The Crooked X - Prelude to War
A Short Story of Hate, Mystery and Intrigue

By Ernest N.Whitenack

"Chapter 3"

Misty Murder

The Western Union delivery boy rolled his bike into the lobby of the building and bounded up the stairs to Scott's second floor office just as Scott was again struggling with the door.

     "I have a night letter for Mr. Wadsworth. Can you accept it?"

     "I'm Wadsworth" Scott said and took the telegram from the boy's hand and       replaced it with a tip; a better than normal tip for those lean times.

The boy smiled broadly, tipped his uniform cap and took the stairs down two at a time.

The telegram, being one of the most secure ways to communicate, was from Harry. It asked that they meet in the lobby of the State House at four P.M. and suggested Scott use the basement service entrance and work his way to the lobby to avoid any surveillance the Nazis might have on him. Scott realized that four o'clock would be the time people start leaving work and will provide a mass of bodies for cover. He would go home first, make the place look lived in, change to overalls and work jacket and depart secretly out the rear, cut through a couple of gardens and alleys to the rear of the State House.

As he searched his closet for a suitably old work shirt, Scott happened across the locked Mahogany box resting on the closet shelf. He started to push it aside but paused in thought before moving it to the dressing table instead. The key that was secreted away in the back of his sock drawer turned stiffly as he opened the box and took out his Colt M1911. The Colt, a carry-over from the war was all but forgotten. For several years after his discharge Scott kept his firing skill sharp at the B.P.D. pistol range; more out of habit than necessity. As he did often when in deep thought, he puffed heavily a couple of times and let a cloud of smoke slowly escape between his lips before placing the pipe gently in an ash tray. Scott drew the pistol from its holster and instinctively checking it for a left over cartridge, and then checked the firing mechanism. He loaded a magazine and tested the ejector. The gun was in unusually good order for the little care it had been given recently. Scott buckled the leather strap of the shoulder holster around him and reloaded the magazine and then a second; one for the pistol and one for his pocket.

Resting under a cloth in bottom of the box was a Webley Mark IV, the famous and powerful top-break, self-extracting revolver of the British military. Brigadier Ashley Moss, Scott's counterpart in British Military Intelligence with whom he once shared an office, presented the pistol to Scott the day he left France for home and separation. The revolver was beautifully engraved thanks to the Sergeant Major, a master gunsmith, in charge of the British armory in France who also fashioned a suppressor for the gun. Scott took the revolver in hand, hefted it, spun the cylinder and placed it back in the box. Perhaps another day, he thought.

Scott grabbed an old, overly-used and blackened pipe, a bulldog, as he left through a rear door and placed it in his mouth; pulled a battered brown fedora low on his head and vaulted the low fence into a neighbor's garden. Late afternoon at this time of spring brought an early dusk with lengthening shadows, helping to make his short trip to the service entrance of the State House un-noticed.

Earlier that morning at the Deutscher Klub a workman, repairing masonry around the foundation and the steps to the club for the past week, walked across the street to a public phone and made a collect call to a Chicago number. The workman, having taken many toilet and beer breaks during the week, was familiar with many of the members and listened to all that was said within earshot.

A private phone at the Friends of New Germany was answered with, "Gauleiter (District Leader) Koenig."

"Boston calling, Heir Gauleiter. There is great interest in the absence of Abraham Müller by one Scott Wadsworth, his friend and attorney. A lot of discussion and conjecture surrounding Müller's abrupt departure is happening at the club."

Koenig replied, "Müller's clock shop is being watched and I want the group to make a strong effort to determine if this attorney is making any attempt at an investigation into Müller's absence. Müller will be arriving in Boston late tomorrow. I want listening devices in his shop and living quarters and quick reports of any unusual happenings there. The work Müller will do for us is very important to the Party and cannot be disrupted,

"As you order, Heir Gauleiter. I'll have a man on Wadsworth by mid-day and the devices installed by tomorrow morning."

Friedrich Koenig, in addition to being a leader of the Chicago Friends of New Germany, was also the number one man of Abe's escort team. Koenig was among the original one hundred twenty of Hitler's Brown Shirts, later SS, selected for the Waffen-SS in March 1933 by Gruppenführer Josef Dietrich. He was specifically dispatched by Goebbels to the U.S. for the job of District Leader and to be the nucleus of a major espionage and sabotage group in America.

At the State House, Scott found Harry leaning against the wall next to one of the large marble pillars, stopped next to him and lit his pipe. Harry quietly instructed him to follow and walked into a corridor to his left. Scott followed at a discrete distance slowly pushing a wide broom he picked up in the service area. Harry stopped by one of the many office doors and talked to a man until the hall was empty and quickly stepped through the door. Scott recognized the man as an agent from Harry's office. Scott followed quickly and closed the door behind them. The agent stood across the hall ostensibly reading from a file folder; all the while keeping an eye up and down the hall...

Harry looked tired as he slumped on the edge of a conference table, sporting bloodshot eyes and skin drawn tightly across his sharp features,

Scott with obvious concern in his voice asked, "Are you all right Harry? You look as if you have been on a bender."

"All hell is breaking loose and I had little sleep last night," said Harry, "Washington has informed me there is a small contingent of Waffen-SS officers and sergeants in Boston. They are expertly disguised with US documents, false names and well financed. We have found out one of the men with Abe in Chicago is Waffen-SS Sturmbannführer (Major) Friedrich Koenig acting as District Leader of the Chicago branch of the Friends of New Germany."

"Rhetorically, Harry asked, "Why are they sending Waffen-SS men instead of using phony diplomats for this work as they did in Mexico? This has lifted the hairs on the back of many necks in Washington. Undoubtedly it has something to do with Abe but until we can talk to him we haven't a clue what it's all about."

"It is pretty certain Abe will be under the constant watch of these people, both visually and audibly. A way for us to securely communicate will hopefully be devised. In the meantime, use Western Union or a phone booth – no home or office phones. The Boston police have been asked to set up patrols around the homes and offices of Abe, Frank and you and cautiously question suspicious activities and persons."

With a brow wrinkled in thought, Scott was tapping the stem of his pipe on the conference table and asked, "what about The German Club? Do you suppose one of these Nazis has infiltrated the group there?"

"It's very possible, although I don't know why. The German population in the Boston area is extremely small next to other cities of comparable size; and in particular to that of the Irish and Italian groups in Boston. Recruitment of Nazi sympathizers here is unlikely. To be sure, I put a man in the club as soon as I heard of Abe's disappearance. He's third generation American of German decent who speaks like a native and has a fictitious, yet traceable, life story and background as a native born German. He is now working in Günter Müller's butcher shop getting acquainted with the German Community. He is a very friendly guy who likes the young ladies so his spare time is being spent at the club. Günter is the one other person we can trust at the club."

"I need you to call the Post soon and ask Frank to pull everything he has on the upheaval that took place last year regarding Hitler's Brown Shirts. According to over sea sources, there is a lot of grumbling going on between the SA and army leadership. Have him messenger it to me as early as possible tomorrow morning."

"Do you actually think dissention in a German political party and this situation with Abe can be linked?" Scott asked.

"Frankly I don't know, but we must look at all angles until we can talk to Abe. The high rank of this Nazis spy group, if that's what it is, is worrying Washington, and me as well."

4:45 P.M.
Across Walnut Street and down a couple of doors an inconspicuous old Ford delivery truck sat idling; the wooden truck bed filled with boxes of vegetables. The driver, carrying a basket of produce over his arm, walked to several houses up and down Walnut in a weak attempt to sell vegetables and hopefully not arouse suspicion of his true mission. Previously, the truck made a couple of trips past Scott's carriage house looking for the best spot for surveillance. All that could be seen behind the tall fence that fronted Scott's place was light passing through the skylight that protruded from the roof and the same glow from the small windows at the top of the gate doors. A jazz program playing on the radio occasionally drifted past the fence and reached the truck. Returning to the truck, the driver slumped to get comfortable, adjusted the position of the Luger P08 automatic that fit snugly under his arm and settled in for a few hours of boredom, yet hoping he would have something of importance to report as this was his first assignment in the Waffen-SS. He was a young man of only nineteen years who had excelled as a leader in the Hitler Youth Movement since his recruitment at fourteen. He was transferred to and advanced rapidly in the SS; earning the rank of Sergeant in just the first year.

5:00 P.M.
Scott worked his way back to the service entrance of the State House and stepped out to a drizzling rain. The evening seemed darker than normal and a bit cooler. He turned up the collar of the old canvas work jacket, pulled his hat lower and cautiously worked his way to Bowden Street, down Park to Beacon and then to Pemberton Square. When he entered Beacon Street, he noticed two men made the turn behind him. One crossed to the opposite side of the street and continued on; a tailing technique well known to Scott.

The watering hole on the square, occasionally frequented by Scott, had a simple backlit white on red sign hanging high over the sidewalk simply announcing "The Bar". Before entering, Scott quickly surveyed the immediate area and made a mental image, particularly of the two men who walked behind him when he entered the square.

The bartender stood at the beer taps wiping down the copper serving area, while the only two patrons sat staring into their beer glasses. The damp odor of stale beer seemed stronger than usual. Scott ordered a Scotch on ice, knowing full well there was no point in asking for branded single malt. He read the paper lying on the bar and sipped the Scotch slowly. As he finished the drink, he wondered if he would spot his followers when he left.

Scott paused on the elevated step outside the recessed front door, buttoned his jacket, casually retrieved his pipe from a jacket pocket and lit it, taking three matches to do so. All the while his eyes scanned the area for the two men or anyone lingering in a shadowed doorway. Relieved that the square was clear, he backtracked on Beacon to the foot of Walnut and turned in. Despite the dimness of the old gas street lamps, he immediately noticed the Ford truck and crossed to that side of the street. He planned to walk past the truck, cross to his side farther up and enter an alley up from his house. Then he would re-trace his earlier steps and enter by the rear of his carriage house.

The occupant of the Ford truck, overcome by boredom and warmth from the South Wind heater, was groggy and fighting to keep his eyes open. Concurrently, Boston Patrolman Sam Riley, approaching on the opposite side of the street, noticed the truck and started crossing to investigate. It seemed odd that a street vendor would be out at the dinner hour and, in this neighborhood. Through the rain spotted windshield it appeared to Riley that the driver was sleeping.

Scott, approaching from the opposite direction, was several yards from the truck's rear about the time he noticed the patrolman at the driver's side of the truck. The patrolman tapped the window with his night stick to gain the attention of the near sleeping driver. Startled from his near sleep and realizing he was on the verge of failing his first assignment the young man panicked, pulled his Lugar and rapidly put two slugs into the patrolman. Gaining some composure, he exited the truck and paused momentarily before starting to run, gun in hand, toward Beacon Street and directly at Scott. Scott dropped to one knee while retrieving his Colt and releasing the safety. He yelled for the gunman to stop. In his haste to get away, the gunman had not seen Scott approaching and was again startled and looked around for the voice while raising his weapon. The Nazi gunman, spotting Scott in the street some distance from the truck, brought the Lugar to sighting level. Scott's first round caught him low on the right side and was immediately followed by the second entering the center of his chest driving him back and away from the truck.

While the police surveyed the scene and emptied the Nazi's pockets, Scott and Harry sat in Scott's town house as Scott explained what happened and went over the new information since the State House meeting. As Scott filled and lit his pipe, Harry brought him currant on developments since they parted earlier.

"We've learned from the New York office that Abe is on his way and should be changing trains in New York for Boston about mid-day tomorrow. As you know, Chicago has been watching this from the beginning and tells us there is someone from the Friends of New Germany on the Chicago to New York train watching Abe. He might stay with him; change with someone new in New York or just let Abe go unattended. The latter is the most plausible as there will undoubtedly be someone from the Nazi group at South Station to continue surveillance. In any event, this leg of the trip is a good opportunity for us to contact Abe and communicate instructions through a New York agent. An FBI agent will be on the train with Abe for this purpose and we will also have a man at South Station."

"You have certainly been busy", interjected Scott. "What about that unfortunate cop? He's probably the first uniformed casualty of the next war. I hope he isn't forgotten."

"You can bet the Boston Police won't forget", Harry said. "They might not have thought my request for added patrols was important but they will all be on their toes when the truth comes out about the identity of the truck driver. Ok, let's wrap this up", Harry continued. "Nancy will call you tomorrow morning from a safe phone. On the pretence of confirming a dinner date with you she will give you a time. This is the time Abe will arrive at South Station or as close as possible to it. Abe will be met by one of my men driving a taxi and will be taken to Jake Wirths for dinner. You will get a night letter first thing in the morning with more information. Unfortunately, I'm throwing this together minute by minute. Remember, the FBI has no official sanction in the area of spies and espionage, at least right now. Our efforts in this case are allowed under special dispensation from the Department of Justice and very limited. I think I can get greater cooperation from the police after tonight but, I'm depending on Frank and especially you for help.

The train from Chicago arrived on time at New York. Abe's tail followed at a safe distance as Abe casually made his way to his connecting Boston train, stopping for a cup of coffee along the way. Abe found a chair in the front of the Parlor Car, lit a bowl of Ehrlich's Bowdoin and thumbed through a magazine. The tail, satisfied Abe was on the way to Boston didn't enter but lingered on the platform until the train departed. Only a few people entered the car leaving it relatively empty when the train pulled out. As the steam engine made the first few chugs getting underway, the door to the car opened and a Young man struggling with a large suitcase and aided by a crutch entered. He stopped next to Abe's chair and attempted to lift the case to the luggage rack. Abe noticed his mass of curly red hair and the heavy rough tweed suit he wore.

"May I help you with that", asked Abe?

He replied in a thick Irish accent, "Very kind of you sir, yes please", and took the chair next to Abe. "Do you live in Boston or just visiting?" he asked Abe in a rather loud voice.

"Yes, I live in Boston. My name is Abe Müller."

The Irishman continued in his loud voice, "I'm Michael Shaughnessy. I'm going to Portland to live with me uncle and work at his hardware business. I've just now arrived at New York from Ireland, never having been away from home before, so it will be a treat for me. I have a brother in Boston and will stop over for a short visit with him and his wife. He'll drive me to Portland when the time comes."

Not waiting for a reply from Abe, he reached for a magazine on the small table that separated their chairs and knocked several magazines off in Abe's direction. They both reached below the table to retrieve them and the Irishman grabbed Abe's wrist.

He quickly whispered, without his accent, "I'm an F.B.I. agent here to protect you and have instructions for you. I've put them in the Field and Stream magazine. Read them when you can and then flush them in the restroom. "Oh! I must be all thumbs. I'm so sorry", he continued in the loud voice as they placed the magazines back on the table.

"It could happen to anyone so think nothing of it. I'm very happy to have your company," Abe said with a wide smile on his face and a much relieved mind.

Abe casually selected Field and Stream and feigned reading it. Finding the sheet of paper containing instructions, he casually looked around to see who might be watching and quickly slipped the paper into his inside coat pocket. Several minutes later Abe excused himself and walked to the men's room.

The instructions were brief but demanding.

  1. Leave the train car before the agent.
  2. Quickly exit the station by the main door.
  3. Taxi number 239 will be first in line. Driver is F.B.I.
  4. IMPORTANT: What ever happens between the terminal and the taxi do not stop or turn around. Get to the taxi as quickly as possible...

Abe read the instructions several times, tore the paper into small bits and flushed them.

Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2011

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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