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- ISBN: 9780727889430
- ISBN: 0727889435
- Physical Description: 185 pages ; 23 cm.
- Edition: First World edition.
- Publisher: London : Severn House, 2019.
Series information from book.
"Munich, 1920. Detective Willi Geismeier has a problem: how do you uphold the law when the law goes bad? The First World War has been lost and Germany is in turmoil. The new government in Berlin is weak. The police and courts are corrupt. Fascists and Communists are fighting in the streets. People want a savior, someone who can make Germany great again. To many, Adolf Hitler seems perfect for the job. When the offices of a Munich newspaper are bombed, Willi Geismeier investigates, but as it gets political, he is taken off the case. Willi continues to ask questions, but when his pursuit of the truth itself becomes a crime, his career - and his life - are in grave danger."-- from publisher.
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|Genre:||Detective and mystery fiction.
The Good Cop
By Peter Steiner
Severn House Publishers Limited
All rights reserved.
Recent Titles by Peter Steiner,
The Argonne, November 11, 1918,
The River Styx,
Das Neue Deutsche Bild,
Das Alte Rosenbad,
February 24, 1920,
Baron Von Plottwietz,
The Grand Scenario,
The Privy Counselor,
The Munich Post,
The Detective Sergeant,
Honoring The Dead,
Blood In The Snow,
The People's Court,
The Black Hand,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
The Long Leash,
The River Isar,
Wendt and Bergemann,
The Criminal Class,
The Good Cop,
The Lying Press,
The Evidence Room,
September 14, 1930,
Sergeant Ludwig Marschach,
The Tea Kettle,
The Munich Post,
The Thousand-Year Reich,
The American Cemetery,
THE ARGONNE, NOVEMBER 11, 1918
Sergeant Maximilian Wolf of the Sixteenth Royal Bavarian Infantry lost almost his entire squad the last morning of the war. It was announced the fighting would end at eleven o'clock. All they had to do was wait, keep their heads down and it would be over. The trouble was the Americans had lost a lot of men crossing the Meuse, and General Pershing kept attacking. He was going to teach the Germans a lesson. Mortars rained down on them in the trenches. And when that happened, the captain ordered them over the top.
Some of the men – schoolboys, really – had arrived the day before in clean uniforms. They didn't have fleas or lice or rotting feet. They had terror in their eyes. They lit cigarettes with shaking hands. Now they were dead.
Levi Adler, Maximilian's friend, was dead too. Maximilian and Levi had fought side by side for four years – first against the French and now against the Americans. Levi was dead and Maximilian was alive, and Maximilian couldn't say which of them was the lucky one.
Now it was over. Maximilian sat on the edge of the trench and ate his ration of black bread and sausage. He drank deeply from his canteen. The water was warm and smelled of sulfur. He smoked a cigarette. He took a small notebook from his chest pocket and opened it to the drawing of Levi he had made days earlier. The eyes were wild and full of life. He turned to a blank page, rested his helmet on his lap and the notebook on the helmet, and began to draw what he saw across the battlefield.
Soldiers from both sides climbed out of the trenches, tentatively at first, but then more confidently. There were a few cheers on both sides as the truth of the Armistice sank in, but most of the men walked around in silence. A crow was cawing somewhere. American and then German soldiers picked their way across the mud to find anyone still alive. The air smelled of ordnance and blood and shit.
During his four years in combat, Maximilian had been seriously wounded twice, not counting the gassings. Once, early on, a piece of shrapnel had torn open his cheek and temple just behind his eye. A year later, white phosphorus had burned his entire back into scar tissue and taken him out of action for three months. His back still looked like a slab of meat, white and gristly with ropey purple and crimson stripes. It never stopped hurting.
'Here's Hagen,' someone shouted. Maximilian nodded to show he had heard. Hagen was one of the new ones. Maximilian couldn't remember what he had looked like. It didn't matter. He didn't look like anyone now.
Maximilian took the Iron Cross from his chest. The captain had always ordered anyone with decorations to wear them. 'For the Fatherland,' he had said. Maximilian dropped the medal where he had dropped his cigarette and ground them both into the mud with his heel. He went to help bury Hagen, or what was left of him.
The next morning Maximilian cinched the Luger high around his middle and pulled his tunic down over it. He filled his pocket with bullets. What remained of the company fell into formation and marched off the battlefield in a column of twos. The Americans stood and watched them go.
They came to a road where the trickle of men became a muddy brown river. The captain called out the cadence from time to time, in that high Prussian trill Maximilian hated. The men ignored the captain and walked as they pleased, out of step mostly.
They passed ruined farms with the bloated carcasses of horses and cows lying about, their stiff legs pointing toward the sky. They walked through what had once been forest but was now shards of shattered wood lying among splintered stumps and churned-up earth. You could see what was left of a steeple in the distance. The town – Fleury – was badly damaged. What windows remained were shuttered. No one watched as they passed.
A skinny dog came out of nowhere. It ran up to one man after the other until someone dug into his pocket and gave the dog a piece of dry biscuit. The dog ran with them then. Someone else gave it a scrap of food. It ran up to Maximilian. He reached down and patted the starving animal on his trembling ribs. Maximilian found a piece of sausage in his kit and fed it to the dog. The dog licked his fingers. And as it did, Maximilian felt tears well in his eyes. Thank God, thought Maximilian. I'm still in here somewhere.CHAPTER 2
THE RIVER STYX
The soldiers crowded into third-class carriages: four men on a wooden bench meant for two. And when the seats were gone men squatted or sat in the aisles as best they could. Every car in the train was packed with men. Even between the cars, where you could see the tracks below, they crouched or stood, one on top of the other, their rifles between their legs, their kits on their laps or backs. There were a hundred men in a car meant for thirty. It was winter and there was no heat, but the air was stifling and foul. Before they had all settled into place, the train lurched into motion.
Maximilian sat jammed against the window. The man next to him looked old, probably forty. You could see where the rank insignia had been torn from his uniform. Tufts of white hair sprouted here and there on his head and cheeks; he had great black bags under his watery eyes. Almost as soon as he sat down, he was asleep. His head hung heavy on his hollow chest. His breaths were shallow and rapid. He had a rattling cough deep in his chest. He whimpered from time to time without knowing he was doing so.
There was little conversation anywhere in the car, mostly just the sound of coughing or sneezing. No one knew it at the time, but the influenza epidemic had begun. In a month, the old soldier beside Maximilian would be dead from the flu. And by the end of next year the flu would kill fifty million people, three times the more than sixteen million people that had died in the war. The flu would spread around the world as soldiers returned home from the Great War.
The rocking of the car, the slow click-clack of the wheels, sent Maximilian into a dreamless sleep. After an hour the train shuddered to a stop, blowing out great puffs of steam. The men were ordered off the train. 'It's going back,' the captain said. But the train didn't move. Some men smoked. Those who needed to took a few perfunctory steps in the direction of a small wood and pissed onto the tracks. After an hour or so they were ordered back on the same train and it moved out again.
Fourteen hours and five unexplained stops later, they arrived at the barracks above the Main River north of Würzburg. The vineyards in the hills were intact but barren. There was a cold red sunset over the Main. Maximilian and what remained of his squad (ten men; three had disappeared since they had left the front) were assigned a room, with two ruined metal cots, an empty filing cabinet, and one electric light hanging from a cord in the center of the room. There was an adjoining washroom with a long metal sink, three showers, and two latrines. There was only cold water, but everything worked.
After an hour Maximilian took his squad to stand in line in the field kitchen in the center of the parade ground. From a huge kettle they were given a steaming bowl of hot potato soup, a slab of black bread spread with schmalz, and hot tea.
The three men who had disappeared were deserters. But what exactly had they deserted? There was no longer a functioning German government, so there was no longer any authority overseeing the demobilization of the military. The army was functioning essentially out of habit, like a headless chicken running in circles because its body doesn't yet know it is dead. Commands still came down from above, established patterns were acted upon, but without either authority or purpose.
Maximilian knew that. The captain had said as much. 'We're feeding and housing the men because we're the Kaiser's soldiers. It is what we do.' But the Kaiser had fled to Holland long ago. They were nobody's army.
Maximilian knew it was only a few days, weeks at best, until the military collapsed in on itself. 'That won't happen, Sergeant,' said the captain as though it were up to him. 'Our mission now is to prevent a soviet government from taking over.' His mission maybe, thought Maximilian. In fact, the army broke up. Some just went home and some joined small private armies, so-called Freikorps, that took one side or the other. The captain ended up leading a group of fifty men with the fanciful name the National Freedom Militia. They fought pitched battles in the streets of Würzburg against members of the Workers' and Soldiers' Council which, in the absence of an established order, had taken over running the city.
Before dawn, Maximilian made his way to the edge of the city. He hitched a ride in a truck delivering hops to a brewery in Munich. The driver had a picture of a woman and child dangling from his mirror. He looked Maximilian up and down. 'From the front?' he said.
'No,' said Maximilian, although his uniform and kit said otherwise.
'What was it like?' said the man.
'I don't know,' said Maximilian. They rode the rest of the way mostly in silence.
Maximilian got out by the Leinthaler Bridge over the Isar River. 'Good luck,' said the driver.
'Thanks,' said Maximilian.
A beggar sat on the sidewalk halfway across the bridge, a cup in front of him. He wore a uniform, and, as Maximilian drew closer, he saw that the man had no face. That is, there was a hole where his nose had once been, and his jaw had been shot away and replaced with a metal prosthesis. What was left were two large eyes of piercing blue with lush long lashes. You could tell he had been a beautiful man.
'Welcome home, Kamerad,' said the man, and his eyes smiled. His mechanical jaw moved up and down like the jaw of a marionette, but his speech sounded almost normal. He picked up a concertina that lay at his side and began playing. It was Schubert's 'Erlkönig', of all things. After the introduction, he sang the entire song. A father and his son are on horseback galloping toward home. The child cries out that the Elf King is trying to harm him. The father sees nothing but the landscape around them. But he still rides desperately, driven by his son's agony. They arrive home too late. 'In seinen Armen das Kind war tod – in his arms the child was dead.'
'I have nothing to give you,' said Maximilian when the song had finished.
'Sit down for a while,' said the man. 'That's good enough.' He gestured as though he were offering Maximilian a chair.
Maximilian sat down beside him. 'Were you a singer ... before ...?'
'I was. The Bavarian State Opera. But now nobody can stand to look at me. What about you?'
'I'm an artist.' He took out his notebook and showed the man.
'Draw me,' said the man.
'What's your name?' said Maximilian, and started to draw.
Maximilian sat with Klaus for an hour. The sunshine warmed them.
'Don't be fooled,' said Klaus. 'Munich looks normal. But you're entering hell. This is the Styx.' He gestured toward the river. 'I am Charon. Of course, you're leaving hell too. Both sides are hell.' They both laughed.
'Wasn't Charon a ferryman?' said Maximilian.
'Oh, they built a bridge. They don't need a ferryman anymore. Be well, Kamerad,' said Klaus, and gave Maximilian his hand.CHAPTER 3
DAS NEUE DEUTSCHE BILD
Maximilian Wolf – no one called him Max except Inge – started each day face down on the sagging couch. Inge, his sister, rubbed salve onto his damaged back. He closed his eyes against the pain and listened to the sounds of the city – the grinding of the streetcar wheels, the deep chiming of the bells from the Frauenkirche, Munich's great cathedral. He counted. Eight o'clock.
Karl, Inge's husband, was dead, killed somewhere in France. She had thrown her arms around Maximilian and wept when he had shown up at her door.
'It's me, Ingelchen,' he said. But she could see that, as emaciated as he was. She pulled him into the kitchen and fed him soup.
'Stay with me, Maxi,' she said. 'You can stay with me.'
He slept on the couch.
Inge took in laundry. Every day she scrubbed other people's linens in the sink in the stairwell and hung the wash on a line stretched across the courtyard. Clean wash in the sunlight was pretty much the greatest joy she knew.
The new German Republic had written a wonderful new constitution, modeled on the American one, founded on hope and aspiration, guaranteeing full freedom and universal democracy. The trouble was the left wanted a soviet union, the right wanted a dictatorship, and the army General Staff wanted control. Then came the Treaty of Versailles with its humiliating terms. The military was mostly eliminated, or was supposed to be. Parts of Germany were torn off by Poland, France, Belgium, Denmark. They were like jackals tearing at the flesh of a felled beast. Reparations of a staggering sum were to be paid to the victorious allies. There was no choice: the German Republic had to sign the treaty and, in that moment, it signed its own death warrant.
Some veterans wore their uniforms around; Maximilian never did. He was tall and strong now. You could see that. And the scar along his cheek made you think twice. People let him pass.
He had worked for two months at a slaughterhouse leading horses to their death. The work was day to day, and the pay was minuscule. Still, some days he was able to bring some scraps of meat home. Sometimes he even had a little extra to sell. The work ended once the animals ran out. He swept streets then, until the street-sweeping ended. What was the point of sweeping streets in an unraveling society? At the moment their district was controlled by Spartacists whose objective was to join the Soviet Union. They wore red armbands. Even with all their guns, everybody knew they wouldn't last. Not in Munich.
Maximilian and Inge survived. They managed at least one meal a day. This morning it was potatoes, turnips, and some red beans in a broth made with oats. Maximilian carried the dishes to the hall and washed them. 'Maybe today I'll find something,' he said. He put on a clean shirt and jacket and left to look for work. He went out every morning, threading his way through cold, barren streets, past armed men behind improvised barricades. They clutched their weapons and glowered at him as he passed.
At the District Municipal Office a new notice said a printer needed a part-time delivery man. When Maximilian got to the address, there were already fifty people ahead of him. Someone came out and announced that the job was filled. Nearby a baker was looking for a helper. That job was filled too. A small weekly newspaper was looking for a reporter. Maximilian knew nothing about newspapers or reporting, but he went to the newspaper office anyway. There were only three people ahead of him: two men and a woman. The woman had journalism experience, and the editor, a small, bald man with thick round glasses, offered her the job. 'I'm sorry,' he said to Maximilian. 'The job is filled.'
Maximilian was about to leave when he looked at that week's paper displayed along the entry wall. Das Neue Deutsche Bild. Maximilian turned to the editor. 'The New German Picture?' he said. 'So, where are the pictures?'
The editor smiled. 'We can't afford a photographer. Or, for that matter, a darkroom. Are you a photographer?'
'No,' said Maximilian. 'But I draw.'
'Can you show me something?'
Maximilian was back in thirty minutes with his notebook. The editor turned the pages and saw soldiers in masks during an attack – you could almost smell the gas. There was a drawing of trenches in the pouring rain. Levi's face. Soldiers searching for their injured comrades. Dead farm animals. The starving dog. Klaus with his concertina. Armed Spartacists at a barricade waiting to attack. Hungry children. A dead body on the steps of a church.
'I can't pay you much,' the editor said. He named a sum, and Maximilian agreed that it wasn't much. But he took it. His job would be to wander the city and capture moments of life in Munich. 'Political life, preferably,' said the editor, Erwin Czieslow. 'But, then, everything is political these days, isn't it? Hunger, poverty ... so, draw whatever you see.'
Maximilian went all over the city, drawing political rallies, beggars, city officials, barricaded revolutionaries. Erwin printed some of his drawings in every issue, sometimes as story illustrations, and sometimes as stand-alone pictures of the life they were all living.
One day Maximilian did a series of drawings of Orthodox Jews. When the paper came out the next day, three drawings of the Jews – one of the bearded patriarch in his caftan, one of his son and his wife, and one of the children with their mother – were featured on the back page over an article with the headline FOREIGN WAYS THREATEN OUR GERMAN REPUBLIC. The piece went on to say that Germanic values were rooted deep in the soil of the Fatherland. The new Germany needed a unified people to survive and endure. But the German nation and its new order were under threat from the terrible Versailles Treaty and the inhuman reparations it demanded.
Excerpted from The Good Cop by Peter Steiner. Copyright © 2019 Peter Steiner. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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