The Checkpoint, Berlin Detective Series goes deep....into St. Petersburg, Russia! A cold case heats up for the Kommissar in The Redemption of Joseph Heinz, Coming Soon, but please enjoy this exclusive teaser excerpt that you will only find here on my web page.
Chapter TenSt. Petersburg
The Hotel Kseniya
Dawn arrived gray and thick with the promise of snow. Heinz showered and dressed quickly, heading downstairs to the dining room for a quick breakfast of boiled egg, toast, and hot coffee. It was still mostly dark outside, but the kitchen staff was busy with cooking up the morning meal. The older woman with the mole who’d served him the night before was not in the dining room. Instead, a young man of around eighteen took Heinz’s order, returning promptly. Only two other people sat in the small room eating. They were a young couple with heads bent together whispering low and smiling often. Honeymooners or at the very least, lovers who still found adventures in foreign countries to be exciting so long as they had each other. Heinz envied them. Not a care in the world. He looked forward to enjoying that very same feeling with Birgitta in a few short weeks. He finished his meal, paid the fare, and left.
Outside, the temperature was far colder than the day before. The thick, dingy gray clouds overhead blocking out the sun promised snow. Heinz pulled his overcoat tighter around his body as he retrieved his rental car from the parking garage across the street. The Kseniya did not boast its own. Once again, he found the corner convenience store where he purchased bottled water and snacks to hold him over during his vigil at the dock.
The drive to port was slow. Traffic was heavy, and one accident along the way pushed three lanes of cars into one lane inching along as everyone rubbernecked to see what had happened. At the turnoff to the docks, Heinz noticed a black limo ahead of him. It pulled through the entry and drove smoothly to Warehouse 214. The large, muscular man from the day before got out of the passenger side and pushed the buttons on the alarm unlocking the bay door. Heinz kept his eyes straight ahead, using his peripheral vision as he drove past and pulled into the parking lot surrounded by chain link fencing. He backed into a spot near where he’d parked the day before, but this one offered a slightly better view of the warehouse. Several more vehicles drove past, dock workers on their way to punch in, as the limo glided inside the warehouse. Today, however, the door did not close immediately. Instead, it remained open for a full thirty minutes.
A large truck turned onto the dock and drove straight to the warehouse where it pulled inside. It was the type of truck that would usually transport produce of some type. The side logo showed a bright yellow ear of corn with a smiling face. The Cyrillic writing meant nothing to Heinz, but he photographed it with his camera zooming in on the driver, an older man with heavy jowls and graying brown hair, and then on the license plate. Noting the time, he wrote it down in his notebook. As he scribbled the information, the driver hopped out and came around to the back. He yanked the lock sideways, and slid the metal door up. A girl ran out, screaming for all she was worth, onto the dock. Joseph looked up, and saw the brawny muscled man chase her, catching her easily, and lifting her up into the air. He hauled her back inside, one hand clamped over mouth. He glanced left and right, clearly angry, as he moved fast to get back inside the warehouse. Loud words were exchanged between muscle man and the truck driver with the driver backing down, head bent in submission. He appeared afraid.
Heinz wrote down the details. Young girl, approximately 15-17 years of age, long dark hair, blue dress, no shoes, hands tied. Distressed. For Heinz, this changed everything.
The warehouse door closed, and remained closed for two hours. When it once again began to open, the limousine came out first, heading to the main road. The produce truck with the bright yellow smiling corn cob came out after it, stopping as the muscled man who arrived in the limo hopped out to close the door and lock the warehouse. The driver sat in the truck waiting. Heinz knew beyond a doubt that the truck contained at least one kidnapped teenage girl, if not more. It was surely on its way to deliver its cargo to a brothel where the girl or girls would be drugged and prostituted.
Turning the key in the ignition, Heinz prepared to follow them. This was the clue he’d been waiting for. This was, undoubtedly, what had happened to Marlessa Schubert. This, he told himself, was why he was here.
He pulled out as soon as the truck was in motion, careful to hang back just enough to remain undetected. Heinz flipped on the GPS in the rental as an afterthought checking to make sure he’d remembered to input the address to the hotel. Getting lost in St. Petersburg was not something he wanted to experience.
For the next half hour, he tailed them, all along thinking hard about what, if anything, he would be able to do once the produce truck arrived at its destination. He had no weapons, no backup, and as the vehicle in front of him slowed to turn into an upscale neighborhood, Heinz knew he was running out of time.
Stay tuned for book III, The Redemption of Joseph Heinz COMING SOON!