The Crooked X - Prelude to War
A Short Story of Hate, Mystery and Intrigue
By Ernest N.Whitenack
dinner at Jake Wirth's, the FBI cab took Abe home and dropped Scott and
Harry at Scott's office to formulate a plan of action against the Nazis
and a means to keep Abe safe.
"Between our sparse staff and the B.P.D detectives
I'm sure we can protect Abe around the clock. The first thing is to sweep
his store and apartment for microphones and those new wire recorders then,
identify anyone watching him," Harry said.
"Does anyone know how many of these SS guys are
in the country and in particular assigned to this Boston operation,"
Scott asked. "Two have been captured and one killed. I think it essential
we know how many are remaining to deal with. I think we might have done
enough damage to make their job harder to keep track of Abe and me along
with carrying out any subversive plans."
"That may be but I'll do all I can to get answers
and see where Washington thinks this might be going. I'd like you to
be at Abe's place when he opens tomorrow."
Harry started for the door saying, "Now, I must
go to my office and get to work." He turned just before closing
the door and said, "Try to get to Abe's a bit early, Scott. See
if you spot anyone hanging around within a half block."
Rain pounded on the skylight in Scott's roof and roused
him from a deep sleep. He checked the clock on his nightstand and decided
it was time to rise. The doorbell began to ring as he tied the belt of
his old flannel robe and continued ringing with an annoying string of
irritating buzzes. The buzzing continued until he reached the intercom
next to the front door, pushed the "talk" button, and yelled,
"Get the hell off that button and state your name."
"It's Harry. Let me in before I drown."
"Damn, Harry, it's only six o'clock" Scott
returned as he flipped the switch to open his gate and watched Harry
dash the few yards to the open front door; then, without a word, Scott
turned and headed for the kitchen and the percolator.
Harry hung his wet coat and hat on the wood pegs next
to the door and settled into the old leather couch. He watched Scott set
the percolator to work, then turn and head for the downstairs lavatory.
Harry decided it prudent to wait until Scott was ready to talk and sat
silently awaiting his return.
Sitting opposite Harry in a huge matching leather
chair, Scott gulped his first cup of coffee, looked up at Harry, and
while lighting his first bowl of Royal Blend asked, "Now, what
is it that can't wait for a couple more hours"?
"I've been on the phone to Washington most of
the night; in particular the Department of Defense, but the FBI as well.
All parties concur that the SS group is hurting by being three short.
D.O.D feels confident there are two sergeants here and that Major Friedrich
Koenig, the leader, is still in Chicago and is under close observation.
Our guess is Koenig will stay in Chicago until time for delivery of
the modified clocks. The contact phone number Abe gave me last night
will be checked today and we'll know where the others are – if
we get lucky."
Harry continued as he finished his third coffee, "One
other thing. Tell Abe to let us know the minute the promised German
tobacco arrives and not to open the package or any tobacco containers.
With the right stuff in a package that large, it could flatten a whole
block of Tremont Street.
"If that is the intention, I doubt the tobacco
will come before Abe finishes the work, Replied Scott. The tobacco is
supposed to be a bonus."
"Whatever the case may be, he is not to open
it. In addition, someone will at Abe's shop to check for listening devices.
Let Abe know. I have to get to Police Headquarters to check if there
is any progress made softening up the two Nazi's in custody. They are
also checking on the phone number Abe is to call when the clock conversions
are finished. I'll be in touch later."
The rain had all but stopped by 8:00 and Scott was about
to leave for Abe's when the phone rang.
"Wadsworth here, who is calling?" Scott
"Scott, old man, Ashley Moss here if you will
remember me from the Great War."
"Moss, you old fox! Where are you and what can
I do for you."
"At the moment I'm at the British Consulate in
Boston. It is imperative we talk ASAP."
"I'm just leaving for Müller's Clock Shop
on Tremont Street. Can you have a Consulate car take you there and meet
me in about fifteen minutes?"
"No problem, old boy. I look forward to seeing
Scott paused at his front door to light his pipe, and
then made his way to Abe's shop. When he got there, he walked on past
surveying both sides of the street for anyone suspicious. Crossing the
street, he made his way back, stopping to look in a display window. All
seemed clear with most people hurrying to work and no one lingering. He
backtracked again and stopped across the street from Abe's, relit his
pipe, leaned against a wall, and waited for Abe to open his shop.
Soon, the neon sign in the window advertising Howard
Precision Clocks popped on indicating that Abe was open for business.
The bell above the door chimed loudly as Scott opened, and closed the
Just as Abe appeared through the curtains that separated
the store from the work area, Ashley Moss stepped from the Rolls Royce
at the curb and entered the clock store. After Scott introduced Moss simply
as a friend and amenities passed between them, he signaled to them to
be silent by indicating others might be listening. He suggested they all
go to the doughnut shop down the street for coffee.
The three sat around a small, round, table as Scott explained
who Moss was and about their war service together.
"I have a feeling, Ashley, that you are here
regarding this case surrounding Abe."
"You couldn't be more correct, my friend. The
powers at home think there is a strong correlation between the Nazis
here and future US and British cooperation."
"Just how do you know so much about Abe and the
Nazis?" Scott asked with certain bewilderment in his voice.
"The car is waiting for us and we will continue
this at the consulate. Others are waiting for us." Moss replied.
"I hope you won't think me rude, Abe." He continued. "We
will have a get-together when this is over and you will know all."
As they walked back to the clock shop, Scott passed
along Harry's instructions about the tobacco and told him of the agent,
pretending to be a customer, who will be coming to search out listening
"Until you finish the work on the clocks, you
are safe from harm. Having gone to all this trouble, it is imperative
to the Nazis they complete whatever it is they came here for, and they
apparently cannot do it without the clocks. "Moreover, Boston detectives
are very close by and will be around the clock," Scott added.
Ashley Moss and Scott climbed several granite steps and passed through
the etched glass doors of the British Consulate. A single oak table and
chair sat square in the middle of the large and lavishly paneled foyer.
A distinguished looking man in morning clothes and regimental necktie,
who practically snapped to attention as they entered, occupied the chair.
On the second floor, Moss knocked on the heavy oak door labeled CONFERENCE
and walked in followed by Scott. Around the conference table sat Harry,
Frank, Scott's father, the Boston Chief of Police, and a stranger. The
stranger, dressed in fine Scottish tweeds spoke first.
"You know everyone here of course with the exception of me."
He said while extending his hand to Scott.
"I am Brigadier John Harris-Smith of British Intelligence Service.
It is a pleasure to meet you Scott Wadsworth, having known your father
for many years. I understand you and Moss shared an office, and duties,
in France during the war. He speaks very highly of you."
"Thank you Brigadier, the pleasure is mine. Father has never
spoken of you but just seeing him here leads me to believe he had good
Scott turned to his father saying, "Dad, you’ve been up
to no-good again while having us believe you are retired and playing
at a financial consultancy."
Polite laughter subsided when the Brigadier sat and Harry stood to address
"Let me bring you all up to date, explain the British involvement,
and get everyone on the same page. You are free to interject during
this dissertation should I omit something or make an error. First off,
it is quite sure Abe is safe for the time being. However, to be certain,
volunteer police officers will have Abe and his establishment under
surveillance twenty four hours a day in four hour shifts."
"If I may, the police chief cut in. Since the murder of Officer
Riley and the apprehension of the two German agents, men from every
precinct in the city, captains to rookies, have been volunteering. They
sense something important to the country is afoot and earnestly wish
Harry continued. "A roster containing name, rank and times available
of all volunteers is managed by the chief, and work assigned as circumstances
dictate. Now, Abe's contact phone number is for a company called EURO-AMERICAN
IMPORTS – Fine Toys, Novelties, and China. The phone is not new
but two years old. The company occupies a warehouse on India Street
just off Atlantic Avenue. The company is either a Nazi front or an active
business hiding subversive activity. We will find out."
Harry sat down as Brigadier John Harris-Smith stood, sat his large bent
pot in an ashtray, cleared his throat, smiled at all present, and began.
"In light of the rapid growth of German nationalism and Hitler's
Nazi party, we in Britain have been more vigorously renewing and strengthening
relations with Washington, but in particular with respected and trusted
friends with whom we enjoyed a comradeship of service during the last
war. Intelligence tells us Nazism is growing worldwide. There is hardly
a country that does not have a core of sympathizers, as you have so
The Brigadier continued, "Graham Wadsworth, with his hand on
the economic pulse of the world, and contacts everywhere in financial
circles, keeps us informed of all financial-political trends in Europe
and has been doing so since 1930. Graham told us of Mr. Müller's
disappearance and Scott's investigation. The fact that Scott, Harry,
and Frank all have military intelligence backgrounds, prompted BIS to
formalize an alliance for our mutual benefit. Naturally, this is with
approval of the U.S Department of Defense."
"Frank, with his access to most news services here and in Europe,
is an immediate source of international political news, and provides
us with facts faster than any other means. Frank partnered with BIS
early last year."
"Why do we seek allied cooperation in peacetime? Anti-Hitler
Friends in high places in Germany tell of Operation Sea Lion in its
formative stages. Operation Sea Lion deals with the eventual invasion
and conquest of Great Britain and is to come after Hitler's has the
rest of Europe. Some at home dismiss the rumors but we cannot.
He continued, "We are aware of the isolationist attitude of the
United States. However, should that crazy Austrian even get close to
his goals, he will want North America as well. Our Island stands between
Hitler and North America. It is vital for us to depend on the United
States and Canada for material help with war goods. Therefore, any potential
sabotage, particularly on your East coast, is of great interest to us.
It could put Britain in terrible jeopardy should Nazi agents, even at
this early stage, destroy seaports or shipbuilding anywhere from Maine
to Florida. We expect Hitler's forces to start invading European countries
within the next years or two. Reports coming to us from Austria, Switzerland,
and Germany itself, tell of huge military forces in readiness and the
manufacture of war machines and munitions at a high peak. War is inevitable,
gentlemen. In my estimation no nation will escape the carnage to come."
OPERATION SEA LION
The Brigadier paused, apparently waiting for a reaction from those
around the table, put a match to his pipe and sat down asking, "What
is the story concerning the two Nazi agents in custody? Have they been
broken, and what will you do with them when this is all over?"
Harry, without standing, replied, "They have not broken, but
that probably isn't important. We seem to be a step or two ahead of
this bunch. As to their disposition, that decision is yet to come. A
spy trial and the ensuing international news frenzy might put us at
a disadvantage if they attempt something like this again. My understanding
is the Nazis are looking at deportation, leaving them to face the punishment
for a failed Waffen-SS mission – execution. Is there anything
else for this meeting?"
"Yes, Frank said as he stood and opened a small notebook. I believe
I know the method the Nazis will use to attempt to eliminate Abe, as
they surely will. For some years now the German scientists have been
developing poison gasses for agricultural use. A news service Telex
arrived yesterday telling of one of the gasses used to quell an uprising
at the border of Sudetenland, killing hundreds of German speaking citizens.
It also tells of Zyklon B and Sarin gasses stockpiled in vast amounts
and new soluble strains of these existing that have no taste or odor.
The tobacco Abe is to receive might be treated with one of these and
be undetectable unless tested. Just a couple of puffs on a pipe holding
poisoned tobacco will kill the smoker. Understanding Abe has orders
not to open the package or a tobacco container, it seems necessary that
a lab be found able to test for soluble gasses."
Harry took the floor and thanked all for attending and, in a diplomatic
move, praised British intelligence for its informative contribution.
"We have two weeks to get a plan in place and end this on a favorable
note. From here on out demands made on you all are crucial to our success.
Scott will be my intermediary when needed so consider his words are
mine. Our British friends will continue to feed us intelligence but
not be part of actions we might take. First, we determine facts about
EURO-AMERICAN IMPORTS followed by locating and observing the suspected
two remaining members of the Nazi group in Boston. Next, is to apprehend
them and their leader Major Koenig at precisely the right moment to
ensure everyone's safety."
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