Conspiracy of Swords
Alex and Teren were headed toward the cemetery when a car passed them, going at top speed. Teren recognized it as the one from earlier in the day.
She glanced at Alex, and noticed the younger agent was examining the papers from Odbert's mattress, her face stoically blank.
Neither of them had spoken of the death of the old man.
"Anything in there?"
"Not much. Mostly church business. Stuff about the renovation and -- " she paused as she held up a envelope, "wait, hang on, here's a letter from the States."
"Anyone we know?"
"Can't tell, can't see it very well in the dark."
"How do you know it's from the US, then?"
"I recognize the stamp." Alex waited for the car to pass beneath another street light. "Ah, it's from Washington."
"The state, or the capital?"
"Capital." Alex put the letter down and continued looking through the bundle. "I can't really see anything else of interest at the moment. It's not easy to tell, though."
Teren nodded. "Do you want to put them into my duffel?"
"No, I think they'll fit in my briefcase."
"With your computer? Alex, that thing's getting pretty full."
Alex grinned, even though she knew Teren couldn't see her in the dark. "I know. That's what they made expansion straps for." She reached over the back seat and snagged her case. After releasing the expansion snaps, the papers slid in easily, and she closed the case, depositing it behind her seat.
"Do you know where this cemetery is?"
Teren squinted as a car with a set of bright lights passed them. "Yeah, I know where it is. Or the general area, at least."
"I wish I had your experience with Europe, Teren."
It took a moment for Teren to answer. Then she said, "No, you don't, Alex."
They were both quiet for several more moments. Teren turned a corner, and Alex could see the outline of headstones through the iron fence they were passing.
"Teren?" Alex's voice was very soft.
"Why do you think he helped us?"
There was a heavy sigh from the driver's side. "I don't know, Alex. Maybe it was his way of salvaging his conscience."
"Maybe." Teren began to slow the car. "You liked him, Teren, didn't you?"
"Yes. I think I understood him, a little."
Alex nodded in the darkness. She said nothing more.
Teren pulled the car into a small area behind some trees. Opening up her bag again, she pulled out her infrared glasses, and surveyed the area around them. There were a few red blips, but nothing big enough to be a human. She turned them off, and looked at Alex.
"For going tomb hunting? Oh, sure, just what I wanted to do tonight."
Teren smiled, happy Alex was trying to hang onto her sense of humor. Sometimes, she thought, it's all we really have.
"Let's go, then."
They both checked their weapons, and left the car.
It took them several minutes to find the tomb of Baron Von Nievenheim. The squat gray building showed signs of aging, and the statue out front was missing half of his head. Weeds and bushes had grown up around the area, and vines of some kind covered part of the front and side. The inscription on the vault was barely readable, and the dates of the Baron's life had all but withered away.
"Okay, Teren, we found the tomb," Alex whispered as she pulled on a set of gloves, "now what?"
Teren stood still, staring at the front wall, her small flashlight trained on the rough stone seal. There was no obvious door, and no lock. There had to be a way in, though.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm waiting for the tomb to show me how to get in," Teren whispered back.
Alex just stared at her. "O-kay."
She studied the building for a few more minutes, aware of Alex jumping up and down beside her to keep warm. There was something not right about the tomb. Something that just didn't fit, but Teren couldn't tell what it was.
Her friend stopped jumping and looked at her. "Figured it out yet?"
"What are you looking for?"
Teren sighed and glanced at Alex. "Something's out of place. I can't tell what it is. Once I figure it out, it'll tell me how to get in."
"Oh." Alex moved to stand beside her and stare at the tomb. Then she squinted and took a step forward. "Teren, have you noticed that these vines here are the only things around here with green on them?"
The dark woman stared at her. "That's it. That's what out of place." Teren stepped forward and touched one of the vines. "They're plastic."
"Who would put plastic vines on a tomb?"
"Maybe someone who wanted the covering year round?"
Alex raised her eyebrows in understanding. Teren moved the flashlight to her mouth and began to feel under the plastic foliage. She followed one particular stemlike piece, and stopped abruptly. Moving it gently aside, she found what she'd been looking for.
With a smug look at Alex, Teren pulled out her set of picks and went to work. A moment later the tumbler clicked, and a small door, whose dimensions had been hidden by the fake vines, appeared.
Teren took a look around the cemetery. The wind had stopped, and the moon had begun to set. There were the normal night sounds, of insects, and distant dogs barking. Satisfied that they were alone, she motioned to Alex, and they stepped into the tomb.
Teren's flashlight only illuminated a small area, but it gave just enough light to show that the room was full of wooden crates -- not coffins.
Alex lifted the top off one, and peered inside. The crate was lined inside with metal to keep the elements out, and foam padding to protect the contents from damage during moving. The contents of the crate were several wooden frames. Alex gently pried one part way up, and found a portrait of a young woman.
"I don't recognize this, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was by Renoir."
Teren had pulled the lid off of another, much smaller wooden box, to find trays of old coins. "Hey, Alex, ever seen a real Roman coin?"
"Here's your chance."
Carefully sliding the painting back down, Alex glanced towards her partner. "You know this stuff's worth a fortune." She picked up the lid and repositioned it on the crate. "We can't just leave it all here, Teren."
"I don't intend to. Soon as we get out of here, we're calling the BKA."
"Bundeskriminalamt. They handle the investigations of all neo-Nazi activities."
"Good. Are we going to tell them everything we learned from -- Odbert?" She hesitated just a moment before saying the name.
"I don't think so. I don't think we should even let them know we're here."
"Right. So, we're calling them, and hopping on a plane, right?"
Teren replaced the cover on the box she'd been looking through. "Something like that."
They spent several more minutes looking at the items in the tomb. Paintings, boxes of statues, and crates of metal works were crowded into the small building. Alex found several items she could identify from the list she'd seen. Teren came across a box of gold coins -- all with Hitler's profile on them.
"So, you want to make that call?"
Teren pulled out her phone and keyed it on. It showed no service.
"Damn. I think the walls of the tomb are too thick. We'll have to step out." She shrugged. "Better if we don't touch too much more anyway."
"Right." Alex made her way back around the boxes, and joined Teren at the front door. The taller woman inched the door open, keeping an eye out for anything that might be out of the ordinary. Not seeing anything out of place, she opened it further, and both of them slipped through it.
Teren closed the door and then stripped her gloves off. She stuffed them in her pocket, and led the way back to the car. As they walked, she pulled her phone out again, and turned it on.
Suddenly, she froze. Alex, who'd been following closely, was surprised, but kept her balance and didn't bump into the taller woman.
"What is it?" she whispered.
"Voices. Get down."
They each ducked behind a headstone, but not before the voices turned to shouts, and Teren realized they'd been spotted. Cursing herself for not paying better attention, she tried to dial the phone one handed as she pulled her gun.
The first couple of bullets whistled by, but the third hit the tombstone she was hiding behind. There were several more in a row, and she had to shake stone chips out of her hair.
Alex had drawn her weapon, and was returning fire. She saw Teren trying to dial, and allowed herself to hope that help would come soon. Then she crept a little farther away from her partner, hoping to draw fire while Teren made the call. It seemed to be working, as several shots thunked into the stones around her.
Teren heard the phone pick up, but it was a recording, and it only offered a different number for emergencies. Angrily, she cut off the mechanical voice, and tried to dial again. Before she could, a ricochet plunked into the ground near her feet. She realized they were trying to flank her, so she turned, firing rapidly into the stand of trees to her right. She was rewarded by a body falling from them. With a grim smile, Teren turned back to her attackers, grabbing the top of the tombstone with her left hand as she fired with her right.
A moment later she realized that had been a bad move as a stray bullet took the phone from her left hand.
Alex had continued to try to draw attention from her friend, but there were fewer and fewer shots coming her way. Either they were waiting for her to make a move, or they were concentrating on Teren. Either way, she wasn't staying here, and she rolled across an open space between two graves. There was no shot, so she took to her feet, crouching and heading further into the trees to flank their attackers.
She saw a shadow at the tree in front of her, his gun raised. Not wanting him to alert the others to her movement, she crept up on him, slowly, her gun ready.
A slick spot on the grass made her foot slip just a touch, but it was enough. The man whipped around, and they both froze.
Teren had run out of bullets again, and was trying to change clips, with her left hand bleeding. She managed to load the gun, and turned to fire again. The shots had been coming a little slower, but she was worried, because she'd lost sight of Alex. There hadn't been a sound from her partner, and she could only hope that the woman was safe.
There was a pause in the firing, and Teren decided to take a chance. She didn't want Alex to give away her position, in case she'd managed to get around to the side, or even behind them, but she needed to know that Alex was okay.
"Alex? If you can hear me, let me know!"
She waited a moment
"I'm here, Teren!"
The call came from her left. Satisfied her partner was safe for the moment, she rolled that way, showing herself briefly between two granite markers. More bullets kicked up the dirt around her. It allowed her to pinpoint where the gunman was, and she came up firing.
Alex knew Teren was okay. That was the important thing. She and Gerd had worked their way around, and overpowered one man. Another, Gerd had shot, not able to get close enough for anything else. The last one or two appeared to be hidden in a copse of trees, which was partially obscured by a tall statue. It was the last place where the bullets were coming from, and they were all aimed at Teren's position.
Gerd scooted next to her and whispered in her ear.
"I have a flashlight. I'll drift to the side and shine it towards them, you should be able to see them, at least partially. You'll have the better line of fire, so take it, alright?"
She nodded, and he crawled away.
Several moments later, the light came on, perfectly outlining a man in the trees. He tried to step backwards, but Alex's shot took him off his feet. He dropped, and didn't move.
Gerd turned off the flashlight. There was no sound but the wind in the trees, and the sudden call of a night bird.
"Teren?" Alex waited for a reply, and when there was none, she felt a cold hand touch her back. "Teren, where are you?"
Still no answer, and she began to work her way through the trees. Finally, she decided to take a chance, and she stepped out from behind them. There was nothing, and she took a few cautious steps towards where her partner had been.
And froze, as a figure rose pointing a gun at her.
"So sorry to end it this way, Miss Reed."
"Yes." She heard the click as the gun was cocked. "You can meet your friend in hell."
Alex flung herself to the ground as he fired. There was a second gun shot, followed closely by a third. As she looked up, she saw Eisenbein's body slumped over a gravestone.
"Alex?" Gerd called to her.
"I'm fine. Thanks for the help." She stood, brushing herself off. "Teren?" This time a soft moan reached her ears and she took off across the small open space.
Teren was laying behind a row of headstones, flat on her back. Her gun was still clutched in her right hand, and her left was leaning against the gray granite.
Gerd joined her, and turned his flashlight on. Suddenly Alex could see the blood coming from the side of Teren's head.
"Gerd, get an ambulance." He was already speaking urgently into the phone.
Alex pulled her jacket off, and used it to help cradle Teren's head. She used one of the sleeves to cover the wound applying as much pressure as she dared.
"Help is on the way, Alex."
She nodded, not speaking. Her tears dripped onto Teren's forehead and she brushed them away.
"You can ride in the ambulance with her, Alex."
Another nod. Then she looked up at him. "No." Moving slowly, she drew her gun from her holster, aiming it at Gerd's chest.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Promise me, Gerd. Promise me your friends are going to take care of her."
"I promise, Alex. Please, put the gun down."
"I'm going to trust you, because you helped us. But you're staying with me. Teren will go in the ambulance, but I have to get our car. And you're going with me." She paused. "I swear on my grandfather's grave, if you betray us, I'll blow your fucking head off."
He nodded. "I swear, Alex. I'll help you." Gerd knelt slowly. "I'll help both of you."
Alex nodded, and reholstered her gun. She looked back down at Teren's still face, running a hand across her forehead.
Goddammit, Teren. Don't you leave me. I need you. Please . . . Alex let her thoughts trail off.
They sat there until the sound of approaching vehicles cut through the night air.
Continued in Chapter 32
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