In the dead of the day by planet p

Disclaimer I don't own Inspector Rex or The Pretender or any of their characters.


2002

There'd been a crash. People had died. Alexander Brandtner, satisfied that there was nothing more he could do at the crash scene – though frustrated – took leave to question the survivors, who, he'd been informed by the emergency services and police officers at the scene who'd cordoned off the area from the public, had been taken to hospital.

He'd been given the name of the hospital and directions, and – taking Rex, trained police dog and his canine partner, with him – had left then.

He had left colleagues, fellow Homicide Commission detective, Christian Böck, and forensic pathologist, Dr. Leo Graf, with whom the Mordkommission frequently consulted, at the crash scene.

The strangest thing was not that a helicopter had crashed somewhere in the forest outside of Vienna, and, though the crash itself had not been declared suspicious, the Homicide Commission had been called in, but that for a radius of about half a mile around the crash site, with an epicentre somewhere close to the point of impact between the helicopter and the ground itself, the forest – and everything in it – had died, had literally had the life 'pulled' from it.

Christian could not say when this had happened – before or after the helicopter crash – and the emergency services workers and police officers who'd been the first on the scene of the crash whom he'd talked to had each emphatically confirmed that when they'd arrived on the scene, the forest had been exactly the way it was now.

Perhaps that was the strangest thing of all, Christian thought, stepping aside to avoid a dead squirrel – and fairly recently dead – as he made his way toward where Dr. Graf was examining a body.

The body was of a man in his mid thirties to mid forties, dressed in – even now – a sharply pressed black suit, black shirt and black silk tie, and black dress shoes, polished to a high shine. The only concession to something which was not black seemed to be a small white pin in the shape of a crucifix pinned to the lapel of his expensive suit jacket.

Christian, if pressed, would have replied that he thought the man an office type, an office worker, though he was not asked, not by Dr. Graf, or by anyone else.

The man, though sustaining considerable injury during the crash, Dr. Graf informed him, glancing up from his preliminary examination of the body, had died, not of the injuries sustained in that event, it seemed, but two close-range gun shot wounds to the back of the head, probably inflicted by a nine millimetre weapon.

Christian nodded briefly to the older forensic pathologist and turned away from the body, taking his mobile phone from his jacket pocket and dialling Alex to inform him of the outcome of Dr. Graf's preliminary assessment of the cause of death of the man, and only victim of the crash, to be discovered so far.

Alex, he was informed, was still on route to the hospital – and driving and talking on the mobile phone at the same time – which made Christian cringe, though he heard no bark of protest from Rex, and felt somewhat irritated, or deflated, and was relieved when Alex ended the call quickly.

He turned back toward Dr. Graf and made his way over to the attending police officers. He wanted to know who the man was, as Dr. Graf had not been able to find anything with which to identify the man on the body – no wallet, nor cards – and was told by the senior officer that the survivors had not yet been questioned as the concern had been with keeping them alive and not with keeping them waiting for medical treatment by grilling them for answers, which was what Detective Brandtner was just on his way to do, assuming that at least one of the survivors was still alive.

Christian, irritated, but careful to temper his irritation, asked the police officer his opinion as to the appearance and general health of the survivors, the likelihood, in other words, that he saw, of at least one of them surviving.

The police officer responded that he couldn't be certain, at this point, but that the crash survivors – there'd been five – hadn't looked good at all.

Christian briefly gestured to the dead man, and asked how bad, compared to the unknown body, they had looked.

About the same, was the police officer's response, not glancing over at the body Christian had indicated a moment earlier.

Christian's last question, or series of related questions, was if the survivors had realised that the man was dead, if they had been worried, and if – if they'd been aware – they had expressed concern over leaving the body.

The police officer replied that he didn't think he'd be overly worried over a dead man if he'd just survived a helicopter crash and had gotten up and pulled himself from the wreckage, and he didn't think many people would, the body wouldn't allow it.

Christian thanked him for his time and turned his attention to the emergency workers to ask the same questions over again and get some collation of the responses and how well they mashed up, or aligned.

Christian watched the van with Dr. Graf and the body pull away from the crash site and make its way along the track that had been made into the dead zone onto an access track and slowly disappear from sight, before turning his attention back to the emergency services team, who were changing over.

The large police presence had left a few minutes prior to Dr. Graf and the body, and those who were left – just two officers; who Christian now found himself approaching – stood watching the changeover and relieving of the emergency service workers, as though they could not wait to be relieved themselves. It would be an idea, he supposed, to question whether or not they thought that the original emergency services team should leave, at this point, and if names and contact details, at the very least, had been taken down, which may be handed over, if, in future, it was necessary to contact the men and women again.

As he was drawing nearer to the two police officers, Christian's mobile phone began to ring, indicating that he had an incoming call. A short glance at the screen told him that it was Alex, and he stopped to take the call, turning away from the larger group of people, uncomfortable with being watched.

The survivors had never reached the hospital where they'd been intended to receive treatment for their injuries.

A frown began to form on Christian's face, his thoughts preoccupied with this new mystery as he slipped his mobile phone back into his pocket.

When he heard the first shots – two shots, one each for each of the police officers – Christian did not immediately recognise the sound. Outside, the sound of a gunshot (more so if it was masked by a silencer) wasn't nearly as easily recognisable as indoors, or at the shooting range.

He'd also been facing in the opposite direction and had just begun to turn back, shaking his previous thoughts from his mind momentarily in effort to recall what he'd been intending on doing before he'd stopped to take Alex's call.

That was right, he thought, the police officers; he'd been about to have a word with them.

But he didn't get to have that word; the bullet speeding toward the back of his head decided that, and, a moment later, his lifeless body crashed to the equally as lifeless ground.