The Devil’s Mountain
Blaine’s car came to a stop in the darkening shadow of the Teufelsberg NSA-station. His heart still pounding, the private detective shut off the engine and listened carefully. The sound of a car door slamming shut echoed faintly through the ruin of the former spy-station. Blaine lost no more time. He left his car at the side of the road and went on by foot. The sun hung low over the horizon and cold, leafless trees stretched out long, clawing shadows towards the Teufelsberg station. They seemed to lure and beckon to the old, decaying ruin to finally give in and descend into the underworld.
All which is left now are the sealed lips of the former operatives and the ruins of the building, a silent witness of a bygone era
A cold wind pierced Blaine’s winter coat and chilled him to the bone. Almost otherworldly in the yellow light of the setting sun, Teufelsberg rose up high above him. The three characteristic round radars, so-called ‘radomes’, appeared like the peaks of a trident bursting out of the artificial hill. Formed out of thousands of tons of debris from World War 2 and covering a Nazi military school, the artificial hill was rooted in history. The same could be said from the building on top. The former spy station had been operative until the fall of East Germany and was covered in controversy. A secret tunnel, a hidden submarine station underneath or what kind of secrets had actually been unearthed by the Americans. All which is left now are the sealed lips of the former operatives and the ruins of the building, a silent witness of a bygone era.
The Devil's canvas
Blaine pulled up his jacket’s collar as beads of water splashed down from angry clouds overhead. Around him, the station’s new inhabitants had transformed rubble and debris into small pieces of art. The entire building was a blank canvas: an inspiration to, and a platform for all sorts of artists. Even though his brisk pace left little time to muse over the graffiti, Blaine could not help but admire the eyes of a large tiger peeking over the roof of another building, ready to jump any unsuspecting visitor of Teufelsberg. Another piece of graffiti depicted one of the station’s radomes as an egg from which a moth had just hatched, and on a wall hung a series of bikes, forming a bizarre piece of art. More and more rain rhythmically hit the ground, forming a dark and moody duet with the slapping and swinging of loose fabric high up in the radomes. Blaine stopped and carefully glanced around a corner. His target’s car, a small van quite past his expiration date, was parked close to the building, the door of the driver’s seat wide open. No trace of the driver. A painting of a cat head spanning the width of a wall seemed to regard him with curiosity as the detective made his way to the car, his back to the wall, his senses strained for any sign of his target.
It had been days after he had found the person stealing cell phones at the Berlin Gedächtniskirche Christmas market. Ludovic Krüger, he was called, and he was also blackmailing Blaine’s client with pictures of him and his mistress. That evening, Blaine had tracked him down to a small apartment in Spandau but had been spotted. The car chase was short but dangerous. Too dangerous to Blaine’s understanding. The detective was even more surprised when Krüger drove all the way up Teufelsberg, a dead-end in the maze of the former American spy station. What was the man up to? Why did he drive like the devil himself was chasing him? Blaine passed the car, checked if nothing was left inside and noticed a door above a small concrete step. Inside, darkness loomed. He fumbled in his inside jacket pocket and removed a small canister of pepper spray. The detective clenched it in his fist and switched on a flashlight in his other hand. The wind roared past him as he took a deep breath and stepped inside the building.
Into the mouth of the Devil
In the mouth of the devil, instinct and gut feeling were his only guides left
Blaine sniffed. The building smelled like wet concrete, metal, and rubble. A chilling wind blew through the hallway and rushed past him into the open air. It seemed almost wanting to escape the darkness which lurked at the end of the hallway. He rose his flashlight up above his head and peered into the distance. The black jaws receded for the white light, exposing a floor covered in debris. A car tire, empty bottles, remnants of a wooden pallet and a rusty metal door laid carelessly strewn through the hallway. The walls were covered in tags, dirt, and graffiti. Blaine continued, tiptoeing around the debris. The silence at the entrance slowly faded as the corridor turned left. Instead, a choir began, consisting of the soft trickling of water, the continued wobbling of the fabric somewhere high above in the radars and the gushing of wind cramming itself through every crevice, gap, and hole. They sang an eerie song luring him deeper and deeper into the building. Blaine went through a frame once holding a door, flashed his light once, memorized the debris on the path and scanned the darkness for any movement. He immediately switched off the light and stalked on, using his left hand for guidance on the wall. His face contorted in a grimace every time he stepped on dirt, producing a crunching sound. He stopped and cursed silently. Did he go left, left, right or right, left, left? He tried to picture the building but could only guess at his location. Blaine shrugged and strained his ears. In the mouth of the devil, instinct and gut feeling were his only guides left.
The sound of metal on metal vibrated through the hallway. Blaine froze and looked behind, focusing on the source of the noise. His clothes felt wet against his body but the cold shiver running over his spine was not due to the temperature. He had to fight the urge to look around and ignore his imagination which placed all sorts of evil right behind him. The devil himself, claws ready to clasp and drag him into the depths of the mountain.
The Devil’s ghost
The devil of the mountain had finally reached out to his victim
For what seemed an eternity he sneaked through the building, crossing hall after hall, scanning rooms for any movement before moving on into the abyss. Each new chamber seemed to darken his spirit and slow his pace. At the end of the hall, a soft light pulled his attention. A beam of moonlight pierced through a small hole in the roof, illuminating the entrance of a room. Blaine moved closer, his left hand still brushing the wall and his right in a protective gesture. He threw a glance in the room and immediately realised something was wrong. Out of the dark, a grey shade appeared. He pulled back behind the frame of the door, pressing himself against the wall and waited. Moments passed. Blaine tried to control his heartbeat, breathed deeply and took another peak. Right in the middle of the moon spotlight, a dark graffiti figure seemed almost to jump out of the wall. Blaine sighed in relief and stepped into the room, curious to take a closer look at the painting. From the other side, a scream sounded. Something metal flew past him, chipping of a piece of the concrete wall. Blaine turned just in time to see a man run up a staircase but was too late to avoid a heavy blow, crushing the air out of his body. Blaine slammed against the wall and fell down. His attacker, in the ghostly moonlight barely more than a shade, jumped on top of him, ramming his fist towards Blaine’s face. The devil of the mountain had finally reached out to his victim.
Blaine took a direct hit on his temple before he could raise up his arms in protection. He thrust his hips up, catapulting the demon over the detective and crawled away. Looking for support with the wall, he pulled himself up, desperately praying his wobbly legs not to give up. He stumbled further into the darkness of the room, shaking his throbbing head, and searched his pockets for any usable weapon. Realizing the pepper spray had dropped somewhere near the entrance, he clenched the flash lantern in his fist, froze and held his breath. The demon man got up and stared in the darkness. He was in his forties, close to two meters and well built. “There’s two of us”, he growled, “and this is our home. You have no chance”. The man grabbed a metal pipe and swung it in front of him. Blaine waited, still holding his breath. The big man lumbered away from him, keeping his back towards the entrance of the room when he turned around and swung the pipe in a broad strike. Blaine twitched and leaned back. A breeze of cold air caressed his face as the pipe flew past him. Still, Blaine held his breath, lungs almost bursting, teeth clenched. The demon man swung again, missing Blaine completely. “It’s just a matter of time”, the man snarled and he took another step towards the detective. Blaine’s body screamed for air, his blood throbbed in his temples. A black fog appeared in front of the detective’s eyes when the man took another step closer. Blaine flashed the light in the demon’s face and immediately dove down as the man swung the pipe in a blind gesture. Blaine took a deep, rattling breath, fuelling his body with oxygen and adrenaline. He hooked his fist hard in the devil’s liver, grinning as he felt the man convulse and heard the pipe clattering on the floor. Blaine continued with a series of body blows and finally threw his entire weight behind a hard uppercut to the chin. It proved fatal. The demon man went to his knees, gasping for air. Blaine took no risk and hit him hard on the temple, knocking his adversary out cold.
A few minutes later, the man laid bound on the floor. Blaine searched his pockets and found both an old Nokia and a brand new iPhone. He unlocked the smart-phone with the man’s fingerprint and deactivated the screen lock. “Bingo”, Blaine smiled when he found the blackmail message to his client. He picked up the flash lantern and took a moment to scan the room. Graffiti decorated the deteriorating walls but, unlike the spread out waste in the rest of the station, dirt had been carefully heaped up in the corner of the room. At the other side, a small lamp attached to the wall seemed large enough to illuminate at least part of the chamber. A chest with a brand new lock and a few tables and chairs completed the rest of the furniture. Blaine shone the flashlight low and discovered a collection of neatly organised cables under the tables. On top of those, a row of five smartphones formed a tidy row. Blaine turned back to the graffiti figure on the wall and saw it was part of a larger piece. ‘Spies of spies’ was written in old fashioned lettering above the painting. The detective’s light glided over the artwork consisting out of multiple faces, young and old, and stopped. Blaine stepped closer, forgetting time and place, staring at one of the portraits. A look of confusion and pain crossed his face. Abruptly, he stepped back, took a quick picture with his phone and turned towards the stairs.
A devil with a plan
Blaine had the feeling he was not putting the pieces together. Something was off
Blaine did no more effort to extinguish his flashlight. Taking the outside of the stairs, he tiptoed up to the roof of the building. With each step, the light of the moon brightened until, finally, he got sight of the sky above. To his surprise, it still had a soft, blue hint. What seemed to have been ages inside the station, could only have been half an hour. The rain had ceased but the wind pulled furiously at his wet jacket. Cautiously, the detective made his way over the platform. To his surprise, he quickly noticed the man, clearly visible in the moonlit sky, crouching next to the largest of the three radomes. Blaine took no chance and tiptoed to one of the two smaller domes. Underneath his feet, a brand new, thick cable split up in three wires running to the structures. Blaine had the feeling he was not putting the pieces together. Something was off. He followed the cable using the angry roar of the wind and rumbling of the fabric to cover the crunching of his shoes on the dirt covered roof and crouched behind the dome. “What the…”, he whispered. The cable spun all over the dome, connecting hundreds of cell phones. Blaine’s mouth dropped open when the cell phones’ flashlights lid up and small led lamps connected each phone with the other forming a pattern the detective could not clearly see.
The man had turned around and now sat, his legs crossed, in front of the largest dome. Seeing no more danger, Blaine cautiously approached and recognised the man as Ludovic Krüger, the guy he had chased at the Christmas market. “You’re too late”, he sighed, “I have contacted every media channel in Berlin. In a few minutes, my message will be on everyone’s phone or tv.” Blaine shook his head. “What are you talking about? What is this?” Krüger smiled. “You can have the phones back afterwards. Each is protected against the rain with a plastic foil. No harm has been done.” “I think my client feels otherwise”, Blaine interrupted, “he is not amused by blackmail attempts”. Krüger jumped up, startling Blaine. “What”, the man shouted, “that idiot. That damn idiot… Let me make this clear for you. What I am doing here… Why I am doing this”. He paused, his eyes burning in Blaine’s with a conviction the detective had rarely seen before. “I have lived on the street for years until I was able to get out and find my way back into society. But I do still feel part of the street, of the people who survive there. That part of the street which everyone passes and ignores. Every year at Christmas, people flock to the Christmas markets and take thousands of pictures. They take selfies, pictures of stands, of decoration. Everything! But they walk straight past us! They ignore us! So I had a plan. I wanted to use those phones to send a message to the street. Both to the people who live there and to the people who pass them by. A message on Teufelsberg, a building equally as much forgotten as the people in the street. Also dirty and alone. Rejected and neglected.” Blaine shrugged, “I didn’t hear anything about blackmail”. “I didn’t!”, Krüger wailed, “I would never…”. His voice faltered as he pointed to the stairwell where Krüger’s companion still laid bound. “He suggested it and I strictly forbade it. Why would I blackmail someone?”
Blaine waited, regarding every single move the man made. Krüger slumped against the wall, dropping his shoulders in a gesture of acceptance. “Does the other guy know who you are?”, the detective concluded. Krüger shook his head, “I only met him this year. He lives on the street.” “Good. Give me your phone”, Blaine growled, “if I find out you were behind the blackmailing, I will find you again.” Krüger nodded and handed over the phone. With a short nod of the head, Blaine indicated Krüger could go. “Wait”, the detective said, “what’s the message?”. “Check your phone, I’m sure it’s already on social media”, Krüger beamed and ran off towards a staircase.
Blaine took a deep breath, cherishing the oxygen, and shook off the last remnants of claustrophobia clinging to his body. He sauntered to the edge of the platform. A Berlin covered by a web of lights stretched out far to the horizon above which the sun painted the clouds red and purple. A moving painting on the tones of the always present Devil’s wind. He took his phone from his pocket and quickly found the first reports. As he clicked open the picture, he smiled. Written out over the largest tower in bright, shining letters were the words:
We are not alone
Blaine was able to find his target and bring this case to a good end. In the darkness of Devil’s mountain, however, he discovered something drawn on the wall. A secret involving his own family history. Curious? Find out how Blaine’s story continues in a future story.