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 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.