The new moon was imminent and it was correspondingly dark at one in the morning. A black Chevrolet truck with tinted windows was waiting at the edge of the runway until several people alighted from the plane. Somebody was being led across the landing strip towards the vehicle. Hands tied behind the back, a dark bag covering his head, he was flanked on both sides by guards dressed in black. It took less than a minute until everybody had climbed into the now slowly moving truck. It was only a short drive to the camp, which was surrounded by a massive, man-high fence, additionally secured by razor-sharp wire on top. Behind the fence a passable strip, then a series of dense conifers, obscuring a closer look at the wooden barracks located behind them. It was still discernible, however, that, unlike the wooden barracks inside, the siteâ€™s outer security measures were kept in good repair. â€śStopp!â€ť shouted the heavily armed guard at the entrance gate. His camouflage fatigues had no insignia; establishing his nationality was therefore impossible. Slowly the truck approached the gate where the driver held up his ID without fully lowering the window. The guard saluted briskly and let the vehicle pass. He had evidently been instructed about the transport.
The interrogation had lasted five hours; usually a pure routine job for Ted Branigan, the specialist. He was in charge of such operations in Central Europe and had carried them out hundreds of times. Depending on the situation, he applied the most varied techniques to extract the desired intelligence. But today hadnâ€™t worked out the way it usually did. The problem was the time it had taken, seeing that the information was urgently needed. â€śSon of a bitch!â€ť Ted Branigan peeled of his bloodstained leather gloves and flung them onto the cement floor. Visibly pissed, he grabbed his satellite phone. â€śGet Peter to ring me back on a secure line! â€¦ Yes! Right now!â€ť Branigan seemed tense while he was waiting for his call to be returned. A moment later the phone rang. He held the receiver to his ear before the second ring: â€śYes?â€ť â€śWhatâ€™s up, Ted?â€ť asked Peter Redman on the other end of the line. â€śDo you know where I am?â€ť â€śYes, at a quiet place to gather intelligence,â€ť Redman replied. â€śCorrect. I tried to get the Huntsman to talk and at first he reacted to the treatment as expected,â€ť Branigan told his colleague without a trace of compassion in his voice. As far as he was concerned, he was simply doing his job. â€śHe was whimpering and pleading and at the start he gave us what we wanted.â€ť â€śWhat did you find out?â€ť â€śWe now know where heâ€™s hidden the documents and the information. But we couldnâ€™t get him to reveal anything new about the subject. All he told us was precisely what we already knew.â€ť After a brief pause, Branigan continued: â€śWe only had about two hours left, so we used stronger methods.â€ť â€śAnd? Did it work?â€ť â€śWell... Perhaps I hit the wrong spot... Perhaps he was frail... Anyway, he collapsed right in the middle of the interrogation. And that was it.â€ť â€śHeâ€™s dead?â€ť â€śYes, damn it! I couldnâ€™t...â€ť But before he could finish, Redman angrily hissed: â€śYou fucking idiot!â€ť The line went silent. Branigan was aware that he had messed up badly. It shouldnâ€™t have happened. But these kinds of interrogations always carried certain risks, especially when under time pressure. And the Huntsman had evidently had a weak heart, unable to survive the brutal torture. â€śSo you didnâ€™t get any more than we already know from the papers?â€ť Peter Redman resumed the conversation a few seconds later.
â€śNo.â€ť â€śDid he give you any names? Who knew about the gold business besides him?â€ť â€śHe mentioned some Miller guy who got in touch with him. But I guess thatâ€™s an alias. He couldnâ€™t describe him because he never met him in person.â€ť â€śAnd who gave him the dossier?â€ť â€śApparently he didnâ€™t know that either. He said it had been left for him at the check-in desk at his hotel.â€ť â€śOh, crap! That doesnâ€™t get us anywhere!â€ť Redman cursed. After Branigan had described where the Huntsman had hidden the documents and the information, Redman issued new instructions: â€śYou have to get him back to Berlin, Ted, and fast. There must be no evidence of him having been interrogated.â€ť He hesitated for a moment. â€śDo you have a plan?â€ť â€śWe do.â€ť Branigan knew several methods to dispose of such a badly battered body without prompting too many questions. If everything worked out according to plan, the death certificate would simply state - Cause of Death: Suicide. A perfunctory inspection by a doctor motivated by money greasing his palm wouldnâ€™t contradict the verdict. â€śWe shall discuss our future moves when youâ€™ve taken care of it. And no more mistakes, you hear me?!â€ť Peter Redman hung up without waiting for a reply. Ted Branigan put his phone back in his pocket. A second man, who had been sitting in a dark corner of the room from where he had silently witnessed the interrogation throughout the night, slightly tilted his head to the left, his neck vertebrae audibly creaking. He left the room together with Ted Branigan. Now it was Tedâ€™s job to ensure that everything was properly dealt with.