Melinda Huss was dying. She wasn’t in any pain, the local
anaesthetic in her side had taken care of that, all she could
feel as the blood trickled out from her right side was a faint
tickling sensation as it flowed down her skin and a spreading
warmth as it pooled underneath her body.
She was lying on her back on a massage table in the spa
and treatment centre of the luxury hotel’s lodge. The room
was small and clinical, its only decoration three severe black
and white Robert Mapplethorpe photographs of flowers,
their curled foliage like organs from a human body. They
had an ethereal, fleshy, beauty all of their own.
There was a table with a laptop on it and two charts
on the wall – one featuring traditional Chinese medicine
meridian lines where chi was said to flow, another, brightly
coloured, indeed almost the only other colour in the room,
showed the main chakra positions from Indian yoga.
The other source of colour in the room was the enormous
red stain that spread out across the white sheet covering
She was quite calm, tranquil almost, but she could feel
herself becoming light-headed. She wondered how much
blood she had actually lost. She felt another warm trickle
down her body. It seemed to be leaving her body in irregular
bursts. It wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, if you had to choose
a way to die, bleeding out like this was not a bad way to
go at all.
She lifted her head and looked down at the Velcro straps
that secured her arms and legs. She had tried before to
break her bonds or wriggle free. She had been unsuccessful.
She wasn’t going to try again.
She could feel her will, and her strength, draining away.
She thought of Enver Demirel, her fiancé. She thought of
Hanlon. Her fierce, attractive face, and she thought of the
long road that had led here.
To this place.
To this death.
Kriminalkommissar Claudia Meyer of the Baden Württemberg
Landeskriminalamt strode out of the foyer of the baroque
building just off Karlplatz in the historic Alt centre of
It was incredibly noisy. Horns were beeping in the narrow
mediaeval streets where traffic had backed up. Sirens
wailed, police were shouting commands at a vociferous
crowd that had gathered.
The red sandstone castle on the hill above looked down
on the small, picturesque town below. The scene that she
had just witnessed in the first floor drawing room was as
gruesome as any the castle had seen in its long history.
There had been an eye-opening amount of blood.
There were a couple of blue and silver VW squad cars
from the cop shop on Eppelheimer Strasse parked on the
narrow cobbled street outside, and the front door of the
large, detached town house had been sealed off. The blue
uniformed police on the door watched her as she passed.
She nodded at the driver of the van that she recognized
as belonging to Forensics which was pulled up on the
The street where all this commotion was occurring was
in one of Heidelberg’s most fashionable quarters. It was
university land, but the house she had just left was startlingly
expensive, even by Stuttgart standards. Prices had
risen steeply in latter times. It was the kind of place that
only fairly recently had become gentrified and was now
increasingly being colonized by non-German investors. It
lay in the heart of the city, near the exclusive Hauptstrasse.
It wasn’t the kind of place you associated with violent
death; more expensive shopping and a Kaffee and a slice
A sign of the times, she thought. Her father would be
angry, as usual. ‘What is this country coming to, Claudia!’
Mind you, she thought, women in the police force made
him angry too. Global warming, GM crops, refugees, transsexuals,
Austrians, it was a long list that encompassed
practically everything modern.
‘Hey, DI Meyer!’
She groaned. So the papers in the form of Bild, the bestselling
national red-top, were already here.
Jurgen Flur, biggest sleazebag in the Rhein-Neckar area,
and face to match. Late forties with long, stringy, greying
hair and industrial-size pouches under his eyes, resembling
an over-the-hill porn actor. He was accompanied by a
tough-looking photographer in a leather jacket.
‘Is it true that’s Gunther Hart up there with his throat
cut?’ His voice was eager. He so wanted it to be true,
The photographer shot several images of her.
‘No comment, Jurgen.’
‘Then it is true.’ She rolled her eyes. She could really do
without the press intrusion from Bild.
‘And it was Muslim extremists; they say the concierge is
missing, and he’s a Turk. Is it true he’s the main suspect?’
A crowd had gathered to watch what was going on. Soon
more TV stations would be arriving. Gunther Hart was a
prominent member of the community. His murder by Muslim
terrorists would make headlines on national news, and
this at a time when racial tensions were heightened by the
‘Go away, Jurgen.’
‘Is it the work of Al-Ansaar al-Akhdaar?’ This new terrorist
group had recently posted a death list of Germans
online. Prominent amongst them had been Gunther Hart.
‘Oh, for heaven’s sake.’
‘It is, isn’t it?’ His voice was eager, insistent, he waved his
phone in front of her face, recording her voice, probably
her image as well, whilst the cameraman clicked away. She
turned her back to them and moved away.
She reached her police car, a 220 Mercedes, and got in,
careful of the positioning of her legs. She was wearing a
skirt and any second now, she suspected, Jurgen would
fling himself on the floor and try to photograph up it. She’d
known him a long time. He’d done it before.
She slammed the door shut. Lucas, her sergeant, started
Jurgen Flur banged on the car’s roof and pressed his face
up against the window.
‘What about Wolf Schneider? Our readers love him, or
does Berlin want him dead?’
a l e x h o wa r d
‘Drive,’ she growled to Lucas. Jurgen Flur was tapping
on the window, the camera behind him was poised. She
could see that her irascible subordinate’s front teeth were
resting on his lip to produce the ‘ver’ syllable of verpiss
dich. Not a good move to actually tell Bild to fuck off. Not
with a circulation of two and a half million.
‘He’s on the hit list, when are you lot in Stuttgart going
As they drove off she could see Jurgen shouting, ‘You’ll
have blood on your hands, you Saxon, Commie-loving,
She rolled her eyes.
Lucas said, ‘It’s a shame it had to be Gunther Hart, he
was one of the good guys.’
The Green Companions.
Green from the colour of Islam, and the Companions,
named after the earliest followers of Muhammad. It was
rumoured they were formed from hardened ISIS terror fighters
who had joined the stream of Flüchtlinge, the refugees
from Syria that Merkel had invited in. It was rumoured the
group contained German-born Muslims, rebelling against
the land that had sheltered them and brought them up. It
was rumoured . . . It was all rumours really, although the
death of Gunther Hart wasn’t a rumour, it was a bloodsoaked
She sighed irritably as the car roared off through the
cobbled streets of the old town. The quiet, art deco buildings
mocked the turmoil in her mind. What a bloody awful
day this was turning out to be.
An Incidental Death