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.

Angel Maker: Part Eight by B. B. Wright

Nazis Enter Austria

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 Eight
Dicey Premise

Collier had unwillingly missed another Remembrance Day. He had hoped for new beginnings to his healing process but circumstance and devotion to duty steered him along a different path. The trauma of trench warfare and the emotional ties associated with the death of his brother at Passchendaele remained raw in his psyche and continued to insinuate itself into his well hidden daily nightmare. The killing he had done and seen had taken a piece of his soul that he knew he would never get back again. A product of his past, he was slowly learning how to live beyond just existence within its memories. But the glowing embers across Europe woefully interjected in his transition by casting its ominous shadow across the landscape. Feeling the fresh air of his hopefulness being sucked away from him he watched as the world plummeted into the stale, tangibly evil and sociopathic morass of failed yesterdays.

Aware of the orgy of anti-Jewish disorders in Germany and the wrecking and looting of Jewish shops and burning of synagogues, he worried for his son, Richard, and his fiancé, Elsa. The news out of Vienna was no better when he learned that Jews waiting outside the British Consulate in the hope of getting visas were all arrested—ten thousand in all—and sent to a concentration camp. Nationality did not matter. If you were either Jewish or a Jewish sympathizer, irrespective of your nationality, you became part of the roundup.

As it turned out, only one of Mrs Stoddard’s (a.k.a. ‘Queenie’) predictions had come true. Namely, Collier did find out from the Foreign Office that his son had likely been imprisoned either at Lemberg or at Posen near the Polish border. But, they had been unable to corroborate it. Collier had concluded that they really knew nothing about either his son or about Elsa and her family.

When he had inquired about Captain Hall, Collier had been unceremoniously cut off. When the Foreign Office had called him back a half hour later, he found himself the interrogatee to a barrage of questions none of which he could comfortably answer without revealing that his source was a psychic. And that he had no intention of doing. At the end of it all, Collier had concluded that Captain Hall did exist but learned nothing more. Whoever this Captain Hall was left no doubts in Collier’s mind that the Foreign Office had no intention of sharing it with him. And that pricked his curiosity even more since he now wondered how ‘Queenie’ could have known that name.

On the same day that ‘Queenie’ had told Collier about the Jewish family and the fate of their two children, he and Constable Dubin had gone around to the boarding house late that evening. But, to his chagrin, none of the families living there met the criteria she had related to him. He and the constable had then driven to the Stoddard household only to find it in darkness with the front door open. Within minutes of entering the home, they had quickly ascertained that neither ‘Queenie’ nor her husband was present. Their bedrooms and consulting rooms in disarray, whatever their reason, the notorious couple had vanished into the night in great haste. Fearful for ‘Queenie’s’ safety in light of what she had told him, Collier had sent Leonard Scoffield’s forensic team to the Stoddard household the next day to sniff it out for clues. Except for a porcelain doll and a child’s blanket found in one of the bedrooms, nothing of useful consequence had been discovered.

By the time Collier had finished that day’s investigation, he had broken a promise along with one of Lila’s ten commandments: “When you make a commitment, follow through with it.” Not showing up for dinner—especially this dinner—was the major gaffe on his part. And the Hyde who met him at the door had every right in his opinion to hold back nothing in her stinging rebuke of him. He had retreated into silence so as not to inflame an already volatile situation with weightless excuses. After all was said and done, he reluctantly accepted the fate that she had meted out and moved his belongings into the guest room. Other than the very casual of conversation, real communication in his household had become mute. He had learned later from his very irate niece Diane that her mother, his sister, had delivered a tongue lashing to all present that evening before taking her “anti-Semitic ass out the door.” It was a dinner that never was and he rightly blamed himself for allowing it to occur.

The coded message left by ‘Queenie’ turned out to be easy to decode. On reexamination, it had become painfully obvious to Collier that it was the QWERTY code; a code often used in his youth to keep messages exchanged between friends secret. For him, the circled one in the crossword had been the giveaway because it told him where to begin the alphabet: namely to place the A under the Q. If it had been a two or three circled then the A would have been placed under the W or E, respectively.

QWERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVBNM
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
AOSS DTLLTFUTK ITOS IOZSTK
KILL MESSENGER HEIL HITLER

When Collier had finished decoding, a cold chill ran up his back. It meant that another murder had been committed and it had not yet been discovered.

A month had passed and still there were no leads in the murder investigation of seven year old Rebecca Grynberg. The Divorce of Lady X, which had been showing at the time at The Palladium, had been replaced by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes staring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. People had become distracted by the approach of Christmas and by the heightening tensions with Germany as the possibility of war grew more likely since Hitler’s successful diplomatic coup over their Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, for control of The Sudetenland in October. As a result, the news worthiness of her murder had slipped from the front page of The Echo to languish in the inner folds of the paper.

In a way, the police were happy to see this shift in attention since it gave them a reprieve from the enormous public pressure to solve this heinous crime. But, the shift in public attention neither lessened their efforts nor did it allay the emotions that ran hot in the precinct. It was these pitched emotions that Inspector Collier feared could potentially shroud good police diligence with lapses in judgment stained by expediencies and improprieties. As a result, he tightened his grip on the investigative process.

Accepting what ‘Queenie’ had told him about the murderer being a resident of Bournemouth, Collier began to formulate a method to catch him. He knew its application would be exhausting for his limited personnel; if it worked, though, its science would be irrefutable in a court of law. Unfortunately, the premise was dicey since it was based on the comment of a psychic. Nevertheless, he decided to forge ahead with his plan.

To catch this murderer, Collier had decided to widen the search and to fingerprint the whole adult, male population of Bournemouth over the age of sixteen. Using the electoral register as a guide, the police would go house to house fingerprinting. Anyone who had left the area or who had travelled abroad would also be included. So as not to alert the murderer, The Echo and surrounding newspapers would be asked not to report on it.

Collier had not had a good night’s sleep since becoming a nightly outcast to the guest bedroom. He had hoped with Christmas approaching and with the family traditions surrounding it that civility would once again reign within their household. But, Lila had still not budged from her position and remained non-communicative. With no resolution in sight, Collier unwillingly resigned himself to the impasse. Though possible solutions seemed few and far between, he nevertheless knew he had to find a solution, and soon. So, he decided that he would phone Lila later to tell her that he needed time to think through their situation and in order to do that he would be staying overnight in his office. He had already decided to risk the gossip likely to erupt when he used the local Bathhouse to clean up the next morning.

Rocking to and fro in his chair, Collier shifted his attention back to his plan to capture the murderer when his intercom buzzed. Rolling his chair closer, he flipped open the switch. “Yes…Sergeant?”

“There’s a Captain Hall here to see you, sir.”

Angel Maker: Part Seven by B. B. Wright

A Storm is Brewing

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 Seven
The Gathering Storm

 

Preoccupied with the disturbing crime scene he had just left, Alexander Collier made his way down the hall to his office oblivious to the pitter-patter of shoes following closely behind him.

Leonard Scoffield and some of his team had been pulled from fingerprinting hospital staff to process the crime scene in the back alley of the cinema while the remainder of Leonard’s team at the hospital had been placed under the command of Sergeant Snowden.

Collier wrapped his hand around the doorknob just about to enter his office when he was startled by a brisk tap on his shoulder. Turning, he came face to face with the classified section of The Echo held up by a rather agitated ‘Queenie.’

His eyes gave it away immediately to her. “Oh…” Her hand which was holding the classified section dropped to her side. “This is one of those times I wish that I had been wrong. I can see that you’ve found her.”

Collier slowly nodded: “Yes…she was where you dreamed she would be. But…How…?” Abruptly he waved off the question and stepped aside to let her in.

“Then what I have here takes on a higher degree of urgency,” she continued, slipping past him into his office.

“How can I help you, Mrs Stoddard? …Please…here…sit down,” he encouraged. His encouragement was nothing short of insincere since she was the last person he wanted to see at this moment. He pulled out the chair in front of his desk. “I’ll make us some tea.”

Still standing she retorted: “I don’t give a sausage about the tea, Inspector” And, she slammed the classified page down on his desk. “The lives of two little children are at stake and I have no idea how long we have before…he kills them.” Her eyes frantically skirted his desk in search of a writing utensil and finding a worn down pencil she picked it up and circled an address. “They’re here at this boarding house.”

Turning on the kettle, he sighed deeply. When he replied, he did not attempt to hide his incredulity: “How could you possibly know such a thing?” Mentally he chastised himself for even remotely believing in her predictive powers.

“Inspector, I’m a medium. And a damn good one I might add. This is what I do. Why would you have visited me early this morning if you had thought otherwise?”

Collier had attended his share of murder scenes but the murder of small children had been especially heinous and most difficult for him to shake off.

Unable to provide ‘Queenie’ with an answer that even he could remotely accept, he decided to listen further.

The eyes of the dead girl staring back at him continued to haunt him as he picked up the classified section and looked at the location ‘Queenie’ had circled: “Point made, Mrs Stoddard… Continue.”

“The man is pure evil, Inspector. He is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I know you are skeptical of me but we do agree that he is real and so are his murderous intentions.”

He nodded his agreement.

She took the page from him and spread it out on his desk. “There are two small children, a boy and a girl, at this location. I don’t know the family’s name but I’m almost certain that they are Jewish. He’s going to kill both of those little children. I think he thought I was blocked out when he circled that rooming house. And, there’s something else.”

She opened her purse and handed him a small pocket notebook size sheet of lined paper. On it, she had written: AOSS DTLLTFUTK ITOS IOZSTR.

“What’s this?”

‘Queenie’ shrugged and shook her head. “It was written beside the cross-word. The one was circled in the puzzle, also. After that he blotted me out singing ad nauseam some Irish ditty.”

She had decided not to mention to Collier that the murderer had got into her head. A chill went up her spine when she remembered the image he had sent her of her impending murder. The focus had to be on saving the two children. Not on her. For the moment she felt relatively safe since the murderer didn’t know who she was. But she knew that that would only last for a short time until he discovered that she was the only medium in the Bournemouth area.

The whistle on the kettle heralded that the water was boiled.

Collier poured some of the water into the tea pot and swished it around before pouring it out.

“Are you sure you don’t want a cup?” he asked looking back at her. Seeing her nod, he reached for another cup. “Mrs Stoddard,” he began as he busied himself making the tea, “why should I believe or for that matter why should anyone believe anything you say? This business of who is in whose head is difficult to swallow. Don’t you agree? You see my dilemma, Mrs Stoddard, is that I must be able to justify my decisions. Always.” He tested the tea to ensure that it had been brewed just right. Putting the tea-cosy on the tea pot he poured the tea. “You still take two sugar and milk?”

“I’ve learned to do without,” she replied, sitting down.

“I too, or should I say my wife encouraged…no…insisted on it,” he chuckled as he patted at his waistline.

Collier passed the cup and saucer across to her before sitting behind the desk. And, for a long time the two of them sat opposite each other without saying a word as they drank their tea.

Finally, ‘Queenie’ leaned forward and said: “I recollect him saying something about a mission.”

In light of the unsettled political and military conditions in Europe, the word “mission” conjured up a number of troublesome thoughts as Collier pressed forward against his desk.”Mission? What mission?”

This conversation was beginning to make him feel uncomfortable as he felt his rational, no nonsense thinking was on a sharply descending and slippery slope. He did not believe in the powers inherent in this medium or any medium no matter how contradictory at the moment that statement appeared and he had no intention of becoming loony like her.

‘Queenie’s’ forehead became deeply furrowed with concern for the fate of the children.

She pushed her empty tea cup toward Collier and asked: “Would you mind? It might help me…find more clarity.”

Collier refilled her cup and placed it in front her then regained his seat.

She took a long sip and then slouched down and tried to pluck from her memory anything that might have defined the mission.

When she sat bolt upright it was obvious to Collier by her demeanor and facial expression that a light had definitely clicked on in her head.

“Does the name Eberhart Von Stohrer mean anything to you?”

Collier sat back in his chair massaging his chin.

“He’s the recent German Rumanian ambassador,” he said after much thought. “If my memory serves me correctly, there was a failed attempt to assassinate him about a month ago. Why? “

“Well…it has to do with that attempt on Stohrer’s life. Some kind of revenge is my guess.”

She quickly finished her tea and stood up.

“On another point,” she added, “I’ve had a lot of thoughts and images about your son since we met this morning.”

“Uh-Huh. “ Collier picked up the pad of paper with the coded message written on it. As he perused it, Lila’s words from earlier that morning echoed through his mind: “Should I be worried about you? 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?”

“Inspector?”

Collier glanced up from his preoccupation with the code with a disturbed look on his face. “Yes, Mrs Stoddard. I’m listening, ” he lied.

“You will be receiving a phone call later today from Home Office about your son. There is a Captain Hall you will soon want to meet that may be able to find him.”

“Now wait a minute, Mrs Stoddard…how could you possibly…?”

“Inspector, please don’t finish that question,” she interjected. “Let what I just said unfold first. Perhaps then you will see me through a different set of eyes. And by the way, you’re not going loony. It’s perfectly natural what you’re experiencing.”

She began to walk toward the door but stopped and turned around.

“I am very sorry for what happened to that little girl but please don’t let your personal bias against me cloud your judgment. Because if you do, you will be sending those two children to their death,” she implored, pointing at The Echo’s classified section on his desk. “Oh…and there’s something else, Inspector. His fingerprints won’t be found among the hospital staff. But I can assure you that he is a resident of Bournemouth.”

“Before you go, Mrs Stoddard, may I ask you something on an unrelated matter?”

“Nothing is really unrelated, Inspector. But if it’s about your supper today, your niece and her mother will never see eye to eye but they will agree to disagree.”

Dumbfounded by what had just occurred, Collier stared at the closed door for a long time after she had gone.

Everything for Collier had suddenly become more complicated. With ‘Queenie’s’ revelations, he was not only trying to find a murderer now but he was also caught up in a race against time to find and protect that Jewish family and to decipher a code.

 

Below the Window by B. B. Wright

Window in Below the Window

Below the Window

A Short Story by B. B. Wright

“The warm wedge of light passing through the window washes over me as I sit in its glow reading my grandfather’s diary. My back rest is an old wooden chest that he crafted before he left Latvia as a young man in search of work.

Based on the stories I’ve heard,  grandfather was only eighteen when he began this journey. Homesick, hungry and often searching for reasonably priced and suitable shelter, grandpa worked at odd jobs scant in both money and time employed for over a year until good fortune finally smiled on him and he landed a steady job in Munich.

Then, according to dad, one day everything changed for grandpa.  For some reason, dad never elaborated on what he meant by that statement.

Though, by the looks of this page, grandpa recorded that eventful day in bold lettering:

Dienstag 02.35, Hackerhaus, München, 10. Oktober 1938

Tuesday at 2:35 in Munich on October 10, 1938.

Beside it, he wrote in German: I’ve just met the most beautiful girl in the world at the Hackerhaus pub and I’m going to marry her. Her name is Emma.

Wow! I wonder what she looked like at that moment?

As I brush my index finger carefully over each letter he wrote, I hope (and I know it’s silly) to capture something of that moment. Oh how I wish I had my very own time machine! I would…Come to think of it I already have one—his diary.

Still, I would have liked to have been there at that very moment when they first met..

Wait.

My grandmother’s name isn’t Emma. Who the heck was  Emma? To my recollection, my family has never mentioned her. Not even grandpa when he was alive.

Strange.

Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the next pages.

Nothing?! Only blank pages?!

Several pages have been ripped out. Why would someone do that?

Let me check now…there…toward the end of his diary there are more entries. But, it’s several years after the War. The depth of detail in those pages is quite mundane and sparse compared to his earlier writing. What once was written in stylish cursive is now… weak and poorly written. Whatever happened to cause such a seismic change?

Chores! Damn! I forgot.

I’LL BE THERE IN FIVE, DAD.

I wonder if there’s something more in this old chest. Hmm…How did I miss these tied up old envelopes? By the looks of them, they’ve gone through some real rough times. There are some photos, a postcard and newspaper clippings in this one. Well I’ll be damned! It has the year 1938 written on it.

Let’s see…If I spill the contents on the floor and spread them out,  it should make it easier for me to see everything at a glance.

Dad sounds angry.

I’M COMING!

kristallnacht-grandpaThis photo looks like grandpa… sweeping up broken glass below the window of a shop? Quite a lot of damage, I wonder what happened? On the back of this photo her name appears again: Emma’s parents store-Nov. 10.

I’ll leave it here on top of the chest. Maybe dad can explain what happened.

I’M COMING NOW DAD! STOP THE SHOUTING. I’M NOT DEAF.”

A rush of air fluttered through the photos and news clippings to haphazardly expose some and hide others when the door to the attic was closed sharply.

Kristallnacht3

image041-288x300

3137566548_1_2_nRXIOuYdGERMANY-HISTORY-JEWS-HOLOCAUSTkristallnacht Poster1400259330429185932Munich GrandpaHitler in Munich

The statement “Then… one day everything changed for grandpa” had much deeper and more profound meaning than the young person could ever have imagined. Though the October 10 date written in the diary was eventful it was not the “change” the father meant.

The pictures and news clippings begin to give the clue.

Who was Emma you may ask? She was the grandfather’s first love whom he lost one month after they met during a very dark time in history.

What will the dad finally share? Click on the bold underlined statement above to learn.

Angel Maker: Part Two by B. B. Wright

Pile of Hebrew prayer booksAngel 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 Two

Chilling November Days

Diane Waumsley pulled her woolen hat over her ears and jacked up the collar on her coat to ward off the damp, chilling November wind when she stepped out of the vehicle. Before closing the car door, she leaned back in.

“Thanks Uncle Sandy. But…are you sure you don’t mind? It’s six…and…well …I could’ve found…”

Alexander Collier shook his head and smiled. “I appreciate your concern, Rebecca, but if I’d minded I wouldn’tve offered. I’m up much earlier than this most mornings.”

As was his habit, Collier was already dressed for the day in his 3-piece “London Drape” suit.

“But, Uncle Sandy,  it could be a week…Maybe more.”

“Be off with you. Your Auntie Lila’s waiting with my breakfast,” he lied, knowing that breakfast would not be on the table for at least an hour, “and I dare not test her mood so early in the morning.”

“Especially this Sunday morning,” she added, stretching across the seat and kissing him on the cheek. Her expression took on a more sombre veil as she asked: “Are you… sure you’re ready for today, uncle?”

Until two years ago, every Remembrance Day her uncle had shut himself away in his study and drank. Last year was the first time he had gone to watch the ceremony. She was proud that this year he would later don the uniform and participate in the march.

Remembrance Day ceremonies on the second Sunday of November each year had always been a difficult time for her uncle. He had never spoken about his experiences during the last World War—the so-called war to end all wars—but she had learned bits and pieces from her mom, his sister. Still, she never knew or understood why her uncle had not participated in the ceremonies. All she knew was hinted through family gossip and that it had to do with the loss of his brother, Joe, in 1917. As she grew up, she had come to accept that her uncle was a private man who contained many deep, dark secrets hidden in the antic of his mind.

He removed his Homburg hat and combed his fingers through his salt and pepper hair.

“This day…” His gaze drifted before returning his attention back to her. “Conjures up much that I would prefer to forget…But, it’s time,” he replied with a reassuring smile. “Now, wipe off that concerned look. Aye, I’m ready. I’ll do fine.”

Knowing that he had not touched a drop of liquor in two years, she felt reassured and squeezed his hand to convey her love and support.

“You’ll be coming to supper this evening?” She nodded. “Good. We’ve…invited your mom. I hope that’s okay?” he asked with a disconcerting look.

For a moment she didn’t know what to say and she slipped onto the passenger seat and closed the car door.

“I really don’t…”

“If your mom could have taken back her words…”

“What?! And have her lie instead?!” She interjected, unsuccessfully trying not to raise her voice and firmly folding her arms across her chest. “Obviously, she told you what she said?” she continued, her voice breaking slightly. He nodded. “I’m sorry uncle. But, then you also know that they were cruel, hurtful and anti-Semitic words against my fiancé.”

“I do… Wait a minute…did I just hear you correctly? You and Lanny are engaged?”

“A month ago.”

Taken off guard, he felt hurt to discover about their engagement this way.

“I take it that your mom already knows?”

“No! It occurred after our row.”

“I see…Well…Congratulations!”

He decided against asking why he had not known sooner preferring to wait for a more opportune time.

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” he continued. “He’s a fine young man. I should think supper should be interesting…very interesting, indeed,” he chortled. “Still, it will be a grand time to celebrate!”

He bit the corner of his mouth as he carefully thought out his next words.

“Surely, Diane, you know that your aunt and I would be the last to defend or support your mom in her beliefs. We support you. Always! And that having been said, you can’t solve anything without confronting it head on. I should know. At least tolerate her for this evening. Let’s see where it goes.” He shook his head. “Heaven knows how your mom came about to think that way, though I do have my thoughts on the subject. At least give it try.” He sighed deeply. “Did you know that Richard’s in Germany with Elsa.”

She looked at him quizzically.

He took in a few deep breaths before continuing. “He’s there to help Elsa get her family, her Jewish family, safely out of Germany. I’ve been trying to help through contacts in London. And, in light of what has just happened in the last few days, I’m deeply concerned for their safety.”

“Shouldn’t their British passports be safeguards enough?”

Collier shrugged. “Ninety per cent of the new reality in Nazi Germany is perception especially when it comes to Jews. If Richard and Elsa disappeared, they would be difficult if not impossible to trace. That’s why I’ve got the Foreign Office doing the best they can to keep close tabs on them. That may be the best and only safeguard my son and Elsa have got.”

“Have you heard from them?”

“Not since Kristallnacht on the ninth. I’ve been told that they went into hiding. So, your aunt and I are waiting it out. No news is good news…I guess.”

He adjusted his position to fully face her.

Contrary to his skepticism and logical disposition he had prearranged a visit (his second visit in two years) before breakfast with the psychic, medium Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a. ‘Queenie) to talk about his son. And, time was running short. Her book Psychic Glimpses, tucked away in his inner pocket, pressed uncomfortably against his chest each time he moved and acted as an unwelcome reminder.

“Diane, let’s get back to you for a moment. I understand how you feel about your mom, I’m not happy with her either, but shutting her out doesn’t solve anything.”

“It’s worked for me,” she retorted.

“Really?” he asked, raising his eyebrows in disbelief. “So does that mean you’re now not coming to supper?”

Her expression softened as she thought through her reply.

“I’d like to bring Lanny with me, if that’s okay?”

A broad smile creased his face as he shook in head in despair. “Diane…Diane…I wonder at times if you’re really listening. Of course you may. It wouldn’t be a celebration without the two of you present. And, I won’t take no for an answer.” He adjusted his hat back on his head.

“Good, then it’s settled. I’ll…we’ll come. Thank you, Uncle Sandy.”

The two them held hands tightly in silence before she finally exited the vehicle.

As she watched her uncle drive off, she was surprised to see him turn left at the intersection rather than continue straight through which would have been the direct route home. Giving a slight shrug, she turned and ran across the road toward the hospital.

Normally, she would not have begun her shift until 4:00 P.M. and supper with her mom would not have entered into the equation but the shift switch as a favor for her friend, Gillian, had changed all that. Fearful of sleeping through the alarm, she had had a broken sleep and felt tired. The thought of supper now with her mom made her feel frustrated and edgy and she resented this additional concern being added to her day.

Ninety minutes early for her shift, she still hoped to be running at full tilt by the 7:30 patient briefings.

Her stomach growled as she made her way up the steps to the hospital. Mentally, she chastised herself for not accepting her aunt and uncle’s invitation to breakfast. Maybe, she thought, it would have been a more ideal time and location to talk about her impending supper with her mom. She had forgotten that her cousin, Richard, was dating a Jewish girl. And, she was more than surprised to learn from her uncle that the two of them were now in Germany.

She hadn’t grasped the urgency of their mission.

Preoccupied, she misjudged the next step and stumbled but quickly regained her balance.
Composing herself, she looked at the few stairs remaining to the front door of the hospital and attempted to focus her attention on the day ahead but hunger pangs began to press her immediate needs like a thirsty day in the desert without water. Pushing aside The Observer newspaper that peeked out from her oversized purse, she began to rummage along its bottom.

“Ah! There you are you little rascal.”

Pulling out a Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp, she quickly unwrapped it and continued to traverse the remaining distance. Though, she had her toast and egg sandwich, sliced and wrapped, and digestive biscuits, the chocolate bar for the moment took precedence—a kind of reward for her just being here at this god-awful time—and she wolfed it down.

After she had changed into her nurse’s uniform in the locker room, she tucked The Observer under one arm, picked up her bag with the egg sandwich, biscuits and thermos of tea and headed to the stairwell for the walk up the three flights of stairs to Ward CH3.

She looked forward to using her extra time before patient briefing for getting her head together and to satisfying the grumbling needs of her stomach in the small lunch room off the hall leading to the nursing station.

When she opened the door from the landing onto the Ward, she was stunned to find the staff in frenzied panic. Whatever had happened, the staff was functioning at critical levels.

Her newspaper fell to the floor when she grabbed the upper arm of one of the nurses she recognized running by.

“Judith, what’s wrong?” Diane asked, alarmed.

“Oh, Diane…She was my patient, under my watch…she’s missing! Please! Let me go!”

Judith pulled away and disappeared into one of a series of patients’ rooms lining the hall on either side before reappearing and heading to the next.

“Who’s missing?” Diane called out, picking up the newspaper and stuffing it under her arm as she scurried after Judith who had disappeared into another room.

“Did you see anyone on the stairwell?” Judith asked when she reappeared.

“No…but…”

“Search the two rooms on that side and I’ll finish up along here.”

“Judith? Whom am I looking for?”

“Rebecca…Rebecca Grynberg,” Judith replied breathlessly, unable to fully avert her eyes from Diane.

“Rebecca? But…how? When? She was too ill to…”

“We know. We all know. Please, Diane, do what I asked. We’ll talk… later.”

For a brief moment the two of them stood in silence facing each other until Diane broke the silence.

“Then…if you all know…that…Judith, what are you not telling me?”

“We think she may have been taken.”

“Taken? Then, the police must have been…?”

“No! The administration told us to thoroughly check the hospital first,” Judith interjected.

Diane’s lunch bag crashed to the floor along with The Observer as if to punctuate the uncomfortable awkwardness that had suddenly been thrown up between them.

Judith knows I’m the niece of Inspector Collier, Diane thought. And, she still expects me to blindly follow these dumb orders? I can’t. “How long do you think she’s been missing?”

“No more than two hours.”

“Two…?! Let’s quickly finish up here so we can call the police.”

“We?! No! You can’t do that! I just told you admin…”

“Maybe you can’t Judith but I can and will!”

 

Dear Reader:
I do hope you are enjoying the story so far. There is much yet to learn about Inspector Alexander Collier and his family as well as the times he lived in.

The procedure used to eventually solve Rebecca’s murder would have been impossible in the United States because of the Fourth Amendment.

The unprecedented growth of discovery, technological and scientific (medical) advances we take for granted in our modern age often blinds us into thinking that this is always the way it was. The link (at “nurse’s uniform”) to the interview with Mildred Brown Shaw R.N. says otherwise. Her experiences, as a nurse in the United States during the 1930’s, provides rare practical insight to nursing during this period and what Diane Waumsley may have experienced during each of her shifts in Ward CH3.

Thank you for giving your valuable time to follow this series. Hopefully you will continue to enjoy the series as much as I do writing each episode.

Best Regards
B. B. Wright

Angel Maker: Part One by B. B. Wright

Palladium Cinema

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 One

All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

A heavy grey mist had settled over Bournemouth and since it was well past the ten o’clock closing for pubs and the last of the trolley buses had been docked for the night, very few people wandered about on its damp, cold streets. The doors to the 550 seat Palladium Cinema had been locked for at least an hour and the marquee which had highlighted that evening’s show of The Divorce of Lady X starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier had been plunged into darkness.

Fish and chips news wrappers and other detritus carelessly tossed aside from earlier that day blew about like tumbleweed. For an ephemeral moment the front page of the Guardian was pasted against a wall by the wind to expose once again what should have been a troublesome headline:

Germany’s Day of Wrecking and Looting
Gangs Unhampered by the Police
Synagogues Burned Down in Many Cities

A young man with a potato sack across his shoulders hurried along Fisherman’s Walk. Lamplight splashed his shadow across the Guardian headline like a stain as he turned into the alley beside the Cinema. He felt the limp, small body he carried in his sack stirring as the chloroform he had given her was beginning to wear off. Quickening his pace, he continued down the alley to the back of the building.

He laid the sack down in a sheltered area in the glow of the light from the lamp above the back door to the Cinema. Untying the sack he took out his knife and slit the sack open from top to bottom. Folding the blade in, he returned it to his pocket.

He liked his prey young, very young and their innocence made what he was about to do to her that much more pleasurable. She was more than just a receptacle to feed his needs; she was an unblemished treat of virgin purity. He sat down beside her and waited for her to wake; he stroked her hair and ran his hand along her white legs and up under her gown. He needed her conscious. He enjoyed their struggle and pain; it made him even more excited.

He had strangled his last victim but, tonight, he had planned a different thrill for himself.

Astride her and fully satisfied, he released his grip on her and stood up and fastened his pants. He watched her as she curled up into a fetal position, whimpering. And he smiled.

“Do you believe in angels?” he asked her softly.

Her nod was hesitant.

The sight of blood on her gown between her legs etched terror on her face as she looked up at him.

“Yes, I thought so,” he continued. “Now there, there, Rebecca. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He reached out to touch her but she pulled away. “I am an angel maker. That’s right. And, tonight is your lucky night.

He came closer and went down on one knee next to her.

“Have you ever played broken propeller before?” he whispered into her ear.

She shook her head and pulled herself in even closer.

“No, of course you wouldn’t’ve. I just invented it. Tonight you will be first to play it with me. But I must secure you to ensure the game is played correctly.”

He forced her to straighten out and took a rope from his pocket and wound it around her several times so as to fix her arms tightly to her sides. Then after several failed attempts, he finally stuffed her underpants into her mouth.

“That last bite hurt, Rebecca.” And, he slapped her hard across the face making her unconscious. “No!…No!…That won’t do! Damn! You must be awake to play this game!”

Several minutes passed before she regained consciousness.

“Good! Now we can play my game. But, first I must remove your ribbon so that your hair hangs loose.”

Removing it, he placed it in his pocket.

He grasped her slender ankles and began to swing her around and around, the speed increasing with each turn.

“Humpty Dumpty splat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great bawl. Broken propeller,” he yelled out and let go his grasp.

The lamplight over the door highlighted it all until the moment her small foot sliced through it sending everything into darkness as her head cracked against the brick wall.

He stepped closer to observe her lifeless body.

“All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, definitely can’t put poor little Rebecca together again. Now you are an angel.”

Pulling out his knife, he cut off a thick strand of her hair and placed it in a locket and returned both to his pocket.

His trophies of her hair and ribbon in hand, he returned to the loneliness of his flat to wait. He had no idea when the urge would erupt again or who would be his next prey. Yet, somehow in his socially inept mind, living on the edge of society, he understood it would not be long because he had already recognized that the time between killings was becoming shorter.

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