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Saturday Book Tease
A cold war spy thriller...
Hello Readers, and welcome to another Saturday Book Tease. This week we go back in time in my prequel to the Checkpoint, Berlin Detective Series, The Making of Herman Faust. This book is a two-time Shortlist Finalist in the Page Turner Awards for the Screenwriting (Book Adaptation Needed) category and the Book Award category for 2021 & 2022. I’m very proud of this one. If you enjoy a cold war, espionage thriller, this book is for you.
The Berlin Wall is crumbling, and with it comes the threat of a Soviet bio-weapons program that could bring the Cold War to an explosive end.
Rookie officer Herman Faust apprehends a high priority defector during a routine traffic stop but it quickly spirals out of control when the defector's brother vanishes, and the defector is found dead in her holding cell! Faust finds himself entangled in a web of CIA secrets, anonymous threats, and a Soviet plot to launch a biological weapon on the American Embassy. With the stability of West Berlin on the line, Faust must risk all to stop the deadly pathogen from being released on innocent civilians. It's a race against the clock, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
Fans of Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising and Jack Ryan will enjoy this thrilling, Cold War-era tale of espionage and high-stakes drama. Buy now before the price changes!
"Where the Checkpoint Series All Began...In this prequel to her Checkpoint, Berlin Detective Series, Michele E. Gwynn has spun a heart-pounding tale of Cold War intrigue...artfully recalling a darker age of Russian agents and secret plots that, until recently, we thought was gone forever with the fall of the Berlin Wall. I loved the suspense, the intrigue and the way Gwynn builds the relationships between Faust, his wife and the stalwart Joseph Heinz and I heartily recommend it to any fan of police stories and Cold War spy novels." ~ Aurora Dawn
“Please, get out of the car.” The request was issued with authority.
Inside the sedan, a man with dark hair and a slight build began to exit the driver’s side door. He pulled his coat tighter around him while shifting his eyes left and right.
“I really don’t see why this is necessary…” he began. “I have my papers here.” He reached inside his coat.
“Stop!” The blond officer pulled his service revolver out, aiming it dead center of the man’s chest. “Raise your hands and turn around! Place them on the roof of your vehicle, and do not move!”
He approached the man, placing the gun at his back. With one hand, the officer reached around, patting him down first on one side, then the other. Finally, he retrieved the papers found inside the gentleman’s coat. He stepped back, and attempted to read them, but it was dark on the side of the road, and rain fell in a soaking mist.
The man glanced over his shoulder. “I’m Gunter Meyer. A banker. I live at Number 52, Kreutznacherstrasse in Steglitz.”
The officer nodded, muttering, “Figures. Jewish, and a banker.” He handed the papers back. “You may turn around.”
Gunter Meyer turned slowly as he put his papers back into his coat pocket.
“What are you doing out so late, and so close to the border of the DDR?”
Meyer shifted his weight. “I was merely out for a drive. Is that now against the law too?”
The blond officer remained quiet, staring at Meyer. He still held the gun in his hand, and it was still aimed in the man’s direction.
Meyer cast his eyes down, and then back up. “Well? Can I go or am I being detained?”
“Is there a reason I should detain you?”
“What? No! Of course not. I was simply asking…” Meyer huffed. He clenched and unclenched his hands, a clear sign of his anxiety.
The officer shrugged. “You may go, but I would not make a habit of these moonlight drives. It’s not safe out here.” He began to holster his firearm.
Meyer’s frame lost some of its rigidity. He turned, ducking into the driver’s seat, relieved. A muffled sneeze broke the silence. Meyer froze, and then reached to slam the door shut while trying to start the car.
The officer cursed, pulled his gun once again, and aimed it precisely at Meyer’s head. “Stop! I will shoot!”
Meyer was caught between his panic to flee, and the inner voice shouting at him to stay still, don’t do anything to cause the officer to pull that trigger.
“Keep your hands where I can see them! Slowly exit the vehicle, and lay down on the ground, face first!”
The banker hesitated.
Defeat filled Meyer’s large, dark eyes. He lifted both hands, moving at a pace he hoped would not antagonize the police officer. “Please, just please be calm.”
“Shut up! Get down!” The officer came around to Meyer’s side, and when he’d fully complied, quickly handcuffed the man. Meyer lay on the road unable to rise. “Stay there, or by God, I will shoot you like a dog!”
The officer searched the car. The sedan had a small backseat, barely any room for a person to sit comfortably, and no one was sitting there. The officer then pushed and prodded the cushions. At the last tug, the entire back seat popped up revealing a hidden nook.
Lying inside the hollowed-out space was a woman. She appeared to be in her early thirties with long, dark hair, and large brown eyes. She blinked at the German officer staring down at her.
“Please,” came Meyer’s plea. “She’s my sister. Don’t hurt her.”
The officer huffed. He’d seen this a dozen times already. Since his first few days out of the academy, he’d witnessed people being smuggled out of East Germany. He didn’t even know how they managed it since the guards inside the DDR were not only thorough, but brutal if they came across anyone trying to escape. Most of those who attempted it ended up shot right where they stood. Those that weren’t killed on the spot wished they had been by the time the Stasi were finished with them. But the ones who made it never expected kindness from the police. It was foreign to them.
“I’m not going to hurt her, you fool. I’m not the Stasi. This isn’t East Germany.” He turned back to the woman and extended his hand. “You can come out.”
She took his hand with some hesitation, carefully climbing out of the hidden well beneath the bench seat. When she stood on the pavement, he holstered his gun, and introduced himself.
“I’m Officer Herman Faust. Welcome to West Germany, Miss?”
“Edith Meyer Hoffmann.” She gave her full name.
“And where is Herr Hoffmann?” Faust inquired after her husband. “Is he somewhere in the car too?” He lifted one thick eyebrow.
Her expression fell. “No. He’s dead. Shot down not two hours ago.” Tears welled in her eyes and began to fall down her gaunt cheeks.
“Edith…” Meyer’s voice tried to offer comfort.
Faust sighed. “I’m sorry, Frau Hoffmann. You have my condolences.” He turned to Meyer, bending down to release him from the cuffs. “No funny business from you, Meyer.” Faust unlocked the wrist cuffs, and stood, reaching a hand out to help the man up. “You both will, of course, need to come down to the station to give a statement.”
“Is that really necessary?” Meyer looked at his sister who was shaking visibly with grief.
“I’m afraid so. Come. You’ll ride with me. I’ll send someone to pick up your car and bring it to the station house.”
Faust guided them to his own vehicle. Frau Hoffmann slid into the back seat of the police cruiser. Her brother reluctantly climbed in beside her.
“Will this take long?” Meyer asked. “My sister is not well.”
Edith Hoffmann patted her brother’s arm, a wan smile on her lips. “I’ll be okay, Gunter.” She coughed.
Faust looked in the rearview mirror. “It will take as long as it takes, I’m afraid, but we will be sure to bring in a physician if that is what she requires.”
“That won’t be necessary, officer,” she said, looking out the window into the dark of night.
“I’ll be all right. Just let’s get on with this. We’re safe now, brother. We’re safe.” She spoke softly, seeming unconcerned.
Faust heard the resignation in her voice, and the relief. Even if her brother didn’t realize it yet, Edith Meyer Hoffmann was correct. They were, indeed, safe now.
He cranked the ignition and pulled onto the road. The ride back to the station was slow-going as the rain began to fall in sheets. With the December temperatures dropping below freezing overnight, there would be nothing but ice covering the roads by morning. Herman was glad he’d remembered to put the chains on the tires. His wife, Helga, would need the traction to make it into work. He would be getting off shift only an hour before, just in time to make it home to take care of Therese, their daughter. At three, she was the apple of his eye, and had her papa wrapped around her dainty finger. Still, she was a handful, especially when he had to work overnight. At least his mother-in-law, Margaret, would arrive in the morning to watch the tike while he got some sleep.
Margaret stayed until Helga came home, and by then, Herman was getting up for his next shift. It wasn’t an easy schedule, but it worked for them, for now.
Before he knew it, they’d arrived at the station. Faust pulled into the parking lot and found a spot. He had no umbrella on hand, but he did carry an extra jacket. He handed it to Frau Hoffmann after opening the back door to let her and her brother out.
“Here,” he said, throwing the coat over her shoulders, and flipping the hood up, “this should help keep you dry.”
Meyer exited the vehicle, and they ran for the front door. Inside, the station house was quiet. Faust took Meyer and his sister to in-processing. He left them both in the desk Sergeant’s hands while he reported in to his Captain.
“Another made it across. She’s in with Herring right now.”
Captain Rolf Rheinhardt looked up, his keen green eyes locking with Faust’s as his dark eyebrows lowered. “She?”
“Yes, a widow. Recent widow. Her husband did not make it.”
“I see. She had help?”
Faust nodded. “Yes, her brother. He’s one of ours, a Jewish banker.”
Rheinhardt grunted. “Have you run his background check yet?”
“Nein. I’m on my way to my desk now. I’ll run it and fill out my report.”
The captain nodded, dismissing Faust who turned to leave.
Herman paused, looking back.
“What’s her name?”
“Hoffmann. Edith Meyer Hoffmann. The brother is Gunter Meyer.”
Rheinhardt froze. “And her husband?”
Faust returned to the doorway. “Herr Hoffmann?” he offered.
The captain rummaged through his desk, locating a file folder. He pulled it out, flipping through the pages. Finally, he stopped, and pointed at the two pictures on the page. “Is this her?” He turned the folder toward Faust.
Hermann approached, looking down. On the page were two faded photographs. One was of a tall, good-looking man with prominent cheekbones and a thin mustache. He wore wire-rimmed glasses over his blue eyes and was dressed in a dark suit. The other picture showed a young woman with long, dark hair and creamy cheeks, smiling, wearing a wedding gown. She was the picture of health and happiness holding a modest bouquet of white roses. Despite the difference in age and obvious declining health now, there was no doubt this was a picture of Edith Meyer on her wedding day.
“Yes, that’s her. Why? Who is she?”
Rheinhardt ran a hand over his mouth. “She is the wife of one of the top microbiologists in the world. Solomon Hoffmann. Back in the early ‘70s, Hoffmann was caught on the wrong side of the wall while on a special dispensation to visit his dying grandmother. He was recruited by Vector to help develop biological weapons for the Soviets. Since then, we’ve lost track, but he more than likely moved on from Vector to Obolensk, the newest branch of their germ warfare division. You said he didn’t make it?” He looked at Faust.
“Frau Hoffmann said he died not more than two hours before I came upon them. What does this mean?”
“I don’t exactly know yet, but now we have her. She was his wife. She’ll have information.” He picked up the phone.
“Who are you calling?” Faust asked. His captain seemed agitated, a clear shift from his usually calm demeanor.
Rheinhardt chewed his lip. “The Landeskriminalamt will want her.” Dialing, he glanced over his shoulder. “Good work, Faust. Now, go write that report.”
Continue reading The Making of Herman Faust here.
Are you a binge reader? Get the Checkpoint, Berlin Box Set here.