A year after Germany’s defeat, Reinhardt has been hired back onto Berlin’s civilian police force. The city is divided among the victorious allied powers, but tensions are growing, and the police are riven by internal rivalries as factions within it jockey for power and influence with Berlin’s new masters.
When a man is found slain in a broken-down tenement, Reinhardt embarks on a gruesome investigation. It seems a serial killer is on the loose, and matters only escalate when it’s discovered that one of the victims was the brother of a Nazi scientist.
Reinhardt’s search for the truth takes him across the divided city and soon embroils him in a plot involving the Western Allies and the Soviets. And as he comes under the scrutiny of a group of Germans who want to continue the war—and faces an unwanted reminder from his own past—Reinhardt realizes that this investigation could cost him everything as he pursues a killer who believes that all wrongs must be avenged…
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Berlin, early 1947
Reinhardt had come to prefer the nights.
The nights were when things felt cleaner, clearer. The nights were when his city could sometimes resemble something more than the shattered ruin it was. The nights were when he did have to look down at the dust and grit that floured his shoes and trousers, the innards of his city turned out and spread wide for all to see. It was the days when Berlin emerged scarred and scorched into the light, when its people arose to chase their shadows through the day, wending their way from who knew where to who knew what beneath frowning escarpments of ruin and rubble, which humped up and away in staggered mounds of wreckage, and through which the roads seemed to wind like the dried-out bottoms of riverbeds.
It was very early on a Monday morning when the call came in, a body in a stairwell in an apartment building in the American sector of Berlin, down in Neukölln. These were bad hours by anyone’s reckoning, the hours no one wanted, the hours married men were curled up asleep with their wives, the single men with their girls, when even drunks found a corner to sleep it off. They were the hours those on the chief’s blacklist worked. They were the hours they gave the probationers—those too new to the force to maneuver themselves a better shift—or those too old but who had nowhere to go.
Reinhardt knew he was closer to the second category than to the first. But however those hours were counted by others, he considered them his best, when it was quiet and he could have the squad room all but to himself, or else wander the darkened streets and avenues, winding his way past the avalanche slides of brick and debris, learning the new architecture the war had gouged across Berlin’s façades. He and his city were strangers to each other, he knew. They had moved on in different ways, and these night hours—these witching hours, when he would sometimes chase the moon across the city’s jagged skyline, spying it through the rents and fissures deep within buildings, watching the play of light and shadow in places it should never have been seen—were what he needed to rediscover it, what it was, and what had become of it.
All this, though, was in the back of his mind as the ambulance followed the dull glow of its headlights down a road swept clear along its middle, pocked and pitted with shell craters and tears in its surface, a suggestion of looming ruin to either side. He spotted the building up ahead, the fitful yellow beams of flashlights wobbling yolk-like in its entrance and casting the shadows of people up the walls and out into the street. He climbed stiffly out of the ambulance, switching on his own flashlight as he turned up the channel cleared between the rubble. He paused. He swung the flashlight at the entrance of a ruined building across the road. Hidden in the shadows, a pack of children watched with glittering eyes, vanishing from view when he held the light on them a moment longer.
A uniformed officer in his archaic uniform, complete with brass-fronted gray shako, watched as Reinhardt knocked the dust from his shoes in the building’s entry, pocketing his flashlight.
“There we were about to send for the American MPs, but it looks like the Yanks have shown up anyway,” the young officer quipped.
“Which police station are you from?”
“Reuterstrasse,” said the policeman, his face clenching in suspicion.
“I’ll speak to whoever’s in charge here,” said Reinhardt, holding the younger officer’s eyes as he took his hat off.
The officer’s face darkened, but he cocked his head inside. “Sergeant. Sergeant!”
A second officer pushed his way out of a crowd of people milling in the entrance. Reinhardt thought he recognized him, a man well into middle age, tall, lanky, with old-fashioned sideburns—although it if was him, the man used to be a lot heftier and bulkier.
“Cavalry’s here, Sarge,” the young officer said. Reinhardt ignored him as the older officer threw his colleague a reproachful look.
“Good morning, sir,” he said. “What Officer Diechle means, sir, is we was about to call the Amis, I mean, the American Military Police. We didn’t know if anyone was coming out from Kripo at this hour.”
“Well, some of us detectives are up and about,” Reinhardt said, smiling, his voice soft. “Inspector Reinhardt, Schöneberg Kripo Division.”
“Yes, sir. No offense at our surprise in seeing you, sir.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because they don’t usually stir themselves for what seems like accidents or open-and-shut cases,” said Diechle. “’Specially not at this hour.”
“Who says it was either of those?”
“He was drunk, he fell down the stairs,” Diechle snorted. “That’s all it is.”
“Show me what you’ve found. Sergeant Frunze, isn’t it?” Reinhardt suddenly remembered the man’s name, feeling it slip onto his tongue from out of nowhere, it seemed. Something in the man’s appearance, those old-fashioned side-burns, the accent triggering a memory of a line of struggling, sweating policeman trying to hold apart a seething mass of Nazis and Communists, and Frunze reeling away with blood sheeting his cheeks but a brown-shirted thug caught under his arm, the lout’s face turning red inside the policeman’s armlock as Frunze calmly recited the man’s rights to him.
“That it is, sir. Frunze. Very glad to see you remember, sir,” he said, ignoring the way his younger colleague rolled his eyes. “This way, sir.”
“Last time I saw you, you were up in one of the Tiergarten stations.”
“Time’s moved on a bit, sir. You go where they send you these days,” Frunze replied, a quick glance at Reinhardt. He could not tell what the glance might have meant, but an experienced officer like Frunze, especially one his age, ought not to be running a night shift in a place like Neukölln. It had always been a rough neighborhood. Left-wing, working class, where the cops had never been welcome, and Reinhardt did not think things had changed much as Frunze led him through the small crowd of people to the bottom of the stairs, over to where the body of a man lay, face up. The light in the entrance was a shifting mix of flashlights, candles, and lanterns held by the policemen and by the cluster of people—men, women, and children—to the side of the stairs. It made for a confusing play of shadows, but there was light enough for Reinhardt to see that the man’s nose and mouth were a puffed and bruised welter of blood that fanned the bottom of his face and jaw and had soaked into the clothes on his left shoulder. There were scratches and lesions on his face, on his scalp, and on his hands, the skin of his knuckles stripped raw. Reinhardt’s eyes were drawn back to the injuries around the nose and mouth, the wounds framed by black and blue discolorations that indicated he had received them some time before dying. If he got those falling down the stairs, Reinhardt thought, he would have lain here a good long time before dying and there was no pooling of blood, so far as he could see.
“Has forensics arrived, yet?”
“It should be Berthold coming. I called him before I left. Any identification on the body?”
Reinhardt pulled on a thin pair of old leather gloves, then reached under the man’s neck, lifting it gently. The head did not quite follow, slipping from side to side.
“Broken neck, sir?” asked Frunze.
“It would seem so. Anyone find a bottle?”
“No, sir,” Frunze sighed. “But the man does smell of booze. I reckon he spilled a bit down the front of his clothes. But much as Diechle would like this to be open and shut, I’ve a feeling it’s not.”
“No. Probably not. Who found him, Sergeant?” he asked, gently feeling and pinching his way down the man’s arms, feeling the heft to the limbs.
“The building’s superintendent. Or, what passes for one these days, sir. Here.” Frunze indicated an elderly man in a threadbare dressing gown with a tangled rosette of iron-gray hair running around his head from ear to ear, a scarf bunched tight around his neck. “Name’s Ochs.”
“Mr. Ochs,” Reinhardt addressed him as he knelt, his left knee stretching painfully as he did. “Tell me what you heard and saw,” he said as he ran his fingers down the man’s clothes, reaching carefully under the collar of the overcoat. Some men, black marketers and criminals in particular, had been known to sew razor blades under the lapels, but there was nothing. Reinhardt felt the fabric of the man’s coat, his shirt, the tie knotted loosely beneath his chin.
“Yes, sir. Well, it would have been about two o’clock in the morning. I heard a man calling for help, then I heard a terrible thumping. There was another cry, I think as the poor soul hit the bottom, then nothing. I came out of my rooms, just there,” he said, pointing at a door ajar next to the entrance, “and found him.”
Reinhardt shone his flashlight at the stairs, the light glistening back from something wet about halfway up.
“Have you seen him before?” Ochs shook his head. “You’re sure? He’s not a tenant? Not a displaced person the municipality’s moved in recently.” Ochs shook his head to all of it.
“He’s no DP, sir,” said Frunze. When Reinhardt encouraged him to go on, Frunze pointed at the man’s coat, at his shoes. “Look at that quality. You don’t find that in Berlin these days. If he’s a DP, he’s a well-off one.”
“Thank you, Sergeant,” said Reinhardt, watching Diechle out of the corner of his eye as the younger officer followed their discussion. The man was no displaced person, Reinhardt was sure. His clothes were too good, his fingernails too clean, his hair had been cut recently, and quite well. He had been well-fed, the weight of his limbs and the texture of his skin testament to that. “These other people,” he said to Ochs. “The building’s tenants?”
“Any of them hear or notice anything?” he asked both Ochs and Frunze.
“Nothing, sir,” answered the sergeant. “One or two of them said they were awakened by the noise of the man falling. One of them says she thinks she might have seen him before, though.”
“Bring her, please,” he said to Frunze. “Is everyone living in the building here, Ochs?”
“Not everyone, sir. There’s some who work nights, and one person’s away traveling.”
Frunze came forward escorting a woman carrying a young child, two more children in her wake. “Madam,” said Reinhardt. “You told the police you might have seen this man?”
“I think so. Once or twice. The last time maybe two days ago, each time on the stairs.”
“Did you say anything to each other?”
“Only a greeting. Nothing else.”
“Did you notice anything about him?”
“Anything. Was he in a hurry? Did he seem worried?”
“Nothing. We just passed each other.”
“Thank you, madam. We’ll have you all back to bed soon,” Reinhardt said, a small smile for the little boy with a tousled head of hair. “Have you had a look around upstairs, Sergeant?”
“Not really, sir. We didn’t want to mess anything up for the detectives.”
“Very well. We’ll have a look now. Ochs, you come with me, please. Diechle, please tell the ambulance men to wait for Berthold before moving this body. And Diechle? There’s some children outside, probably living homeless across the street. See if you can persuade one or two of them to talk to us. And Diechle,” he insisted, as the young officer’s face darkened again. “No rough stuff. Just ask them.”
Sweeping his flashlight from side to side across each step, Reinhardt started upstairs. He passed the first smears of blood he had seen from the bottom, about halfway up. At the top of the first flight, where the stairs turned tightly around and continued up, there was another spattering on the floor, a streak on the banister, as if a man had stood there, catching his breath, perhaps calling for help, swaying back and forth through his pain. Up to the first floor, his feet crunching in the dust and clots of plaster and rubble that salted the stairs, more stains, more smudges on the wood of the banister. There were two doors on the first-floor landing, and Ochs confirmed the tenants—the woman Reinhardt had talked to with her three young children, and an elderly couple—were downstairs.
Feeling like Hansel following the bread crumbs, Reinhardt continued upstairs to the second floor, the building’s smell growing around him, a smell of people too closely packed together, of damp washing and bad food. At the second-floor landing, Ochs told him the tenants—a widow and another family—were also downstairs.
“All the ladies are on the first two floors. As of the third, the building’s in a bit of a state, still. It’s not been fully repaired, you’ll see.”
On the third floor, the building took on a different register, the walls a labyrinthine scrawl of cracks and rents from the damage it had suffered, and the strains it must still be under. The corners of the stairs and landings were rounded with dust and plaster swept and pushed to the sides. A draft swirled down from somewhere up above. Only one apartment on the third floor was inhabited—a man away traveling—the other was boarded shut, war damage rendering the apartment uninhabitable, said Ochs. The same was true of the two apartments above it, the little superintendent said, puffing behind Reinhardt with his dressing gown bunched in one fist to hold it clear of his slippered feet.
As the damage became worse, the building seemed to become malodorous, dark, a listening dark, a dark that seemed to shuffle quietly back away from him as if cautious, as if the structure was sensitive to the harm men had wrought upon it. On the fourth floor, Ochs pointed to an apartment that was locked up, where the tenant—Mr. Uthmann—worked nights on the railways. There was one floor remaining, and Reinhardt paused at the landing, looking at the door that stood ajar, moving slightly back and forth in the draft.
“Who lives there?”
Ochs caught his breath leaning on the banister. “Mr. Noell,” he managed. “He lives alone.”
“He’s not downstairs?” asked Reinhardt, being careful to hide his own breathing. It was very short, and he felt dizzy with the effort of climbing the stairs.
“No. He is out sometimes. I didn’t . . .” Ochs puffed, “didn’t think his absence downstairs anything out of the ordinary.”
“And the body downstairs is not this Noell?”
Reinhardt shone his flashlight across the floor, tracking its beam through the fallen plaster and rubble, not knowing if the scuffed pattern showed the tracks of anyone having passed through it all. “Well, let’s see if he knew your Mr. Noell.”
Reinhardt drew his police baton, flicking it out to its full extension. With the lead ball at the tip, he pushed the door open. The first thing his light illuminated inside was a streak of blood on the wall, from about head height and down. He saw a light switch and turned it on, watching the room’s only bulb come fitfully to life.
One of the windows had glass in its frame, the other a mix of wood and cardboard, most of it from CARE packages, the aid parcels sent over from the United States, through which the wind slipped its insistent way. There was a sofa, a pile of bedding next to it in a corner, and an armchair that had seen better days. On a table made from a packing crate stood a bottle and one glass.
Reinhardt walked carefully through into the second room, past a small kitchen area, little more than an alcove with a sink and a hot plate, and into a bedroom with a bed pushed up against the far wall next to a lopsided wooden cupboard with a cracked mirror on one of its doors.
There was a body on the floor. Arms and legs spread wide, face turned slackly to the ceiling.
“Oh yes,” said Ochs, as he peered over Reinhardt’s shoulder. “That’s Mr. Noell.”
Reinhardt collapsed his baton, ordering Frunze to send for the MPs, given two bodies had been found in their sector, and to wait for Berthold downstairs. Ochs waited quietly in the little hallway, the old man seemingly unperturbed, and why not, Reinhardt thought as he stepped carefully into the bedroom. Ochs had probably seen plenty of deaths, many worse than this, if he had been living in Berlin these past few years.
“What exactly is it you do, Mr. Ochs?” Reinhardt asked, unbuttoning his overcoat and kneeling by Noell’s body, he checked for a pulse.
“I used to be a building superintendent, until my place got destroyed in a bombing raid. I could fix a pipe, change wiring, collect mail, bit of this, bit of that. So they put me in downstairs and asked me to keep an eye on the place.”
“When was that?”
“The municipality moved me in here in, oh, June ’45. Right after the war.”
“The Russians put you here?”
“Well. Yes. But I’m not an informer! Not like those, those people in the Russian sector. Those wardens. Or whatever you call them. Spying on their neighbors and all that and reporting it to the police.”
“I never thought it, Mr. Ochs,” Reinhardt replied.
“And nor should you. You should see my place. I could sneeze across it. If that’s what informing gets you, I’d hardly think it worth the effort,” Ochs subsided sulkily.
Noell’s body was cold, but not quite the tombstone cold of the long dead. He had been murdered in the last few hours, for sure. He was dressed in trousers, a shirt, and a woolen cardigan, a pair of worn slippers on his feet. Reinhardt squirmed around the body on his haunches, and as he did so, his feet and knee dipped into something wet. He ran a finger across the floor, noting the rippled line it left, and inspected his glove for what looked like water. It lay around Noell’s head and shoulders. He looked up at the roof, to see if perhaps it had cracked, perhaps a pipe had leaked and it had come from the ceiling, but saw nothing.
He moved the body slightly onto its side, seeing the purplish dappling of hypostasis under the neck, and that the neck was not broken. He lowered the body back, began checking the limbs. Noell had been a very slight man, made almost certainly slighter by the short rations most Berliners lived on these days.
None of the limbs seemed broken. There was no wound evident, no blood. The only thing Reinhardt could find wrong was a mottled bruising around Noell’s mouth and nose. He looked at it, cocking his head to the side. On impulse, being careful not to touch the skin, he lowered his right hand over Noell’s mouth, fingers to one side of his nose, thumb to the other. He paused, considering, as the place his hand would have come down on seemed to match the mottling. While he was dying, Noell’s mouth had clenched tight shut, and Reinhardt drew back, preferring to leave it for the autopsy.
Reinhardt did not want to disturb the body any more than he had to. He pushed himself to his feet, his knee a tight knot of pain as he did so.
“What did Noell do?”
“I don’t think he did anything,” Ochs answered stiffly, his pride still hurt. “At least, nothing I ever saw.”
“How long had he been here?”
Ochs hesitated. “About, oh, six months. Yes. Six months.”
Reinhardt stared at him. Building superintendents, or concierges, call them what you will, they invariably knew everything about their tenants comings and goings. Ochs colored under Reinhardt’s gaze, his hands tightening in the pockets of his dressing gown.
“That’s to say, he’s not actually here. If you see what I mean.”
“He’s subletting. From another man. The two of them were friends during the war, or something like that, and when this other man left . . .”
“This man’s name?” Reinhardt interrupted.
“Yes, of course. It’s a ‘K’ something. Kassel. Kessel! It’s downstairs, I’ll get it for you. So when this man left, he asked if we could arrange for his old comrade to move in, as a favor. Keeping his name on the lease.”
“A favor,” said Reinhardt. “With a touch of remuneration.”
Ochs nodded. “It’s hard for people to get a place. You must know that. Doubly hard for them.”
“Noell was a veteran?”
“Yes. Ex-air force, I believe.”
A noise at the door announced Diechle, with the news that Berthold had arrived and was examining the body downstairs. The officer had a bruise on the side of his face, and a trail of blood down the angle of his jaw. Reinhardt refrained from mentioning it, only thanking him and telling him to let Frunze know he could start escorting people back into their apartments, family by family, but for them to steer clear of any of the evidence on the stairs. Ochs made to leave as well, but Reinhardt motioned him to stay put.
He opened the cupboard, seeing a few pairs of trousers and shirts, and a couple of jackets on hangers, all of it well-worn. Socks and underwear. One pair of shoes. The only item of note was a Luftwaffe dress jacket, with the insignia for a colonel in the air force. The jacket had no decorations, nothing in the pockets. There was nothing else in the bedroom apart from the bed. No shelves, no table, no books. It was a bare room, almost ascetic, and Reinhardt was struck, suddenly, by how ritualistic Noell’s body seemed, spread-eagled in the middle of the floor.
“So you’ve been here just about two years, Mr. Ochs. How well do you know the tenants?”
Ochs thought a moment, his mouth moving against his teeth. “He kept to himself, mostly. He was civil enough, but I know of one or two times he had an argument with the man downstairs about noise, or something like that. And once I saw him on the stairs, and he barely gave me the time of day. Just brushed right past me. Head in the clouds, or something like that, I thought.”
Reinhardt moved past Ochs back to the living room. It was a different place from the bedroom. It felt lived-in for one thing, which, Reinhardt supposed, was normal for a place like a living room. But there was something else: an ordered disorder, with books and newspapers, clothes draped over the back of a ladder-back chair, the pile of bedding in the corner next to the sofa. His eyes were drawn again to the bottle and glass on the table. Some kind of schnapps, he sniffed. The glass was full, and he took note of that incongruous touch in this room where at least one man had been killed, and yet what had happened had not disturbed that liquid.
“Head in the clouds, you say? Fitting, for a pilot.”
“I suppose so,” said Ochs, a weak chuckle at Reinhardt’s weak attempt at humor.
“I never saw any. That is, until the other day. He received a letter that seemed to cheer him up immensely. This would have been about, oh, a week ago. Two or three days ago, someone came to visit him. I don’t know who it was, but the two of them had quite the party up here until the early evening, then they left together, all dressed up. Or as dressed up as they could manage, I suppose.”
“This was when?”
“Saturday evening. He came back somewhat the worse for wear on Sunday morning. That was the last time I saw him, poor man.”
There was a heavy tramping on the stairs, the timbre of foreign voices, and a pair of American military policemen breasted into the room, followed by a female interpreter, a narrow old lady of middle age. They were big, blocky men, filling the room with their size and their apparent disinterest and disdain for where they found themselves. Reinhardt answered their questions through the interpreter, who kept her head down. Although he found he could follow just about all they said, he made no sign he understood English, wanting them gone as soon as possible, insisting gently through the interpreter that there was no overt Allied connection to the deaths, no evidence of black marketeering, no sign of fraternization.
The MPs seemed only too happy to agree, muttering back and forth between themselves, banter concerning the goings-on in their unit, the uselessness of being called out to such scenes, and their anticipation of getting off duty. The only question Reinhardt asked of them was if they recognized the body downstairs, to which he got a grunted negative from one of the MPs, translated as a polite and apologetic no by the interpreter. They photographed Noell’s body, took Reinhardt’s details, pronounced themselves satisfied this was an affair the German authorities could handle, but to make damn sure they were informed if it turned out there was Allied involvement, and were gone, a veritable backwash of collapsed, displaced air following them out, the interpreter scudding in their wake.
Reinhardt sighed in relief, echoed by Ochs, who had been all but plastered against the wall as the MPs had filled just about all the space. He scanned the rooms quickly, satisfied the Americans had not disturbed anything, and resumed his careful search of the apartment. He went back to the impression he had had, that this room felt lived in where the other did not. The clothes drew his eyes, draped over the back of a chair. There was a cupboard next door, so why were they here . . . ?
“Noell lived here alone? You’re sure?” Ochs nodded, a yawn pulling his mouth down. “Very well, Mr. Ochs. Thank you for your help. You may go, but please give the name of the man who has the lease on this apartment to the sergeant downstairs.”
Alone in the rooms, the only sounds a faint whisper of voices from the lower floors, Reinhardt leaned against a wall. His knee ached, terribly. It was getting worse, he knew. All the walking he was doing around Berlin, the cold and damp, the lack of food, was making the knee feel as bad as it did twenty years ago.
When he had caught his breath, he closed the door. It shut quietly, the door fitting quite well to its frame. He pulled it, pushed on it, shaking the door, but it stayed shut. He opened it again, bending to the lock, running his fingers up the door frame, inside and out. There was a key in the lock, and a bolt drawn back and open. There was no sign of damage, no sign of a forced entry.
From downstairs, Reinhardt heard the distinctive bull bellow of Berthold’s voice berating someone for something, and let a grin flash across his face. There was no sign of a struggle in the apartment either. Noell’s body bore no defensive wounds that he could see, and neither had the man downstairs, although he would have to check with Berthold for that. Nothing in this room looked disturbed or out of place. Nothing broken, or overturned. It was not that big a room. If two men had been assaulted in here, there ought to have been some sign of it, unless the assault had been of devastating speed and surprise, Reinhardt thought, as he went into the kitchen.
The cupboards were bare, or might as well have been. A collection of mismatched plates, cups, glasses, and cutlery, a battered frying pan and an even more battered army cook pot, all of it probably salvaged from some wrecked building, or given out at municipal shelters. There was a half-empty sack of coffee, a bottle of oil that glistened greasily, and an empty cardboard CARE package. A couple of bottles of schnapps that had a homemade feel to them—these few things were all the kitchen contained.
It was clean, though, Reinhardt noticed. A couple of plates were stacked upside down by the sink, together with a glass; a cloth hung from the single tap. The surfaces were clean and dry, although the sink was pearled with water. There was a dustbin under the counter. Reinhardt hooked it out, peering inside at the inevitable slew of potato peelings that made up the staple diet of any German lucky enough to afford vegetables these days. Beneath the peelings was Friday’s newspaper. He flicked out his baton, lifting the paper out to have a look through, in case Noell had made any notations, perhaps in the help-wanted section. That said, he thought to himself, poking the baton farther down into the rubbish, most of the content of the papers these days was either want ads or obituaries, unless you read one of the Allied publications, which were full of upbeat stories about the benefits of Occupation policies or pieces about Nazis and the harm they had done.
His stirring of the rubbish pulled up several sheets of paper, thin sheets covered in typing with handwritten notes jotted into the margin. The papers were stained by being in the dustbin, but there was enough of the writing intact that Reinhardt could read most of it. He straightened, his knee a tight knot of pain as he did so.
Excerpted from "The Divided City"
Copyright © 2016 Luke McCallin.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed all of the Reinhardt series . I hope this isn't the last we read about him.