They flew into Köln-Bonn airport just as dawn was breaking. Doyle was irritated by the style of the place, all escalators and dizzying views from elevators onto roads and railways. An ultra-modern piece of public architecture that would date almost before others could copy it.
“It’s just a station trying to reinvent itself as art,” he muttered, but Bodie, grumpy after waiting around for their flight longer than the flight itself took, wanted tea, which didn't seem to be available, and something to eat.
“I’d like it to reinvent itself as somewhere you could get something to drink,” he said, dragging Doyle round the few outlets available.
They settled for a couple of rolls with unidentifiable cooked meat and cartons of something that pretended to be fruit juice and headed for the railway station via more technical marvels. The airport was out on a local line; soon they were whisked into the city centre and the central station. They got some coffee and Doyle looked longingly at the cathedral spires.
“We could spare half an hour,” he said but Bodie tugged him away from the entrance hall, and found the right stairs to the platform they needed.
“We’ll have time for sightseeing on the way back - when it’s all over. Then you can gawp at mediaeval art as much as you like,” he told him. “For now, you’ll have to make do with your review of the airport.” Doyle scowled but followed him meekly.
The smart German train, old but clean, was, of course, on time. It left with a subdued hiss that reminded Doyle of a well-mannered cat. He said so and Bodie grinned. They settled into reserved seats and watched the countryside glide past. The railway crossed the slow waters of the Rhine, filled with barges heading to and from the Dutch coast, then the track headed east.
The name of their destination intrigued them both: Wolfkammer, a room or chamber of wolves. What were they getting themselves into? Cowley had given very little in the way of explanation, just saying that the Bonn authorities had requested their aid and expertise in catching some particularly nasty terrorists in the Wolfkammer area. Their experience with the IRA would, it was thought at the highest levels, be helpful. A German liaison officer would meet them at Dieringhausen station and brief them more thoroughly.
“I'll leave the details to the Germans,” said Cowley. “You'll be better off getting all the facts when you're in the location.” And that was all he had really said about the matter.
Now they could, and did, speculate.
“Wolfkammer,” said Ray. “Sounds like a hotbed of trouble but it's probably a semi-urban area with a highly respectable population.”
“Might have had a colourful history.” Bodie grinned and they spent a few minutes playing with the idea.
“Little Red Riding Hood probably lived down the road,” said Doyle.
“And the three little pigs built the first brick house in the region,” Bodie agreed, laughing.
“On the other hand, it might have been a den of robbers and bandits who terrorised everyone in the Middle Ages. Some of the old fairy tales are based on real incidents with human villains.”
“Let's hope our terrorists can be caught with a spell or two! Look, we're well out of the city now - I'm not sure this is really bandit country - or fairy tale for that matter - but it doesn't look like suburbia.” Bodie's nose was pressed against the window. He was intrigued by the landscape; it was vastly different to parts of Africa, the only non-English countryside he knew well. On previous ventures abroad, even in Ireland, he had been busy making himself familiar with bustling cities rather than breathing fresh country air, or sometimes moving too rapidly, too engaged in the operation, to take in details of his surroundings.
The view was pleasing: small industrial units were well hidden among trees and interspersed with farms. It was a tamed, gentle area, held by mankind for centuries and subdued to his liking. It was unlike England in that the industry was scattered about in a rural setting rather than clustered on the edge of a town. That rural setting, however, was domestic and apparently tranquil.
They hadn't expected a female officer but soon felt at ease with Heike Brinkmann. The policewoman took them to a café near the station, ordered drinks and, to Bodie’s delight, cakes, then found seats well away from other customers. Heike was slim, above average height, and looked younger than the twenty-five years that she must have achieved, given her status and training. The lack of make-up and a silky ponytail of silver-blonde hair contributed to the youthful effect. She explained the situation in delightfully accented English, glossing over details but giving an overview of the task that faced them. A group calling themselves the Wolves of Westphalia were, she told them, operating in the hills around Wolfkammer, occasionally descending on the smaller towns but often causing havoc in the countryside, perhaps to create chaos for the local police and perhaps to affect the political sympathies of the population and win votes for more police, fewer immigrants and a return to an earlier way of life. Perhaps both.
“So what’s their MO? Sorry, their modus operandi, their usual way of committing the crime.” Bodie was less suave than normal, trying to deal with a colleague who might not understand everything he said. Doyle smiled inwardly; his partner would do everything he could to put Officer Brinkmann at her ease. Bodie could probably put a porcupine at its ease, Ray reflected, and then remove its spines while it wasn’t looking.
“Their usual way is very simple.” Heike hesitated and went on to describe something less than simple and very chilling. “A farmer and his family are killed and mutilated. The bodies show every sign of attack by wild beasts. The animals on the farm are also killed. It is like a - a place where they kill animals for meat. Yes, an abattoir.” Her eyes thanked Doyle for the murmured word. “There are no notes at the scene, no advertisements, no letters to the press, just a campaign of horror. Then sometimes a letter will come to the police station in Gummersbach, saying that the Wolves of Westphalia have struck again and will continue to strike until the countryside is cleaned, cleansed.” Her face queried the term and Doyle nodded. “The farms are far from the towns. Sometimes it is many days before the bodies are found. The people in the emergency services as well as the ordinary people - well - you can imagine, I think.” They certainly could. Rural terrorism; quite different from the city centre bombings of the Irish but equally devastating. “We let the local newspapers have the text of the letters,” Heike finished.
“No fingerprints? Or anything else to tell you about the letters?” Doyle meant paper types, ink or whatever, envelope, etc. but Heike knew all that and shook her head.
“Now,” said Heike, “you know as much as anyone local knows from reading the newspapers.” She sat back for a moment, her cool blue eyes assessing the two young men sitting opposite her. Her gaze suggested she was ambivalent about foreign help but at the same time hopeful that someone might, at last, do something. “Just three days ago,” she continued, “a family in Komp was found dead, and last week in Mennkausen a younger, no, I mean a young man, was torn from his bicycle and left for dead by the roadside.”
“But?” prompted Bodie, sensing something else to come.
“But he is still alive in the hospital, maybe at home now, quite well, in fact, and he talks of a wolf.”
“You mean one of these terrorists?”
“No, I mean a real wolf, with fur and sharp teeth.” She glanced from one to the other tensely, half-expecting them to laugh, showing relief when they didn’t. Doyle shuddered inwardly and wondered how he would feel if Bodie met the teeth and claws of a vicious animal. Strangely, he didn't worry about himself. Still, African lions hadn't managed to kill his partner; European wolves would probably fare no better. Bodie was looking suitably grave but dubious. Heike appeared to expect a response.
“What are your lot expecting us to do?” Doyle made himself sound cheerful.
“I am not sure,” said Heike, “but any new perspective on the situation must be good. I think you have terrorists in England, yes?”
“We certainly do, but whilst their attacks might be savage they don’t resemble anything animals might do. They certainly target random civilians but any mutilations are by bullet or bomb blast.” Doyle felt curious but puzzled.
“My and your chiefs have talked. They think you might be able to use your abilities to help us. Gott im Himmel,” she said forcefully, breaking into German for a moment, “we need all the help we can get.”
“We’ll do what we can. We’ll need more details, of course.” Bodie’s voice was strong and reassuring; Doyle felt the power of it with his usual admiration but wondered whether underneath his partner felt as much at sea as he did. Wolves. Mutilated farmers and hallucinating cyclists. And propaganda. Heike, however, smiled her gratitude for their concern.
“You will get a full briefing tomorrow at the police station,” she told them. “For now I am to take you to your accommodation and make sure everything is as you wish.” Doyle thought of making a quip about wishing there were no wolves around but refrained. The officer was obviously very concerned. He knew the German sense of humour was quite unlike the English one and he had no idea whether he could risk a typical English joke about a disaster. It would be unfriendly to appear to make light of the situation.
Heike drove them through country lanes to a large village. The roads were good but wound around the hills and houses in a web of old tracks brought up to date with asphalt and white lines. They read the names of the villages they passed through but neither man really took them in. Foreign names were always hard to assimilate; they would need to see them on a large scale map. Eventually they stopped in front of a delightful inn. It was a black and white half-timbered building with a steep overhanging roof and logs piled round the walls against the winter snows. A sign told them it was the Landhaus Bettin and promised rooms and food. It looked almost alpine, which hardly suited this central, less mountainous area of the country but did serve to add tourist charm, and perhaps the winters were severe here, too.
Heike left after promising to collect them in the morning and the landlord, Herr Bettin, said he would show them their room. He insisted on helping with their luggage, turning a blank face to their protestations that they could manage. There was no lift, just a broad staircase of gleaming wood. Perhaps he thought they might dent the banisters with their cases or perhaps this was just an example of German good manners. They were travelling as light as possible but had brought winter gear, cool weather clothing, something smart in case they were expected to mix with the top brass, and casual wear for whatever free time they could snatch. Their guns had been left at home; they would be provided with weapons by their hosts. Did it make sense, Doyle wondered, to think of them as hosts? Or were they colleagues, or what, exactly? Never mind; his preferred type of weapon had been described in detail and he could be sure of being suitably armed tomorrow. Better that than all the fuss of bringing stuff through airline security and customs.
Herr Bettin opened the door with a flourish. His dark moustache, long and slightly drooping, grown perhaps to compensate for his almost bald head, seemed to lift slightly with pride at the room he was showing them.
“Meine Herren,” he said.
Doyle managed not to gasp. There was only one bed, big, to be sure, with square white pillows and a huge duvet. To his relief Bodie just shrugged, slung his bag in a corner and lay on top of the billowing whiteness.
“Seems we have ourselves a wolf hunt,” he said. “We'll be needing plenty of sleep. I'll take the left side.” Herr Bettin, rightly assuming that the room was to their satisfaction, left.
“I suppose there are wolves in these hills,” muttered Doyle, looking out of the window at the pretty street. It was late afternoon, by now. Dusk was falling and the lights cast pools of gold on the flat cobbles. The berries on a huge rowan tree shone deep blood-red, darkening as he watched. They had shared a room often enough, and even a bed when necessary but this wasn’t strictly necessary and he felt faintly embarrassed. And, although he buried the thought as soon as it raised its head, faintly excited.
“Human ones, at any rate,” said his partner. Doyle glanced round. As Bodie moved, raising himself on one elbow, the mattress dipped and it became apparent that the bed was in fact two single beds firmly attached to each other by a linked headboard and footboard. The enormous duvet, on investigation, turned into two, each of more normal proportions. So they could pretend they were in ordinary twin beds and each would have plenty of personal space. He stamped down the earth around the buried thoughts.
“Why would these Wolves kill local people? Seems counter-productive, somehow.” Bodie was musing aloud but Ray joined in anyway.
“I suppose it might be an attempt to produce pure terror. That's if the leaders are half way insane, which they might be. Or maybe these farmers annoyed them in some way.”
“We can ask, tomorrow. There might be a simple explanation.” Bodie sounded doubtful and Ray agreed. But then, terror was often waged by fanatics and fanatics were not always simple or even sane.
There was no sign of any water or en suite facilities of any kind. Doyle ventured out into the corridor and reported a bathroom ‘with a tub big enough for a wolf but no shower’ and a W.C. next door to it. There were thin white towels hanging over the footboard of the bed and a notice on the door that they thought gave some information about the times there might be hot water. There was also a map of the car park and a lurid green arrow pointing to their fire exit, down a metal stair accessed just beyond the bathroom. No luxury, here, but the bed was comfortable and the room was, well, roomy, with wooden armchairs and a table, as well as a wardrobe, a dressing-table and a chest of drawers.
Herr Bettin probably knew or was related to one of the local coppers. In that case they would be well looked after and the room would make an adequate headquarters. They unpacked and went down in search of dinner.
Frau Bettin believed in home cooking. There was no choice, but after a hearty chicken and noodle soup there was an ample helping each of delicious meatballs, potatoes and cabbage steamed and covered with caraway seeds. Then there was coffee. Doyle could see Bodie worrying about dessert and tried his almost impossible and nearly forgotten German. Herr and Frau Bettin shook their heads in unison. There was no ‘Nachtisch’ but a casual gesture showed them an ice-cream parlour across the street. They refused coffee and headed over to the neon-lit bar with the promise of glorious treats. Bodie chose something in a tall glass with what Doyle privately thought to be too much cream and too many cherries. He looked for something more sober and ended up with a bowl of sorbets, lemon, orange and lime. They sat on metal chairs at a metal table and ate slowly, considering a country where dessert came in a different place from the main course and tea was not the hot drink of choice.
“Didn't know you spoke German.” Bodie spoke casually but with a hint of interest.
“Learnt it at school, then our teacher paired us all off with German kids in a school over here. I came to stay with my pen friend for the whole of one summer. Nothing like total immersion to get language learning well established!”
“So did he come to England then?”
“No. He was supposed to come the next year but by then he had a girlfriend and refused to leave her for the summer. We wrote for a bit but the friendship petered out, the way these things so often do. Nothing in common, anyway, except our teachers were friends! What about you? You learnt a lot from Marikka, I suppose?”
“Yeah. Fluent, me. In the bedroom, anyway. Not so sure about ordinary vocabulary!” Bodie winked and Ray burst out laughing; he had a momentary vision of Bodie trying German seduction phrases on the terrorists. Then he sobered rapidly.
“We'll manage, between us,” he said, “but we'd better hope our colleagues all speak as good English as Heike does.” He studied the menu and various notices on the walls and was pleased to find he could understand them all. He could understand the few sentences addressed to them, too, but these were mostly fairly obvious greetings and requests. Anything further would take some time to deal with.
Bodie, it turned out, had no idea what any of the menu options were and had chosen his dessert by picture alone. They agreed that for the time being Ray would be their spokesman.
“Unless we find a singing bird who'll tell us all in the bedroom,” said Bodie, grinning.
Then they re-crossed the street and went upstairs to their room. Herr Bettin followed them with a tray of coffee served, to their surprise, with what looked like evaporated milk.
“Is bear’s milk,” he said anxiously, in heavily accented English. “No cow milk tonight. Tomorrow.”
“Bear’s milk?” Bodie was aghast and Doyle didn’t dare look at him. The landlord hummed and haa’ed and then almost ran downstairs, leaving the door open, and came back with a tin. It was quite obviously an evaporated milk tin and equally obviously the label was dominated by a bear.
“Bear’s milk.” Herr Bettin was nodding and didn’t stop till his guests nodded in turn. Then he left, closing the door and wishing them a brief ‘Gute Nacht, meine Herren.’
“Bear’s milk,” said Bodie again, collapsing on the bed and giggling out of all proportion to the joke.
“Beats Carnation, anyhow,” Doyle told him. “At least it’s possible!” And eventually they managed to stop laughing, drink their coffee, and get ready for bed.
The mattresses and the pillows were soft and comfortable; the duvets billowed around them like soft marshmallows; the street lights shone gently through cracks in the shutters. Doyle felt strangely peaceful, still amused at the joke of the milk, physically at rest in his half of the bed and unconcerned about the briefing in the morning. Bodie was breathing softly and all was well with a world that contained bear’s milk and Bodie.
The following morning Heike collected them and took them to the expected departmental meeting. They weren’t totally sure what ‘the department’ was. Something to do with the Landeskriminalamt, Doyle thought, a regional force with a brief to deal with terrorists who crossed state boundaries. A local operations office, dedicated to the Wolves of Westphalia and all their works, had been set up in a police station on the outskirts of Gummersbach. There were various high-ranking officers; introductions passed in a blur of Polizeihauptkommissar, Polizeioberkommissar, Polizeihauptmeister, Polizeiobermeister and a few other convoluted titles that Doyle had decided not to try to remember. Cowley had not considered the intricacies of the German system something they might need to know.
“Do you think they’ll mind if we just call them all ‘Sir’?” he’d whispered to Bodie over a coffee break.
“Nah,” came the instant response. “So long as we sound respectful they’ll be happy. We’re foreigners, after all. Can’t be expected to know much.”
“But they expect us to catch these wolves of theirs.”
“Yeah, but that needs animal cunning and brute force, not diplomatic skills. "They smiled at each other, perfectly in accord, as usual.
When they reconvened Bodie asked about the indiscriminate butchery. To the relief of both agents all the officers spoke excellent English.
“Why are they killing innocents? They must know it won't help them in the eyes of the population.”
“It does not, and I am certain that they know that.” A senior officer answered the query. “But it brings much attention from the police and from the press. And it shows everyone that they mean what they are saying. They are not just people who complain.”
A colleague interrupted him. “We were thinking at first that they had chosen people with some connection with perhaps East Germany or Poland. But there was no evidence. Then one of the newspaper reporters noted that this is a progressive area. The people always elect politicians at both a local and a national level who will pass good, tolerant laws and make the world more modern, more peaceful. I think these Wolves do not like this. They think the local people are the enemies of the state.”
The English agents stared at him. It barely made sense even though the man spoke excellent English. Doyle was about to reply but the officer smiled and continued.
“I know; it sounds insane. That is the conclusion we have come to. These Wolves are insane or at least their leaders are insane. Some of their followers just enjoy violence. We should not be looking for too much sense in what they do. And for that reason they are more difficult to catch.”
Everyone in the room contemplated what he had just said. It would be hard to work out in advance what the Wolves might do.
The meeting finished with banalities, cordial wishes and a lot of hand-shaking.
Bodie and Doyle were glad to be left with Heike Brinkmann, who introduced an eager-looking young man called Reinhard Schmidt. With his short crew cut of gingerish hair and a pair of keen blue eyes Schmidt reminded Ray of a particularly enthusiastic terrier. Brinkmann and Schmidt would be their liaison officers and work closely with them. They showed them to a sparsely furnished office, provided maps, with paperweights to hold them flat, then sat in a corner reading documents presumably relating to the case, letting the Englishmen make themselves at home with the territory.
They pored over the maps, familiarising themselves with the locality. The small towns and villages that spread out away from the more industrialised parts were separated by countryside, farms, woodland, tiny hamlets. The self-styled Wolves were operating over a wide area and the police responsible for the region had decided on the code name Wolfkammer because the name of the village seemed appropriate. Wolfkammer hadn’t had any more problems than its neighbours but lay in the centre of the attack zone. There were some scattered incidents but the main focus of the terror was Wolfkammer and its surroundings.
Lunch turned up in the form of meat-filled rolls with tomatoes and fruit, brought on a trolley by a young woman who smiled but appeared to speak no English. The four turned their attention to the food then Reinhard pushed back his chair.
“Where do you want to start?” he asked.
“I wondered about that cyclist,” said Bodie. “I think you’ve interviewed him.” He looked questioningly at Heike, who nodded. “But I’d like to speak to him. Get a feel for his evidence. We need to rule out his attack as part of the Wolves’ madness or see just where it fits in. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves investigating everything from vicious dogs to brawling drunks. You thought he was worth listening to, so we’d like to listen for ourselves. And it’ll give us a chance to get familiar with the roads.”
“And with a car?” Ray's face was hopeful, with good reason. They couldn't afford to rely on other drivers all the time.
“For you to use the car pool will be inconvenient,” said Heike. “You have no car here and the department does not wish to pay for car rental, so there is a car for you for the duration of your stay.” She led them out to the yard and pointed to a Ford Taunus in a deep shade of gold that hadn't quite decided to be brown.
“We-e-ll,” Bodie drawled, “it's a coupé, which saves it from being completely cringe-worthy.” Reinhard grinned but Heike just looked at him.
Doyle grabbed the keys from her and already had his head under the bonnet. “It's got the V4 engine,” he said, emerging. “That does it some favours, too!” He patted the bonnet and even Heike smiled.
Ray tossed Bodie the keys and they got into the car, Bodie just managing to stop himself opening the right hand door in time.
Heike and Reinhard led the way in a grey Taunus, an estate version that looked, said Bodie, like a wardrobe on wheels.
“What if they have to chase someone?” he said with disbelief. “They can’t get up any speed in that thing, and I bet it doesn’t corner well.”
“I doubt if they do much chasing. They’ll have minions to do that for them,” said Ray. “At least if they have to leave it somewhere nobody will steal it!” He sat back, content, as Bodie handled their own Taunus smoothly. He enjoyed being a passenger if it was Bodie driving. With anyone else he tended to feel nervous and wanted to grab the wheel, usually contenting himself with digging his feet into the floor whenever he thought brakes should have been employed. With Bodie, he could relax. And enjoy the sight of his partner’s lean but muscled legs stretched out; another thought to bury as deep as possible so that even he couldn’t find it.
The fields and trees lulled him and despite himself he started to think. Why did he have to notice Bodie in that way right now? In the middle of an operation and in the middle of a foreign country where they were thrown into each other’s company all day and all night, and even into the same bed, however you looked at the twin mattresses. He hoped the wolves or Wolves would send his mind in a different direction, preferably soon. He’d always felt attracted to men as well as women, but after a few experiments at art college he’d abandoned the idea for conformity. That had carried him safely through his police career and he had thought he was ‘cured’ until he met Bodie. Even then, he’d so far been content simply to admire. Maybe it was the lack of CI5 around them providing a restraining cocoon. Maybe the whole secondment felt so far too like a holiday, with a holiday for his inhibitions too. He would have to be extra careful. No way would he endanger a working partnership and solid friendship by such wayward thoughts.
The German officers stopped on a lonely stretch of road to point out the ditch where the cyclist had been found. It was at the top of a hill just as the road came out from a small wood and before it descended to a group of houses almost hidden by more trees.
“There is plenty of cover for an attacker, human or animal,” Heike pointed out unnecessarily. They inspected the ditch but it appeared to have no secrets and they drove on.
The grey wardrobe pulled up outside a small house in Mennkausen. The bells on the door were labelled with various names and Heike pressed one that announced Ulrich Weber. They could hear feet clattering downstairs and then a young man, looking well and cheerful, opened the door. He introduced himself as Uli, smiled a greeting to Heike, and led the way up to the first floor where a door opened onto a spacious apartment.
It turned out his English was good - almost perfect. He had spent a couple of years working as a waiter in London and the English agents would have no difficulty in interviewing him. Doyle was relieved; using Heike as a translator might not have got them much more than she had got the first time, and now they could get a first hand feel for Uli’s evidence even if they didn't learn anything extra.
“You’re quite recovered?” he asked him and was treated to a vigorous nod followed by Uli stripping off his sweater and showing scars on both arms.
“My other injuries were just from the fall, you understand,” he said. “I fell from my bicycle into a ditch and the bike fell on top of me. It was painful and I was unconscious for a time. But before that...” He hesitated and glanced at Heike as if for reassurance.
“Tell them,” she said in English. “They need to know.”
“I was cycling on an empty road, thinking about what I would have for dinner. Then suddenly there was a large wolf. It grabbed me and threw me from the bike. That is when I got the scratches. They were quite deep but not as painful as my sprained wrist and concussion.”
“How do you know it was a wolf? Could it have been a large dog? A German Shepherd?” Doyle wanted to be certain. He also wanted to test the certainty of the witness.
“Not at all. It was much bigger. The size of a small man. And it stood on its hind legs to attack. I remember it standing over me sniffing before I passed out. It was enormous.”
“And yet you weren’t molested further,” said Bodie.
“I cannot explain that. Perhaps something else frightened it. Perhaps a car. I do not know. I only know I thought I would die, and yet as you see, I am here, quite well.” He pulled the sweater over his head again, favouring his still weak wrist, and sat waiting for their comments.
“Did you or anyone else see anything in that area, around the time of the attack?” Doyle felt puzzled by the entire thing. It sounded like an attack by a man dressed as a wolf to terrify, but why hadn’t he continued? If a car scared him off had the driver seen him? And why a lone cyclist? The usual victims were families.
“Not a wolf, or at least not then, but a farmer further down the road had some sheep stray and their bodies were found later all chewed and mangled.” It could still have been a dog. It might have jumped up at his bike and given an impression of size and height that way. And the mangling was, according to Heike's report, exaggeration. “They belonged to old Krause. He said he heard a lot of noise around his farm that evening and thought it was kids. Sometimes they go up there to tease him, daring each other. He is old and he grumbles and they do not like him. But then his sheep were missing and he found me in the ditch.”
“Was it dark?” Doyle wondered whether one of the kids had dressed up but why would they attack Uli? It didn’t seem like a prank and nor did the dead sheep.
“No, but the light was going.” So he had seen the wolf, if that was what it was, by daylight.
“So it couldn’t have been one of the kids, dressed as a wolf?” Bodie voiced Ray’s thoughts.
“Of course not.” Uli looked affronted. “I could smell the animal. It rained earlier and the smell of wet wolf...”
“Where were the sheep? Would you have seen them if you hadn’t been attacked; if you’d continued your ride?” Bodie glanced at Doyle. His eyes asked the unspoken question: had the wolf inadvertently saved Uli from a more vicious attack? Might there have been a cyclist among the sheep otherwise?
Uli shrugged. The sheep were not something that had come to his attention at the time.
They asked a few more questions but Uli was not to be swayed from his description of the wolf though the addition of red eyes and slavering jaws had all four officers trying not to smile.
“He has an imagination, that one,” said Heike as they reached their cars, “but he still has the main story as before.”
“I think if I a wolf saw I will give it the red eyes in my report,” said Schmidt, and they all laughed.
“Do we interview Krause?” asked Doyle.
“I spoke to him,” said Heike. “He had nothing to add to the story. He heard noises. He went out. He found Uli. Then he called the ambulance. Not the police at first because he was thinking it was an accident. The hospital called the police, you understand. Then he found his sheep. He was very angry. He did not blame the kids for the sheep. He says it was dogs, or maybe the Wolves of Westphalia.”
“I am thinking,” said Reinhard, “Herr Krause is a lucky man. He is being alive. Only his sheep have died dead.” No one felt inclined to correct his English; the thought behind it was correct.
They drove back to the office in their little convoy and gathered round the map. Mennkausen, Krause’s farm and the place where Uli had come to grief were clearly marked.
“What I’m trying to understand,” said Doyle, “is why the wolf, dog or man dressed as either attacked but didn’t follow through. And whether it could have been a real wolf. And whether it saved him.” The Germans looked at him as if he was mad.
“It could perhaps have been a wolf,” said Heike slowly. “There are some to the east, in the forests. There are some in a zoo, a Wildpark, near the Edersee, but I do not think any have escaped and also that is some distance away. They would find things to hunt and eat before here. And maybe something frightened it. And maybe it was already excited by the blood of the sheep and then attacked him. Whether it was a dog or a wolf it would have a good sense of smell. And maybe once it saw it had knocked a man under a machine it just ran off. I do not believe the slavering jaws.” She managed a small smile and pronounced 'slavering' very carefully. It was a new word to her.
“Those are a lot of maybes,” said Bodie, but he shrugged and looked at a list of notes. “Maybe we should look at one of the murder sites tomorrow.” This was a change, a nine-to-five job at the moment, gathering information, no waiting for informants, no long surveillance tasks, no reports to write. They could relax in the evening, for now.
But Doyle was very aware that it threw him into Bodie’s company with no way out, no way to distract himself. He wondered how he would cope if the job lasted long.
After dinner they asked for coffee to be brought to their room again. If the Bettins wondered why they wanted to leave the small but pleasant dining room, let them wonder. Ray opened a map on their table while Bodie unpacked their store of biscuits and chocolate, their very own private Nachtisch, garnered in a Gummersbach supermarket in the afternoon. Herr Bettin left the coffee tray on what remained of the table’s surface and left. Bodie munched a biscuit contentedly.
There seemed to be a lack of entertainment, unless you counted the ice cream parlour, which they didn’t. There was no television in the room and in any case all the programmes would have been in German. They discussed the case while they drank their coffee but came to no further conclusions. Then Ray wrote up notes of their day and Bodie committed the map to memory. When this palled they decided on an early night.
“Quite an experience, really,” said Bodie. “Dunno when I last went to bed before midnight. Except with a bird, of course.” Ray grinned and took first turn in the bathroom, wondering why a country so advanced in so many ways seemed almost nineteenth century in its accommodation facilities. He rather thought they had the best inn in the area. Köln, of course, would have international-style hotels but daily commuting would be a pain and this way they would learn more about the region and its general character, a character that seemed intent on early nights and enormous comfortable beds.
He hoped the Wolves would spice up their lives before long. He didn’t wish any harm to the local farmers but he thought they could do little until they were in the thick of a case themselves, and meanwhile, he was reduced to Bodie-watching, an extremely pleasant but extremely unprofitable activity.
He watched as Bodie got ready for bed. Not to watch would give just as much of a message as too much watching. Then the light was out, making him safe, for tonight at least.
The following day they were treated to a tour of the farms where the atrocities had taken place. Officers Brinkmann and Schmidt were familiar with all the locations and had brought them in the grey box of a car - to save fuel, Heike said - as they made a leisurely inspection of each site. These were still crime scenes and perhaps because no one had survived the attacks they had been left as such. Nobody had cleared up properly though it seemed some of the blood had been removed from the furniture, which bore traces of scrubbing. Presumably whoever inherited the places would have them scoured and perhaps repainted, certainly refurnished, before moving in if they ever did. For now, there were still police tapes around the properties and Ray thought he could smell the blood. It formed sinister graffiti on parlour walls and deep stains on stone floors.
They examined the traces of evidence, broken windows and furniture as well as blood stains, and compared the actual sites with the measurements and notes in the folders. They needed their own view of what had happened, not just second-hand accounts. The murders were becoming very real to both Bodie and Doyle.
There were photographs, of course, which together with the actual scenes made the events come alive. There were official photographs, too, of all the victims. Some were taken after the murders and showed pain and horrific injuries. They were black and white pictures but the blood looked somehow glistening and real. One couple had had limbs severed, and another woman had had her scalp almost removed.
Some were happier portraits taken before the killings; they were all glad that the children were invariably shown with smiles and rosy cheeks. There were solemn and not-so-solemn school photographs and also family groups with their parents, the happiness and love contrasting sharply with the later pictures. There were no photographs of the murdered children's bodies; Ray wasn't sure why not but he was relieved, anyway.
Seeing the carnage was necessary. They needed to be involved, not just onlookers. But the senseless killing of children was bad enough on paper without accompanying photographs.
During the morning Ray felt a gradual building of determination to catch whoever had done this. It was no longer something in a far off land that he’d been called to advise on. With each stain and each set of photographs it became more personal. He knew Bodie would be feeling the same way and he didn’t need to ask their German colleagues. Their set faces spoke volumes. And yet...
There had been so much killing, so much time, so much investigation. There was nothing to show for all the expenditure of manpower and brains. Could they do better? Would their experience with the Irish terrorists help at all? The Germans had their own home grown terror groups, but these rarely targeted uninvolved civilians in local communities. Neither did the Irish, preferring pubs and shopping centres to small households. This was terror brought to the domestic fireside, and it was sickening but also motivating. Perhaps a fresh view would help.
As they looked at the outlines of where each victim had fallen and checked the ways the attackers had gained entry, both agents felt their resolve harden. It appeared the Wolves had simply knocked at the doors. Any shattered glass was in the course of the mayhem, not to enter the buildings. And no doors were forced. An unsuspecting father, husband, child would answer the knock and then...
They would catch these Wolves and cage them. Ray hoped he might get a chance to shoot them first, deny them the luxury of a prison cell, then considered that a quick death might be too good for the man who had butchered the little blonde girl who smiled up at him from a photograph at the Meier farmhouse. Vowing revenge to Maren’s six year-old face he went back out into the sunshine.
Bodie looked grim, and the Germans had long faces. This farm, the last on the list, had had three children under ten. All killed. All dead in the Wolves’ insane pursuit of some vision of a paradise lost. How they thought this could be achieved by the deaths of children Ray had no idea. But it was not his job to psychoanalyse the criminals, just to catch them and make them stop. That, he hoped, he could do.
They returned to their base and had a late lunch in a small Bierstube opposite. As usual, there was no dessert menu, but they drank large glasses of a light beer, more powerful than its colour promised, and conversation drifted from the case into gentler waters.
“My Onkel, nein uncle, he is caring well for you?” Schmidt didn’t elaborate but it was obvious that he meant Herr Bettin. They assured him that all was satisfactory then Bodie mentioned the lack of nightlife.
“We’re used to spending free evenings in places like this,” he said, looking round the little tavern. “We like to drink, maybe listen to music, dance, you know the sort of thing?” He sounded doubtful, as if he didn’t think Germany would provide such delights, and didn’t mention that it would help them forget the horrors of the case. “What do you do in the evenings?”
“I spend the evenings with my family unless I am working.” Heike smiled and pulled a photograph from her wallet. It showed another, uniformed policeman, and two small blond boys.
“But I have no family and I know what you are wanting.” To their relief, Reinhard didn’t sound at all condemnatory or puzzled and was evidently considering the options. “I shall come to bring you to a place tonight,” he said. “It will be a place with German beer, German singing and German women. Perhaps with skittles, too,” he added, as if this might be an enticement beyond the rest. It would be, Ray reflected, better than another evening of just coffee in the bedroom, however it turned out. At least he wouldn’t have to watch Bodie and pretend not to be interested. They smiled their agreement and arranged a time for him to pick them up.
The bowling alley, with foaming beer tankards carried by pretty waitresses, was indeed more interesting than maps and coffee, but Ray wasn’t sure it was an improvement. Schmidt turned up with a friend, introduced as Horst, in a battered navy BMW. They had evidently been drinking already and were in high spirits as they took their English guests to the Kegelbahn. Bodie was soon in high spirits too, evidenced by the gusto with which he pinched the waitresses’ bottoms, laughed at every joke the Germans made, and some they didn’t, and generally seemed determined to forget the case. He seemed surprised at the lack of a similar response from Doyle but was soon consoled by the attentions of Hilde, who was willing to spend time at their table when not actually serving customers. As her friend Margitt was lavishing attention on Reinhard, Ray found himself playing game after game with Horst, winning, to be sure, but not enjoying his victories. He pretended the skittles were Hilde’s sturdy but shapely legs and bowled fiercely, with concentration. There was some satisfaction in that but it appeared the winner had to buy a round each time.
There was a juke box but most of the available songs appeared to be lesser known tracks by German bands. Some of the other customers started to sing along which added to the confusion. As the lyrics were all in German and the additions were in fairly drunken German at that, Ray had little idea of what was going on and by this time Bodie was almost literally wrapped up in Hilde. Doyle felt morose, surrounded by impenetrable good cheer, and took refuge in drink. He became muzzily aware that Hilde and Bodie had disappeared and that Reinhard and Margitt were also missing.
“Hotel? Yes?” Horst had little English.
“Not without Bodie,” said Ray, some sense of responsibility seeping through the beer-induced fog.
“Margitt car. She take.” Horst was looking at the proprietor who was wiping down counters and switching off lights. The music, Ray realised, had stopped. He hoped Horst meant Margitt would take Bodie back to their hotel and nodded at Horst.
“Hotel,” he agreed.
Horst drove well considering the amount he’d had to drink and Ray only thought they’d end in the ditch about five times. He wasn’t sure he cared. There was no other traffic on the road, which was probably a mercy, and he staggered out of the car into Herr Bettin’s hostelry trying to remember enough German to say some kind of thank you and goodnight to Horst, who wished him something - pleasant dreams, perhaps - and roared off into the night.
Ray got undressed and into bed somehow, missing Bodie, his presence, his jokes, his chat about shared evenings. Of course, if they had been in London, if he’d found a bird - but then Ray would have had his own flat, his music, his TV, and sometimes a bird of his own. Not recently, but he wouldn’t have felt so abandoned, so alone. He remembered to hope that Bodie wasn’t abandoned, that Margitt had really offered a lift, but decided there must be taxis, even in the German countryside. He fell asleep and didn’t hear Bodie creep in in the early hours.
That he must have done so was clear because there he was in the morning, fast asleep, snoring softly, clutching the ballooning duvet around him as if it was a woman.
Ray dressed, forcing himself to drink plenty of water to counteract his hangover. It wasn’t bad; he had had worse in London. He looked out of the window, watching the morning traffic, until a change in the sounds behind him told him Bodie was awake.
“The fair Margitt brought you home then, did she?”
“Yeah. Reinhard wanted to get back to his flat for some reason so they woke us up and made me get ready and leave. The even fairer Hilde, I might tell you, was not happy. Wanted me to spend the whole night, she did.”
“But then you’d have been stuck there.”
“Nah, you’d have picked me up this morning.” Bodie spoke with total confidence and Doyle sighed, knowing it was true.
“Didn’t know exactly where you were, though,” he said, wanting the last word.
“Above the bar. Her mother’s the owner. Deaf as a post, fortunately, or pretending to be at any rate. But,” he went on, “I asked Hilde about other night life around here and got a rundown on the competition. Got a list of bars we can try. A disco, too.” Ray turned from his contemplation of the main street, seeing the triumph on his partner’s face and happily noting the fact that Hilde didn’t seem to figure in the plans for future evenings.
“OK, was she then, this Hilde of yours?” he said.
“Yeah, OK. But that’s about it. Spoke English but had no conversation except about the bar trade, and whilst conversation wasn’t exactly what I was after she carried on about beer and barrels and customers the whole time. And before you ask, yes, the whole time.”
“So you didn't get a chance to practise your bedroom German?”
“Not a hope. Maybe barrels and taps and prices would sound more romantic in German but she used the English terms.” Bodie shrugged.
That consigned Hilde to the distant past and Ray smiled, trying to appear sympathetic but inwardly crowing. He wouldn’t have to play endless games in the bowling alley after all. It had occurred to him that if he had, he might have sent the ball rolling towards Hilde’s legs for real one night.
The office was quiet all morning. Heike Brinkmann was not naturally chatty and the three men were all suffering to some extent from their evening’s intake of beer. They went over reports and profiles collected by the Landeskriminalamt to date. There were no clear patterns except for the targeting of outlying farms. There had been eight attacks plus the one on Krause’s sheep. They had to count that and assume the farmer’s rescue of Ulrich Weber had in fact been his own salvation too. If the Wolves had been around they would not have dared attack a man on the main road with an ambulance on the way.
The police had so far been unable to identify anything that might tie the victims together as a group other than farming; they were of all ages and various political affiliations. The other files detailed the suspects, or rather the potential suspects, political mavericks, right wing activists, known bullies and brawlers who might turn to serious violence in what they saw as a cause. Some, but not all, were Neo-Nazis. Some knew each other. All had been interviewed and all had alibis for most of the killings, for what that was worth. Not much, because when the murders were discovered late there was little evidence as to their exact timing.
Bodie was sitting with a piece of A4 paper, swirling a pencil in an apparently idle fashion. Doyle watched him, telling himself he was interested in the pattern evolving on the paper and not in the long fingers. Then Bodie gave an exclamation and called them all to look. He’d drawn a rough plan of the area with the farms. Then he’d added a number to each farm, in the order in which they’d been hit. Finally, he’d pencilled fine lines between the numbers and had come up with something.
“It’s a rough spiral,” he said. “They’re working round the area and making sure they don’t hit any village too often. Don’t draw attention to themselves. Because they must do some research, watch comings and goings, work out how many people live where, which fields belong to which farm. But they’re still staying within one larger area and the centre is Wolfkammer. That’s probably what gave them the idea of calling themselves Wolves. And if they really have been working a spiral pattern, if you include Krause’s farm, then we can predict where they’ll arrive next to within a village or so. Give more surveillance to the farms in the likely areas.”
“That sounds good.” Heike was pleased. “We have hated not being able to give any protection but without a clear idea of where the next attack would come the area was just too big to cover.”
“But we are needing the times for the attacks.” Reinhard sounded equally pleased but a little dubious. “We cannot put men into the farms for a week. And they are, I think, something the Wolves can notice.”
“Around the full moon. Not exactly but within a few days either side.” Doyle had been comparing dates and times. It would be hard to hide the surveillance teams. They could perhaps pose as road workers for a few days or as livestock inspectors of some kind.
“Shooters,” said Reinhard, suddenly. The others looked at him, startled. They would need guns, of course, but what was in his mind? “I mean shooting the animals. Or the birds.”
“You mean hunters,” said Bodie. “That could work. Is there much hunting in the area?”
“Not as much as there was,” said Heike, “but enough, I think. There are deer, and racoons and wild ducks.”
“Racoons?” Bodie and Doyle spoke together, disbelieving. Had they strayed into a Disney cartoon? Doyle had images of racoons and coyotes and timber wolves floating through his head.
“They were brought over from America by some local Graf or maybe an industrialist and freed in the area for hunters to shoot. Then Göring had an estate near Kassel. Important Nazis used the area for hunting. They escaped, the racoons, not the Nazis, and they are very happy to live here. But the people are not so happy. The racoons steal from the bins outside houses and in the street and even from the picnics. If you wish the police to hunt washbears, everybody is happy, I think.”
“The racoons - we call them Waschbären, washbears, because they are liking to wash their faces with their feet - they are an enemy of the people,” said Reinhard, who had evidently been working out what the animals were while Heike spoke.
“I think you mean pests, and paws,” said Doyle, “and they aren’t as great an enemy as these Wolves. But if they would make good hunting...”
“We can hunt washbears. Or we can hunt Elwedritsche.” Schmidt spoke with a perfectly straight face and only Heike’s burst of laughter told Bodie and Doyle that there was a joke in the words.
“What are elvedriches? Something else the Nazis left behind?” For Bodie they might have been wild animals, farm animals or even zoo animals. He didn’t expect the answer he got.
“They’re a kind of Wolpertinger,” explained Heike. “An animal that is not real. It is made of more than one animal. Perhaps a thing like a rabbit but bigger, with horns - that is a Wolpertinger in the south and a Rasselbock in the east. Just south of here we have the horned hens, with scales instead of feathers. That is an Elwedritsch.” She spoke seriously then giggled, spoiling the effect. “Sometimes you will see one on the wall of an inn. Someone has made it from animal parts and put it on the wall. People will buy such things. Tourists will buy and they will believe. Some people play a joke and take the tourists on a hunt for the Elwedritsch. Perhaps they see one. I do not know!” And she giggled again. Doyle and Bodie looked at each other, each the other’s sole point of sanity in the ponderous German joke.
“Well,” said Ray, “we’ll be careful not to take up any offers to hunt these horned beasts but I don’t think our men can pass as tourists or as locals playing pranks. We’d better leave the Wolpertinger out of it. Are the washbears another kind?”
“No, no, they are real,” said Reinhard. “Last month my aunt saw one outside your hotel, stealing the nonsense.” Ray raised his eyebrows then painfully worked out that ‘nonsense’ could be translated and re-translated until the word ‘rubbish’ resulted.
“Deer, then, or racoons,” he said. “We’ll set up a hunting party. And maybe catch ourselves some Wolves.”
That night they drove to one of the drinking places Bodie had heard of from Hilde. If it was causing her mother worry about taking trade away it must, they reasoned, be worth a visit.
“Especially,” said Ray, “as it has no skittles.” Bodie grunted agreement and concentrated on his driving. “And,” Ray continued, “you owe me the first few drinks.”
“How d’you make that out?”
“I kept playing skittles, didn’t I? Gave you the time to chat her up? And kept Horst from being competition, too. Well, I kept winning and having to pay for drinks, see. Hilde’s, too.” The logic of this was too perfect for Bodie to argue.
It was a small inn or bar on the road to Komp, and they could hear music as they parked the Taunus. The place was full, the long tables groaning with plates and beer mugs. The atmosphere was smoky and dim. Someone was playing a piano and some customers had started tapping their feet under the tables in time to the melody. One man was singing, off key.
“Imagine this lot in one of our regular pubs back home,” Ray murmured as they found a couple of spare seats, or rather, as some men good-naturedly moved closer together to accommodate them.
“I believe they sing in some places in the East End,” said Bodie.
“But not till they’re all drunk and not with foot-tapping,” said Doyle. “And they wouldn’t make room for a pair of strangers, either.”
The landlord had evidently heard them and realised they were English. “No eatings,” he said firmly, putting a full beer mug in front of each of them, “No eatings. Drinkings only.”
“That’s OK, mate,” said Bodie, cheerfully. “We’ve eaten.”
They tried to make the beer last and looked around them with interest. It was a typical local bar, what passed for a pub in this part of the world, with food served at a sensible hour then beer flowing till late. Most of the customers were men, though there were a few women, quite obviously already attached, if not married to the men they were with.
“No girls; no dancing,” said Bodie, his lips turning downwards.
“No skittles and what looks like a Wolpertinger,” said Ray, trying, not very hard, to keep the smile out of his voice. There were various stuffed animals on the walls. A resplendent stag with antlers; a smaller deer without; a hare, and another hare with twisted horns growing from his forehead above eyes that were wide and glassy, amazed at his own strangeness. There was a glass case, too, with stuffed birds artfully arranged in what the taxidermist regarded as lifelike poses. Someone had noticed them looking at the horned hare or had perhaps overheard Ray’s use of the term ‘Wolpertinger’. There was a scramble of men eager to assure them of its authenticity. In a mix of broken English (theirs) and broken German (Ray’s and Bodie's), they began to establish that the local woods were awash with Elwedtritsche if one knew where to look. A small hunt could be arranged, for a small price of course. The hens were known to be very shy nocturnal creatures but would come to investigate a lone torch. The hunter could hypnotise the creature with the beam then his friends could creep out from the bushes and throw a sack over the Elwedritsch and carry it back to the inn. There it could be humanely killed and examined at leisure. To shoot it in the woods would be to ruin the carcass of course. Of course.
Ray left Bodie happily chatting to the group and got directions to the toilets in the yard at the rear of the bar. As he returned he bought a soft fizzy drink, wanting to avoid another hangover by alternating alcohol with less potent options. He examined the metal cap, which he’d placed back on the half full bottle after filling a small glass. ‘Pschitt!’ it announced. It must, he thought, be a made-up word intended to express the noise of fizzing liquid. He wondered whether any innocent English words would have the same effect on a German tourist and walked back to the table to share the joke with Bodie. Bodie, however, wasn’t there. The group of Elwedtritsch hunters was missing, too.
“Stupid sod!” He said it aloud, wondering why his partner had gone along with the hunting prank. A couple of men further along the table were sniggering and he wanted, suddenly, to hit them. If anything happened to Bodie out there... But nothing would; it was a joke, that was all.
He felt a momentary fear that perhaps these were Wolves. This was Komp, where one of the attacks had taken place. But they were unlikely to attack a tourist so publicly when his friend was still around. And why would they? There had been no attacks on strangers. And the landlord had spoken to them all by name so they would fear recognition. Except that they knew his German was limited and that he might not have heard the names. But the landlord would surely help. Unless...
He was back to worrying again about Bodie as the victim of a practical joke, at the very least. He sat back and let his mind roam while he drank his ‘Pschitt!’, a kind of lemonade, fizzier and less tasty than he’d hoped when he ordered it. He memorised its actual name and the look of the label, intending to avoid it in future. While Bodie was gone on a mad jaunt he could at least do some thinking, make sure some names of Wolves as well as fizzy drinks were firmly fixed in his head.
They had gone over and over the profiles presented by the German police. One of the men, Axel Wolff, had caught Ray’s eye. Perhaps the name was a mere coincidence; it was a common enough surname. Or it might have added to the incentive to name the Wolves, a kind of nose-thumbing gesture at the stupid police. If they rounded up the whole gang there might well be a Wolff among them. Was this man a leader or a follower? He came from Gummersbach, not the countryside, and was well known as a political speaker at small meetings prior to local elections. Wolff preached a kind of conservatism that fell short of anything too right wing but Ray reminded himself that in Germany the right were socialists of a kind. It would be hard for an Englishman to assess anyone's politics. The name and profile gave Ray a feeling, nothing more, and the man might well be innocent.
Another candidate, fingered as a possible by Heike this time, was Peter Fuchs, a young tearaway from Bergneustadt, suspected of a rape that had never been proved and convicted of violence in a drunken brawl for which he had served a short term of imprisonment. He was sufficiently brutal, Heike thought, but hadn’t enough brains to lead the gang. He wore T-shirts with Neo-Nazi designs and slogans and had been known to play banned music loudly in his open-topped car, claiming innocence if stopped by the police and saying he’d bought the tapes second-hand and just liked the music.
There must be others. The attacks they had seen would have needed a gang of at least six to carry them out with any degree of safety and success. Six Wolves. Quite a pack. And not necessarily named to match. It was also possible for any Wolf to opt out of an attack on his home ground. So the men in the bar...
Ray cursed and started to get up but all at once the hunters were back, coming in in ones and twos, some grinning, some positively smirking. No sign of Bodie. One of the men told Doyle he could expect his friend with a catch of some importance. Ray told him to pull the other one, the one with bells, but the English riposte fell flat in the German atmosphere and Doyle might as well have gone along with the joke, showed wide-eyed impatience or offered to buy the horned hare over the bar.
After a while one of the men got up and left and they could hear shouts. A moment later Bodie reappeared, his face a picture of outraged betrayal. There was much slapping of backs and knees and the landlord brought a long tray of filled mugs. For these, it seemed, Bodie would have to pay; they were the price of the hunt.
“What? Me?” Bodie pantomimed outrage but smiled at the same time. The men nodded eagerly; the landlord wrote something in a small notebook hanging from his belt.
“What were you playing at?” Ray whispered his irritation beneath the clatter of glasses.
“Playing at being the stupid tourist. Thought I might hear something.”
“With your limited German?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“All right but we've bought them a drink. Can't do any harm. And I've established my credentials.” As Bodie explained Ray sighed in exasperation.
Bodie could be right if no one already knew they were police or agents of any kind. It also assumed their German was good enough to make sense of any ensuing conversation and that the conversation might be interesting. But they could hardly do the same in every bar in the area.
Ray’s command of the language was returning. After an absence he knew it was normal to take a few days to tune back in. It would take longer before he could speak with any confidence and longer still before he could use technical jargon of any kind. His last long stay in Germany had been as a teenager, although he had tried not to lose the hard-earned language, reading magazines when he could and talking to anyone he met who spoke German. Meanwhile, the chatter at the table was making some kind of sense, though it was boring enough, and most of it centred round the cleverness with which the drinkers had put one over on the tourists.
They felt obliged to stay and drink for a while, laughing at their own stupidity and paying for drinks until Bodie made a show of having empty pockets. Ray settled their bill at the bar and they headed out to the car, acting less sober than they actually were, supporting each other and slurring their words in both languages.
They spent the drive back to Landhaus Bettin having a row. Bodie was amazed that Ray thought he might have been in any danger; Ray was furious that Bodie was so trusting that these were mere pranksters.
“We’re in the Wolves’ territory. They’re clever, and they could easily be watching us.”
“But why would they attack us? That would just put them under a spotlight. I was perfectly safe.” As Ray had already used this line of reasoning to himself he could hardly argue but did anyway.
“But you could have had an accident that looked perfectly innocent. One that would put us out of action. One that would set our work back. We need to get that surveillance set up and supervised before the next full moon.”
“If we didn’t, Heike and Reinhard would, now that we’ve all agreed and shared our thoughts. I was safe, I tell you.”
“I know that now, but I was worried sick while you were gone. I assume you didn’t go far?”
“They led me round the fields and back to near the bar. I’m sure they thought they were very clever but of course I knew exactly where I was. Anyway, we’ve ended up buying them drinks and endeared ourselves to them after a fashion.”
“You mean I’ve ended up buying them drinks,” said Ray and went on to call Bodie all kinds of names. “I paid for the drinks yesterday and it was your turn. Now I've paid again.” Bodie just grinned, a little smugly, and Ray lost his temper, which was a waste of energy. But he needed to find an outlet for the fear he'd felt while Bodie was out there in the dark hunting a non-existent hen.
The row, which was one-sided and so not really a row, ended in silence, a silence that lasted until they pulled up outside the hotel. A small shadow was crossing the road. It slipped out from the alleyway to the side of the hotel, the one that led from the yard with the rubbish bins. The shadow looked like a cat but was too big. It was carrying something in its mouth and reared onto its hind legs as the car headlights caught it. Ray’s first thought was of badgers, and it was only as it sat upright and Bodie braked to avoid hitting it that he realised what it was.
“Racoon,” he said, almost awed at seeing one of the animals for himself. He had been half inclined to lump them with the Wolpertinger despite the Germans' reassurance.
“Washbear,” agreed Bodie, and they watched it drop back to all fours and lope across the road, disappearing into deeper shadows.
Herr Bettin was putting out the downstairs lights as they let themselves in. He wished them a goodnight and bolted the door after them. They went upstairs with harmony restored by the sighting of the racoon. Bodie was safe, Ray’s fears had been groundless and there really were washbears after the rubbish.
When Ray switched the light on they gasped. On the bed lay a horned hare, or at least its head. It might have been the one they had seen in the bar. Without going back to check there was no way of knowing. It looked the same but then all hares probably looked alike except to other hares and the horns were probably taken from the same kind of deer each time. There was something different about this one, however: its mouth had been cut wider to resemble a ghastly grin then muzzled with wire. Blood, fresh blood, rapidly drying on Frau Bettin’s carefully laundered duvet cover, dripped from its jaws. Someone knew who they were and why they were there. Someone was sending an unmistakable message.
Herr Bettin came running upstairs at Ray’s shout. He stared at the gruesome object on the bed and called for his wife. Evidently his first concern was for the comfort of his guests rather than their safety. Before he could remove the head Bodie stopped him and asked for a plastic bag. They placed the hare in the bag to take to the office next day; they would learn little from it but it would be as well to let the others see it. Frau Bettin changed the cover rapidly and deftly, refusing help, and bustled off to soak the bloodstained one. The blood had not sunk through the thick cotton and the newly covered duvet was pristine. Ray managed to let the Bettins know that their nephew would talk to them the next day and together they would try to find out who could have done such a thing. Meanwhile, they would like to sleep, and no, they did not hold the Bettins responsible in any way.
They slept, but not for a while. After fruitless discussions they agreed to wait to hear what the others had to say and got ready for bed. Ray had nightmares in which Bodie was the one with the carved grin and the dripping blood, or in which he failed to come back from the woods and a scaled hen clucked mournfully by the light of the full moon.
The next morning was spent investigating the hare. It annoyed all four of them that this was taking time from other lines of inquiry. Schmidt talked long and earnestly to his aunt and uncle. An inn is by its very nature open to the public and it was impossible to say how or when the intruder had left his grisly package other than that it was near the time of the men’s return; the freshness of the blood testified to that. But the front and back doors had been open, the couple who helped in the kitchen and laundry had gone home and anyone could have entered while the Bettins tidied the restaurant and got the breakfast tables ready. Ray thought the bedroom door might have been unlocked. There were no valuables inside and the staff needed access to clean. For a moment he wondered if the Germans would see the double bed the way he did, but there were no raised eyebrows or comments.
“This is ordinary police work,” said Bodie, for about the fourth time. He spoke loudly enough for the German officers to hear.
“But it is connected to the case so we cannot just hand it to others,” said Heike.
“We could for more staff ask” said Reinhard, but his voice suggested he thought that more staff would not be forthcoming.
“And in any case,” said Bodie, “why aren’t we awash with terrorism experts? Why just the two of you and two foreigners?” Heike and Reinhard sighed in unison.
“They are all busy dealing with international threats, with airport security, with huge conferences, with border control. They have nobody to spare for the small people, for the domestic issues,” Heike said. “This has become big news, yes, but still they have no more staff and to train people would take long, maybe too long. The authorities are worried, of course, but there is no progress and if their people can prevent a bomb at an airport...”
“So we asked,” said Schmidt, “and they gave us you. You are a gift from your government to ours, I think.” He smiled. Bodie muttered something about being more use to the international lot thus freeing them to deal with their internal problems, but his heart wasn’t really in it and he knew, as did Ray, that fresh, foreign eyes probably had more chance of solving this problem and that it certainly deserved to be solved, fast.
Herr Bettin brought coffee mid-morning and made suggestions about lunch but everyone agreed to go back to the office. Frau Bettin brought rolls and cooked meat wrapped to take with them, saying something about the standard of snacks in Gummersbach. She said something about ‘Kaffeekuchen’, too, and made a shocked face at her nephew’s response.
“What was that?” Ray asked. “I recognise the term ‘Kaffeekuchen’; isn’t that when you have cake in the afternoon?”
“Yes, and my aunt is horrified that we have not yet you to the custom introduced,” said Schmidt. “She is saying that today we must buy cake.” Ray grinned. Bodie would be pleased. So would he; he remembered delicious cakes from his teenage stay. They never appeared as dessert, only to go with strong coffee and stronger conversation in the late afternoon. He had loved the confections and dreaded the conversation with all the adults talking at once, making comprehension so much harder. So they drove back to their base, stopping on the way to buy carefully packaged delicacies for later. Lunch was Frau Bettin’s meat rolls, munched while they compared notes on the hare.
They assumed the blood would be from some slaughtered animal, or maybe from a butcher’s shop. It would be tested, but the outcome was not in doubt. They were going to get nowhere inquiring about access to the inn but it might be worth checking whether the hare was the same one they had seen in the bar although that would tell them little they didn’t already know. Someone was watching them, sending them a message, telling them to quit, but whether that someone had connections with the barkeeper or with the Elwedritsch hunters would be hard to establish.
“Someone knows why you are here,” said Heike. “Someone who thinks you are getting too close to the truth. But we have not spoken about your ideas outside this room.” They looked round at each other then at their notes. It was Bodie who realised his map with the spiral was missing. It would be easy to do again, but it would also be evidence of their thoughts to an interested party. Anyone could have taken it, a cleaner, a messenger, another police officer.
“I scribbled the dates on it, as well,” he said. “It wasn’t a real report, just rough workings. But someone took it seriously enough to take it away, and whoever they showed it to took it seriously enough to leave the hare.”
Ray shivered. Whoever it was must have been there, possibly watching them, as they watched the racoon leave the inn yard. Someone had been in their bedroom and then in the shadows as they parked the car. One of these self-styled Wolves. Someone with no respect for human life. He thought perhaps they should go armed in future and Heike was surprised.
“When you were given the weapons you requested it was expected that you would carry them at all times,” she said, and they took them from their desks there and then.
“It didn’t seem like that kind of case,” said Ray, but he didn’t need to say that he knew they’d been wrong. In England their carelessness would have been unpardonable. Here, it seemed to be the result of a kind of holiday spirit, one they’d better abandon at once.
In the afternoon they narrowed down the areas that might be attacked next and identified the farms most likely to be at risk, the ones with houses a long way from the main roads, the ones with animals to increase the slaughter, the ones with young or frail inhabitants who would make easy victims. They already had information about every farm in the region and it was simple but time-consuming to go through and pinpoint the ones ripe for attention. They ended with six farms and a period of three days to either side of the full moon. The farmers would be warned, but told not to move their families out of harm’s way. If they were observed doing that the Wolves might change their plans and come back another time when there was no police surveillance. It was essential, they decided, to provide at least two men to observe each farm. That meant twelve officers and they couldn’t count themselves as more than two or maybe three because someone would be needed to co-ordinate from a central base.
Then there was the question of whether the Wolves would alter their plans because of what they knew.
“I think they’re too confident, too secure in their self-righteousness,” said Doyle, and the others agreed, but they knew they were gambling with lives.
“I think we should look at a slightly wider area and time scale,” said Bodie, and they eventually settled on ten farms and five days each side of the full moon, knowing it all meant more support and more organisation.
They had three days to persuade their immediate superiors to provide the men and systems necessary, and to do it in secret. If Bodie’s map had been purloined by a policeman who sympathised with the Wolves... They agreed to lock all their notes in a filing cabinet and to take the keys home. Then they prepared a report to make sure they would get the help they needed.
Reinhard turned it into impeccable German prose, his translation skills greater than his oral English. Meanwhile Heike sent for coffee and ceremoniously unpacked the cakes. Bodie smiled when he saw the raspberry tart with whipped cream and the chocolate sponge with dark, rich butter icing.
“Tomorrow we will have cheesecake,” said Heike, as she shared out the goodies onto paper plates and poured the coffee. “Today, these are the best ones from the best bakery. But I like cheesecake so I have told the baker to have some for us tomorrow.”
“Mmmmph,” was Bodie’s agreement, emerging around a huge mouthful of raspberry filling, and Ray nodded vigorously as well.
“But these,” he said, “are delicious too.” It was a small moment of pure pleasure in the middle of a day filled with worry and work. By the time they delivered their report to Heike’s boss and left for the night they were all tired, not with physical effort but with trying to second-guess a gang who, if they outwitted the police again, would bring further grief and horror to innocent civilians. Provided they got the men they needed they could have the operation set up in time. Operation Wolfkammer, they called it among themselves, and there would be a base in Eckenhagen with back-up officers and a store of weapons. Ray would act as liaison officer at this little HQ - his German was passable, improving each day he spent immersed in the language, and he thought one of them should be in charge there. Officers Brinkmann and Schmidt would be useful leading a surveillance pair each, and Bodie, with his lack of useful German, would be paired with another English-speaking officer.
“Provided...” Ray started but Bodie broke in.
“...we get what we want, but they promised us support if and when we needed it and we’ve shown the necessity in our report. Stop worrying. We need to rest, make sure we know exactly where we’re going, who we’re working with, who the people at each farm are. That’s all we can do at this stage.”
They got back to the inn where Herr Bettin solemnly handed them their keys and assured them nobody other than his wife had entered their room. The room was clean, tidy and almost looked like home, if you could forget about the blood of the previous night. They washed, wishing there was a shower, and changed, then locked up carefully and went down for dinner, discussing where to go afterwards.
“No hunting pranks and no skittles,” said Ray and Bodie laughed, picking at a dish of cold meats and olives, evidently the German version of a plate of hors d’ouevres.
“We’ll run out of options at this rate,” he said. “but there’s a disco in Wiehl and we could give it a try. Probably just a local DJ with a load of records but there might be some local talent too.” Ray was saved from answering by the arrival of a tureen of something dark and rich, accompanied by rice and mixed vegetables. He hoped the talent wasn’t too attractive. Well, he knew it wouldn’t be attractive to him at the moment, but Bodie might well find a bird to occupy him for the rest of their stay. He wondered what he would do if that happened. He couldn’t console himself with books and music and TV and he somehow didn't want to have to sweet-talk a local girl when his mind was elsewhere.
They found the disco, neon-signed, pulsing with noise and spilling out into the street. The doorman seemed to want their money more than their identity and there were evidently no membership requirements. They pushed their way to a bar where Bodie managed to attract the attention of the waiter and get a couple of beers. They were the usual lager style and they both bemoaned the lack of English beer. They drank a little then settled to watch the dancers and the rest of the customers. A couple of girls were dancing together looking around as if to tell the watching men to come and get them, but the young men lining the walls were either bashful or in awe of their dancing skills, which were accomplished. Bodie stepped forward and smoothly cut in, gaining himself a pretty blonde partner with a spirited face and a slinky, black, low-cut dress. Ray felt obliged to dance with her friend, a smaller, darker girl in midnight blue who danced well but seemed somehow less sparkling and more reserved.
They ended at a table together, and Bodie brought more beers, with Babychams for the girls. The blonde was Christina, her friend Susanne, and they worked at a local dairy. They were sweet, comparatively unsophisticated and quite unlike the girls who usually drew Bodie’s eye in London. But then so were all the other girls in the room and Bodie was evidently determined to find some fun. Susanne seemed to sense Ray’s lack of interest and did nothing to encourage him. Both girls spoke a little English, enough for the limited conversation possible in the noise, and it was easy enough to give the impression they were tourists, even though it was hardly the height of the tourist season or even the centre of the tourist area.
“You must go to Marburg,” shouted Christina. “And to Bad Wildungen, and to the Edersee. And to Fritzlar. Susanne, say to them that they must.”
“My aunt lives in Fritzlar,” said Susanne, but that was all she vouchsafed and Christina was hard put to expand on the marvels of the towns she had mentioned because the music was strident and overwhelming. So they danced instead, Bodie and Christina every dance, Ray and Susanne one or two. Eventually the sound changed from rock numbers to slow melodies designed to send the dancers into their partners’ arms. Bodie and Christina were swaying rather than dancing in a way that Ray knew meant success on Bodie’s part. Susanne had disappeared, saying she was going to the Ladies’ and Ray could see her across the room, chatting to another girl.
He didn’t want to spoil Bodie’s fun. Although he did, really, he thought ruefully. But they had to get back, or at least he did, and he thought maybe after the hare they should stick together. When Bodie came back to the table he mentioned this, and Bodie was surprisingly cheerful. He gave Christina a long goodnight kiss, right there at the table and said something about the next disco night. It was, apparently, the next night and he kissed Christina again, promising to be there. Then they left.
Bodie agreed with Ray’s idea that they should stick together. “But I can soften her up for a night on the town when it’s all over,” he said, oblivious of Ray’s silence. “She’s just a kid; I’d have to go slowly, anyway,” he added. In their bedroom he got ready for bed and was asleep almost immediately. Ray lay awake wishing futile wishes and then followed him into sleep.
“You didn’t enjoy it, did you?” Bodie asked in the morning as they got dressed. “Why not, Ray? Susanne seemed a nice little thing. You got on OK, didn’t you?” Ray looked at him in some disbelief. Susanne was nothing like the kind of girls who appealed to Ray even when and if any did. Surely Bodie knew that? But Bodie was still pondering aloud. “Or there were some other girls there. Not your type maybe but we’re not talking a full-blown relationship, just a bit of fun.” Something of his partner’s silence must have penetrated and he frowned, his handsome face creasing in concentration. Then his eyes widened with surprise. “Ray, I know what it is. You’re jealous! You wanted Christina! Why didn’t you say something? We could have changed partners right at the beginning!”
Ray told himself later that he had been concentrating on fastening his shoes, that his tongue had spoken before his brain caught up. Whatever the reason, he said something he had never intended to say.
“I wasn’t jealous of you.” He heard himself then tried desperately to rescue the situation but Bodie’s face was a picture of comprehension. At the same time there was a knock on the door. They were deprived of any further private conversation by Reinhard who had arrived to tell them they had all the men and materials they needed and could set up their headquarters in Eckenhagen without delay. Their report had been favourably received and Reinhard sat in the dining room with them while they breakfasted rapidly, with enthusiasm and on Ray’s part, relief.
Everything was set up, the support teams were briefed, the farmers contacted and reluctantly persuaded not to run or panic. They were back in Gummersbach enjoying a late lunch. Bodie’s partner for the operation had joined them and Ray felt a brief surge of resentment, quelled as soon as the thought appeared.
So far, Bodie had said nothing about the morning’s declaration. He had understood; of that, Ray was certain. He hadn’t shown any anger or coldness; he had been all smiles and enthusiasm for their work, all cheerful banter and the occasional slap on the shoulder that said they were partners, allies, friends. Was he trying to pretend it hadn’t been said? Was he unconcerned? For once, Ray couldn’t work out what Bodie was thinking. Maybe his words had snapped the thread that bound them together, had bound them since the early days of their partnership. He had thought he could just admire, without risking that bond, but of course it had been inevitable that sooner or later he would slip. The strange working conditions, away from their normal stamping ground and other colleagues, the shared bed, even the hare, had combined to trip him into uttering those five bitterly regretted words.
Klaus Wolperding didn’t deserve his resentment. He was a gangly young man who looked awkward and uncoordinated when he sat or stood at ease, light brown hair flopping over his grey eyes, but in motion he was streamlined, a fit, trained agent with the abilities and senses of a soldier. Bodie had taken to him immediately, which was good, as he would have to rely on him in any emergency. Ray should be glad that his replacement was someone they could trust. He was, but... Of course, it hadn’t been Bodie’s choice to have Ray as liaison officer, and even today, after those words, he had tried to say that they worked best together, a tried and tested team, but he knew as well as anyone where their individual strengths lay and why those should be exploited in the present situation.
Klaus had good English. In fact, it appeared his mother was Scottish, married to a businessman in Dortmund, and there was a faint Scottish burr to his speech but no sign apart from his name that he wasn’t completely British.
“So what’s with the surname, Klaus?” Bodie was amused to be involved with yet another mythical animal. “It sounds just like the Wolpertinger, the horned hares.”
“I don’t know. It’s an old name, and maybe my ancestors used to be hunters? Or good fighters. Some fierce and loyal fighting dogs were also known as Wolperdinge - or maybe they were dogs that came from nowhere to fight on your side. I’m not sure. I’ve never bothered much with family trees or old legends and that kind of thing, though my father has a huge old family bible with everyone’s name in the back. I could ask him. But I suspect he’s always just taken it for granted; it’s just his name.”
Bodie smiled then admitted his part in the Elwedtritsch hunt and the Germans reacted with varying degrees of mirth.
“You did not tell us the whole of the story,” said Reinhard, wiping his eyes. “But it must have much more frightening been when you are afterwards finding the hare.” And then they had to explain the hare incident to Klaus, who looked worried.
“It’s a warning, but I suppose you already realise that. A threat, even.” As the young man spoke, Ray remembered his nightmare and swallowed hard. “But maybe the biggest worry is that they know exactly who you are, where you are, and what you are thinking.” They told him about the map and their efforts to foil further spying or theft and he shook his head, forced to be satisfied for now.
Ray watched Bodie; covertly, he hoped, though maybe that was pointless now. His partner’s blue eyes were sparkling with good humour and the anticipation of doing a job well. No hint of annoyance, shock, disgust. Of course, with his army background Bodie was probably used to all sorts of types of men and behaviour. Didn’t mean he’d have to like the idea, though. Other guys must surely have fancied him? He was a superb physical specimen and handsome by anyone’s standards, with that bright almost cheeky expression that laid an endearing boyishness over the honed killing machine. He must have fascinated a lot of men - and women, of course - over the years. Had anyone else ever blurted out their desire? How had he reacted? How was he reacting now? Ray found himself wishing he had some certainty about Bodie’s feelings on the matter, even if they were hostile. It had never arisen as a topic of discussion, even in a neutral context.
Perhaps the evening would bring some kind of resolution. Or perhaps Bodie would simply go out, go to Hilde’s Kegelbahn, or to Christina at the disco, disappear from an embarrassing situation, avoiding it with consummate and practised ease. He wasn’t sure what he hoped; he just continued to berate himself mentally for his stupid outburst.
There was all the paperwork to be finished for the operation that had started and it was later than usual when they called it a day. On the way back to the inn they were silent, but as they went up to their room Ray felt Bodie watching him. Was he expecting another idiot declaration? Some kind of scene? An apology? He opened their room and flung himself down on his side of the bed, arms folded defensively, ready to snarl like a dog that loves its master but expects a kick rather than a pat.
Bodie was whistling as he changed, padding out to the bathroom and returning towelling damp hair, still looking cheerful.
“So are we going to the disco?” Ray couldn’t stop himself asking.
“Why? I mean, why would we?” Bodie sounded genuinely curious and Ray shrugged, quite a difficult feat given his position on the bed.
“Christina...” he began.
“But I obviously don’t need Christina,” said Bodie, a strange softness in his tone. Ray felt a moment of flaring hope, rudely interrupted by a knock on the door. Another interruption. Herr Bettin’s sallow face was full of worry that dinner would soon spoil and the kitchen would soon close. Perhaps they could see their way to coming straight down? He appreciated that they would sometimes have irregular hours, but as they were here and still in time, it would be good... His voice faded as he went down the stairs leaving the door open behind him. They automatically complied with the request and moved to the door, Bodie standing back and placing his hand on Ray’s arm as he passed him. Ray battened down a shiver and concentrated on the idea of dinner. Maybe later they could discuss the potential status of Christina in Bodie’s life.
But as they finished the sausage casserole that followed the carrot soup, there was a slight commotion at the doorway to the restaurant and Frau Bettin rushed in miming a telephone and pointing at them. She didn’t trust their German; that much was obvious. Bodie followed her to the phone and came back looking excited but concerned.
“I hope you’ve had enough of that stew,” he said. “That was a message to say that the Hofmann farm is under attack. A day early, but we knew something like that might happen. I’ve phoned Klaus and told him to meet us there. You should probably get to the command post.”
Ray was rising as he spoke. “Who was it?”
“Who sent the message? The men aren’t in position - won’t be till tomorrow, and there isn’t much point manning the command post when there won’t be anyone in position to command or liaise with. I’ll come with you, but who reported it?”
“I suppose the Hofmanns.” Bodie didn’t sound as if he cared. “The person on the end of the phone said they were speaking from Gummersbach and they had the station code. Oh!” He hesitated, clearly realising what Ray had meant. “No, they didn’t identify themselves except as being from the police station. They gave a name but it was a German one and I didn’t really catch it. And yes, I suppose it could have been whoever pilfered the map. We’d best be careful, but I don’t think we can avoid investigating, do you?”
“No, we have to go, but we need to be on our guard, and we need to be armed.” Ray checked his own weapon and watched as Bodie patted his holster.
They rushed out to the Taunus. Christina would look in vain for Bodie tonight, whatever the agent’s feelings about the respective merits of blonde German girls and male English agents.
They had RTs but Bodie wasn’t able to raise Gummersbach or Klaus. His new partner had promised on the phone to hurry but even if his RT was switched on he might be out of range behind the hills. They had no idea where he lived.
“Should we alert anyone else?” Bodie sounded doubtful. If it was a false alarm or a threat to them personally it would be crazily unprofessional to expose their entire new network.
“No.” Doyle was definite on that. “Let’s see what’s happening first. We’re armed and forewarned. If the Hofmanns are really under attack we might be too late already and certainly would be if we stopped to gather reinforcements; if they aren’t we don’t need to disturb them till we know what’s going on. Klaus should be sufficient back-up.”
The countryside was very dark. Driving to a bar or a disco hadn’t seemed such an adventure into the unknown but now they were at work, and the fact that the moon had gone behind massed clouds, evidently frowning on them, was unhelpful and unsettling. Driving on the right hand side of the road was still unfamiliar to both of them and they needed to proceed with more care than they would have exercised in England under similar circumstances. But there was very little other traffic.
Ray looked sideways at Bodie, who was concentrating on the road. It seemed odd even after a few days, to be the passenger in what he would normally have regarded as the driver’s seat and to see Bodie when he turned his head to the left rather than the view through the window. He thought back over the brief words and the quick, possibly imagined touch, before dinner. Even if there was hope, it was lost for now under the layers of the evening’s events. And of course there could be no discussion under these conditions. Ah well, he had far better resign himself to disappointment. Easier, perhaps, to live with, though that sudden dizzying vista as Bodie had touched him in the doorway...
“I said we must be just about there.” Bodie was almost shouting. He must have found it necessary to repeat himself, something that always irritated him. “Shall we park somewhere and go in on foot?” Ray nodded, then realised the foolishness of that response in a dark car and confirmed his agreement. They found an ideal parking spot under some trees around the entrance to a field on the Hofmann farm. At least their time spent memorising the maps had not been wasted.
There was no sign of Klaus but then he would probably go directly to the farm gates wherever and whenever he arrived. They set off for those at a run. Doyle was glad he hadn’t had time to change out of his work clothes before Herr Bettin had summoned them for their meal. His own jeans were slightly looser and more suited to running than the designer cords making Bodie’s arse a delectable sight in the fitful moonlight. Why had Bodie changed into ‘going out’ clothes? For Christina? For him? The moon had deigned to emerge from the clouds but was behaving in an unfriendly fashion, lighting their approach to the farm, to be sure, but showing them in turn to anyone watching. They needed to get to the gate before Klaus and then go in together, slowly.
Whatever Bodie’s thoughts, their teamwork was smooth and comfortable as old shoes. They reached the gate together, barely out of breath despite a lack of exercise in the last few days. Still fit then. At least Bodie's dancing seemed to be paying off. The gate was closed and the farm, quite a long way down the track, showed nothing more than a light in one downstairs window. There was no noise.
Doyle had expected dogs barking, animals complaining, perhaps people screaming, or the sounds of a fight. Nothing. So it looked as if they were right. This was a hoax call, made to bring them out here. Just here and just now. An owl drifted overhead, almost brushing his curls. He felt the soft whoosh of its passing and managed not to exclaim. Bodie had gripped his wrist, agent-fashion rather than in any romantic gesture, and they listened.
There was an old van part way down the farm road, perhaps belonging to Herr Hofmann. It looked almost part of the landscape. There were more trees, bushes really, rowan, Ray thought, and there was a slight stirring. Birds? Nocturnal mammals? He felt a chill but wasn't sure why. He had no sense of being watched or threatened. He cursed the rowan trees under his breath and wished it was mid-winter, when bare branches would provide less cover.
He had his hand on his gun, feeling almost stupid and over-cautious, when something moved. Something larger this time. Another owl? Klaus? There was a susurration in the night air and then a shadow, dark against the larger, lesser darkness of the clouds. And instead of a fight there was just the suffocation of sacking, and the sensation of being thrown onto a smooth surface. Their knees jarred together and Ray heard a wince as Bodie met something harder than himself. Then an engine started up and they were off, in the back of a van, to a destination as yet unknown.
It was a rough ride. They slipped and slithered on the floor of the van - given the amount of space to slide about in it had to be a large one - sometimes bumping into each other and sometimes into the walls. Doyle wasn’t sure whether he welcomed the momentary painful contact with Bodie or regretted it for his partner's sake. There was someone else in the space with them, someone whose shoes occasionally connected with his legs or his back inadvertently and once deliberately when he tried to speak despite the muffling sacking and was kicked sharply. OK, speaking ‘verboten’; he got the message and hoped Bodie had sensed what was happening and wouldn’t try to reply.
He was cursing himself now for being taken so easily. They had suspected a trap but the gateway had seemed empty and he, for one, had thought any danger lay nearer the farmhouse. Somehow his senses were less sharp, less attuned to menace in this foreign country. They hadn’t heard their assailants until it was too late, hadn’t expected attack so close to the road. They’d been careless and perhaps a little arrogant; they had deserved to be caught. He hoped Klaus might have seen what happened or might realise when they weren’t at the gate. Although, what did they know of Klaus? Since the map had been taken from what should have been a secure location he felt disinclined to trust anyone except Bodie, with conditional trust extended to Heike and Reinhard. He didn't curse Bodie. With his greater command of everyday German he felt protective about his partner in a way that he never felt at home. Stupid, but true. Anyway, Bodie was probably cursing himself quite adequately.
The little hills and gently winding roads became a giant roller coaster for the captured agents. There was no hope of escape from the sacking. The rope was knotted behind his knees but Ray knew he couldn’t work on loosening it with their guard aware of every sound and movement. The hessian smelled musty and his eyes watered in the dust that shook free at every turn and dip. The smell wasn’t unpleasant apart from the irritating dust; grain sacks, he thought, and gave a wry smile at the thought of them trussed like bags of wheat. Their guns had been taken as they had been seized and he felt somehow helpless without a weapon. All their unarmed combat training required them to have some kind of freedom to move and some sort of access to the men they intended to defeat. It was no use against sacks and silence.
It was a long ride, too. They were aware of villages and perhaps towns, with traffic lights and the noise of other vehicles. Once they heard a train, speeding past them on a line not far from the road, its two-toned wail a reminder of light, people, safety. So they were to be taken some distance from their base, and then what? Ray thought their murder might bring in the full might of the anti-terrorism groups, but depending on where their kidnappers intended to put them they could still have problems getting back to Gummersbach or the inn. No transport, no map, no idea of how far or which way they’d come. He was completely disoriented and thought Bodie would be too, and whilst in a similar situation in familiar English countryside it might be easy to work out where they were, in a foreign country there would be less chance. That was if they were left to escape from the sacks and make their way to freedom and people who could be asked. There might be something else in store. But he thought probably the main aim was to remove them from the operation, leaving it damaged without two of its major officers.
Only two? Could they be sure Heike and Reinhard hadn’t been similarly captured? Bodie had contacted Klaus, who might have contacted Heike, if he had thought he should report to someone, but with what success? The Wolves could be having an orgy of slaughter in the absence of any real leadership of Operation Wolfkammer. Ray was trying to throw off his darker thoughts when the van stopped. Judging by the surrounding silence they were a long way from any houses or even the main road. There was a cool draught as the doors opened and Ray strained to hear a muttered conversation. He caught the name 'Peter' and then heard a blow delivered to someone, presumably the speaker because the men fell silent and just grunted in the effort to pull him and Bodie out of the van. The name was a common one but it could still lead to Peter Fuchs.
He tried to cooperate with the man standing him upright and was then relieved when the sacking was removed. Bodie was already blinking in the moonlight, wearing a rough gag, his arms held close to his sides by knotted rope. Ray found himself with matching items, coarse fabric tight against his teeth and tongue, and a rope coiling around his arms at waist level. He struggled against the rope, stiff after the journey but determined not to give way easily. Struggling only tightened the bonds. A further rope provided the Germans with a kind of leash.
Nothing was said. They stumbled after their captors down a grassy slope and into a stone building; or was it a building? Moon and stars were still visible and they seemed to be in some kind of ruin. Doyle suspected it might be quite picturesque in daylight; he glimpsed reflections on nearby water and saw trees casting shadows. It could be a well-known ruin, but that wouldn’t help them. They hadn’t spent any time as tourists even though that was theoretically their cover. Carelessness, again. And this time it would prevent them knowing where they were.
They were tied, with yet more rope, to stone pillars or maybe door frames. Then the men who had brought them there walked away. They could hear them talking but the words were indistinct, muffled by the stone. There was a flicker, as if perhaps someone was lighting a cigarette, then more muttering, growing fainter. Doyle hoped to hear the sound of the van engine but there was nothing.
Whoever had taught the Wolves to tie knots had been a good instructor. Bodie and Ray struggled for some time to no avail. Their gags, too, remained firmly in place; no chance of shouting for help, either now or in the morning. In any case, at the moment the Wolves would hear them. And then Ray sensed that they were not alone. Something was closer to them than the Wolves. Something large was in the ruin with them, approaching from the other side. Something that was panting loudly, something with nails or claws that clacked on the stone floor, coming nearer every minute to their prison. The Wolves would not hear it, yet.
A dog? Real wolves? But Heike had been sceptical about wolves in this area. Had they been driven further east towards the Edersee? Were they in fact inside a Wildpark, with semi-captive animals? He worried at the gag, wanting to talk to Bodie, desperate to hear his own or his partner’s voice. Then he heard a howl that raised the hairs on the back of his neck and an answering howl from too near as a huge shape lumbered into sight.
It was either a wolf or an enormous dog. Moonlight silvered the guard hairs on its coat. It raised itself on its hind legs and lunged at Bodie, who was nearer the opening it had used to gain entrance. Doyle could only watch in horror as the creature apparently bit and scratched at his partner, and then it dropped back to all fours and growled softly. Its eyes met Doyle's and he had an uncanny sense that the animal was trying to tell him something, was apologising for something; he had no idea what. It turned and padded towards the opening the Wolves had used then, almost as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone.
Moments later they heard growls, yells and running feet, then the welcome roar of the van, leaving. The wolf or wolves must have chased off the Wolves but what would happen now? Were they at the mercy of animals baulked of prey or were they guarded by well-intentioned creatures? Before they could even worry they heard Klaus calling them but of course could not reply because of the gags. Soon there was a tall shadow where the wolf had been and their colleague was rushing towards them.
“You’re all right? Both of you? I got here as quickly as I could. Heike has her car at the top of the track. We couldn’t find Schmidt. His friends at his apartment said he had gone out for the evening. You’re not hurt? That’s good.” He was babbling in his relief at finding them but at the same time he was untying the ropes and gags, starting with Bodie's.
Once it was unfastened Bodie ripped the gag from his mouth, spat and swore almost simultaneously, and came to help free Ray. In seconds the rope was a limp curl around his feet and the hated gag had joined Bodie’s on the floor. Ray could see that his partner’s jacket and shirt were torn and that blood oozed around the gashes in the material. So unharmed was only a relative term, but they were free.
Bodie growled, a bit like a wolf himself at that moment, and then said, “Ray! I thought...” But whatever he had thought was destined to remain unvoiced as Heike joined Klaus and both officers continued to exclaim about the ropes and the condition of Bodie's clothes.
“It wasn't the terrorists,” Bodie said, when he could get a word in. “There was a wolf. He chased the men off; you must have seen their van leave. But he rearranged my sleeves first. Maybe he wanted to untie me!”
“And I suppose he had red eyes and wanted to eat you,” said Heike, while Klaus just laughed.
“He looked like a normal wolf to me,” said Doyle, a little hurt at the lack of belief. “Or maybe a German Shepherd, though he didn't have a collar.”
“Do not joke with us,” she said. “It is enough that we managed to get you free, that you are all right.”
“I tell you, it was a wolf,” said Bodie. “It was close to me while it tried to bite through my ropes. All that hair and those teeth. Its nose was cold and wet.”
“And I suppose it had saliva dripping from its mouth,” said Heike, laughing a little.
“No, it didn’t, but its breath was hot and its tongue rasped my hands.”
“A good story, but now it is time to get you back and to find out what they have done while they had you here and us looking for you.” She was fiddling with her RT as she spoke and at last got a response. Reinhard had arrived home and had the sense to switch his RT on. He was now worrying, to late to be any use.
“From now,” said Ray, “we should all be on the alert at all times till the window of the full moon period is over or there is an attack, whichever comes first.”
“No down-time, no hours off the job other than for sleep, and we sleep with the RTs and our guns,” his partner agreed, and the others nodded.
“Where are we, anyway?” Bodie asked, looking around at the ruins and the water.
“Eibach,” said Klaus. “It’s on the tourist map but it’s quite a distance from our centre of operations. They must have wanted you out of the way quite badly.”
“All of us,” said Ray, explaining his conclusions about the way the Wolves had intended to put a stop to Operation Wolfkammer. “It was just luck that Schmidt wasn’t available like you two, and if he was out at a social occasion he wasn’t much hindrance to them in any case. They must have realised you would follow us and hoped you would be searching for ages. We hadn't intended to call you, Heike, but I'm glad Klaus did.”
“I think Reinhard was at the Kegelbahn,” said Heike. “He has been talking about Margitt. And he said Hilde has been asking about you.” She looked at Bodie who shrugged and glanced at Doyle. Hilde and Christina no longer interested him, it seemed. Ray felt a frisson of pleasure, which evaporated in the cold night air and the knowledge of how alert they would have to remain.
Heike had come in her own family car, a small blue VW Polo, and the men crowded into it; Klaus had to crouch forwards to avoid hitting his head on the roof. They set off, passing signposts to Scheel and Gimborn before finding themselves back in territory that the Englishmen remembered from the maps.
“If you have time you should visit this area in daytime,” Heike said, but they knew they probably wouldn’t have either time or opportunity.
“Do you think they are attacking tonight while we're here and out of action?” Bodie sounded worried and Ray hastened to reassure him.
“No. They’ve been busy enough getting us out of the way and setting the others off in search of us. It’s late now and all the attacks that were reported quickly have been early evening. As it is, I don’t understand how you found us so quickly, but,” he went on when neither Heike nor Klaus gave any sign of answering, “they must have thought it would take us all night to get free and all day tomorrow to find ourselves and sort out what had happened. I think they’ve settled on tomorrow night and hope we’ll be thrown off balance, maybe even unable to function after what they'll have seen as an ordeal for us. They won’t go anywhere tonight.”
“I hope you’re right!” said Bodie. “We have to be grateful to the mystery wolf for chasing them off, too. Otherwise it might have been a while before you were able to get past them. And even then we couldn’t have called to you with those gags.” Ray wanted to spit again as his mouth remembered the feel and taste of the stuff filling it. There was a disbelieving silence from the German officers.
“How were you able to find us so quickly?” he asked, instead of pressing the point about the wolf.
Heike and Klaus both talked at once and gave a version of events that only half-satisfied him. Klaus had arrived on the road past the farm entrance in time to see the kidnap and Heike had arrived in time to join him. They had followed the van in Heike's car.
“There’s only one main road around there so we were able to catch up and follow,” Klaus said. They had to believe him. It all seemed too pat, too easy, but here they were, safe, and they trusted Heike, who was telling the same story. Once at Eibach the two police officers had seen the men force Bodie and Doyle down the track to the ruins. They hadn’t been sure if they were armed so they had been cautious. They had hidden the car as best they could and had eventually seen the men leave, knowing they were all accounted for.
“They were certainly in a hurry,” said Klaus, “but we saw nothing chasing them.” Klaus had set out to find them while Heike readied the car for a rapid getaway if necessary. “We assumed you were alive,” Klaus said finally. “We hadn’t heard any gunshots and we didn’t think they would kill you and risk the sort of reprisals that would bring. Besides, if they had wanted to kill you they could have done it sooner.” He sounded calm and honest and Ray felt obliged to accept the story for the moment, not pushing for explanations of the gaps he thought it contained.
It was little short of a miracle that Heike had actually decided to come to the farm and had picked Klaus up in time to follow them. Even more miraculous was the way the van driver had not become aware of the tail. If they had stayed at a distance they would have needed extremely good tracking devices but they were in Heike's car, not a police vehicle. Then Klaus had known exactly where they were in the ruins. And there were the wolves. Not the Wolves who had brought them here but the wolf that had freed Bodie and howled to its pack mate. He knew what he had seen, and Bodie had those scratches as evidence. But their German colleagues scorned the explanation and assumed the men had simply run off in some kind of panic. That would have been a miracle, too. Too many miracles at once.
Bodie was apologising for bleeding over the Polo’s upholstery and Heike was saying she would get the car cleaned on expenses. She obviously thought the cuts had been made by the men who tied him up. But they knew otherwise.
“These wolves you don’t believe in,” said Bodie, stopping politely to let them change their attitude. There was an equally polite silence. “Just humour me. Pretend you believe me. The wolf scratched me. But he chased off my captors and didn't come back to attack me. He looked intelligent and he seemed to be trying to communicate.” There was an even more polite silence. “Suppose for one moment that he was a werewolf.” Another silence, following quick gasps. “Does that endanger me in any way? Do werewolves pass on their abilities or whatever you call them through scratches?” Ray heard an undercurrent of worry and felt sick. Did Bodie believe that, then? Did he? Or did he think they’d suffered some kind of hallucination? He was glad Bodie had sensed the creature's intelligence, too.
“Hardly.” Klaus sounded positive. “Remember I don’t know much about legends and magic but I do know they have to bite you. Like vampires,” he added. “He didn’t bite you.”
“No, he didn’t,” said Bodie slowly, “but how did you know that?”
“I didn’t.” Klaus laughed. “I just assumed it because if he had you might have been in need of more medical attention. If it had been a wolf and not a Wolf of Westphalia. As it is, some warm water and a Hansaplast or two...”
“... and you should know they do not pass on their magic through scratches,” said Heike. “If they did, Uli Weber would be slavering and showing the red eyes, I think.” There it was again, the solemn teasing coupled with overt disbelief. Ray couldn’t quite put his finger on the discrepancies in the conversation they were having but he felt unnerved, and out of his depth. Perhaps a culture that accepted Wolpertinger accepted werewolves in the same way, as legendary beasts who were fit subjects for jokes and pranks. And yet there seemed to be an undercurrent of belief, greater than that with which the English, for example, would discuss the great cats that supposedly stalked the moors and wild places. Those had more basis in reality than werewolves but... He gave up. Some cultural differences were hard to fathom or bridge.
Soon they were within range of Schmidt’s RT again and learnt that so far it had been a quiet night if you discounted their adventure. No reports of any trouble anywhere. The Hofmann family were safe and had heard nothing. Nobody else had reported any alarms. It looked as if the next night was the probable date; the Wolves would assume they had disabled the opposition.
They spent the rest of the journey discussing the Wolves’ demands: an end to immigration, repatriation of all Turks and gypsies, though where exactly the gypsies were to be deported to was not mentioned, a lifting of the ban on Neo-Nazi symbols on clothing, subsidies for extreme right wing music with its threatening lyrics, and, strangely, a strengthening of the police force. Perhaps it was that last that gained sympathisers who would take their notes and maps.
“Maybe they hope to set up another Reich,” said Klaus, but all the agents found the psychology of the terrorists hard to understand.
Heike and Klaus decided to take Bodie and Doyle back to their car, then escort them to the inn. Reinhard had phoned to alert his aunt and uncle to the possible late return of their guests and to Bodie’s first aid needs. But when they reached the Taunus the tyres had been slashed and they agreed to deal with the problem in the morning. They gave Heike one set of keys; someone would come out from Gummersbach to sort things out. In the car headlights Bodie’s tattered garments and the blood looked black and ugly but he insisted he was largely unhurt. Klaus, they could see, had some kind of burn or bruise on his hands but he shrugged off their questions.
“It's of no consequence,” he said. “It's not related to this evening’s events. I was just careless at home.” And that was all he would say before returning to his own car.
Heike delivered the English agents to the Landhaus, where Frau Bettin met them with a box of Hansaplasts, some soft cloths for washing Bodie’s scratches, and offers of help, which they waved away, thanking her profusely but wanting to deal with things themselves. With everything: the wounds, the whole adventure, and the interrupted attempt to make sense of Ray’s feelings and Bodie’s reaction. The broad stairs seemed endless but at last they were in their room, door locked, curtains drawn, RT switched on and knives from Frau Bettin’s kitchen gracing the bedside tables. They both regretted their missing weapons but those could be replaced. For the rest of tonight they were probably safe enough.
“Do you believe them?” Bodie sounded more puzzled than worried and Ray assumed he was talking about Heike and Klaus.
“They want us to believe them, that's for sure,” he said. “And they have their story off pat; I don't think we're going to trip them up! But they were there so quickly and so silently. I think maybe Heike did as she said and brought the car but Klaus... I don't know. I really don't know.”
“That makes two of us, anyway. That wolf, Ray, when he was biting the rope, he looked at me. Really looked. You know how dogs find it hard to stare straight into your eyes? Well, he didn't find it hard at all. He was staring at me and trying to comfort me, I think. Tell me I'd soon be free. And of course I was.”
“He got us both free by seeing those men off,” said Ray. “Then Klaus was able to reach us without difficulty. I was worried sick when the wolf first approached you but after a moment it was clear he wasn't truly hostile.”
“The wolf has my gratitude, but I can't quite believe it happened. Even though I felt his tongue and teeth. It's the twentieth century and we aren't in a fairy tale. Even the Wolpertinger things are just a joke, not a reality.”
“I watched; I can vouch for the reality,” Ray said. “At least if we have to believe in this creature he seems to be on our side!”
Bodie shook his head as if to clear it of strange memories that might not be true. He stripped out of his shredded jacket and shirt. The dried blood stood out against his pale skin and it was hard to tell just how much damage he’d suffered, but Ray thought his sigh was for his ruined clothes.
“Want help?” he asked, not sure whether there would be room for two big men in the small bathroom but feeling he had to offer.
“Nah. Just wash this lot off and use up our landlady’s supply of sticking plasters,” said Bodie, grabbing his key, the cloths and the box. “That was my favourite jacket though.” He was almost out of the door as he spoke, heading for the facilities along the corridor and Ray thought it was a good thing there were no other guests at the moment to stare at the blood. He knew he would rather have Bodie safe than any number of jackets but refrained from saying so. Verbalised worry about clothes and equipment was often their way of avoiding comment on greater issues. He looked at the jacket and shirt, saw they were both past mending and put them in a heap near the door. They could go down to the bin in the morning and for a moment he visualised a surprised racoon trying on the torn garments and allowed himself to laugh in relief. It had been a stressful evening. He relocked the door. There could be wolves around as well as washbears. Real ones or human ones. Or other werewolves; nothing said all werewolves had to be friendly.
He was ready for bed, sitting in his bathrobe, waiting to use the bathroom, when Bodie came back, breezing in, clean but covered in strips of plaster. He took care re-locking the door.
“I don’t think he really meant to claw me, you know,” he said cheerfully. “Paws and claws aren’t the best tools for untying knots after all, as he discovered. There’s nothing deep; I’ll mend!”
“So you don't think we were both hallucinating?”
“No. Do you?”
“I thought he was attacking you, but then, as I said, I watched and...”
Bodie grinned, looking at Ray. Then his face changed and he headed purposefully for Ray’s side of the bed. “Course,” he said, “there might have been a small bite where he had to use his teeth. Just enough...” He flung himself on Ray with a mock growl and they wrestled, laughing, then the wrestling altered, and Ray found himself scarcely breathing.
Bodie’s teeth were nipping the skin above his collarbone and this was no longer their usual friendly horseplay. And Bodie was whispering something about not needing to be jealous any more, and then all of a sudden they were kissing and their erections were pressed together, exhilarating and somehow right. Ray was vaguely aware that his robe had fallen open, and that Bodie was struggling out of his delightful but frustratingly tight cords. He had a fleeting thought of gladness that those hadn’t suffered anything worse than a little dirt from the van floor.
They were both exhausted after the events of the evening, silly with relief and too wired to sleep straight away but too tired to do much else. The stimulation of the danger and the rescue plus the day's tension over their interrupted dalliance had them both desperate for physical contact but they quickly reached an almost simultaneous climax merely through rubbing their cocks together. Bodie collapsed on top of him, sated and sticky and Ray wondered if this had been the adrenaline speaking or whether it really was the start of something new.
“I never meant you to know,” he said, trying to give Bodie an opening for comment, any comment.
“Idiot,” came the reply, smug and affectionate. Then, “I’d hoped, you know. But not with any real expectation. Now, well, that’s a whole new level of partnership we seem to have reached. Though I doubt if Cowley’d approve.”
Ray felt dazed, by the words as much as the sex. Dreams coming true had never played much part in his life, had never seemed practical. And now here they were, together, all his wishes fulfilled.
“What Cowley doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” he murmured, and got a sleepy kiss in return. He wriggled out from beneath his partner, muttering ‘bathroom’ to the protests this raised, and then had to drag his robe out too. This elicited more complaints but he persisted, and left the room decently clad. No sense shocking the Bettins if either of them happened to be about. He reached the bathroom without seeing anyone and looked longingly at the bath but settled for a strip wash in blessedly warm water. He was washing the hessian and the fear off his skin as well as the sex. That, he thought, could soon be replaced and he hoped the first two were over and done with. He squeezed a small towel in warm water and carried it back to the bedroom, intending to clean Bodie, too, and found him face down, asleep. He managed to roll him over and remove the evidence of their activities without waking him. There were some incoherent mumbles but the blue eyes stayed resolutely shut. Ray snuggled in beside him and switched off the light. Sleep came quickly, especially with an arm thrown casually but possessively over him, and he was too tired to dream.
When he woke up he couldn’t quite work out where he was. It took a few moments to understand that he was on Bodie’s side of the bed, still held tightly, warmed both physically and mentally by his partner’s nearness. Light slipping round the edges of the shutters told him it was morning and he managed to reach his watch and discover that it was at least breakfast time. He shook Bodie awake and was both pleased and surprised to be kissed, rapidly but thoroughly. So last night hadn’t been just a reaction, there really was hope for some kind of future.
“When you said about Cowley,” he began but Bodie didn't let him finish.
“You said what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. Did you mean we wouldn't be together in London?” The beautiful eyebrows were raised and there was an expression of anxiety that Ray had never, in his wildest dreams, hoped to see for such a reason.
“No,” he said slowly. “I'd like us to be together there too. Anywhere, for that matter. But I don't want to risk our jobs and I don't want to take your feelings on the subject for granted.”
“I thought I'd made my feelings pretty clear.”
Ray took a deep breath. Well, maybe the risky part was over. Maybe he could learn to accept the dream. “I hoped so,” he said. “Mine were clear too, weren't they?”
“Yes.” The smile was incandescent. “Just checking this isn't just a holiday romance!”
“With my partner? You daft sod!” Ray found himself grabbed and kissed and fought his way out of a strong embrace. There wasn't time for anything now; as long as he knew the promise was there all was well in his world. In Bodie's too, he hoped.
They got ready quickly; they would be expected in Gummersbach. Breakfast was a hurried affair, with no time to talk, and then they remembered the car. They needn’t have worried. It arrived, all four tyres replaced, in the care of a uniformed police officer who delivered the keys with a small bow and then begged a lift to the town.
“Thomas Lange,” he said, presumably introducing himself. He looked about half their age and fairly overawed at being in the company of glamorous foreign agents.
“Wonder how he'd have looked if he'd seen us in those sacks last night,” Bodie whispered as they went to the car.
“Still like a schoolboy in borrowed uniform,” Ray whispered back, hoping Thomas didn't understand.
“Sprechen Sie Englisch, Thomas?” Ray was happy to socialise with the young man; they couldn't or wouldn't chat in front of him whether he spoke English or not. Officer Lange, who was very fair-skinned, blushed to the roots of his hair and stammered.
“Nein,” seemed to be the gist of his reply, which surprised them; all German kids learnt English at school, but perhaps he was just nervous about using it with them. He blushed and stammered again every time Ray tried to speak to him in German and they gave up. Bodie drove and Ray ignored their back-seat passenger. All three remained silent until they reached Gummersbach.
As they reached the outskirts of the town Ray's RT sprang to life. Reinhard's voice crackled in his usual imperfect English and perfect enthusiasm.
“You should not near the office be parking. If they you watching are it is being better not to seen be.” While the agents were sorting out this convoluted advice he added, “Lange is very safe.”
“Well of course Lange's safe,” said Ray. “He's here with us.”
“I am meaning you are able to talk. His sister was deaded by the Wolves near Mennkausen. He is violent to catch them.”
They parked a few streets from the office and after a few minutes were rewarded by the sight of the grey Taunus pulling up in front of their gold one. Lange got out and shook their hands awkwardly through the open windows before leaving. The two sets of agents headed out of town again, towards their new Eckenhagen base, stopping by the roadside when the houses had thinned.
They got out to discuss their plans in the complete privacy of the open countryside. There was no sign of Klaus. Ray was surprised for a moment but remembered that Bodie’s partner was simply that, a partner for the operation and not part of their small planning group. Heike had already told Reinhard the whole story of the evening. He was aware of most of it from the radio chat but had, it seemed, enjoyed Heike’s description of the wolf who had helped them.
“Red eyes, I think,” he said, smothering a laugh. “He is slavering, this wolf?” The use of the word 'slavering' came as a surprise in view of Reinhard's usually limited English but they remembered he could cope with the written word quite competently and had clearly read widely. He simply tended to use German grammar in speech. He had evidently remembered Uli's description.
“If he was it was because of the taste of the rope,” said Bodie, and it came out a bit more snappishly than he’d intended. He laughed in turn, but Ray knew he wanted to be believed.
“Now,” said Heike, “we already had a message from my senior officer in Siegen. That, you understand, is where I most often work. He agrees we must expect an attack tonight and hopes you are ready to set up the surveillance.”
“Of course.” It was Doyle who answered. “We want these guys as much as you do. And we weren’t really hurt; even Bodie was just scratched. We’re ready.”
“I am hoping you are not being bitten last night,” said Reinhard, and Bodie growled at him, so that they went back to their cars in a gale of laughter.
Whoever the Wolves’ sympathiser at headquarters was, they would just have to hope their readiness for work had not been noted. The rescue of the car could be put down to Heike or Reinhard, and Lange could have brought it to Gummersbach. Only Lange and the Bettins knew the whole team was fit for duty. It would be good if the Wolves were expecting them to be distracted and in less than peak condition; the gang might be overconfident and make mistakes. But it wasn’t possible to keep their arrival and departure at their new base a secret and the staff at Gummersbach, who couldn’t be under scrutiny all the time, might well find out.
Besides, Ray mused, the sympathiser was probably a trusted and vetted officer or lay worker who simply had right wing leanings and perhaps wasn’t even completely aware of the use to which his or her reports were being put. Anyone could have asked them to keep an eye on the foreign agents, find out what they were doing. There could have been all sorts of reasons, not necessarily causing the sympathiser to make the connection to the Wolves of Westphalia. Of course, anyone with an ounce of common sense, he reflected, would realise, but then there were many apparently competent police officers without that ounce, here and in England, men and women who followed orders unthinkingly and sometimes precipitated disasters. Perhaps that was harsh, but there were also civilians working for the police and the number of possible suspects was hard to assess.
They stopped for a quick lunch in Eckenhagen, then Ray established himself in the small office that was to serve as the co-ordination hub. He had been given two young policewomen to serve as telephone operators and back-up RT liaison. Monika Schwarz and Gabriele Müller seemed cheerful and competent and he noticed Gabriele had brought cakes. Bodie would be the jealous one today, he thought. The others had all arranged to meet their partners, making their appointments by RT so that no huge group would be seen near Ray’s office. They drove off, leaving him the gold Taunus, and he tried to relax, watching the two women, their blonde heads bent over the hastily installed telephone equipment, their instructions and the maps. He didn’t think anything would happen till evening but by then he wanted everything in place.
Doyle and his assistants spent what was left of the afternoon contacting everyone, officers and farms, making sure the equipment worked, the ranges were satisfactory and everyone was in place. When they were confident about their preparations they enjoyed an all too brief session with the cakes Officer Müller had brought and some delicious coffee that her colleague brewed on a tiny camping stove. Ray was glad of the break, and hoped the others, especially Bodie, were getting at least coffee. He had seen Thermos flasks in Heike’s car.
Then dusk was falling and his heart was in his mouth. The Wolves were likely to be prowling and their own wolf might not be able to come rushing to the rescue again. Odd how he thought of it as theirs, felt so convinced it was on their side, trying to help them. He thought of those long scratches on Bodie’s arms, which made him think of Bodie’s arms in general, and he had to speak sternly to himself and insist that Bodie would be fine, with Klaus, and that he, Ray, would be fine without him. Time enough after it was all over to think of embraces and the heady excitement of being in his partner’s arms. For now, he should concentrate on the professionalism that would ensure that happened.
Henner Schultz, accompanied by his partner Ralf Wagner, was assigned to one of the most unlikely farms, the Bauer smallholding on the periphery of the area. Doyle remembered Schmidt making a lame joke about the Bauer Bauernhaus or farmhouse. As soon as it was truly dark, Schulz contacted Doyle at the hub. He and Wagner had seen a group of motorcyclists go past but the engine noise had not faded along the road up towards the next village; it had stopped in the woods. He thought it would be worth investigating; it could hardly be a picnic at that time of the evening, even if it had been particularly clement weather, which it wasn’t. Could Doyle alert other officers to assist them? He wouldn’t move until he knew back-up was in place.
The surveillance machine rolled into action. All Ray had to do was oversee it and make sure that Monika and Gabriele got the names and coordinates right. They did, of course. He hoped Schultz was right and that he wasn’t pulling back-up from something else for a false alarm. God, he thought, he hoped he was right because he wanted this to be over, wanted to catch the mad bastards, wanted to get back to England with Bodie at his side. Let the Wolves attack tonight. By tomorrow everyone would be strung out and just that bit less efficient, whether they liked it or not. Long operations were the devil for lessening peak alertness; periods of stress decreased the potential of the fittest fighter.
He needn’t have worried. Schultz had already found a sheep with its throat cut, there were dogs barking their hostility to the night sky and the six officers now gathered on the outskirts of the Bauer farm could see a dark-clad group, silhouetted against the moonlight, converging on the house. Doyle barked an instruction into the RT for all officers to make for the place at once. He hoped this wasn’t a distraction, that the main play was not being staged elsewhere, but for the sake of the Bauers he had to act and no one had seen anything in any of the other locations.
He wanted to join Bodie but knew he had to rely on Klaus. And the wolf, said his brain, slyly insistent.
Heike was co-ordinating action at the site and kept Ray informed by RT.
“It looks as if they know they have been surrounded. They are trying to fight. They are armed with clubs and knives, not guns at the moment.” Her voice faded and Ray heard some scuffling noises.
He listened with growing frustration then Heike spoke again.
“I think this is a distraction, to let some of them escape. We cannot close the whole perimeter of the farm.” She finished with a gasp and Ray's grip on the RT tightened, waiting to hear what had elicited it.
“Frau Bauer came to the door.” Heike's voice had a hint of a tremor. “They are holding her. She is a hostage. A Wolf has a knife at her neck.” Ray only knew what the RT communications could tell him but he could picture the scene. He had details and photographs of all the families at risk. Young Frau Bauer, petite, almost too delicate-looking for a farmer’s wife, with honey-blonde hair and huge grey eyes, would be frantic for herself and her baby, only three months old. Michael Bauer would be beside himself with anger and dismay. The officers would be cautious; anything could trigger serious injury or death for the young woman.
He was muttering imprecations when he realised Heike was talking him through what was happening, her voice low enough not to disturb the Wolf holding Dagmar Bauer. With a jolt, Doyle heard his partner’s name.
“Bodie is trying to talk to the Wolves. Maybe he thinks one of them will speak English. Oh! He is right! But...” She broke off again with a strangled moan. Ray, desperate to know what was happening, had the sense to remain quiet, willing Heike to remember to keep him informed. His patience was rewarded although he could hardly be pleased at what he heard.
“The Wolf has let Dagmar go free. But he has taken Bodie.” It took a moment to process the information. Bodie had offered himself in exchange.
“Stupid brave idiot!” Doyle hadn't meant to say it aloud but hoped Heike would understand his concern for his partner. He meant it, too, but if it was the only way to save the woman... They were trained to protect civilians, and to escape hostage situations; it made a horrible sort of sense. But these Wolves, already killers, were unlikely to refrain from murder. Once the man had Bodie out of the way of the other officers and had effected his own escape he would simply slit the throat of this nuisance of a hostage.
Through his frantic thoughts Ray realised Heike was telling him that Bodie didn’t have a knife to his throat but his wrists had been securely bound.
“He is being dragged to the trees where the bikes are parked,” she said.
“Has anyone gone to disable the bikes?” Ray hoped someone had thought of that and cursed fluently as he realised that it would have taken officers they could hardly spare. His language, even in English, raised the eyebrows of both Monika and Gabriele who were both, he was sure, veterans of difficult situations.
Heike tried to reassure him. “We sent someone, but he has not returned. Maybe they left a guard? We thought there was nobody there but...” Whatever the man had done had only been partly successful; they could hear one machine roaring off into the night, in the direction of Wolfkammer, Heike thought. “Klaus is following,” she said, “but perhaps you are best placed to intervene?”
Cursing again but acknowledging to himself that his team had done everything they could, Ray flung on his bullet proof vest, checked his weapon, replaced that morning by the Germans, and ran out of the command post. There was only one road from the Bauer farm heading this way and he gunned the Taunus down it, hoping against hope to catch the Wolf biker without endangering his partner.
He managed to create a roadblock of sorts with his car across the two narrow lanes, and got out to wait. It wasn’t long. The noise of a bike engine soon cut into the quiet of the evening and a bike skidded to a stop, only a few feet from the Taunus. But there was only one rider, no pillion passenger, bound or otherwise, and in the fatal moment when Ray wondered if he’d stopped the wrong bike, held up an innocent civilian, the rider was on him, kicking his gun up, out of his hand and into the ditch, and wrestling him to the ground. He fought, and was soon gaining the upper hand, his fingers twisted in the hair of his opponent, whose helmet had fallen off. He banged the man’s face against the road surface and heard a satisfying crunch but as he did, he heard more engine noise and a further set of footsteps.
For a second he hoped it might be reinforcements, rescue, but it was another of them. His current opponent was, he was pretty sure, out of action for the moment and he rose to face the new threat. Again, his training and fitness paid off; he had the man in a stranglehold, gurgling and choking and he gave silent thanks to Macklin and his gruelling sessions. Then even as he dropped the man to the road, unconscious, his own arms were pinioned from behind by a noose, slipped over his head and drawn tight just below his shoulders. He had heard nothing, too involved in the fight to sense this third Wolf’s approach. He was bound and thrust onto the pillion saddle, his ankle twisting badly as he resisted the way his leg was being lifted to force him to straddle the bike. Then he was handcuffed to the belt of the rider, his first victim, who had recovered sufficiently to crawl to the bike, pull himself up and mount, blood streaming unchecked from his nose and hatred from his eyes. The moonlight made everything clear even through the bike’s headlights were off. German instructions rapped out like bullets, the rider turned the bike and they were off, back in the direction the man had come. And the Taunus was following, his keys dragged from his pocket by the man with the rope.
A sharp right hand turn onto a narrower lane took them downhill to a house near a stream. Even with the handcuffs holding him in place to some extent Ray felt nauseated by the way his bound body swayed with the curve. There was the reflection of moonlight on water and Ray was reminded of the ruins at Eibach but this was no picturesque tourist destination. It was a mill house, fallen into disuse, the roof showing skeleton rafters and a broken chimney, the door half off its hinges and the windows empty but showing ragged teeth of glass round their edges. He noticed a bike already parked then stumbled as he was dragged into the ruin, and pushed through a door down some steps into a cellar of some kind, one with a window at head level. When he could see again, when his head was clear of stars and he could twist his neck from where he had fallen, he could see it was bare of anything, except Bodie, securely tied to a pillar that stretched the full height of the room, presumably a support for the floor above.
Ray’s captors had followed him down and dragged him to his feet, fastening him to the same pillar, but on the other side, tying their arms and feet together so that they couldn’t move without tightening the ropes on each other. He thought he managed to kick one of them but they were all still on their feet, efficient and active, whereas he and Bodie were tied up again, but, gloriously, ungagged.
“There. That will have to be sufficient until Alpha decides what to do with you. If it was for me to decide you would be dead, but I know he will want the last word. And he may have a use for you.” Ray understood the German , delivered slowly and gloatingly by the man whose nose he had damaged. Alpha must be the head of the Wolves.
Desperate to get more information about the identity of the leader he dared to ask, “Wer ist Alpha?” without much hope of an honest answer.
“That is for us to know and you to wonder,” came the reply from one of the others. At that moment the moon shone thorough the high window like a searchlight, illuminating the speaker's features. It was the landlord of the bar with the horned hare on the wall. Ray gasped and the man laughed.
“I thought that you might recognise me. That is why if it was my choice you would be dead already.” He made a throat-slitting gesture and laughed again. “This was more than a hunt for Elwedritsche for you English,” he said, scorn in his voice. “You should have stuck with your tourist silliness. Then you would be going home. We don’t need foreigners policing our countryside.” As Ray processed the German the men turned and the moon left the cellar in shadow as they climbed up and out, locking the door at the top carefully as if they thought their prisoners might well escape their bonds.
“Here we go again,” said Bodie, “and there’s even less chance of a wolf charging to the rescue.”
“At least Dagmar Bauer’s safe,” said Ray, “and we might find out who Alpha is.” He meant his words to give Bodie some sort of comfort but he himself was feeling far from comforted. “From what Heike was saying I'm pretty sure they broke up the attack on the farm and all’s well there. And at least some of the Wolves have been arrested. It might be enough to curtail their activities. One of them might crack and give us the names of the rest.”
“Give the others the names, you mean.” Bodie sounded despondent, with reason, but it wasn’t like him and Ray felt a thrill of fear. His partner was the gung-ho one, the one who would always see a way out of anywhere, anything.
“Why the pessimism?” he asked, wriggling his wrists then stopping as he realised he was merely hurting Bodie.
“Because nobody knows where we are. Because this Alpha will want to go out in a blaze of glory. What better than to kill the foreigners brought into their land? And because we only just...” He stopped but Ray knew what he meant. They had only just entered a new phase of their relationship and he had told himself it was too good to be true. But surely that was just so much superstition?
“Someone might find us; Klaus was following,” was all he could suggest. It didn’t seem to be the moment to discuss their newly exposed feelings or even the case, for that matter, and they fell silent.
They could hear something going on outside. There was no glass in the cellar window and there was someone walking up and down, evidently guarding their prison. Occasionally a shadow fell across the unglazed window space. There were at least two people in fact, because they could hear voices, distorted by echoes in the large underground space and by the distance above their heads, but still clear. Doyle barely needed to whisper a rough translation to Bodie; the sentences were short and simple and Bodie's German had both returned and widened during their stay.
“Hey, Markus, to your right! A wolf!”
“Who? We are the only Wolves here.”
“No, a real one. With fur.”
“I’m telling you!”
“Stefan, you are dreaming!”
“Well, in my dream I will have my gun ready.”
Silence again, and then footsteps for a while. Then a gunshot and a muttered oath.
“Of course you missed! There’s nothing there!”
Then another bike engine and more footsteps and it seemed the party was livening up, perhaps with them as the central entertainment. A man was leaning towards the cellar window and talking to them in heavily accented English.
“I am not knowing why my men let you live. I think they thought to give me the pleasure. And I believe when they say you are well tied but I will not risk to come down to see. I will instead make sure about you. Damned English! Always where you are not being wanted!” To retort that they were there by invitation of the German government would be to add further insult to the Wolves' unpleasant political sensitivities so they refrained.
Something, a long rope or pipe was being fed through the window space and for a moment Ray though they were to be gassed, but the lack of glass made that unlikely. Then he saw the black length waving towards them and realised it was a hosepipe. So they would be soaked? Left to die of hypothermia? They were both healthy and young. He thought they could hang on till daybreak and that they might be found before then, but the smell alerted him. Petrol.
The fumes were bad enough, but the thought of what would happen if they were set alight and left to die was truly frightening. He was unused to being helpless and to have Bodie in the same state was even worse. Usually, they could rely on each other. One would come to the rescue. Well, he had made a mess of that tonight, although he had done his best. And they would both pay the price. He tried to apologise, but Bodie was not about to listen.
“Shut up and think. If we can get the ropes burnt through before we’re overcome with the smoke...” They would be burnt, yes, but not too badly to effect some sort of escape, unless the Wolves were lying in wait for them. Ray licked lips that tasted of petrol and hastily withdrew his tongue. There were drops falling from his curls onto his eyebrows and his shoulders felt damp. This was bad. Possibly even fatally bad.
The man at the window was talking to someone.
“Don’t even think about it!” Ray realised the man had lapsed into German and Bodie possibly wouldn’t understand but it sounded as if rescue was at hand. But there were shots and a couple of yells then the sound of a match being struck. It flickered outside the window opening but died harmlessly. They were still not on fire. For now.
Ray had been holding his breath, and gulped, involuntarily breathing in more fumes. And then he heard screams and howls, howls like true wolves. More shots, more screams, then silence, and a long low shape dropped through the window, loping across the floor. He could smell blood on the animal’s breath as it tussled with the ropes, yipping as it tasted the petrol, but it never occurred to him to be afraid. This was their wolf; of that he was sure.
Soft fur brushed his hands; a damp tongue flicked his wrist. A growl, a noise like an interrogatory howl, in the direction of the window and another lupine shape joined the first. This one was limping, lurching across the cellar, determined to reach them. Teeth tore the ropes and brushed his skin but they were welcome. Better the brush of wolf teeth than the brush of flames any day, he thought. Eyes that were not human but were nevertheless intelligent stared momentarily into his and he felt that strange connection again; then the wolf dropped its gaze and growled softly, gently. Its partner or pack mate growled back and continued the business of releasing them. The knots were tight and the petrol had added to the problem. Both wolves whined and tore. The larger one growled deep in its throat, a sound, Ray thought, of complete exasperation. Perhaps the knots had been tied by someone less expert than the captor who left them at Eibach because eventually the ropes were loose, coiled around their feet, and both wolves leapt for the window, disappearing as quickly as they'd arrived. Ray thought he might have liked to have stroked the dense fur, said thank you somehow.
Within moments they heard the door being unlocked and Klaus was with them.
“So you were tied up again? And you did a Houdini act? But you didn’t escape so lightly this time. Ugh, what a stink!”
“The wolves...” Bodie began.
“...are all arrested, except for two who are out here with their throats torn out. Blood everywhere! Maybe they turned on each other? Goodness knows what weapons they were using! Or maybe there’s still one in hiding? He won’t get far. Officers are combing the countryside, farmers with pitchforks accompanying them.”
“I think the wolves who untied us...” said Ray, but Heike was coming downstairs, limping slightly but otherwise unharmed. There was no time to say that the men had not had time to turn on each other.
“More Greuelmärchen?” she said. “We have horrors enough in the real world.” Ray knew that Märchen were fairy tales - he could only assume that the ones she referred to were the horrific variety, though as he remembered them, most German legends had a dark undercurrent. “And now we need to get you to medical help. Klaus too; he took a bullet in his arm.”
“It’s a flesh wound; I’ll live,” said Klaus, ushering them all up the stairs and out into the waiting group of police officers and medical personnel who had gathered at the scene. “And you, Officer Brinkmann, you are also injured.” Heike shrugged as if it was of no consequence. Someone was wrapping the bodies of the Wolves and the flashing blue lights of ambulances added a strange brilliant glare to the scene. As they were taken in hand by determined medics Ray finally felt safe. He was glad not to see the torn throats and even gladder to have escaped the threat of fire.
They were all four bundled into the same ambulance and in the dim light of the interior it was hard to see what shape the others were in. Ray could smell the petrol infusing the space with its oily reek, reminding him of his fear. He could hear the siren telling other traffic to get out of the way, to let this cargo through to safety. They didn’t talk. It was all still too close and presumably others, such as Reinhard, were coordinating the mopping-up operation. There was nothing they could do.
One of the medics was talking rapidly into a RT and Ray caught a few words. The man was alerting the hospital to the need for immediate removal of their clothing, sluicing down of their bodies to remove all traces of petrol, and then treatment for possible burns. Petrol, he knew, as well as being toxic, could cause skin damage resembling the burns that were the least they might have suffered if the match had been thrown through the window gap. He didn’t think they’d been exposed to the fumes long enough for inhalation to be too much of a problem but the hospital would want to watch them overnight and check. And there was no Cowley to release them to the care of CI5. He didn't think the German top brass would 'spring' them and risk sending them home less than fit. Heike said something to the medic and he thought she was asking for some kind of showering for herself and Klaus too, but surely their injuries were from bullets?
“Your leg?” he asked her.
“No, no, I just sprained my ankle; it is nothing,” she said, and he sat back, puzzled by the urgency he’d sensed in her remarks to the medic compared with this dismissal of her obvious hurt. He determined to question her further once they were all treated and safe but sensed a reticence that might be hard to overcome.
The hospital was waiting with adequate facilities. They were whisked into canvas cubicles in the ambulance loading bay, their clothes stripped from them and tossed aside. He heard Bodie complain that that was another of his best jackets and that if it could be saved... But he thought that was a forlorn hope; the leather and lining would be saturated, would be a risk if they so much as walked past someone smoking, and it couldn’t be washed. His own wool jacket might fare better although it was a ‘dry clean only’ variety, but if the hospital disposed of it he wasn’t about to grumble. Better to lose clothes than skin or worse.
They were thoroughly showered and emerged dripping into huge towels and hospital robes. They were examined for possible burns but the worst of their injuries were from the tight ropes and, for Ray, deep gravel-filled scrapes from his fight in the road. As he’d suspected, they were ushered to hospital beds; they would be watched for breathing problems or for the appearance of skin damage. He was given some salve to put round his lips and a beaker of milk to drink. His protests that he hadn’t actually swallowed any petrol were ignored. What did patients know? In the haste and confusion of the medical activity he had lost sight of Heike and Klaus. But Bodie was by his side.
He and Bodie were in a room together and they lay quietly under the watchful eye of the night duty nurse. There were no other patients but she was not inclined to allow talking, even when Klaus was brought in, also in hospital robes, his arm bandaged and his face smeared in salve. So the three of them pretended to fall asleep though Ray thought they were all too full of questions and worries to manage the real thing.
They were woken, or rather, disturbed, at the crack of dawn with cups of something that might have been weak coffee and certainly wasn’t tea. Then they were encouraged to rest while an orderly swept the little ward and made encouraging noises about breakfast being on its way. Eventually, a breakfast trolley appeared with rolls and jam and a boiled egg each. More coffee, a little stronger, was poured and then they were left blessedly alone.
“So how did you find us so quickly, this time, Klaus? Ray said you were following me.” Bodie was finally at liberty to question his German partner.
“I was.” Klaus didn't say anything about his mode of transport. “And I saw where you were taken but there were guards and it was hard to see just how many. Then they brought Ray and I was still just one against a number of them. Some left but there were at least two still there and I needed to wait for backup unless I wanted to join you! I knew you two were too tightly bound to help. I saw the guy they called Alpha, with his hosepipe and his petrol can. He sprayed me too.” So that explained his face and perhaps Heike’s urgency. “I let Heike know where I was and just hoped she would arrive in time.” Was that what Heike’s frantic conversation had been about in the ambulance? She wanted the medics to realise that Klaus had been doused with petrol too? And something about the numbers didn’t tally. “I know Reinhard and the officers with him arrested two on the road as they drew up,” Klaus went on, as if realising his story still had holes.
“Did you see the wolves?” Ray couldn’t imagine how he could have missed them if he was watching the mill house.
“The Wolves of Westphalia? Of course. And I could probably identify Alpha but I suspect he is long gone. I hope he hasn’t any of his cronies left.”
“You know what I mean. The wolves who rescued us.” There was an awkward silence then Klaus spoke haltingly.
“You know, there are a lot of stories in a country area like this, a lot of superstitions. The Wolves of Westphalia played on some of them. And maybe someone in the countryside thought to play them at their own game. But people don’t like monsters from fairy tales, even if they come to the rescue. You would be wise to say nothing about what happened, to accept that in your fear and fury you were able to unfasten your bonds and that anything else was imagination.”
“So you are saying you saw nothing?” Bodie was sceptical.
“I will tell everyone I saw nothing,” said Klaus. It wasn't quite the reply they expected.
“But the torn throats?” Ray was determined to get more information, more acknowledgement. “You said the men outside had torn throats, that that's how they died.”
“They turned on each other. Who knows what men like that will do? You've seen what they did on the farms.”
“And they shot at you?”
“In the darkness. I was behind the hedge. That’s why they only gave me a flesh wound. And Heike got her hand and her ankle hurt when she tripped on the way down the path.”
He was silent, even when Heike arrived, dressed and ready to leave, her ankle strapped up, one hand bandaged and salve smeared plentifully across blistered lips and cheeks. She ignored their questions about how she had come in contact with the petrol and it proved impossible to question her further because a doctor followed hard on her heels, ready to dismiss them to the ministrations of the police doctors if necessary or to their own devices. He had, he said, phoned Gummersbach and someone would collect them. Clothes appeared, an approximate fit, donated by the Red Cross, which amused Ray and irritated Bodie.
“We can always donate them to the British Red Cross when we get home,” said Ray. Home now seemed something that deserved a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’ and that made him cheerful despite his tiredness and his general discomfort with sore muscles and skin.
Reinhard had brought the big grey Taunus and they all got into it, careful not to press against the bandages decorating Heike and Klaus. Ray winced as his various scrapes and bruises met the upholstery but he wouldn't need plasters. The scrapes had proved shallow and were already healing. On the way back to headquarters Reinhard brought them up to date. Apart from themselves, only one officer had been hurt, the man who had gone to deal with the bikes. In retrospect they should have sent two but as everyone knew, they were stretched quite thinly and another officer at the farm could have made all the difference. In any case, Koch was only knocked out, and had been returned home by the police doctor, with instructions for his wife to watch for signs of concussion. So far as was known, all the Wolves were accounted for apart from the leader. Questioning in the police station had gathered various numbers but the men in custody plus the two dead at the mill were, they thought, the total gang other than Alpha.
“One of them was the barman from that bar with the hare,” said Ray.
“Arrested,” said Reinhard. “He was a deputy, near to the leader. But he is telling much; he is not such a big man when he the police sees. He tells us about Alpha but he does not know his name. His true name. It is the bad luck that I believe him. So Alpha is free.”
“He can’t do much on his own,” Bodie said. “And if Klaus can identify him he won’t want to be around here much more.” Klaus muttered something about not being sure enough to make an official identification and Heike was glaring at him. Ray felt disappointed but shrugged. For an identification to stand up in court it would have to be unbreakable and the fitful moonlight plus the speed and confusion of all the action would be a defendant’s dream. Perhaps Klaus could identify the man to the police who could then look for other evidence.
The Taunus coupé was missing, presumed taken by Alpha. In Gummersbach the English agents were given a replacement car, a low-slung red Opel Manta that handled like a Capri and even looked similar. It made them feel almost at home. Everyone was briefly thanked by the officer in overall charge, Polizeikommissar Erhardt Schäfer. He said he wanted full reports later but for now urged them all to go and get some sleep. The following day, he said, would be soon enough, and other forces were on the lookout for the coupé and its occupant. Ray reflected that Cowley would have wanted reports before sleep and was glad they were not in London.
Most officers drafted into the investigation had been involved in the interrogations all night and the four from the hospital, not having slept much, were also grateful to be dismissed. Heike was instantly in her own little car, heading for home and family. Klaus and Reinhard vanished almost as quickly and Bodie and Doyle were left to drive home to Landhaus Bettin.
“More mysteries,” said Bodie. “Our wolves did us proud but again, they were only just before our friends. Of course, they would have to change back to open the cellar door...”
“So you think...?”
“It seems impossible. Something out of story books.”
“But you agree.” it was a statement, not a question.
“I suppose so. I wanted to stroke the wolf. Tell him I knew he was helping me, thank him. He was real, all right, and not wild, or not in the way of a racoon or a real wolf. I'm not sure what I mean.”
“At least we both saw them. I would have hated trying to convince you.”
“Likewise. And at least we can feel confused together!”
They reached the inn and stumbled upstairs, exhausted, falling into bed as soon as they had stripped off the Red Cross clothing. Ray didn’t even remember falling asleep.
He thought he would always remember waking up, Bodie’s mouth hotly enclosing his throbbing cock, long fingers probing his arse. It seemed he had come out of a dreamless sleep into a waking dream. Bodie was all over him, all around him, clothing him in warmth and desire. Despite his cuts and bruises he felt comfortable and safe, floating in a sea of happiness.
He tried to say something but found he was incoherent and settled for threading his own fingers through the straight black hair, tightening his grasp as he neared a climax. Somewhere, somehow, Bodie had managed to buy lube, or perhaps he had simply grabbed a bottle of hand lotion, judging by the faint but pleasant aroma. His muscles remembered how to relax and he trusted Bodie completely. Ray had fantasised but had never been quite sure who would be first to penetrate the other if his dreams ever came true. Now he knew he wouldn’t have it any other way, his partner laying claim to him, stretching him, entering him, still holding his cock until he spilled into orgasm then stroking his hips, his thighs as he shuddered around his lover’s welcome invasion. Then he was aware of Bodie's orgasm, deep inside him, intimate and glorious. He felt suddenly bereft as his partner slipped out of him and rearranged them both to lie facing each other.
“O.K?” Bodie was smiling, smugly, but he clearly needed confirmation of his feelings.
“More than O.K.” Ray smiled back and moved even closer. He wanted Bodie back inside him and failing that he would touch him everywhere possible at once. He would never, he thought, let him go.
“You can... if you want...” The blue eyes were serious now, questioning.
“Later. Maybe tomorrow. And yes, I want...”
“Mmmm.” As endearments go it was less than flowery, but it was accompanied by a kiss on his ear. Ray realised it was probably the only place Bodie could reach without ending their close embrace and twisted so that their lips could touch. That worked well and it was a few minutes before they spoke again.
“Thought maybe you'd run a mile. When I said that about being jealous.”
“Ah, but I already had you in my sights, didn't I?”
“I didn't know.”
“You do now.” Bodie spoke with satisfaction and determination. Ray kissed him again and they fell silent. They both needed more sleep and soon they drifted off, securely tangled together.
Ray woke as evening fell and the street light outside the window reminded him they hadn’t closed the shutters. He was lying spooned up against Bodie, his partner’s arms firmly around him. Well, he would have to move soon. His bladder demanded a trip along the corridor and his stomach said it had to be dinner time. He turned and kissed Bodie’s nose, and then extricated himself quickly before his waking partner could take the kiss as any kind of invitation. By the time they were both up and dressed it was definitely time for dinner.
“D'you think we’ll sleep tonight?” Ray felt on top of the world and unlikely to sleep any time soon.
“If we don’t, we’ll have plenty to do.” Bodie’s reply was a lazy drawl, delivered with a grin.
“We ought to talk...” Ray felt sure they should but wasn't quite sure why.
“We've said most of it, haven't we?”
“But our partnership...”
“Intact. Improved, even.” How could Bodie sound so sure when he, Ray, had agonised so long and had never even meant to precipitate their union?
“But when we get home...”
“We’ve always lived in each others’ pockets. Who’s to know we’re sharing any more than before?”
“I won’t be able to stop smiling when I look at you!”
“So I’ll tell jokes to make it seem natural.” Bodie had an answer to everything, even the problem of Cowley.
“He'll guess,” said Ray. “He isn't the canniest Scot we know for nothing. And he knows us.”
“But why should he care? It isn't illegal and if he knows, we can't be blackmailed so it shouldn't matter. Have to be discreet, of course.” And as they went down to the dining room Bodie gave Ray an extremely indiscreet caress. Ray started to feel that it really was going to work, even when they got back to England. He didn’t need the soup or veal cutlets to make him feel warm inside.
It was good to be back in their own clothes, even if it was his second best jacket, and Ray walked into the office the next day feeling in good form. The night had been as pleasurable as Bodie had promised and they had got enough sleep to refresh them for report writing. Reinhard greeted them with the news that Simone, the youngster who made coffee and brought it round the station, had broken down in tears and confessed her part in taking the map and notes, and in keeping an eye on the comings and goings of the agents. Her admission had been prompted by the news that her boyfriend, Stefan, was one of the dead men at the mill. Simone’s parents had come to the station with her to encourage her to make a clean breast of things and help the police with their enquiries.
“Simone knew very little,” said Heike. “Stefan asked her for information about the English officers and about the team so suddenly arrived in Gummersbach. He told her that he and his friends disliked the intervention of foreigners, and he included people from anywhere outside the immediate region. Simone did not think anything strange about what he said or asked. Somehow she got him the station code, too.” They had already noticed that she was a rather dim young woman whose obvious distress and equally obvious ignorance were of no help at all. Polizeikommissar Schäfer had sent her home again, telling her parents to keep a watchful eye on her, and of course dismissing her from her menial employment at the police station.
So everything was cleared up apart from the whereabouts and identity of Alpha. The officers wrote their reports, and Heike reiterated Klaus’s warning not to mention the wolves.
“We do not need legends muddying the waters of reality,” she said, stumbling over the metaphor so that Ray suspected she had learned it from Klaus. “You are free and well. That is what matters. And you helped us. That matters, I think, to our superiors and to yours.”
“What about Uli?” Ray thought Uli’s experience might lend weight to their story but he agreed that they should perhaps not broadcast it.
“Old Krause is a strange man.” This was Reinhard, and Heike was watching him approvingly, nodding as he spoke. “If he heard noises and saw men hurt his sheep perhaps he saved Uli from them or perhaps he at first thought Uli was one of them. And perhaps he had a dog with him. Or perhaps he was angry and Uli the rest imagined. Maybe Uli can be a story writer, yes? I do not know, me, myself, you are understanding, but that is what we shall be writing. We have agreement made.” So they had an answer to everything, or at least an answer that would satisfy both the authorities and the media. Uli would be officially discredited and Krause blamed for his scratches. Neither man would know about the rewritten story, in all probability. Doyle and Bodie didn’t feel satisfied at all but they would go along with the wishes of their colleagues. There wasn’t much option if nobody would talk.
They were glad to be told they had helped. At times it hadn’t much felt like it, held prisoner twice, and only released by assistants they must never mention for fear of disbelief. But Schäfer spoke to them personally and thanked them. They had been instrumental in organising the final surveillance which had proved successful and even their imprisonment had contributed to the eventual arrests.
“You helped by your presence here,” he said. “Having foreign agents, knowing the importance of the case was recognised at an international level, that made our own officers keen. You worked out which farms to protect. And you set them a good example. Particularly you, Herr Bodie, when you offered yourself in exchange for Frau Bauer. Herr Bauer wishes me to thank you, too. I shall be sending a good report to your Herr Cowley.”
They were almost sad to say goodbye to their German colleagues. Klaus, Reinhard and Heike asked them to join them for an evening meal before flying home early the next day. Heike brought her husband, Karl, and had clearly spoken well of them for he was all smiles, commending their bravery, just as if they hadn’t allowed themselves to be captured and almost killed. They ate at an expensive restaurant in Gummersbach, an establishment that to Bodie's delight offered more than one delicious Nachtisch; then they parted company early and Bodie and Doyle drove back to their Landhaus for the last time. They would drive to Gummersbach again round about dawn and hand back the Opel; Heike would drive them to the station for an early train to Köln.
Meanwhile, they had one more night in the huge bed and they made the most of it. In England their lovemaking would be confined to one or the other of their flats and single beds would not be the same.
“Although at least I’ll have a reason to keep you very close to me,” said Bodie, laughing when Ray pointed out that he didn’t need a reason.
They slept for a while but woke before the alarm sounded. They would breakfast in Köln and the German police would settle with the Bettins. Ray left a note in schoolboy German thanking them for their hospitality and they crept down the broad stairs, hoping not to wake anyone and taking great care not to let their cases scrape the wood. The Opel took them swiftly to the office, where Heike took over and drove them to the railway terminal in the grey Taunus. When they got out and took their bags from the boot she handed them a large but not particularly heavy parcel.
“It is a gift from your colleagues,” she said. “We chose it carefully to remind you of your experiences here. Please do not open it before you get to England. We have put a notice on it so that the customs officers will not worry about what is in it.”
“Diplomatic bag?” Bodie joked as they finished thanking her. But he took the parcel and they shook Heike’s outstretched hand then went into the station.
Köln was heaving with rush hour commuters and they had a quick breakfast at a coffee bar, then with a bare half hour to spare Doyle persuaded Bodie to forego a second Danish pastry in favour of a brief visit to the cathedral. Its glorious spires, so close to the main station, were hard to resist for anyone with any interest in art or architecture and Ray was glad Bodie gave way. He felt honoured, too; Bodie and breakfast were not easily parted.
They checked in at the airport, assuring the security people that yes, they had packed everything themselves, blatantly ignoring the big box with the police stamp on it. Afterwards they managed to grab another coffee and a sandwich in a small airside café and Bodie grinned.
“See how much I care?” he said, and Ray nodded, grinning back. But really, he thought, it had been better to postpone the second round of breakfast; it gave them something to do while waiting for the plane. Airport shopping wasn’t something that was likely to appeal to either of them.
They chatted idly about the wolves, their very own wolves, not the Wolves of Westphalia.
“Do you reckon just Klaus plus a mate, or Klaus and Heike, or what?” Ray knew instantly what Bodie meant.
“Klaus and Heike,” he said. “Look at their injuries. And how determined they were that we should at least stay silent about it. I think the others were just guided by them; that's if anyone other than Reinhard even knew or suspected. I think Reinhard must have known.”
“But there must be some kind of local knowledge. They can't be completely unseen, not all the time.”
“Maybe it all just happens when it's really necessary, like the fighting dogs Klaus told us about. And we saw them.” Ray remembered the lovely fur and the wolf's warm breath. He felt confused and honoured and unsure.
“Yes, we saw them. And even if we can't tell anyone, we won't forget.” Bodie smiled and Ray smiled back at him. Then a voice told them to go to their boarding gate and they were back in a world of modern marvels instead of ancient ones.
The flight was uneventful and they didn't talk though they allowed their hands to touch. Ray thought with amusement how long he had worried about wanting Bodie and how prosaic his partner was about it all. He could learn to be laid back and casual about it too, he thought, now that he was certain of Bodie’s regard. It was more than lust. That he knew for sure. Yes, there was an element of lust; of course there was. But there was also the deep partnership, the relationship built up over the years they had been together, the passionate involvement in all aspects of each other’s lives. It had taken a trip abroad and a strange German bed to bring it all out into the open but now that it was clear between them there were no doubts. The wolves had drawn them even closer together. He gave a small sigh of contentment.
They were picked up at Heathrow and driven to CI5 Headquarters where they presented Cowley with their reports, glad they had already written them in Germany. Their boss, who had been speaking to Schäfer by phone, already knew about the limited success of the operation.
“And not so limited,” he said. “You’ve helped stop a nasty group of terrorists, pleased our European friends and arrived home safe and sound. You can be proud of yourselves, lads.”
“And Alpha?” Ray had to ask.
“No doubt he’ll try to whip up interest in his ideas again but I’m thinking he won’t have as much success. The German papers are full of the atrocities and the majority of the population will look askance at any attempt to start the same kind of group again. Also, I believe the Germans now know who they’re looking for or rather, looking at. Thanks to that colleague of yours, that Wolperding chap, they’ve identified a local man, mayor of somewhere near Wolfkammer, I think. He has hidden behind quite liberal politics to date. Your man said he recognised him in the car headlights near that mill. Funny name, Wolperding. Isn’t that some kind of mythical beastie?”
Ray gave a brief explanation, but neither of them mentioned the wolves. Their boss would never believe them, would think it was some kind of joke, and in any case, it was over.
They were dismissed with instructions to report for duty in the morning and they drove to Ray’s flat, glad to be back on the right, or rather the left, side of the road. They picked up some milk on the way and enjoyed a cup of tea as soon as they got in. Then Bodie looked at the mystery package.
“We should open it now,” he said. “I wonder what they’ve chosen for us.” He slit the tape with a knife and they uncovered a thin-walled wooden box filled with shredded paper packaging. “Something fragile, by the looks of it.”
He shook the remains of the paper away from their gift. It was a small stuffed head, a hare with horns, looking smug and mysterious in the afternoon sunshine. They stared at it without speaking then Ray pulled a note from the bottom of the box.
“ ‘From your colleagues’,” he read, “ ‘with gratitude, both for your help and for your silence. In case you didn’t already know, petrol tastes foul. But it was all worth it. This gift should remind you that things are not always what they seem, and that legend can be inextricably intertwined with fact.’ It’s typed but it's signed by Klaus, and Heike has added her signature too.” They stared at the head in fascination.
“The only thing now,” said Bodie eventually, “is to decide where to keep it. Your place or mine?”
“Does it matter?” said Ray. “We’ll be together anyway.” And he rested the hare's head on the mantelpiece, from where it watched them, not in the least shocked or surprised by their sudden and passionate embrace.