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The Renegade Spy

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The Renegade Spy

Mark O’Neill

To Monika & Schlumpf,

my muses

Contents

Foreword

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Acknowledgments

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***

For details, see the back of this book!

Copyright © 2017 by Mark O’Neill

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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h1=. Praise For “The Renegade Spy”


bq. “If Die Hard would have had a female lead, Decker would have been it”.

“Sophie Decker is my newest favorite heroine”.

This is the sort of book that is very difficult to put down once you start reading it”.

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h1=. Chapter One

It was a good night for a killing.

Those were the first thoughts of the assassin known as the Scorpion, as he quietly entered the darkened room of the rented rundown apartment. He set down the thick black canvas bag on the dirty rug. His muscles were cramped, so he stretched his shoulders and slowly rotated his neck until he could feel the discomfort easing.

Crouching down, he crawled over to the window and peered out. The neon lights of the brothel on the opposite side of the street blinked on and off, slightly illuminating the apartment.

But the Scorpion remained in the shadows. There was no real need to worry – there was zero chance of the target’s bodyguards noticing him up there on the fifth floor. He had been observing them for almost a week, and he had rapidly come to the conclusion that they were all inept idiots, hired for their brawn, rather than their brains.

But the Scorpion hadn’t survived this long by taking unnecessary risks. In fact, he was excessive in the amount of caution he took, as well as the preparation time before he carried out a job.

He took off his expensive dark suede jacket and folded it neatly, placing it beside him, despite the grime that covered the floor. The meticulousness of the process calmed him before each job, each routine having an important place in his mind. Any disruption to this routine deeply disturbed him. Superstition was a weakness of his, although he would be loathe to admit it.

The absence of the jacket revealed that he was a muscular athletic man. He had a chiseled chin, a buzzcut haircut, skin tight around the face, and a dark brown suntan, courtesy of the French Foreign Legion. But nobody knew of his Legion background. Nor did anyone know his real name. He had taken steps after coming out of the Legion to ensure all traces of his existence had been totally wiped out. He remained a shadow, living on the fringes of society. Those in the business that live a high profile are the ones begging to be arrested. The Scorpion had no such desire to end up like that.

He flipped up the catches on his case and opened the lid, to reveal a sniper’s rifle inside. Lightweight and with a range of just over 700 metres, the battered rifle had always been his weapon of choice. It had never let him down once, and had travelled the world with him. He had lost count of the number of kills he had managed to achieve with it. There was something almost sexual by the way he stroked it and examined it minutely. It had never jammed on him and had saved his life on more than one occasion.

Realising he was wasting precious time with his thoughts, he screwed a silencer onto the end of the barrel, then methodically began to load the gun with high-calibre ammunition. All the time, he periodically peered out of the window to make sure things were as they should be outside.

When he was satisfied the gun was ready, he moved over to the window and opened it. He had been back earlier that day to oil the hinges to ensure the window frame didn’t squeak, and sure enough, it soundlessly swung open a slight crack. The Scorpion smiled. So far, so good.

The room was stifling hot, so the sudden breeze from outside brushed against his face and felt very pleasant. He tilted his face back and forth against the cold air until the cloying sweat on his forehead began to disappear. He then carefully and slowly swung up the gun, and checking the street once more, pushed the gun barrel through the crack of the open window.

Looking through the telescopic sights, he turned on the night-vision and everything in the street suddenly turned green and brought into sharp contrast. He slowly moved the gun around, taking in the entire area. Then he saw a glow, and eventually realised it was a couple of men standing in the shadows of the adjacent alleyway smoking. At first he thought they were customers or just plain drunks taking a detour on the next stop to a bar. But then he realised it was the target’s bodyguards.

Amateurs, he snorted in derision. They had just given their position away with their nicotine cravings. Ah well, their idiocy would be his gain. He now knew exactly where the hired help was.

He swung the gun back to the entrance. The door opened, and the Scorpion tensed, with his finger hovering near the trigger guard. But when the man came out, he could see that it was not who he had been contracted to take out. Instead it was a drunk sated businessman who had experienced the illicit pleasures of the flesh, and was now going home to lie to his wife about where he had been. The Scorpion took a deep breath and slowly moved his index finger away from the trigger.

As he continued scanning the street down below, he thought to himself that the longer he waited here, the more chance there was of one of the bodyguards looking up, and seeing him. But then he remembered his wait wouldn’t be long, as his client was preparing to lure the target out into the Scorpion’s waiting arms. They were both keen to get it done quickly, so the client was going to provide a big nudge towards the door.

Vladimir Rostov was considered by Interpol to be one of the biggest crime bosses in the whole of Europe. But he preferred to think of himself as an “aggressive entrepreneur”. The tentacles of his empire stretched all over the continent and into Russia. Drugs, guns, women, gambling….he was basically into anything that guaranteed a fast easy buck. Hell, for the right price, he would even kill someone. It didn’t take a lot of skill to stab someone in the back or push them in front of a car. But the one thing he would not do was anything that acted against the best interests of the Russian state. Whatever else he might be, Rostov was a patriot.

He was in his late forties, but looked at least ten years older. Excessive amounts of vodka tended to do that to people. But he didn’t care. In his line of work, you needed something to stay calm and take the edge off. People he worked with snorted drugs up their nose, but all he needed was a good bottle of spirits. Plus in his business, you didn’t live to a ripe old age anyway.

His phone started buzzing in his pocket. He pulled it out, frowned when he saw the number on the caller ID screen, and eventually pressed the green ‘call’ button.

“Yes? Why the hell are you calling me? What do you want?”.

“I need to see you” said the voice at the other end, “it’s urgent. Can you meet me now?”.

“Meet you? Why would I meet you? I have better things to do” he said abruptly, and prepared to hang up.

“Wait!” snapped the voice. “I’ve found out someone is stealing from you”.

Being stolen from always got his attention. If there was one thing he didn’t like, it was other people stealing his money. The irony was lost on him that he had stolen the money from someone else first.

He slowly put the phone back to his ear.

“Alright, it was probably you, but I’ll bite. You’ve piqued my interest. Keep talking”.

“Not on the phone. It’s too risky. Meet me outside the Adlon Hotel in 30 minutes. We’ll talk in the back of your car”.

Rostov’s eyes looked upwards, as he silently counted to three, and then sighed heavily. “Fine, but if this is a waste of my time, your head will be on a rusty metal spike. Understand?”

“30 minutes” said the other man, and hung up.

Rostov swore softly. It was bloody cold outside and he had no desire to go halfway across the city just to see that leech. But if he was really getting ripped off, he had to find out who it was.

He signalled to the bodyguard standing inside the door.

“Get the car round. I’m meeting someone at the Adlon”.

The Scorpion was patiently waiting. Finally, his patience was rewarded by a text message on his burner phone. The target was coming out.

He once again rested his eye against the telescopic sight, and breathed in deeply to steady his hands. He placed his finger next to the trigger guard, ready to take the shot.

Suddenly the door of the brothel creaked open, and there was a short burst of loud noise from inside, which abruptly stopped again when the door slammed closed. Rostov was now standing on the pavement, looking thoroughly unhappy, as if he really wanted someone to suffer for his inconveniences. The assassin smiled as he thought about how permanently unhappy Rostov was going to be in a moment.

Who said he couldn’t take a perverse pleasure in his work?

The bodyguards who were standing in the shadows hurriedly stamped out their cigarettes when they saw their employer clearly in a bad temper. The back door of the car was opened and Rostov moved forward to get in.

But he never made it. Suddenly a whizzing and popping sound could be heard and a bullet slammed into Rostov’s head. The top of the skull disintegrated, and the bodyguard behind him had the unfortunate experience of being sprayed with Rostov’s blood and brain matter. Rostov spiralled to the ground like a yo-yo, with a look of utter surprise on what was left of his face.

Suddenly time seemed to stand still. The bodyguards looked at Rostov’s corpse lying in a pool of his own blood. Their shock made them unable to immediately react. Which was all the time the Scorpion needed. Several more pops could be heard in quick succession, and all three bodyguards fell dead on top of their boss. Their blood mingled together on the ground and onto the roadside.

Six seconds. Damn, he was good. But now he had to get out of there before Rostov’s men from inside discovered the bodies, and figured out where the shots had come from.

The Scorpion calmly picked up his brass cartridges from the floor, placed the rifle inside the case again, and put his jacket on. As he opened the door, he cautiously peered out and saw the hallway was empty. The last thing he needed was for a neighbour to take a late night stroll.

Seeing nobody, he closed the door as quietly as he could, walked quickly to the ground floor, and headed for the fire exit at the back. As he walked out the door, he could already hear females screaming coming from out front. Probably one of the workers had gone for a cigarette break and found more than she bargained for. The Scorpion considered screaming the sound of success.

Moments later, he was gone. Gone to collect the rest of his money and to move on to the next assignment. It was a busy life sending people to their deaths.

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h1=. Chapter Two

Captain Sophie Decker was in trouble.

This in itself was nothing new. She was always getting into trouble. If her superiors were asked, they would say that Decker’s main weakness was that she took far too much initiative, whereas others would be more cautious by reporting in and requesting orders.

While initiative was generally commendable, Decker got into trouble because her idea of initiative would quickly turn to recklessness and a bad attitude with her superior officers. The military tended to call that “insubordination”.

Decker secretly despised the bureaucrats and resolved never to become one herself. They were easy to recognise. They were the ones who assessed everything by how much it would hurt the elected officials. The ones who had never served a single day in the military or the intelligence service. The ones who had never had to make a spontaneous operational decision out in the field.

So who were they to tell her how to do her job?

At that precise moment, she was standing in front of one of these very people, Section Chief Franz Richter, whom she regarded as a little despicable toad of a man. Richter made a show of slowly running his expensive silver fountain pen down Decker’s report, while Decker stood there waiting. It was a pathetic attempt to exercise power, to show her that she had to stand there until he deigned to talk to her. Decker resisted the urge to stab Richter in the hand with his own fountain pen.

“So you decided the only possible solution to the matter was to shoot the man?” he said finally in his nasally voice.

“Considering he had a gun and a knife, and was about to start shooting hostages….yeah, you could say that kind of restricted my options a lot” said Decker, irritably.

“So you fired an entire gun into this man’s head in broad daylight, in front of tourists? All of whom had cameras on their phones? Did you know a video was uploaded to YouTube before we managed to get it taken down?”.

“How many hits did it get?”.

“Considering the situation you’re in” said Richter, “you don’t seem unduly concerned about your predicament”.

“Oh and what situation is that?” said Decker, “saving the lives of civilians? Decisively taking down an armed terrorist? Please, no need to get up and thank me”.

Richter shot up behind his desk, and slammed his fists against the surface. “Do you think this is funny, Captain? That this is an amusing game to you? We have rules and you are not immune from them”.

“I never find it amusing to kill someone” said Decker with menace creeping into her voice. “But if I have to choose between someone’s grandmother and an unhinged terrorist begging to go to his seventy-two virgins in Paradise, I’ll choose sweet old Granny any day. Tell me, when was the last time you shot someone out in the field?”.

That earned a long murderous glare from Richter but when it came to staring people down, Decker was better at it than anyone else. Eventually Richter broke eye contact, brought Decker’s service record forward and scribbled a note in it.

“As of now, you are suspended Captain” he said stiffly, “pending further enquiries of your actions. When I am asked, I will be recommending your dismissal from the service. Get out of my office”.

“Yes sir” said Decker, saluting. “thank you sir. nice day to work on the tan, sir”.

The Scorpion was used to meeting new clients under the strictest security. It came with the job, and he could hardly complain about it. His profession was not one where he could open a smart office, hire a secretary, and openly advertise. “Gunman for hire. Will travel. High success rate”. To avoid undercover police, he and his clients naturally had to be wary of one another.

He had received a message from a friend who filtered all requests from potential clients for him. He only worked on referral from someone he had worked with in the past, to try and reduce the chances of police entrapment. This limited his scope of potential clients, but the Scorpion preferred less money if it meant his life and continued freedom.

But even though he only worked on referrals from trusted past clients, he still couldn’t field the queries and offers himself. That would leave him too exposed. So his friend – if the Scorpion could be said to have any friends – was the cutout point.

If the police tried to recruit the Scorpion in an attempt to entrap him, they would only get as far as the friend, who was more of a “cutout guy”. He was well paid to take the fall and go to prison, or even die if necessary. They communicated via the Dark Web, using disposable email addresses and if it was an absolute emergency, burner phones, which were replaced every month. But the Scorpion, for obvious reasons, had a deep aversion to phones.

The cutout was unnaturally talented in automatically sniffing out law enforcement. He just knew when he was looking at police, no matter how disguised they were, or how good they were at acting like a bad guy. No matter how hard they tried, they just had that “cop look” which was impossible for them to shake off. Several times he had been right in his assessments, and had dealt with the situation promptly and professionally. Of course this meant moving on afterwards, but the Scorpion always took care of relocation costs.

This latest one seemed to check out, according to the cutout guy. Definitely not police, and quite possibly serious money was involved. But he said something that the Scorpion had never heard him say before.

“Be careful man. These guys…I don’t know…you might be getting in over your head on this one. I’ve got a bad vibe”.

Those words replayed over and over in the Scorpion’s head when some heavily-built men, assigned to drive him to his potential new client demanded he get into the car boot to conceal where they were taking him. They were very put out however when he quite firmly told them where they could stick that idea. Once in the boot, he would not have control anymore, and the Scorpion never relinquished control to anyone. This was another reason why he was still alive.

When intimidation didn’t work, they reluctantly pointed to the back seat of the car. When he got in, a canvas bag was suddenly thrust over his head, and a gun painfully jabbed in his ribs. This really wasn’t a whole lot better than the boot. But at least his hands were free, and he could disarm the fool sitting next to him in less than five seconds, before the ones in front knew what had hit them. He filed that away for future reference if he felt the situation was about to go sideways.

The Scorpion tried to memorise the route, but it very quickly became evident they were making a huge effort to disorient him. So he eventually gave up, and after roughly forty minutes, the car finally arrived at its destination. He was bundled out roughly and pushed through an open door.

Once inside, the Scorpion felt himself being expertly searched, and his gun was taken. It wasn’t long before his backup weapon was found in its ankle holster, and taken too. Satisfied he was now unarmed, they pushed him along a narrow featureless corridor until he reached another room and the bag was finally pulled off his head. He suddenly felt very disoriented. Fresh air rushed to his face, and the light from the room hit his eyes like a full-frontal assault.

Then he heard soft chuckling in the corner. He turned and saw a man sitting in a leather chair examining him closely. He had a well-trimmed goatee beard, and slicked-back dark hair. He was also dressed in a very expensive grey suit. His dark soulless eyes reminded the Scorpion of a wolf, for some reason. But he had seen all types in his line of work, so it didn’t bother him in the slightest.

“You’re quite all right Mr Scorpion” said the man watching him, “just breathe and you’ll be back to your old self in no time. Being a professional yourself, I’m sure you appreciate our need for strict security”.

The rough treatment angered Scorpion enormously. “I don’t particularly like being thrown around like a piece of meat in an abattoir. To me, that implies enormous disrespect. Not exactly the way to start a business relationship, is it?”.

There was a pause, then a nod. “Fair point. I apologise if my men got a little too…enthusiastic. But you are a very tough man. I’m sure you can handle a bit of pushing and shoving”.

“You can start making it up to me by giving me my damn guns back” said the Scorpion looking at him intensely, “they were taken from me before I was pushed in here”.

Grey Suit looked at the Scorpion curiously for a moment, tilting his head in thought, as if wondering why the Scorpion would make such a big deal over guns. Finally, he sighed and picked up a phone, dialling an internal number.

“Bring his guns” was all he said, when the line was answered.

He hung up without breaking eye contact.

“Your guns will be brought in in a moment, but they will remain with me until you leave. We wouldn’t want you getting any ideas about shooting me if we happen to disagree on anything else. Do you have any other grievances Mr Scorpion, before we continue?”

“Let me make this clear so even you can understand this” said Scorpion, calmly, “if anyone puts their hands on me again, I’ll break their goddamn necks. Then I’ll calmly walk out of here and you can find someone else to do your dirty work”.

Grey Suit gave a small tight smile. “A man with courage – and attitude. I appreciate that, because if this task which I want to give you goes wrong, you are going to need all the courage you possess to survive – from the authorities and from us”.

“Assuming I accept – which I haven’t yet. You assume too much. Tell me who the target is and I’ll tell you if I’m interested”.

Before Grey Suit could reply, the door opened and another beefy muscular man came in, with the Scorpion’s guns. The room was quiet while the guns were placed on a table next to Grey Suit, and the room was left to the two of them again. But not before the hired muscle gave the Scorpion a double-take that made him slightly uncomfortable. Almost as if he knew him.

Something else to file away for possible future reference.

It was another minute before Grey Suit decided to tell the Scorpion the target. He tapped his fingers on the armrests of his chair, and looked at Scorpion intensely.

“I want you to kill Claudia Meyer” he said finally.

“You want me to kill the German chancellor?” said Scorpion, incredulously. “I think you need to lie down then take a long holiday”.

“Why? Is it a problem? Does it scare you?” said the man, tauntingly.

“Not impossible. Just extremely difficult” Scorpion replied, ignoring the crass attempt to get a rise out of him. “She hardly pops out to the supermarket in her lunch break. Getting past her bodyguards and getting close to her is going to be a challenge”.

“Don’t people like you thrive on challenges?!” laughed Grey Suit.

“Challenges, yes. Suicide missions, not so much. What’s the point of earning money if you’re not alive to enjoy it?”.

“I’m sure a man of your capabilities would be able to find a way around her security” replied Grey Suit, dismissively.

“You do understand the consequences of asking me to do something like this, don’t you?” said the Scorpion. “If she gets assassinated or even just gets a tiny bruise, the full weight of the German state is going to come down on both you and I. And if you think they won’t eventually figure out who was behind it, then you really are naive”.

“I think you give the government far too much credit”.

“I think you don’t give them enough”

Grey Suit smirked at this remark. “So…assuming you were to accept this…‘challenge’…how much would you charge?”.

The Scorpion decided to humour the idiot. “For something like this, once it’s done, I would need to disappear forever. There’s also the risk factor…”

“A number Scorpion” said Grey Suit irritably, “not a laundry list of excuses”.

The Scorpion struggled to remain calm. "I was about to say, before you rudely interrupted me, 20 million Euros in Bitcoin - and expenses. Let’s say 50,000 Euros for expenses. Half of the fee and the full expenses now, the other half of the fee on completion. You and I will never meet again. When I leave here and get my first 50%, you cannot contact me ever again, and the job cannot be cancelled. The other 50% will be held in escrow, to be released when news of Meyer’s death is confirmed”.

“That sounds fair. But I don’t like that we cannot contact you again. We have information sources that can help you. I would need to know how to get in touch”.

“I just told you. You can’t. And I have my own information sources”.

“Unacceptable. A contact number.”

“No” said the Scorpion, firmly, “I think we’re done here”.

Grey Suit looked at him in astonishment. “You would throw away 20 million Euros over a phone number?”.

The Scorpion looked at Grey Suit. “Do you know why I am alive? Because I am careful. I wear disguises, I make sure there are no photos of me, no fingerprints. You may have noticed the leather gloves I am wearing right now. But you want me to carry what is essentially a tracking device in my pocket? And you wonder why I am making a big deal about it?”

Grey Suit glared at him for a moment. He wasn’t used to being talked to like this. He was more used to obedience and submission.

“Fine” he snapped. “Have it your way. But let me make something clear to you. If you disappear with your first ten million Euros without doing the job, we will eventually find you. And when we do, you will be begging us for mercy.

Others have tried to cheat me, and they have paid with their lives. Money doesn’t matter to me, but being cheated does”.

In reply, the Scorpion simulated a lengthy yawn, stood and walked over slowly to Grey Suit. He leaned over and stared into Grey Suit’s eyes.

“And the same applies to you, my friend” he said softly, “cheat me out of the rest of my money, or betray me to the police, and I will spend the rest of my days hunting you down. Others have underestimated me and have paid with their lives too”.

His hand suddenly shot down and Grey Suit momentarily flinched. When he looked to his left, he saw that the Scorpion had merely snatched up his guns.

“I’ll give my Bitcoin account details and the phone number to your goons outside” said the Scorpion, enjoying Grey Suit’s sudden discomfort. “Then they can drive me back to my car. We’re done here”.

As he left the room, Grey Suit burned with humiliation at showing weakness. He picked up an heavy cut crystal glass sitting on a small side table and threw it savagely against the wall. It shattered into tiny little pieces, the dregs of the alcohol rolling down the wall.

“It’s me”.

“Why are you calling now? Your call-in time is not until tomorrow”.

“I can’t stay on the line for long. I’ll be missed, but you need to know this now. The Scorpion just turned up at the club”.

“The assassin?”

“No, the bloody animal. Of course, the assassin”.

“What the hell did he want?”

“He was summoned by the boss. He was given a job. I had to bring the man’s guns back into the room, and I listened through the door when they thought I was gone. The hit is on the Chancellor”.

“The Chancellor? Are you sure?”.

Suddenly there were two loud gunshots in the distance. The man on the phone swore.

“Are you there? What just happened?”.

“Wait”.

There was silence for a moment. Then a muffled voice in the background.

***

“Put the phone down” said the Scorpion.

The pimp from the club had his hands up and spread wide. The phone was in one hand, still connected to the person at the other end. He stared at the ugly menacing black pistol in the Scorpion’s hand.

“I said put it down” repeated the Scorpion, calmly.

The pimp dropped it. “I assume those two shots means my colleagues are dead?”

“Somehow I get the feeling they were not really your colleagues. What are you? Police? Government? I saw the way you looked at me in the club”.

“You’re not getting a damn thing out of me. You may as well shoot me now”.

The Scorpion made a show of thinking about it. Then “OK sure”.

He fired and the bullet hit the pimp directly between the eyes. The head was jerked back and he crumpled to the ground. The Scorpion walked up to him and calmly put another bullet in the heart to be sure.

The Scorpion picked up the dropped phone.

“Who is this?”.

The other man, who had heard the gunshots and knew his man was dead, didn’t dare reply.

“If I had to guess” said the Scorpion, “I’m probably talking to the government. Don’t bother tracing this call. I’ll be long gone before anyone can get here. I just wanted to say hi and to let you know your man is dead. If he’s married, please pass on my condolences to the widow”.

“You’ll never get to Meyer”

“Well then I guess you have nothing to worry about then, do you?”

“You’re dead”.

The Scorpion laughed. “You have to catch me first”.

He hung up, dropped the phone again, and slammed his foot into it, breaking the screen.

The Scorpion quickly took one last look at the man he had shot in the back of the head. He was certain the man who had brought his guns back had recognised him, and he was right. His gut had never failed him once. When he had been back in the car, the man was sitting in the front seat, looking at him in the rear view mirror. That was when he knew for sure he really had a problem. He knew he had to be taken out.

So when the car had stopped, the man pleaded the call of nature and skipped behind a wall. Without hesitating, the Scorpion had shot dead the other two men in the car, and then went to deal with the other one.

He wasn’t that concerned about the reaction of Grey Suit. He could just add it to the fee. But now the person at the other end of the line knew the Chancellor was a target. Her security would be increased.

He knew it had been stupid to talk on the line. Now they probably had an audio recording of his voice. To the best of his knowledge, there were no reliable photos of him that the authorities could use, but talking on an open line was just stupid. He knew better than that. But he couldn’t resist taunting them.

Only thirty minutes in, and already the mission was blown.

He should have asked for more money.

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h1=. Chapter Three

Decker was in her office throwing some personal belongings into a box when the Deputy Director, Klaus Wagner, came in. He was middle-aged, with hair rapidly turning white, and a permanently cynical look on his face. As if life had thrown everything at him, and it was no longer possible to shock him.

“Where are you off to at this time of the morning?” said Wagner, suspiciously. “Did we start flexible working hours and Human Resources didn’t bother to inform me about it?”

“Nope. My esteemed Section Chief has suspended me, and will most likely have me fired” said Decker, “he’s obviously a big believer in the phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’”.

“Ignore the bloody weasel” scowled Wagner, “I’ll overrule the decision. I swear that man will be the death of me someday. You were doing your job, nothing more, nothing less. The last I checked, we didn’t punish anyone for that. Besides, I have selfish motives as I need you for something urgent. Come with me”.

Decker grinned, dumped her box unceremoniously on the table, and followed Wagner out of the room. She always liked him. Even though he was the Deputy Director, he too secretly disdained the rules that governed the intelligence community. He was a big believer in “taking the gloves off”. So he and Decker were two of a kind. They both eschewed suits and professional clothes in favour of jeans, shirts, and leather jackets. Wagner’s bad language was also legendary. He was famous for verbally causing grown men to cry openly.

She followed him down a corridor into the Executive Suite area, and was led into Wagner’s large, well appointed office.

“Take a seat” he said, pointing to a chair “help yourself to coffee”.

Decker sat down and put her feet up on another chair beside her. Wagner observed this without comment, and shrugging, locked his door and sat down behind his desk.

“What do you know about the Scorpion?” said Wagner, leaning back in his chair.

“Eight legs, long tail, stings like hell. Don’t go near one” she said, pouring cream into her coffee.

Wagner rolled his eyes. “I should have seen that coming. Don’t give up the day job Captain. I meant the person”.

“Never heard of him. Have I shot him and he’s now filing a complaint?”.

“I wish you had shot him, as you would have managed to help us fix a very big incoming mess. The Scorpion is the nickname for a professional assassin. Very talented, very relentless, very expensive. He has done an excellent job of staying hidden his entire professional life. So much so, we don’t have a reliable photo of him. We have been investigating him for years, with the file never being closed. There are multiple unsolved professional hits, which we think he did, but we can’t prove it”.

“What makes you suspect he did them?” asked Decker.

“For one thing, he uses the same weapon each time, which is unbelievably sloppy in this day and age of forensics. He may as well leave his business card next to each body. Plus he always takes head shots. But over the years, one of the whispers we have heard about him is that he is extremely superstitious. He thinks changing a routine will result in failure”.

“He can’t be that dangerous if he scares easily” observed Decker.

“Oh yes? Try telling Vladimir Rostov that” said Wagner throwing over a file containing photographs. They were of Rostov’s corpse and those of his men.

“Someone unlucky enough to run into the Scorpion?” said Decker, examining the photos.

“We strongly suspect so, based on the ballistics, but again, we can’t prove anything. Last week, Rostov and his men were gunned down outside one of the brothels Rostov owns. They never stood a chance. Like rats in a barrel. I’m sure you saw it on the news?”

“I don’t watch the news” said Decker, dropping the photos back onto the table, “do we have any idea where this Scorpion is right now?”

“Not right this very second, but we know where he was three nights ago. He was taken to a house outside the city, where he met with Gabriel Schäfer, one of the top organised crime bosses in Europe”.

“Your intelligence is remarkably good” remarked Decker.

She suddenly noticed Wagner had become much more uncomfortable and was now shifting about in his chair.

“Was, past tense” replied Wagner distantly, “we had a high-level undercover asset inside Schäfer’s organisation for years. Our asset was there the other night when the Scorpion had his little heart-to-heart with Schäfer. Our intelligence indicates it was Schäfer who ordered the hit on Rostov, although the Scorpion most likely doesn’t know that. Schäfer probably used someone else as a go-between”.

“Taking out the competition” observed Decker, “that’s one way to mount an aggressive takeover. So this ‘high-level asset’ took it upon himself to not call it in, so this Scorpion could be arrested?”

“He did eventually call it in at great personal cost to himself, when he discovered what the conversation was about. Besides, up until the last moment, he wasn’t completely sure it was the Scorpion at all”.

“It must have been a very good conversation to make a decision like that. So what was Schäfer and Scorpion’s little heart-to-heart about?”

Wagner rubbed his face with his hand. “The assassination of the chancellor” he said finally.

Decker stared at Wagner in stunned silence.

“Schäfer wants the chancellor killed?” she said incredulously, “why?”.

“We haven’t got a definite answer to that yet. Our working hypothesis is that it’s due to her recent law and order crusade. As you probably know, she has been putting a lot of pressure on the EU to crack down on money laundering and sex slavery. Two areas which Schäfer depends on to make his money and hide it. Plus don’t forget Meyer’s insistence to the Swiss banks that they reveal their German customers to us. Our financial forensic investigators believe a large amount of unaccounted for money that was hidden in Zurich belonged to Schäfer”.

“And for that, he is willing to have a hit taken out on the German chancellor?” said Decker dubiously, “it seems like a rather big risk for very little reward. I mean, what’s to stop Meyer’s successor from continuing where Meyer left off?”.

“There’s no guarantee obviously, but he’s angry and he wants to make a statement. Oh by the way, for all of his supposed caution, he talked to me on the phone the other night after he had shot my asset”.

“He talked to you?” said Decker, looking over the rim of her coffee cup, “That wasn’t very professional”.

“He all but taunted me to stop him from getting Meyer”.

“He knows we know? Well then maybe he will call it off now”.

“Maybe, but until we know for sure, we have to assume he’s crazy enough to keep going”.

“So what are we doing to stop it from happening?” asked Decker.

“We’re not”

“Come again?”

“We’re going to use the chancellor as bait and lure the Scorpion in” said Wagner, standing up and pacing around his office. “I’m just back from the Chancellery and she has reluctantly approved. She realises the longer the Scorpion is out there, the longer a target will be on her back. She wants this person put down now”.

“That is incredibly risky” blurted Decker, “what if it goes wrong?”.

”But it won’t, Captain” said Wagner, “because you will be with the chancellor every step of the way.”

“You want me to become a glorified babysitter?”

“No I want you to consider yourself an highly armed, highly dangerous babysitter” said Wagner, “ready to gun down an assassin if he makes a move on your chancellor”.

“She doesn’t have to make herself bait” said Decker, “the last I checked, she has more than capable security protecting her around the clock”.

“Ah” said Wagner, looking rather pained, “that’s where things start to get a little sticky”.

“The last time you said that” said Decker leaning back and folding her arms, “a building blew up soon afterwards and I almost got killed”.

“Yes well…the fact is that we have strong reason to believe that the Scorpion knows someone inside the Chancellery. Maybe a bodyguard. So the security detail is potentially compromised”.

Decker was speechless. “Are they running a circus over there? I thought these people were strictly vetted? Who is it?”

“We don’t know, and yes I realise this is making me look incompetent. Believe me, it has been implied more than once by both the Director and the Chancellor. I offered to resign and they refused to take it – for the time being”.

“OK, slow down. How do you know for sure there’s a traitor on the inside?”

“As I said, we’ve been tracking the Scorpion for years. It’s been extremely difficult to gather reliable background on him as he has pretty much obliterated all traces of his past. But one persistent rumour is that he was originally in the French Foreign Legion. It’s still totally unconfirmed but we deal in unconfirmed rumours every day. The rumour also goes that he had – and maybe still has – one friend from his Legion days. A German, who is just as much of a psychopath as he is”.

“And how does this German psychopath get from the Legion to being one of the Chancellor’s bodyguards?”

“This is where things start to take a huge jump into the land of conjecture, where we’re pretty much taking educated guesses. We’re relying on the forced confession of another terrorist, which was obtained under torture. Therefore, inadmissible in court. But during interrogation on a completely unrelated investigation, this man starts shouting out everything he knows on every subject imaginable. Obviously he was hoping he would say something that would pique our interest”.

“And it was duly piqued?”

“You could say that. He said he knew of a German assassin called the Scorpion. That got our instant attention. Gave us what scant information he had on him, which wasn’t really much extra to what we already knew. But he also told us that the Scorpion had a friend who, after leaving the Legion, had gone into the Federal Police. Then he steadily made his way up the hierarchy and was now working inside the Chancellery”.

“Did you talk to the Foreign Legion?”

“We tried” said Wagner, “but like most queries from foreign governments, the Legion barely let us finish our request before telling us very uncivilly that they do not release information on former soldiers. Even if they later turn out to be assassins and sleeper agents”.

“But surely you did inform the Chancellery and the Federal Police right away?”

“Of course, and we expected to be taken seriously. But instead they scoffed at the information, saying that the prisoner had obviously been lying to us to save his skin. They said what you said just now – that everyone working there was strictly vetted and it was not possible for a criminal to slip in undetected”.

“How did this prisoner claim to know both the Scorpion and his buddy?”

“Before we could ask him that, the interrogators went a bit too far with their interrogation techniques, and the prisoner died of a heart attack”.

“Shit” breathed Decker under her breath.

“Indeed” agreed Wagner, “I was furious at being so casually dismissed by the chancellor about this. Something tells me the prisoner was telling the truth, and I am not going to have the death of a chancellor on my conscience. So ever since, I’ve put someone on the inside, with the full knowledge of the Chancellery Chief of Staff, who was the only one to take me seriously. Our agent has been there ostensibly to watch the Chancellor and to report on anything suspicious. We don’t even know if the traitor is a bodyguard, a cook, or a bloody janitor”.

“So I assume Meyer is not in the loop?”

“You assume correctly. She is a very intelligent woman, but she seems to think some men with guns protecting her makes her invincible. Unfortunately, while her bodyguards are indeed good at their jobs, they are just as fallible as you and I”

“So let me get this straight. You already have an agent on the inside. But you want me there too?”

“Oh yes. With the Scorpion being given a contract on the Chancellor’s life, and with him having a possible direct line inside the Chancellery, Meyer is in mortal danger now. I would feel more comfortable having two of my agents there. The other agent is a Lieutenant called Schmitz. He’s finagled his way, with our help, into the position of chief of the protection detail. Nevertheless, since you outrank him, he will follow your orders”.

“I’ll need my credentials returned, as well as my gun. Which means revoking my suspension”.

Wagner nodded, picked up the phone, and dialled an internal number.

“Richter? Wagner here. I heard you suspended Captain Decker? Yes…well, I’m overruling you. I quite frankly don’t care if you protest. On whose authority? I am the Deputy Director you idiot, and your superior. That’s more than enough authority right there. But if you like, I can get Chancellor Meyer to give you a call. Yes I thought that would shut you up. Decker will be along to your office momentarily to collect her credentials and weapon from you, so don’t go anywhere”.

Wagner slammed the phone down and looked at the ceiling in frustration. Decker swung her legs off the chair, got up, and started to head for the door.

“Captain?” said Wagner, “there is zero room for error here. If the chancellor dies on your watch, I can’t save you. Protect Meyer with your life, and kill that son-of-a-bitch when he makes a move on her. Don’t worry about appearances. If you have to do it on live TV in front of hundreds of kids on a school trip, then do it. But Meyer survives this, OK? I’ll handle the fallout. But naturally, if you can do it discreetly, that would be appreciated”.

“Discreetly, sir?”.

“Look it up when you get back to your office. Oh and I insist on daily reports. I mean it – daily – not when you feel like reporting in”.

“Yes sir” said Decker, snapping off a brisk salute, “I’d better go. Don’t want to keep Richter on tenterhooks”.

The Scorpion sat in the bland anonymous business hotel room, meditating and wondering how he was going to pull off the assassination of the most powerful leader in Europe.

He was used to challenges, but this…this was something else entirely. Killing a criminal boss like Rostov was one thing – nobody would miss him and his security was dismal. But the German chancellor? As soon as Meyer was dead, the entire German state would be after him. They would not stop until they had caught him.

He would also have to retire permanently as he would be far too hot for anyone else to hire him. Where in the world would he hide, where he couldn’t be found? His first ten million Euros had come through that evening, but he was still wondering if he should have asked for more money.

He mentally ran through the possibilities in his head as to how he could get close to Meyer. The most obvious one was to find out her scheduled public appearances, and be at the right place at the right time. It had worked perfectly well for John Hinckley and Lee Harvey Oswald. Even though Oswald subsequently died and Hinckley spent over 30 years in prison. But still…

Going down that route would mean approaching his friend inside the Chancellery to get that list. He was reluctant to rush down that path as he had been slowly cultivating his former Legion friend for years. The last thing he wanted to do was to put him in harm’s way unnecessarily. He had not been lying when he had told Grey Suit that he had information sources of his own.

A second possibility was to breach the security. Either pose as a bodyguard or catering staff, and find a way into the Chancellery, where Meyer lived on the top floor. Again, he would require his friend’s help to get in. But this would have to be the extreme last resort, he thought. It was difficult to pull off successfully to the point of committing suicide. A new face would stand out immediately, and his identity would not hold up to scrutiny if he was checked. His friend would probably switch sides and help him shoot their way out afterwards, but the others in the protection detail obviously wouldn’t.

What’s the point of charging 20 million Euros if you were not alive to enjoy it?

He started to like the first option more. If he could find out where she would be at various times, he could shoot her with the rifle, or throw a bomb under her car. The bomb was a messy way to do it, but if all else failed, he would have to cross his fingers and make the best of it.

But the idea of relinquishing the rifle started to make his hands shake, and fill him with foreboding. The gun was his good luck talisman. Without it, he would be genuinely nervous about carrying out the task. He felt foolish feeling like this, and he would never have admitted it to anyone if they asked.

He did know one thing though. He would only get one chance at this. If he failed, he would not only have his client after him, but also the German security services.

So he had to make it count. He had to make sure she didn’t see him coming. He would have to involve his friend.

The Scorpion hoped he was still loyal and would help him. If not, the Scorpion had a major problem.

“Yes?”

“It’s the Scorpion. Are you willing to be activated?”

“Scorpion? My God, I thought I would never hear from you ever again. How are you my friend?”

“No time for idle chit-chat. Are you willing to be activated?”

“For what?”

“A job”

“I will need more detail than that”.

“I need a copy of Aunt Claudia’s scheduled public appearances for the next three months”.

A pause.

“I hope you’re not going to do what I think you’re going to do”.

“In or out, Corporal. I need to know now”.

Another pause. “two million Euros in cash. Non-sequential numbers. All upfront”.

The Scorpion swore silently to himself. That would hurt. It would have to come out of his fee. He hadn’t expected a demand like this. He hoped his friend would do it out of loyalty. Obviously he had changed since they had seen one another last and had become a ruthless capitalist. But without the list, getting to Meyer would be considerably harder.

“Not cheap I see” said the Scorpion finally. “Fine, you’ll get your money. But the information has to be one hundred percent accurate. If Aunt Claudia has a bathroom break scheduled, it has to be on the list”.

“It will be accurate”. The tone was almost indignant.

“Good. I hope so – for your sake. This evening. Midnight. At the prearranged spot from all those years ago”.

“I’ll be there”.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Four

Decker reported to the Chancellery the next morning and was led into the office of Meyer’s Chief of Staff, Hans Unterwald.

Unterwald was a big man, both in height and girth. He liked his food, his beer, and his cigars. Being a large man with a deep voice, he instantly dominated whatever room he was in. He was also rapidly becoming bald, but he had long stopped caring about that. He was someone secure in his own skin, and not someone vain enough to think he needed cosmetic enhancements.

He was also a patriot, having served as a fighter pilot in the German air force as a young man, before retiring to join Meyer in politics. So he knew about protecting his country, serving it, and respecting the military.

People often made the mistake of underestimating him, which was usually the last mistake they ever made. The Chancellery staff had learned long ago that Unterwald saw and heard everything, even if he wasn’t physically present. Someone nervously joked one time that Unterwald probably had every room bugged. Nobody laughed back.

“Captain Decker” he said formally, standing up from behind his desk and putting out his hand, “a pleasure to meet you. Deputy Director Wagner speaks very highly of you.”

“That’s good to know, since not many other people speak highly of me”.

“Yes I have been reading your service record” said Unterwald, sitting down and pulling on a pair of glasses, “you seem to have quite the reputation. Please sit”.

Decker felt like she was back at school, having her sins read back to her by the teacher. But by now, she was used to it.

“It looks as if you have a tendency to…how do they say in English? ‘Go off the reservation’?” said Unterwald, “Would that be a fair assessment?”

“Yes” conceded Decker, “if you mean being able to make spontaneous operational decisions in the field, and not being afraid to follow through on them”.

“When you put it like that, it does start to paint you in a rather better light” said Unterwald, thoughtfully, “God knows we have enough ass-kissing career bureaucrats around here. I’m more concerned about how the protection detail will respond to you. Of course they’ll do what they’re told, but nevertheless you’ll have to deal with the resentment”.

“The question sir should instead be how the protection detail will cope having to deal with me”.

This brought a small smile to Unterwald’s lips. “Wagner told me you had attitude. Good. The protection detail are all men, so you will need that attitude. What has Wagner told you about the threat we’re facing?”.

“That you are the only one who believes the threat. That the chancellor is being a bit too….shall we say, optimistic about her chances of survival?”

Unterwald looked at her. “It’s my job to believe these things” he said shrugging, “and the rest?”

Decker gave him a quick summary of the facts, which Unterwald made agreeing noises to throughout.

“That sounds about right” he said after thinking about it. “We still don’t have a motive yet for why Schäfer would want to take such an enormous move like this. I am not buying this whole EU crackdown and Swiss bank thing. Too simplistic, fits too neatly into the box. There has to be something more to it. I am debating whether or not to order his arrest. Doing so may tip off this Scorpion person that we are onto him”.

“Not if you make it look like another criminal investigation altogether” said Decker, “this guy is into prostitution as a revenue source. So have him busted by vice police for living on illicit earnings. Once we have him in a room, we can ask him whatever we want. If the press asks, we give them the hookers story”.

“That might work” conceded Unterwald, “I would just be concerned about the timing, that’s all. Several days after he orders a hit on the chancellor, and an undercover Intelligence asset posing as his pimp is found shot dead, he is suddenly arrested on vice charges. Schäfer is not stupid, and neither is the Scorpion”.

“It may be a chance we have to take” said Decker, “we are not going to get anywhere by playing it safe. We need to move fast as we have no idea what the Scorpion’s timetable is. He knows he is blown, so he will be looking to do this as quickly as possible, so he can flee the country”.

Unterwald looked at her for a long moment, assessing the pros and cons.

“And another thing…” said Decker, “what’s all this about an inside man in the Chancellery?”

Unterwald let loose a string of expletives.

“Wagner told you” he growled.

“Yes, well, don’t you think under the circumstances that it’s relevant I know?”

“That bullshit was never proved” said Unterwald, forcefully, pointing a finger at Decker. “Wagner never gave us a name, the job this supposed traitor was doing, nothing. He was merely repeating what a prisoner under enhanced interrogation said to him. You know yourself how notoriously unreliable these interrogations are. They’ll say anything to stop the torture. I have long been on record as being against the practice”.

“Quit the politician spiel. You’re not being interviewed by a journalist” said Decker irritably. “We can’t afford to disregard the possibility either, so trust my judgment on this. Let me do my job by picking up Schäfer”.

“Fine. Go and get him” he said, throwing his glasses on the desk in a fit of pique. “Use the Berlin police to pick him up on that bogus vice charge. As they are driving him to police headquarters, I will arrange for the car to be ‘re-diverted’ to a safe house of your choosing”.

“Thank you sir”.

“I will defer to Deputy Director Wagner’s judgment about putting you in charge” said Unterwald, “he trusts you, so I will too. But I would appreciate less of the maverick wildcard and a lot more self-control. The chancellor will not appreciate any theatrics, especially when she is out in public. Your conduct reflects on her when you are by her side”.

“I’ll do my best. I’d like to meet my colleague now” said Decker, “I believe his name is Schmitz?”

Unterwald pressed the intercom to his secretary in the next room. “Send in Lieutenant Schmitz”.

The door to Unterwald’s office opened and Lieutenant Wolfgang Schmitz, Chief of the Federal Criminal Police Office’s Sicherungsgruppe, walked in.

Decker couldn’t help but do a double-take when she saw how he looked. He had what some people would have described as movie star looks. A full head of dark hair, ruggedly handsome, and dressed in an expensive Italian suit. The Italian suit made him look a bit vain and pretentious, but by God, the rest of him was not bad.

“Sir” he said formally to Unterwald.

“Lieutenant” said Unterwald, nodding to Decker, “meet Captain Decker, a colleague of yours”.

“Yes I know of Captain Decker” Schmitz smiled, “by reputation naturally. What can I do for you Captain?”.

Decker proceeded to give Schmitz a concise rundown of the situation, and Schmitz looked alarmed as he realised the danger Meyer was now in.

“Captain, as per Deputy Director Wagner’s orders, I have been keeping a close watch on the chancellor, and also watching out for any suspicious activity from chancellery staff. My position as chief of the security detail gives me wide latitude to ask lots of questions. But I can’t be everywhere at the same time. Do we have any way at all to figure out what job this person has here?”.

“The truth is Lieutenant that we don’t even know if such a person exists” said Decker, “but we have to act as if the person is real until we know otherwise. So, no we don’t know yet what position they occupy here”.

“So what’s the plan?” said Schmitz eventually, “I assume there is a plan?”

“Of course” said Unterwald, “effective immediately, Captain Decker will be working here alongside you. You will start taking orders from her. Continue in your present guise, and Decker will be here pretending to conduct a routine review of security procedures. The two of you will work together, in tandem with the protection detail, to catch this Scorpion idiot and protect the chancellor”.

“And I need you to get the macho idiots in the protection detail to do what they’re told” said Decker, “this is no time for bruised egos. They are not to know what was discussed in this room. If the traitor is in the protection detail, the Scorpion will be tipped off that we know about his source. Even more so, because we are using the chancellor”.

“We’re daring him to take a shot?”. Schmitz looked shocked.

“I hope you know what you’re damn well doing”.

“That makes two of us” said Decker. “If you’ll excuse me now gentlemen, I have a criminal boss to arrest and question. I’ll see you again in the morning”.

Decker wasted no time in putting together a police raid to grab Schäfer. She approached Chief Inspector Christian Fischer that evening, who was the Berlin police liaison to the German Intelligence services. He was in his early forties with dark curly hair, and a boyish look which made Decker take him slightly less seriously. But if he had managed to reach Chief Inspector, he was obviously not naive and inexperienced. You didn’t get to that lofty position without stepping on a few toes.

He listened with rapt interest as she told him the government wanted Schäfer arrested. She gave him the prostitution story. For obvious reasons, anything concerning the chancellor was left out.

“Obviously you’re only giving me half a story” he commented cynically when she was finished, “but anything to get Gabriel Schäfer off the streets would be welcomed by us. I think a lot of girls forced into sex slavery would also thank you a lot. But since we don’t have anything resembling a case, I assume you do?”.

“I don’t need one” said Decker bluntly. “You just have to arrest him to give the appearance of legality, and then when everyone’s back is turned, hand him over to me”.

“And then?” said Fischer, “you’re asking me to put the reputation of the Berlin police department on the line. You will have to release him eventually and he will sue for false arrest”.

“Chief Inspector” said Decker, coming closer. “You can assure your bosses and their bosses that the Berlin police department will be well protected. Just arrest Schäfer for us on a bogus charge, turn him over to my people, then step back. Don’t worry about lawsuits, rights, charges, and other legal niceties. If anyone asks you, Schäfer was handed to another department for further questioning and you don’t know where that currently is – which wouldn’t be a lie, would it?”

“Why do I get the feeling we will never see Gabriel Schäfer again after he’s handed over to you?”

“You’re such a pessimist, Chief Inspector” she said, patting Fischer on the shoulder. “Get your squad together and we’ll go play cops and robbers”.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Five

Gabriel Schäfer owned a string of clubs and brothels all over the city. So each evening, it was a reasonably good assertion that he would be at one of those locations. The trouble was, which one?

To find out, a large number of undercover male police officers were given a small amount of money and told to choose a club. But as they all stood there grinning at the thought of the nice evening to come, they were given strict instructions not to drink alcohol, or engage with the women in the brothels. That was when the smiles and high-fives died.

They were to go in, have a glance around, and see who was there. Act nervous if they had to, as if they had never been to somewhere like that before. Or act drunk. They knew the drill. They had done it many times before.

When someone had eyeballs on Schäfer, they were to discreetly press a button on their jacket sleeve. This would broadcast the location back to the others.

The officers cast curious glances at Decker who was standing in the corner of the room, leaning against the wall, with a baseball cap pulled down over her eyes and sunglasses on.

Fischer saw them looking.

“Ah yes, the lady over there? She’s here – but she’s not here. Understand? You have never seen her before. If you tell anybody outside this room she was here, I guarantee you will be directing traffic for the rest of your career”.

Decker smiled to herself. She was actually starting to like Fischer.

“Spook” muttered one of the officers at the back.

“Is there something you want to say officer?” said Decker, loudly. “if so, speak up. Don’t be shy”.

“No nothing” he stuttered. As his colleagues laughed, he looked embarrassed to have been called out.

“No – Ma’am” corrected Fischer, “and if you speak out of turn again Dietz, you’ll be the first one on traffic duty. Now let’s go. Find Schäfer. Let’s take a scumbag off the street tonight”.

Gabriel Schäfer was, at that moment, in his “Forbidden Pleasures!” brothel. It was a franchise chain that he had established all over Germany and Austria, and he used it for, amongst other things, to launder his money from his extremely illegal enterprises. If you believed Schäfer’s accounts, suddenly everybody in Berlin was sex-crazed and stampeding through his doors, as his takings were astronomical.

He was in an upstairs office which had a large glass door opening out onto a balcony overlooking the bar. He walked out onto the balcony, in a dark blue suit, and dark pin-striped tie, and with a crystal glass of whisky in his hand. Sipping from the glass, he observed the large din of the customers below him. Lots of noise meant lots of money, which pleased him a great deal. Men were served drinks by scantily-clad or completely topless waitresses, and some of them were led off to rooms at the back, with huge grins on their faces. Schäfer viewed the scene dispassionately, his thoughts a million miles away.

Paying the Scorpion twenty million Euros had put a serious dent in his finances, but nevertheless, it was worth every cent, even if he failed. Even just an attempt on Meyer’s life would shock the world and would shake that bitch’s complacency. She might not run for reelection again, which would be just as good as killing her.

Under those circumstances, twenty million was a bargain. He smiled and turned back into his office to refill his glass.

Fischer and Decker were waiting in a plain panel van which was driving slowly around the centre of Berlin. They sat in the back waiting for a phone call from one of the officers to say that Schäfer had been found. Fischer sat in his seat, bouncing his mobile phone on his knee, mentally willing it to ring.

Eventually it did. Fischer put it on speakerphone.

“Boss” said one of the officers, “I’ve found him”.

“OK, stay there” said Fischer into his phone. “We have your location from your GPS tracker. We’re ten minutes out. For Christ’s sake, don’t get caught”.

“Roger that boss” murmured the officer, “I think I’ll have a Coke while I’m waiting. Might push the boat out and have some ice with it”.

“Fischer to all officers” said Fischer into the police radio. “The target has been found. Converge on Officer Frank’s location. Exercise extreme caution and wait for me to arrive”.

The vehicles containing the undercover armed police officers stopped three blocks from the club. The officers had changed from their plain clothes into regular gear, including bulletproof vest, full-head balaclava with eye-holes, and a rugged helmet to match. The Heckler & Koch MP5 machine guns completed the ensemble and made it plain to anyone who would be nearby that they were playing for keeps.

Fischer and Decker arrived a couple of minutes later and eventually they too were suited up and armed. While Fischer wore a helmet, Decker wore her usual battered leather jacket, baseball cap, and sunglasses. Like the Scorpion, she was a little superstitious. If she changed his clothes or gear in any way, she felt uncomfortable.

She checked and holstered her pistol, and then began expertly loading a machine gun with ammunition. She looked down the sights, and made sure everything was in working order.

Meanwhile, civilians who had been walking in the area had been moved back behind a cordon, and mobile phone signals were being suppressed to stop anyone phoning Schäfer with a warning. A line of police now stood flat against a wall at the corner of the street, and when a drunk walked around the corner, they sobered up rapidly when they were grabbed by a heavily armed police officer and bundled away.

The police were in fact so busy that they didn’t see one of Schäfer’s men turn the corner. When he saw the cordon, he discreetly reversed, and went back around the corner.

“Shit” he said under his breath. He had to warn the boss. He got out his phone, but to his shock, there was absolutely no phone signal. His LTE Internet signal was dead too. The police must be jamming the signal. Helpless, he realised there was nothing he could do. He started to run as fast as he could, eventually melting away into the darkness.

“I’m leading them in” said Decker with grim determination.

“Captain, that’s not how we do things” said Fischer, but his voice died away when he saw the withering look on Decker’s face. “Well, I guess it’s how we do things now”.

Fischer swore as he picked up the radio.

“Sergeant”.

“Yes sir” squawked the radio.

“Someone is coming up front to lead you in. Don’t complain. It won’t do you any good. And no sexist remarks. That personally won’t do you any good”.

Fischer switched off the radio before the sergeant could respond.

“Be careful what you wish for, Captain” he said. “They’re waiting for you”.

Inside the club, Schäfer had been on the phone to one of his associates, when the signal on his mobile phone suddenly died. He stared at the phone display, puzzled, but then heard a loud chorus of complaints below him. It seemed everyone else had lost their phone signal too.

With a deep sense of foreboding, Schäfer ran over and checked his landline phone. Dead too. That was when he knew they were coming for him.

He ran to the safe, expertly turning the dials, and opened the door. He took out two passports, a handgun, ammunition, and several stacks of cash. Then with one last wistful look at his office, he turned and left.

When Decker reached the line of armed officers ready to go in, they all looked at her with bemusement and contempt.

“You’re leading us in?” said the sergeant up-front. His look of contempt though withered when he saw Decker’s stare. “Who are you again?”.

“The woman who will be giving you your orders” said Decker flashing her government badge, “step back, you’re in my spot”.

The other officers grinned as their sergeant took an involuntary two steps back.

Decker took her place at the head of the line. She flicked off the safety switch on her gun. “Let’s go and catch a bad man, gentleman”.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Six

The front doors of Gabriel Schäfer’s club were blown off their hinges with a thunderous blast, and heavily armed police officers stormed in. The customers started shouting and screaming, and heading for the exits, slowing down the police who were viciously elbowing people out of the way.

Schäfer was still inside the building when the doors exploded. He savagely cursed. There could only be one reason why they were here. He checked to make sure that his gun was loaded, and then stepped back into the dark shadows of the club. He didn’t want to shoot unless he had to, but he was already resolute in that he was not going to prison for the rest of his life. He would rather die.

“Armed police!” shouted the masked armed officers. “Everyone get down on the floor”.

Decker moved forward with the machine gun raised and her finger in the trigger guard.

“We’re here for Gabriel Schäfer” she shouted. “Does anybody know where he is? Speak up now or be arrested for sheltering a wanted man”.

From his position, Schäfer could see several of his employees instinctively look in his direction. They quickly looked away again, but not before it was seen by Decker.

She pointed the gun at them. “Up against the bar. Officers, watch these three”.

“Yes ma’am” responded one of the police officers.

Decker turned in the direction of where the employees had been looking. She raised the gun and squinted down the sights. She could not see Schäfer but he could see her. Swearing repeatedly under his breath, his grip tightened on his gun. He quickly looked at the far corner, where the fire door was located. Getting there unseen would be impossible. He would either have to shoot the woman or avoid her completely. But with her coming in his direction, he couldn’t see how he could avoid her.

To hell with it. If he stayed where he was, he would be captured like a rat in a barrel. At least if he tried to run, he would give himself a fighting chance, however slim.

Decker thought she could see something moving in the shadows at the back of the club.

“Schäfer? Move out into the light where I can see you”

By way of reply, several gunshots fired out. But all three went completely wide. Decker didn’t flinch. She didn’t want to shoot – they needed him alive for questioning. But at the same time, she couldn’t allow him to fire at will. Eventually he would hit her or one of the customers.

When she saw the shadow move again, she decided on impulse to rush him. She dropped the machine gun, and as she ran, she pulled a pistol out from the waistband of her jeans. The bulky bulletproof vest slowed her down slightly but she needed it on if Schäfer decided to fire on her.

And fire he did. There was a flash and Decker felt as if she had been punched in the chest. The breath was knocked out of her and she felt winded. But somehow she still managed to propel herself forward and she crashed into Schäfer, as he tried to fix his gun which had jammed.

As she landed on Schäfer, she viciously head-butted him in the face, shattering his nose. He howled in pain and lashed out with the now-useless pistol. It caught Decker on the side of the face and caused her to see stars. She staggered back, and she started to shake her head to slow down the sharp pain now coursing through her head.

Schäfer advanced towards her, ready to kill her. But a police officer suddenly appeared out of the gloom and fired one shot into Schäfer’s shoulder. He howled and gripped his shoulder, as the blood pumped out between his fingers.

With all of her remaining strength, Decker followed up with a brutal kick to Schäfer’s face, fracturing an eye socket and a cheekbone, and knocking Schäfer out cold. He landed flat on his back, his face a bloody mask and his shoulder soaked in blood.

“You’re under arrest” Decker said between gasps, trying to catch her breath. “I would tell you you had the right to remain silent, but I think you’re already doing that”.

She pulled off the bulletproof vest and threw it to the floor.

“Get a paramedic in here” she said to one of the police officers, “there’s no way we’re letting that son-of-a-bitch die on us”.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Seven

Later that evening, at just before midnight, the Scorpion waited in the prearranged spot in the Unter den Linden. The tree-lined street provided plenty of places for the Scorpion to shelter beside, although he was reasonably confident that no-one in German law enforcement knew what he looked like. The growing darkness also allowed him to hide in a low-lit spot, making it difficult to see him.

Despite these factors in his favour, he had decided to play it safe by wearing a bushy red wig and beard, as well as makeup that added a few years onto his looks, by giving his face some wrinkles. He held a leather bag holding the two million Euros for the information he needed. He tried to act normally, as if holding the bag was the most natural thing in the whole world. But if he knew that if a police patrol stopped to ask what was in the bag, he would have a very hard time explaining why he had so much money on himself.

The downside to the elaborate disguise was that his former Legion contact would most likely not recognise him. So he had to keep on the lookout. He scanned the area, which, despite the late hour, still had a fair smattering of traffic and people on foot. Cities never truly sleep, reflected the Scorpion.

His ideal aim was to find somewhere on Meyer’s public appearances schedule which would be relatively easy to infiltrate and then get away from afterwards. But obviously he ran the risk of the chancellor cancelling the appearance at the last minute. So he could only pray and hope that the event went ahead. It also had to be an event where it wouldn’t be so glaringly obvious that this would be the one he would choose.

He was very uneasy about the telephone conversation with his former Legion comrade the previous evening. The fact he asked for a significant amount of money was disturbing enough, but there was something in the man’s tone of voice which did not encourage enthusiasm. Then the Scorpion realised – his former Legion comrade did not seem particularly pleased to hear from the Scorpion. Considering Scorpion had saved the man’s life on the battlefield many years ago, he expected some gratitude from the selfish son-of-a-bitch. Two million Euros? It was utterly insulting. He should have left him to die out there.

That was why he had spontaneously decided to ask for the schedule for the next three months. He had no intention of waiting that long to do the job, but he had to muddy the waters a bit. If his friend was either captured, or decided to surrender, he wanted to make things as difficult as possible for them to pinpoint an exact time period where they could expect him.

As Scorpion looked around intently, he could see what looked like his friend coming from the direction of Friedrichstrasse. The man was dressed in a dark suit, conservative dark blue tie, and a Fedora hat. The Scorpion was in some doubt as to whether this really was who he was waiting for. But as the man got closer, the Scorpion knew it was him.

Before finally breaking his cover and approaching him, the Scorpion quickly scanned the area for signs of surveillance. But nothing glaringly obvious stood out. Those who were still out walking were speaking on their phones, whispering into the ear of their partners, or if they were alone, staring down at the pavement.

As the Scorpion watched his contact stop and nervously stand where they arranged they would many years previously, he decided he would just have to chance it and hope for the best.

“Corporal” he said softly from the darkness of the nearby trees. “Over here”.

The corporal stiffened at the sound of Scorpion’s voice. His face went white and the Scorpion could see a bead of sweat running down the corporal’s face.

“You look different Sir” he said, licking dry lips, “I didn’t recognise you there”.

“That’s the whole point of a disguise isn’t it? Not much use if you can see right through it”.

“Quite”

The conversation died for a moment, until Scorpion decided to step up the pace.

“The list. Do you have it?”

“Yes, but…”

“But?”. The Scorpion did not like that word.

“I’m not an idiot Sir. I know what you have been doing since you left the Legion. You’ve succeeded in lying low and not getting caught. But word travels fast around the grapevine, especially among former comrades who made the same career choice as you. The fact you want the Chancellor’s personal schedule makes it obvious she is your next target. This version of the schedule is highly restricted. That means when the chancellor dies at an unannounced event, the few people with access to the schedule are going to be the prime targets”.

The corporal slumped against the tree trunk. His little speech seemed to have taken all of his energy out of him.

“Let me ask you something” said the Scorpion calmly in his quiet but unnerving voice, “why did you join the Federal Police, and then the Chancellery?”

The corporal shrugged. “When you leave the Legion, there are not many jobs with people in our skillsets. They teach you to fight and kill. Where are you going to use those skills in civilian life? When we got out, you decided to go one way. I on the other hand met someone and got married. I wanted to go straight. So I joined the police”.

“And over the years, I have sent you discreet payments on the understanding that when I needed something from you, I would get it. You would be my insurance policy”.

“Yes, but not this!” said the corporal, his eyes wild with panic. “Inside gossip, personnel changes, that sort of thing. But information that can help you assassinate the chancellor? No! We did not agree that! I respect you sir, but I will not go to prison for you.”

“You respect me but you still demand two million Euros! Have you already forgotten how I saved your life?” hissed Scorpion into the corporal’s ear and pushing his hand down uncomfortably on the shoulder, “and I do not pay almost 50,000 Euros for gossip!”.

He spat the last word out as if it was repellant to him. “The list – now!”

The Scorpion could feel the corporal shaking as he slowly withdrew a long manilla envelope from the inside of his jacket. As he did so, he knew that his former comrade could not be relied upon. It wouldn’t take much for him to get so scared that he turned himself in and betrayed the Scorpion to the authorities.

Therefore only one thing could be done. A shame really. Such a waste.

With shaking hands, the corporal handed over the envelope. “The money” he croaked.

“Ah yes, your ill-gotten gains” said Scorpion maliciously. But instead of the leather bag, Scorpion had a flick-knife in his hand. The last thing the corporal saw was the momentary flash of the gleaming blade sliding into his back. He gasped as the metal wreaked havoc tearing through muscle.

The Scorpion wrapped an arm around his victim’s torso holding him upright, while he hissed in his ear. “Just think corporal, we could have had a very profitable future relationship. A pity you couldn’t hold your nerve!

Uttering the last word, the Scorpion made one final thrust, pushing the knife into the body, right up to the hilt. The corporal gurgled and breathed his last breath. The fedora hat toppled off his head, as his arm flopped wildly about.

Scorpion knew he had to move fast. No time for decorum. He dropped the body in the shadows of the trees, picked up the money bag, and started sprinting off down the road.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Eight

After having his shoulder wound tended to, Decker had thrown Schäfer into a cell, intending to leave him there till the morning.

Unterwald, true to his word, had ensured the seamless transfer of Schäfer into Decker’s custody. Schäfer had traumatic facial injuries, including a broken nose, a concussion and a fractured eye socket. Not to mention the shoulder. When the paramedics tried to give Schäfer painkillers, Decker immediately confiscated them. She wanted him in a lot of pain. People in pain talked faster.

It was close to two in the morning, when Decker was seriously considering going home for some sleep, when her phone rang. She briefly considered not answering it, but she quickly changed her mind, when she saw it was Schmitz.

“Get yourself over to Unter Den Linden immediately” said Schmitz. “A body has been found, and you are most definitely going to want to see this”.

Decker hung up and called for the agent in charge of the safe house.

“Bring Schäfer into the interrogation room and shackle him to the desk. Then turn up the heat until it’s a sauna in there” she said. “No water, no pain killers. I’ll be back as soon as I can”.

Decker arrived at a heavily cordoned-off area of Unter den Linden. The flashing lights of the emergency services illuminated the buildings and trees of the street, and making visible the police personnel who were checking the immediate area for trace evidence. Television news journalists had set up camp outside the cordon and were getting ready to go live on-air with their reports.

As Decker approached the cordon, she flashed her government badge at the officer on duty, and he nodded her through. Schmitz was waiting for her. He half-raised a hand in greeting and nodded towards a tree where a white sheet lay over what was obviously a body.

“Who died?” said Decker.

“I think we may have found our Chancellery mole” said Schmitz. “From the looks of things, he was at the wrong end of a violent disagreement with a very sharp blade”.

Decker trotted on ahead of Schmitz and carefully lifted up a corner of the white sheet. Lifeless eyes looked back at her, the face and head lying in congealed blood. A coppery smell hit Decker’s nostrils, making her temporarily nauseous.

“His name is – or was – Martin Krause” said Schmitz, standing behind her. “As to whether that’s his real name remains to be seen. We are running checks now on how he managed to get into the Federal Police without his background being detected”.

“So he was a Chancellery bodyguard then?”

“Yes, and what makes it worse is that I’ve checked the staff schedules for the past week, and it turns out he had been standing right next to the Chancellor fully armed. Including when she met the American Secretary of State. To think he could have turned, fired, and killed them both is making me feel sick”.

“Looks like someone has helped us clear up a problem then. The downside of course is that the dead can’t talk. Whatever he knew about the Scorpion died with him”.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Captain” said Schmitz. He bent down and unbuttoned Krause’s blood-soaked shirt. He pointed to something attached to Krause’s body.

A recording device.

“He bugged himself?”

“Seems like he didn’t trust the Scorpion” said Schmitz.

“Gee, I wonder why”.

“I’ve listened to it. You need to hear it for yourself”.

“The fact you want the Chancellor’s personal schedule makes it obvious she is your next target. This version of the schedule is highly restricted. That means when the chancellor dies at an unannounced event, the few people with access to the schedule are going to be the prime targets”.

“Turn the damn thing off” growled Unterwald.

Schmitz pressed the button on the recorder and the voice stopped. For a moment, Unterwald looked out of the window, as if transported to another world. Schmitz and Decker looked at one another, with Schmitz looking as if he was going to have to take personal responsibility for the screw-up. Standing next to the door, like he wanted the option for a quick getaway was Klaus Wagner.

“The other person on that tape” said Unterwald to Wagner, “is that the man who shot your asset and had a nice little chat to you on the phone?”

“Yes”. Wagner’s mood was sombre.

“How did Krause get past your background checks?” said Unterwald to Schmitz.

Schmitz steeled himself for the inevitable assault. “Don’t even think about trying to pin this on me sir. I can assure you that everyone in the chancellery had their backgrounds re-checked when I came in, Krause included. The background checks went right back to when they were at school and every single day after that was accounted for. The fact he came back clean means he had a perfect fake identity, complete with matching documents and iron-clad backstory. You don’t get that from some two-bit fake identity dealer in the street.”

“Meaning?”

“I think what Schmitz is diplomatically trying to tell you sir” said Decker quietly, “is that this is the sort of identity you would get from a police witness protection program”.

Unterwald stared at her. “The police gave it to him?”

“Or someone high enough in the government”.

Unterwald moved and stood in front in Decker.

“From now on, everything you and Schmitz say better be more than backed up by evidence. If you start accusing senior government officials without proof, you and I are going to have a serious problem”.

“Hans, back off and let them do their damn jobs” said Wagner, “they have my full confidence. That means they should have yours too”.

Unterwald continued to stare at Decker for a moment, then looked at Schmitz. He then walked back to his desk, picked up the phone and dialled an extension.

“Madam Chancellor, I need you to cancel your next appointment….well, I’m very sorry but the South African foreign minister is going to have to wait. I need to see you right now….yes Ma’am….thank you. I’m on my way with a visitor to see you”.

He hung up. “Schmitz, find out where Krause got his fake identity from. Decker, you’re with me”.

As Unterwald and Decker left the room, Decker caught Wagner’s eye. It was a look of warning. Decker gave Wagner a reassuring look and he nodded back.

Decker had never met the chancellor, and truth be told, she had never had an urgent desire to meet her. Apart from her natural distaste for bureaucrats, politics was never her thing and she had never voted in her entire life. She gave herself a variety of reasons for it. Too busy. Too uninterested in the process. Too cynical. But truth be told, she realised her antipathy lay in the fact that, at the end of the day, politicians were pretty much all the same, regardless of whatever party they came from. Self-serving, hypocritical, and in some cases, corrupt.

But to her surprise, she found she liked Claudia Meyer the moment she met her.

“Madam Chancellor” said Unterwald, as they entered Meyer’s office.

Meyer was behind her large desk reading from a file.

“I hope this is worth offending the South African Foreign Minister” she said without looking up from her reading, “he seemed quite perturbed when I phoned him to postpone the meeting”.

“You know I wouldn’t do this without a good enough reason” said Unterwald, with his hands clasped behind his back. He looked like a tightly wound spring.

“So, let’s have it” said Meyer, “who is our visitor today?”

“This is Captain Sophie Decker. She is an intelligence agent, looking into that certain ‘Scorpion’ problem you discussed with Deputy Director Wagner the other day”.

“Why do I get the distinct impression you are not here to give me good news?”.

“Well we have very bad news, Ma’am, but also some good news to take the edge off the bad stuff” said Decker, “which would you like first?”

A hesitant look appeared on Meyer’s face. “Give me the good news”.

“The good news is that we have found the mole in the chancellery”.

A surprised look appeared on Meyer’s face. “That is good news, Captain”.

“And he’s dead”.

“Even better” said Meyer, “I would have preferred him alive, but a trial would have been too public and too messy. This way we can sweep it under the rug”.

But then the smile died. “OK, what’s the bad news?”.

“He left us a goodbye recording you will want to hear”.

“Shit!” shouted the chancellor after hearing the recording, “this psychopath has my schedule?”

“For the next three months” said Unterwald quietly.

“Oh..wonderful” said Meyer, icily, “and you know full well how many public appearances are on that schedule for the next bloody three months”.

“Look at the upside Ma’am” said Decker, “we now have the full list of possibilities where he can get to you. Now we know he is going for you at a scheduled appearance. If he is not going to do anything reckless like firing a bazooka at the chancellery or shooting at your car, we can protect you better”.

“Oh that makes me feel so much better” she said sarcastically, “Now I can only expect a bullet when I step outside. I should never have agreed to Wagner’s suggestion to make myself a moving human target”. Meyer sat heavily on an oversized couch in the corner of her office.

“It’s either that Ma’am, or spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder” said Decker. “People like the Scorpion will never give up. Their ego is at stake. They won’t admit defeat”.

“So this Krause has been in the Chancellery for years, being paid by this Scorpion idiot for information? Perhaps I should be considering Lieutenant Schmitz’s position”.

“He’s one of ours” said Decker calmly. This brought a murderous glare from Unterwald. Decker knew instinctively she had just thrown Unterwald and Wagner under the bus. But right now, she didn’t care. Meyer was entitled to full disclosure now.

“Excuse me?” said Meyer.

“Lieutenant Schmitz is from my department. Herr Unterwald and Deputy Director Wagner were so concerned with your safety that your previous security chief was replaced by Schmitz, and he has been watching your back. It was done with your best interests at heart at all times. You were not informed because nobody wanted you to worry about anything”.

Meyer looked at Unterwald with a look that suggested a major chancellery staff shakeup was now on the cards.

“And is this true Hans? Did you have my best interests at heart?”.

“Of course” he said stiffly.

“Or did you just decide not to listen to that silly hysterical woman, and do whatever the big boys wanted to do instead?”.

“Madam Chancellor. With all due respect, that is absurd and I won’t dignify it with a response”.

“I had this man Krause standing next to me all of last week, including when the American Secretary of State was here” said Meyer. “Do you understand the huge diplomatic fallout if I now phone Washington and tell them my bodyguard was a terrorist?”

“Don’t tell them” said Decker. “This is our dirty laundry. Why should the Americans hear about it? None of their business”.

“Don’t tell them?” laughed Meyer. “This is Berlin. Nothing stays a secret in Berlin. Unless you are a deep-cover terrorist working inside the Chancellery, in which case you are a secret forever apparently”.

“Madam….” started Unterwald.

“Tell me, how has Krause been able to operate under the radar undetected until now?”.

A silence. Then Decker made a decision. To hell with it.

“We believe Krause is not his real name, and that someone inside the police or government has issued him with a fake ironclad identity and backstory to escape detection”.

Meyer looked appalled, and Unterwald turned slowly and looked furiously at Decker. Decker knew she would suffer for it later, but right now she could only see honesty as the way to survive one of Meyer’s legendary explosive bouts of temper. She would deal with Unterwald later.

There was suddenly an extended silence in the room as Meyer looked at Decker, as if assessing her. “Hans, could you leave me alone with Captain Decker please? I’ll call you when I need you”.

Unterwald looked startled and then miffed at the sudden dismissal. “Yes Ma’am” and he promptly turned around and marched out of the room, with as much dignity as he could muster. But he still managed one more cruel glare at Decker.

“I think you hurt his feelings” observed Decker.

“Tough” said Meyer, bluntly. “Sit down Captain. I can’t abide it when people stand in front of me”.

As Decker sat, Meyer poured two generous measures of whisky. She handed one glass to Decker.

“You look like a Scotch kind of girl” said Meyer, “and as your boss, I give you permission to drink on duty”.

“Thank you Ma’am” said Decker. “I think I will need the liquid courage for when I go back out to face Unterwald’s wrath”.

“Don’t worry about him. I’ll tell him to back off and leave you alone”.

Meyer and Decker sat for a moment, savouring the alcohol. Decker indulged her, knowing Meyer would speak when she was ready.

“Captain” she said finally, “give it to me straight, because I know Unterwald won’t. He does have my best interests at heart, but only up to a point. He would never admit it, but part of him is a chauvinistic dinosaur who thinks women shouldn’t be in politics”.

“Alright. Straight then. What do you want to know?”

Meyer finished off the rest of her drink. “I have to put on the tough act, because politics is still a man’s world, deep down. To get to the Chancellery, I’ve had to put up with an unbelievable amount of derision and condescension. Why am I not married, why don’t I have children, am I gay? You know, the usual stuff”.

“I can imagine” said Decker.

“No offence Captain, but I’m not sure you can. Anyway, that’s besides the point. The point is that the tough woman act is precisely that. An act. Deep down, this whole Scorpion crap is scaring the hell out of me, and it is affecting my sleep. The thought that I wasn’t even safe with my own bodyguards made me feel a lot worse. The fact the mole is now dead makes me feel better, but the Scorpion is still out there”.

“What’s your question?” asked Decker, swirling the last of her whisky around in her glass.

“Just how much danger am I in? Can you stop this dangerous lunatic?”

Decker thought for a moment. “Well, he is certainly someone not to be underestimated. He murdered your bodyguard in cold blood. He has dozens of kills to his name. He has a reputation for being relentless and professional. He certainly isn’t a beginner at this”.

“Can you stop him?” said Meyer.

“I’m reasonably confident I can”.

“Reasonably confident? That doesn’t exactly make me feel better”.

"I would be doing you a disservice if I said I was 100% sure. You said you wanted total honesty. I will do my best to protect you. I think my service record speaks for itself”.

“What would you need?”

“Are you offering me a job?”

“Until the Scorpion is caught, I need someone I can trust. If Unterwald trusts you, that is good enough for me. So what would you need?”

Decker took a deep breath. “Get Unterwald off my back. He is probably sharpening his claws, waiting for me to leave your office. I need to have full access to you 24 hours a day around the clock. There is to be no move to fire Schmitz for the Krause incident. Your protection detail needs to suck it up and accept me as their temporary boss, plus you need to provide me with full authority and full legal immunity to do whatever is needed to protect you. If that means blowing up a bus full of registered voters, then so be it. I don’t want or need any hand-wringing about the legal niceties. If any politician, police, or intelligence agency objects, I need you or Unterwald to shut it down”.

“You don’t exactly ask for much, do you?”

“You asked what I needed. That’s what I need”.

“If you are going to, as you call it, blow up a bus full of registered voters, it needs to be discreet and deniable. I can’t have this coming back on me” said Meyer. “Do you understand the meaning of the words ‘discreet’ and ‘deniable’?”

“Nope”.

“Yes” sighed Meyer, “that’s what worries me. But right now, my options are narrowing by the hour. I will have to trust you. You have a deal, but nothing in writing. If you think I am putting my signature to any legal immunity deal, you have another thing coming. Just as I will have to trust you, you will have to trust me too to protect you”.

“Alright” said Decker cautiously.

“Don’t worry Captain” said Meyer. “Just kill that son-of-a-bitch. Leave the legal niceties to me”.

As Decker rose to leave, Meyer said “as you leave, send in Herr Unterwald. And please don’t say anything to provoke him – if you can manage that”.

Meyer left the office to find Unterwald fuming and pacing the outer room where Meyer’s secretary sat. The secretary looked terrified at Unterwald’s increasingly volatile mood.

“She wants you” said Decker, pointing to her door.

“You and I are not finished” said Unterwald, jabbing a finger at her. “not by a long shot”.

Decker stood and looked at him for a moment. Unterwald’s face was burning and the veins in his neck were more pronounced.

“You’d better go in” said Decker calmly. “You shouldn’t keep her waiting”.

“Why thank you Captain for your concern over my welfare”.

“Hans” said a voice behind Decker. It was Meyer. “Lower your voice and come into the office please. Decker, you have your orders. You can go now”.

“Yes Ma’am”. Then she walked out of the office.

All in all, she was quite proud of her self-restraint.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Nine

After escaping the Unter den Linden, the Scorpion had made his way to another boring bland business hotel. One of many that populated the centre of Berlin to cater to the numerous business people who flocked to the German capital.

It was one of his abiding principles, which had never let him down. When hiding, always hide in plain sight.

As he checked into his room, he threw the leather bag with the two million Euros in it into the corner of the room. Having second thoughts, he opened the wardrobe and pushed it under the spare blankets on the top shelf. He put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and sat down on the bed, looking at the blood-splattered manilla envelope given to him by Krause.

He hoped to God that there was actually something in this envelope, after everything he had been through that morning. He actually felt bad killing Krause. After everything the two men had been through together, the Scorpion really thought Krause was strong and reliable. But it was plain to see that Krause was already falling apart under the strain of what was to come. Disposing of him was the only possible solution.

At least that’s what the Scorpion kept telling himself. He wasn’t sure why he was having to justify himself. He had certainly never done it before.

He had a bad feeling that there was probably blank paper in the envelope with Krause trying to run some kind of a scam on him. As he idly turned the envelope around in his hand, he picked up the remote control and turned on the television. Suddenly he saw a face he recognised, and the envelope was totally forgotten about.

“Police are confirming today that the Berlin crime boss, Gabriel Schäfer, has been arrested. Police raided one of his clubs last night to arrest him on outstanding vice charges, when he discharged a weapon, in an effort to escape. He was quickly overpowered and taken into custody. However sources inside the Berlin police tell us that Schäfer has been transferred to another department for further questioning…”

Scorpion looked at the television, furiously trying to think. The vice charges were quite obviously a load of crap, and that was proven by his transfer to “another department for further questioning”. That reeked of military intelligence, and the timing was very off. Why would military intelligence want to talk to him, if it wasn’t about him?

The Scorpion knew it was Schäfer who had hired him. When he had left the room after the meeting, he handed one of the pimps his Bitcoin details. It was then that he noticed on the bar, beermats with the name of the club. When the pimp hadn’t been looking, he had palmed one of the mats, and later did some checking to see who had owned the place. A minute on Google was enough to know the name of the owner and what he looked like. Schäfer’s criminal exploits had graced the German newspapers for years.

Amateurs, letting their guard down like that. But their money was as good as anyone else’s.

Having to shoot those men after the meeting was bad enough, but this….it was only a matter of time before Schäfer did a deal and talked. They always talked in the end, no matter how tough they thought they were. Everyone has their breaking point, even a so-called tough guy like Schäfer.

If Schäfer talked, he could identify the Scorpion. Describe his face in minute detail. Then his anonymity would be shot to hell. He would have to get plastic surgery or run like hell.

The game had suddenly got a lot more harder.

He opened the envelope.

Gabriel Schäfer was in a tremendous amount of pain.

He was still under the impression that he was in police custody, so he wasn’t bothered about his legal situation. It had been chaotic in the club, with all the customers screaming, smoke from the stun grenades, and the shock from the sudden police assault. So he could claim that shooting the gun was an rash impulsive act, and plead for mercy. He could even fake a bit of legal insanity.

He just needed to see his lawyer, so the waters could be muddied a bit, witnesses could be paid off, and the prosecutor to be sufficiently worried about the strength of his case.

He had been transported to the interrogation room hours ago, and he was starting to get really angry. He had long given up shouting for his lawyer, and instead he sat there smouldering.

His hands and feet were shackled to the table. But the chair rocked back and forth, and the light above his head flickered on and off. It was also extremely hot, the heat having been turned up on Decker’s orders. The sweat rolled off Schäfer’s face like a waterfall. Even more so, because they had covered him in blankets to make the heat even worse, then used ropes to make sure he couldn’t shake the blankets off.

He laughed to himself. He probably looked like a badly wrapped Christmas present. These really were crude psychological techniques. But he had been in and out of rooms like this one more times than he cared to count. A rocking chair, a flickering light, and a bit of heat would not be enough to make him spill his guts out.

But his shoulder. That hurt like living hell. He had demanded pain killers and was ignored. The same way he demanded water and was smirked at. The police had a nerve treating him like this. He would sue them for all the money they had.

The door opened and Decker walked in, followed by Schmitz. Finally, thought Schäfer. And a woman to boot. This is going to be too easy.

“I want my lawyer” he growled, “and get these bloody ropes and blankets off me”.

Decker and Schmitz said nothing. Schmitz moved to the back corner of the room, just behind Schäfer. Decker slowly removed her leather jacket, revealing a tight t-shirt, well-toned muscles, and a dark tattoo of some description. Schäfer looked at her lasciviously. Decker realised she was being studied but really couldn’t care less. It just rolled off her. Schmitz wasn’t the first one to visually undress her and he sure wouldn’t be the last.

“Did you hear me?” said Schäfer. “Lawyer. Now!”.

Decker and Schmitz still didn’t respond. Schmitz started examining his nails, and Decker sat and studied Schäfer.

“How’s the shoulder and the nose?” she asked, finally.

Schäfer laughed. “Like you care. Withholding essential medical treatment? I’m going to sue you for that when I get out of here”.

“You’re assuming you’re getting out of here” said Schmitz, speaking for the first time.

Schäfer laughed again, albeit this time more nervously, “you can’t make all that stuff that happened at the club stick. It was chaotic. An accident”.

Schmitz moved forward, grabbed Schäfer by the shoulder wound, and squeezed as hard as he could. The screaming from Schäfer was ear-splitting, as Schmitz pushed down on Schäfer’s shoulder with all his strength.

“I’m sorry?” said Schmitz, “you were saying? Oh yes, you were telling us all about your unique defence whereby you claim everything was an accident. If you’re planning to go with that bullshit, I think you’ll find my colleagues will ensure you’ll be the one having an unfortunate accident”.

“Don’t give me all that crap” snarled Schäfer, as Schmitz started slapping Schäfer’s shoulder over and over, “you police have rules. You’re breaking every single one! I want my lawyer now!”

“Ah but there’s the thing Herr Schäfer” said Decker, “we’re not the police. This is not a police station, in our world there are no rules, no judges, no lawyers, no due process. In short, we can do whatever we want to you. Tell me, have you ever been tortured?”.

Schäfer laughed with a roar. “Everytime I listen to a woman complaining. Stop wasting my time little girl”.

“Herr Schäfer, we work for the government” said Decker, “and I have had a particularly bad morning so far, so I am going to do you an enormous favour and cut to the chase. Where’s the Scorpion?”

Schäfer’s heart thudded in his chest and he swallowed saliva that had suddenly collected in his throat.

“The Scorpion? Who’s that?”. His smile and his act were not very convincing.

“The man you hired to kill Chancellor Meyer of course. Have you already forgotten doing that? I didn’t think that was something you would forget doing? Unless you take out hits on world leaders every day?”

How the hell did they know, thought Schäfer silently. Was the Scorpion such an amateur that he left a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow?

“Ah, I can hear your brain working” said Schmitz, “how do we know? Well for a start, we had someone working inside your club who reported the meeting to us. He was a bouncer and a pimp who took Scorpion’s Bitcoin details. ten million up-front with another ten million afterwards? And what, fifty grand in expenses? That’s a lot of money”.

“Oh and the agent is dead by the way” said Decker, “was that you? Because we would love to pin that one on you too”. She knew it was the Scorpion that did it, but Schäfer didn’t know that.

“I didn’t kill anybody!”. Schäfer was suddenly panicking.

“I highly doubt that, given your line of work” said Schmitz, cynically.

“We also have the Scorpion killing a Chancellery bodyguard this morning, a bodyguard who was wired for sound” continued Decker. “We got the whole conversation on tape, the whole assassination conspiracy. It’s over, Schäfer”.

Schäfer looked at them for a long moment. “Lawyer”.

Decker sighed. “They never learn do they, Lieutenant?”. She dialled a number on her mobile. “Come in”.

Several other operatives came in moments later. Big muscular men. Schäfer was no idiot. He knew what these men did for a living. He employed many like them himself. Mainly for breaking bones.

“Your last chance pretty boy”, whispered Schmitz into Schäfer’s ear.

Schäfer couldn’t move. He was suddenly frozen with fear. Unfortunately, that was misinterpreted by Decker as defiance, and she nodded to the other agents to get started. As two held onto Schäfer and squeezed the shoulder wound, the one in front started punching Schäfer hard across the jaw.

He did not last long. Despite being a cruel bully, he did not like being on the receiving end.

“All right!” shouted Schäfer. “I can’t tell you anything. He said no more meetings after that one, so I have no way of contacting him. We wired him his first half of the money, put the second half into an escrow account, warned him what would happen if he ran without doing the job, and that was it”.

Decker gave him a long hard stare for a moment.

“Let’s see if that’s really all you know. Boys, get to work on him”.

“Yes Ma’am” said one of the men.

“That’s all I know!” shouted Schäfer, “come on!”

Decker and Schmitz left the room, as Schäfer shouted louder and louder. As they closed the door to the room, the punching could be heard starting again.

A hour later, as Decker and Schmitz waited in the corridor, the lead interrogator came out of the room. He had blood on his hands, and his knuckles were raw.

“He says he will describe the Scorpion’s appearance to you, if you get the gun charges taken away. Other than that, he is sticking to his story”

“Alright, thank you Corporal. Clean him up and get him ready for transport”.

“Yes Ma’am”.

“Transport?” said Schmitz.

Decker held up a finger and dialled a number on her phone.

“Fischer? We’re finished with Schäfer. Do you want him back for those gun charges? He seems to think he is going to beat it. I’m sure you’d like to disabuse him of the idea…his appearance? Well he accidentally hit a door several times, but apart from that….good, we’ll send him your way”.

“We’re handing him back to the civilians?” said Schmitz, when Decker had hung up.

“You heard the corporal. Once we get the description of the Scorpion, Schäfer knows nothing more. So he’s no good to us. We can either shoot him or hand him back to the Berlin police for trial. I would prefer to earn some brownie points with the police”.

“He won’t give us that description without a deal in place”.

“So we’ll make him think he has a deal” said Decker, shrugging. “When we have the description, he’ll realise he has nothing. But by then, it’ll be too late. You overthink things Lieutenant”.

The Scorpion was delighted. Krause had delivered as promised. A full list of Meyer’s public appearances for the next three months. And in the end, it had cost him absolutely nothing, except one dead body.

He knew that now the list had been compromised, the chancellery would be cancelling all non-essential appearances. But there were some which could not be cancelled, due to long-standing arrangements, protocol, and family reasons.

He started highlighting all of the possibilities, thinking about how potentially he would do each one. Then the hotel room phone rang. He froze. He was inclined to ignore it, but hotel management knew he was in his room. Not answering the phone would look a bit suspicious.

He picked up the receiver. “Yes” he said quietly.

A muffled voice replied “I know who you are Scorpion, and don’t hang up because you need to hear this. Schäfer has been arrested by the government, and he is ready to trade your physical description for a deal. He is being transferred back to police headquarters. Do you want the route? Say yes or no now”.

The Scorpion thought quickly. It could be a police trap, but could he afford to take that chance? Plus if it was the police, they already knew where he was. Why weren’t they crashing his door down to arrest him?

“Yes, I want it”.

Three minutes later, he had grabbed his few belongings and escaped out the back service door of the hotel.

How had the caller known where he was hiding? The Scorpion could start to feel the whole edifice starting to shake and fall down.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Ten

Schäfer blinked from the sudden bright sunlight, as he was taken outside into the courtyard of the building, where he had been held. His wrists and ankles were tightly shackled and his once-pristine suit was now covered in dried blood and dirt.

Tall swarthy intelligence agents pushed Schäfer forward roughly, and propelled him towards the open car waiting for them. When he was tightly secured inside, the gate to the courtyard opened and the car began to slowly navigate its way out into the street.

The streets were narrow and not the best for a large armour-plated SUV. So they had to keep their speed slower than they normally would have liked. But they were not worried, as nobody knew the prisoner was being transported. And the windows were tinted black so seeing who was in the back seat was impossible.

But the Scorpion didn’t need to be able to see who was in the back, because he already knew. He had been given the location of the safe house, and the number plate of the vehicle. Which is all he needed.

He was standing on the roof of the building opposite. In his hand was a Russian RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher. A bit battered from years of use and various owners. But still working and still deadly efficient.

He waited until the car drew closer, taking care to conceal himself behind a chimney as much as possible.

Then he fired.

The rocket roared out of the launcher and arced down towards the car. The Scorpion had aimed it for just under the front wheels, so that the force of the blast would envelope the underbelly of the car, and lift it into the air.

He succeeded beautifully. The rocket hit under the front number plate head on and the resulting explosion quickly engulfed the outside of the car. The force of the blast propelled the vehicle into the air and as it rose, the petrol tank ignited, turning the car into a deadly fireball. It then dropped like a rock back onto the street and exploded again.

But with its close proximity to the other cars parked in the street, the explosion of the vehicle set off a devastating chain reaction. Cars exploded one after another, causing horrific damage.

Windows shattered, car alarms wailed, people screamed.

The Scorpion was shocked. He didn’t expect to make this much mess. He always strived to be very clinical in his work. To him, this was too messy and sloppy. He knew better than this. But the mysterious caller had given him absolutely no time to prepare. He had to wing it and this was the result.

At least Schäfer was dead. That was the main thing.

Throwing the RPG into a bag, he sprinted towards the back of the building where a rope had been tied, which he would use to abseil down the side to the alleyway below. He just hoped he could get away unseen.

Meanwhile, the sound of the brutal explosion had attracted Decker, Schmitz, and the others inside the building. They ran outside and down the street, but were forced back by the force of the flames, smoke, and heat. It was obvious to everyone there was no survivors in the car. There were also innocent civilians lying dead or injured in the street. In short, it was an unmitigated disaster.

“How many agents were in that car?” asked Decker, sombrely.

“Four” said Schmitz. “You can say goodbye to that description now”.

“It has to be the Scorpion who did this” said an agent, looking up at the opposite buildings. “Who told him Schäfer was being moved?”

“I can tell you now” said Decker angrily, “that when I find out who it was, they will die”.

With Unterwald and Wagner’s help, the incident was quickly declared a matter of national security and the civilian authorities were ordered to stand down. But this didn’t stop Fischer from coming to see the remains of the blackened vehicle for himself.

“I hope he suffered” was all he had to say, when he saw what was left of the car. He turned and looked at Decker. “you know who did this don’t you?”

Decker paused for a moment. “Yes” she said finally, “but I can’t tell you who it was. Let’s just say Schäfer was ready to give up an even bigger fish in exchange for a deal. No deal was ever agreed upon. It was all in his head. But we didn’t disabuse him of the idea. We wanted that other person”.

“So this other person decided to remove the threat first?”.

Fischer was nothing if not perceptive.

“It looks like it, yes” said Decker.

“And ended up taking out the entire street in the process” said Fischer, “talk about making sure”.

Scorpion dumped the RPG in the River Spree, and made his way to another hotel. This time, he used a different fake identity and he wore a heavy disguise. The ID he had been using in the last hotel was obviously compromised so that had been burnt.

After getting inside the room, he shaved, had a long hot shower and then changed into fresh clothes. Putting the disguise back on, he ordered room service, and when it arrived, he pulled off the wig, beard, and clear lens glasses.

He then ravenously tucked into his steak, the blood dripping out of it when he stabbed it with his fork. He hadn’t eaten in almost 14 hours, which was not normal for him. The Scorpion liked to eat.

When he was finished, he took Meyer’s schedule from his pocket, which by now was creased and dirty, and ran his finger down the list. He resolved to get this job done as soon as possible, as he was starting to get sick of it.

The chances of getting the other ten million Euros were virtually impossible now. It was sitting in escrow, and with Schäfer now dead and his associates in prison, there was nobody on their side to authorise the release of the money. That meant his fee for the job was now ten million Euros, the amount he had been paid at the very start. Not an amount to be sniffed at, but since the danger had multiplied greatly, and he would have to disappear for the rest of his life afterwards, losing the other ten million angered him greatly.

Of course, he could disappear with the money without doing the job. But although Schäfer was dead and his empire more or less dismantled by the state, the Scorpion didn’t know how many others would be willing to come after Scorpion on Schäfer’s behalf.

Besides, he was now pissed off. He wanted to finish the job. His professional pride was at stake now.

Meyer was going to die.

The Scorpion took a pen and circled one of the events on the list.

That was where he would do it.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Eleven

“What the hell happened, Captain?”

Meyer turned from her office window and stared at Decker, who stood stiffly at attention.

“This is supposed to be a top-secret warehouse, operated by the security services. Only a handful of people knew Schäfer was being moved. But despite that, the Scorpion managed to intercept the vehicle, kill Schäfer, four highly trained government agents, and eight civilians, then escape the scene again. Please feel free to interrupt me Captain, if I am misrepresenting any of the facts. I wouldn’t want to unfairly paint you in a bad light”.

“No, you’re right so far”. Decker’s mood was grim. She had heard of Meyer’s explosive tempers, and this sounded like the prelude to one.

“And now any chance we have had of identifying the Scorpion is now completely gone”.

“Yes”

“Tell me there’s an upside to all of this”.

“As you said, only a handful of people knew Schäfer was being moved. Those inside the safe house, including Schmitz and I, and Unterwald here at the chancellery. And of course the agents inside the car. But I highly doubt one of them would throw away his life by telling an assassin which car to hit”.

“Unless you are blaming Unterwald, which I would strongly caution against, I suggest you focus your attention on the agents inside the building” said Meyer, sitting back down behind her desk. “I will have to assume it wasn’t you or Schmitz. That leaves the others that were with you inside. I assume they are being checked out and questioned?”.

“Yes, Schmitz is doing it. Their phones have been confiscated and they are being individually questioned. They’re obviously furious they are under suspicion, but quite frankly I don’t care”.

“Fine” said Meyer, “so do you have any clue where the Scorpion is likely to try to go for me?”

“Looking at what remains of your schedule, yeah, I have a pretty good idea where”.

The Scorpion, in yet another one of his disguises, walked past the target location, and scouted around to find its doors. Before going into any building, the Scorpion needed to know where the alternate escape route was.

This policy had saved his life on many occasions, and on one job, when he hadn’t bothered to check for an alternate route, he had to throw himself through a window to get away. Needless to say, the pain from that was agonising and he was lucky to escape with relatively little scars from the glass.

So from that point on, he resolved never to go into another building without knowing all the ways to get out of it again.

The street itself was pretty busy, with lots of people walking with their kids, or talking on their phones. Kids were nosy people and phones meant cameras and videos. All of that made him nervous, and for a long moment, he reconsidered whether or not this was the best place to hit Meyer.

Yes, he decided to himself. This was the ideal place. For many reasons.

He knew the security would be intense, but every place had weaknesses. The biggest weakness was overconfidence. Security details made the mistake of thinking weapons and overwhelming numbers would make them the victor in any fight. But the Scorpion had learned that all you needed was a disguise to slip past. If you could do that, all the weapons and manpower in the world wouldn’t matter one tiny bit.

Besides, he liked a challenge, and his professional pride was at stake. If he could pull this off, people would be whispering his name for years. He would become a legend.

Decker met up with Schmitz inside the Chancellery. He was coming down a corridor, looking intensely at a file folder and frowning.

“How is it going with the background checks?”

“All of them have come back clean as a whistle” said Schmitz, “but considering that Krause also had a whiter than white reputation, I am not putting too much faith in the rest of the detail. It will be immensely unfair to the innocent ones, but until this situation is resolved, I am rotating the rest of the detail off the Chancellery and bringing in new faces”.

“That will make you as popular as a kick in the balls” said Decker, wryly.

“Better a few hurt egos than a dead chancellor and a rampaging chief of staff” replied Schmitz. “The protection detail are professionals. They’ll get over it”.

“Any ideas yet as to where Krause got his immaculate new identity from?”

“That’s the other thing bothering me” said Schmitz, “without an original identity, I can’t look up the name to see who issued him with the Krause name. But he is absolutely nowhere else. His fingerprints are not on any database, except for when he applied to join the Federal Police. And he is not on any criminal databases, either here or abroad. Facial recognition gave us squat”.

“I have a nasty feeling he has someone in the government protecting him” said Decker, “Meyer doesn’t have a whole lot of fans, especially in the Intelligence community. I can easily see a disgruntled senior spook covering up for the Scorpion, supplying him with weapons and advance information. We obviously can’t prove it at the moment, but we have to assume it until we know otherwise. That means keeping everything to ourselves”.

“Lying to Meyer and Unterwald?” said Schmitz, surprised.

“Even that” said Decker, “call it ‘saving them from themselves’”

“I call it the fast track to getting fired” said Schmitz, “but whatever. You’re the boss”.

The Scorpion did one final check of the property before the planned hit the next day. He had disguised himself as a homeless alcoholic, which he was capable of pulling off very well. When he had left the Legion, he was briefly homeless and alcoholic, so he was doing what he already knew.

There were already men in suits there, which the Scorpion assumed to be bodyguards. They were securing the perimeter of the building, checking doors and windows, and doing a thorough search of the interior and exterior of the building.

The Scorpion had to admire their thoroughness and resourcefulness, but he knew such measures were useless. He already knew how to get in. They would let him march right through the front door. The simplicity of it made him want to laugh out loud.

Before someone got suspicious and decided to question him, the Scorpion decided it was time to leave. He knew he would eventually have to trust in luck and do it. The opportunity he had been handed tomorrow was a priceless one which would probably not come up again for a long time. He did not intend to wait that long.

Tomorrow was a go.

Tomorrow, the Chancellor of Germany, Claudia Meyer, would be dead, and the whole world would be shaken to its core.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Twelve

Meyer’s public appearance was set for two o’clock in the afternoon, and she was scheduled to stay for no more than a couple of hours. But the Scorpion was already up and about early, as he needed to make a visit first.

The one thing he had learned from many years in the job was that, in order to circumvent security, the best way was to pose as someone they were expecting. It was strangers that stood out. It was strangers they questioned more closely. But if they were expecting a certain person in a certain role, they were less likely to look too closely.

Of course there was a first time for everything. So the whole theory could quite easily go wrong very quickly. In which case he would have to improvise, and he was no good at improvisation.

Stealing a car which was parked on a quiet street, the Scorpion drove to another area of the city. He had the person’s address, which he had found on the Internet the previous day. As he had thought before, people put too much on the Internet, and giving away his address was going to get this man killed.

The Scorpion finally saw the small house and saw to his satisfaction that it was surrounded by a tall fence. Even better, there didn’t seem to be any dogs. It wasn’t long ago that he had gone to kill a target and his German Shepherd had leapt out and planted its teeth in his leg. He had no desire to go through all that again. There were days when his leg still ached from the bite.

There was also nobody walking in the street, and a quick examination of neighbouring houses revealed nobody looking at him suspiciously. He couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, so he had to hope his luck was in today.

He got out of the car cautiously, and keeping his head down, walked towards the garden gate. Cautiously pressing the latch, he realised the gate was unlocked and it swung open.

Unbelievable. This was almost starting to get too easy.

Closing the gate, he walked up to the front door of the house, and rang the bell.

“Yes?”. A woman appeared at the door, looking at the Scorpion curiously.

“Hello, are you Frau Winkler?”

“Yes, that’s right”

“I was wondering if your husband was home, Frau Winkler. I have a possible job for him”.

Frau Winkler frowned. “Well..we really don’t like people coming to the door. It would be much better if you called him at his office tomorrow morning”.

“But he is here?” pressed Scorpion.

“Yes” she said finally with great reluctance.

“Good” said Scorpion, who pulled out a silenced gun and shot her in the head.

Frau Winkler fell back onto the hallway floor with a crash. The Scorpion quickly came in and closed the door behind him. Examining the body, he could see that the bullet had hit Frau Winkler dead centre between the eyes. The eyes themselves were half-open, as if her final seconds were consumed with how disappointed she was at her untimely demise.

“Gretl?”. The uncertain and nervous voice came from upstairs. “Is everything OK dear? I heard a noise. Did you drop something?”

Before the Scorpion could move to the stairs, he could hear Herr Winkler coming down. Obviously, the lack of a response from his wife made him concerned for her well-being.

The Scorpion ran into a side-room and waited for Herr Winkler to come down and reveal himself. When he finally did, he gave a shout of horror and rushed towards the corpse in the hallway. The Scorpion could see it was Herr Winkler, the man he had come for.

Pointing the gun straight-ahead at eye-level, he moved out of the room. Winkler saw him, and looked terrified.

“Please..we have money, valuables..take whatever you want” he pleaded, crying.

“I’m not here for your money and valuables” said Scorpion, quietly.

“Then what do you want?”

“Your identity”.

Before Winkler could reply, Scorpion fired another shot, and sent Winkler to meet his dead wife.

Decker didn’t like that Meyer was going to the appointment, and she tried unsuccessfully for nearly half an hour to talk her out of going. There were too many unknown variables she argued, too many risks, and there was no absolute need for her to be there. But she refused to cancel. She said it was a long-standing engagement, and she would not let anybody down.

The venue was to be held in a private house, so Decker and Schmitz made their way over there to review the security procedures. They arrived as heavily armed security men walked in again with sniffer dogs. Civilians stood nearby, watching curiously. The crowd were mainly supportive of Meyer coming, but a few had taken the opportunity to make quick protest signs.

“What do you think?” said Schmitz, looking around.

“I think this is where he will try it” said Decker.

“You’re sure?”

“If I was him, this is where I would do it”.

“Yeah well, you’re certifiable” said Schmitz. “Saying that, the Scorpion probably doesn’t have all his marbles lined up either”.

“I’m going in to take a look around” said Decker, walking up to the front door.

She and Schmitz walked into the house, to a hum of quiet efficiency. Dogs sniffed the furniture, doors and windows were being reinforced, and security people stood in the back garden peering over the wall. They made their way upstairs and poked their heads into every room, and satisfied things were under control, went back outside.

“There’s nothing more we can do here” said Decker, “I’m going back to the Chancellery to try again and talk Meyer into cancelling”.

“Good luck with that” grunted Schmitz, “I’ll stick around here, and make sure nobody is slacking off”.

Scorpion looked at the body of Herr Winkler and realised that he could reasonably pull this off.

He had looked at Winkler’s website the day before and looked at a photo of the man. When he realised they both shared similar facial features, it was another sign to the Scorpion that the stars were lining up, and this was meant to be the place where it would be done.

Scorpion opened a small bag that he had brought with him. Inside was hair dye, coloured contact lenses, a thicker pair of glasses with clear lenses, and a beard. When he had the items on, he would have more than a passing resemblance to Winkler. At least enough to use Winkler’s driving licence as identification to get through the door.

He would not be able to get his weapon past the security cordon. Therefore, for the first time ever, he would have to find a weapon at the scene. He was optimistic he could disarm a bodyguard and take their gun. Or find something else.

This part of the plan was weak. He knew it, and walking into a room full of armed police officers without a weapon for himself was just plain foolhardy. But at this point, he really didn’t care. He was ready to put his life on the line to send Claudia Meyer straight to her grave.

He looked at his watch. A little under two hours before Meyer was scheduled to appear. He needed to hurry.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Thirteen

Decker’s efforts once again to persuade Meyer to cancel failed miserably. If anything, it made Meyer even more angry, and Decker realised there was no stopping her. Secretly, she admired Meyer’s guts, but it also irritated the hell out of her that Meyer was making her job much more difficult.

Not to mention that she and Schmitz would get the blame if Meyer was killed or wounded.

Meyer walked out of her private apartment in casual clothes – well, casual by her standards – and stood in front of Decker.

“I’m ready” she said, in a tone that practically challenged more dissent. “Let’s go”.

“You realise this is the day he is going to go for you?”

“Then this is the day you step up and kill him. This is the day when I find out if you’re as good as everyone says you are”.

Decker refused to rise to the bait. “As you wish Ma’am. Let’s go”.

As they walked towards the car, Decker spoke into a small encrypted transmitter inside her jacket sleeve.

“Schmitz? She’s coming”

“Oh great” said the voice in her ear, “what could possibly go wrong?”

Despite the blood on the floor, the Scorpion moved the bodies of the Winklers into another room and closed the door. He threw a dark rug over the blood stains. He knew it would not stand up under close scrutiny, but it might fool people casually looking through the window. He had to cross his fingers and hope for the best.

He didn’t have to worry so much leaving the house. Now in disguise as Winkler, there was no reason why the neighbours wouldn’t think he was Winkler. As long as he acted normally, and nobody tried to engage him in conversation, he should be fine.

But of course, things never work out like that.

He barely made it to Winkler’s car, when a neighbour came out. A kindly old man, he assumed the Scorpion was Winkler, and he smiled and waved. The Scorpion smiled and waved back, hoping that would satisfy the old man. But it seemed he wanted to talk, because he started to cross the road.

“Unbelievable” breathed Scorpion, under his breath. It looked as if his luck had started to run out. He knew he would be found out as soon as he tried to say something. Impersonations were never his thing. Disguises yes, voices no. So he had to get into the car as quickly as possible. It would look suspicious if he hurried, but right now he was rapidly running out of options.

“Erwin!” shouted the neighbour, with the smile still on his face, “how are you my friend?”

The Scorpion smiled back, pointed to the car, and hoped the neighbour would get the message that the Scorpion was in a hurry with no time to talk. The old man stopped for a moment, frowned, and looked slightly offended that Winkler was not willing to talk to him. He started to move forward a bit more hesitatingly, and the Scorpion wished not for the last time that he hadn’t left his pistol inside the house.

The Scorpion got into the car, and drove off. The last thing he saw was the neighbour looking at him with a slightly baffled and upset look on his face.

Screw him, thought the Scorpion savagely. I’ll never see you again, old man.

The house was now full of people, and a loud din of people talking and children screaming filled the air. Meyer’s vehicle finally arrived via a side-street, after Decker had ordered the route to be shut down to all other vehicles. They took a circuitous route in case the Scorpion decided to recklessly attack the vehicle, although Decker knew that was highly unlikely. But at this stage, she was not ruling anything out.

Schmitz came out of the house as the vehicle approached. Some of the other residents of the street were behind the cordon, watching their leader arrived. Some faces were friendly, but the few determined to protest started shouting as Meyer’s car arrived.

Before the door was opened, Schmitz took one last look around, including the opposite rooftops. Police marksmen were on the roof, marksmen who were highly skilled, but also highly trusted. Seeing nothing untoward, he nodded to Decker in the back seat, and opened the back door.

Decker got out first, then stood in front of the back door as Meyer got out. It was then that Decker experienced her first bout of nerves. She half-expected a bullet to come whizzing through the air at any second. But to her surprise, nothing happened.

“Madam Chancellor” said Schmitz, formally.

“Lieutenant” nodded Meyer, “can I get past now to see my niece?”

“Aunty!” screamed a girl who ran out the door and into Meyer’s arms. “I didn’t think you were coming!”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world, sweetie” smiled Meyer, “will we go in?”.

As they walked inside, Decker murmured to Schmitz. “Look sharp. He’s definitely going to show. Nobody is to let down their guard for a single second”.

Schmitz nodded, then looked around nervously. As Meyer moved into the house, Schmitz and Decker followed.

The house was the home of Meyer’s niece, who was having her birthday party today. The Scorpion knew that out of all the engagements Meyer would cancel, the one she would definitely not cancel, would be one where she would upset her eight year old niece by not turning up to her birthday party.

If there was one thing that made the Scorpion’s job a bit easier, it was that human nature was so predictable. Even if it put her life on the line, Meyer wouldn’t do anything that would paint her as the “evil aunty”.

As he was scouting out the house the previous day, he initially had no clear plan on how he was going to get in. But then the mysterious muffled voice on the phone was back, giving him the name and address of the caterer for the party and suggesting the Scorpion should go pay him a visit. He almost didn’t go – he strongly suspected a police trap at this stage. Maybe they were that desperate? But he was convinced the voice was the same voice who had given up Schäfer. If that was the case, the chances of it being the police this time were slim. He had decided to risk it.

Now that he was disguised as the official party caterer, and he was expected, he felt the rest was going to be absurdly easy. He reminded himself not to be over-confident though. The hardest part would be getting away – if he did get away at all.

But it was too late now to turn back. The catering van was approaching the security cordon. Bodyguards, armed with Heckler & Koch machine-guns held up a hand in a gesture telling him to stop.

The Scorpion’s heart thudded in his chest.

He could die today. But if he did, he would take Meyer with him.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Fourteen

The Scorpion stopped the vehicle and wound down his window.

“This is a private function” said the bodyguard, gruffly, “you need to turn around sir”.

“I’m booked for the party. I’m the caterer”, said the Scorpion.

“Name?”

“Erwin Winkler” said the Scorpion, “says so on the side of the van, doesn’t it?”

The bodyguard made no comment. He merely thrust out his hand.

“Identification please”.

Trying to remain calm, Scorpion removed Winkler’s driving licence from the wallet. He tried not to have his hands shaking. That would have been a dead giveaway right there. He discreetly ran his hands over his jeans to wipe away the sweat that had accumulated. Luckily, the bodyguard was too focused looking at the licence to notice.

“I’ve changed a bit since that picture was taken” said the Scorpion, laughing. “Too much nice food. Blame the wife. Too much grey hair. Blame the kids for that”.

The guard smiled, but showed no sign at letting the Scorpion through. Instead, he got his radio out.

“Sir? We have someone here at the cordon. Name is Erwin Winkler. He claims to be the caterer booked for the party”.

“Is he on the approved list?” said Schmitz at the other end.

“His name is there, yes”.

There was silence for a long moment. Then “wait there Sergeant. I’m coming”.

The Scorpion’s heart rate was really racing now. This wasn’t working. He expected to be waved through. He was the goddamn caterer! Getting out of here would be difficult, he assessed. He would just hit the pedal and reverse, but the guards would open up with their machine guns, and he would be cut to ribbons. He would never make it.

The front door opened and Schmitz stepped out. He walked towards the van, and took the licence from the sergeant as he walked past.

“Herr Winkler” said Schmitz, as he approached the car, “I apologise for the inconvenience, but we have a security situation here. So we need to search the vehicle. And you. Can you get out of the van please?”

“Certainly”. Scorpion felt utterly naked without his gun. He knew that if they had the slightest suspicion about who he was, he would have to surrender. He would have nothing to fight with.

He got out and was expertly patted down by another guard, while Schmitz examined the driving licence. His van was also thoroughly searched. But nothing was found because there was nothing to find – except for Herr Winkler’s food.

“Thank you for your co-operation Herr Winkler” said Schmitz, “please drive through, then take your supplies to the back door of the kitchen. An agent will show you where you can set up”.

“Thank you sir” said the Scorpion.

He got back into the van. He couldn’t believe it. It was actually working.

He had breached the security cordon.

Decker was starting to get a headache.

She absolutely hated children. She had absolutely no desire to have any of her own, and part of that was to do with her own horrendous childhood. But she also hated kids that screamed their heads off, who whined, begged, fought, and did the million things a child normally does.

So this party was rapidly starting to grate on her nerves. She put on her sunglasses, as if the dark lenses would successfully ward off the pain of the noise now assaulting her nerves. But she knew that the effort was futile.

Schmitz came in and looked at the foul look on her face.

“Wow” he said eventually, “I feel sorry for the Scorpion if he really does try it today. You’re really going to do him over with that look on your face”.

“I’m starting to wonder where the hell he is” said Decker. “I’m so sure it’s today. I told Meyer that. If he’s a no-show, Meyer will obviously be glad, but on the other hand, she’ll question my judgment if I get it wrong. I just don’t see the Scorpion as being someone who would give up easily and run away”.

“It’s too early to call things a failure, Captain” said Schmitz, “besides, cheer up. The caterer just arrived”.

Decker’s eyes narrowed. “Did you check his identity?”.

Schmitz looked at her for a moment. “No Captain, I let through a complete stranger in the hope that he is a friendly enough sort of guy. Of course I checked his identification, and he is on the list of expected staff”.

“Sorry”

“This isn’t my first rodeo” said Schmitz. “Calm down. You’ll feel better when you’ve had a sandwich”.

After being allowed to enter the house by the back kitchen door, the Scorpion was directed to a corner of the kitchen, where he could prepare the food. For appearances sake, he carried a few of the sandwich boxes into the house, but when the agent in the kitchen turned his back for a moment, the Scorpion took a discreet look around.

There was a knife rack virtually right next to him, a staple in any kitchen. The Scorpion casually looked over his shoulder to see if the agent was still looking the other way, but he had turned back to look at the Scorpion.

“Anything good in those boxes?” asked the agent.

“Of course” grinned the Scorpion, “let me just get one of these knives to cut the sandwiches up and you can tell me yourself what you think”.

He casually slid one of the knives out of the rack and went to the top sandwich box, as if to open it. But as the agent got closer, the Scorpion grabbed him by the hair and with the knife, slashed him from ear to ear, almost decapitating him.

The agent gurgled as blood pumped out of his neck fast. As it landed on the floor, the agent skidded in it, and fell. The Scorpion took this opportunity to use the knife again by planting his knee firmly in the agent’s chest and ramming the knife firmly in the dying man’s heart.

There was no time to waste. He grabbed the agent’s Heckler & Koch MP5 machine gun. He did a quick examination of inside the agent’s jacket and found a holster attached to his belt. Now he had a handgun as well. Better and better.

He pulled the dead guard around the other side of the central breakfast counter, although the floor was so slick with blood now that anyone walking in would instantly know there was something badly wrong. If he was going to succeed in this, he had to kill Meyer fast, grab another weapon and shoot his way out. His chances were slim, but by now, his sense of reasoning was gone.

It was time to get it done. He headed for the door.

“Captain?” squawked the voice over the radio.

“Yes Sergeant?” said Decker, “what is it?”

“This may be something, but it may also be nothing. There’s a report on the police radio that a couple were found dead by their neighbour in their house”.

“OK” said Decker, “that’s bad, but how does it affect us?”

“The family name was Winkler”.

“I’m still not following”.

“The caterer we let in the house had identification in the name of Winkler”.

The colour drained out of Decker’s face.

“Where is the Chancellor?” she said to Schmitz.

“In the living room”.

“It’s the caterer” shouted Decker, “the assassin is the fucking caterer”.

“Get the chancellor out” shouted Schmitz, “I’ll look for the Scorpion. Schmitz to all units, the caterer is the assassin. Shoot on sight, and shoot to kill”.

Decker ran through to the living room where the adults and children were sitting and playing. Meyer was sitting on the couch with her niece bouncing on her knee.

“Ma’am, we’re going now” said Decker, hauling the little girl off Meyer’s knee, and grabbing Meyer.

“Captain..”

“No, now” shouted Decker. She gripped a hold of Meyer and turned. But as she turned, she saw a man standing there, covered in blood, and holding a machine gun.

Gun!” she shouted, while at the same time, pushing Meyer over the back of the sofa and jumping on top of her. The sofa toppled over as they vaulted over it and it landed on top of them.

The Scorpion let off a long burst of machine gun fire which shredded the sofa. The guests and the children started screaming and crying, and dropped to the floor. One mother was shot in the leg and was begging for help.

Meyer was concussed when her head had hit the polished wooden floor, so she laid still on the floor stunned. Decker was on top, pulling her gun out from the back of her jeans.

“Schmitz!” she shouted, “take him out!”

Other agents had already come running, guns drawn. The Scorpion had turned around and fired in their direction, cutting some of them down. They never stood a chance.

Schmitz on the other hand had run out of the front door, went around the back of the house, and through the back door. He immediately saw the body of the dead agent and all of the blood, and felt sick.

“That son of a bitch is dead!” he swore, and he nudged open the kitchen door, looking carefully to see if he could see the Scorpion. When he had a clear visual, he lifted his pistol and fired two shots. One went wide, but the other hit the Scorpion in the back. Gasping, the Scorpion turned and fired a wild burst of fire which caught Schmitz and drove him back against the wall.

Meanwhile, Meyer had managed to partially regain consciousness, and she lay with tears in her eyes.

“The kids” sobbed Meyer, with her hand pressed against her head.

“They’re being evacuated out the front” shouted Decker, over the noise of gunfire. The Scorpion had by now picked up weapons from other dead agents and despite the bullet in his back, was taking on other agents in a pitched battle. Some of the agents were falling, and Decker had to wonder if they could hold out till the reinforcements got here.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Fifteen

The Scorpion cursed. He was hoping for the element of surprise, to catch Meyer unawares in the living room. He hadn’t expected that a guard would get spooked and rush Meyer out the front door.

This was all going to hell. Fast. He knew then that he would never get out of there alive. Strangely he found himself OK with that idea. He had had a good run, and he knew that one day it would all end violently.

But he would not die as a failure. He had been contracted to kill Meyer, and he would. She would be his last victim.

Thankfully he had managed to pick up enough ammunition, and as one magazine was empty, he immediately ejected it and loaded another. Decker took the opportunity while the Scorpion was reloading to fire her gun in his direction. But the Scorpion was now behind a thick wall, and Decker’s bullets thudded harmlessly into it. Her gun clicked to indicate it was empty.

Damn. She looked around for another weapon but the nearest one would put her perilously close to the Scorpion’s current position. Looking at the Scorpion, Decker then realised that he was so distracted with the other guards that she could potentially get Meyer out through the back kitchen door. Breaking cover would put them both in mortal danger if the Scorpion turned and saw them. But they were rapidly running out of options.

“Alright, listen Ma’am” whispered Decker into Meyer’s ear, “we are going to make a run for the back kitchen door. We just have to hope we are not spotted as we move from behind the sofa”.

“That will get us killed” hissed Meyer.

“Staying here will get us killed too. Trying to get out gives us a chance”.

No sooner had she said that when the last agent at the front door was shot in the throat. The Scorpion looked with astonishment, as if unable to believe he had managed to best them all. With an evil smile on his face, he threw the machine gun down, and with a pistol in his hand, turned to face Decker and Meyer. In the distance, loud sirens could be heard, as well as a rapidly approaching helicopter.

“Looks like they’re all dead” laughed the Scorpion, “that’s rather embarrassing”.

“In less than thirty seconds, there’ll be more” said Decker, through gritted teeth, “hear those sirens and that helicopter? That means you’re burnt toast, asshole”.

“I know I’m a dead man walking. Which is why I have absolutely nothing to lose. So….who’s going first? Raise your hand if you want to die first”.

Before the Scorpion could fire though, three gunshots rang out. The front of the Scorpion’s jacket blossomed red, and he looked down with surprise at the wounds. A fourth bullet then tore into the back of his head, blowing the top of his skull off. His body fell forward and landed with a very loud thump on the wooden floor.

Decker looked to see where the gunshots had come from.

Schmitz was lying on the floor wearing a blood-drenched shirt. The colour was drained from his face and he was having trouble holding his head and gun arm up. Nevertheless, he managed to turn and look at Decker and Meyer.

“I guess we can forget about the sandwich then”.

Then he passed out.

Heavily-armed police stormed through the front door, and were confronted with scenes of horrific carnage. Decker staggered to her feet and pulled up Meyer who was barely managing to stay conscious.

“Get the chancellor out of here!” she shouted, “now!”

“Yes Ma’am” said the lead police officer. He lifted Meyer up in his arms and carried her outside, flanked by a protective cordon of more armed police with shields. By this point, a military helicopter had landed in the garden, and Meyer was passed over to paramedics who were in the back.

Seconds later, it had taken off, surrounded by German air force jets, who had been ordered to take down anything remotely resembling a threat to the chancellor. The local residents cowered in fear, feeling they were in a war zone.

Decker scrambled over to check on Schmitz and discovered he was barely breathing.

“We need a paramedic in here right now!”.

As Schmitz was carried out to an ambulance, Decker leaned back against the bullet-scarred wall and stared at the Scorpion’s body, which was now surrounded by blood and brain matter.

She started to cry.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Sixteen

It was later that evening before Decker managed to get back to the Chancellery. The whole building was in a state of shock. It was bad enough that Meyer had almost been shot. But for most of the protection detail to have been wiped out was even worse.

Decker had checked herself out of the hospital after being stitched up for minor lacerations, and she soon found out afterwards that Meyer had done the same. She had had her head wound repaired, and after it was done, over the loud protests of the doctors, she announced firmly she was leaving.

Decker was walking along the corridors of the Chancellery when she saw Unterwald coming out of Meyer’s office. He looked crushed and walked over heavily to Decker, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Thank you for today” was all he could say.

“For what? Almost getting the chancellor killed? Having more than a dozen good agents shot dead?”.

“That wasn’t your fault” said Unterwald sharply, “how were we to possibly know that he would murder the caterer and impersonate him? There are just some things which you can’t factor for. You saved the chancellor’s life and that’s all that matters. As for the dead agents, they knew the risks and they died doing their jobs. End of story”.

“If you say so”. Decker looked thoroughly unconvinced. She suddenly felt exhausted and wanted to go home to bed.

“She wants to see you” said Unterwald, nodding towards the door, “don’t worry, you’re in her good graces. You saved her today”.

“And the traitor who helped the Scorpion?”.

Unterwald paused. “He or she can keep for another day. We won’t give up on that score, I can assure you. Their day will come”.

When Decker entered the office, she was struck by how dark it was. The room was illuminated only by a desk lamp, and for a moment, Decker wondered if Meyer had slipped out of the room by a back door.

“Over here, Captain” said a soft voice in the corner.

Decker’s sight adjusted to the gloom, and she could eventually make out Meyer’s features in the dark. She had a glass on the table beside her, and was refilling it from a partially-empty bottle. Her head had a bandage around it.

“Ma’am, you should be in the hospital”

“Says the woman who checked herself out of the hospital”.

“That was different” said Decker, “I had glass splinters in my face. You had a serious concussion. There’s no comparison”.

“Shut up and sit down Captain”.

“Are you drunk Ma’am?”

“After the day we’ve had, I think I’ve earned the right. You too. Get a glass from the table over there and help yourself”.

Decker got a glass and helped herself to a double Scotch.

“Cheers” said Meyer, clinking her glass against Decker’s, “thank you Captain for today”.

“For what? As I said to Unterwald just now, I failed you. You were hit, security was breached, a dozen good agents are dead, your niece was endangered…need I go on?”.

Meyer was quiet for a moment. “What’s done is done. What matters is that at the end of the day we won and the Scorpion is dead. Everything else…we’ll forgive ourselves one day”. She paused. “How is Schmitz?”

“In surgery” said Decker, “fighting for his life”.

“He’ll make it. People like Schmitz are indestructible. Just like you. You both make a good team”.

Decker stood up. “I think it’s time I reported back to Deputy Director Wagner Ma’am”.

Meyer seemed not to hear her. “I’ve been reading your file Captain. Nobody except Wagner likes you very much. You were too independent for them. Wagner won’t be able to protect you forever and when he can’t anymore, your enemies will be circling like buzzards waiting to feast on your corpse”.

“You have a remarkable way with the words” said Decker, “I’m a big girl Ma’am. I’ll just have to suck it up”.

“If you go back”.

“What do you mean?”.

“I might have an interesting job for you, if you are so inclined…”

Decker sat back down very slowly.

“Tell me more”.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter Seventeen

Five Months Later

Sophie Decker made her way through the darkness and the Spanish woods, in search of her prey. She had been after him for weeks now, chasing him all over Germany, and now down into Spain. Rumour said he was on his way to an arms deal with ETA. Nobody knew for sure, but the German government was taking no chances. Decker had been ordered to take him out.

Her professional pride was at stake now because she had had a golden opportunity before to take him out, and she had missed with the shot. Decker never missed, so she couldn’t understand how she had done it now.

To miss once was careless, to miss twice was incompetent. So she was determined that the second time was going to be the charm. She would not miss this time. The cat with the nine lives was about to see all of his lives suddenly used up.

As she crept through the trees, she looked down into a valley and saw someone creeping about, crouched down. She took out her night vision binoculars and focused them on the figure until she could see him turning his head. When she saw his face, she knew it was her target.

She unslung her gun, dropped down into a firing position, and raised the sniper rifle. She looked down the sights and placed her finger slowly and carefully on the trigger.

When she was convinced she had a shot, she fired. The shot echoed loudly through the valley and Decker heard the target cry out and fall down. She dropped to the ground to stay out of sight. She lifted the binoculars and focused on the valley ahead.

She couldn’t believe it. The target was still moving. He was limping heavily and clutching his leg, but he was still alive, and still moving. That man had more lives than a cat.

She raced to get back into a firing position, but before she could fire again, a voice could be heard behind her. Her Spanish was not perfect but it was enough for her to know it was a civilian coming to check on the noise.

She swore to herself. She couldn’t risk sticking around, as the local police might turn up at any moment. She had strict orders not to get caught.

With a look of both anger and embarrassment on her face, she turned and ran in the opposite direction, melting into the darkness.

***

To be continued in “The Reichsbank Gold”, due out October 31st 2017.

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h1=. Acknowledgments

Being my first fiction book, even if it is only a short free novella to make a name for myself, meant that I was seriously freaking out about how it would be received by the readers. Anyone who says that writing a novel is easy is lying through their teeth. The fact that I am not a raging alcoholic by now can be credited to my wonderful team who helped me throughout the whole process.

First, a huge thanks to my massively talented graphic designer Christina Paraskevopoulou. Your fantastic artwork has made the book cover shine, and you helped me figure out how Sophie should look. I wanted my girl to “look bitchy” and you gave me a bitchy looking woman on the cover! Thank you! Once I had a picture of Sophie in my mind, the story came more easily.

Then there are my advance readers team. These are the fine individuals, my closest and dearest friends, who gave up some of their free time to read the first draft. They pointed out all of the plot inconsistencies (of which there were many in the first draft), plot change suggestions, ludicrous story twists, and much more.

The book is now much better as a result and I am very grateful to them all. I am normally not very good at listening to criticism, but their assistance has very definitely made the book a million times better.

These fine individuals are Monika O’Neill (my wife), Kari Breed, Helen Varras, Mary Hill, Leni De Jong, Bonnie Lawson, Jean Hale Lawson, Don Lawson, Lori Kaufmann, Mirko Schieder, Nikki Nicholas Mohamed, Michelle Lipson Barrineau, and Thomas Zitzmann.

Finally a big thank you to author Mark Dawson and his wonderful online SPF community. The SPF community are also independently-published authors, and the amount of support and help I have received from them has been phenomenal.

Sophie Decker will return in October 2017 in “The Reichsbank Gold”.

Mark O’Neill

August 2017

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h1=. Sign Up & Snag Exclusive Material!

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If you sign up to the mailing list, you will receive advance notice of books coming out, so you can grab them at the cheaper introductory price. You will also get subscriber-only special deals, such as exclusive free sample chapters, the chance to become an advance reader and read the first draft of the next book in exchange for constructive feedback, and other goodies as I think of them.

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h1=. Will You Leave a Review For Me?

I would greatly appreciate it if you could leave a honest review of this book online. Reviews are what drives sales, so they are very important for me.

Whether the review is positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. I love hearing about what my readers thought of the story and I will try to read every review.

If you want to, you can also send me an email at [email protected], and tell me your thoughts and feedback. I can’t guarantee a reply, but I will certainly try my best, time permitting.

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h1=. About the Author

Mark O’Neill is a Scotsman, now living in Würzburg, Germany. Since 2004, he has been a technology journalist and an English teacher.

When he is not writing, Mark likes to read, collect books, scour the Internet for story ideas, and discuss politics. But all of that is secondary to spending time with his wife and dog whom he adores.

https://www.markoneill.org


The Renegade Spy

A Deadly Assassin Is After The German Chancellor - But The Assassin Is In Even More Danger Than He Realises. A page-turning debut novella in the tradition of Daniel Silva, Mark Dawson, and Robert Ludlum, The Renegade Spy is the story of a deadly and maverick female German Intelligence agent, tasked with saving the life of the German Chancellor from a ruthless assassin. The German chancellor, Claudia Meyer, is riding a wave of popularity at home. But she also has her enemies, and one of them has hired an assassin - nicknamed "The Scorpion" - for twenty million Euros to kill her. Little does the chancellor know that the Scorpion is relentless. He is ruthless, and he is extremely good at his job. The government has no clue what the Scorpion looks like and how he will strike. Not even her bodyguards are a guarantee of safety. All they know is that the Scorpion leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake. Captain Sophie Decker of German Intelligence rapidly becomes Meyer's only chance of ultimate survival, along with her colleague, Lieutenant Wolfgang Schmitz. Decker and Schmitz are given an order - stop the Scorpion by any means necessary - before the Scorpion gets to the chancellor. Praise for "The Renegade Spy" "In my capacity as an English professor, I want to tell you that YOUR WRITING IS BEAUTIFUL. Your writing is sophisticated both in terms of style and structure. Your hook immediately piqued my interest, and your style and voice are distinctive. Were you in one of my classes, I'd put your work in the top 5% based on what I read". "If Die Hard would have had a female lead, Decker would have been it". "Sophie Decker is my newest favorite heroine". "This book is the sort of book that is very difficult to put down once you start reading it"

  • ISBN: 9781370355037
  • Author: Mark O'Neill
  • Published: 2017-08-28 19:20:21
  • Words: 28353
The Renegade Spy The Renegade Spy