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For All Nails #84A: Surprise!

by Johnny Pez

Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, Inner German Empire
28 June 1974

It wasn't easy to surprise Adolph Markstein, but he was definitely surprised when he saw the Clouseau Report.

"A Frenchman produced this?" he said in wonder. "You're quite sure? A Frenchman?"

"So Fraulein Fanchon assures me," said General Eric von Gellmann. He and Markstein were in the cabinet room with Michael Schroder, Joshua Merkel and Hans Steiner. As there was only one copy of the Clouseau Report, Markstein was leafing through it while the other three men observed from behind him. Having already read the report himself, Gellmann was seated at the table to Markstein's left.

"Extraordinary," said Markstein, still leafing through the report.

"Minister Clouseau is an extraordinary man," Gellmann assured him. "His methods are rather unorthodox, but in the last twenty months he has managed to transform the National Police from the comically corrupt organization it was then to the professional force you see described within the report. I have no idea where Fraulein Fanchon found him, but she has a talent for discovering and employing very competent people."

"Her great-grandfather had a similar talent," Schroder observed. "Unfortunately for him, it was not combined with any common sense."

"And now she wants us to withdraw the Schupos FN1 from France," said Markstein.

"That's right," said Gellmann. He was half expecting Steiner to speak up against the notion, but the bulky Interior Minister seemed captivated by the report.

The Chancellor apparently noticed it too, because he said, "How about it, Hans?"

After a few moments' pause, Steiner said, "From a strictly functional standpoint, there is much to be said for the idea. There is plenty of work for the Schupos right here in the Empire, and it is clear that they have become superfluous in France. One could even argue that the Kripos FN2 too are now unnecessary in France, and may be reassigned elsewhere. However..."

"However," Merkel took up the thought, "the Imperial Police presence in France is not simply a functional one. They also serve a symbolic purpose, reminding the French that their nation lies within the Imperial sphere of influence. If we withdraw them, that too will have symbolic overtones, potentially unwelcome ones."

Markstein suddenly looked up from the report to catch Gellmann's eye. "What do you think of the idea, Eric?"

Gellmann had to suppress a shiver of fear. He had never quite managed to overcome the feeling that Markstein might produce a butcher's knife from nowhere and attack him like some masked maniac in a Mexican horror film. He managed to cover up his momentary panic attack by pretending to mull over Markstein's question.

"If the German police presence if France were our only symbolic hold on the country," Gellmann said at last, "I would be more concerned over their withdrawal. However, as long as we have the Channel Force FN3 in place, and especially the Siegfrieds FN4 and the bomber squadrons, I think we needn't be concerned about losing the police. I am also confident that Fraulein Fanchon will not become giddy at the prospect and begin acting with undue exuberance."

"Not to mention," Schroder added, "Angela's FN5 reaction if she found out that we were keeping five thousand policemen stationed in France for the sake of mere prestige."

That comment drew withering stares from Frau Bitterlich's two cabinet colleagues and a roll of the eyes from Markstein. The Chancellor said, "Then we're all in agreement? Acceptance in principle, and details of the withdrawal of the Schupos to be worked out by Hans's people. Eric, you get to be the bearer of good news when you go back to Paris on Monday. And I really need to make room for some more coffee before I meet with King Frederick. If you all will excuse me?"

Gellmann had been hoping to use the washroom himself right after the meeting, but rank hath its privileges. He remained seated while Markstein disappeared through the door. He was brought to his feet by an explosion of breaking glass and the unmistakable sound of a human body hitting the ground.

Dashing into the washroom, Gellmann had just enough time to take in the sight of the Chancellor lying in a spreading pool of blood before he felt a hammerblow strike his own leg. As he pitched over onto the floor, Gellmann heard the echo of a rifle shot enter from beyond the shattered window. A Mauser SLG 66, his mind noted just before he blacked out.

Forward to FAN #84B: A State of Shock.

Forward to 28 June 1974: Accident.

Return to For All Nails.