Hello everybody. It took me two years to complete it. I couldn't figure out the story properly.
It can be seen as a prequel for Sherry Rathbone series. It takes place in Bakersfield during WWII and features private detective Diana Knight, who is a grandmother of the journalist Diana Knight from the Sherry's mysteries. (Sherry and her stories are featured at Watertown Forum)
I don't know if I am going to develop it into a series but I will be happy if you leave me some small feedback :-)
Bakersfield Noir: Diana’s Big Case
“Yes, this is The Knight Detective Agency, Diana Knight speaking … no, Sam Knight isn’t in … sorry he won’t be back, he’s dead, I’m his widow. … Oh that’s okay. … No, we don’t do missing cats. Did you try to look at the tree in the backyard? … Okay, you are welcome. Bye.”
Diana hung out and lit another cigarette. This detective agency that she had inherited from her late husband was a real white elephant. Sam Knight died couple of months ago in Europe in the service of his country and she had been stuck with it ever since. She tried to sell but nobody wanted to buy. Why would anybody have wanted to buy a detective agency when there was the war raging all around world?
Diana was being hired mostly by rich women to follow their cheating husbands and take some pictures as the evidence for the divorce court. She was getting paid quite well, at least enough to pay the bills but nothing special.
“Oh my god, why did I marry that man?” she asked herself after she put out the cigarette and immediately lit another one. A year ago she met Sam Knight in a bar where she worked as a waitress, had couple of drinks with him and woke up as Mrs. Knight. In the beginning it wasn’t that bad. He made her his secretary. On several occasions he even took her on the case but then America declared the war to the Axis powers and Sam got drafted and couple of months later he died during the invasion of Sicily and Diana became the full-time yet unwilling Nancy Drew in hopes of either selling the agency or solving an exciting case and getting a lot of money at minimum risk.
She was 26 and she definitely didn’t want to spend the rest of her life in this office following rich women’s cheating husbands. The best way for her to get out would be to marry a wealthy man and become his trophy wife which wouldn’t be a problem since she was always considered being hot with her long wavy raven hair and slim big-breasted body that most men wanted to get their hands on and most women wished to have. However she didn’t want to marry again, she loved the freedom and independence that marriage couldn’t offer her.
She put out another cigarette, got up and rolled up the blinds to get some light into her dark office. Before she could open the window and let some fresh air in, she heard the knock on the door.
The door opened and a young beautiful blond woman entered. She was dressed in a dark blue suit with a small matching hat, a white blouse and a pair of black stockings. Her leather-gloved hands were carrying a small purse. Her long wavy hair was falling on her shoulders.
“Are you Diana Knight?” asked the visitor who could be in her late-thirties, maybe ten years older than Diana.
“Yes, I am and who might you be?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. My name is Alexis, Alexis Smith.”
“Nice to meet you, please sit down. What can I do for you?” asked Diana after both of them were seated.
“Mrs. Knight, this matter is very important and urgent. You were recommended to me by a friend of mine, Mrs. Vanessa Montgomery. Do you remember her case?”
“Of course, I do remember Mrs. Montgomery and especially her husband …” replied Diana. How could she ever forget? Mrs. Montgomery hired her to follow her husband and his mistress and take some photos to prove that Steve Montgomery was unfaithful. Unfortunately for Diana Steve and his mistress were not only secret lovers but also members of the gang specializing in bank robberies. She wasn’t careful enough and she ended up bound and gagged in their hideout. However the hoodlums didn’t spend too much time as boy-scouts and Diana managed to get rid of the loosely knotted-ropes when the gang was still on their way to rob the bank in New Stockholm. She overpowered Mongomery’s mistress who was left to guard her, returned the favor of tying her and gagging her and when the gang came back with their loot the place had already been crawling with the police.
“Of course, Vanessa told me all about it and recommended you as a very capable and reliable private eye.”
“I was lucky, that’s all.”
“Are you interested in my problem or not?” said Mrs. Smith strictly.
“I guess so …”
“Okay, this is my sister-in-law Helga.” She took out a black-and-white picture of a beautiful smiling blonde in her mid-thirties. “She couldn’t come personally because she was kidnapped.”
“Kidnapped?” repeated Diana the last word, partly shocked and partly thrilled because maybe this was her break-through case which would make her some good money.
“Yes, kidnapped. And I want you to find her. Are you interested?”
“Definitely. Please, go on.”
“Helga is married to my dear brother who at the time that terrible thing happened was out of town. She was kidnapped straight from their house. She was in the living room and just had her coffee served by Mrs. Mason, the housekeeper, when the kidnappers broke in. They tied both of them up and gagged them and then took poor Helga away. Mrs. Mason was later discovered by the gardener in the closet and that’s that.”
“Did you contact police?”
“Yes, we did. They are on the case but you know how slow and inefficient the Bakersfield PD is.”
“Of course,” said Diana and smiled. “What more can you tell me?”
“Before you ask yourself, Helga is German. You know how it is to be a German in the USA these days but I must ensure you, she is a fugitive from her country and I suspect that her disappearance has something to do with where she came from.”
Diana who was getting more and more interested offered the lady a cigarette, which she refused and went on with her sister-in-law’s story:
“Before the war Helga was a lover of a prominent Nazi party member – a real fanatic and an evil man. He beat her regularly and treated her like his private property but that wasn’t the worst. One day she heard him and some SS officers talking about Hitler’s secret plans for starting the war and that was enough. She wanted to be as far from Germany and those Nazis as possible and so she left the country secretly with the help of the underground. Unfortunately for her she took some important documents from his desk and I am afraid that her ex-boyfriend wants them back.”
“That could be a motive, yes,” nodded Diana.
The war was still raging and Nazis had a lot of secret supporters in the United States.
“Why did she take those documents?”
“Maybe she wanted to sell them to the US government. I don’t know. My brother didn’t tell me more about them. I am not sure whether she still has them or not. I won’t lie to you. It will probably be a really dangerous job but you’ll get a lot of money if you find my sister-in-law.
“You can count on me,” said the detective who was more than thrilled about her new case. Maybe the thrill was all that she needed in her life and work. She certainly didn’t run this detective agency out of sentiment. She certainly didn’t do it out of loyalty or love for her late husband. She never really loved him. She didn’t want to go back to her job as a waitress but this wasn’t the reason why she did it either. It was the adventurous life that she wanted. It was the thrill of danger that she felt for the first time when she got captured by the Montgomery Gang and the satisfaction that came when she helped to put them behind the bars. And the same thrill made her accept the job and save the helpless damsel in distress from the clutches of the Nazi spies.
Mrs. Mason, the housekeeper of the Smith’s mansion, opened the door and looked at the tall black-haired woman in a long-grey trench coat with a certain sort of suspicion. Since that horrible day when she got bound and gagged and her Madame kidnapped she was quite nervous and shaky. There was no wonder.
“Hello, my name is Diana Knight,” said the woman at the door.
“Hello Madame, I am afraid that Mr. and Mrs. Smith aren’t at home.”
“I know. I came to talk to you. I am a private detective and I was hired by Mr. Smith’s sister, Alexis to find your Madame and those villains who kidnapped her. May I ask you some questions? I won’t keep you long, I promise.”
“Okay, come in please,” said the elderly woman but the suspicious look didn’t disappear completely from her face.
She took Diana to the living-room where the whole thing happened and after the woman removed her coat she took a good look at her. She had to admit that Diana was really beautiful and looked really smart in her white blouse and a black knee-high skirt.
During their conversation Mrs. Mason’s suspicion faded away and she told Diana everything she knew.
Diana was pleased with herself as she was leaving the house. The housekeeper was more than talkative and spoke about everything with great detail.
Diana learned that Mrs. Smith feared for her life. She was stalked by an unknown man with short blond hair dressed in a long black coat, a black Dodge was permanently parked in front of their house on the other side of the road but unfortunately nobody remembered the license plate. The kidnappers were two and one of the fitted the description of the guy who had followed Mrs. Smith. Nobody called the police before the incident. That was the only thing that Mrs. Mason didn’t explain. Why wouldn’t the Smiths called the police when Helga was stalked and their house watched? Maybe they thought that their suspicions weren’t sufficient reason. Maybe they were afraid that police wouldn’t believe them. Who knows, thought Diana as she was walking to the bus stop. The November evening was extremely cold, so she put her hands inside her pockets and sped up a little.
The streets were empty and suddenly she noticed somebody behind her. She heard the footsteps and they were getting closer and closer. She turned around and saw a dark figure of a man following her. Was he really after her or was it only an ordinary guy on his way from work? She quickened her walk and the footsteps behind her quickened as well. The man was almost at the reach of a hand when she decided to run. It was too late. He grabbed her. She didn’t have to time scream. One hand clamped over her mouth and the other one firmly wrapped around her hands and waist effectively immobilizing her. Diana struggled hard, tried to kick him or step on his foot but it was useless. She tried to bite his hand but the palm of his hand was tightly pressed against her mouth.
“Stop it, Mrs. Knight. We don’t want to hurt you,” said the voice and she noticed a slight German accent in his otherwise perfect English. However it wasn’t the voice of the man who was holding her. Another man appeared from around the corner and Diana recognized him. He was wearing a long black coat and had blond hair. Just as the person who stalked Mrs. Smith. He also carried a gun in his right hand. At the sight of it she calmed down, gave up the struggle and let them drag her into the nearest alley where they had already parked their car. It was a black Dodge Coupe from the 1942 series.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Knight. We just want to take you for a little trip to talk to you. Then we will let you go. If you allow us to tie your hands, gag your mouth and put a blindfold over your eyes then we will try to make things as quick and comfortable for you as possible.”
Oh no, that bondage business again. She wasn’t in the mood for being bound and gagged by the strangers with German accent but what else could she do if they were armed. She surrendered and nodded her head. The man loosened his grip and she stood there and watched them. They were different than her idea of evil and cruel Nazis.
The blond guy was still pointing his gun to her while his companion expertly proceeded to bind her wrists together behind her back.
Just as she wanted to ask what this whole business was all about a white handkerchief was stuffed into her mouth and a piece of cloth tightly tied over it completed the gag. She produced couple of muffled protests and after that was blindfolded with a black scarf.
Now in the complete darkness and totally scared she was pushed inside the car. The engine started and the vehicle pulled up.
She tested her bonds, tried to find the knots but found out she was completely helpless instead.
Will this be my first and last big case? She asked herself. Will these Nazis kill me?
She felt extreme fear but she felt something else as well. It was the thrill, the thrill that made her take the job in the first place. But thrill of what? Thrill of being a big and brave detective? Thrill of getting into danger? Thrill of being a complete careless fool? Or was it …? No it couldn’t have been the thrill of being a damsel in distress, it simply couldn’t. However as she was chewing on the handkerchief in her mouth and feeling the touch of the tight rope on her hands something deep down inside told her that it could. It was the feeling of helplessness the fact that she got kidnapped, bound and gagged by the spies that caused her thrill.
Just as Diana realized that, the car stopped and the men dragged her out. She was taken to a building, led upstairs and then seated into a chair and tied to it.
She heard the men leaving the room however after a short while she recognized she wasn’t alone. She heard some weak muffled noises. Somebody was whimpering through his or her gag. Someone who was tied up and gagged was in the room with her. Diana could bet that it was the missing woman Helga. She replied to her silenced moans in the same way and the other captive’s groans got louder and more intense.
In the same moment their captors returned to the room.
“Mrs. Knight, we will be brief as we promised,” it was the same man who talked to her before, the blond guy with German accent. “We have no intention to hurt you however we can’t tolerate your meddling and snooping around.”
Diana produced a sound of disapproval but the man didn’t care.
“Yes, we kidnapped Helga Smith as you might have noticed. However everything else that you had been probably told was a lie. All of this is beyond your capacity of a professional sleuth. You don’t know what you are dealing with and if you keep on sticking your nose into the things that aren’t your business you are going to get hurt. Stop it now. Did I make myself clear Mrs. Knight?”
Diana felt that the only right thing to do is to agree and so she nodded yes.
“Good, I am happy to see that. You’ll be taken back home.”
After the car stopped in the alley next to the apartment building where she lived, her hands were untied, the door opened and she was instructed to step out of the car.
“Now you may take off your blindfold and gag,” said the blond man and she heard the engine starting and the car slowly leaving.
She removed the scarf which was blinding her eyes but it was too dark to see the license plate of the leaving car. Then she untied her gag and pulled out the handkerchief. Her mouth was sore and thirsty. She hurried upstairs to her apartment where she had a big glass of water. Then she sat (or almost fell) down on the couch and started to think. So far it was the weirdest case she had ever been on.
After overcoming her exhaustion Diana got up, put on a jazz record, lit a cigarette and immersed deeply in thoughts watched the little clouds of smoke which together with the music helped her concentrate. She tried to remember every detail of her awkward kidnapping. She saw nothing thanks to the blindfold. They could have taken her anywhere. What did she hear apart from their kidnappers and the other victim? There was something she heard. It was the warning sound of the railroad crossing when the train was coming through and the gates were being pulled down to stop the cars. It was something but there were too many of these places in Bakersfield and its suburbs. Didn’t she hear anything else? Of course she did. Shortly after the train passed she heard two loud and clear chimes of the church bells. It meant half past something … but half past what? She didn’t know the exact time of her abduction but she remembered a quick look at the wristwatch when she was leaving Mrs. Mason. It was 7:40. Now her watch said 9:37. The whole business didn’t last even for two hours which meant that at 8:30 she must have been tied to the chair in the kidnappers’ hideout.
An hour later she figured a couple of possible locations where the place might have been. She went to the drug-store and got a map of Bakersfield with all the railroad crossings marked. Then she phoned the railroad station and found out about all the trains leaving from the station at approximately 8:20. There were only two trains. The first one left at 8:18 for New Stockholm and the other one at 8:21 for New Prague. She drew the lines of these two trains on the map. The 8:18 train went east while the other one headed south-west. Then Diana estimated where the trains could have been shortly before 8:30 and circled five crossings which were near the locations. It was a progress but the chances of finding the place of her former imprisonment were still very low. But then she remembered the bells. Their sound was quite intense. The church must have been somewhere in the area. She searched the map again and found it. St. Katherine’s church on Wayne Street was not even two minutes of walk from one of the crossings.
“That must be the place,” she said aloud. The chances that Helga was still there were quite high and she had to act quickly. She phoned for a taxi, put on her coat and left the apartment.
She got out of the taxi in front of the church. It was a beautiful majestic building but unfortunately she wasn’t here to admire the architecture. She dismissed the taxi driver and walked quickly towards the railroad crossing. She found it. Now she had to find the kidnappers’ place as well. The quickest way would be to look for their car. It wasn’t a perfect plan. She knew that the car might have been in the garage, the kidnappers might have been gone or there could be more cars of the same type and color. The darkness wouldn’t add to her search either but she didn’t want to waste time by waiting until the morning. However it was the only plan she had and she wouldn’t give up now.
Wayne Street was long and consisted mostly of office buildings and warehouses which were now empty. This was good because there weren’t so many cars parked. She was walking up and down the street carefully overlooking all cars and searching all the side alleys and backyards where she could get. After half an hour when she wanted to give up she finally found the car she was looking for. There was no doubt. It was the same Dodge. They parked it in the alley next to an empty two-floor warehouse. The car was standing right next to the side-entrance in case the thugs had to make a quick getaway.
“You’re clever Mrs. Knight,” she heard the familiar German-accented voice behind her. “I must admit that you discovered the place quicker than we expected. You are good however your skills of being inconspicuous need some improvement. We saw you from the window some ten minutes ago. Put your hands up, please and let’s go. You wanted to go inside, didn’t you?”
This wasn’t exactly how Diana had planned to get in however it worked.
She was led to the second floor where the offices of the now closed warehouse must have been. The corridors were dark and empty. The only small light was coming from the room in the middle of the corridor with the windows facing Wayne Street.
“What have you done to Helga Smith?” asked Diana.
“She is where she was before, tied to a chair. I thought we can scare you off. We didn’t and now we will have to keep you here to protect you.”
“I am not allowed to give you any information Mrs. Knight. However be sure that it is for your own good.”
“Is that some crooked German sense of humor?” asked Diana sarcastically.
The guy with German accent didn’t reply, just smiled.
Diana was taken to the room where Helga was sitting guarded by the other spy. She was dressed in a black evening dress with black satin gloves. She was tightly bound hands and feet with ropes. Her chest was tied to the chair. Her mouth was obviously stuffed with a large piece of cloth. A handkerchief was holding it in place. A black blindfold was tied over her eyes. She sat calmly and didn’t try to resist. Next to her there was a lie detector. She must have been interrogated about those documents that she had stolen, occurred to Diana immediately.
“It’s okay Mts. Smith. I am here to get you out. Don’t worry.”
Both guys started to laugh.
“Okay Mrs. Knight. No matter how entertaining your lovely company is, it’s time to tie you up again. We can’t have you in the way. Things can get a little messy and this situation doesn’t concern you. Don’t worry we will let you go after this is over,” said the guy with the German accent.
His partner brought the ropes and started to tie Diana’s wrists behind her back while the blond spy was tying her ankles and knees.
“Wait. Can you at least tell me what this is about?”
“You’re the detective. Figure it out yourself.”
“But … mmmmphhh.” She was gagged with a handkerchief again. Another one was tightly tied in her mouth to prevent her from spitting the gag out.
“Take Mrs. Knight to the back room and lock her there.”
The back room was a small closet connected with the former office by a door. Diana was seated on the floor and her ankles were connected to her wrists with a rope.
“Don’t worry. We will untie you in a couple of days, lady,” said the other spy.
“Couple of days?” thought Diana. “Oh no. What did I get myself into this time?”
The guy closed the door. Through the blurred glass she saw only shadows of the people in the other room but couldn’t hear what they were talking about.
Suddenly more shadows appeared. She heard some shouting in German followed by shooting. “What was it?” asked horrified Diana herself. “Police? Feds? Or the execution squad for Mrs. Smith? Should I stay calm or should I get their attention?”
She decided to wait. It didn’t look like a police action. Policemen wouldn’t have used German. And they certainly wouldn’t have set the place on fire, thought she immediately after she smelt the smoke from the other room.
“So this is the end of the great Diana Knight, the world’s stupidest detective,” went through her head. This time her feet started to kick the door as much as the ropes allowed them and she was trying to shout through her gag.
A minute or two later somebody opened the door. It was the blond spy. He was bleeding heavily and coughing. He cut the ropes on Diana’s feet and helped her to stand up. The office was on fire. They ran away to the corridor. Diana was still gagged and had her hands tied behind her. He untied her after they got out of the building.
“I want the answers and I want them quickly,” she said when her mouth was free again.
“Sure, I’ll tell you everything. But we must get out of here. Step inside the Dodge. You’ll drive.”
She looked at him and nodded. His right hand was still bleeding.
“Drive me to the hospital,” said the blonde spy once he got inside the car.
Diana started up the engine and drove to Wayne Street. The closest hospital was at Hunter’s Point, some twenty minutes from here. She only hoped the blonde spy wouldn’t die of the blood loss during on the way to it.
“I hope you know that I am calling the police once we are in the hospital.”
“You don’t have to. I am from the FBI,” sighed the guy and reached to his pocket for the badge.
Diana looked at him and felt completely mixed up.
“I bet you thought I was a Nazi spy, didn’t you?”
“Can you blame me? Kidnapping people, threatening them, keeping them prisoners in empty buildings, using lie detectors on them, that’s not the American way of doing things.”
“You are right. Me and my partner work for the FBI however this is not the official operation.”
“So you tie up women in your free time? That’s swell, mister.” said Diana sarcastically.
“I’m agent Wolf, at your service, Mrs. Knight. These are really bad times. The war is raging in Europe and in the Pacific. Although the States are not under the attack by the German armies, the enemies are present in our country. And they are not just some crooks hiding in the underground and spreading fascist pamphlets. Couple of weeks ago, we discovered that an agent of our Bureau was working as a spy sending secret information directly to Berlin. During the interrogation he gave us the names of the other inside the FBI. We can’t trust anybody. That’s why my partner, Jack, and I were assigned to uncover the Nazi cell in California. However we had to manage on our own because we didn’t know who is to be trusted. All the evidence we gathered led us to this woman … “
“Correct. She is not a fugitive from her country but a spy sent here to operate as the head of the Nazi spy-ring in California.”
Diana looked as if she didn’t believe him.
“You look like you don’t believe me. I admit it sounds a little far-fetched but everything is true.”
Diana decided to postpone her doubts for a while.
“Okay, what about her husband and sister-in-law? How do they figure in?”
“The husband was Helga’s accomplice. We were trying to arrest him but he shot two of our men and disappeared. That’s why we kidnapped Helga to find out from her what he couldn’t have told us. However she didn’t tell us anything. As far as his sister is concerned she is probably not the part of this. She only hired you in good faith that you would help find Helga. Helga’s conspirators followed her and then you and you led them directly to us. Now my partner is dead. They shot him when they attacked the office to free Mrs. Smith.”
“Oh, I am really sorry for that. If you had told me earlier anything of that wouldn’t have had to happen.”
“Really? Would you have believed me? Would you have stopped meddling into our business? Of course not. …”
Then he lost his consciousness, exhausted with his speech and the heavy loss of blood. Diana sped up the car. The hospital wasn’t very far.
Alexis Smith was sitting on the terrace of her apartment with the great view of the Bakersfield’s skyline. However the view that she normally enjoyed didn’t mean anything to her now. She looked pale and sick, holding a cigarette with a shaking hand and nervously sipping whisky with ice. It doesn’t happen every day to find out that your brother is missing and your sister-in-law is a Nazi spy. Diana Knight was silently sitting opposite her giving her time to absorb the terrible news.
“Do you think she had him killed?” Alexis asked with tears in her eyes.
“We don’t know anything for sure. I am more interested in where your sister-in-law might be right now.”
Alexis was thinking for a while watching her cigarette’s butt falling from the fifteenth floor down on the pavement.
“When he married her, he bought her a small summer house near the lake. I can’t think of any other place where she might be.”
Diana got up. “Thank you, Alexis. I will keep you informed.”
Two men were standing in the building’s lobby reading newspapers and trying to keep a low profile. They watched Diana leave the elevator and before its door closed they got in and went up the fifteenth floor.
On the street, just as she was getting into the red Packard that she had rented earlier that day, she realized her rookie’s mistake. She was in such a hurry that she didn’t ask Alexis for the address of the place. The hills around the lake weren’t heavily built-up however the distances between the houses were quite considerable and she didn’t mean to spend the rest of the day walking from place to place peeking inside looking for a Nazi conspirators’ leader. She turned around and went back to ask Mrs. Smith for the address.
Something was wrong. It was apparent at the first sight. The door of her apartment was open and she heard some voices and muffled noises inside.
“Where is your brother, lady?” shouted somebody. The response was only a muffled moaning.
“What did you tell that detective?” asked another voice. Neither did he get the answer.
“Tell us, lady or we’ll hurt you.”
Diana looked into the room. Alexis was tied to a chair and gagged with her silk scarf tied in her mouth.
“Didn’t your mother tell you never to interrogate a person who is gagged?” asked Diana.
“Hey that’s her. That’s the detective,” shouted the younger one of the pair.
“Quickly, grab her and tie her up.”
“Oh no, boys,” said Diana and pulled out a small revolver from the pocket of her overcoat. “Nobody is tying me up today.”
The thugs didn’t wait for anything and fled. Diana didn’t shoot at them nor did she chase them. She hurried towards Mrs. Smith and removed her gag.
“Oh thank you, thank you, Diana. I was scared to death.”
“Don’t worry, they apparently didn’t have much intelligence.”
Alexis chuckled. “Why did you come back?”
“I was stupid enough not to have asked you the address of your sister-in-law’s house by the lake.”
An hour later, Diana stopped her Packard on the parking lot behind the Blue Ribbon Roadhouse. From there it was only a mile walk up the hills to the summer house of Helga Smith.
What Alexis called ‘a small summer house’ was in fact a huge mansion with three floors and a small private forest inside its large garden.
It was getting dark when Diana got close. She was crouching on the ground and through the fence watching the movement on the grounds. There were several cars on the driveway in front of the house. All the lights were on and several armed men were on guard. They were all dressed in green uniforms with swastikas on their left sleeves.
Diana knew that she couldn’t handle this alone. She had to get back to the hospital and tell everything to agent Wolf.
However when she got up and turned around she saw two men with guns standing in front of her, the same two guys who had paid the visit to Alexis Smith earlier.
“Hands up, lady,” said the older one.
“What are you doing here?”
“You learn fast. You didn’t gag me before you asked me a question.”
“Wise girl, aren’t you?”
“Somebody has to be the wise one here.”
“Shut up and let’s go to the leader. She’ll decide what to do with you.”
Helga Smith was standing in a large living room watching the night surface of the lake from the large French window. Even she was dressed in the uniform – a green skirt and jacket white shirt and a black tie.
“Frau Knight. So you finally found me,” greeted the Nazi leader with strong German accent.
“The pleasure is all yours,” replied Diana sarcastically.
“You Americans can be really amusing. What a pity your nation will have to be obliterated.”
“We are quite a big nation.”
“As I said, you are very amusing. And you are lucky because you are going to witness the test of a weapon that will end the war here in America,” she said and laughed.
“What kind of weapon?”
“Curiosity killed the bat,” laughed Helga again.
“You got it wrong. ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’”
“Silence, you fool. You have a really big mouth, Frau Knight. Put a knebel in her mouth.”
The two thugs who brought Diana looked at each other and neither of them knew what to do.
“She wants you to gag me, boys. You know stuff something in my mouth.”
Even though Diana wanted to appear calm her heart was pounding and she was scared to death. She was alone in this mess and she maybe wouldn’t be able to get out of it.
The younger henchman took a handkerchief from his pocket and stuffed it in Diana’s mouth. The other one tied another handkerchief over it.
Diana said something but nobody understood what.
“Now tie her hands and feet. We can’t let her run away.”
Several minutes later Diana was tightly tied to a chair.
“Now Mrs. Knight without your smart interruptions I can tell you the rest of our plan because you won’t live to warn anyone.”
Diana started to mumble in protest. Helga Smith only smiled and went on: “Our spies managed to copy secret government plans for the atom bomb. Our engineers built have built three of them. Now the first one is right here under this house. It is set to go off in two hours. It will destroy Bakersfield and all the little towns surrounding it. You may ask why not Washington or New York or Los Angeles. This is only a sample of what we are capable of. After Bakersfield disappears from the map we will send demands to your government to surrender its armies in Europe and Japan and to resign. Then we plan to make our new Nazi government in America. If they don’t cooperate we will destroy another city.”
“Mmmm mmmph.” Diana mumbled something which was supposed to tell that woman that she was crazy however Helga didn’t get the message.
“So Mrs. Knight, I am glad that you don’t have any complaints against our brilliant plan. We are leaving immediately to be out of the bomb’s reach when it explodes. Enjoy the last two hours of your life. Auf viedersehen.”
Everybody left the room and Diana started to struggle like mad to get out of the ropes. The Nazi thugs tied her really tight. She couldn’t reach the knots. She couldn’t move the chair and there was no sharp object at sight anyway.
She was completely helpless and desperate. Even if she managed to spit her gag out nobody would hear her in this place.
According to the clock on the wall an hour and half passed since the Nazis left. Diana hadn’t made any progress with untying her bonds. In the face to the coming tragedy the thrill she had previously experienced during being bound and gagged was gone. She accepted her fate. She will be the first victim of the first nuclear explosion in the world. This primacy wasn’t really comforting.
Suddenly she heard the footsteps. Somebody was coming, certainly not the Nazis. By this time they must have been at least a hundred miles away.
To her surprise she saw agent Wolf and Alexis Smith. When they spotted her they rushed to her chair. Agent Wolf started to cut the ropes while Alexis removed the gag from her mouth.
Luckily Diana, before she left Alexis’s apartment, told her to contact agent Wolf in the hospital. They got here just in time.
“What happened Diana?” asked the agent when she was free.
“There is no time to explain. There is an atom bomb under this house set to explode in half an hour.”
The bomb was in the basement. Alexis knew her way around the house so it didn’t take much time to get there. The countdown showed 20 minutes to go.
“It’s too late to call the experts to deactivate it,” said the agent.
“There is no phone anyway,” remarked Alexis.
“It means we are on our own. We have to stay calm and try to disconnect the bomb ourselves.”
“Wait, do you hear that noise?” asked Diana?
“No, I don’t hear anything,” said the agent.
“Listen, I can hear it too,” nodded Alexis. “It sounds as if …”
“… somebody was bound and gagged somewhere near.”
Alexis ran towards the closet in the corner of the room. She opened it and inside she found her sister-in-law who was tied up with some cords and cleave-gagged with a white handkerchief.
She removed her gag and Helga spat out another piece of cloth.
“Quickly we must untie her,” shouted the agent.
“What happened, Helga?” asked Alexis while they were taking her out of the closet and cutting her bonds?
“That bastard, my husband, came back and left me here tied up to die. He blamed me for endangering the whole operation by getting myself kidnapped by you.”
“I’m really sorry to hear that,” remarked Diana sarcastically.
“Mrs. Smith, you’ve got only one chance. Either you help us disconnect the bomb and catch your husband and his henchmen or you are going to die here with us. If you help us I will see that you are not shot as a spy and traitor.”
She didn’t think for a very long time.
“Ja, I know how to stop the bomb. I will help you get him.”
Two weeks later, Diana was sitting in her office. She was just about to get out and go home, when she received a phone call.
“Hi, this is agent Wolf, do you remember me?”
“Sure. How could I forget you?”
“I just wanted to let you know that we caught Mr. Smith and his accomplices. They were trying to set up another bomb in New York but thanks to his wife’s information we were able to arrest them and deactivate the bomb. We also retrieved other the last remaining one. So I guess America is all safe now, mostly thanks to you.”
“Oh no, don’t exaggerate,” blushed Diana and was grateful the he couldn’t see it.
“So, Mrs. Knight, I guess that’s all and we won’t see each other again but if you need anything in return for your brave actions, don’t be afraid and ask.”
“There is something I have been wanting to ask you, agent Wolf, but not on the phone, can you meet me tonight in my place?” She felt the strange sensation again. It’s been two weeks since she was bound and gagged and no matter how horrible her last experience was she started to feel the urge to get tied up again, by someone who she could trust if possible. Why not this agent Wolf? After all getting tied up and gagged was only a small reward for saving America.