The Only Clue To Stopping An Assassination Lies Behind Bars.

Former German soldier Gabriel Keller is serving a life sentence for murder. Told by a judge that he is too dangerous to ever be released, Keller is a man without purpose. Surviving, not living.

Department 89 receives a credible threat that the French President will be assassinated on his upcoming state visit to Germany. Major Sophie Decker is ordered to ensure nothing happens to the President while on German soil.

The leader of the assassination plot is inside the same prison as Keller. But they don’t know who he is. So Decker offers Keller a deal. Help track down the plotters, help to foil the assassination attempt, and gain his freedom as a reward.

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Gabriel Keller felt he was having an out-of-body experience, as he stood listening to a judge sentencing him to life in prison. 

For some reason, all he could think about was that it was heavily raining outside as the judge spoke harshly to him. But he could barely hear the sharp rebukes as he focused on the water lashing down on the windows. It comforted him to hear the rain, even though he knew that he would never feel it on his face ever again.

It didn’t matter to him what the judge said. It was just words. He knew in all practical terms that he was finished. That much was obvious when he had murdered the mugger in cold blood. The mugger who had taken his wallet in the middle of the street in broad daylight. If the thug had left it there, Keller might have let him go and put the whole thing down to bitter experience. There was only fifty Euros and an old lottery ticket in the wallet anyway. The mugger would have been welcome to it if he had taken it and walked away.

But no, obviously discontent with his meagre takings, the thug had then tried to take the wedding ring from Keller’s pregnant wife. When she refused, a swift punch to the stomach ensured that their baby was eventually delivered stillborn. 

That was when Keller reacted. He grabbed the man by the neck and snapped the bone as if it was a twig. The look of shock and surprise was laid bare across the thug’s face as he slumped to the ground. Bystanders screamed when they realised they had just witnessed a murder. The blood poured out of Mrs Keller as she began to haemorrhage.

There was never any doubt that Keller was going to be convicted. That was why his inept lawyer had immediately advised him to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. On the mercy of the judge now busily telling him how he was dangerous scum destined to burn in hell for murdering another human being.

A human being, snorted Keller to himself. What kind of human being murders an unborn baby because they want someone’s wedding ring? Something they’re not even entitled to?

Keller was eventually shaken out of his thoughts by the prison officers pulling him towards the cellar doors where the prisoners were transferred to and from the dock. It was over and the judge was walking out the back door of the courtroom, his duty done for the day delivering fire and brimstone to the criminals of the community. As he was led below, Keller descended into darkness and his life as he knew it was essentially over.

Or so he thought.

* * *

Captain Wolfgang Schmitz was getting his ass kicked and not enjoying the process too much.

He had somehow been talked by his boss, Major Sophie Decker, into taking part in self-defence classes for the staff. However, what she failed to mention until the last second was that Schmitz’s job was to be jumped on by Decker and pinned to the ground in very uncomfortable positions.

His face was mashed to the floor against the sweaty mat with Decker’s hand pushed down on the back of his head. He hit the mat repeatedly as if to say “I give up” but all he heard was Decker saying “and at this point, it’s best to completely incapacitate the opponent with a blow to the testicles….”

This made Schmitz look wild-eyed with fear. Decker’s “balls-punches” were legendary – the last bad guy she did it to was still walking funny in the prison courtyard and Schmitz didn’t fancy the guy’s chances of future fatherhood.

“…..but I think we can spare Captain Schmitz the experience of his testicles being punched” said Decker, “you can relax Captain.”

When she released her hand, Schmitz rolled onto his back and looked at Decker sourly, as the staff sitting around the mat laughed.

“This is in revenge for putting salt in your coffee yesterday isn’t it?”

Decker smiled. “Don’t try convincing me that was an accident. Let’s just say we’re even now.”

“OK everybody” she said to the others as Schmitz got up, “split into pairs and do the moves I showed you.”

As the others started throwing their opponents around on the mat, Lieutenant Max Amsel came into the room and made a beeline for Decker.

“Major? Captain? You’re wanted at the Chancellery. Unterwald has a visitor he wants you to meet.”

“About time” said Decker, “I was starting to get bored. Let’s go, Schmitz.”

* * *

Due to the recent death of Intelligence director Klaus Wagner, the post was officially still vacant. The chancellor, Claudia Meyer, had promised Decker that her standards for filling the job would be high, and so far she was keeping her word. 

Every candidate proposed by her chief of staff, Hans Unterwald, was summarily rejected after a flaw was either found or invented. An exasperated Unterwald was convinced that the job was never going to be filled.

This meant that when Decker and Schmitz arrived at the Chancellery, they were not met as usual by the intelligence director. Instead, in the office of Hans Unterwald, they were introduced to a man in a severe looking black suit, sitting in the corner of the office.

“An undertaker?” said Schmitz, “it’s OK, we have our own to get rid of the awkward bodies. But thanks for the offer.”

The man smiled thinly.

“This” interrupted Unterwald, clearing his throat, “is the deputy director of the French intelligence service, the DGSE. His name is Claude Durand. Deputy Director Durand, Major Decker and Captain Schmitz of Department 89.”

“A pleasure” he said in French-accented German, “I’ve heard a lot about you both and your unconventional department.”

“What can we do for you Deputy Director Durand?” asked Decker formally.

“I’m sure you are aware that our President is coming to visit Berlin next week?”

“Yes” said Decker, “we have been involved in quietly rounding up the usual troublemakers.”

“Well you will have one more troublemaker to deal with” said Durand grimly, “because we have credible information that an assassination attempt will be made on President Delacroix when he is here in Berlin.”

“How did you come by this information?” asked Schmitz.

“An informant” said Durand, “but yesterday morning, his body washed up on the banks of the River Seine. He had been strangled and weighted down with bricks. In doing so, whoever killed him has confirmed that there is truth to what the informant was saying.”

“His death may be connected to something else” said Decker, “just playing Devil’s Advocate.”

“When it comes to the life of my President” said Durand, “I prefer to err on the side of extreme caution. As would you if it was Chancellor Meyer’s life in danger.”

“Alright” conceded Decker, “you’ve got me there. Can you tell us more about this alleged plot? And about the informant?”

Durand pointed to a manilla brown folder with a red stripe sitting on the table.

“It’s all in there, but let me give you the highlights. Our informant’s name was Eddie Chauvet. A real playboy. I believe the English would call him a ‘wheeler and dealer’. Anything you wanted, Chauvet could get it for you. For a price obviously.”

“Capitalism at its finest” muttered Unterwald, as he started going through the manilla folder on the desk.

“Indeed” agreed Durand, “but then Eddie hit a snag. He was caught with a large quantity of drugs during a routine police traffic stop. Facing serious jail time, Chauvet started blabbing about everything he knew. Eventually he told us about the supposed assassination plot.”

“He sounds like a drowning rat trying to save himself” said Decker cynically, “what makes you think his story checks out?”

“As I said, I always err on the side of extreme caution” said Durand, picking at imaginary fluff on his suit, “so I ordered my staff to look into the matter. Dot the i’s and so on. Chauvet had named two senior people allegedly connected to the plot. So we put them under electronic surveillance.”

“Did you pick them up?” asked Schmitz.

“No” said Durand, “I was considering it but I was ordered to stand down by my director. No reason given. I was told the matter was going to be handled by another agency. But when I checked yesterday, I found the case had been closed and the surveillance ended. Our supposed plotters have now disappeared.”

“Did you confront your director about it?” said Decker.

“No because what good would it do? I decided to come here and ask our German Intelligence friends for help. After all, if anything happens to the President on German soil, that is a black eye for the German government.”

“Let me see if I understand this” said Decker, “you have an extremely shaky circumstantial case that does not mention a presidential assassination once. In fact the only person who mentions the A word was, according to you, someone who was desperately trying to avoid prison. So far you’re not exactly convincing me.”

“Call it a gut feeling” said Durand, “I think Chauvet is telling the truth. Besides him being murdered, why would the director shut down the investigation without telling me?”

“Because he too could see that you had nothing?”

Durand sighed and looked at Unterwald. “You assured me that I would receive cooperation. This is not what I would call it.”

Unterwald closed the file. “Major Decker does raise some serious valid points. You do have a very weak case and there may many good reasons why your director shut down the case. However, you also are correct. If anything happens to the French President here in Germany, it would look extremely bad if it leaked that we knew in advance and did nothing.”

Unterwald turned to Decker. “You have your orders, Major. Investigate this and if there is anything to it, stop the assassination by any means possible.”

Decker fumed. “Yes sir. Of course.”


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