Here is Chapter 4 of my Berlin thriller Blood Summit.
The Reichstag dome. Warning: bad things happen here in “Blood Summit”
How did Dieter Kremp, Deputy Head of the Summit Security Unit and a macho package of anger, “exquisite, toned musculature” and chauvinism, become the lover of Helen Gale – a Cambridge-educated top diplomat? How did the US Secret Service almost stop the Summit happening?
Find out now.
BLOOD SUMMIT: CHAPTER 4
As he ran towards the Summit Security Unit command bunker, Dieter Kremp was reminded with a jolt how much he hated the logo for the Children’s Summit. A Berlin bear on its back, for Christ’s sake, balancing a cute kid on each of its sharp-clawed paws. The bear was grinning playfully – hungrily, more like – as it performed this unnatural act.
Dieter scowled. The politicians claimed that the package of economic reforms the Summit would agree was so revolutionary it would transform the lives not only of today’s children but of their children, too. That was why a hundred kids from across the world had been invited to attend the opening ceremony. Dieter didn’t care about that. But he hated the fact that one of the two-metre-high bears-with-children had been stuck to the steel plates which formed the perimeter of the Safety Zone. It made him curse each time he entered the Bunker: a mess on the metal, like bird-shit on a Porsche.
Dieter placed his eye to the retina scanner and the door slid open, releasing a chill blast of air. He could tolerate the stupid logo. Helen Gale was harder. Half the time he wanted to kill the blonde Englishwoman. The rest of the time he wanted to screw her. Either way, she drove him crazy.
The Bunker was nearly empty. That was part of Johann Frost’s security concept: SSU staff should be on the ground, not at desks. Inside was just one officer.
Katia Vonhof was monitoring the main security console. With her unkempt mane of black, shoulder-length hair and gaunt features, Katia barely registered with Dieter as a woman. But her mastery of computers and video surveillance technology was awesome. Where did Johann find these people?
Yet again, Dieter was filled with admiration for the charismatic boss of the Summit Security Unit. The name of Johann Frost was little known outside the counter-terrorism community. When he had first been appointed, senior figures in the police and military had questioned whether someone raised in what had been East Germany would have the qualities and connections for such a vital mission. Johann had confounded them all by filling the SSU with the best counter-terrorism specialists the country had to offer.
It had been Johann’s idea to extend the trawl for the twenty-four members of the new Summit Security Unit beyond GSG 9, the elite anti-terrorist squad in which both he and Dieter had been trained. The SSU chief had spent months travelling around Germany, selecting recruits from regional police forces, army formations, and even the Ministry of the Interior. Then, bringing to bear extraordinary leadership, he had melded the disparate elements of the unit into a team the equal of anything in Europe or beyond. In exchange training, members of the SSU nominated by Johann had held their own with the best the US Delta Force and the British SAS had to offer. Two of them, the brothers Lukas and Philipp Klein from Mainz, had finished top in the sniping competition at Fort Bragg. Dieter looked at Katia Vonhof. If there had been a surveillance technology event in North Carolina she would have won it blindfold.
‘Who is at the British Embassy?’ he asked her.
‘Johann has gone there.’ The young SSU officer did not look round, but continued to scan the images on her bank of monitors.
‘He went himself?’
Dieter sat down at one of the desks which ringed the room and keyed in his code. No-one had a dedicated terminal in the Bunker, any more than they had a single script to follow in the event of an emergency. Flexibility was the key. Flexibility, and vision. It had been Johann Frost’s vision to train a cadre so small, and so expert, that they could deliver security which was omnipresent yet invisible. Once the delegations entered the Safety Zone, the only armed forces on the ground would be the SSU team.
Almost. That was where the trouble had started. Within hours of the German government circulating the security concept for the Children’s Summit, the US Secret Service had stated that if they could not assign their own armed agents to protect the President inside the Reichstag, the President would not attend. End of discussion.
Dieter called it an insult to Germany; to the Summit Security Unit; to Johann Frost. But the Federal Chancellor had rolled right over. It was more important that the President attended the Summit than that Johann, the man responsible for security, could run his own show. Both Johann and Dieter had tendered their resignations. But when Interior Minister Tilo Pollex had called personally to ask them to stay on, the leader and deputy leader of the SSU had swallowed their pride.
Once they had got their way with the Secret Service agents, the Americans had started pushing everyone around. The next battleground had been the Threat Assessment Committee. That was where Dieter had first met Helen Gale.
Threat assessment was part of the planning for all international gatherings. The idea was to pool intelligence of possible dangers from terrorism and civil disturbance and assess the implications for security. It was meant to be a routine round of meetings and paperwork. Johann had delegated the job to Dieter without hesitating. But the Committee had become a nightmare.
The British alone had sent two representatives each from the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service, plus a bluff policeman with rolled-up sleeves from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorist unit who’d looked as if he would happily kill with his bare hands any terrorists he might come across. This herd of experts had been corralled by the sixth member of the delegation: a freckled blonde in a short skirt from the British embassy in Berlin. Dieter had assumed Helen Gale to be someone’s secretary. Only later had he realised the magnitude of his mistake.
The French, Russian, Italian, Canadian and Japanese delegations were as bloated as the British team. But the Americans had sent three times as many: CIA, FBI, NSA, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service – the list seemed endless. Sometimes Dieter wondered if terror groups measured their success not in how many people they killed, but in how many experts were siphoned off onto the futile treadmill that was counter-terrorism. By that measure, the terrorists had already won.
The telephone rang.
‘Johann here. Anything new on the embassy bombing? I am there now.’
Dieter glanced at his monitor. ‘No-one has claimed it.’
‘Call me if they do. I am talking to the forensic people: if we can ID the bomb, we can ID the bomb-maker. Can you send back-up? ‘
‘Only Katia is here.’
‘What about Petra? She should be finished at the US embassy by now.’
‘I haven’t seen her.’ Dieter checked the duty log. Johann was right, as usual. SSU officer Petra Bleibtreu had been running through sniper positions with the Secret Service. But her meeting had been due to finish an hour ago.
‘Maybe the Americans wanted more information,’ Johann said.
‘They do not ask for much, the Amis.’
Johann grunted. ‘Especially not the Secret Service. A pleasure to work with.’
‘How does it look in the Wilhelmstrasse?’ Dieter said. ‘The British say they have casualties.’
‘I cannot move for ambulances.’
‘Good. Will you update the Interior Ministry?’
‘Sounds bureaucratic. You do it.’ Johann rang off.
Dieter returned to his computer screen. Reuters were reporting that the police had rounded up a selection of prominent Islamists. As if the bombers would be sitting around at home. At least the Berlin cops could act without consulting the Threat Assessment Committee first.
If the size of the Committee seemed cumbersome, the meetings were unmanageable. The first few sessions had adopted a table-round format, each delegation vying to show that it knew more about the threats facing the Summit than anyone else. But it soon became clear that when it came to compiling blood-curdling intelligence, the Anglo-Saxons were in a league of their own.
Everyone knew that Washington and London devoted a grotesque proportion of their gross national product to amassing secrets. Some information came from actual human beings. But most came from electronic eavesdropping: by the National Security Agency on the part of the US, and by the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, on behalf of the British. Dieter had never heard anything like it. By the time he had sat through the first recitation of the threats which the CIA and SIS believed hung over the Summit, he found it hard to imagine that a single aggrieved individual, much less any terrorist group, could have been left off the list.
The result was that Dieter Kremp and the German staff of the Summit Security Unit found themselves engulfed in a tidal wave of advice on how to do their job. If one security airlock controlled access to the Reichstag, it should be two; if two, four. If SSU officers planned to wear body armour, had they considered the latest Kevlar products? And had the German authorities thought of adding a second ring of barriers around the Reichstag to deter suicide bombers? At the third meeting of the committee, Dieter announced straight-faced that Berlin had decided to retrofit the city’s entire fleet of police BMW saloons with Chobham composite armour at a cost of one million euro per vehicle. Only one person had smiled at his joke. Helen Gale.
It was the British diplomat’s intellect and unpredictability which made her so formidable. At some meetings she barely spoke, but doodled on a pad or gazed at her laptop as if she didn’t give a damn what the meeting decided. Other times, she would suddenly raise some intercepted phone call by terrorist group X, and ask how Dieter proposed to respond. That was always it. How he proposed to respond.
Whatever the threat might be, you could be sure this was the first Dieter had heard of it. And you could be certain that the entire 20-strong CIA contingent would speak right out in support of Helen Gale. Then the British and Americans would refuse to accept any response which didn’t increase security for the Summit. It became a joke in Berlin: if any more fortifications were added, the entire Reichstag would sink into the sandy subsoil.
Until three months ago, Dieter Kremp had viewed Helen Gale as more of a threat to the Summit’s success than any possible combination of terrorists.
Then Paris had happened. Helen Gale’s spook pals had let their distinguished Foreign Secretary step into a car outside their Paris embassy; allowed the ambassador, a security man and a driver to get in with him; surrounded the vehicle with diplomats; then covered their ears as four kilograms of what the French called le plastique ripped seven people to pieces. Thirty more had been hospitalised, many of them hit by flying debris. These were the experts telling the SSU how to run the Summit.
It would be too much to say that when the Threat Assessment Committee met the day after Paris, Helen Gale had been transformed. But for the first time, Dieter had seen her self-possession slip to reveal a hint of – what? Loneliness? Loss? Whatever it was, that glimpse of vulnerability had triggered in him a rush of desire. Was it possible that a dazzling, Cambridge-educated diplomat might be within reach of the son of a metal-worker from the Ruhr?
Dieter Kremp always made decisions quickly. After the meeting, he had taken Helen Gale to one side and asked her out for a drink. He had been surprised when she had accepted; and astonished when, after a meal, a club and more cocktails than he could count, she invited him back to her flat in the Voxstrasse. That night she had seemed desperate to have him. Maybe the bomb in Paris had shaken her; she had been willing to do anything that first night. Almost anything. She was passionate yet controlled; serious, but with flashes of deadpan humour; wild, yet determined to set the rules. That was a challenge: Dieter had never met a woman he could not dominate. Well, there was always time. The British embassy in Berlin had just been blown up, the day before the Summit
That was a tragedy. But for Dieter Kremp, it might be an opportunity. Would Helen Gale feel vulnerable tonight? It would be wrong to let a chance like this go by.
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You can read the complete introduction to the novel at my Blood Summit page.
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