Buenos Aires, February

02:35 a.m.


A black Mercedes was speeding northwards in Avenue del Libertador, cutting through the posh district of Recoleta.

           The scream of its tires on the wet asphalt tore apart the sleepy silence in the parked police car. The officers didn't move in their seats. They looked impassively after the car until its taillights disappeared. It was too late in the night for a chase; and they knew the car, anyway. They were trying to cool down after a scorching day of Argentinean Summer. The rain just before midnight had come like a blessing.  The officer in the driver seat took another sip out of his cold drink and, once again, glanced at his watch.  Still four more hours to go...

             Avenue Del Libertador, one of the busiest lifelines of Buenos Aires, would not have been so deserted had it not poured like hell until a few minutes ago. Then, the temperature had started to rise again; but it was not enough to soak up all that water left behind. The amorphous reflections of fluorescents that crowned the classy restaurants and upmarket shops were still painting the wet sidewalks.

             As soon as the black Mercedes had passed Bellas Artes National Museum, a silver BMW swerved into the avenue from a side street. It skidded halfway across the road; then regained its grip and raced after the cloud of spray that followed the Mercedes. In the next twenty minutes, not a single police car tried to stop them.

             Just before the polo grounds of exclusive Palermo, the cars turned left into a secluded road. On the coarse and unlit tarmac, they raced precariously; the roar of the engines ripped the silence of the night. When their long beams hit a white mansion at the end of the road, the BMW pushed forward and dived through the open gates first. The cars braked hard, grinding the gravel under their tires.

             With its long balcony that ran edge-to-edge on a row of arches, the two-storey mansion was a typical example of Spanish architecture.  All the lights were on in the house. The iron framed heavy door was left ajar. Through the gap, a hazy stream of light had fallen onto the garden.

             Four men with suppressed submachine-guns jumped out of the BMW. They all wore dark suits and light magnifier goggles over their heads. Their eyes swept the windows and the garden carefully. There was no movement; and the only sound was that of the water that dripped down from a child statue in the fountain.

             The men ran to the black Mercedes and circled it; but their eyes remained on the windows. The driver, who shared the same dress code and choice of gun with the others, rushed out and reached for the rear door. But before he could touch the handle, two middle-aged men in expensive suits stepped out from their sides, holding suppressed automatics. The driver stepped back and cocked his gun.

             'There is no sign of ongoing hostile activity in the house, Herr Kleiber,' said one of the men from the BMW, in German. 'But, it doesn't look good.' 

             'I hope the damage is not significant,' Kleiber turned to the other man from the rear seat. 'I hadn’t expected that they could go this far. What do you think, Heinrich?' His white hair, still thick enough to cover his head, was carefully combed. His face was hardened like that of a military man. The blue eyes looked as though they had never laughed.  

             Heinrich Brauss rearranged his gold-framed glasses on his grim face. ‘Dieter said that they were under attack and that there were gunshots in the house, before the line was cut off. Obviously, it is bad; but how bad it is…' he didn't finish his sentence as if he was afraid of pronouncing a family secret.