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THE POLICE RULED A STRANGE DEATH AS SUICIDE. BUT BASS GRAY DISAGREES. Gray was dragged back to the world of solving crimes the same day he was about to leave it. A headless woman left a message for him, condemning him of the death of his partner. Though he was claiming his innocence ever since the issue rose from the pages of the newspaper, some people still firmly believed that he was the culprit. As he delved deeper into the case, he discovered that the deaths happening around Germany might involve one of the world’s greatest phantom threats, and might also answer one of the most unanswered questions centering him: did Bass Gray killed his partner? Germans triumphed the Great War and peace dominated the Empire, but the mysterious deaths threaten to disturb that peace that had settled for so long. Permanently. And Gray might be the only one who can stop that from happening.

Mystery / Thriller
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

(December 19, 1926—8:30 A.M.)

I love mutilated carcasses and odd deaths; they are the most satisfying murder mysteries to solve. Dead bodies and despicable crimes had always been my breakfast and the execrable criminals had been my chefs. They are serving me with death as their main cuisine, more than I have always ordered, and they have topped it with a lot of onions. But this case—a wretched human soul who have gulled an innocent woman and bullied her ignorance—will be the last breakfast I will take.

I was peeking inside; my head pressed against the window, a thick rope gripped in my hand. An old Hohepriester in ivory overalls approaches the altar of Kaiserdom Sankt Bartholomäus. This Gothic-looking church stood tall in this small town here in great, old Germany. Its spiked towers and the redness of its sandstone walls made it looked intimidating and tall even though it only stands at ninety-five meters. Germany, without a doubt, bears a thousand glories.

The old man stood silently in front of a delighted groom and bride. The old man caressed his white flowing beard that was large enough to hide his chapped lips. He holds a bible with his right hand, opened halfway to the middle. Relatives and friends sat in the pews, idly waiting for the grandeur highlights that the wedding promised; some brought gifts that are hidden in white-skinned boxes, others were wrapped in excellent floral designs and tied shut with a red bow. As the priest cleared his throat, all noise quickly transitions to silence.

The old priest held his head high, wearing a subtle glee on his face. “If anyone can show just cause why this couple cannot lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

Through the long, narrowed stained Norman window—almost looking like an elongated bullet—far behind the priest, came crashing a man, tied upside down. The man who was hanging swings around like a loose pendulum. His rope was tied on one of the church’s towers. Suspended in air, dangling in front of everyone and wiggling his body, he tries to wiggle out of the rope that snaked around his body. I hope the rib-vaulted ceiling of this cathedral can carry this morbidly obese lump of evil.

I bawled, barging through the humongous church door, apologizing. All guests jerked their head to me, their face an assortment of all emotions. “Detective’s pipe! What a spectacle, indeed!”

The priest had now his forehead full of creases, kept nagging me who I was to have the confidence to interrupt such holy ceremony.

Who am I? my mind rumbled. That doesn’t matter. I’m here to collect my pay.

I was admiring—quite enthralled, I might add—as I gazed the rib-vaulted ceiling of the Kaiserdom.

Don’t worry, Gray; I kept soothing myself. All you need to do is solve the case and collect your pay for the first-class ticket, I kept thinking. Then you can finally leave this job behind.

One freckled boy with dark-brown hair, around seven years old, wearing a homemade tailored suit and a thick circular spectacles, stood from the pews. His parents were, at the moment, dreaded with their kid’s bold attitude—intercepting me with such a pointed statement. He spoke in brilliant German. “You’re Bass Gray! I’ve seen you a lot in the papers! You’re that trash who killed his-”

His mother covered his mouth and dragged him back to the seat. That issue, again.

Murmur amongst the crowd rose like a bee’s buzzing. I’ve been accustomed to the light in some ways. Not that I like it though. It just comes in a package deal when you reach the higher ranks of being a detective in NSID. Over the time, I loathed the spotlight that was beaming above me at all times. Sometimes, it takes the private out of the private eye.

“Bass Gray?” the pale bride asked, almost laughing, as her veil dangles in front of her face. “That peanut-sized man… is Bass Gray?”

A collection of slightly suppressed laughter emanated from the wedding’s crowd.

Danke, kid. Thank you very much. Now, these people will list me on their Christmas list, under the column “people I want to kill”. And don’t she try calling me that! I’m not small. I’m just below average! (Come on, five feet and six inches is around average, don’t mock me like that, madame!)

“What is this nonsense?! This is a blasphemous behavior! You shan’t disturb a ceremony under the house of the Lord!” the priest was crossed. He forced all the muscles on his face to remain calm, but beneath his composed shell, he is definitely steaming hard like an old, broken train; filled with an intent to shove me out of here by all means necessary. I can see it clearly in his emerald eyes… the fuel that excited the flame of anger on his voice grew bigger.

“Such a beautiful house, He clearly has. If I was a caretaker of such house, I’d be furious to have an unwanted visitor disturb the silence that filled it,” I said to him as my eyes feasted on the spectacular design that the church projects. “But with all due respect, this ceremony is about to become way more chaotic for all of you here, more than you can all imagine.”

“You fucker!” said the lovely old priest.

Slowly, with his fluent usage of the American foul language, the priest’s true colors slowly seeps through. They were all shocked to hear such crisp profanity coming out of the priest’s supposedly immaculate, stain-free mouth. It was only after a few seconds after he finished pinning me down with profanity that he realized what had come out of his mouth.

I looked around and sat on a long empty pew, reclined my back and let the tension be finally released from my shoulder. They were all waiting for any valid response but I was preoccupied with the noticeable dirt on my shoes, dusting it off. I’ve just passed through an under-construction road on the way here so I must have picked up a lot of dirt and coarse ashes along the way. I jerked my attention back at them who was still silent and waiting for a clear answer, right after I finished busying myself on my shoe.

“Oh, if you didn’t notice—the man suspended by the rope is your real groom. The fake groom who is standing before you is nothing but a selfish jerk.” I eyed the hanging man, then quickly shifted my eyes to the fake groom.

All of them jolted their heads at the man suspended in air by a thick rope, who resembles a lot like the groom that stood before the bride. He looked so much alike that they’re practically the same, except for the recognizable mole in the back of the fake groom’s ear. The bride raised her veil and squinted her eyes at the man hanging. She was slowly falling deep into confusion. The fake groom wiped a sweat on his forehead and took a gulp. His hand was fidgeting so much that he tucked it into his pockets.

“Ask not, they’re identical twins—secret identical twins, to be exact. Robert, the one hanging, is your real groom and Jules is the fake one…” On I went, explaining details to satisfy their curiosity. By stalking his secret brother for months, Jules found out a couple of weeks back that his secret twin’s bride was very, very rich. He got envy of Robert, so he stashed him inside their barn yesterday and took the bride as his own. He plans to take all the bride’s money and insurance; leave her penniless until she rots in poverty then die.

“Die?” the bride quickly snapped her eyes back to me.

Jules began to sweat up and bawled, “Nonsense!” His jaw was rigid and trembling. His voice echoed throughout the spacious cathedral.

I eyed him with piercing eyes. “Will you please be silent? Our distance is not miles away so no need to shout. Whisper will do the trick. I can hear it anywhere in here.”

The bride lifts up her finger and pointed at Robert. She jerked her head to me and asked, “Then why would you tie Robert as if he was the one who did something wrong?”

“You see—Jules wants to rob you and leave you to die, but Robert here and his horny bollocks, wants to rape you.” I rested my feet on the empty pew in front of me. “He’ll then kill you, throw you in the Main, all those funny little things. Now tell me, which of those two do you want to be your groom? Either way, you’ll end up dead.”

Jules ranted and threw his real color all around. “You motherf -”

“Please Jules. Your language. We’re in a church,” I softly reminded him. “And there are kids around! Also, a priest!”

“Who are you to accuse me of this lie with such certainty?!” he pointed his finger right at me. “You think you got it all right, huh?!”

“Of course, I got it right,” I calmly assured him. “I’m Bass Gray.”

After the controversy had been settled and the priest suspending the wedding, the polizei came in and took both men into custody. Jules will serve a much shorter sentence than the horny Robert. Clearly, this wasn’t the bright day the bride was expecting. She was taken to an ambulance after she collapsed because of shock. When she regained consciousness, she wanted Jules jailed, while placing Robert in a death row. Obviously, no one can order the authorities who to put on death row but… hey, at least they’re jailed.

The priest kept asking who’ll pay for the broken glass. To be fair, I’m not completely responsible for it. Robert (the one who plans to rape the bride and kill her) was already planning to bomb the church’s inside by rappelling to the side and planting dynamite explosives. I don’t know why so I just thwarted it. If anything, the priest should be thanking me! If not, this historical church will just become… history.

Robert was tied with four ropes to help support his immense figure. I simply discovered the other end of one rope hanging loosely on one side of the cathedral, untied it with the help of the polizei then asked them to hold for a moment. They became unusually cooperative when I said that the one tied to the rope was the new Vice President of one of the largest company in the country—Volkswagen. Then on my cue, I asked them to transfer the rope to my hand. Then I let go of the rope and the rest is history.

Obviously, this would be the last case before I leave. I want to be a part of every single great moment, hence me dropping Robert instead of the polizei. I do want the splash of drama.

The best man, who was Jules long-time best friend and also the bride’s brother, approached me in a confident gait and handed me the fee. Ausgezeichnet! I thought. Excellent indeed!

“There—four hundred Pounds, just like we agreed. Danke, sehr, for saving my little sister from them,” he said as he hugged me tight and rubbed his cheeks on my trimmed beard as he goes. “I was lucky that I found Dead Man’s Trail.”

He wrapped his hands around me like a tight anaconda would do around its prey. He was caressing the back of my head as if I was his damn dog.

Bitte sehr, that’s… a very good pay anyway,” I grabbed his shoulders and politely shunned him away from my body. He kept resisting and tried to lean forward but my arms remained on his shoulders and slowly, I straightened my elbow—pushing him harder.

A polizist called me from behind, holding an envelope on his right hand that was tightly wrapped in a bandage. I jerked my head to the policeman, then the best man suddenly kissed me on my cheeks when my defense had already lowered before dashing to the exit as he squealed with joy.

The policemen took a few seconds before he found his words. “I didn’t know sir that you’re into… men.”

“I’m… not.”

He sure does,” the policeman insisted. He was rubbing his thumb on his bandaged palm as if nervous about something.

I cleared my throat and shifted my attention to the letter he was holding. I asked what it was, and he shrugged his head, saying that he had no damn clue what it’s about. He stretched his arm, handed the nicely folded piece of paper. By the mark on the front face of the paper itself, a hunch began to crawl into my psyche.

“A dame earlier asked me to give you this while you were busy with your… revelations,” the policeman said, retreating his wounded hand back to his pockets. “Quite unfortunate that I didn’t see her face. She had her head down and was wearing a veil. Though, she seems to be limping with her left leg.”

This is the fifth time, I thought. The sender gave the first herself as a passing woman on a street. I’ll never forget the terrifying image that she has. All cloaked in a black gown and black veil. I wasn’t able to catch her because the client whom I was meeting at that time had already come.

A folded letter was inside. The message was scrawled in blood and as my eyes led up to the end of the letter, it delivered a certain sensation inside me. Both a rush of fury and an unsettling rhythm of my heartbeat made a cacophony inside my mind. What the Veiled Woman had written… as if she was entirely sure of what she had claimed. But it can’t be true. There was no one there…

What if she was telling the truth? I can’t just let this slide. I need to find this woman. She’s in more danger than she thinks if what she had written in this paper is indeed true. I already took too much blow after my partner’s death, but this…

The Veiled Woman had been sending me a total number of four letters now, but this time… it’s entirely to a whole new degree. The handwriting was jagged and deep and I can smell the salty tears that had already dried. The paper wasn’t bought. Reictenskag Bier’s logo was marked on the lower left corner. She doesn’t work there, otherwise, she would have led me to her quite easily. Her effort of being so cryptic would be easily put to waste.

I need to find this woman before she goes to everybody. I’ll handle this matter overseas. Working here is too toxic for me at this moment. I need to identify her fast…

Her life will be very much at stake.

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