Chapter Two Thousand Three Hundred Forty-Two
2nd December 1974
The club was an old institution with photographs on the walls that boasted of a storied past and an exclusive membership. That all seemed rather remote as the membership had aged and dwindled. These clubs that were once the unofficial halls of power within the Empire had not changed with the times and that was reflected over the decades as the only new thing they seemed to collect was dust. Franz Josef Strauss however found the one he was in to be an oasis away from the insanity that teemed on the streets of Berlin. It was like a machine that was poorly tuned and on the verge of spinning out of control, only continuing to work because it always had. In the club, he could get a meal and enjoy a short time of retrospection before he had to go out and deal with this city again.
Looking at his meal, Franz was reminded anew of how much he hated this city as his appetite vanished. It corrupted everything and everyone within it. The cut of meat on his plate next to the potatoes and vegetables reminded him of the latest incident he had been assigned to investigate which he already feared was the work of Birsha Bleier or at least one of his underlings. He had already seen what happened when the Criminal Kingpin wanted to make an example of someone too many times. This time, it had been what could only be described as an orgy of blood and fire. The State Medical Examiner was still trying to piece together just how many bodies had been left behind.
“You shouldn’t be brooding” Birsha said as he sat down across the table from Franz. Speak of the Devil and he appears, Franz though sourly to himself. Due to the club rules, Birsha had checked his usual frock coat, revealing the black suit he always wore underneath it. Franz might have asked whose funeral he was going the be attending but he suspected that Birsha would think that was a joke. The sense of humor of a man like Birsha was the sort of thing Franz shuttered to even think about. “Tonight, is one where we need to celebrate” Birsha concluded.
“I saw the warehouse by the river” Franz replied, “That was extreme even for you and not cause for celebration.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about” Birsha replied. He wasn’t foolish enough to admit to having been involved in what had happened earlier that day in the presence of Franz. It didn’t matter if Birsha had Franz by the balls, this was simply too big for him not to act, regardless of the personal and professional consequences. “If I did have an idea though… I would say that it was necessary to convince our friends from Bratva that Germany was not open to them. Hypothetically speaking that is.”
Franz looked sourly at Birsha. He suspected that Birsha Bleier, a particularly dark handle, wasn’t his real name but part of a persona he had adopted years earlier when he had become a Lieutenant of Otto Mischner within the GS. There was nothing before that. It was as if Birsha had fallen from the sky a couple decades earlier. Even as he had the thought, it occurred to Franz that someone like Birsha wouldn’t have come from the sky, rather he would have been far more likely to rise up from Hell.
“Are you eating this?” Birsha asked as he slid Franz’s plate across the table. And Franz wondered where the Waiter, Host, or any of the other staff in the club had vanished to. One would think that they would take issue with Birsha’s mere presence. Of course, who among them would dare to lay a finger on the head the GS syndicate? That was asking for a closed casket funeral if your remains were ever found.
“When I was a boy, the war meant that food was always scarce” Birsha said, talking with his mouth full. “We received rations from the State, but those didn’t ever seem to go far enough towards being filled. So, if there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s wasting food.”
That was in keeping with what they presumed was Birsha’s age. He would have been an adolescent during the Soviet War. There had been rations intended for adults and children. Those that fell in between tended to either get too much, or not enough, depending on what amounted to the luck of the draw.
“You might recall that your predecessors used a great deal of discretion in how they went about their business” Franz said, hating that he had to speak with this man as opposed to throwing him into a deep, dark hole.
“Proves what you know” Birsha replied, “I was the one who frequently had to clean up the mess when they got excessive.”
Otto Mischner was dead and buried. Jarl Gunnarsson had simply vanished. No one knew exactly what had happened, but he was gone and Birsha Bleier had taken his place. Franz understood what it took to stay on top of such an organization and that his usefulness for Birsha was the only thing keeping him alive.
“Be that as it may” Franz said, “What do you want? I know you didn’t come here to reminisce.”
“I though you would never ask” Birsha said, and Franz knew that he wasn’t going like the answer to that question.