Jack Mandock

Leo Schwartz Crime Novels in English

An undercover cop was executed on the banks of river Alz in Bavaria. Leo Schwartz and his colleagues of Mühldorf Police department are searching for the killer. During their investigations, they stumble upon Agarwood, which is the most valuable wood in the world, more expensive than gold, and with a significant smell.
The traces lead the cops to Florence Italy. Will they find the killer there?
They find out much more…

 

 

 

 

 

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1.

He was forced to approach the shore of the Alz at gunpoint. What the hell was the man planning? He was nauseous and would’ve loved to throw up. But he had to keep a clear head and pay attention to every minute detail – maybe he still had a chance to somehow get out of this damned situation. ‘Think! And most of all: stay calm, goddamnit!’
“Do you want money? I’ll give you as much as you want! I’m rich!”, he said as calmly as possible, although that was a total lie. He neither had cash nor did he possess any kind of valuables. On the contra-ry, when he purchased an apartment, he had gotten himself into just about as much debt as he could possibly handle. But that was not important now, he had to get out of this somehow and if a lie helped him, so be it.
So far, the man hadn’t said a word. Through his body language and signs he made it completely clear what was to be done.
How did it get this far? It was a day like any oth-er; nothing indicated that this dilemma would occur. Had he been careless? Should he have paid more attention? Everything seemed perfect! And then the man had intercepted him directly in front of his home in Kastl and forced him at gunpoint to enter the car. Of course he complied, what else could he have done? Despite the late hour, the place was full of people sitting comfortably in their gardens or chatting in the streets. Dogs and their owners were out for a walk since the temperatures were now somewhat bearable. Even a few teenagers had gathered on the nearby playground, laughing and chatting. No, he couldn’t risk putting up resistance here; it was way too dangerous for bystanders. This, together with the man’s cold eyes that instilled fear on him, instantly made it clear that he wasn’t going to be messed around with. In the car, he had his hands bound behind his back with a cable tie. Of course he immediately tried to free himself of those shackles and get out of the car, but he just didn’t succeed – the cable ties were tightened until they hurt and left no room whatsoever, and the car was locked. He tried to engage the man in a conversation but he did not react and just looked straight ahead.
Where was the man heading? They drove to Burgkirchen past the Gendorf facility and took a right turn in the roundabout.
“What do you want from me? Just spit it out”, he was now screaming in panic. Without hesitation, the man struck out and punched him directly in the face. The strike was so sudden and with such force that he was catapulted to the side and dazed for a short time. ‘This cannot be happening, pull yourself to-gether! You have to keep a clear head!’
Finally the car stopped and they waited – they waited for what seemed to be an eternity. The man still didn’t say a word but left the car from time to time to have a smoke. But what was he doing? Was he really bending down to pick up the cigarette buds? ‘Only pros did that! Oh my god!’ By now he was sweating from all pores and the sweat was burning in his eyes. One was bleeding from the strike, and was swelling fast until he was unable to see with it. The temperatures in the car had reached a tropical level, paired with immeasurable fear be-cause he knew what was awaiting him.
The man walked a couple of meters and ob-served the sky before reaching for his mobile phone and speaking a couple of words. He returned to the car, opened the back door and pulled him out of the car with force, again holding his weapon directly in front of his face.
“What the hell do you want from me? What’s the reason for all of this? Do you want money? Valu-ables? Take my wallet and my watch!” he screamed at him in despair. “Listen, we’re both adults, we can talk and find a solution.” He just started talking and kept repeating sentences. He had to gain time – per-haps fate would be on his side.
“Chiudi il becco!”, the man screamed and forced him to walk in front of him.
He didn’t understand a word.
“What do you want from me?” His screams now hysterical.
“Chiudi il becco!”, the man shouted again in a stern voice. “Dai!”, he added and with his gun he pointed in the direction he was supposed to go. That surely sounded like Italian – or was he mistaken? ‘Focus!’, he told himself.
He took a deep breath and searched the scene with his eyes in despair. It was pitch-dark, probably long after midnight – he had lost any feeling of time. Throughout this August day, it had been humid and incredibly hot. During the last few hours, a storm had been brewing and was about to unload soon. In the distance, lightning and thunder could be made out. One – two – three -… he automatically counted, as he had learned from his grandmother. That way he could tell how many kilometers the storm was away. What kind of garbage am I thinking about? Who cares? Stay calm and try not to freak out! Again he imagined his grandmother and how she was standing near the stove in her colorful apron, stirring a pot and smiling at him – he could even smell his favorite food! Had he gone completely insane? Pull yourself together! He tried to calm himself.
Here they were standing, in the thicket of the Alz shore, which was only a couple of meters away. He was certain that the Alz was here, because he could still see the Gendorf facility. He forced himself to breath calmly, even though this was becoming more and more difficult. There was nobody to be seen far and wide – where are the dog owners and night owls when you need them? Calling for help was futile, but he had to try. He screamed as loud as he could and even tried to run away from this mad man – he now didn’t care if the guy would shoot, because he would do so anyway at some point. That much was certain. He ran for his life, tripped, and the man put him back on his feet with ease. Look at him and smile! – Hadn’t he heard that somewhere? He tried it, but the man that he had never seen be-fore until today didn’t even look at him, but pushed him instead and with his weapon indicated that he should keep on walking.
Then he heard two successive shots and felt a strong piercing pain.

2.

“No thanks, I don’t want to eat. Just tell me, what you want from me”, an annoyed Werner Grös-sert said. His mother had requested an urgent per-sonal conversation – something she rarely did. She especially insisted on a neutral location far away from Mühldorf am Inn where everybody knew her – Werner suggested the beer garden on the outskirts of Altötting where he and his wife had enjoyed a formidable meal together the day before. Mrs Grös-sert seemed completely out of place in the Altötting beer garden with her obscenely expensive costume, the shiny jewelry and her general appearance; just as much as the 39 year old Werner Grössert, who always wore correct clothing for his job in the homi-cide division in Mühldorf am Inn, even on such hot days as this one. The storm last night had not cooled the air one bit because it just passed by with thun-der and lightning. Roughly 30 kilometers away, the storm had caused great damage. The districts Mühldorf and Altötting were almost completely spared, but the tropical temperatures of the last days continued. The waiter brought water in beer mugs which Mrs Grössert acknowledged with dis-dain – she hated drinking from such glasses – but there were more important issues right now.
“I would like to make it clear that this conversa-tion will have to remain between the two of us. Not even your father may know a word”, Mrs Grössert asserted while she dabbed the sweat of her fore-head and looked around nervously. She was content as she realized that on this hot August day they were sitting alone here in the corner and were able to talk freely.
“Whatever.”
“Good, I am counting on it. I don’t have much time, so I’ll make this short: your father and I have been terrorized in the last couple of weeks.” She took a deep breath and let those words sink in. Werner Grössert did not seem at all surprised or concerned, he even smirked.
“Aren’t you slightly exaggerating?”
“Not at all. Your father has been receiving strange mail for quite some time. But even worse: somebody put the tax authorities on our trail. Just imagine: a tax audit in our office! What if word gets around?”
The Grössert law practice was a third generation family run business with an excellent reputation in Mühldorf. Of course, the Grössert couple, both law-yers, was not happy that their only son Werner had not wished to study Jura, which would have secured the succession within the law firm. He preferred a career as a police officer. Mrs Grössert had begged her son to rethink his decision time and again until she finally gave up. Subsequently, she only held loose contact with him. She never missed a chance to let him feel how disappointed she was with him. Dr Grössert was even more drastic in his reaction – he did not talk much with his son, avoided him whenever possible and usually treated him like a stranger.
CSteady on: you said that father is receiving strange mail. Since when does father allow you to read his mail?”
“That is not important. Good god, that is not im-portant. Try and focus on what’s relevant. I got the mail out of the trash and took a brief look at it. Not a word to your father, you promised!” she insisted yet again. “Apparently you have not fully understood because the mail is not the primary issue, just a side note so you understand how dire the situation is and to make you believe that someone is after us.”
“Spit it out, what do you want from me?”
“You’re with the police, do something and help us. Avert the tax audit.” Mrs Grössert took the beer mug into both hands and drank a sip of water. She was very upset, the whole matter cost her a lot of nerves.
“And how do you imagine I do that, mother? I’m with the homicide division. How am I supposed to stop a tax audit?”
“But you’re a police officer and you can use your influence. As far as I know, you even have a friend in the tax office, this guy Bernd works there who made it despite his lowly background, so I’ve heard. I had hoped that in your line of work you had gotten to know people who could help in such cases – we would, of course, spare no costs.”
“Wait a minute. You want me to bribe people in order to avert this tax audit? Have you completely lost your mind?” Werner Grössert was outraged. What his mother was asking was out of the question for him; he was not corrupt and would never even think of bribing anyone.
“But you have to understand, we cannot afford to see private or business-related information fall into the wrong hands. Everybody knows how these things go: when authorities conduct an audit, they always find something, even if it’s just small details. I don’t even want to imagine what people will say. They will catch wind, somebody always talks! Mühldorf is literally a village. Nothing happens there without everybody knowing. And what if the press becomes aware? There are many enviers only wait-ing for a chance to cause us damage. Son, you have to do something immediately. We are a family; we have to stick together in difficult times.”
“Where are these letters you talked about?”
“Where they belong: in the trash.”
“What exactly did they say?”
“Nothing special, that’s not the point. Forget the letters, damnit. Take care of the tax audit, that’s the problem – aren’t you listening? Do you understand what this is about and what’s on the line?”
Werner Grössert looked at his mother and shook his head.
“As a lawyer you probably know that my hands are tied. How am I supposed to avert a tax audit? I don’t have that kind of authority. I will certainly not offer bribes, forget that. But okay, I will get in touch with Bernd, just for you. Even though I really don’t like doing that. I can only hope that I can get some information from him. There is nothing else I can do.”
“That is it? Forgive me, but I thought you had more options at your disposal.”
“I’m sorry. As I said, I am with the homicide divi-sion and have nothing to do with taxes and such. Why are you so afraid? You have done nothing any-thing wrong!
“Of course not.”
“Then they won’t find anything. Calm down, it will all sort itself out. But if you receive that kind of mail again, contact me immediately. Do you under-stand? That kind of thing is part of my job and I have a lot of possibilities there.
She simply nodded, knowing exactly that her son would never get his hands on those letters. Their content would be a shocking revelation for Werner.
Werner Grössert’s mobile phone rang.
Sorry mother, I have to get back to work.”
Neither of them noticed the young woman who stood at some distance watching them. She could not understand a single word, but the gesticulations and the location alone told her that they were talk-ing about the letters she was anonymously sending Dr Wilhelm Grössert.
The thought of their contents made her smile because she had planned to shock and scare the recipient. Apparently, she had succeeded. She had been tailing the Grössert couple for a few days, not only lurking and watching near their private home for hours but also near the office – then finally she saw him with her own eyes: so that is Werner Grös-sert! Initially, she only knew him from old photo-graphs and stories. She didn’t know how to find him because he didn’t visit his parents very often and he wasn’t registered in the telephone book. She only knew what he looked like and the Mühldorf license plate on his car. It did not take her long to find out where and how he lived and what his job was. She already knew that he had not become a lawyer. There was no registered lawyer or law firm in the district of Mühldorf or anywhere else under the name Werner Grössert. She assumed that Werner might have joined the law firm of his parents, but it took her only one single phone call to find out that this was not the case.
She was very excited and looked forward to finding out more details of Werner Grössert’s life. She was thrilled and curious.
The next phase of her plan had already begun, from now on she would not let Werner Grössert out of her sight!

3.

On the way to where the body had been found near Burgkirchen, Werner Grössert thought about the weird conversation he had had with his mother. She had seriously had the nerve to ask him to bribe acquaintances in order to avert the tax audit. As outrageous as that suggestion was, it showed that his mother must have been very desperate if she was willing to resort to such methods. And what is it with those letters? Why did she mention them and at the same time insist that they weren’t important? There was more to that. Every time she wasn’t tell-ing the truth, she always had that twitching in her eyes, and he had seen that twitch quite clearly. And then the tax audit. Why is she so nervous because of a tax audit? He was certain that the law firm was in great shape, although he could imagine that his par-ents were capable of not being exactly compliant with the law when it came to financial matters – was that the cause for her concern? No matter what, he had to make some investigations, as unlikeable as his parents were – they were still his parents after all, and he had to help them. At least he agreed with his mother on one point: they were a family and they had to stick together, although his parents had not exactly been giving off ‘family vibes’ so far. Since his decision to join the police force, they had been avoiding him and didn’t hide their disappointment about his decision. It had become worse since his wedding – they were not happy with the woman he had chosen because of her working class back-ground. Werner was mad at his parents and briefly considered letting them down – but then he wouldn’t be any different from them! No, he had to help them.
Werner Grössert took a turn and directly drove to the allotments in Burgkirchen where he had ar-ranged to meet his colleagues from the Mühldorf homicide division. During the drive he noticed a small red car that was following him at a constant distance – the car even took the same turn and drove in the same direction as him – perhaps only a coincidence?
He could see his colleague Leo Schwartz, who had noticed him as well and was waving whilst ap-proaching his car. He parked his car on a graveled parking lot. What about the small red car? Was it still behind him? Had he become so paranoid that he saw crime everywhere? ‘Pull yourself together!’ He got out of the car and looked in the direction in which he had last seen the small red car – it wasn’t there anymore. There you go, just a dream!
“A body in the river Alz, the man with the dog there found him. Can you please take care of that man, he speaks some crazy Bavarian dialect – I can’t understand a word.”
The 49 year old Swabian had been moved from Ulm to Mühldorf am Inn roughly a year ago, after a rather ugly incident he did not wish to talk about. Werner Grössert was neither curious by nature nor interested in the matter: he quickly got used to the new colleague and liked him a lot – except for his terrible outfits. Today Leo Schwartz was wearing horrible clothes again: Jeans, old leather boots and a dark t shirt with a printing from a rock band Werner Grössert had never heard of.
“Have you come alone? Where are the others?”
“They’re on their way; they should be here any minute.”
Werner approached the 62 year old hat wearing man who was waiting nervously.
“How long is this going to take? I have to take my dog for a walk, he hasn’t done his business yet.”
Werner now understood Leo Schwartz’s prob-lem, because not only did the man speak a strong dialect, he also mumbled like crazy.
“You found a body?”
He nodded.
“I immediately saw him lying there. He was as dead as can be.”
“Did you touch the body or anything else?”
“No, I didn’t touch a thing. Can I go now?”
“I need your details.”
“Hinterberger”, he said and pulled out his ID card. Werner Grössert wrote down the information.
“You are free to go. Thank you, Mr Hinterberger. We will contact you if we have any further ques-tions.”
“Come on, Wasti, we can go now. God be with you”, he bid farewell, slightly lifting his hat.
His colleague Hans Hiebler had now arrived. As it was hot, the 52 year old was wearing a pair of light jeans, slippers and a short sleeve white shirt that emphasized his suntan. His modern sunglasses and new haircut made him look years younger. He just looked fabulous and was very popular with women.
“Hi guys. Where’s the body?”
“Don’t you dare go there before I personally have approved the location”, they heard the voice of Friedrich Fuchs, head of the forensics depart-ment. The small, lean, crimson-headed 35-year-old man vigorously passed by the other officers on his way to the body. His colleagues were barely able to catch up.
“Come on, quick, quick”, Friedrich Fuchs pushed his people, “shut off the site before these amateurs mess anything up. We’re lucky yesterday’s storm was a dry one.”
Grössert, Hiebler and Schwartz stood a few me-ters away waiting for Fuchs to provide them with information, which seemed to take ages. Fuchs didn’t particularly like anybody. He was pedantic, moody and not very friendly – but he did a fantastic job.
“Didn’t our boss mention a new superior? When is he coming? And above all, who is he? If I’m hon-est, I don’t think we need any substitute, we can handle things on our own.”
Their superior who was Leo’s partner Viktoria Untermaier had been severely injured a couple of weeks ago and, against her will, had to go into rehab because the healing process was not going the way the doctors and especially Viktoria herself had hoped it would. She was in severe pain and the wound was only healing slowly – her psyche had suffered immensely from this incident; she couldn’t sleep well, had nightmares and woke up numerous times at night drenched in sweat. Leo, the doctors and even her colleagues had practically begged her to go to rehab, and she finally gave in. She had been in treatment for two weeks since her sick leave, her position needed to be filled as soon as possible. The chief of the Mühldorf police force, Rudolf Krohmer, was avoiding the matter and hoped that he could postpone a decision until Viktoria Untermaier was healthy and ready to work again. But the interior ministry had put him under pressure. Leaving such a position vacant for so long was both unusual and intolerable. Nobody envied Krohmer because he could not give the job to any of his own people: Leo Schwartz was too new to take over the position, and the incident in Ulm was still looming over him which had caused him to be transferred here to Mühldorf a year ago. It was a shame – he had all the right quali-fications. Werner Grössert was too young even though he would probably have been thrilled to take over such a responsible interim position. And Hans Hiebler had declined immediately upon being asked. He thought he was unfit for the job and had no am-bition whatsoever of ever holding such a position; he was content with his job and rank, and he didn’t want to change a thing. The chief of the Mühldorf police inspection therefore was under pressure to contact Munich with his request, which he had done two weeks ago. A suitable candidate had actually been found. The police inspectors, however, weren’t yet aware, Krohmer would brief them later.
“Come on, Fuchs. Don’t keep us on tenterhooks. What can you tell us?” Hans Hiebler was impatient. He didn’t like waiting, especially not in this searing heat.
“You’ll have to wait until I can tell you more,” Fuchs answered without looking away for a second. He enjoyed this moment thoroughly and wanted to savor every second. In his opinion, his work and he himself were not valued enough by his colleagues, and he was feeling especially important right now.
Suddenly an older woman in hiking boots, jeans and a colorful blouse crossed the barrier and directly approached Friedrich Fuchs, before any of the other police officers could hold her back. Of course they had noticed her, but they assumed that she was just out for a walk.
“Are you out of your mind?” Friedrich Fuchs screamed in fury while jumping up and dashing to-wards the woman. “Get out of here immediately. Are you blind? Don’t you see that this is a crime sce-ne?”
Without saying a word, the small, lean, 58-year-old woman with blazing red curls showed her ID.
“Excuse me for not recognizing you immediately, but these sunglasses… My name is Friedrich Fuchs, head of the Mühlendorf forensics department. Of course I know you, Mrs Westenhuber. My pleas-ure.”
Friedrich Fuchs was abashed, almost whispering. He wiped the sweat away from his forehead and bowed slightly.
“What do we have?” the woman said looking at the corpse.
Grössert, Hiebler and Schwartz had watched the scene and now also crossed the barrier. Who was that woman? And why was Fuchs so submissive and willing to give her information?
“Male body, approx. 35-40 years old, Mediterra-nean type, no documents, mobile phone or other. Two bullet entry wounds in the back, plus the hands were fixated on the back with a cable tie. The inju-ries to the face were obtained while he was still alive.”
“And that took you so long? Well well,” Mrs Westenhuber said in a deep voice.
“That’s just a rough initial report.” Fuchs replied.
“Of course.”
She left Fuchs to his devices and waved to the other police officers, indicating to follow her.
“I would like to introduce myself: my name is Waltraud Westenhuber. I will be replacing Mrs Un-termaier during her leave. I hope our cooperation will be fruitful and fair. I am not a fan of chit chat. I prefer it when things are discussed directly. I am mainly interested in facts, but I am open for sugges-tions or any other type of fantasy. You’ve got to be Leo Schwartz.” she turned to Leo, “I have heard a lot about you. I’m impressed. But you can forget going solo as you did during your last case in Ulm. If you intend to single-handedly involve any third parties, you will be in serious trouble. Nothing here happens without my knowledge and approval. Understood?” Leo only nodded, immediately understanding what she was referring to. The woman knew his file – and she had apparently heard from his girlfriend and the Ulm pathologist Christine Künstle, who had unoffi-cially helped him in Mühldorf with some cases. Chris-tine was also very popular with the colleagues in Mühldorf. He had always gladly sought her help, especially when they required medical or pathologi-cal assistance.
“You’re Werner Grössert,” Mrs Westenhuber continued as she eyed him up and down. “Do you always walk around as dandified as that? Ah well, it makes sense since you’re from one of the most re-spected families in Mühldorf. They probably weren’t happy to see the prodigal son go off and become a police officer.” Grössert was now nodding as well. “Strut around as you please, I don’t care. I prefer comfortable and functional second hand clothing and expect no comments to be made about that. And you, pretty boy, are Hans Hiebler.” She now eyed him up and down as well. Hans Hiebler felt very uncomfortable. “I’ve heard of your affairs. Re-strain yourself while I’m here – especially when it comes to the women involved in this case. I don’t want any conflicts of interest or disturbances in this matter. When the case is closed, you can do what you want.”
“Too kind.”, Hiebler uttered.
The police officers were speechless. Apparently, Mrs Westenhuber not only knew all personnel files by heart, she even had information beyond those files.
“One thing we should set straight right away: My colleagues have character and will not be stalled by a man like Fuchs back there. Understood?” She looked at her watch. “We’ll meet in the office in Mühldorf at 2:00 P.M. It’s almost 12:00 A.M., I would like to go for a run. The drive to this location has ex-hausted me, my limbs are stiff. See you later.”
She laughed as she looked at her colleagues’ puzzled faces; then she walked to her vehicle. She loved appearances like that and enjoyed them thor-oughly.
“What was that?”, Leo asked while he watched her walking away.
“That’s your new superior, and you should be glad that such a competent individual has agreed to come and help us out in Mühldorf,”, Friedrich Fuchs said with an admiring glance.
“What do we know about her?”
“I’ve visited a couple of her lectures. She has two PhDs and hates it when you use them when addressing her. She has also been to many training courses in America and is buddies with some of the most powerful men over there. Such a modest and vigorous woman. She also has a razor-sharp mind and is excellent at combining. What on earth caused her to come to Mühldorf? One thing is for certain, Mrs Westenhuber is totally overqualified for this position.”
“Fuchs, that’s utter bullshit. We’re not in provin-cial backwater. People here also have a right to have high quality personnel at their service,”, snorted Hans Hiebler, who was hopping mad because of the woman’s remarks. He got in his car and sped off. How dare that silly goose say something like that! He was a bachelor and could meet as many women as he pleased. That was a private matter and none of her goddamn business. And it was one of his basic rules not to meet with women he had gotten to know during a case – did Mrs Westenhuber think he was an amateur? Not only was he mad, but also of-fended.
Grössert was also mad at the new superior. He didn’t have to be ashamed of his family and could wear whatever he pleased. He did not judge others by their outfits and expected the same from them. As he drove off, he had already completely forgot-ten the small red car from a while ago. He was deep in thought and still livid until he decided to call his wife and ask her how she was. She was doing well and was in a great mood. She had even managed to digest what she had eaten – good news considering her current condition, and that made him very hap-py. He had calmed down shortly before reaching Mühldorf and didn’t notice the small red car that had been following him from Burgkirchen.
Only Leo Schwartz was amused by Waltraud Westenhuber’s comments because she was exactly his type: direct, not afraid to speak her mind and with a clear vision. He did not care how many PhDs or training courses she had done – he was looking forward to working with her and hoped to learn from her. And with regards to Christine Künstle – well, that was just a matter of arrangements.
Warily, Hiebler, Grössert, Schwartz and Fuchs sat in the conference room of the police inspection in Mühldorf. They had no idea what their new superior would come up with next. At exactly 2:00 P.M., Ru-dolf Krohmer and the new colleague joined them. Mrs Westenhuber’s hair was soaking wet, she was wearing a police shirt and sweatpants. She had obvi-ously just taken a shower.
“This is our new colleague Mrs Westenhuber who has agreed to cover for Mrs Untermaier during her leave of absence.”
“Cut it out Rudi, we’ve already had the pleas-ure.”
Westenhuber and Krohmer seemed quite famil-iar with each other – how interesting.
“Well, then that’s off the table and we can go on to the current murder case,”, Rudolf Krohmer said with an amused glance at the puzzled faces of his colleagues. He would give them more detailed in-formation later. He was surprised that Munich had chosen this particular colleague and was not too happy about her presence. The door opened and Hilde Gutbrod, the secretary, brought fresh coffee.
“Mrs Gutbrod,”, Krohmer said, “how nice. And while we’re at it, I may as well introduce you to our new colleague Westenhuber. She will replace Mrs Untermaier until she is well again.”
Both women eyed each other.
“How nice, finally someone my age,” Mrs West-enhuber said amused.
“I don’t think so. I must me many years younger than you.”, Mrs Gutbrod answered. As was often the case, she was wearing very youthful clothes: a short pink dress paired with white high heels so high they probably required a permit. Her blond hair was freshly dyed and adorned with many colorful clips. Mrs Gutbrod was annoyed by the derogatory re-mark since she had only just had her face and lips filled last week and now looked like 40 even though she was 61, as the employees at the beauty salon repeatedly told her. How dare that strange woman make such a comment?
“You’re mistaken, Mrs Gutbrod. I know your file and therefore also know that I am the younger one. I’m not over 60 and am not about to retire, sadly. Nevertheless, you look fabulous considering your age and I hope we’ll work together well. But I am aware of your nosiness and would like to ask you to restrain yourself during my presence. Are we under-stood?”
Mrs Gutbrod stared at Mrs Westenhuber open mouthed. Without uttering another word, she angri-ly walked out of the room. Nobody other than her boss Rudolf Krohmer knew her true age – or so she thought. And she was not at all nosy! Interested, yes, but definitely not nosy. How dare this woman expose her in front of her colleagues! And her age was none of that woman’s business. She had not seen such impertinent behavior in quite a while. Oh well, if she wants war, she can have it!
“Traudl, please watch yourself, you mustn’t ruin relations with my secretary on the first day! – but back to our case. Mr Fuchs, I know it is almost im-possible to say anything definitive after such a short time. But do you have any information for us?”
Friedrich Fuchs harrumphed. He was as red as a lobster. He had only just returned from where the body was found and had obtained a rather strong sunburn. But as Mrs Westenhuber, whom he ad-mired greatly, was now part of the team, he did his best and hurried up. He pushed his people to their limits, much to their dismay – of course he himself worked as precisely as always.
“As a matter of fact, there isn’t a lot. The body was brought to the pathology department in Traun-stein. I requested that it be given priority. I know the department’s head, we studied together.” Fuchs smiled from ear to ear.
“What would you say: how long was the body in the water?”
“I can imagine what you’re getting at, Mrs West-enhuber: is the location where the body was found also the crime scene or was the body dumped into the water elsewhere and floated in the Alz, and if so, for how long…”
“I see we understand each other, Mr Fuchs. Great. So what is your opinion?”
“I really don’t want to forestall my colleagues at the pathology…”
“Spit it out, I just want to hear your personal opinion. That wasn’t your first water corpse, was it?”
“Of course not. Very well, as you wish: in my opinion, the body was in the water for a day at the most and, if at all, did not float very far as the traces on the body indicate. Furthermore, the Alz is very shallow right now, thus making a transport over longer distances highly unlikely. I suspect that the site the body was found at is not the crime scene and not the place, where the body was dumped into the Alz – we couldn’t find a single trace to that ef-fect. But I do suspect that the location is not far. My colleagues are sweeping the area upstream towards Garching, and with a little luck we might find the spot, maybe even the crime scene – but please, I can’t make any promises since the shore of the Alz is both wide and difficult to access in some places. In addition, a lot of people are in the area due to the nice weather. They may destroy possible traces,” he groaned because he didn’t understand how people could enjoy bathing or having a barbecue – both ac-tivities which he associated with a lot of germs, bac-teria and other dangers.
“What we have so far is that the man was shot, the projectiles have to be examined separately. I cannot tell you yet which caliber was used since the projectiles are still in the victim’s body. But I am al-most certain that the shots were fired from a short distance, somewhere between two to four meters at the most.”
“An execution?”, Hiebler said.
“I will not speculate on that, but the small dis-tance and the arms fixated with cable ties on the back may indicate that. It is our job to find out. Let’s look at the facial injury: it was almost certainly sus-tained shortly before the victim’s death. I suspect a severe blow either with a blunt object or a strong punch – I won’t commit to either, but the latter seems highly likely. We can only make assumptions regarding the victim’s identity: approx. 35 years old, 1.85 m tall, lean, very athletic, short black hair. The numerous tattoos on both the victim’s front and back torso as well as upper arms are striking. Surface photographs have been taken; detailed pictures will be submitted from Traunstein together with the report.”
Fuchs handed out the pictures and had to take a deep breath since he had explained the facts clearly and at very high speed without the aid of any notes. Everybody took a look at the pictures.
“These tattoos are not as striking as they were twenty years ago. Many civilians and almost every athlete has them; they’re the latest fashion. If they are not the characteristic work of some particular artist, it won’t be easy to link these tattoos to some-one”, Leo Schwartz said as he looked through the pictures.
“Yes, these body images are running rampant”, Krohmer groaned, having dealt with this problem numerous times before. “Even the police allows tattoos if they’re not visible and can be hidden un-der clothing.” An absolutely unnecessary regulation for Krohmer, since he didn’t care if a police officer had tattoos or not. He only valued performance; he never paid any attention to such trivialities as he thought them to be a purely private matter.
“Any word from the missing persons office?”
“Negative so far, no match. But we only had a very vague description that applies to many people. Since Fuchs thinks that the victim may be from Southern Europe, we have contacted Interpol. We should have known about the tattoos beforehand; that would have greatly condensed our search.” Hans Hiebler was mad because important infor-mation had not been handed to him immediately. He looked at Fuchs reproachfully. Waltraud West-enhuber not only noticed the look but also the dis-like between the two – she had to intervene, she couldn’t let such sloppiness slide.
“In future those kind of details will be immedi-ately given to all colleagues, understood?”
Fuchs nodded and turned red – he wanted to wait with his information until he could present it personally in a meeting because he hadn’t much to show for otherwise.
“But I didn’t say that the victim may be from Southern Europe. My precise statement was: Medi-terranean type – I would like to make that perfectly clear”, he said with determination.
“Be that as it may, as soon as the report from Traunstein is here, we will hold another meeting.”
Krohmer had heard enough and there was a lot of work waiting for him.
Mrs Westenhuber stood up and went directly to the cantina. She was starving after the rushed de-parture from Munich, the inspection of the discov-ery site of the body and her round of jogging. To her dismay she found that there wasn’t much left from lunch and she had to make do with the leftovers. She chose meat loaf with potato salad and fizzy ap-ple lemonade which she emptied in one sip. She had a big appetite and treated herself to two pieces of cheese cake that she held in her hands and took bites from, which the few colleagues present noted with amusement. Although Waltraud Westenhuber was very athletic, she did not care much for healthy meals and modern clothing and was therefore often subject of ridicule. She also spoke with a Bavarian dialect and did not even try to speak High German in conversations – she was proud of her heritage and did not for one second consider to change in any way. She knew that she was intelligent, but she never made a big deal out of it. On the contrary, she loved playing dumb and leaving people high and dry. She hated nothing more than boasting and sham-ming.
She thought about the case as she drank a cup of coffee. They had pulled the body of a tattooed man who had been killed with two gunshots to the back out of the Alz – with hands fixated on the back. It seemed like a textbook execution, she agreed with her colleague Hiebler. In a big city, she would’ve automatically assumed a gang related crime – but here in the country? Not a chance! Or was she completely wrong and something similar was going on here after all? She had to get started on the case as fast as possible. But above all, she had to gather more information about this river called Alz.
“Is there some sort of criminal underworld here?”, she asked with her mouth full as she en-tered the office. “You know what I mean.”
“Out here in the country? No, certainly not”, Werner Grössert said and shook his head. That was absurd.
“Are you sure? I think there’s nothing that doesn’t exist. Of course criminal organizations could gain a foothold here without us knowing.” Hans Hiebler found the thought very intriguing.
“Cut it out!”, Grössert barked. “The world here is still how it should be. No, there is no organized crime here.
“Why not? Are you really that naive? Thanks to the internet, migration and unlimited travel possibili-ties, we’re fully connected to the rest of the world. There are almost no border patrols any more. And I am convinced that every human has criminal energy, greed, an obsession with power etc., even here in the country. Why else do you think we have so much work to do?” Hiebler pointed out.
“That is not a bad argument. But my opinion is still the same: here in the country, the world is still as it should be.”
“Interesting”, Mrs Westenhuber commented on their discussion, “how else can the way in which the man was killed be explained? I agree with Hiebler: it seems like an execution. We should still entertain that thought. Mr Hiebler, please investigate in this direction. Have I missed anything in the meantime? No? Then let’s get to work. The report from Traun-stein pathology should be here by tonight. Is this my desk?” Westenhuber asked.
Without waiting for an answer she sat at the on-ly free desk. She didn’t turn on the computer but instead put the keyboard aside in order to make room for her laptop which she pulled from her bag; she preferred working with her own tools, including pencils, paper and phone. She first gathered infor-mation about the river known as Alz. The Alz has its origin in the Chiemsee near Seebruch and is 63 km long – which is not very long. The river then flows through or in the vicinity of the following towns: Altenmarkt, Trostberg, Tacherting, Garching, Burg-kirchen (the body was found there), Emmerting, and it joins the Inn near Marktl. She opened a map on her laptop and took a precise look at it. If this Fuchs guy is right and the body wasn’t in the water for very long and had not floated very far, the first couple of towns could be ignored.
So far – so good. She was stuck and had to wait on the report from the pathology as well as the re-sults from the forensics departments. She was cer-tain that the department lead by Fuchs would be meticulous in their work – she knew those types of guys too well: overambitious, pedantic, correct through and through and stubborn. She could bet that Fuchs would find the location where the body was dumped into the water by this evening – per-haps even the crime scene.
The pathology report came in the late evening hours. Robert Krohmer and Werner Grössert were already at home, Hans Hiebler had taken for a ren-dezvous that he didn’t want to postpone – he still didn’t like the new colleague and wouldn’t limit him-self for her. After the last case, he had taken over an enormously responsible task which he devoted him-self to fully but it had a negative impact on his pri-vate life. He had to give Mrs Gutbrod’s niece driving lessons. He had followed her and was shocked by her ruthless and criminal way of driving – he couldn’t let her roam the streets like that. After an intense lecture, he had been able to convince Karin that she desperately needed some coaching. Karin was a simple girl: she was only interested in herself and a potential husband. As a hairdresser, she also placed much value, possibly even too much, on her looks; it took Hiebler a long time to convince her not to wear high heels while driving. It took even longer to ex-plain to her that the rear-view mirror was not for applying makeup but to keep an eye on the traffic behind her.
Mrs Gutbrod made it her personal business to help her niece, who by now was over 40, to find a husband, much to the dismay of her environment. Every opportunity she got, Mrs Gutbrod tried to marry off her niece. They basically only existed as a double act. Hans Hiebler had patiently given her driving lessons for weeks, and it was surely no joy. The woman drove him mad regularly! But what Hiebler set out to do, he always achieved. And he was beginning to see the fruits of his labor because Karin’s manner of driving had improved considerably within the last couple of days. She was now more cautious and aware of her surroundings while driv-ing. Karin had always known traffic signs and their meaning, but now she even started to adhere to them. Hallelujah!
Leo didn’t have any plans for this evening. He hated quiet evenings which he spent alone in front of the TV. Since Viktoria was in rehab and had forced him to promise not to visit her, he was bored out of his mind. The new case came right on cue for him.
“Only us two, Mr Schwartz. Get yourself over here so we can look at the report together.”
Leo brought fresh coffee over which Mrs West-enhuber thankfully accepted; he had watched her drink gallons of coffee and shove tons of chocolate bars inside her. That was certainly not healthy.
“So we’re dealing with a Russian 9mm Makarov. Great, that’s one of the most common weapons.”
“Is it still manufactured these days?”
“Surely. I was at a seminar in Russia 3 years ago”, Mrs Westenhuber told him with shining eyes, “I met a Russian Colonel there, one with all the metal on the chest, a really bloated individual who thought he was oh so important. He told me that this weapon is still used by the local forces there today. As in many countries – the succeeding model is not very popu-lar, although the weapons lobby would love to re-place the Makarov.”
“I quite believe it”, Leo said while taking a closer look at the detailed pictures of the tattoos. “I bet it’s a huge business.”
“Our victim definitely didn’t drown. One of the two projectiles caused a fatal injury. It says that he died instantly. I always find it comforting to know that someone didn’t have to suffer needlessly.”
Leo didn’t quite agree with her because he did make some exceptions: when it came to particularly cruel criminals who terribly mutilated their victims or made them suffer immeasurably – but above all when it came to cases involving children as victims. But as a police officer, he would never say that out loud.
“Here’s a note saying that some lab tests are still pending, the results will be available tomorrow morning. What kind of tests might those be?”
“I have no idea. But if the colleagues want to conduct tests, they must be important.”
Leo took a closer look at the pictures. He didn’t know a lot about tattoos, but some of them were beautiful he had to admit, although he was not a fan of this art. A tattoo or even one of those horrible piercings was completely out of the question for him. The sole thought of needles and the pain he associated with them gave him the shivers – he couldn’t imagine for the life of him how someone would do something like that to themselves.
“Any results regarding the identity of the victim yet?” Mrs Westenhuber interrupted his thoughts.
“No. But I will pass the pictures from Traunstein pathology to the department.”
“Good idea. Is there any coffee left?”
There was a timid knock on the door, Leo imme-diately looked at his watch: it was 9:38 P.M., pretty late for a visit.
“Mr Fuchs? Don’t tell me you’re still working”, Mrs Westenhuber greeted him in delight.
“Of course, just like you. I just wanted to inform you that we found the locations in question. The site at which the victim was dumped into the Alz as well as the crime scene. The traces are clear”, he cried out, radiating with joy and pride. He placed the cor-responding pictures on Mrs Westenhuber’s desk. “Here you can see the crime scene, not far away from where the body was found. It is only approx. 150m upstream. We were also able to find one bul-let case body in the undergrowth – the second one is not there. Here on the picture you can clearly see the grinding marks on the riverbank. I am certain that we can pair those marks with the victims shoes. The results should be in tomorrow. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any traces of blood since it’s so dark – we will go out looking after the meeting tomorrow morning. The location was secured and locked down. With your approval, I positioned a po-lice officer to guard the area.”
Friedrich Fuchs was bursting with pride.
“Great work, Mr Fuchs. I’m really impressed. If one of the two bullet cases is missing, that could mean we’re dealing with a pro. Who else would be so cautious?”
“That is pure speculation. It could have gotten lost in who knows how many ways. But we should not leave that stone unturned, I agree.” Leo did not participate in the discussion about the criminal un-derworld here in the country, but he was inclined to agree with Hiebler that nothing is impossible. Why shouldn’t there be something like that here? The conditions were practically ideal; everybody trusted everyone and the police did not show much pres-ence. The thought gave him the shivers, because if that really was the case, they had a problem.
“Be that as it may. Mr Fuchs, since you were so diligent, I would like to invite you to a beer. You’ve earned it. What do you say?”
“I’d love to.” Friedrich Fuchs couldn’t believe how lucky he was. Never before had he received a private invitation from a colleague, and now he was the guest of honor of such a high ranking lady as Mrs Westenhuber.
They both took off and Leo couldn’t help but laugh – Mrs Westenhuber twisted him around her little finger. What a joy to watch. Leo now also had to head home, but he had to force himself not to think about the case, and that wasn’t easy. He would’ve preferred to speak with Viktoria and ex-change thoughts, but he didn’t want to bother her at such a late hour. She was hopefully fast asleep.
He parked his car in Aunt Gerda’s courtyard. She was Hiebler’s aunt, but everybody only called her Aunt Gerda. He had moved into a newly constructed flat over a year ago and was very comfortable here. It was already dark and he tried to lock the car door quietly in order to not wake Aunt Gerda. But it was too late: Felix greeted him with loud barking! Leo tried to silence the dog, but that was a lost cause. He jumped up to Leo, ran away like a maniac and then fetched a ball. Of course he played with the dog, he couldn’t help it since he was prone to distraction. The door opened and Aunt Gerda came out with two glasses of red win in her hand. She turned on the exterior light and sat down on the wooden bench.
“Come have a seat, you probably had a day of hard work”, she said smiling and passed him a glass.
“I’m sorry if I woke you, but Felix…”
“Not a problem, I know that he’s an irresistible little fellow. Besides, I can’t sleep in that heat any-way.
Leo sat down next to Aunt Gerda and gave her a kiss on the cheek while Felix waited eagerly for him to throw the ball again and again until he jumped on the bench between the two and lay down exhaust-ed.
Leo had saved the dog during his first case with the Mühldorf police force from the neglected Sinder farm. He was in bad shape. Aunt Gerda had taken the little guy into her heart immediately and given him a place to stay. He was nothing like he was when Leo found him. Felix was healthy and certainly the boss around the house.
Aunt Gerda and Leo sat there in silence and drank their red wine. Leo was slowly able to leave work behind him and relax. The stars were sparkling in the sky and there was almost no cloud to be seen, only the occasional vapor trail of an airplane; other-wise everything was calm and peaceful. If Viktoria were here now, everything would be perfect!