Jack Davenport was extremely drunk. Even though it was barely halfway through the morning, he felt as if he had every right to be inebriated.
After almost five years as a senior official at the US Embassy in Berlin, he had decided he had a shot of a higher position. So he applied, thinking the job was already his. But in his view, political correctness had immediately kicked in, and the job was given to a black woman. As far as Davenport was concerned, the woman was not even qualified. He had told his boss to his face that he hadn’t realised breasts were a job qualification now and then stormed out of the office.
It was then that he decided to call in sick to work and go drinking. He initially insisted to himself that it would only be a couple of drinks, but in reality, who was he kidding? He knew it would be more. It was always more. And it was never things like beer or wine. It was the heavy liquor, the stuff that could be used to strip the paint off walls.
Whether he wanted to admit it or not, it was actually due to his love for the bottle that had probably cost him the job. But right now he was beyond all reason. The alcohol had seized control of his brain, and a bottle and a half of vodka was giving him trouble walking.
Despite that, he still decided it was a good idea to drive home in his car.
Managing to finally find the car, he fumbled the keys out of his pocket, and pressed the button. The car’s horn beeped twice, the lights flashed and the doors made their usual unlocking sound. Davenport instinctively looked around to see if anybody was watching him. Seeing no-one, he slipped behind the wheel and turned the key. The engine roared and he swung the car out into the road.
* * *
It was only a couple of streets before Davenport knew that driving was probably not really his greatest idea. His eyes were starting to blur and his hands were trembling. His mouth was also dry and he licked his lips in an effort to moisten them.
What happened next happened so fast that later he could not adequately explain it.
He saw a flash before him, something moving and suddenly a body came flying into his windscreen. The glass shattering, Davenport yanked the steering wheel to the left in a blind panic. All of a sudden, he felt the car mount the pavement at high speed and crash through what sounded like a wooden fence.
The screaming was louder now, and other bodies hit the windscreen. To his horror, Davenport realised they were children. Blood smeared across the glass, and suddenly the car came to a sudden halt.
With his legs rubbery, and his limbs pumping with adrenalin, Davenport opened the door and looked out onto a scene of utter devastation. He had crashed into a school playground. Children were either lying on the ground unmoving, were lying injured and crying, or were running away uninjured and screaming.
“Oh my God” whispered Davenport. “No, no, no….”
He could not adequately explain later why he had ran at that point, but run he did. He lurched out of the playground and staggered down the street. The enormity of what he had just done had rapidly sobered him up.
Several streets later, he spotted a taxi approaching. Waving it down, he said to the driver, “the American Embassy please. And fast.”
Jack Davenport managed to make it back to the Embassy, and he had gone straight to his boss as soon as he had got in.
“Is the Ambassador in?” he asked the secretary.
“Yes Mr Davenport, but he is on a call right now.” Her voice trailed off as he brushed past and opened the door to the Ambassador’s office.
The Ambassador, Danny Jacobson, was sitting behind his desk with his stocking feet on the desk. He had the phone receiver balanced on his shoulder, while he picked at his nails.
“Well then I guess that’s what you’re going to have to do” he was saying over the phone. He saw Davenport and raised his eyebrows. “I’ll have to call you back.”
He put the phone down. “You know Jack, a closed door normally implies you have to knock first.” He saw Davenport’s dishevelled appearance. “What the hell happened to you?”
When Davenport had told him, Jacobson’s face was white with shock.
“You left your car there? With US diplomatic plates? You fucking idiot. Now we’ll have to get you out of the country. You’ll claim diplomatic immunity and we’ll get you out.”
“I killed kids” sobbed Davenport.
“And we’re ripping off the Central Intelligence Agency to the tune of millions of dollars” snapped Jacobson, standing up and banging his fist on the desk. “I’ve no intention of going down for any of that. Any close criminal investigation of you will eventually reveal those activities. So we need to shut down the police investigation before it even begins.”
Davenport nodded dumbly. “What do we do now?”
“Right now, nothing” said Jacobson. “We’ll wait until the police get here. Why make their job easier?”
* * *
As it turned out, it didn’t take long for the police to arrive. When it had been discovered that the car had belonged to a diplomat, the whole affair had been kicked over to the BKA. The Bundeskriminalamt was the German equivalent of the FBI and one of its newest recruits was Chief Inspector Christian Fischer, formerly of the Berlin police.
Fischer had been transferred to the BKA by Chancellor Meyer, based on the strong recommendation of Major Decker. Decker believed strongly in rewarding loyalty and competence, and despite her initial misgivings about him, Decker had come to value Fischer. So she put him in a place where he knew he would thrive and do some good.
Now he was standing at the front door of the Embassy, flanked by two colleagues, telling the US Marine guard detail that he was there with an arrest warrant for Jack Davenport. While one phoned inside, the other guard kept unflinching eye contact with Fischer, as if to remind the Chief Inspector whose turf he was really standing on. But Fischer never broke eye contact.
Eventually a mid-level diplomat came out and put his hand out.
“The warrant please.”
Fischer handed it over. “Is Mr Davenport in the Embassy?”
Without replying, the diplomat examined the warrant intently, as if he was determined to spot a legal flaw that would send Fischer packing. Eventually he sighed and looked up.
“Yes Mr Davenport is in the Embassy.”
“Bring him out please.”
“I’m sorry” said the diplomat, “but Mr Davenport intends to claim diplomatic immunity and leave the country immediately.”
Fischer stared at the diplomat for a long moment, his face full of anger. “And who did you say you were again?”
“The cultural attache.”
“Of course you are. You have CIA written all over you. I want to speak to the Ambassador right now.”
“The Ambassador is in a meeting” said the diplomat sniffily. “Now if you’ll excuse me….”
“If you’ll excuse me?” said Fischer in shocked disbelief. “Davenport killed six kids today. Do you honestly think that he can just waltz out of the country and not face justice?”
“The Vienna Convention says he can actually” said the diplomat. “Goodbye.”
After a long moment, Fischer turned to one of his colleagues.
“Get several cars here, and block the entrance. Stop all vehicles from leaving. When you get the first complaint – and you quickly will – tell them the car is kaput. Delay for as long as possible. I need to take this up the hierarchy.”
Fischer moved away from his colleagues and dialled a number given to him by Decker. He had been instructed to use it only in serious emergencies. He figured the deaths of six kids qualified as an emergency.
After two ringtones, the phone was picked up at the other end.
“Yes?” said Hans Unterwald.