Niklas Kaiser lived in the Zell am Main section of the small city, within walking distance of the KBA Giori plant, where he had worked for the past twenty-five years.
Niklas was a creature of habit.
Every morning he woke up at exactly 6:10 a.m. and ate exactly the same thing for Frühstück, or breakfast. This consisted of four soft boiled eggs, five Brötchen rolls stuffed with butter and jam, three sausages, two cups of coffee, and a liter of orange juice.
Niklas weighed three hundred pounds.
On this particular morning, something was different. He could not put his finger on it, but something was out of kilter.
As he sat at the dinette table in his bathrobe, eating, he glanced across the table at the empty chair. Not a day passed without him thinking of the monster who had wrecked his life five long years ago. He could still see the man sitting there across the dinette table from him, the scar running down the jawline, the steady hand peeling the apple with the long-bladed knife as he calmly spoke German in the accented voice. What that devil had forced him to do was unthinkable, heinous, beyond shameful. His father had worked for Giori, and so had his grandfather. Niklas been granted a high level government security clearance to work at the prestigious, two hundred year old company. If caught, he would be considered a traitor.
His daughter would be mortified.
His ex-wife would shrug and say, "It doesn't surprise me."
And he would be caught, he knew it. He had known it all along. You didn't get away with something like that at KBA Giori, or in Germany, for that matter.
Niklas had already decided that he would not be taken alive.
He rose from the chair, the kitchen floor creaking under his weight, and carefully pulled back the corner of the curtain.
He stood there for a full minute, unmoving, watching the street in the early morning twilight.
Now he knew what was different.
There was no traffic.
By now there were usually some pedestrians on their way to work and a few cars heading out of the subdivision, but he heard not the slightest sound.
Then some motion in the front yard caught his eye.
Two figures in black dashed around the hedge, heading stealthily for the front door.
Niklas had been waiting for this moment so long that it was almost a relief.
He began calmly climbing the stairs, barely able to wedge himself into the narrow flight that led up into the attic.
Germany had the strictest gun control laws in the world. But hidden in his attic, in an old trunk belonging to his father, was a vintage World War II German luger.
Outside, three armed officers from the Bundeskriminalamt, or Federal Criminal Police Office, slipped onto Niklas Kaiser's porch and clustered around the front door. Two more men were stationed behind the house, watching the back door. Traffic had been stopped along the street.
They really had no idea what kind of person they were dealing with.
The lead officer knocked on the door. "Herr Kaiser? It is the Polizei. We need to speak with you."
There was no response.
"Herr Kaiser, please open the door. We need to speak with you, it's very important!"
Still no response.
One of the men was carrying a battering ram, and the lead officer nodded to him.
He backed up, the two other officers wielding their pistols, ready to fire, and then slammed the heavy implement into the door.
The wood gave with a bang and swung open, but it sounded like there was a second bang inside the house immediately afterwards, almost like an echo.
All the men were wearing Kevlar vests and helmets. They proceeded with caution, one checking the living room, another one moving into the kitchen, and another heading up the stairs.
"Verdammit!" the one yelled when he reached the attic. "Kommt hierher!"
The two other officers bounded up the stairs.
The massive three hundred pound man was sprawled on the floor in his bathrobe like a beached whale, the barrel of the luger still in his mouth.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France
It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, not unlike the one when Elaine Brogan had left to meet with Giorgio Cattoretti at the villa. That had been only three days ago.
Nick was standing at the backyard grill, a hand-rolled cigarette dangling from his lips, frying burgers. Tony was standing beside him, alternating between petting Juliet and making snide remarks about Nick's cooking, proudly saying that he had never made or even eaten an American-style hamburger and never would.
Luna and Elaine were relaxing in patio chairs in the grass, enjoying the sunshine and sipping frozen strawberry daiquiris that Tony had made for them. Elaine's foot was bandaged and she had it propped up on an empty chair, letting the sun's rays warm it. Amelia was crawling around in the sandbox. Walter, Luna's husband, was trying to teach Romeo how to fetch a tennis ball, with Ryan helping.
Walter had flown over from Washington yesterday. Tomorrow he and Luna were taking the train to Paris and then to London, where they would catch a cruise ship to New York, then ride a train back to D.C. This had been Elaine's idea, when Luna confessed that she harbored a deep fear of flying. Elaine was the only other person in the world besides Walter who knew about the phobia, and she was touched that Luna chose to share it with her.
In turn, Luna was the only other person in the world who knew that Elaine had let The Cat go, except for Nick. Elaine felt incredibly close to her former Secret Service martial arts instructor now, even closer than before, and wanted her to know everything that had taken place with Cattoretti.
"Well, I think you did the right thing, baby-doll," Luna had said, touching her shoulder. "We all have to live with the decisions we make. You have to follow orders, but there are ethical considerations, too."
"Yes," Elaine said. "But it wasn't only ethics."
"You did spend a lot of time together," Luna said. Elaine had told her about spending a few days with Cattoretti in Italy, when she had been framed by Gene Lassiter and had nowhere else to go. "It's not unusual for criminals and law enforcement to develop a relationship, over the long haul. It's impossible to stay completely detached--we're only human."
Elaine reached over and squeezed her hand. "Thanks, Luna. I couldn't have gotten through this without you."
Luna's reassurance did make Elaine feel a little better. Even though Niklas Kaiser had killed himself before the police could question him, the fact that she had finally gotten the name of the infamous KBA Giori mole seemed to make up for Cattoretti's "escape."
But there had been one tense moment when Raj asked her how she'd gotten the name.
"At the villa, I told Cattoretti I would exchange it for the whereabouts of his baby," Elaine told him.
Raj said, "But you didn't know where the kid was, and you still don't know."
"True. I was bluffing. When he pulled out his phone to call Anders to verify that the baby had been kidnapped, that's when I attacked him."
Raj had bought her explanation, or at least Elaine hoped he had. Uncovering the name of another Cattoretti accomplice--Anders Lundström--also seemed to score some points with him. Anders had been picked up by the police in Sweden and questioned for six hours, but was released. He stuck to his story that he was merely doing his former employer a favor by keeping the child, and had broken no law, because Cattoretti had led him to believe that the baby had been legally taken from Cyprus, with the mother's permission.
Elaine didn't believe a word of this, but there was nothing she could do other than continue to investigate Anders on her own and hope that she uncovered more, which Raj had asked her to do.
Ryan threw the tennis ball a little wildly and it went bouncing past Elaine and Luna. When Romeo bounded after it, the big Doberman nearly knocked both women out of their chairs.
"Be careful, honey!" Elaine said. "Nick, teach your son how to throw a ball, will you?"
"The master chef is busy," Nick said, flipping over a burger that looked completely charred on one side.
Tony got a big kick out of that.
Luna and Elaine watched Ryan trot past the swing set to pick up the tennis ball, which Romeo had simply sniffed and ignored. The dark-haired boy came trotting back in their direction, deftly jumped into the swing, used it to shoot himself forward, then just as deftly landed in the grass and kept moving without missing a beat.
"Your son is unusually agile," Luna said. "He moves with the grace of a ca..."
Elaine glanced sharply at her.
Luna shut her mouth and she looked back at Ryan.
"Oh my god," she whispered.
(End of Book 6!)
Note to readers: This concludes the second Lust, Money & Murder trilogy (Books 4, 5 & 6). The final version will appear on all the retail ebooks sites in 7-10 days. Stay tuned for Books 7, 8 & 9 which I may or may not publish in advance serially, as I have done with this book. The decision will depend on whether you want it published that way or not - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take a moment to complete my short reader survey - it will take you less than a minute and I will share the results with you in an upcoming VIP Reader List update.
Special thanks to Author Devika Fernando for pre-proofreading this post.
New to the Lust, Money & Murder Series? You can download Book 1 free here.