It was cold by the Landwehr Canal. The crime scene was contained inside a small perimeter, and understated, no portable generator or halogen lamps. Ambulance, hazard lights off, a diver, already stripping out of his wetsuit, the patrol car, two uniforms next to it, an unmarked vehicle, with a driver. The unmarked car belonged to Inspector Glass, and he was talking quietly into a radio handset. Then there was the body they’d fished out of the canal, not yet shapeless, the dark clothing soggy, the flesh pale as oystershell.
Glass signed off the radio and walked over to where Andy stood, looking down at the dead man. The exit wound in the back of his head was the size of a lemon, and most of his brains had leaked out of the skull cavity. Glass tipped the dead man’s face up with his foot. The cheeks puffy and cyanotic, the waxy skin
bruised with powder residue.
“They put the muzzle in his mouth,” Glass said. “Not a nine.” He meant nine-millimeter, Luger caliber. “Heavy bullet, low relative velocity, maximum damage.”
“Like a .45,” Andy said. .45 ACP was U.S. Army issue, the duty auto Andy himself carried.
Glass studied the dead man without much curiosity, hands in his pockets. “What was CID’s interest?” he asked.
“GI’s selling on the black market.”
“Is that all there is?” Glass asked him.
Andy turned and made eye contact. “I thought it was just easy money,” he said. “It’s not that easy, some dumb bastard gets his head blown off.”
Glass understood, and let him go. They were all subject to political pressures. It was the nature of what they did, and the place they worked in. They made minor accommodations, unter vier augen, as the expression had it, but Andy had to check in with his people, just as Glass would check in with his. He lit a cigarette and looked toward the searchlights at the far end of the canal, where it met the Spree. Here in Görlitz, they were in the shadow of the Wall, just below the Oberbaumbrücke. Glass shook off a premonitory shiver.
THE BONE HARVEST is a Cold War spy story that takes place in the early days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - a grudge match between an American military intelligence op, Dix Apodaca, and the KGB colonel Ilya Vlasov, complicated by the competing interests of the Afghan resistance, the Pakistani security services, the traffic in illegal weapons and drugs, and the inner rivalries of the intelligence community. Dix is caught up in a power struggle, not just with the Russians, but with false friends in the shadows, to whom he’s no more than a pawn on the chess board, in a shifting landscape of betrayal.
The room was perhaps twelve feet by eight, brightly lit. There were no cabinets or other built-in furnishings. There was a stainless steel table, on casters, big enough for a recumbent body, which I found a little sinister. There was a drain in the tiled floor. There was a single utilitarian folding chair, like something from a parochial school annex.
Five minutes went by. Then ten. I allowed my metabolism to slow, lizard-like, and let my imagination cool. There was no point in making ill-educated guesses.
The door clicked open. I looked up.
The man in the doorway studied me for a moment. Then he stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He was short, thick through the upper body, with the heavy forearms of a
Step on A Crack & Other Stories
boxer or a weight lifter. Lean in the hips, though, he walked on the balls of his feet, carrying himself almost like a dancer, but he had a specific gravity that kept him earthbound.“My name is Wolf,” he said. He looked it, grey around the muzzle. I put him in his middle to late fifties. I disliked the fact that he’d told me his name, which suggested I might not live to repeat it. There was that drain in the floor.
Simon Straw smiled. It was a disarming smile, almost apologetic. It wasn’t meant to give insult. His stance was relaxed, practically nerveless, none of his muscles tensed, his hands at his sides, the elbows slightly bent, like a man ready to pick up a glass. His gun was worn high on the hip, a .44 Remington single-action. “I’m here for you, old man,” he said to Placido Geist.
To die in some backwater where there was no law to stop it. They were each off their usual graze, but they were on all too familiar territory with each other.
“Your scalp on my belt,” Straw said.
“A dubious eminence.”
“Fine words butter no parsnips,” Straw said.
“Make your play,” Placido Geist told him.
He was indeed very fast, and almost fast enough. His left hand moved across his body as he drew the gun with his right, so the heel of his left hand cocked the hammer.
Placido Geist shot him through the table with the nine-inch Smith he’d been holding under his napkin, the bullet splintering up through the wood, taking Straw in the chest. He went down in a burst of tissue and bone.
Straw’s own bullet had nicked the bounty hunter’s earlobe. Placido Geist touched the napkin to his ear. Fine words butter no parsnips. He regretted having to kill a literate man.
Late spring, 1971. Dix Apodaca, a U.S. Air Force sergeant back in Berlin after a tour in Viet Nam, gets sucked into the antiwar movement - and a KGB deception operation. Martina Böhm, a German student and a poster girl for the Revolution, looks like a potential recruit for the Soviet spy service, and Dix suspects she’d be easily led. But the Russians are playing a double game, and Dix and Martina are both disposable assets. Uneasy with each other, and with the parts they’ve been asked to play, the two of them are caught in a trap of their own making - physical desire, duty, idealism, hope. Neither of them are any match in tradecraft for the canny and careful Major Petrokhin, KGB’s troubleshooter, sent from Moscow with the specific brief to lure a moth to the flame. Martina Böhm presents a target of opportunity, and Dix Apodaca an inconvenience.
It’s said things come in threes, a run of good luck at cards, a run of bad luck in love. But the penny doesn’t always drop until the third time around. Come the third time, you snap your mental fingers, and tell yourself, I knew that.
McElroy made the dive from a point on the riverbank a thousand yards upstream from the triangulated position of the wreckage. The skin of ice sighed as he slipped under it, and the dark water closed over his head like a shroud.
Topsy killed George Fennady today. She maneuvered him into the corner of her pen and crushed him against the walls. It may have been an accident, of course, but I doubt it. This is the third death she’s caused in three years.