Frederich Abel knows he’s not normal, but being adopted age seven by an elite soldier isn’t why. It lies deeper inside - a morbid, unhinged savagery. Invisible. Deadly. Luckily, his father helped him control it with a mixture of weapons, combat and survival training. Now his father is dead, and the shadow has emerged stronger than ever. He flees in panic, ending up in cold, grimy Berlin.
His life on the edge, Ida’s scream through the rain pulls him into action. He’s forced to kill, unaware that the perpetrator had dangerous friends - powerful enough to take on world governments. Now he must decide; flee again, or face the darkness - both inside and out.
‘An Assassin Is Born’ is the intriguing first episode in the ‘Two Birds One Stone’ crime-action book series.
SHOTS. WHY DID THEY HAVE THE SHOTS? he thought as he woke up groggy with high-pitched ringing in his ears. How loud was the music? Waves of muted vibrations came from his left. He gazed up at the hazy ceiling and stretched his stiff neck back while licking his dry lips. Next time, no shots. What time was it? He strained his eyes and looked over at the bedside table, quickly realising it was his smartphone doing the vibrating. Before he could reach out, it stopped. The screen showed seven missed calls from a number in Tartu. His head jerked back in alarm. Seven missed calls? He snatched the phone off the table and called the number.
“Oh, thank God,” an old, husky voice on the other end said. “It’s Johannes.”
“Johannes? What’s wrong?” he asked. A chill ran over his skin.
“You need to come home. It’s Kraas. He had a stroke.”
“What!?” he shrieked, sitting up suddenly. “No! Is he ok?”
“He…” Johannes said, trailing off. “I don’t know. I went next door to pick him up for hunting, and he was on the floor. We are at Tartu Hospital. The doctors are with him now.”
He became immobilised.
“Are you there?” asked Johannes.
“Uhh,” he groaned, supporting himself on the bed with his free hand, his head spinning. “Yes, I’m here. I’m… I’m on my way. I’m on my way, Johannes. Tell him to hold on. Please.”
“Hurry, my boy,” said Johannes wearily before closing the connection.
He stood up, struggling to hold his feet. His heart was pounding. Water, he needed water, and a train ticket. No, he would take a taxi. The trip from Tallinn to Tartu was long enough. In three minutes he was dressed. Hold on, Kraas, he thought as he rushed out of the door. Please. Hold on.
It was the worst flooding Berlin had seen in decades, a deluge of 36 relentless hours. Charlottenburg had somehow remained mostly unaffected, but according to the news, a large part of the city already lay underwater. Underground train stations had become raging rivers. Transportation was crippled, and thousands of people were stranded. Meanwhile, Frederich sat sheltered inside Novalis Cafe in Charlottenburg, cradling an espresso and staring out at the street. He was pondering how easy it would be to kill a man in those conditions.
It was the perfect setting, Frederich figured. Especially at nighttime. The rain would shield the act, and the flood would hide the body long enough to escape. The water would wash away any trace evidence. Looking into space, he squinted his eyes while chewing the edge of his thumb, immersed in his hypothetical plan. He grew breathless, picturing himself creeping up on his target in the rain with a clip-point knife in hand, the only sign of his presence being the sharp sting of a deep gash across the victim’s throat.
follow link Frederich, come back. His conscious voice shook him out of it. He blinked hard and gazed around to re-align himself with his surroundings. A little girl sitting at another table was giving him a strange, expressionless stare as her mother spoke to another woman. He stared back, causing the girl to desperately bury her face in her mother’s arm. Frederich turned away and looked out of the window again. Reality came sharply into focus and the feeling he could not escape reemerged. The dull ache in his chest reminded him that Kraas was gone.
The dissociative episodes were coming more often, he noticed. He knew the disturbing thoughts were a symptom of something deeper. It began on the day Kraas died, and had only grown stronger since he ended up in Berlin six weeks earlier. During quiet moments he sensed it as a suffocating mood which hovered over him like a shadow and left him no space to escape what felt like a cold void sucking him in. The longer he spent alone, the more murderous and brutal his thoughts became, and the more difficult it was to let them go.
He had few answers for this rising tide. At first, speaking to someone about it had crossed his mind. He decided against it. The urge to kill was not something you simply got off your chest. So he was stuck with it. On especially bad days he would find himself wanting to end it all. That was the simplest and cleanest solution. The prospect of death in those moments gave him an eerie peace. He would spend hours curiously admiring the depth and stillness of the void, feeling himself being dragged in further, before a voice in his head intervened and ordered him out of the house. A few hours each day in Novalis Café among strangers’ chatter on a backdrop of easy listening music kept him sane, although it failed to completely free him from the darkness. The morbid episodes kept coming, and the shadow remained his constant companion.
Novalis was usually the last place a misfit like Frederich would frequent. It was quaint and beautifully decorated. Its pastel coloured walls, warm lighting, and elegant decor drew in people who were looking for more than a quick bite or caffeine fix. Stylishly dressed women spent hours gossiping and giggling over lattes beside families lunching in their Sunday best. Within this vibrant, wholesome setting was Frederich, dressed in all black, withdrawn and distracted. Yet Novalis reminded Frederich of what life had to offer. He could observe people who were able to stay away from the edge, and who did other things than amuse themselves with thoughts of death and murder. His state of mind was not healthy, he acknowledged, but he had no way to fight it. His daily routine of brooding and coffee in a family-friendly environment was all he could think of, and it had been somewhat effective. At least during opening hours .
He caught the waiter’s eye and nodded, indicating he was ready for his glass of orange juice. The waiter nodded back, accustomed to Frederich’s regimen. Minutes later the waiter brought the drink over and with another nod returned to the front. The staff at Novalis had learnt quickly not to bother with the chit chat. Frederich did not care for it. Each day two espressos followed by an orange juice, all now ordered with nods and gestures.
Frederich sipped his orange juice and watched the deluge outside until it was closing time. When he saw the staff wiping down tables, he was overcome by a cloud of despair. It was time to face another sleepless night in the black, followed by another morning with only memories of Kraas to comfort him.
He stood up and looked around. He was the last patron there. The earlier liveliness was gone, and Novalis felt still and unfamiliar. He put on his black leather jacket and made for the exit.
It was now dark outside, and the rain was coming down harder than ever, taking only seconds to soak him through. He pushed his mop of hair out of his face and walked faster. As he neared Savignyplatz, it became apparent that the worst of the rain had reached Charlottenburg. The street leading to his apartment, which had been clear in the early afternoon, was now completely flooded. He sighed and began trudging his way through the water, which immediately seeped into his boots and weighed down his feet. He laboured forward, struggling to see ahead. The rain came down harder again and gave him vertigo, forcing him to a standstill. He lifted his head in frustration as water crashed down on his face.
Standing in a deafening sea of white noise, he heard what sounded like a woman’s scream coming from a distance. He turned toward the source of the sound, but nothing stood out. He waited a few seconds then shook his head in dismissal and began walking. Then he stopped again. His body was telling him something. He noticed his heart was beating quicker and that his senses had lifted. The noise and impact of the rain on his head amplified. He shielded his eyes with his hand and scanned the surroundings. Cars with submerged wheels lined the side of the street, but there was no movement. He checked the entranceways of the apartment buildings. It was hard to know from his position if anybody was there. Then he turned back to one of the cars, a Mercedes SLK convertible. He moved a few steps closer until he saw it; the car’s windows were foggy. Someone was inside. He plodded forwards without hesitation, his feet crashing against the water. He tried the front door. It was unlocked. When he pulled it open, he flinched. A brawny man was in the driver’s seat, bent over the passenger side and gripping a young woman in a chokehold.
The man spun around and looked at Frederich in surprise, his gaze fierce and unsettling and his chest heaving up and down. He had a crew cut and a long, bushy beard. The woman’s deep brown eyes were wide open in terror.
“Help me!” she yelled.
If Frederich were following his training, he would have been tactful. He would await the man’s next move while maintaining space between them. Assess the situation and study his enemy before acting. He might even open a dialogue if the man did not escalate first. But something primal in him had already been triggered. A wave of rage surged through and possessed him. His peripheral awareness sharpened, and all he could now see was the man; all he could feel was an unexpected, overwhelming need to destroy him, to reach into his body and snatch the life out of him.
He reached into the car and yanked the man by his jacket collar, dragging him out onto the flooded street. The man was quick to react. He jumped at Frederich’s feet and knocked him off balance. Frederich now found himself in the water with his opponent’s superior weight on top of him. Two hands pressed down on his face and submerged it. He tried pushing his torso up, then twisted left and right with his hips, but his opponent relented. He grasped the man’s arms. They were immovable. Shit, he’s a brawler. It was all happening too fast. There was no space or time to think. The void was now his only comfort, seeping into him like water as he ran out of oxygen. He let go and followed it, further than he had ever gone. The panic dissolved, and calmness reigned. His mouth opened, and water began entering his throat.
The woman’s muffled voice sounded in the distance.
“Stop it! Let him go!”
Her scream jolted him and reminded him that two lives were in danger. He turned his focus outward again. It was time to act, and decisively. He lifted both of his knees and rammed them into the man’s backside, forcing him to fall forward. He wrapped his left arm around the man’s shoulder and with a powerful heave and twist of his body, dislodged himself and reversed their positions. He now had the high ground, and the man was the one submerged. He knew his advantage would not last long unless he immobilised his opponent. He took the man by his collar and pulled his face out of the water. He then lifted his head and came down with full force, smashing his forehead into the soft part of the man’s face. He sucked in a large gulp of air then repeated the motion, again with full power, then pushed the man back underwater and choked him with both hands as tightly as he could muster. A gush of blood oozed out over the surface. The man struggled but with only a fraction of his previous strength. After some time he stopped moving. Frederich continued to press down until he was sure the man was dead.
New release alerts
Episode II of 'Two Birds One Stone' is coming later in 2018
Simon J. Harrak is a Berlin-based author from Melbourne. Years in the counter-culture capital of Germany fused with a Lebanese/Australian background give his writing a unique twist.