Today I would like to welcome you all on my stop of the Blog Tour for The Vault By Mark Dawson and I would like to share an exclusive extract from the book, with all of you. Thank you very much to Anne from Random Things Tours for the invitation. Please do show some love to all the wonderful book bloggers on this blog tour by following and sharing their work. 🙂
Genre: Espionage Thrillers
Release date: 31 01 2020
Price*: Kindle £3.99 (GBP)/ Paperback £N/A (GBP)
Kindle $5.19 (USD)/ Paperback $N/A (USD)
Pages: ~ 253
You can get this book here:
Description of the book: A desperate agent. A petty criminal. An audacious plot.
When Harry Mackintosh is called upon to exfiltrate a valuable asset from East to West Berlin, what could have been an intelligence coup becomes an international embarrassment. Mackintosh’s men and his lover are killed by the East German secret police in a brutal crossfire and he barely escapes with his life. He flees to the West and promises himself that he will have vengeance.
Mackintosh is the head of Berlin Station but he doesn’t have the staff to compete with the Stasi. He returns to London to plead for the resources to fight back. But instead of the seasoned operatives that he needs, Mackintosh is given a single man: Jimmy Walker, a petty criminal with a record for robbing banks.
Mackintosh takes Walker to Berlin and sets in train an audacious plan that will see them both on the other side of the Wall. Mackintosh and Walker face off against Karl-Heinz Sommer, the Stasi general known as die Spinne – the Spider – a man known for his brutality and ruthlessness.
The plan is already a longshot, and then Walker learns of the riches that Sommer stole from displaced Berliners in the days after the Wall was constructed. Will Walker follow orders or will he find the prospect of the Stasi gold in Sommer’s secret vault too tempting to ignore? Will Mackintosh have his revenge or will he become another fly caught in the Spider’s web?
With ambiguous loyalties, clashing agendas and danger beyond measure, these two men will struggle to form a team. But in a battle as unequal as this, the unexpected might be the best strategy that they have.
Mackintosh opened the door and stepped out onto the street. Strelitzer Straße was cobbled with two rows of four-storey apartment blocks that faced each other. Cars had been slotted against the kerb with their noses poking out, leaving enough space for two lines of traffic to proceed in either direction. An attempt had been made to soften the brutal architecture with the planting of a row of young elms, although the winter winds had long since plucked the last leaves from the branches. Mackintosh took a step away from the door and turned left and right to look for any sign that there was anyone else here with him. The street was heavy with snow, save a slushy stripe where the cars had been passing. Mackintosh looked left and saw the Fernsehturm, the enormous television mast in Alexanderplatz that was visible all across the city. He had always hated it; the Communists had erected it in an attempt to demonstrate their power, but it had always embodied their surveillance to Mackintosh, the sense that they looked over everything and that nowhere was safe from their suspicious gaze.
Mackintosh started to the east, walking slowly across the compacted snow and ice. There was a builder’s van parked on his side of the street. The locals were doing some work on a nearby building, fixing it up after what looked like years of neglect. The van was old and dirty, and it had a ragtag collection of equipment in the flatbed: a cement mixer, ladders, a wheelbarrow.
He had passed the back of the van when he saw movement at the junction with Rheinsberger Straße. He was fifty feet away, and the person he saw was looking in the opposite direction. Mackintosh didn’t think that he had been seen. He walked on and saw that the person was male, that he was wearing a fitted black overcoat and a Russian-style ushanka on his head. Mackintosh drew closer and saw that the man’s hair, just visible under the lowered flaps of the hat, had been dyed a bright platinum blond.
It was PICASSO.
Mackintosh picked up his pace.
“Günter,” Mackintosh said, his voice as quiet as he could make it while still being loud enough for the man to hear.
The man froze and then turned around to face him. His cryptonym was PICASSO, but his real name Günter Schmidt. He was nineteen years old and he had pale skin and blue eyes that were filled with fear. Mackintosh reached out a hand; Schmidt took it and they shook.
“Is everything okay?” Mackintosh asked him in German.
“I’m scared,” Schmidt said
“You’re fine,” he said, smiling at him.
“I couldn’t remember the number of the house.”
“You’re on the wrong street,” Mackintosh said gently taking Schmidt by the sleeve and angling him toward the junction. “It’s over here.”
Mackintosh glanced over at the young man as they walked. The coat he was wearing was the oversized herring-bone that Mackintosh had bought for him a month ago. Günter had a fixation with David Bowie, and he had seen him wearing a similar coat in a photoshoot by Helmut Newton that had been published in Sounds. Mackintosh had brough him regular copies of the magazine as he had gently recruited him, a slow dance that had taken months to bring to fruition. He had smuggled the coat across to him at their last meeting in Treptower Park.
“I’m frightened,” Schmidt said.
“There’s no reason to be.”
“The border guards?”
Mackintosh shook his head. “None. It’s quiet.”
“But what about the tunnel?”
“I get claustrophobic.”
“I’ve come through it,” Mackintosh said, reminding himself to speak kindly. “It’s safe. A marvel of engineering. You’ll see.”
Élodie had arranged for Mackintosh to meet Schmidt. He had claimed to be in possession of evidence that would cause chaos at the very highest levels of the Stasi. Mackintosh had immediately seen how valuable Schmidt would be. And he had seen how recruiting the young man would add a layer of gilt to a career that had already been impressive. Mackintosh’s tours of Belfast had seen him chop away at the leadership of the IRA, developing relationships with several informants including a
man who had served on the infamous “Nutting Squad”, the Provos’s counter-intelligence and interrogation unit. He had used the informant’s intelligence to pick off key players, and, in the process, had developed an aptitude for interrogation that had produced startling results while, at the same time, leaving him feeling as if he had been bathing in a sewer.
PICASSO, though, would be an order of magnitude above everything else that he had achieved, and the prospect of bringing him in was intoxicating.
Mackintosh had been meticulous about everything, and his tradecraft had been the most thorough of his career. He wanted to get a measure of the target before their first meeting and had followed him for a week. Each day had begun with a marathon surveillance detection routine, backed by a ten-man Franco-British counter-surveillance detail, to ensure that he was black before going anywhere near the target. He would pick up the young man as he ended his working day at five each afternoon and follow him on his walk home. His route was the same every day: he left the building on Normannenstraße, went south on Kynastraße, crossed the Spree and then made his way through Treptower Park.
Surveillance was backed up with extensive research on the subject, his bona fides and the credibility of the story he was offering to sell. The assessment from London and Paris was that he was telling the truth.
The offer Mackintosh and Élodie could make Schmidt would be difficult to turn down, but it would also be fraught with great danger. If Schmidt said yes and there was any misstep, his future would be bleak; interrogation in the basements of the Hohenschönhausen and then a bullet in the back of the head.
Mackintosh had almost had second thoughts about making the offer.
But who was he kidding? Here was an intelligence coup that might be priceless. Schmidt had offered to work with them after being submerged in the misery of his fellow Berliners all of his life. He wanted to do something about that, and, thanks to the unfortunate proclivities of the Minister of State Security, he had been given the means to do so.
Mackintosh had put him in a position to win his freedom.
They made their way back along Strelitzer Straße to the derelict apartment. Mackintosh allowed himself a buzz of confidence: it was going to happen. They were going to pull it off.
A woman emerged from the door, wearing a woollen hat that she had taken from the soldiers: it was Élodie. Mackintosh wanted to yell out that she should get back into the house, but he dared not. He would spook Schmidt, and there was no telling who else might be listening.
“Élodie?” Schmidt said hopefully.
“She wants to make sure you get out, too.”
Mackintosh put his hand on the young man’s back and nudged him forward. He smiled at him and told him that he would be fine, that the British government looked after those who were willing to risk their lives for the West, that everything—everything—would be fine.
“The tunnel,” Schmidt said. “It is dirty?”
He gestured down at Mackintosh’s trousers; Mackintosh looked and saw the streaks of mud that he had missed.
“A little,” he admitted with a smile.
“What about my coat? It’ll be ruined.”
Mackintosh smiled with indulgent patience. “I’ll get you a new one.”
Élodie came alongside. “Everything okay?”
“Yes. All fine. What are you doing outside?”
“We couldn’t see you.”
“Let’s get off the street.”
They were still thirty feet from the door to number 55 when a black van raced around the corner and came to a stop on the other side of the road. It was a Barkas B1000, the transport that the Stasi used to snatch people from the street. A man stepped out of the driver’s compartment, leaving the door open behind him. A second man got out.
“Merde,” Élodie hissed.
Mackintosh reached with his left hand, took Schmidt by the elbow and picked up the pace. He let his right arm hang loosely by his side, his fingers ready to reach around for the gun that was going to be pressed into the small of his back. The men walked across the ice-slicked cobbles in their direction.
Mackintosh held onto Schmidt’s arm and kept walking. They were outside number 49, with just a few more paces to the door to 55. If they could get inside, maybe…
He heard the sound of an engine from behind him, the crunch of tyres across compacted snow.
Mackintosh turned his head to look back; another black Barkas van had arrived, this one blocking the road behind them. A further two men had stepped down from the cab and were coming their way.
He swallowed down on a throat that was suddenly very dry.
Ministerium für Staatssicherheit.
Border guards were dumb and predictable; they followed orders, did what they were told, shunned originality for rote. The Stasi were different. They were ruthless. They killed whenever they had the chance. Mackintosh’s former head of station had been gutted in the street as he lit a cigarette.
His replacement’s car had been fitted with a bomb and blown up while he waited to pick up a secretary at Tempelhof. They had eyes everywhere and they were slowly tightening their grip around what they saw as the hostile intelligence services ranged against them. They were implacable, ruthless, and driven by a cold ideological animus that could not be reasoned or negotiated with.
And they knew. Someone had tipped them off. Fear wrapped around him, icy cold. It tightened, forcing his breath from his lungs. The two agents ahead of them were carrying Makarov PMs. Mackintosh recognised one of them: it was Axel Geipel, a colonel in the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, the Stasi’s Main Directorate for Reconnaissance. Geipel had a reputation for brutality; Mackintosh had heard the stories of what happened to the men and women he took back to Hohenschönhausen prison. But worse than Geipel’s reputation was that of his patron; Geipel worked for Karl-Heinz Sommer, and Sommer was a devil.
“Get your hands up!” Geipel shouted in English. “Now!”
Not like this. Not without a fight.
Élodie stopped next to him. Her hand twitched toward her weapon.
“Don’t,” he whispered. “Not yet.”
Mackintosh released Schmidt’s wrist and held his left hand aloft, his open palm facing forward.
Geipel waved his gun. “Both hands!”
He raised his right hand, too, and stretched both of them above his head.
About the Author: Mark Dawson is an award-nominated, USA Today bestseller, with more than 20 books published and over 2 million books downloaded in multiple countries and languages. Mark was born in Lowestoft, in the UK. He has worked as a DJ, a door-to-door ice-cream seller, factory hand and club promoter. He eventually trained as a lawyer and worked for ten years in the City of London and Soho, firstly pursuing money launderers and then acting for A-list celebrities suing newspapers for libel.
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