Collision of Liesby John LeBeau
A vicious murder at sea begins a series of deadly events stretching from Europe to the Middle East and Africa. International conspirators plot to send a shipment of goods to an undisclosed destination, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. A concealed world of deceit and lies is populated by an international assassin, a brutal ship's captain, criminal businessmen, rogue scientists, and ruthless government representatives. Standing in their paths is Bavarian Kommissar of Police Franz Waldbaer, assisted by a team of CIA operational specialists and a capable, if prickly, female Austrian police official. The stakes are high and the time is limited to prevent an incident with major international implications. From the alpine peaks of Germany to the alley ways of Azerbaijan, from CIA headquarters in Virginia to the sweep of the North Atlantic, the pace is furious as malevolent and murderous players do all within their power to defeat the forces of order arrayed against them.
- Oceanview Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)
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Collision of Lies
By John J. Le Beau
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2012 John J. Le Beau
All rights reserved.
The Atlantic, eighty nautical miles off the Angolan coast
The rhythmic sound of waves accosting the solid-metal hull of the ship mingled with the deep hum of powerful diesel engines, creating a baritone polyphony. The sound drifted out from the vessel but was quickly muted in the vastness of the ocean. The night sky was cloudless, the shimmering black expanse of the sea humbled beneath an endless canopy of stars. A brief burst of light and motion interrupted the nocturnal tableau as a comet displayed a fleeting trace across the indigo darkness, and was gone.
Closer to earth, a breeze eased over the rolling water and swept the thick hair of the solitary figure standing on deck, his frame concealed behind a corrugated metal container at the rear of the vessel. The man glanced over his shoulder to confirm that he was alone. Satisfied, he huddled deeper into his dark wool watch coat and retrieved a rectangular object from a capacious pocket. He held the object in front of his chest with one hand and pushed a large red plastic button with the other. Instantly, a row of three small lights blinked awake on the device, orange at first, but turning bright green in a few seconds. The man nodded to himself and pushed down on a silver oval at the center of the device, aware that this engaged the transmit mechanism.
As unseen as a soul, a burst of enciphered text launched from the electronic tool and raced silently upward toward an orbiting communications satellite far above the Atlantic, invisible in the distant heavens. The burst transmission was completed in seconds and its owner pressed the red button, which caused its tiny lamps to flicker briefly before returning to electronic sleep.
"I thought so," a voice from behind the man spat in guttural German.
Before he could turn, the man holding the electronic device felt a probing point of pressure against his coat, followed an instant later by the sensation of a long, sharp object penetrating the fabric and then his stomach. A bass cry of panic erupted from his throat, but a beefy hand slammed over his mouth, splitting his lip and silencing him. Wide-eyed and trembling, the man felt the hard object withdraw swiftly from his punctured abdomen, trailing blood, fluids, and pain in its wake, only to be slammed into him again, and then again.
"You stupid, stinking bastard," the assailant hissed as he drove the long screwdriver into his victim a fourth and then a fifth time. The man's straining, jerking resistance ebbed away with each blow, replaced in under one minute by the passive, heavy slackness of death. The transmission device was released and fell heavily to the deck as the victim's muscles relaxed involuntarily and his dead hands opened.
The man holding the blood-slicked screwdriver in a firm grip was squat and powerfully broad, and he hitched an arm solidly around the corpse to prevent it from falling. Breathing deeply with the exertion, and taking one halting step at a time, he moved his cargo of deadweight toward the rust-streaked metal rail above the ship's propellers. He flung the murder implement into the heaving water and then eased the blood-seeping cadaver over the side, head first. Gravity was his ally and accomplished the rest. The lifeless form fell through the darkness into the effervescent turbulence below and, in an instant, vanished from the visible world.
Expelling a long breath, the attacker watched the motion of the waves for a moment and noted the uninterrupted progress of the vessel on its course. He surveyed the scene and, with a grunt, retired below deck, returning moments later with a large bucket of water. He splashed the water along the spot where the murder had transpired, flushing tendrils of blood over the side. Stooping, he retrieved the communications device and studied it, turning the object in his hands. His brow furrowed. There were no visible markings on the instrument, nothing indicating its purpose or place of manufacture. Of course not, he thought. His survey of the device completed, he tossed it over the side. There was now no remaining trace of the violence that had transpired mere minutes ago.
The man turned his gaze toward the sweep of the stars, stretching away into infinity. He observed them clinically, without emotion, unmoved by any sense of wonder. He thought only of what would happen next.
The disappearance of his victim would not be noticed until morning. With the absence of a crewman discovered, the ship would be bound to follow established regulations and conduct a cursory sweep of the area. No trace of the vanished crewman would be found, of course. By the time the search commenced, the body would have been ingested by a variety of aquatic denizens.
Following standard maritime procedures for a "man overboard" situation after the search maneuvers, the ship would radio its next port of call and report the incident. There would be a formal investigation once the vessel docked, but it would be pro forma. In instances of this sort, the governing presumption was that there had been an accident, or possibly a suicide.
There was nothing to hint at foul play. With a nod of satisfaction, the man pulled his jacket tightly around his muscular frame and trudged off to the warm cabin that awaited him, his gait accommodating the familiar roll of the ship.
Now a mile in the ship's wake, the corpse, weighed down by its heavy wool coat and leather work boots, sank slowly into the silent black depths, arms plaintively outstretched. A large fish hit the left hand tentatively, and then again with more purpose, tearing away a piece of soft flesh near the thumb. As the body continued its unanimated descent, a democracy of other fish followed, large and small, making further incursions on the corporeal integrity of the recently deceased. Eventually, a cluster of tiger sharks moved in, scattering the lesser-finned diners before them. Their dull eyes surveyed the carcass with primordial purpose to ensure that it represented no danger. Moments later, the man who, ten minutes previously, had stood aboard the ship was ripped by serrated rows of slashing teeth into several uneven pieces and devoured in voracious gulps, until nothing remotely human remained.
Innsbruck, The Tyrol, Austria
The jutting, uneven peaks of the Nordkette range turned a diffuse, ethereal red as the sun surrendered its domain to the stealthy encroachment of a summer's evening. The Alpengluehen, the "alpine glow," as it is called by inhabitants of the mountainous terrain, suffused the Austrian landscape with pastoral tranquility. A sure-footed clan of mountain goats clattered along the narrow purchase of a cliff and paused, permitting the final trace of the day's solar warmth to caress their sides. They sniffed the air with flaring nostrils, detecting the familiar fragrance of enzian and other alpine flowers. Still, somber cloud banks were gathering from the south, signaling that the warm, sunny days were about to end. In the valley far below the magically lit summits, the ancient city of Innsbruck prepared for evening, the first strings of streetlamps winking on, an illuminated necklace laid upon the terrain.
There was much to drink and every reason to drink it. Exquisite white wines from the steep, dark slopes of the Wachau valley on the Danube, and enticingly hearty reds from the rolling hillside vineyards of Burgenland. Rich, malty monastery beer handcrafted by the Benedictine monks of Salzburg competed with drier but full-bodied Austrian pilsner from the little town of Hirt. Renowned apricot, pear, and plum schnapps from Dolsach, East Tyrol, also provided steady refreshment to the jostling, laughing phalanx of customers at the open bar.
Red-and-white Austrian flags hung from the exposed rafters above the cavernous room of giddy celebrants. For centuries, the structure had served as a stable for dairy cows but, a decade removed, had been converted into an elegant reception hall for occasions such as this. The antique, exposed timber had been carefully restored and the rough stone walls painted ochre. A circular cherrywood bar occupied the center of the room, an array of tables on one side and an expansive dance floor on the other. Subtle lighting illuminated the scene, providing a soothing display of light and shadow. An oversized, deeply veneered oil-on-wood painting of a stern-faced farm woman leading a herd of cattle to pasture provided the dominant decorative motif.
Georg Forster surveyed the scene and felt physically warmed with contentment. He was warmed as well by the excellent Williams brandy that he had been dispatching at an impressive rate for the past hour. This was a night to celebrate — they had all earned it, not least himself. In a bow to popular tastes, he bit into a warm pretzel, savoring the salty taste. A plump, well-attired woman with protruding teeth waved from the bar and he raised his schnapps glass in salute. He did not recognize her. But then he could not be expected to know all of the local party functionaries who had contributed to this unexpected electoral victory. That they would know him, on the other hand, was self-evident.
Georg Forster had founded the Nationalist Defense Front Party, Nationalistische Verteidigungs Front Partei, and had successfully orchestrated its rise from humble, rural roots to national prominence in Austria. The welcome results of the elections two days ago meant increased power for him personally, too. Having acquired 25 percent of the total votes, Forster would be invited to Vienna from his party base in Innsbruck, and given an important post in the ruling coalition government. He smiled broadly at the realization that his plans to eventually rule Austria were proceeding flawlessly.
A rotund, balding man in a well-tailored charcoal loden suit approached and vigorously pumped Forster's hand. Forster knew him as a businessman and financial donor from Kufstein. "Thanks for your excellent support, Hans. Your generosity played a big role in this winning campaign. I'll never forget that."
The businessman looked at Forster earnestly through wire-rimmed glasses. "It's the least I could do, Georg. I'm behind the scenes; it's you and the other party candidates who are in the fight. I expect you'll be fighting for us in Vienna now."
Forster clapped the shorter man on his shoulder. "Right. And it is a fight, no need to be dainty. Unlike the other parties, we are going to smash some political furniture and push Austria where she needs to go. There is no shortage of enemies we're facing, Hans."
The balding man nodded, his features assuming a brooding cast. "Enough enemies, all right. Immigrant criminals, Gypsies, Slavs, North African beggars. We've become a dumping ground for that trash. Now, maybe, we can turn things around. Show those outsiders there's no welcome mat for them here." He glanced up at Forster for confirmation.
Forster straightened his tall frame and placed his glass on the bar. "Don't worry, Hans. I founded this party to purge Austria of unwanted elements. We won't bow and scrape to Israel, either, apologizing for what allegedly happened during the war. And acting as if it were yesterday instead of ancient history. Times are changing. That's why our message resonates and why we did so well two days ago. Austria is for Austrians of Aryan blood. We still have to be guarded in how we say that, but people understand what we stand for."
The smaller man nodded. "Georg, the people I represent are behind you one hundred percent. You can count on our help, silent as it may be. You know what I mean."
Forster reached again for his glass and drained the contents in a quick gulp. "I do know what you mean, Hans. And I — and the party — need that support. In fact, I'm driving to Germany in a few hours for a private session with someone there who is also providing some quiet support."
Hans beamed. "Excellent. We'll talk again, in a few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy your victory."
Forster smiled and wagged a finger from side to side. "Our victory, Hans. I'm enjoying our victory."
The businessman chuckled and disappeared into the swirling anonymity of the crowd, his presence replaced by the tall, regal figure of Forster's deputy, Anton Hessler, his face handsomely ascetic, every hair in place.
"Congratulations, Georg, this is all due to you and you alone. You organized the perfect campaign." Hessler raised his wine glass in a salute.
Forster laughed lightly. "Thanks for the sentiment, Anton, but that's not true. You played a pivotal role with your connections and advice. We're a good team. Of course, now that we have a role in government, not just the opposition, we'll have to exercise more caution in our dealings and, shall we say, choice of behind-the-scenes associates. But that's the price of power, and worth paying. You and I will map out our strategy in the next few days."
Hessler nodded, his face an untroubled field of agreement suffused with a benign smile.
From across the expanse of the hall someone began to sing the hymn of the Nationalist Defense Front, Unser Blut ist Rein, Our Blood is Pure. Forster joined his untutored voice to the boisterous chorus and discreetly checked the pearl-faced Rolex at his wrist.
Near Garmisch, State of Bavaria, Germany
The night sky was alive with a frantic display of flashing lights that invaded the darkness like a swarm of angry, illuminated hornets. A line of police cruisers, ambulances, and fire trucks was strung along the rural Alpine road in an uneven chain. Rain pounded ceaselessly and with loud insistence on the vehicles, turning the shoulders of the road into an oozing, primordial morass. Kommissar Franz Waldbaer thought that it sounded much like an insane person playing steel drums.
The German detective surveyed the scene, one hand clutched around a Styrofoam cup of strong, black coffee. He noted the skittish choreography of the assembled officials. The wooded area was alive with uniformed policemen, volunteer firemen in orange coats, and first responders sloshing here and there, their forms jammed deep into parkas and raincoats. It was cold at this late hour, and Waldbaer saw the exhaled breath of his associates hang in the heavy air like apparitions. All in all, Waldbaer considered with a long, low sigh, it was not a very good place to be on such a night.
An atonal symphony of radios crackled around him as Waldbaer worked his way to the crash site. He was feeling considerably put out. His shoes were wet and clotted with rich Bavarian earth. Water had insinuated its way inside the leather, soaking his socks and making him vastly uncomfortable as he walked. He longed to be inside somewhere, preferably back in the bone-dry, well-heated, and refined surroundings of the Elmau Palace concert hall he had so recently vacated, several kilometers away. The gentle strains of Haydn's chamber music were now quite forgotten. Waldbaer frowned and duck-walked forward in sodden shoes, moving toward the battery of floodlights up ahead, anticipating the unpleasantness he would find there.
The wreck was so complete as to be nearly surreal. In the brutally unforgiving illumination of police lamps, Waldbaer made out two wheels splayed out at improbable angles, the tires collapsed. What had once been a sturdy Mercedes sedan roof was now a series of uneven metal waves, driven down almost to dashboard level. The chrome grill was missing and the trunk had popped open and hung drunkenly and precariously attached to the black chassis. Shatter-resistant glass lay everywhere. Mein Gott, Waldbaer thought to himself.
The ruined Mercedes was occupied. Waldbaer could see a single form wedged inside the collapsed front seat, tangled and broken between steering wheel, brake pedal, and the deployed, white remnants of the air bag. There was no possibility that the driver was alive. Waldbaer noted with the eyes of the trained observer that the body was clad in a tweed jacket and beige trousers. The trousers were profusely stained with blood. The Kommissar also saw a shock of tousled, thick brown hair, but the man's features were mercifully concealed from view. The angle at which the head rested told Waldbaer that the driver's neck had snapped with the impact of the crash. The seat belt still girding the man had been of no utility in a wreck of this magnitude.
Excerpted from Collision of Lies by John J. Le Beau. Copyright © 2012 John J. Le Beau. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
John J. LeBeau served as a clandestine operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency for 25 years. Dr. LeBeau is now Professor of National Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies In Garmish, Germany. His first novel, Collision of Evil, was nominated Best First Novel by International Thriller Writers.
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