Prologue

 

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

Huss’s torso.

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.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

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

Heidelberg.

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

pavement.

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

of Sachertorte.

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,

thought Meyer.

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

refugee debate.

‘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

the car.

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?’

6

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

to act?’

As they drove off she could see Jurgen shouting, ‘You’ll

have blood on your hands, you Saxon, Commie-loving,

fag hag!’

She rolled her eyes.

Lucas said, ‘It’s a shame it had to be Gunther Hart, he

was one of the good guys.’

Al-Ansaar al-Akhdaar.

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

reality.

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.

a

An Incidental Death