A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack
Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2018
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The doorbell rang and Scott heard Smyth complimenting Abby on his lovely home. After a few pleasantries, Smyth is heard saying. “Ok Mr. Abby, let’s get down to business. Do you have the money?”
“Yes, I have, in my vault. May I see the pipe?”
Smyth produced the Teak box from a shoulder bag and opened it. Abby looked in and observed the gourd nestled in the red velvet. He thought to himself it could be just another piece of discarded Summer Squash if it weren’t for the historical significance.
“Very interesting,” Abby said as he examined both ends of the gourd and sniffed the chard end.
Smyth acted fidgety and snapped at Abby,” Are you satisfied? I have no paperwork authenticating what it is; don’t think they did such things fifteen-hundred years ago. Well, are you satisfied?”
“Yes, I’m satisfied. However, your nervous state and sarcastic attitude might alter our agreement if it doesn’t end. I’m not used to doing business in an unfriendly atmosphere,” Abby answered, feigning anger to allow the FBI more time to get in position should they need it.
“Sorry about that. I’ve been in this country longer than planned and I want to get home before some deals I have going go bad on me. Now, may we please complete this transaction?”
“Yes. I’ll get the money from my vault. You remain here, please.” Abby said as he slowly walked to a hallway leading to the to the cellar stairs and his vault-room. He closed the cellar door and quickly flipped a switch on the wall, turning on the blue signal light calling the FBI. He entered the vault room and quickly locked himself inside.
Outside Harry Malison pressed the send button on his radio and said, “Blue light –blue light all units go.”
Scott and von Ropp, with their radios turned off waited anxiously realizing that the only way they would know the FBI moved is when they would hear them in the house. Soon, a loud hubbub broke out as the agents quickly and noisily entered both the front and rear doors, weapons drawn. Malison approached Smyth and demanded he get to his knees. Smyth was hand cuffed while an agent went to the cellar to get Abby while another knocked on the dining room door as a signal to Scott.
The four men exited the dining room and Smyth looked like he would have a fit. As soon as he saw Mitchell, his face turned a dark crimson in anger, knowing Mitchell to be a party to his capture. Malison informed Smyth of the federal and local charges against him. Von Ropp stepped in front of Smyth, identified himself and charged him with the murder of Baron Alfred Kunz, and various acts of international theft.
Smyth’s shoulders slouched and his face went a pale gray color. He looked up and said, “Well it seems Interpol finally caught me, but only with the help of the FBI. Now, just try to prove anything.” he said with great bravado.
“We are well on our way to do just that,” Malison told him as he ushered Mitchell forward and asked, “Can you identify this man, Mr. Mitchell?”
“Yes, I can. He is Gerald Smyth of England. I did small errands for him for several years before coming to the U.S. I also met with him at his hotel in Albany. He wanted me to find possible buyers for a special pipe”
Abby was called and replaced Mitchell in front of Smyth carrying the Teak box containing the gourd pipe. “Do you know this man as Gerald Smyth?” Malison asked.
“Yes, that is what he told me his name is.”
“And did he try to sell you a gourd pipe taken illegally from The University of Hyderabad museum?”
“He attempted to sell me this gourd pipe. Whether it was stolen or not, I have no first-hand knowledge.”
“Thank you, Mr. Abby. Please give me the box. It will be held as evidence for trial here and then turned over to Interpol for European trials. Eventually, it will be returned to the museum in Hyderabad.”
Von Ropp told Smyth, “Affidavits will be taken from both of these men and be used during trials here and in Europe. Do you understand this?”
“Yes, Yes. Let’s get on with it. I’m tired of your talking,” Smyth said, showing his irritation.
The FBI escorted Smyth to one of the cars to be taken to BPD for incarceration until arraignment. Karl von Ropp went with them. As did the pipe in the Teak box.
Abby slumped into a large easy chair and was pouring himself a Scotch.
Scott went to him and asked, “That went as smoothly as anything could, wouldn’t you say?”
“I suppose so,” replied Abby. “I have never been involved in anything even close to this. Frankly I am a nervous wreck. I hope this Scotch will calm be a bit.
“You will be all right soon. I, or the FBI, will send you a transcript of your verbal part in the arrest and identification. Please sign both copies and return one to the sender. It will be used at the trial. I hope it won’t be necessary for you to come and testify.
“So, do I. I prefer a quiet and private life; except for my art and sculptures, naturally.”
On the way back to Boston, Scott asked Frank if his being on-site for the arrest proved helpful.
“Absolutely! I recorded it all.”
Scott couldn’t believe what he heard, and asked, “How could you possible do that? Are you the world’s fastest writer?”
“Not at all,” Frank replied as he removed a shiny box from his jacket pocket. “This is a wire recorder – one of three prototypes made at MIT. During the war several of these recorders were taken from Nazi spies, Gestapo I’m told. It turns out the technology was developed in 1898 by a Danish inventor, and later applied to steel wire. It was a seldom used novelty until a German R and D industrial group started work on it in 1940. After being miniaturized and perfected in 1944, a small number were made for the Gestapo. No one knows how many were made but four in poor condition, possibly caused by attempts to destroy them before capture, were turned over to the OSS and then to MIT to study, improve and reproduce.”
“How do you know all this? it must have been a very hush-hush operation.”
“Actually, I stumbled across it when interviewing an ex-Gestapo lieutenant for a follow-up article on D-day. I approached the Department of Defense by mail for some sort of confirmation. The next thing I knew I was summoned to Washington to answer a lot of questions regarding just how I knew about the recorder. In the end, I was asked not to revel to anyone or run any stories about the wire recorder, and then only with DOF permission. In return for my promise, encouraged by subtle threats, I was given a name at MIT to follow-up on the story. The DOF was deciding if the recorder should be maintained only for military use or released for public consumption. A couple of weeks ago I received this one from the DOF with a note asking me to use it and send back a report stating how I used it and my overall opinion. It’s a neat gadget. It will record even when it’s in my pocket. I still haven’t received permission to write the story. So, my friend, keep this under your hat.”
“Not a peep out of me buddy. I would like a demonstration some time. This can revolutionize a lot of recording tasks, Dictaphones, music, radio and, of course, undercover work.”
The car dropped Scott at his home and went on to deliver the others. It was late, and when Nancy threw a stream of questions at him as he got in bed, he answered gently with; “It has been a trying few hours, I’m tired and all talked out. Please, can we do this tomorrow?”
She answered “Of course, dear. I understand.”
Morning came quickly and as Scott sat down for breakfast he asked, “You have some questions, Nancy?”
“I did have, but now that I know you are safe and I have calmed down, they can wait.”
It was a quiet breakfast. The boys were out waiting for their ride to school and the atmosphere indicated Nancy to be in an agitated state. Scott decided the best thing he can do is be as pleasant as possible while home and go to work a bit early. As he closed the front gate, he saw, in a blur, a man in a light blue hoody dodge into the alley at the left of his house. Scott, knowing the alley structure of Beacon Hill well, turned right instead of left on Walnut Street and into the courtyard of the next building, as he had done often during times of trouble, then skirted around the building, vaulted the low fence into the back ally, turned right and ran in hopes of catching the man where the two alleys intersected. He came across him peering around the corner into the alley from whence he came. Scott approached him quietly, his 1911 drawn and thinking he was too old for this stuff, grabbed him by the hood of his sweatshirt and pulled him to the ground.
With the 1911 planted firmly against the man’s nose shouted, “What the hell are you doing sneaking around here?”
“Hold it, buddy. Be careful with that thing. I’m not sneaking around, just taking a walk. Let me up.”
“I don’t believe that for a second. Roll over and get on your knees with your hands behind you.”
With the “45” at the back of the man’s head, Scott told him to put his hands behind his back, and using the man’s belt, secured them and said, “OK, now walk ahead of me back to Walnut Street.”
Knowing either the FBI or BPD car should be along soon, he stood the man with his forehead against a wall and his feet spread widely. Within a half-minute a car turned off Beacon Street into Walnut and sped up. It came to a screeching stop and two men jumped out.
“Mister Wadsworth! What do you have there?” one of them asked while removing handcuffs from his belt.
Recognizing the man as a Boston detective, Scott replied “Good morning, Hank. This guy was sneaking around my house so I managed to get behind him. I haven’t searched him but I’ll bet he has a weapon.”
The detective searched the man and came up with a small caliber pistol and brass knuckles.
“You are right – cheap hood stuff. By the way, I trust you are licensed to carry that “45”. I’ve heard about your “45” and stories of the shoot-out with the Nazi here in front of your house. Is that the same piece?”
“Oh yes, have had it for many years, and a license too.” Scott replied, as he filled the bowl of his pipe. “I have a hunch this is one of Ryan’s hired men. Book him on whatever charges are appropriate and then drop him at the FBI. They will want to talk to him. I’ll call and let them know he’s coming.”
The day, for Scott Wadsworth, went without interruption as he caught up in neglected legal work. Although, his thoughts occasionally went to the capture of Smyth and the encounter with the guy in the alley, and how each might have gone wrong. However, he managed to put those thoughts behind him and finish his work just as a call came in from the FBI at 4:45 P.M.
“Good news, Scott.” Malison’s voice echoed through the phone. “We finally got that guy from the alley to talk. You are right, he is hooked in with Lucky Ryan and was sent to case your house. Looks like Ryan is serious about Mitchell.”
“And my family, Scott responded. How close are you and New York to doing something about this gangster?”
“New York has a man on the inside so there is plenty of evidence accumulated for a search warrant, and possibly an arrest warrant for being tied to a couple of gang killings. I have his death-threat note to you with his thumb print. I’d say, with a little planning, we can move anytime. Do you think Mitchell will be willing to help?”
“I think you can count on him, but I’ll confirm that for you. Did you ever find out anything about that truck driver who bought and delivered the tobacco to Ryan? I have a feeling it is tied in somehow.”
“Yea. We know he drives out of Boston and is a member of the Teamsters. There is no direct link to Ryan unless it’s through a Teamsters officer, name of Concetta, who has been visiting Ryan fairly often since the New York office has been watching him. Do you have something in mind?”
“Actually, I’d like to talk to him, and perhaps Concetta. I just can’t get the thought out of my mind that this is a part of Ryan’s interest in the gourd pipe.”
“We can do that for you”. Malison replied. “I’ll let you know when it is set up. It will be very soon. We want to move on Ryan as soon as we can. It will be a New York office operation, but we will be there.”
“Good, Scott replied. I think it is important we talk to both Concetta and the driver before grabbing Lucky Ryan.”
Scott left work early and swung by Mitchell’s hotel just in time to meet him, and his two guards, approaching a short distance down the street.
“Hello Mic. I need to talk to you about your association with Ryan if you are willing.”
“Anything for you Mr. Wadsworth.”
Once settled in Mitchells room, Mitchell reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out a small half-bent pipe and a pouch of tobacco.
“Well, what’s this, Mic, taking up the pipe?”
“I’ll give it a try. Seemed the right thing seeing most of my new friends smoke pipes. Bought it at Perrett’s and they gave me a couple of ounces of tobacco. They said it’s a blend you like. I’ll need you to help me with it. I’ve never used a pipe before”
“Be happy to, but first we have to talk. The FBI is planning a raid on Ryan’s place and want you to be there. Perhaps, even help gain entry to the building. What do you think?
“If I am protected, I’ll be happy to help put that guy away.”
“I’ll be with you as will two agents. It’s a New York office operation but Harry and I will be there in some capacity; most likely to serve a warrant for threatening my family and me. I’ll let you know when and how you can be helpful as soon as Harry tells me the planned procedure of the operation.”
Scott helped Mitchell in loading, and lighting his new pipe, stressing the need to smoke slowly and not inhale in order to get the best flavor. Mitchell adapted to the pipe readily and soon used it as if a seasoned smoker.
“Better than cigarettes,” he said while watching a gray/blue cloud climb to the ceiling.
Scott laughingly replied, “Don’t overdue it. Too many pipes when starting out and you’ll burn your tongue.”
The next morning, Harry Malison was waiting at the door when Scott’s secretary arrived. He sat impatiently, in the reception area of Scotts office complex, anxious to talk to Scott. He came in five-minutes later, saw Harry, and motioned him into his office,
“You are at it early this morning.” Scott said.
“Didn’t see a bed last night. Been on the phone all night with the New York office and Washington setting up the raid and getting warrants arranged. It’s a go for eleven o’clock Thursday. That will give us time to talk to the truckdriver who will be picked up tomorrow. I’ll call when we have him at the office. Concetta will be interrogated by New York today and Telex me a transcription.”
Just then Scotts secretary came in carrying a tray with two mugs of coffee, cream and sugar.
With a sigh Harry said, “You are a lifesaver. I don’t think I could make another five minutes without a pick-me-up.”
Harry gulped down the coffee and started to lay out the raid plan. Scott
sipped his coffee, and his pipe, while listening attentively.
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Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield,
Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean
War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is
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