First chapter from the novel: ‘The Bernstein File’
Main Characters: Marie von Bernstein, Eadweard Fitzwilliam, Gernot von Bernstein
Genre: Action, Thriller
Similar to: Jason Bourne, Central Intelligence
This excerpt is not perfectly translated.
If you’re interested in the story, this whole project includes:
2 Spin Offs
Anita’s amenable to any negotiation. Thank you!
April 13st 1996, 08:37 AM, Kirchstraße 7, Brandenburg
Uneasy paced Gernot von Bernstein through his living room. He checked his wristwatch every other second, pocketed his hands in his pants just to take them out again. The minutes dragged by worse than old chewing gum and his impatience grew. With sly looks he checked on one agent after the other, but they showed no reactions at all.
He sighed worried. It never was his thing to wait for something.
Since last night they were waiting for a life sign of his oldest daughter. Marie, who disappeared from one second to the next! Now they were hoping for news or that the agents on scene would contact them. Hoping for information!
But until now, silence! Uncertainty!
According to the plan his family was supposed to be on the way to the airport by now. That’s how Antonio Macchiavelli intended it to be. Just as von Bernstein wanted to check his watch again, Macchiavelli rushed into the living room with a grim look upon his face, staring at him. Von Bernstein stopped anxiously in his motion. But by the looks of it, the agent still had no new information.
Macchiavelli shook his head, barked some orders and left the room, the same way he entered.
Damn it, where the hell was his daughter?
He caught the look of his wife Julia with a gutted feeling and shrugged helplessly. They couldn’t do anything about it. He sadly watched her, the way she tried to hide her worry by intensely taking care of Helen. Sweet little Helen! She was the nestling of the family, only five years old. She played airily with her dolls. One of them was named Marie, wherefore she was burbling happily that name. It hurt him to hear constantly that name.
With a sigh von Bernstein started his pacing again.
The secret services sheltered and protected his family for weeks and until now, everything went down like planned. Why not now? What was the reason for the sudden disappearance of his daughter? As long as she wasn’t found, he wouldn’t leave, wouldn’t sally. Not without her!
He didn’t care that he had a big fight about it with Macchiavelli, but he prevailed in the end. He was able to jawbone the OIC – Officer-In-Charge – to wait, until they found his daughter. Of course Macchiavelli wasn’t happy about it, since he had to change all plans, plus the danger of an ambush rose with every second. But von Bernstein insisted vehemently on it. Without his daughter in safety, he wouldn’t give up any of his long collected information to a third-party. Thus is why Macchiavelli was bound to his demand and took every action possible, to trace Marie.
What a nightmare!
He was still pacing relentlessly through his living room, hung up worried on his terrifying thoughts. It was somewhat surprising, that no one had asked him yet, to sit down and to stay calm. Not even his wife. How awful she must feel in this situation? He took a sly glimpse at her. How much he would love to hug her now, to comfort her, but he was way to tense. So he shook his head and kept on pacing. None of the attendees was talking much.
The only one making some sounds now and then was Helen. At the moment she was giggling amused about or with her dolls. He stopped in his motion to gaze at her sweet, round child face, just for a moment, while his thoughts kept circling around Marie. This was too much, he laid his head back into the nape, staring at the ceiling and taking some deep breaths. Without better knowledge he would say this whole fiasco was staged, that Marie was kidnapped to stop him from spilling!
Was his information that explosive that people would kidnap his family for it, would kill them for it? Of course! He was aware of it, when he started with his investigation. He knew, that lots of agents were involved in this thing and he already had a potential person responsible in mind. But just one! And he wasn’t able to find out how much that guy knew. Was he even able to trust the agents around him? A troubling question he couldn’t answer. One more thing to frighten him!
‘Is everyone in the house?’ asked Karl the two men as they got out of the car. They simply nodded. Karl hated these guys. They creeped him out! He hoped to get rid of them as soon as the mission was accomplished. At least he was working with professionals, even if they never said a word. Supposedly they had cut their tongues out. He shook disgusted his head.
‘How many are located in the house?’ The broad one of the two men held up eight fingers.
Karl nodded. ‘Eight agents? Von Bernstein included?’
Both men shook their heads.
‘Eleven people. We will do it this way: At first take out the dogs, I hate dogs and their barking, after that take care of the agents and get the hell out. I will personally take care of von Bernstein, this gumshoe. Do you copy?’
The two men nodded again and turned to leave as Karl had another thought. ‘Mind to keep the agents silent, they cannot give alarm. They’re dead, all of them! Tell me when you’re done! As soon as possible!’
One of the two men shook his head annoyed. He thought that the agent was a fussy greenhorn, but unfortunately he couldn’t tell him that.
Von Bernstein rubbed his nape worried, while his gaze slid slowly back to his wife. She sat on the couch with swollen eyes, nibbling nervously her fingernails. A weak smile lit up her face. He thought about how rarely he has sawn her that shaken. Should he say something conciliating to her? But what? No. She wouldn’t believe him anyway.
Jerky he turned his head to the door.
Macchiavelli came back in. Did he know more in the meanwhile? But his face just reflected the same tension and unease, as at the last check-up.
Von Bernstein could have snapped out in anger.
For a short moment he gave in and sat down on a chair. But his unease didn’t let him rest a while and with his thoughts about his big girl he got up impatiently soon. He missed Marie, her absence choke him. Preferably he would have taken on the search by himself, but that had been rigorously prohibited to him.
Since the secret services guarded his family with their agents, Marie had two steady shadows, whose were supposed to take care of her to keep her save. One of the two shadows was a friend of the family, the other one a promising parvenu of the German intelligence service.
Von Bernstein kept pacing and thinking. Although Marie had two agents stuck to her heels, she was suddenly gone in the hurly burly of a school trip. In the middle of the day! No one noticed anything until they were back. Ever since the two agents, Fitzwilliam and Berger were searching for her. And all of that just because the school didn’t wanted Berger and Fitzwilliam too close-by. The other students shouldn’t be rattled.
Such a big pile of … bullshit!
In anger von Bernstein clenched his fists. If they hadn’t behaved that foolish, Marie wouldn’t be missing now! It was to tear one’s hair. He felt his anger rising. But there was no point in jumping back and forth like Rumpelstilzchen. Arduously poised he took some deep breaths and calmed down slowly.
Since the incidence Berger gave regular reports. But until now he had nothing positive to report. And Fitzwilliam, the agent of the MI6, was gone completely of the grid.
Von Bernstein wasn’t surprised about the fact, that his friend stopped any communication. He knew him way to well. Fitzwilliam was known for his skills in tracking and finding important targets ideally fast and alive. He wouldn’t resurface until he found Marie. His opinion was that there is just one way to shield a person and keep them safe. And that was full concentration on the mission. A human life had highest priority for him. That also was his reason to come to Germany in the first place. He wanted to shield von Bernstein and his family. But was that really possible? By now strong doubts had clenched von Bernstein’s mind. Scatter-brained he looked once again at his wristwatch. It has been a long while since they heard back from Berger. Too long, in his opinion! But he couldn’t give up hope.
As another terrifying thought crossed his mind he stopped his pacing abruptly. No matter how far he would run, they would always find him. The secret services could cough up as many agents as they want, as long as this network wasn’t destroyed, his family wouldn’t be save. Nowhere! Even with a false identity they would be able to find him. Because there will always be a traitor.
This sense came indeed late. How could he had ever believed, that anyone is able to shield them. It would have been better, if he had left his family and went through this crap alone. If they would have thought he was dead, his family would be saving by now.
Von Bernstein puckered.
A short look to his wife told him that she stared confused at him. Her eyes were open wide and she appeared scared stiff. Even Helen stopped playing with her dolls and looked around with the curiosity of a child. Julia reacted instantly and placed a finger on her mouth, to prevent the little one from talking.
Doubtful he looked around. What was going on? He watched the agents drawing their guns and listened alerted into the room. Just in that moment Macchiavelli rushed in with a very tense look upon his face.
What? Von Bernstein formed this question, without making any sounds, just moving his lips. But Macchiavelli shrugged his shoulders and gave military grade orders with hand signs to eyes and ears. After that he gave orders to deploy and the agents fleet soundless.
Von Bernstein frowned. Did anybody hear a sound but him? Again he looked worried at his wife, who had Helen picked up in her arms to comfort and rock her gently. The look in her eyes told him, that she was fighting of a medium-sized panic.
He had an idea. They had to get upstairs into his office. Maybe they were save there! With hope he waved Julia over, who stepped worried next to him. Prima facie he wasn’t the only one with this idea, because suddenly another agent appeared next to him and points with a tight move of his head to the stairs.
Von Bernstein nodded. While he picked up his daughter and pushed his wife to the stairs he heard a weird, dull sound. Nervously he looked around. But there was nothing to see.
The agents sneaked through the house and appeared even more tense, as just a few minutes ago. Everything played out almost soundlessly, von Bernstein couldn’t even hear the dogs barking in the garden.
Hang on! The dogs! He stopped hesitatingly. Should he get them? With shaking his head he forced himself to move on. Even if they were his darlings, but his wife and daughter were more important. Hastily he urged to rush and pointed to the office.
Using his ell bow he pushed down the door handle and flings the office door open. Only with big effort he was able to suppress his emotions and swallow the lump in his throat. He couldn’t show weakness in front of his wife and daughter. But Helen seems to feel his worry, because she clung to his neck with her tiny arms. He hugged her gently but firm and deeply inhaled her unique child scent. Should it be the last time he held her in his arms?
Quickly he had to distract himself. He looked at Julia and pointed at the door. She nodded and closed it silently. Meanwhile he tried to put Helen back on the ground, but she clung to him as strong as a monkey, only the hands of her mother were able to detach her.
Gingerly Julia took the little one into her arms and caressed lovingly her cheeks. The child’s heart was beating so fast, that she was afraid it might just stop. Only a few weeks ago, her husband undeceived the situation to her. Of course Julia knew where he was working, but what kind of investigations he dealt with, that she didn’t know. She was totally shocked, when she learned about the explosive situation. But Gernot was able to calm her down about it, since the secret services would sent agents to keep them save. In the end they were interested in the information he collected. Back then she asked herself if something like spies still existed. Nevertheless they had peace for years now, the cold war was over. But as Julia had to experience often, peace was a ridiculously exhausted word and not too seldom she felt cheated out of it.
Just like now. By the looks of it the people outside weren’t able to shield her family. If they could, they would be sitting save and sound in a plane.
Meanwhile Marie might be already dead. No! She couldn’t allow such thoughts! Nonetheless this and other scenes searched again and again their way into her memory.
Successfully! Surely they will soon be dead too. That’s what her intuition told her, and she saw the same thoughts in the eyes of her husband. Of course he tried to hide it, but the chivvied look upon his face, confirmed her anxiety.
Agonizingly she tried to smile, but it wouldn’t work.
Was this her saying goodbye? That’s something she had always imagined differently. For Heaven’s sake! How much she loved Gernot.
Grief suffused Julia. Lovingly she looked into her husband’s eyes. Automatically like driven, her hand placed itself on his cheeks and caressed the red stubbly beard. He too her hand gently, kissed her palm and let go of it.
Yes! This was saying goodbye. That was just how it felt. From one minute to the other her heart grew heavy as lead. It was surprising how paralysing the thought of death could be, and how calm she stayed anyhow. She kissed him, lovingly.
Gernot von Bernstein disentangled gently from his wife, turned his back on her and gazed with an apprehensive look at the bookshelf. He blanked and stared in thoughts at a point in the shelf. Determined he pulled out an old leathery book from the right upper line and shoved his arm into the hindmost corner. A short moment later a door opened on the other side of the room.
He prayed that this room will provide enough protection for both of them. Expectantly he watched Julia, because until now she never even had an idea about this room. He didn’t know why, but her astonishment amused him. It became rare that he was able to surprise her any more. She wanted to say something, but he signed her hastily to remain silently and to go into the room. Without protest she obeyed and disappeared with Helen.
The Moment von Bernstein wanted to follow her he heard a creaking of the stairs. Somebody made his way up to them. From one second to the other he was petrified by fear. He couldn’t make his way to his wife and daughter, it was impossible to close the heavy door that fast. How much he would have wanted to say that he loves them, more than his life. He only had one hope that they will survive.
Rashly he pressed the button in the shelf and put another book in the place, before he wiped his eyes. Randomly he took another book and acted as if he was reading. With a racing heartbeat he waited for what to come.
The door handle was pushed down. The door slowly opened and Berger slid his head into the room, just as the secret door closed without making any noise. Von Bernstein was surprised to see him and looked up from his book.
‘Karl! What are you doing here?’ he asked gladdened.
Berger lifted a hand before he even could disagree and demanded von Bernstein to stay silent. Slowly he closed the door and moved in on him. Hopefully he was bearing good news! With curious impatience von Bernstein looked into Berger’s eyes and felt sick. He was pleased too early.
Scared he exhaled. ‘Marie?’ he asked light-headed. Berger shook his head. It was as if he would fell apart any moment, so he put the book down on the table, bereft of all his strength. Quivering he pushed his hands onto the desk searching for support. Now he lifted his eyes. ‘And … Robert?’ He heard himself like from far away. His blood was brawling in his ears. He watched the expressions of the agent, who shook his head again. ‘Good Lord!’ von Bernstein whispered and slumped down. Only with great effort he was able to hold himself up. Both were dead! Desperately he fought the upcoming sickness. Tried to stay poised, it was hard and he only slowly managed to get a grip on it. Just as he wanted to ask another question, they heard someone coming up the stairs again.
Insecure he looked to Berger.
In this short moment his eyes flashed traitorous. Immediately von Bernstein wanted to smack himself. Of course! What other reason should Berger have to be here? And this jackass was shielding and watching his daughter for the last weeks!
Instantly he felt his anger rising. There was only one wish, one intention left, to kill Berger with his own two hands, it was pure instinct. Wrathfully he rose. Was Berger the only one, or was Fitzwilliam a traitor too? Whatever! He had to kill him first. Right now!
Berger grimaced annoyed and pulled his gun to point it at the tall and proud man. While aiming at von Bernstein he eyed him disapproving. To Berger von Bernstein was the traitor. If he wouldn’t have stuck his nose into other people’s business, he wouldn’t have to kill him now.
He signed him with a scornfully look to remain silent in front of the shortly entering agent. After that Berger hid quiet behind the door. A few short moments later Macchiavelli entered and checked the room chivvied. Berger realised, that Macchiavelli was bleeding but still very much alive. Soundless he mumbled a curse and caught von Bernstein’s look, he seemed to be also very shocked.
Rattled he stared at the door. The OIC looked battered. Why was the officer in command still alive? Was he a traitor too? At least he would have had the perfect position for it. Von Bernstein was confused. Even more confused as he saw the relief on Macchiavellis face. ‘Sir, we have to leave! We can’t wait any longer for your daughter. Karl Berger is the traitor’ said Macchiavelli in a hurry. Slowly limping he walked up to von Bernstein, who was trying desperately not to look to the second door. ‘Where are your wife and daughter?’ he asked and looked around the room, just to spot Berger who came out of his hiding behind the door shooting at him simultaneously.
Macchiavelli sank to the floor, hit in the shoulder. With high hopes von Bernstein watched Macchiavelli pulling his gun in red anger. But a second and a third shot followed.
That’s how death must feel crossed it von Bernstein’s mind, then nothing.
With a dull noise both men hit the ground after one another. Satisfied with his work Berger holstered his gun. He had von Bernstein struck down with a single shot to the head. His boss, Berger clicked his tongue he was finished too, even if it wasn’t with a clean head shot. His clients will be very pleased. Thanks to the two professionals, none of the agents was still alive. And considering everything his people knew, the oldest daughter wasn’t either. Now he only had to take care of the wife and the little one and all indications about him or the others will be erased.
Searchingly he checked the room. They had to be somewhere up here otherwise Macchiavelli wouldn’t had been so surprised and asked for them. There was no way they could have escaped!
He remembered he had seen von Bernstein glimpsing at the other wall. Maybe they hid their somehow? It was possible. But in that case, he was lost with his gun. He needed something way bigger!
Stepping out into the garden he looked around, his glance slid over the dead bodies which are leaned to the house wall. He nodded satisfied. Everything seemed inconspicuous. No one would see anything, if they don’t come too close.
He kept walking.
He opened relaxed the creaky garden gate and a short moment later the trunk of his car. Berger picked a machine gun, slammed the trunk shot and turned around in happy anticipation. A last surveying look along the street. Everything quiet! No one will disturb him doing his job.
With a cheerful whistle he entered the house but stopped abrupt. What was that? It sounded almost like crying. Leisurely he walked up the stairs and to the office. There was no one in the hallway! Before he stepped into the room he checked lovingly his gun. Carefully his look slid all through the room. The telephone receiver lay next to the phone.
A last check around the office and he took the receiver holding it to his ear.
‘Hello? Hello?’ a female voice was asking. ‘Please tell us where you live and …’
Damn it! The wife had called the police. He ended the call angry and turned around in one full circle. No he had to rush. If the wife had called the police from here, she had to be here somewhere. A faint whining came through to his ears.
The sound of a child!
He slowly armed his machine gun, looked around another time, took a deep breath and started shooting the walls to both sides. He didn’t stop until he emptied the clip. Lowering his gun he hearkened.
Now everything was quiet. His instructions were complied. Satisfied he exhaled.
In that single moment he realised a movement by the corner of his eye. Long before Berger could check on who or what moved, shots ring out.
He dropped down dead.
‘This damn motherfucker!’ swayed Macchiavelli. Arduously and in pain he struggled to his feet, supported himself with the desk and grabbed the telephone. One hand he pushed onto his belly. He couldn’t believe that he wasn’t able to look through Berger’s charade more early! The telephone receiver in the other hand he dialled a number. The other end was picked up instantly. ‘Cromwell, its Macchiavelli. It’s over. They all are dead … Yes. Supposedly the older one too and Fitzwilliam! … No, it was Berger. … Dead! … Here, right in front of me.’ He slowly put the receiver on the table and went down on one knee to check if Berger was really dead. Relieved he closed his eyes and struggled to his feet again. ‘Yes. Definitely, Sir! … I? Um … nothing worse just a few scratches, Sir! What now? … Yes, the whole work starts all over. Well … um, Sir? Maybe you could bring me before hand to a hospital? Thank you! See you later.’
With anger he slammed the receiver on the phone. All for nothing! He limped up the bookshelf and tried to reach the button. But the pain was too much to take. He limped back to the desk and pushed the heavy wooden chair to the shelf, climbed on top of it and wiped the books aside. Now he pushed the button and turned around. The perforated door on the other side of the office opened. Macchiavelli shook his head. He doubted that there was any hope left for the two women. With great effort he got down the chair and limped over. Prepared for the worst!
How was Berger able to shoot women and kids? Cautiously he flung open the door and stared with horror into the little room. Tears welled up his eyes and he felt sick. ‘Bloody hell!’ he uttered hoarsely and pulls his collar to breathe more easily.
Berger made a fucking good job of it. Julia was lying on the floor, the little one sheltered in her arms, her hands still shielding the head of the child. The whole room was a bloody mess. Wiping his tears of sadly he turned away disgusted. No one deserved something like this! The only thing he could do was hoping for Marie to be dead too.
This way she never needed to know about what happened here.