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  • Max was in the midst of a motley crew. Just the mix he liked. A maverick self-made man on the forefront of a brave new world - Frenchie; his curly headed black poodle Jigs who seemed to be almost like a person - maybe an alter ego of Frenchie; and a beautiful and perhaps dangerous in her own way, gorgeous blond -Charlie (Max thought - note to self - never call her Charlotte).

    Charlie stretched out her hand and Max couldn't help but notice her slender arm, the whiteness of her skin was a stark contrast to the striking black wrap dress she wore.

    "Maxie darlin, give me the letters. And tell me about the doll lady."

    Max pulled the letters out of his pocket. They were a bit worse for wear now having traveled between Adrienne (the receiver of the letters), Jaden (his lovely Chinese assistant) and Max. But as he thought of handing them to Charlie he mused, 'What a bangup way to go. These letters are having the time of their life!'

    "Maxie darlin, really! Come down to earth. Give me the letters!"

    "Oh, sorry, guess I was day dreaming for a minute."

    Looking over at Frenchie, Max started to turn red when he saw Frenchie's smirk.

    "Right Max, and what a dream it is!" Frenchie reached down to pat Jigs on the head and the dog whined and gave him a knowing look.

    Charlie took the letters and seemed to lovingly hold them in her hands as she read them over. Max watched her blond hair fall over one eye as she tipped her head to the side.

    "Christopher Columbus!"

    Her hair swept back over her shoulder as she swung her head upright, seemingly with a eureka moment.

    "What, said Frenchie. What is it?"

    "What it is ... is simple, rudimentary, as they say. Quite amateur really. You know the enemy is going low budget with stuff like this."

    Jigs barked as if to congratulate Charlie on her brilliance. But Frenchie said, "Come on Charlie, don't brag, get to the story."

    "Oh ... you're no fun Frenchie. Always the serious one. Ok. Let me break it down for you."

    "Clearly, the "dolls" pertain to U.S. Navy ships in harbors. As your two brilliant lady friends have already noted, the U.S. Navy destroyer named the USS Shaw is obviously the sick Mr. Shaw. We know it had its bow blown to smithereens in Hawaii and is at a naval harbour for repair."

    "And how about the three Irish dolls," Max replied.
  • The letter mentioned a “wonderful doll hospital” where she (the writer) had left “three lovely Irish dolls” for repair.

    "Max dear, the “hospital” refers to a shipyard."
  • Charlie went on, relishing her interpretation of the letter with a flair as she waved her arms in the air.

    "The Irish doll with the fishing net - is an aircraft carrier with antitorpedo netting on its sides; the wooden doll is a battleship; and the little boy is a destroyer."

    Max was amazed at the simplicity of the code, yet ashamed he couldn't have figured it out on his own.

    Charlie saw the crestfallen look on his face.

    "My dear Maxie. You mustn't be too hard on yourself. I do this all the time. It's my job."

    Max retorted, "And what about the letter with the Siamese doll?"
  • "Yes," Charlie once again held the letter like it was from a long lost love.

    "This one, is a little more difficult ... but I suspect that ...
    the "lovely Siamese Temple Dancer” might be the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. It has been severely damaged in its midsection, and has been traveling between Puget Sound and San Diego."

    "So, these letters, simple as they may be ... were intended to communicate our Navy's status with ships to this connection in Buenos Aires?"

    "Brilliant Maxie. You're catching on quickly," Charlie swished actoss the room and handed him back the letters with a wink and a smile.

    "Now, tell me about our little doll lady."

    Max related how he had gone to Maria Blucher's doll shop and encountered the strange mousy looking woman.

    Frenchie, who had been quietly listening said, "You two get out of here now and go figure this out. I have bigger fish to fry."

    Charlie grabbed Max's arm and in mock defiance to Frenchie said, "Come on Maxie, we know when we're not wanted!"

    Jigs barked and Charlie let out a deep laugh as Max turned into a puppy dog under Charlie's spell.

    "I guess I could use a cup of coffee," Max replied.
  • This noir series is documentary fiction. A little bit of truth mixed with a fair amount of fiction.
    Photos: USS Shaw, Doll Hospital in UK (no actual relation to story), letters -Wikipedia (Veralee Dickinson).
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