Book Three of the Ark City Confidential Chronicles takes place in the middle of World War II. It is 1943 and Arkansas City, Kansas, like most American towns and cities, is on high alert and doing everything they can to aid in the war effort.
A visit by two FBI agents to the police department makes the officers and chief of police aware of an escaped German soldier from a POW camp in Concordia, Kansas, some 200 miles away. The federal agents expressly indicate they are providing the information as a courtesy.
Baron Witherspoon, the facially scarred World War I veteran and beat cop, strongly believes there is a reason this soldier might be headed for his town. With the chief’s okay, he puts together a team of officers to be prepared for anything.
“We’re not interested in making our presence here widely known, Chief.” Burke continued like a slow moving train. It was apparent he wasn’t used to small 28 town police departments and felt he could use the weight and authority of the federal government to get unabated cooperation. He didn’t know Lester Richardson.
“Gonna be kinda hard with those suits.” I knew vaudeville was dead, but I couldn’t resist. Nevertheless, we needed to make a point, and I knew the chief would rather have me make it than undermine his position on the force. “Let’s be honest, guys. You come into a small Kansas town dressed like gangsters from the North Side of Chicago and expect to blend in and go unnoticed? Seems to me like most folks would think you were the bad guys. All we’ve got to go on is the picture show.”
Burke and Gordon had what amounted to a non verbal discussion, looking at each other as though it were a secret code. Burke proceeded with his college lecture.
“A German POW walked away from a work detail on a farm in Concordia. The farmer’s son was dressed in similar work clothes when the detail returned to the camp.”
“We have a POW camp in Concordia?” The chief and I exchanged confused glances.
“We have POW camps all over the United States, Officer Witherspoon. We don’t have the resources in terms of manpower to maintain such facilities in the various theaters of war. Most of the prisoners are regulars in the armed forces and not diehard Nazis. Those types are held…elsewhere. For the most part, these soldiers are grateful to be out of harm’s way and the local residents have found it beneficial to have additional labor at a very low cost. These men are not a danger to the citizens.”
“Except for one of them who just didn’t feel like returning to his gilded cage.”
“Yes, well, that’s why we’re here.”
“But he’s not a danger to the citizens.”
“We don’t believe so.”
With a smile as wide as Joe E. Brown, I replied, “I’m sorry, guys. I think I’m
missing something here. A German soldier, who’s not a danger to the citizens, walks off a farm in Concordia and you think he’s coming all the way down here to Ark City?”