A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack

Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2018
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Chapter Two

Boston 1946

The buzzer on Scott Wadsworth’s desk sounded and his secretary Informed him that he has a phone call from the chief of police.

Dick Taranto advanced steadily in the Boston Police Department from Detective Sergeant, when he helped Scott and the FBI clean up the Boston Nazi crowd in 1934.

Scott Wadsworth, because of the economic boom created by the war, grew his business to a point where he expanded into three more offices on his floor, redecorated them, hired a law clerk and secretary and acquired about all the clients he could handle. He hoped to take in a partner but his father, with his hand on the pulse of Washington and the country, advised him to hold off a while. He told Scott, according to his sources, the country was about to drop into a small depression that might last a year or two. He was right. However, despite unemployment being at only three and a fraction percent, the GNP dipped from the war-time economy. Some economists rejected the depression theory completely while others preferred to call it a recession. It didn’t last a year.

In the years following the end of World War Two, the country struggled to return to a peacetime economy while attempting to aid the defeated countries reestablish some sort of an economy to build upon. Power struggles were taking place in emerging European governments which made it more difficult.

At precisely three o’clock, the chief arrived, and ushered into Scott’s office by the secretary.

“Have you seen this Scott?” he asked as he tossed a newspaper on his desk. Scott picked the paper up and immediately spotted the article about the pipe theft and murder. “I’ve read this, but why is it important enough to bring you here?” he said as he handed the paper back to the chief.

The chief told him, “I’ve had a call from Interpol. For many years, they have been on the trail of a Gerald Smyth a known thief of jewelry, valuable art and historical artifact. They believe he is responsible for the theft of the pipe from India in 1940, and now the theft of the pipe again, and murder of Baron Alfred Kunz in Augsburg Austria. It’s Interpol’s opinion that Kunz is the person who hired Smyth to do the India Job. All recent investigative efforts indicate Smyth will land in Boston today to perhaps deliver the pipe stolen from Baron Alfred Kunz. Or, if he didn’t steal it for someone, put it up for auction.”

“So, what does this have to do with me?” Scott asked.

The chief finally sat down, heaved a deep sigh and replied, “Inspector Karl von Ropp, of Interpol, is coming to Boston and bringing a Sikh, Jodh Sing, curator of the museum at the University of Hyderabad. They want to gain information about any pipe collectors, obsessed enough with collecting, and wealthy enough to take a chance on obtaining this ancient pipe. You, being a pipe smoker and collector, are the only one I know of who might give us direction in this task.”

“Is that all,” Scott replied. “I’ll do it as soon as my crystal ball is back from the repair shop.”

“I buy pipes because I smoke them, not collect them. Oh, I have several I cherish and keep on display because they have special meaning for me. However, I can make some enquiries from a couple of people who do collect seriously and see if I can get a lead on anyone highly competitive in the hobby, or unscrupulous enough to go to such means to get a special pipe.”

“That’s about all I can ask of you, I guess. I would like you to meet and talk to these two men if you have the time.”

Scott said, “I’ll make time, we can set it up later. By the way, it might be wise to call in Harry Malison, now director of the New England area F.B.I., with a lot more clout and personnel. After all, this is an international problem when Smyth steps on United States soil.”

When the chief returned to his office at the BPD, he walked into a desk piled up with faxes and phone messages. He quickly sorted the messages, dropping half in a waste basket, and dialed the FBI. About half way through the story about the pipe and Smyth, Malison interrupted him.

“I’m aware of what you are telling me,” the Director said. “Washington woke me in the middle of the night to inform me that Interpol thinks Smyth is headed for the U S A and they want our help; that an officer of Interpol, along with a Jodh Sing, is coming to Boston and you are meeting them. The Bureau and police in major cities are on alert. I have pictures of Smyth looking up at me from my desk. Guess they came in on the wire last night. I suppose I’m to distribute them, so will wire them to BPD soon. You can take it from there if you want your men to have them. The things I don’t know are why Jodh Sing is coming, and why to Boston. They must think this Smyth, if he has the ancient pipe at all, has a customer in this area. I’m interested to know what makes Interpol think Smyth would steal this relic twice, if indeed he stole it the first time. Are you supposed to get them settled in a hotel? I’ll set up a meeting for tomorrow morning here at H Q.”

“Sounds like a plan,” the Chief responded. “We certainly need a lot of answers. I have talked to Scott about this and asked him if he knows any high-end pipe collectors. He will make some inquiries. Perhaps he should make the meeting tomorrow.”

“Good idea. I’ll call him as soon as I can. I must find out what time Karl von Ropp and Jodh Sing land. I’ll be going to the airport with you, so will be in touch unless I hear from the Bureau to the contrary.”

Gerald Smyth, wearing a false beard and glasses and dressed like an English banker with striped trousers, winged-collar shirt, gray vest, tailed morning coat, and sporting a black Homberg hat, landed in Rome. He had completed his first leg of an elaborate round-a-bout trip to New York. From Rome he will travel to Lisbon, Bermuda, and then by ship to Miami. From Miami to Albany by bus. Each leg of the trip he will don a different disguise and have a passport and identity to match. This has worked many times for him in avoiding Interpol officers. He arrived in Albany about the same time Karl von Ropp and Jodh Sing arrived at Boston Airport.

At the same time, Dick Taranto, and crew awaited the arrival of the plane carrying Karl von Ropp and Jodh Sing. Jodh Sing was impossible to miss among the passengers as they emerged from the plane and carefully started down the metal steps of the portable deplaning stairs. His six-foot five-inch frame looked massive, and his head topped with a lime green turban stood out boldly against his bronze complexion and white beard.

Taranto stepped forward, hand extended, and said, “Welcome to Boston gentlemen,” and introduced himself along with Wadsworth and Malison.

Singh stepped forward and greeted all three with a substantial hand-shake, saying in perfect British English derived from a Cambridge University education, “It is our pleasure, and may I introduce Detective Inspector Karl von Ropp of Interpol.”

Von Ropp, smiled widely and said in a Belgium-Dutch accent, “My pleasure. I look forward to developing a strong relationship with your FBI, and of course the Boston Police Department,” all punctuated by stiff bows from the waist.
After exchanging pleasantries about the flight and the New England weather, the chief asked, “Have you pre-booked a hotel, or do you have a choice? We can go to my office and make some calls if you like.”

“No, that won’t be necessary,” von Ropp replied. “We have reservations made for the Cambridge Arms. It is just across the Harvard Bridge and directly to the right on River Road. Mr. Singh hopes he will have time to meet with colleagues at Harvard, and perhaps have a tour of the campus; if he has the time that is.”

“That’s fine. We will take you there and you can settle in. My car will pick you up at eight-thirty tomorrow and bring you to FBI HQ for a strategy meeting,” Malison interjected.

The three men talked about the case as they re-crossed the bridge into Boston; mostly expressing questions about Smyth and why Interpol and European police haven’t been able to grab him, and what help to expected from them.

“I guess we will find out in the morning,” Scott said and he cracked the car window to let out smoke from his pipe. He continued, “I’m going to call Frank Gray and ask him to do some research on this Gerald Smyth. His contacts overseas at foreign news services was highly instrumental in gaining information on the identities of the Nazi agents in Boston and other cities before the last war. Now, how about some lunch at Jake Wirth’s. I’m buying.”

Frank Gray, no longer employed by the Boston Post, was hired by Consolidated News in 1944. They wooed him away from his Boston Post managing editor position into managing their Boston branch. This was a big step up for Gray, both financially and prestigiously. C N was an up and coming organization rivaling A P, I N S and U P. This rise from a small fledging news service in 1940 was, in part, due to Grays European contacts, and his willingness to share information he gleaned from Europe. C N, often during the war, hit the wires with items of news yet known to the other services.

After lunch, Scott called Frank Gray and told him the whole story, and about the meeting at FBI headquarters in the morning.

“I’m aware of the pipe theft and murder. What exactly is it you are looking for?” he asked Scott.

“I’m not exactly sure,” Scott replied. “Everyone wants to nab this guy Smyth, and have for years, but he is a slippery thief and a killer as well, if all presumptions are right. I’ll know more tomorrow after we meet at FBI HQ. You know, if you could make that meeting and hear it first hand from Interpol, we will eliminate a step in the process. What do you think? The meeting is at ten-thirty.”

“I’ll do my best to be there. I’ll have to put-off a couple of other meetings but I’d sure like to help put this guy out of business and in jail. Then again, what’s to be concerned about another dead Ex-Nazi major?”

Scott smiled at Frank’s remark and said, “This is more about the artifact, the gourd pipe. We’ll leave the murder charge to Interpol. If we can grab him, we can return the pipe to Singh and the university, the rightful owners. Call me later please, and let me know if you can definitely make the meeting."

“Will do,” Frank said and hung-up.

Scott worked for a couple of hours on a liability suite before locking up and heading for L.J. Paretti’s. As he walked along he thought about how little work he did today, because of this Smyth thing, and hoped it will be worth it. He always liked the look of Paretti’s and slowed to admire, as he did so many times over the years, the tobacco store Indian that stands ever watchful by the door. He walked up to the counter as the clerks greeted him heartily. He was about to ask for a pound of Royal Blend when the nearest clerk reached under the counter, came up with a paper bag and handed it to him.

“What’s this,” Scott asked.

“Your monthly pound of Royal Blend,” the clerk replied. “We all figured you’ve been coming in each month for years for the same thing and tried to figure what day you would be in this month. Two days ago, we packed it for you and waited. Incidentally, I won.”

Am I that predictable? I’m going to have to change my ways. I could get into trouble being that way,” Scott said with a chuckle. “Thanks, I appreciate it.” He paid for the tobacco and left. As he made his way through the Common, along Beacon street to Walnut he continued to feel good about the incident at Paretti’s, and occasionally laughed a little.

Scotts two sons ran and jumped at him as he entered the carriage house. He grabbed one in each arm and lifted them as he crossed the living room; thinking to himself that they are getting far too big for this. Nancy entered the dining room from the kitchen, about the same time as Scott and admonished the boys for jumping on their father, that they were too heavy to do that now.

Scott and Nancy married shortly after the war started. It wasn’t for any moral reasons, but after several years of living together they decided they were a great match and started talking about having a family. Also, when Scott’s father would visit he would always ask when they were going to marry and give him some grandchildren; not that it was a consideration, but his father was getting older and children would be nice while he was still around. Nancy’s parents were killed in an auto accident some years back, leaving her on her own at age nineteen.

After dinner, and the boys were in bed, Scott told Nancy about Smyth, the pipe, the FBI and Singh.
Nancy stopped reading and looked at Scott with fear in her eyes saying, “I hope it’s not going to be like that episode with Abe Müller. You could have been killed fighting those Nazis. Is your participation really essential?”

“I’m not sure what my participation will be, other than talk to some pipe collectors. There is a meeting in the morning with Harry, and the others, to decide where to start and to work out a strategy. Please don’t worry. It is only one-man Interpol is after, not a whole gang.

Chapters:  Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11Ch 12Ch 13

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 now retired.

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