Gunther was not just angry, he was incandescent with fury. To think that he had been obliged to crawl on the floor to anyone, let alone a man like...like Daniel Preston. Was that who he really was, a stupid harmless Englishman ? My god, if Father could see me now he would shoot me for the shame of it, if I did not shoot myself first! But his face, he was identical in every way to that damned American, Nathan King, except for one detail. A tiny thing that had been troubling him all the way back to Frankfurt. What was it that was different, what was the clue that exposed the lie ? He pondered some more on the matter as his helicopter took him back to the castle, and just as he was landing, he put his finger on the problem; of course! How could he have been so stupid! Body double or not, that man really was NOT Nathan King, not with a pale, almost sallow complexion like that. Ever since he had known Nathan, first as a child and later as a man, he had always been one for the outdoors, always off hunting Bear, skiing, fishing, he had a year round weathered tan and even on the very few occasions that he had been unwell he still sported a healthy looking glow. Well so be it. It may only be a matter of fate that Daniel Preston happens to be the doppelganger of Nathan King, but for that shaming you can share his destiny! How very interesting it is that it was my people, Germans, who gave the world that word ‘doppelganger', but when I finish you will both be dead! No more doppelgangers! As for the Bolivians, all in good time. They will be only too willing to trade when the right moment comes.
Ed was the driver for the main part of the journey. The three of them sped West out of Zurich heading for Basle, and from there they turned North onto the E35 towards Strasbourg. After a very fast hour of expert driving they pulled into a rest-stop for a meal, and to buy a few odds and ends to make the journey more comfortable. The ‘odds and ends' were mainly chocolate bars and bottled water. All three of them were in good sprits, laughing and regaling each other with tall stories, some not so tall as they sounded. Daniel spoke fluent German, albeit with a Swiss accent -his legacy as a long-time Swiss resident, and so it was agreed that when they got near to the castle, he would drive and deal with any questions as the gates. His accent would only enhance his explanation that he was a Swiss relief driver, returning the vehicle from the airport. They were not long back amongst the rapidly moving autobahn traffic when Daniel's mobile telephone rang. He took the brief message from Doctor Seifert and then ended the call, turning to Nathan and saying, "that was Doctor Seifert as you probably gathered. He worked rather hard for us this time, brother, there really is no doubt."
"I didn't think there would be, Daniel", Nathan replied. They had spent a whole night talking and yet had barely managed to begin catching up on a lifetime apart. "Another time maybe you are going to have to tell me all about mom and dad - I would like to know."
Daniel looked wistful for a second, "another time Nathan, they were good people."
"So, what are your plans when we get there, General ?", said Nathan to lighten the mood that had suddenly become deeply serious.
"Well I suppose we just say we brought the car back, and make it up form there, I don't know", Daniel replied.
"And another small point - once we leave this car, how do we get back to Frankfurt ?"
"Ah", said Daniel, "hadn't thought of that. I suppose we could always call a taxi ?"
"Maybe we need to improvise on that one too", said Nathan.
"What do you know of his security ?", asked Ed as he floored the gas pedal to speed past a Porsche.
"No idea, I'm afraid. Have you Nathan ?", said Daniel.
"Nope, but I do know he is three short right now."
"Three ? I know that unlucky chap standing by me when I arrived was one of Lecke's, and then there was the man that Ed was obliged to neutralise. Who was the other ?"
"This is really difficult for me", Nathan began. "I should have told you but once we started to talk, well I just couldn't. Its about what nearly happened yesterday..."
"It was you, wasn't ?", said Daniel, a slight tone of accusation in his voice.
"Yes, yes it was."
"And if I had been anybody else...?"
"But you aren't, and I can't tell you how glad I am that you are not. Anyway, the thing is, there was another man who came checking the outer perimeter. He had a radio hooked up to the other two, so I guess he was one of Lecke's too."
"You say he was ?"
"Was" said Nathan, ending that discussion quite firmly.
For a few more miles they went on in a slightly strained silence, but Daniel was not going to let the sombre mood last for long. "Come on chaps! Lighten up! Just look at the scenery. This part of Germany is magnificent, so much better than the dull and boring North." They were driving up through great sprawling forests on either side of the road. Gingerbread houses were dotted about in small clearings at the foot of steep hills and mountains. In the winter those slopes would be covered in snow and the chalets either rented out to skiers or taking them in as guests. Fat cows grazed the grassy slopes now, the bells around their necks making a hollow sort of clang as they moved languidly in the lush green pastures. From time to time they saw a ski lift, still running but now packed with tourists taking picnics to the peaks. North of Karlsruhe they turned back East heading for Heilbron and then North again to Wurzburg. It was a glorious journey through breathtaking rolling countryside. Although there was some danger attached to Daniel's ridiculous idea, the truth was that they were all quite enjoying it. The whole point was that they were going to maybe ridicule Gunther all over again, couldn't wait to see his face when he realises who they are, but there was to be no killing, well not unless they really had no option. It was all one big practical joke except for one very sobering detail, just why had he set out over so long to destroy a whole family - a dynasty ? What was it that could possibly have happened to cause him so much hatred ? Nathan said that he thought he knew, Daniel really wanted to know also. After that, it would be his turn to show Nathan how easy it could be to ruin a man with little more than a telephone and a computer, oh yes, and a very great deal of money too.
Despite the great driving skills of Edward, hardly dropping below one hundred miles an hour for the whole time, it was still early evening by the time they reached the picture postcard town of Bad Neustadt. They had stopped at a small Gasthouse to check their map for the last few miles of the journey and decided to spend the night there, heading out to the castle first thing in the morning. The Gasthause ‘Rhonlust' was an old Gasthause that could trace its roots as an Inn, all the way back to the sixteenth century. It had windows flanked by carved wooden shutters and a red tiled roof, low ceilings and a huge open fireplace in which logs from the surrounding forest would burn all winter long. On its outside walls were vast murals depicting the coat-of-arms of the locality, and there were brightly painted wooden boxes, each brimming with summer flowers. Daniel went in first and began to talk in rapid German with the rotund landlord who was delighted to speak to a visiting Englishman, especially one who spoke his language so well, "but of course, you know, I speak English", he said, "I learn it from the Americans".
"Alas, Herr Ober, my friends do not speak German so if you would be so kind as to talk to us in English, and then I would be delighted to continue our conversation later", Daniel replied.
"Yes, no problem. For many years there was a big American base a just a few kilometres up the road in the next village, Wildflecken. Then of course we had that crazy pulling down of the Berlin wall. Crazy ! The cost of reunification! They tax us until we bleed, and then they tax us some more. So the Americans all went home and the base is empty now. At one time all the bars around here would be packed with Americans soldiers. Now many have closed, but I am still here."
"Well Herr Ober, we would like three rooms for the night, if you have three spare?"
The big German's eyes lit up, "three rooms you say ? Fine, but just the one night ? You and your friends are touring perhaps ? Maybe you would like to make this your base - I can give you a good price ?"
"No, sorry, just the one night will do. We have business at the castle and then we must return to Frankfurt."
The landlord's beaming smile vanished in an instant, "you have business at Lecke's place ?"
"Yes, that's right. Gunther Lecke. Is there some problem ?"
"For you, maybe not, for everybody else...", his voice trailed off, the sentence left unfinished.
"Everybody else ? What do you mean ?", asked Daniel, surprised at the landlord's response to Lecke's name.
"That man Lecke. He is no good. He acts as though he owns us all. We are even banned from skiing now in our own mountains because he says he owns them ! Shit I say! Nobody should own them, they are a beauty for everybody, not just for one greedy man. He comes into the villages, him and his men, his gangsters, they run up big bills which we have to beg to be paid for. Then he hires six no-goods from around here to act as chauffeurs. Bullshit! They are his god-damn private army, no better than brownshirt fascists! Let me tell you, one of those swine raped a pretty girl in Oberweissenbrun, its a village a few kilometres away. The local Police caught the man and locked him up. The next day he was as free as a bird with all charges dropped. The girl was so terrified that it would happen again that she hung herself from a cable car. She took the lift up the mountain and when it was halfway up, jumped out with a rope around her neck. Some people even suspect that she did not jump at all, if you get my meaning. So what business is it that you might have with him, may I ask ?"
Daniel smiled, "you know, you might just appreciate our visit" he said in German once more.
"Why ? How is that ?", the landlord responded with interest.
"My friends and I, we have a score to settle with Herr Lecke, and we intend to begin doing that in the morning", Daniel confided.
"Begin ? What do you mean begin ?"
"I mean that it is my intention to ruin the man. I promise you this Herr Ober, the first thing I will do is to see that those mountains are made public property again, just as they should be. You have my word."
The landlord went back to English, "I don't really see how you think that you can harm a man as powerful as Gunther Lecke, but I can see you wish him no good, and for that sentiment I wish you good luck."
"Herr Ober ", said Nathan, speaking for the first time, "you said that he hired six bums, I guess you picked that up from the Americans based here, huh ?"
"Yes of course, Americans like you my friend."
"And these bums, are they his only men ?"
"I wish! He has another three men, very different these three. Tough, professional. Lukas Shafer is the man in charge of all of them, but he lets them do pretty much what they want around here. I have not seen any of those three for a day or two."
"You won't be seeing them again, either", said Nathan and the look he flashed to the landlord when he said it, said more than his words. The landlord got the message.
"Indeed ! Well this is a good day then. You will join me in a glass of schnapps ?"
"Thanks, but just the one. We need a level head tomorrow and right now, a good meal."
"You will eat well and sleep well. I will get a menu for you."
"Before you do, these other guys - are they trained, what do they do ?"
The landlord laughed loudly. "Trained ? I doubt they are toilet trained, the animals! No, they are thugs and bullys, every last one of them. Like to throw their weight about. If the other three are truly gone, they won't last five minutes on their own. Now, I get you the menu."
The landlord was as good as his word. Huge plates of venison, red cabbage and potatoes duly arrived along with foaming steins of golden lager beer - a local beer brewed in the nearby monastery, not a gassy mass-produced chemical cocktail. All three of them drank too may beers and with Daniel as interpreter, spent the evening talking with the few locals who happened by that evening. The rooms were simple, but spotless with soft beds and fluffy duvets thrown on top. After the food and the beer they all went to their rooms a little the worse for wear, but the Herr Ober promised to call them for breakfast. He had spent the evening trying to discover exactly what the three of them were up to and more than once had looked closely at Nathan and Daniel, first one and then the other. By the time the evening drew to a close he had his own suspicions about them, but was sure of one thing - the moustache on the one that spoke German, Daniel was his name, was about as real as that god-awful creation that Lecke had built up on the mountain side. So, three men, two of whom looked like those hard types that Lecke used but were now, he was told, never to return, and then the third one, Daniel. A nice man, an excellent conversationalist in German but with a Swiss accent too. Where did he fit in ? He would love to know what his guests were up to but if it meant something bad for Lecke, then that was fine by him.
In the morning they were called as promised. There was a good breakfast spread laid out which they all tucked into, then Daniel settled a very reasonable bill, making sure he left a very large tip, and they left. This time Daniel was driving. It was a clear bright day. A few cotton wool clouds that drifted slowly on a light breeze that barely moved the tree tops as it whispered through the forests. The road into the mountains was quite narrow with passing places every few hundred metres. It wound its way up through dense Pines, the gradient getting steeper at every turn, the view getting yet more wonderful. Despite the windows being closed and the climate control doing its job with typical BMW efficiency, the pine scented sweet air still seeped into the car though its air vents. Daniel could flick a switch to shut it out, but he left it, enjoying the pleasant fresh smell. Then, he rounded another bend and the castle loomed ahead of them, a sprawling monstrous creation that made Mad King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle look positively restrained by comparison, yet on closer inspection revealed a total lack of taste, style or even architecture, it was, horrendous.
Daniel drove up to the Oak doors that were the main entrance. They hung on huge black iron hinges and the heads of very large bolts studded the Oak, but whether that was just for effect or not, they could not tell. There was a metal portcullis in place, lowered in front of the doors, but it looked comical rather than intimidating. Daniel pressed the horn of the BMW and kept it pressed until eventually, the portcullis rose with impressive speed, a powerful electric motor doing the work, and then one door opened to emit a young looking man dressed in black denims and shirt and wearing a black leather bomber jacket. He walked over the car with a scowl on his pimply face and gestured for the window to be lowered. Daniel did so and then before the other man could say anything said, "has our pick-up driver arrived ?"
"What ? What pick-up driver?", asked pimples suspiciously.
Daniel made a play of smacking his own head, "Great! Bloody idiot! I bet he got lost. Look, we are returning this car to Herr Lecke, he's your boss no ? There was supposed to be a pick-up car here to take us back."
Pimples looked into the car, a little uncertain about this, "three of you to return one car ?"
"No, not three. The other two have to go on to Dortmund next stop so they came along with me for the ride. Its a nice day. Oh for Christ's sake! Go and get Herr Lecke. Let him sort this mess out. We are only doing the guy a favour. He left this thing at Zurich airport - he is damned lucky it was not towed away for scrap".
The youth looked alarmed at the thought of involving his Boss over something so trivial as this, made even more trivial by the fact that these men were returning an expensive vehicle in any case. He scratched at one of his angry red spots and then said "okay. I will open the gates for you. You will see a garage block over to the right. Drive to door number three and leave it there. There us a crew room at the back of the garages and you can wait there for your pick-up."
Daniel smiled at the uncomfortable youth, "thank you. I will be sure to tell Herr Lecke how helpful you have been."
The wide wooden doors opened smoothly and revealed the keep of the castle. Just as they had been told, a five bay garage block was in one corner, the building itself cleverly camouflaged to blend right in with the stone walls of the Castle itself. Some care had been taken to build up and around that garages such that they seemed to ooze from the walls. As Daniel approached door three, identifiable by the large numeral on its door, the single door opened upwards automatically, allowing Daniel to stop the car inside, at which point the door closed silently. Looking around they could now see that the garage was more like one enormous aircraft hangar, but with five doors ranged across its front. Inside there was already an expensive collection of vehicles. As they all got out of the BMW the garage door finished closing with the slightest hiss, an airtight door to this most luxurious of climate controlled garage. There were three doors space along the far end of the building which was deep enough to take three cars in line, in each bay. The doors led out into a narrow passage way at the end of which there were two more doors, one on the left and one straight ahead.
Nathan opened the door to the left. It opened into a small room in which there was a kitchen unit with a sink, a small refrigerator, an old table and a few mismatched chairs. Two chauffeur's caps hung from hooks in the wall and there was a pack of playing cards, spread over the table. This was the crew room where the drives got a chance to relax now and then, when they were on call. He shut the door and cautiously opened the other one a few inches. It led directly into the Castle. Beyond the door there seemed to be some sort of a wide hallway or reception area. It was carpeted in a deep pile red, and six suits of armour stood along each side. The windows looked like stained glass and three black chandeliers , each carrying a mass of candle-like bulbs and draped with long strings of glittering glass crystals. High up on one wall was a huge Deer's head with an enormous set of antlers and on the other walls there were Boar's heads, each displayed with a brass plaque citing the weight of the animal and the day it was shot. A number of ancient weapons adorned some of the lower wall space, but on closer inspection they looked far too new to be authentic. In between each set of armour there was another doorway, set back deep into the wall and with a wide stone arch above it that fell to pillars at each side. The doors looked very heavy and listening with an ear pressed to one of them they had no idea if there was anybody the other side of it or not. At the very far end of this hallway there was a sweeping stone staircase that went up from each side and then bordered the hall right around its walls, higher even that the stuffed exhibits. They decided to checkout the upper floors, and this time Edward led the way.
At the top of the staircase there was yet another long corridor, but also another wide stone archway, set in the very centre of the landing. Two particularly ornate carved doors faced this chamber, and it did seem to be even more grand than the others they had seen briefly. Edward teased one of the doors open a minuscule amount, but it was enough, enough for Daniel to hear Gunther's voice as he berated some unfortunate underling.
"Well, I guess this is it ", said Daniel pushing the door wide open before any of the others could stop him, maybe to suggest a more subtle entrance. It was too late for that. They were in a huge room that seemed to cover almost the entire floor. It was like some colossal ballroom from bygone age. Standing at one end was Gunther's desk at which he was sitting, shouting into his telephone. He was so absorbed with what he was doing that he did not even look up when his door opened. "Leave it there and get out!", he shouted, expecting the pot of coffee that he had sent for some time ago.
"Leave what old chap ?", asked Daniel in flawless German, barely suppressing a laugh.
Gunther looked up and saw three rather ordinary people standing a few feet away. His first instinct was to slam down the telephone and then call out for Lukas, but although he did indeed slam down the phone, he checked himself in time, remembering that he could never depend upon Lukas again. Instead he assumed a face of outrage and barked, "who the hell are you and what do you mean by coming in here to my private study, eh ? Get out now before I have you thrown out !"
"That's an interesting notion. Who would be doing that then ? That pimple faced youth at your gates or do you have somebody else in mind ?"
"What ? What the hell are you talking about !" Gunther was looking more closely at his unwanted visitors now, especially at Daniel and Nathan, "have we met before ?", he asked, his snake-like eyes narrowed as they darted from one to the other.
"As a matter of fact, yes we have", Daniel replied, only in English this time.
Gunther began to get the strangest feeling, an unpleasant sensation deep in his gut as if his breakfast had just turned sour and his stomach gave an audible rumble as the acid began to bubble inside. He winced from the sudden discomfort but at the same time his left hand slyly crept to one of his desk drawers. "Why do you speak English now? You are German are you not, or rather Swiss, I suspect ?"
"Yes, and no. The thing is, my brother here does not speak German, not a word. By the way, have you met my brother ?", said Daniel, teasingly as he gestured towards Nathan.
"Him ? You brother ? So what do I care who he is", said Gunther, the drawer open now and his hand closing upon the butt of the Walther pistol that lay inside. All the same, there was something odd about these two but he couldn't yet place what it was that disturbed him.
Unseen by Gunther, Edward had moved around the room, as stealthily as a cat stalking a Blackbird. As Gunther went to withdraw his hand so Edward flicked an almost lazy kick at the drawer, sending it crashing back into the desk and trapping Gunther's hand, causing him to scream and swear at them. " Swine! You have broken my hand! What do you want ? You want money, is that it ? Go ahead, take some. You will never get out of here alive!"
Nathan was bored with the game now and spoke for the first time. The sound of his voice galvanised Gunther who looked at him with a face drained of all colour. " I want some answers, that's all, but I think I already have them. This is you, you bastard, isn't it ?", he said placing the creased page that he had torn from a reference book in a South London library on the desk in front of Gunther.
"Nathan ? Is that really you ?", whispered Gunther in fear and shock.
"Yes, it really is, and the nice Swiss guy you have been chatting with is my brother, Daniel Preston, whom I believe you have already met ?"
Again he looked from one to the other, "you brother ? What do you mean ? You have no brother, and why the ridiculous pantomime ?"
"We thought it would amuse you", said Nathan without the trace of a smile on his face, "the picture. It is you, isn't it ?"
Gunther sighed a sigh of defeat, "yes, you know damn well its me."
"And the other guy, the one shaking hands with Hitler. He's your father, right ?"
"What a proud day that was ! I was too young then, just six years old, but my father was held in great esteem so they had a special Deutsches Jungvolk uniform made just for me - I even had a little silver handled dagger to go with it."
"Where was the picture taken, Berlin ?"
"Yes, we were flown there just to meet The Fuhrer on that glorious day", Gunther sounded almost wistful.
"It doesn't explain why you did what you did, but I worked it out. It was all about my grandfather really wasn't it, Theodore King, or as you may have known him Colonel Theodore King ?"
Gunther nodded his head, what chance had he against these three men anyway ? "He was never your real Grandfather just as this, this English shit here was never your brother, damn you !"
"One right, one wrong. We really are brothers, right down to the DNA test we had done. So come on, tell me why, or shall I ask Edward here to help you to remember ?"
"No, it doesn't matter now anyway. You are going to kill me ?"
Nathan looked at him, bent his head so that they were level and eye to eye, "oh I want to alright but I made a promise. Now why you evil bastard!"
"Hypocrites, all of you, everybody! Have you any idea how many international companies now owe their very existence to the brilliant work that people like my father did ? Have you ? The German scientists led the whole world. When the end came the Americans took the best of the rocket scientists. They put a man on the moon but conveniently forgot that the same technicians rained rockets on London. The Russians had their pick too. They took Doctors, Scientists, Engineers, the very best of Germany. They took all their research too, never mind how many people died to get that data, all forgotten. Oh yes, the British had their fair share too, believe me, but then somebody decided that the world needed to see a few punished, just so that they could spirit away all those good Germans who were now going to work for the Allies! Traitors! Many others escaped through Odessa but my father was too late, too dedicated to his work. He went on even when all he had left was his laboratory and a few nearly dead Jews - they were all going to die anyway."
"He worked in the death camps ?", asked Nathan in open horror at Gunther's sudden outburst.
"No, never in those terrible places! He had a special laboratory and patients were sent to him."
"By patients you mean Jews ?"
"How could you possibly know all this - you said yourself that you were only six years old ?"
"At the end of the war I was eight, but my father left his diaries. I read every word, many times over."
"What happened, at the end ?"
"The man you thought was your grandfather arrived at my father's compound - it was not very far from here. Theodore King put a noose around my father's neck, oh not then. Oh no. First they had that charade they called a trial at Nuremberg. By the time it was over I was twelve years old. They let me attend you know, those nice British and American soldiers. Theodore King not only captured my father, but he personally put the rope around his neck when the time came, and I watched him do it. So there it is. I swore as my father fell through the trapdoor that I would destroy him and everything he ever had, and I damn nearly have too!"
"Now its my turn. All of this", Nathan gestured around the great chamber, "every single thing you own, I will take from you, everything! I will leave you with nothing, you will have to beg on the streets, that I can promise you ?"
Gunther sneered at Nathan, "you ? What are you ? You're not even a true King - you don't know who the fuck you are ! Probably the bastard child of some street whore ! What do you think you can do to me, TO ME ?", he raved, "GO ON! Do whatever you like. You are finished, FINISHED as I swore to my father you would be. Now get out of here, go on! Go!"
"I will destroy you Lecke", whispered Nathan, his voice as cold as ice.
Gunther laughed then, "You ? Do you have any idea how many people I have in my pocket, people that owe me favours ? You would destroy me ? Pah!", and he spat onto the floor.
It was Daniel who had the very last word, leaving Gunther quiet and thoughtful, "I have no idea how many people you think you can call in for favours owed, but I wonder if you really know just how many Governments there are that owe me, hmm ?"