Angel Maker: Part Six by B. B. Wright

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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 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.