Excerpt from Brandenburg Gate by Henry Porter, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Brandenburg Gate

by Henry Porter

Brandenburg Gate
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 448 pages
    Apr 2007, 448 pages

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In Dresden he had once seen a man’s eye poked out with an umbrella. People stood around as the blood gushed from the socket and the young man went into shock. A woman knelt down and held him and he calmed down almost immediately. So Rosenharte touched the man on the cheek and held him gently. This seemed to work for a little while, but then his eyes began to stare and his body shook with a series of convulsions that forced them both towards the edge of the quay. They staggered in a drunken waltz for a few seconds, kicking up swirls of dust and snapping the dried weeds around them, until the man suddenly collapsed into his arms and pushed him against a large iron mooring bollard. Now some words came from him. "Rye . . . Ryszard . . . Rye . . . Kusimiak." Rosenharte’s backside came down involuntarily on the shiny warm surface of the bollard.

"Be still, for God’s sake, or . . ."At that moment he lost his footing and found he had no purchase to stop the momentum of the other man. For a second he was suspended over the water, then he toppled from the bollard. Falling the four or five feet, he was certain he saw the man’s hand reach to his pocket before he dropped forward and rolled down the quay wall into the water like a weighted sack.

More angry than shocked, Rosenharte surfaced and struck out to a chain that was hanging down from the top of the quay. He grabbed it, placed both feet against the barnacle-encrusted stone and began to haul himself up, pulling the chain through his hands. As he cleared the water line he heard a voice and looked up to see a man holding out his hand. He was yelling something in Italian. Rosenharte wrapped the slimy chain around one hand and took a few more steps, but at this point his angle to the quay made it impossible for him to proceed further. He moved to the left, then swung back in the opposite direction and reached out to grab hold of the Italian’s hand. A few desperate moments of scrambling ensued before he was kneeling on the quay, hacking the seawater from his throat.

He wiped his eyes and looked up. Around them stood a semi-circle of teenage boys with fishing rods. Rosenharte gazed into a broad young face and a pair of intelligent blue eyes and nodded to show he was okay. The man put a hand on his shoulder and said, "You’re okay; just stay there for a bit."  Rosenharte knew this was no Italian. Then one of the boys caught sight of the body in the water and started shouting. All five stripped off and dived in, apparently unconcerned about what they might find. One unceremoniously yanked the man’s head up by the hair while the others shoaled round and pushed the body towards the chain.

"Perhaps it’s better that I speak German," hissed the man after he’d instructed the boys in Italian to loop the chain under the body’s arms and tie a knot.

It was the last thing Rosenharte wanted. He shook his head furiously, put his hand in his shirt and ripped the wire from his chest. The man showed little surprise.  "Don’t worry, it won’t work after that soaking."

"Who are you?"

"A friend of Annalise." The man was looking back up the pier at the people who had materialized from nowhere.

"You’re English?" said Rosenharte.

He nodded." Is he one of your people?" he asked, pointing to the water.

"My people? No."

"Look, we’re about to be joined by the police." The Englishman gestured with his chin. Rosenharte turned to see a navy-blue Alfa Romeo threading its way through the scrap iron. "Be at the Ristorante Grand Canale by nine thirty. Take a table outside, on the canal pontoon. Just make it seem as though you happened on the restaurant by chance. You got that?" He punched him lightly on the shoulder." Good fellow – everything will be okay."

Excerpted from The Brandenberg Gate, (c) 2006 Henry Porter. Reproduced with permission of Grove Atlantic. All rights reserved.

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