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

By Ernest N.Whitenack

"Chapter 2"


The Gathering of Support

The phone at the butcher shop rang several times before Günter Müller, unmistakable by his slight lisp, answered."'Morning Günter, it's Scott Wadsworth. I'm calling to inquire about Abe. Have you seen him in the last two weeks?"

     "Not for almost a month." Günter replied. "We invite him for a meal once a month; usually       on Sunday so we have a nice visit. That was the last time."

     "OK, thanks. Should you hear from him please contact me or have Abe contact me      immediately."

     "Scott, is there a problem?"

Scott related the circumstances of Abe's disappearance and asked Günter to keep his ears and eyes open when he is at Deutscher Klub. That he should let him know if he sees or hears anything out of the ordinary.

Along with Isolationism following WW I, came a movement called "Nativism" that fostered suspicion and mistrust of new immigrants of all nationality and creed. It found its way through conservative politics and into mainstream America. This movement came as the carryover from the war; a mistrust of all German Americans, justified or not. As a result all ethnic groups were drawn closer together for ease of living, business and protection.

Nazi, sympathizers in America, mostly displaced Germans, launched considerable efforts to bring about an American Nazi Party starting as early as 1924. In Chicago, the formation of The Free Society of Teutonia was one of the first. It existed as a club but soon evolved into a militant group fashioned after the Sturmabteilung or Stormtrooper. However, Friends of New Germany became the largest pro Nazi organization with its formation in both New York and Chicago in 1933. This came about after all prior Nazi groups were dissolved upon orders from Berlin.

Non-German Nazi sympathizers formed The Friends of the Hitler Movement and worked closely with Friends of New Germany. Eventually, in 1936, all Nazi organizations merged into the German American Bund.

Promptly at ten o'clock next morning Frank Gray fought to open the door to Scott's office with, "Man, when are you going to get that door fixed?"

"Not my problem" replied Scott. "Those things are included in the rent so guess I'll have to sue to get it fixed"

He followed with, "Look Frank, Abe took off with a couple of unknown guys some time back. This seems suspicious, but then again might not be. I think we should ask around at some of Abe's haunts and see what we can discover. There is Ehrlich's, the News stand in Scolley Square, Digivantie's Market in the North End and Jake Wirth's. If you can take the morning and check those, I'll arrange with my father to pull in some favors here and in Washington. OK? I'll also make arrangements to have a look at Abe's living quarters and see if we can get a clue to his activities. We'll meet at Jake Wirth's about one o'clock.

"A good plan" proclaimed Frank as he lit a larger than usual Lumberman pipe.

"OK, see you at one and, please don't smoke that foul smelling stuff in my office." He said with a chuckle barely coming to the surface.

Frank smiled as he opened the door, turned inward and released a huge cloud of Cake Box smoke into the office as Scott turned to his personal phone book and the operator connected him with the local FBI office.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation, may I help you?" the lilting voice on the other end asked.

"Nancy, this is Scott Wadsworth. Is Harry in?"

"Yes, I'll connect you. How are you Scott? I haven't seen you for some time."

"Well, I'm fine but business stinks. We'll have lunch soon, OK? But now I have to talk to Harry, please."

Scott and Nancy, Harry's secretary for many years, had been much closer at one time but due to reestablishing himself after the war and the depression that followed, Scott didn't feel it prudent bringing the relationship any further along and they gradually drifted apart. On occasion, when Scott felt flush, he and Nancy would meet for dinner at the Parker House and spend a few hours catching up. At those times Scott would think, maybe someday when the world is in better shape.

"Harry Malison here, what can I do for you?"

"Harry it's Scott. A friend of mine, Abe Müller, has gone missing and I am worried. He was last seen at the German Club in Dorchester being escorted out by two men claiming to be newly arrived relatives from the old country. That was two weeks ago. Now, the problem is I distinctly remember Abe telling me he had no relatives alive in Germany when he left in 1927. We, Frank Gray is helping me with this, need some advice as how to handle this situation."

"When can we meet?" Harry asked with eagerness, almost demanding, in his voice.

"Frank and I are meeting at Jacob Wirth's at one today. He is checking some of Abe's friends this morning and we will try to get into Abe's shop this afternoon and look around"

Harry replied in a slow determined voice, "Hear me. DO NOT go near Abe's shop. Don't even walk on that side of the street or look at the shop. It could be dangerous. I'll be there at one o'clock. In light of recent happenings here and in Germany this is important."

Scott hung up, crossed the room and opened a window for fresh air to replace Frank's Cake Box smoke. His mind whirled around Harry's brief but poignant remarks wondering what he had gotten into and then dragged Frank with him.

Scott, Harry and Frank had been friends for years, growing up together at Boston English High School. Upon completion, Scott and Frank went on to Harvard while Harry chose B.C. All went on to higher degrees and enlisted in the Army in 1917. Scott and Frank, for various aspects of their educations, ended up in General Pershing's G2 intelligence group in France while Harry went to Washington and a covert anti-espionage section of the Department of the Army under Maj. Dennis E. Nolan. All three men advanced rapidly; Scott and Frank to Captain and Harry to Major. At war's end, none of the three re-enlisted but returned to Boston to resume their lives. The fifteen years since the war saw them making strategic career changes that had brought them to an advantageous point in their still young lives.

General Pershing saw a need for a military police force and started the first M P school in France during WW I. From this he gathered around him a private group for intelligence work in France fashioned after the French G2 organization.

Maj. Dennis E. Nolan had become concerned about the problem of security of troops in foreign countries. Nolan went on to establish The Corps of Intelligence Police, a multi-faceted force working at home and abroad. The Army CIC was an outgrowth of The Corps of Intelligence Police but the post-war notion of isolationism, cuts in military spending and the depression had diminished the ranks of the CIC from 600 in 1917 to less than 20 by the 1930s.

Scott reached in his briefcase and retrieved the Amber stemmed Ehrlich's Meerschaum from its leather case, stuffed it full of Dill's Best Sliced and put fire to it. The Meerschaum was a gift from Scott's father and Dill's Best is his dad's everyday smoke. They simply seemed to go together. Through thick and thin Scott and his father had maintained a close relationship; likely based on mutual respect and parental love as they had many disagreements and harsh words over time.

Scott gave the number to the operator and he heard the phone in Graham Wadsworth's office ringing.

Scott's father retired from the bench of the Federal Court two years ago and, through demand, became a legal consultant with offices on State Street; the bulk of his work being associated with the financial world. Scott heard the click of the receiver being lifted from its hook followed by, "This is Graham Wadsworth's, how may I be of service?"

From the sound of his voice Scott just knew the full bent apple, his office pipe, was dangling from the corner of his mouth – lit or not.

"'Morning Dad, how have you been?"

"Just fine Son, thanks." "To what do I owe this overdue pleasure, it has been too long?"

"Yes I know but we can discuss that later. I need some information. Are you still well connected in Washington?"

Over the phone Scott heard the spring on the old wooden reclining swivel chair squeak as his Dad leaned forward to his desk.

"Well, that depends on who and in what department you are talking about", he said in a clearer voice that told Scott the pipe was now sitting in an ashtray and his Dad was fully attentive.

"It is quite possible I'll need to make inquiries at the Immigration Service to concerning recent German entrants; and elsewhere for information about goings-on in the crazy Nazi movement. Frank and Harry are on this with me so between the FBI and the Boston Post we might get all we need. I'll need your backup in case we have to go deeper than their resources."

About the same time in Chicago Abe was just finishing an early breakfast when his two escorts entered the hotel dining room. They went to the table and sat with Abe.

"Now that you have seen Chicago Abe, how do you like the city?"

"It is very large and very busy", replied Abe. "There is much to see and do here."

"Today is an important day for you, Abe. As our friend and fellow German, you will meet a man that can make your life much easier in these financially difficult days. He is a wealthy industrialist with a company that makes a variety of products. Part of his manufacturing process is to contract small segments to individual craftsmen. He protects the secrets of his company closely. For this reason, as we work for his company searching out superior craftsmen such as you, it was necessary to pose as your relatives and not reveal the purpose of this trip to Chicago."

"When will this meeting happen?" asked Abe.

"Very soon; we will go there immediately." The escort replied. "If all is in agreement and concluded, you will catch the night train to Boston. A ticket has been purchased for a sleeping compartment with meals."

Abe smiled broadly, then filled and lit his pipe hoping to distract from how extremely anxious he was to remove himself from these two, as well as his regret for ever agreeing to accompany them to Chicago. It was foremost in Abe's mind to accept whatever proposition was presented by this mysterious industrialist and be on his way home.

Ever since he saw the Swastika on the paper coaster at the Friends of New Germany, Abe felt fear – the same fear he felt the day the Brown Shirts marched through the streets of Bitberg many years ago distributing leaflets containing Nazi hatred. The fear deepened his mistrust of his handlers while wondering why they came to Boston for a watchmaker and, him in particular. Why do the Nazis want to hire a Jew – certainly they must know my faith? It has never been a secret and goes against all they stand for.

"What is it you are smoking, Abe?" asked escort number two in a syrupy friendly tone. "It has a very pleasant odor."

"It's a tobacco from Boston called Ehrlich's Bowdoin; a Danish tobacco similar to the Berliner Danske, also from Denmark, I smoked for years in Germany."

"Perhaps we can arrange to import some Berliner Danske for you; a bonus for doing a good job on your contract. It will take a while but we will have it sent to your shop or, possibly bring it personally."

Abe replied "That's very kind of you." All the while wishing he was on the night train to Boston.

One P.M. – Stuart Street

The last to enter Jake Wirth's for the one o'clock meeting was Frank; having taken the Tremont Street Subway (the oldest in the country) from the North End and walked from Park Street Station. The others sat in a booth at the far end of the restaurant. As Frank took a seat, the waiter, familiar with this group of regular customers, brought beers all around and lingered hoping for the lunch order. Scott told him they would order in a while and would call when they are ready.

Harry quickly demanded the attention of all.

"We are all concerned about Abe's abrupt disappearance so let me put your minds at ease. Abe has been in Chicago and should be returning soon – if he's played his cards right."

"I'm afraid many of your efforts so far have been wasted" Harry continued. "The Bureau is watching this situation, although we have yet to be officially sanctioned to investigate subversives. Abe has been under surveillance day and night since two suspected German agents entered his shop weeks ago. Intelligence here and in Germany confirms that Abe has never had a connection to any of the powers vying for prominence in Germany today. Abe took great care in Germany to make his journey to America appear to be a brief business trip. This looked very suspicious at first. Previously, distorting facts like destination and purpose for travel along with false papers and identity, had allowed foreign agents to slip through Immigration and vanish in the population of our large cities. However, there is nothing in Abe's past or present to indicate he had any foreign political motives in coming to America. He was simply another cautious Jew hoping to escape the perceived bad days to come for minorities in Germany. Thanks to his cousin Günter and a couple of influential Mass. State politicians, Abe made the small Jewish quota in place under the Immigration Act of 1924; that law bulldozed through by conservative fears and the lobby of the Nativism movement."

After a couple of swallows of beer Harry continued with, "Now, let's eat and go our separate ways for the time being. There is much to do regarding Abe and I am very short-handed. I trust, knowing your backgrounds, I can depend on your discretion and, if needed, your help. Abe's life might depend on it. I'll be in touch soon."

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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