From a Dark Horizon by Luke McCallin: Featured Excerpt
By Crime HQNovember 29, 2021
The Western Front, near the village of Viéville-sur-Trey, northwest France
They came for Reinhardt as he was sleeping, the door crashing open on a confusion of men and voices that snapped him awake. A shadow loomed over him and he lunged for the Mauser atop the chest by his bed, only to have a hand clamp down painfully on his wrist. “Lieutenant Reinhardt?” Someone shone a torch down on him.
He blinked the light from his eyes, turning his head away. A sense of wide shoulders, light glinting on the rim of a helmet. “Get that bloody light out of my face.”
“Lieutenant Reinhardt?” the voice asked again, the hand pressing down harder.
Reinhardt took his other hand out from under his pillow, moving slowly, and pushed, firmly. The light flicked away, the hand lifted from his arm. Reinhardt saw a Feldgendarme—a military policeman, a sergeant, built like a beer barrel—standing over him. The policeman was blinking down at the little Jäger pistol Reinhardt had pushed into his groin. The sergeant lifted the pressure on Reinhardt’s hand, and stepped back carefully.
“Apologies for waking you,” said a lieutenant, stepping into view. “Make it sound like you mean it,” Reinhardt said as he shifted himself up and swung his legs out of bed, lowering the pistol and levering the safety catch down against the grip. Behind the lieutenant stood two more Feldgendarmes, and Sergeant Brauer. “What time is it?”
“Not far off three in the morning,” answered the lieutenant.
“For Christ’s sake, Lieutenant.” Reinhardt tossed the pistol on his pillow and collapsed back onto his bed, an arm across this face. “Who are you, and what do you want?”
“Lieutenant Uwe Cranz, Feldgendarmerie. You are the commanding officer of Private Willy Sattler?”
Reinhardt hauled himself back up, paused as he began threading his arms into a shirt. “What’s he done now?”
“‘Now’?” Cranz repeated.
“Willy Sattler? A one-man committee to end the war . . . ?”
“Private Sattler’s accused of murder, Lieutenant. It’s no joking matter.”
“Murder?” Reinhardt repeated. “Who?”
“Never you mind that.”
“What d’you mea . . . ?”
“Private Sattler was confined to quarters, wasn’t he?”
“Who told you that? What’s going on?”
“Lieutenant Otterstedt told us and told us where to find you.”
“He did? That officious little . . .” The rest of Reinhardt’s words were swallowed as he levered the shirt over his head, and as Sergeant Brauer coughed loudly. “But . . . ?”
“Be quiet, and answer my questions, Lieutenant Reinhardt. Things’ll go faster that way.” Cranz looked barely older than Reinhardt, and he looked like a competent enough man. But his uniform was spotless next to the filth that creased Reinhardt’s where it was draped over the chair by his bed, and Reinhardt could not help feeling that twist of contempt that the infantry had for those who fought the war at the rear. Besides, however irrational it was, Reinhardt felt the urge to needle him. And Otterstedt, when he got his hands on that creep . . .
“Yes, Private Sattler is confined to quarters.”
“What was he confined to quarters for?”
“Private Sattler was a pioneer in your platoon, is that right?”
“Yes. What do you mean ‘was’?”
“You answer my questions, Lieutenant. Not me yours. A pioneer. Familiar with explosives, demolitions, things like that?”
“Things that go bang, Lieutenant. Exactly,” said Reinhardt, unable to keep the contempt from his voice.
“I’m starting to see where Private Sattler got his attitude.”
“Look, Cranz, if you don’t start answering my questions . . .”
“It would be easier to show you, Lieutenant. Get dressed.”
“What I’m . . . trying to do . . .” said Reinhardt, hopping from one leg to the other as he pulled his trousers on. “Will you at least tell me what has happened to Sattler?”
“Private Sattler has taken his own life. And the lives of several Feldgendarmes.”
Reinhardt paused as he swung on his jacket, one hand patting his pocket for the letter from home. “What? Why?”
“Because he had just blown up a house full of officers, Lieutenant.”
Excerpted from From a Dark Horizon by Luke McCallin, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021
About From a Dark Horizon by Luke McCallin:
It’s the final days of the Great War and four years of grinding conflict has warped more than one man’s mind. When a secret meeting of top brass is called, someone sets off a bomb that kills all the attendees. It looks for sure that one of the men in Gregor Reinhardt’s company is the culprit. But since that man killed himself, the General is looking for someone else to share the blame. Reinhardt must prove his trooper innocent if he hopes to avoid the fate of a co-conspirator.
The search for answers leads Reinhardt deep into a potential conspiracy populated by mutinous soldiers, a mysterious Russian nobleman, and a pair of doctors who may be doing more than treating battlefield injuries. The trenches are home to any number of horrors, but what if the greatest danger is right next to you?