Coconolte Investigation Agency
“So your great-grandpop’s birthday isn’t quite as exciting as you thought it might be, eh, A.J.?”
“Hey, I’m your great-granduncle Philip, not ‘sir’. But you can call me Phil, okay?”
“Okay,.. Phil. Were you a detective with Gramps?”
“Sure was. Back in the good ol’ days. Twentieth century. Seems like it was a hundred years ago.”
“It was a hundred years ago, Phil!”
“And you’ll never let me forget it, will you, Sam? What were we talking about, A.J.?”
“You were a detective a hundred years ago.”
“Yep. Did you ever hear about the time your Grampa and I, along with our kid brother, Sam, captured a Nazi spy ring, single handedly?”
“What’s a nahsty?”
“Well, I guess you haven’t. This is my favorite story. You’re gonna love it.”
Blood and Them
It was springtime. Sunshine, blue skies, cheerful birds in the trees. And Sam and I were enjoying a pleasant discussion in the office.
“Phil, you know that I’m not really interested in baseball, but even I can see that the Dodgers don’t stand a chance of getting into the series this year.”
“O, ye of little faith. I’m telling you, it’s in the bag.”
“Has Cousin Will been giving you tips about the future, again?”
“Of course not. That would take all the fun out…”
“Hey! Keep it down to a dull roar, will you?” Nick said as he came through the door. “We may have a client. If you two don’t scare him off.” He brought a plump gentleman with him into the agency office.
“Mr. Helstrom, for all they are, these are my brothers, Phil and Sam. This Mr. Erich Helstrom, boys. I met him over at Mollie’s. He was asking directions to our office. Please, Mr. Helstrom, have a seat.”
Nick settled Helstrom onto one of the old hardback chairs and sat himself down behind the old desk. “Now, what can we do for you?” he asked the potential client.
“I’d like to have someone’s background checked, if possible.”
“A business associate, or an acquaintance, perhaps?” Nick asked as he began making notes. “Have you questioned this person at all?”
“No, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
A look of concern appeared on Nick’s face. “Why might that be?”
“I’m the individual I want you to investigate.” Helstrom seem to look a little lost as he spoke.
“I don’t quite understand, Mr. Helstrom.” I’ve watched Nick interview and turn down a lot of clients, but, this man was… different. “Just what do you wish to know about yourself?” Nick asked gently.
“Everything… anything!” Helstrom was beginning to act agitated. Like soup in a pot about to boil over. “I’m not even sure about my own name.”
“What makes you think your name isn’t Helstrom?”
“That’s the name on the driver’s license in my pocket, and some papers in a briefcase that I found, but I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I can’t seem to remember anything prior to awakening in a hotel room several hours ago.”
“You believe you’ve lost your memory, is that correct?” A nod from the worried man is his only answer. “Can you recall anything at all before today?”
“Do you have any injuries? Any pain anywhere?”
“No, physically, I feel just fine.”
“After waking, what did you do?”
“I remember opening my eye and looking at the ceiling. For some reason, it didn’t look right. I had a terrible headache. Almost like a hangover, but, I didn’t remember having anything to drink. Suddenly, I realized that I couldn’t remember anything at all! I sat bolt upright and looked around. I was so frightened that I didn’t really see anything in front of me for a moment or two. My heart was racing like a runaway steam engine…
“I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. After a brief pause, my heart slowed down, and I felt somewhat calmer.
“I began to look at my surroundings more calmly. ‘A hotel room,’ I said to myself, ‘but what hotel and where?’ I then noticed that I was fully dressed, as I am now.
“I fumbled with the wallet in the coat I’m wearing, anxious to learn who I was. When I finally managed to get the wallet out and open, I found a driver’s license in the name of Erich Helstrom with a Boston address. The name means nothing to me, but Boston has a familiar feel to it, I’m not sure why.
“I got up from the bed and started looking around the room. I found a briefcase with several documents in it, a valise with clothing, and an overcoat in the closet. Nothing I found meant anything to me.
“I decided I had better seek help before I panicked. So I came looking for you.”
“If you can’t remember anything, why did you come looking for us, Mr. Helstrom?” I asked.
With a look of surprise, Helstrom said, “This agency is mentioned in the documents I found in the briefcase.”
“What!?” Bigger surprise from all three of us.
“I was hoping you would know me. That’s why I came here before going to the police.”
“Mr. Helstrom,” Nick said as gently as I’ve ever heard him, “we’ve never seen or heard of you before today.”
Crestfallen, Helstrom stood to leave. “Then perhaps, I should go to the police after all.”
“That’s entirely up to you, but I would like to know more about these ‘documents’ you’ve mentioned. And, we are quite willing to help you, as best we can.”
Sitting down again, Helstrom smiles. “Thank you. I hope I can pay you for your efforts.”
“Do you have any money at all?” Sam asked.
“I’m not sure. I found some notes in the briefcase, but I don’t know if it’s real money. When I hold them in my hand, it doesn’t look right. It seems… too small.”
“What do these notes look like?” I asked. Always concerned about finances, that’s me.
“I can show them to you,” Helstrom said as he took a wallet from an inner coat pocket and opened it. Withdrawing a bill, he handed it to me. “This is one of them. Do you recognize it?”
“Oh, yes. President Grant and I don’t often meet, but I’d know him anywhere.” I passed the crisp, new fifty dollar bill to Nick.
“Looks real enough to me,” he said as he examined it. “If it’s a phoney, Murph will spot it. May I hold onto this for a short time, Mr. Helstrom?”
“If it is actual currency, you may consider it a retainer.”
“Thank you. How many of these were in the briefcase?”
“I would estimate that each bundle contains one hundred notes each.”
“BUNDLES?” Nick said.
Sam was the least surprised. “That’s five thousand dollars, Mr. Helstrom.” Narrowing his eyes as he looked at Helstrom, he asked, “How many of these bundles are there?”
“There are forty bundles in a false bottom of the briefcase,” Helstrom said quite casually. He seemed very familiar with money.
In the ensuing silence, Nick, Sam, and I look from Helstrom to one another. Somewhere, two hundred thousand dollars (American) in crisp new fifties was just laying around.
After getting over this mild shock, Nick turned back to Helstrom. He needed two tries before making any sound. “Do you know the name of the hotel you woke up in?”
“Why, yes. It’s the Carleton Hotel.”
Nick gave a big sigh of relief. “Thank-“ He grabbed the phone and began dialing furiously.
“Is something wrong, Mr. Coconolte?”
“I don’t know, yet. Did you lock the room when you left the hotel?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Is the briefcase locked?”
“I couldn’t locate a key for it, but I did close it after replacing the documents and money in it. If I had been in a better frame of mind, I probably would have brought it with me. I’m sorry I didn’t.”
“Don’t bother yourself about it, you did fine—hello, may I speak to Mr. Wollenski, please? Thanks- hello, Murph? This is Nick- just fine I hope. Would you do something for me? Mr. Helstrom, what room were you in?”
Helstrom withdrew a key from his pocket and handed it to Nick.
Murph, would you go up to room 247 and look for a briefcase?” Nick looked at Helstrom again.
“Brown leather,” Helstrom whispered.
“Brown leather- yeah, the uh, owner is sitting here in front of me, right now. When you get it, take it straight to your office, lock your door, and call me immediately… no it’s not a bomb, at least not the kind that you’re thinking of. I can’t explain right now. Thanks, Murph, I owe you yet another one. Bye.”
“Have I don’t anything wrong?” Helstrom asked.
“Hopefully not. When Murph, Mr. Wollenski calls back, I’ll feel better. Right now, let’s talk about you.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“May I examine the contents of your wallet, Mr. Helstrom? Do you have anything else with you that might help?”
“Just the wallet. Oh, there a pocket watch in my vest, and…” Helstrom began searching the contents of his pockets, and found some loose change and a fountain pen. “I’m afraid that’s all. I hope something will help.”
Nick added the room key to the small pile. “It’s a start. I have to make something perfectly clear, right now, Mr. Helstrom. If we determine that you have that money in your possession unlawfully, we’ll have to turn it, and you, over to the authorities. Do you understand this fully?”
“Of course, I understand fully. I would prefer that to not knowing what happened to me.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you feel that way. Now, what do we have here?”
Nick started a detailed examination of the few objects gathered together on the desk. Opening the wallet, he removed the entire contents and spread them out. Everything seemed to be typical: driver’s license with a Boston address, photos of children and adults, business cards from real estate and insurance agents, railway ticket stubs, and a couple of the new fifty dollar bills.
“Have you looked at these photos closely, Mr. Helstrom?”
“No, should I?”
“It couldn’t hurt. Why don’t you look at them now?” Nick asked as he handed the pictures to Helstrom. Finding nothing hidden in the empty wallet, Nick turned his attention the pocket watch.
It was a large, hunter style watch, with a protective cover that opened when the winding stem was pressed. The engraved case and cover show an old world craftsmanship, probably European. Opening the cover revealed something engraved inside: ‘BLUT UND IHRE’.
Pointing out the old style lettering, Nick asked, “Does this mean anything you, Mr. Helstrom?”
“Not a thing. Do you know what it says?”
“No, I don’t. Either of you recognize this?” Nick handed the watch to me, and I passed it to Sam after glance.
“It’s German,” Sam said. “’Blood and Them’. A very odd motto, or slogan. The German version of the Boy Scouts have a similar motto: ‘Blood and Honor’.
“Mr. Helstrom, do you remember anything about a train?”
“No- I’m afraid not.”
“Anything in the pictures look familiar?”
“Nothing. Complete strangers to me.”
“May I look at those?” I asked.
“Of course.” Helstrom handed me the photos and turned back to Nick. “Do you think I should see a doctor?”
“After I speak with Mr. Wollenski about your luggage, I’m going to call a doctor that works with us on… special occasions. We’ll arrange for an examination.”
“Nick.” I was curious about one of the photos. “Look at this, it-“ I was interrupted when the bell of the phone started clamoring for attention.
“Coconolte Investigation Agency, Nick Coco- hello, Murph. Did you find it? Have you looked inside, no? Would you examine the contents real quick? I know what’s supposed to be in there, but I’d like your opinion- okay- really? I see, I think. Thanks, Murph. I’ll be over soon.” Nick put the receiver on its hook and looked directly at Helstrom. “Mr. Wollenski was very impressed with your traveling papers. At first. On closer examination, he was astounded.”
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Murph says that’s the best funny money he’s ever seen. It’s perfect except for one small detail.”
Sam had started looking closer at Helstrom’s fifty dollar bill when ‘funny money’ was mentioned. “What’s wrong with it? he asked.
“Look up near the top of Grant’s portrait, just to the left.”
“What does it say?”
“’Series 1940’,” I said. I was standing on tiptoe looking over Sam’s shoulder.
“When a significant change is made to U.S. currency, like a new Treasurer’s signature, the year of the change is indicated on the bill. That date is used on all bills until another change occurs.”
“And so, since this is 1939, this fifty is a phoney, right?” Sam asked.
“There is one other possibility,” I said.
Nick looked at me a little reproachfully. “I’m considering that. After we get Mr. Helstrom to see the doctor, I’m going to speak to our scientific consultants.”
Sam and I grinned at one another. Somehow, I had a feeling our scienterrific cousins would get involved yet again in one of our cases.
When Nick lifted the phone and began dialing again, I remembered the photo in my hand. “Nick, I think you should look at this photo.”
“What am I looking for?”
It was a typical family grouping, next to a car parked in front of an apartment style building. Mom, Dad, the kids, other cars on the street.
“Look at the cars, Nick. They’re all foreign jobs. I don’t see a single American car at all.”
“So, maybe this picture is from out of town, way out of town- hello, Abby? This is Nick- I’m fine. I have a minor I hope, medical problem here- no, he’s okay, too. It’s our new client. Would you ring Dr. Lowell for me? Thanks.”
Nick looked over at our kid brother. “Sam, I think she’s finally noticed you- hi, Chris. It’s me- I’m alright- they’re okay, too. Our new client has a problem. He seems to be suffering from amnesia… there are no signs of injury that we can see, he complained of a severe headache earlier this morning, almost like a hangover. Do you have time to look at him? I’ll send him over with Phil and Sam right away. Thanks, Chris. I’ll talk to you later.”
He dropped the phone back on the hook and turned to Sam and me. “While you two escort Mr. Helstrom to County General, I’m going to drop in at the Carleton to pick up the briefcase and talk to Murphy.”
“We’re on our way,” I said. “Mr. Helstrom, if you would be so kind as to accompany my brother and myself, we’d like to introduce you to the finest doctor in town.”
“I would be glad to. You have no idea how much better I feel already.”
After Sam and I left with Mr. Helstrom in tow, Nick reached into his pocket for a bright, shiny, quite innocent looking cigarette lighter, but no cigarettes.
Raising the lighter as though to light a smoke, he spoke to it.
“Alleyway behind Carleton Hotel, current time.”
Nick gently disappeared from sight, leaving no sign of having been there at all.
Don’t be absurd – I’m just a mad scientist.
The lovely Doctor Lowell’s small office. Sam and I had arrived at County General with no delay. Helstrom was sitting on a chair while Chris was leaning over him, examining his eyes intently. I do wish someone would examine my eyes like that.
“You look just fine, Mr. Helstrom, although, it wouldn’t hurt you to lose a few pounds.”
A sigh. “I know. I have a weakness for….” Then a blank expression on his face.
“For what, Mr. Helstrom?” I asked, hoping something, anything, was coming back.
“I don’t know. For a moment, I almost remembered something. Then, it was gone.”
“Don’t try to force memories,” Chris said. “It’s better to let them sneak up on you.”
“I could almost taste it,” Helstrom said, wistfully. “Whatever it was.”
Sam smiled. “When we go back to the office, we’ll stop by the bakery.”
“Yeah, stir up his memory, and maybe pick up a Danish or twelve, right, Sam?” I knew I was in the ballpark when he smiled again.
“That might actually help. Right now, I think some tests would be in order.” Chris pressed a lever on her office intercom and spoke. “Bob, I have a gentleman in my office that needs testing. Would you come in here, please? Thanks you.” Releasing the intercom, she turned back to her latest patient. Lucky dog.
“Mr. Helstrom, I’d like to have some x-rays of your skull made. A blood test would be good, too. If you don’t mind.”
“By all means. Anything that will help.”
“Good.” A young man in hospital whites entered as Chris was speaking to Helstrom. Nodding at the young man, she introduced him. “This is Bob, my assistant. He’ll take charge of you for a short while, Mr. Helstrom. Bob, cranial x-rays and a complete blood series. Don’t worry, Mr. Helstrom, you’re in good hands. You won’t feel a thing,” she said with that warm smile. “Thanks, Bob,” she said as the assistant and Helstrom left the office.
After the door was closed, Chris began interrogating Sam and me.
“Where did he come from, and what happened to him?”
“Haven’t a clue,” I said. “And we need to find out quick. Apparently, he’s got a briefcase stuffed full of about two hundred thousand bucks worth of phoney cash, and some papers with the name of our agency all over ‘em.”
“What on earth is going on?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out, and then help him recover his memory. If you can fix him, maybe we can find out why we’re supposed to be associated with the money.”
“I’ll do my best, but, in cases like this, it’s better to wait. I can’t promise immediate results. If the blood tests show something chemical as the cause, he may be fine in a day or two. If it’s physical or mental, it could take longer.”
“I don’t think we have longer. Can we leave him with you, for a couple of days, if needed?” Sam asked.
“Of course. He’ll be safe here. And a good deal more comfortable than in any of those places you guys usually hide your clients.”
“You’re probably right. We’ll join up with Nick and see if he’s learned anything.” Same pulled a shiny new light out of his pocket. “Hello, Nick? Can you talk?”
“Go ahead, Sam. Where are you?” Nick’s voice seemed to come from out of nowhere.
“We’re still at the doc’s office. Helstrom is going to stay here for a while. Where are you?”
“I’m at Orb and Will’s office, current time. Are you coming here?”
“Soon as we say goodbye to the doc.” Chris smiled at me and wiggled her fingers at Sam.
“Get here as soon as you can. I’ve got the briefcase and I want you two to see what’s in it.”
Sam reached over and grabbed my upper arm tightly, and then said, “We’re on our way. Location: O and W, current time, Geronimo.”
Dr. Lowell didn’t even flinch when we disappeared. She’s seen it happen before.
Sam and I reappeared in the private offices of our cousins, Orbille and Willver Coconolte, located with the Time-Zone Labs complex.
“Hello, boys. How’s life treating you?” Will asked.
“No major complaints. Yet. What’s in the bag?” I asked.
“Take a gander at this this,” Nick said as he handed me a stack of fifties, and Sam a handful of official looking papers.
“Gee, these sure are pretty.” I probably had a gleam in my eye. “Not worth the paper they’re printed on, are they?”
“Actually, the paper is worth quite a bit,” Orb told me, smiling.
“Really, how much?” That gleam got a bit brighter, I’m sure.
“A few years in a federal prison, at least.” As he explained, Orb retrieved the stack of phoney cash. “This is the same special rag paper used by the U.S. Treasury to produce American currency. Possession of this paper in any form other than genuine cash is illegal for U.S. citizens.”
“You mean, I could be arrested just for having blank paper?” I was a little shocked.
“Yes, however, this is neither blank, nor genuine currency.”
“Then, it’s not real money from the future?”
“Nope. The only American money you’ll ever see with a 1940 date will be coins,” Will said. “As soon as Nick gave us the briefcase for examination, we checked with the Historical Research Section of the Accounting Department. The United States will never issue a series 1940 fifty dollar bill. Even the Treasury boys would swear these were real, if they didn’t have that date.”
I glanced at the money in Orb’s hand and asked, “Where did all this stuff come from, and why?”
“Well. It’s certainly not the work of any gang or crime organization here in the states. This was made by someone with unlimited time and resources, not to mention money,” Orb said.
“I may have an idea where it came from,” Sam said, holding up the papers in his hand.
“What have you got?” I asked.
“Just some official German documents. I can only make out about one word in twenty, but it looks like a payoff list. For Nazi spies and saboteurs.”
“Very good, Sam. That’s exactly what it is. Our Linguistics Section has made a complete translation. Now,” Will showed Sam a page farther down in the stack, “look at this part of the list, here. Notice anything?”
“WHAT?! Phil! Look at this!”
I looked at the line Sam’s large finger was indicating and read aloud what I could. “’Coconolte Investigation Agency: Nicholas, Philip, und Samuel: 30,000$.’ Why is the dollar sign at the end? And does this unpronounceable part mean they want to bribe us or something?”
“Many Europeans place the money symbol at the end of the amount,” Nick said, and then frowned before continuing, “the rest of it says ‘for information and services rendered.’”
“I don’t understand.” I was more puzzled now than when Helstrom told us his story. “How can that be? Nick, if anyone were to see this, things could get very complicated for us.”
“I realize that. But we’re not the only ones. Look at some of the other names. There are some very important people listed there. And not just in this city. All of the major cities on the west coast are there.”
I looked back at the list. “The Governor of Idaho?! What the hell is going on? I was worried about the Treasury Department catching us with counterfeit cash, but this…” I took the papers from Sam and started waving them about, stating the obvious, “this makes us look like part of a big Nazi spy ring!”
Will grabbed the papers from me before they went flying. “That’s exactly what it’s meant to do.”
“Why? What did we, and all these other people, do to deserve this? If J. Edgar even suspected the existence of these papers, he’d have agents knocking down doors all along the coast before sunset.”
“Or sooner,” Nick said, trying to calm me down. “If the German Secret Service could tie up several American government agencies with a nice juicy, wild goose chase, think of what their real agents could accomplish in the meantime.”
Realization dawned on me brighter than any sunrise.
After a moment, when I could finally put my thoughts into coherent form, I spoke softly. “America is going to become involved in this next war, in a big way, right, Orb?”
“I’m afraid so. We’ve learned that the future is not guaranteed to happened the way we may experience it when we go exploring. Lots of little things have to happen just right. Right now, lots of big things are occurring that Will and I believe will overcome the little things that could prevent the next war. We can’t stop it, but we can stop this insidious plot.”
“How?” I asked.
My older brother had the answer ready. “First, we have to learn more about our new client. Specifically, is he part of it voluntarily, or is he a pawn, like us?” Nick turned to our cousins. “If Helstrom isn’t faking this amnesia thing, can we bring him here to try restoring his memory?”
“Here, yes, but now, no. Have Dr. Lowell take him to her office in the Labs’ Med Center. Tell her to take him to the year 2070. There are people and facilities that are better equipped then.”
“Thanks, Orb. This case has suddenly developed some very scary overtones. We can’t go to the authorities without looking suspicious, and I’m afraid Helstrom’s friends may start looking for him or us, pretty soon.”
“Don’t worry, Nick. If you can’t clear this up, Will and I can relocate the three of you where no one would ever think to look.”
“I hear Cleopatra is always on the lookout for personal bodyguards,” Will said, smiling brightly. “Pity, she’s only four foot tall and better than two hundred pounds.”
“I’ll definitely keep that in mind. I’ll talk to Chris.”
“Will and I shall head to Boston and research Helstrom for you.”
“Great. That will give us more time to look for Helstrom’s… uh, associates here. Please, Orb, don’t try anything heroic.”
“Me, a hero? Don’t be absurd. I’m just a mad scientist. Well, not really mad, but I’m pretty much ticked off by all this. Will, on the other hand, might try something foolish, especially if there are any unattached young ladies involved.” Will flashed his ‘Who, me?’ grin. “Go on, get out of here and get to work.”
So Nicholas, Philip, und Samuel commanded their temporal units, and disappeared.
Hello, Nicholas! Read this quickly before it disintegrates. This is to bring you up to date (HA!) on Mr. Helstrom’s background in Boston: ZIP‼ Not even a birth certificate (of authenticity at least,) not for any Erich Helstrom.
As to the ‘luggage’ left in the office, nothing ‘funny’ or unusual in any of it. No secret compartments in the suitcase, nothing hidden in the linings of the overcoat or clothing.
The briefcase itself is a little different. We found the false bottom. It’s at least twenty years old, but shows absolutely no sign of wear or age. Like it was made only yesterday. 1939 yesterday, not yesterday where you are now. Will had Historic Research in the Purchasing Dept. check it out. The manufacturer discontinued that line of luggage in 1922. Will then had Product Testing look at it. That bag has made at least one temporal excursion. As soon as I seal up this note and drop it into my ‘To be delivered’ file, Will and I are jumping back to Boston. I’m sure we’ll find a temporal field disturbance somewhere. This is just the excuse Will’s been looking for to try out his newest detector/tracer unit.
You’ll hear from us. Good luck with Helstrom. Orb-1939