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.

Fateful Choices: Part Four of a murder with a twist by B. B. Wright

Half a Mo' Hitler

Fateful Choices: Part Four of Five
Under Lock and Key

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.

A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

 

Entering the summer of 1939, the people of Bournemouth endured a time of suspension greater than the contemplation of the worst as Nazi Germany’s army went on menacing maneuvers. Bournemouth was too busy having a good time to worry about Hitler and said so on signs strapped to the boots of vehicles: Half A Mo’ Hitler Let’s Have Our Holidays First.

Two weeks had passed since Arthur Brodley’s murder on May 21as Chief Inspector Collier poured his tea and sat behind his desk to review his notes on the case.

The autopsy report: assailant had attempted to strangle Brodley first before bludgeoning him with a torrent of hammer blows to the head.

The lab results on the cigarette butts: outstanding.

Brodley’s granddaughter, Valerie: grandfather’s safe contained a large stash of money and a copy of his will. Grandfather had a fondness for entertaining prostitutes; hair curler may have been used during such an occasion.

He lingered here for a moment before writing: Will??? Who benefits??? Then he continued reviewing his notes.

Interviews with local prostitutes, including Brodley’s regulars: dismissed idea of hair curler as part of their routine.

He placed a large question mark beside hair curler.

‘Philly’ Morris, one of their regulars, had suddenly come into money. And, lots of it.

He circled Morris’s name several times.

Mrs Stoddard (aka ‘Queenie’) provided no additional information on day of the murder. Suggested I might learn more by attending one of her séances.

In the margin, he scribbled:??? Possibility??? Then, he crossed it out.

Placing the opened side of his notebook face down on his desk and sitting back in his chair, Collier began to mull over the events since the murder when the buzzer on his intercom intruded.

“Yes, Sergeant?!”

“…Jock Mahoney…owner of Hollies Pub…and Quentin Hogg…mortgages at the bank are here, sir.”

“About?” There was a momentary silence. “Did they say what it was about, Sergeant?”

“The Arthur Brodley murder, sir.”

“Hmm…Send the gentlemen along. And, you come along too, Sergeant.”

Mahoney and Hogg reiterated what had already been learned from the local prostitutes, namely that Joseph ‘Philly’ Morris, a person normally strapped for money, had suddenly come into a lot of it and had been spending it freely. According to Quentin Hogg, two days after the murder Morris had waltzed into the bank and had paid off the considerable arrears on his mortgage. Mahoney referred to Morris as a loser and chronic liar and that neither he nor his pub regulars who played the horses believed that ‘Philly’s’ recent affluence had come about from a win on the horses.

Twenty minutes later Sergeant Snowden and Chief Inspector Collier were on their way to the residence of Joseph Phillip Morris.

While the Sergeant remained with the vehicle, Collier went to the front door and knocked. Unkempt, toothless and in a vile mood, Joseph Morris opened the door but refused entry to the Chief Inspector. During questioning, it wasn’t long before Morris launched into a  diatribe against Brodley because he had turned him down for a small loan. As his bilious onslaught continued there were several references to Brodley’s safe. When Collier asked Morris if he minded providing samples of his fingerprints, Morris ordered him off his property and slammed the door in his face.

Collier crossed his arms on the roof of the Wolseley and looked across at Snowden. “Well Sergeant…I’m sure he’s our man…Now to prove it.”

Upon his return to the station, Collier was greeted with good news. The lab results on the cigarette butts had arrived from the London Home Office and their smoker had been a secretor. The analyst, Sidney Greenstreet, had identified the smoker’s blood group as AB, the rarest type, found in less than 3% of the population.

Collier placed the report on his desk and sat back in his chair and let out a long sigh while Snowden looked on.

“Is it what you were hoping for, sir?”

“It’s even better than expected, Sergeant.”

“But…then…why that troubled look?”

“Because, Sergeant, I need a specimen from Joseph Morris and, given his attitude, it may be next to impossible to get.” Picking up the lab report, he began to flip through it in a cursory manner then stopped. “…Unless…Hmm…that just may work. Sergeant, ask Constable Dubin to come in.”

During his interview of Jock Mahoney, Collier had not only learned that Joseph Morris was a regular at Hollies Pub and an alcoholic but that he was also a chain-smoker. So, when Constable Dubin entered his office he wasted no time laying out his plan to ensnare Morris. He instructed the constable to drop into the pub—out of uniform—shortly after eight that evening and befriend Morris by plying him with drinks, cigarettes and talk of horse racing. He reassured Dubin that there was enough money in petty cash to cover his expenses. When the pub closed at ten and the patrons had gone, the constable was then to gather up the cigarette butts in the ashtray left by Morris, place them in a bag and return to the station where he would be waiting to drive the package directly to the London Home Office that evening.

Once the Sergeant and the Constable had left his office, Collier began to initiate the next step in his plan. Picking up the phone receiver, he dialed the number of his long time friend, Sidney Greenstreet, to convince him to remain well after hours at the Home Office to analyze the contents of the package.

The next day Collier returned with the answer he hoped for: Morris was indeed a secretor with blood group AB.

Now, it was time to turn the screws on Morris.

Sergeant Snowden and Chief Inspector Collier returned to Morris’s residence mid afternoon that same day to confront him. Morris angrily insisted that he had nothing to hide and opened his house to a search. During their search they found a set of curlers similar to the one found at the crime scene and a bundle of brown paper bags, the kind that had been wrapped around the murder weapon. When Morris was asked about the items he shrugged and told them that he kept the curlers for his lady friends who stayed over from time to time and that the bags were leftovers from when he had been a grocer. When Morris boldly proffered his hands for finger-printing to demonstrate confidence in his innocence, Collier gladly accommodated him.

When Collier entered the station later with samples of Morris’s fingerprints, sitting on the bench opposite the duty desk was ‘Queenie.’

“Inspector…” she called out.

Collier hadn’t seen her when he entered but he immediately recognized her modulated and fruity voice. He turned and smiled: “Mrs Stoddard, please, just one moment and I’ll be with you.” He turned to Sergeant Snowden and instructed him to bring the fingerprints to Leonard Scoffield for comparison in the Brodley Case. Once Snowden went through the set of doors leading to Scoffield’s office, he turned his full attention to Mrs Stoddard. “Now, Mrs Stoddard, what can I do for you?”

“Nothing…Inspector…It’s what I can do for you…I see you’ve found your murderer. The thumb print will clinch ‘Philly’ Morris’s arrest.”

Collier’s forehead furrowed.

“How…?”

She held up her hand to stop him from going further as she stood up. “It doesn’t matter, you wouldn’t believe anyway. Just remember, you don’t always get what you want, Inspector. Life is full of surprises with all its twists and turns. Your life will be full and successful but not before much sadness. You know where I live, Inspector, if you care to learn more.”

Dumbfounded by what had just transpired, Collier was watching her leave the station when Leonard Scoffield came excitedly through the set of doors that led down the hallway to his office.

“We’ve got him, Alex! The right thumbprint matches the print on the beer glass.”

And, they embraced each other in jubilation.

Forty minutes later, Collier had the pleasure of locking the vitriolic ‘Philly’ Morris behind bars.

 

Dear Readers:

I hope you are enjoying Fateful Choices? So, do you think you know how it will end? I am willing to bet that the finale in September will surprise you. Until then, thank you for following me and I look forward to our time together again soon.

B. B. Wright

 

Fateful Choices: Part One of a murder with a twist by B. B. Wright

Bournemouth East Cliff from Pier

Fateful Choices: Part One

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.

A Short-Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

 

The English south coastal resort of Bournemouth in 1939 had a population of 130,000. The natural beauty of its cliffs and the wide sweep of its bay embraced a magic carpet of sand while the Bourne stream—fringed with parkland and public gardens—stretched into the heart of the coastal community. Bournemouth’s outstanding characteristic and attraction was its breadth of view and openness.

Perhaps that’s why psychic, medium, spiritualist, mental healer, psycho-analyst, folklorist, Mary Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a. ‘Queenie’) and her husband, Lawrence Stoddard who was said to be a ‘powerful deep-trance medium,’ arrived there in 1934 to set up residence. But, then again, maybe that wasn’t the only reason they moved from Gloucester to this tourist location. Within the first six months of setting up shop, so-to-speak, their business had surpassed their wildest expectations.

In April 1939 the local pub was abuzz with the mysterious fire and capsizing of the S.S. Paris (the largest liner under the French flag at that time) and the expected war with Hitler’s Germany.

The bartender, Jock Mahoney, reached under the bar and slapped March’s Bournemouth Echo with the banner headline face up on the bar’s surface and pointed his pudgy finger at it: Spiritualist Prophesies Sinking Of S. S. Paris. “Last month’s paper boys! Read and weep! Told you blokes she’s the real deal. Kept this to rub your faces in it.”

“Nothing more than a lucky guess Jock,” chortled Quentin Hogg from the far end of the bar.

“Then how she’d know it was goin’ to be a fire that sunk the Paris in the port of Le Havre? Tell me that ‘Hogg-face?’” retorted Mahoney. “And, unless the rest of you soused heads missed the obvious, how she’d know it would be the Paris?”

Joseph Phillip Morris, who was often called ‘Philly’ by pub regulars, had just purloined a whiskey chaser to accompany his pint of ale from the inebriated person beside him when he leaned in to the conversation: “Maybe tha’ focken bitch,” he hiccuped, “is a spy for tha’ Hitler fella.”

The conversation stopped dead as everyone turned to look at him.

“Hey, Philly?!” Quentin Hogg called out.

Joseph took a draw from his cigarette and purged the smoke through his nostrils before he straightened to a wavering position to focus his attention at the far end of the bar. “Wha’ canna I do fa’ ya Hogg?” Unsteadily, he used the cigarette in his mouth to light up another. For a moment he stared at his deeply stained nicotine fingers holding the used cigarette until Mahoney slid an ashtray under his nose and he quickly butted the cigarette out before it burnt him.

To most of the people there, Joseph ‘Philly’ Morris was a loser. The clientele of this pub he frequented had come to know that and, as a result, could barely tolerate him. A chain smoker and alcoholic, he had an ego bigger than he should ever have dared to have.

With a Cheshire cat-like smile, Quentin winked mischievously at those who could see him at the bar and nudged the person beside him with his elbow. “What’s that secret formula you use… you know… the one for picking football winners?”

A quiet chuckle rippled among the patrons listening in.

“What’s that got to do with the sinking of the Paris?” bellowed Mahoney, perturbed by Quentin’s hijacking of the conversation.

“Be patient, Jock. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. There’s a point or two to be made here. When done, I expect a round for everyone from you except for that scoundrel at the other end of the bar.”

Regularly, Joseph had been tolerantly allowed to interject his slurred wisps of ‘erudite wisdom’ about the home team to this well-informed and loyal pool of men of the Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic Football Club but, at the moment, he silently sat in a drunken stupor shrouded in cigarette smoke trying to figure out which man on either side of him was the scoundrel that Quentin referred to.

“Philly?! “

“Huh?” Joseph blinked a few times before Quentin came into view.

“Isn’t your secret formula ‘Queenie?’” asked Quentin.

“How da know tha’?…She’s no focken goude! “

Everyone’s eyes were now fixed on Mahoney, who slowly slid the newspaper from the top of the bar to the shelf beneath.

“Now tell me somethin’ else, Joey. Who’d ya bet on when the home team played in March?”

Joseph drew in the smoke and blew it out as he looked up at the ceiling. “Tha’ be March you said?…Hmm…Notts Co. Stupid woman…she got it wrong again.”

The two men sitting beside him slipped off their stools and moved further down the bar.

“Well, what doya think there, Jock? Have I made my points? A free pint for everyone?”

Reluctantly, the burly figure of Jock Mahoney nodded and began to service the rush to the bar.

It had not mattered that the home team had won in March because Joseph had committed the unforgivable act of betting against the home team. For all present, his revelation was particularly heinous because the game was against their arch-rival, Notts Co.

By the middle of May, Joseph had been shunned by even among the slightest of few who might have given him a pardon. The week of May 15th had been an unusually difficult time for him to find odd jobs and by the Friday of that week he had already paid out his last shilling for cigarettes and beer.

Joseph’s wiry and unkempt figure sat alone in an uncontested far corner booth of the pub. Several empty mugs cluttered his table as he slung over his last pint of frothy dark ale. Lifting his mug he toasted his imaginary companion opposite him and took a large swallow. Licking off his beer mustache, he lit up another cigarette and drew in deeply before exhaling. “You know…I’ve got me a new strategy.” He removed a piece of tobacco from the end of his tongue and took another swig of beer. “Strategy for wha’ you ask?” Why for picking football winners! Wha’ else? Not a sausage! ‘Queenie’s’ no focken good! Here’s my secret.” Sliding his half pint to one side, he bent forward and whispered his strategy to his imaginary companion.

For the first time, Joseph was just sober enough to appreciate that his alcoholic haze had made him feel untouchable by the sneering glances of the men around him. Yet, the truths those men carried about him stung deeply and had already left its imperviously permanent mark that could not be ignored. Success! That’s all he wanted to feel! To no longer feel the failure that had dogged him most of his life!

He sat back and looked at the remnants of beer in his mug and made a decision. He didn’t care that Friday would be outside his usual routine to see her. He didn’t care that she was “no focken good.” He had made up his mind to see ‘Queenie’ that evening.

Perhaps, he thought, she would get it right this time.

At 7:00 that evening, Arthur Brodley placed the Bournemouth Echo he was reading on the table beside him and got up from his armchair to get ready for his eight o’clock appointment.

He was a stout man with thinning hair and a thick, white mustache. His appearance belied a man much older than his sixty-four years. A widower, he had attended a séance every Friday evening at 8:00 o’clock at the Stoddard residence since Mary Elizabeth (a.k.a. ‘Queenie’) and her husband, Lawrence, arrived in Bournemouth five years ago.

Though Arthur Brodley had paid a hefty price on each occasion for the Stoddards’ services, he was convinced that it had been money well spent because it provided precious time with the spirit of his late wife, Nancy.