knock at the door diverted their attention as Sergeant Snowden entered carrying a tray with a steaming mug of coffee and the necessary prerequisites of sugar, cream and spoons. Apologizing for the interruption, he brought the tray directly to Captain Hall and after she helped herself he placed the tray on the side table under the window, apologized again for the interruption and promptly left.

“Damn good coffee! Double thumbs up to your Sergeant.”

Collier stood up and walked over to the window and looked out.

“So how do you hope to extract them?”

“After the wide-spread pogroms of Kristallnacht, Chamberlain’s government worked out a deal with Germany in favor of allowing unaccompanied Jewish children to enter Britain as refugees. Parliament recently passed support. It doesn’t affect your son and his fiancé who are protected by their British passports but it does affect the children with them.”

“And the elders and parents they have with them, how does it affect them?”

“Only the children will be allowed to leave.”

Collier turned away from the window to face her with a solemn look.

“How do you fit into all of this?” he asked.

She looked at him for what Collier thought was a long silence before answering him.

“I’m part of the delegation traveling to Germany. The delegation is tasked with saving as many of these children as it can. This window of opportunity is brief and closing fast. My hope is that you will see your son, his fiancé and the children they have in their company early in the New Year.”

Tears swelled up in his eyes as he said: “Christmas gift…best Christmas gift ever.”

She finished her coffee and stood up and approached him. Her demeanor had softened slightly but her well-trained intelligence shot through like arrows as she scrutinized him.

“When I leave your office, Inspector, under no conditions are you to contact anyone about what we have spoken about. Lives will depend on your silence. For all intents and purposes, I do not exist once I walk out your door. The hard part will be harboring our secret while you’re waiting. I don’t envy you that.  Even when your son returns home, you must continue to remain silent.”

“Not to worry.” Pinching his thumb and forefinger together he drew it across his lips and said. “Captain, my lips are sealed.”

“Okay now,  we need to come up with a foolproof story as to why I was here if anyone should ask and I need to know everything about your son, especially the things that only he would know. I think you know why I need this?”

Collier reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his wallet; inside was a picture of his son. Hesitating briefly, he reluctantly handed it to her. “Keep him safe.” He felt a chill ripple up his spine when he remembered that those words were the exact same words his mother had said to him when he and his brother went off to war. It became a promise made that he was unable to keep. Along with the photo, he knew the words he was about to share with Captain Hall would act as his son’s passwords; they would ensure the validity of his identification and the safe return home for all with him.

For the next hour the two of them sat opposite each other at his desk while they worked out the reason for her visit and he told his son’s story.

When all was said that could be said and she stood at the door to leave, she turned and asked: “Wish me luck?”

Collier was too choked up with emotion to reply.

The Unlikely Hero – A Write at the Merge Prompt

The writing prompt this week from Write at the Merge is legs. The prompt included a photograph and a Justin Timberlake video.

For your reading enjoyment, I introduce:

The Unlikely Hero

Virginia sat at the edge of her bed and re-read the letter from the White House. Looking up, she watched the young lieutenant through the open bedroom door, her thumb gently gliding across President Truman’s signature several times. She noticed his impatience had become more noticeable as he awaited her reply in the living-room.

Sighing deeply, she thought: There can only be the one reply—any other would be foolhardy and dangerous. Looking at her legs, she remembered how her life had changed in 1933 while a clerk in the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we ‘Cuthbert?’ she mused, tapping her left leg with her hand before standing up. With a noticeable limp, she walked over to her desk and sat down and picked up the pen.

_____

Virginia’s high intelligence and language proficiency had not gone unnoticed at the Embassy in 1933. A career in Foreign Service—her lifelong goal—was within reach.

On March 20, everything changed.

Hunting wild boar with friends in the Kizilcahaman District of Ankara, Virginia stumbled and shot herself in the leg. Though they managed to stop the bleeding, the grueling two mile trek back to their vehicle had taken its toll.

A few days later in Ankara Numune Hospital, she learned the bad news: the surgeons had amputated her leg below the knee.

When she was finally fitted with a wooden prosthesis, she immediately called it ‘Cuthbert’ after Saint Cuthbert, whose feast day was March 20. After difficult weeks of therapy, she walked out of the hospital and into an uncertain future.

Since an amputee could not be employed in the Foreign Service, her convalescence bubbled over with despair and confusion.

For several years, she backpacked throughout the Mediterranean. When the Germans invaded France on May 23, 1940, she was in Paris. Itching to get involved, she drove an ambulance for the French Army before fleeing to England.

Learning that the British Special Operations Executive was having difficulty recruiting, she volunteered to become a spy. Sent back to Vichy France under the guise of an American reporter, she worked under several aliases to organize French Resistance to carry out sabotage and guerilla warfare while writing articles for the New York Post. She barely missed capture by the Gestapo when one of the resistance cells she worked with was compromised. She escaped over the treacherous, snow covered Pyrenees to Spain.

Hearing of her exploits, the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), recruited her and in 1944, prosthesis secured in her knapsack, she was parachuted into France to coordinate sabotage operations with the D-day landings.

_____

Sealing her reply in the envelope, Virginia went out to the living-room and handed it to the lieutenant.

Later, opening the middle drawer of her desk, she pulled out a Gestapo reward poster: WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE – THE LIMPING LADY.

To preserve her cover in the newly created CIA, she received the Distinguished Service Cross without publicity.

.