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Authors: Craig Russell

The Ghosts of Altona

BOOK: The Ghosts of Altona
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The Ghosts of Altona

Craig Russell

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication
  5. Acknowledgements
  6. About the Author
  7. Also by Craig Russell
  8. Prologue
  9. Chapter 1
  10. Chapter 2
  11. Part One: Two years later
  12. Chapter 3
  13. Chapter 4
  14. Chapter 5
  15. Chapter 6
  16. Chapter 7
  17. Chapter 8
  18. Chapter 9
  19. Chapter 10
  20. Chapter 11
  21. Chapter 12
  22. Chapter 13
  23. Chapter 14
  24. Chapter 15
  25. Chapter 16
  26. Chapter 17
  27. Chapter 18
  28. Chapter 19
  29. Chapter 20
  30. Chapter 21
  31. Chapter 22
  32. Chapter 23
  33. Chapter 24
  34. Chapter 25
  35. Chapter 26
  36. Part Two
  37. Chapter 27
  38. Chapter 28
  39. Chapter 29
  40. Chapter 30
  41. Chapter 31
  42. Chapter 32
  43. Chapter 33
  44. Chapter 34
  45. Chapter 35
  46. Chapter 36
  47. Chapter 37
  48. Chapter 38
  49. Chapter 39
  50. Chapter 40
  51. Chapter 41
  52. Chapter 42
  53. Chapter 43
  54. Chapter 44
  55. Chapter 45
  56. Chapter 46
  57. Chapter 47
  58. Chapter 48
  59. Chapter 49
  60. Chapter 50
  61. Chapter 51
  62. Chapter 52
  63. Chapter 53
  64. Chapter 54
  65. Chapter 55
  66. Chapter 56
  67. Chapter 57
  68. Chapter 58
  69. Chapter 59
  70. Chapter 60
  71. Chapter 61
  72. Chapter 62
  73. Chapter 63
  74. Chapter 64
  75. Chapter 65

First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Quercus

This edition first published in 2015 by
Quercus Publishing Ltd
Carmelite House
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ

Copyright © 2015 Craig Russell

The moral right of Craig Russell to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Ebook ISBN 978 1 78087 494 4
Print ISBN 978 1 78087 492 0

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

You can find this and many other great books at:



For Alan


I am grateful to my wife Wendy for her constant support and counsel, to my agent Andrew Gordon for his enthusiasm and support for the Fabel series, and to Alice Howe, Emma Jamison and Georgina Ruffhead at David Higham Associates. Thanks also to Jane Wood, Therese Keating and Joel Richardson at Quercus. Once more, special thanks to Ulrike Sweden and the other officers of the Polizei Hamburg for their help and advice.

Craig Russell is an award-winning and highly critically acclaimed thriller writer, published in twenty-three languages around the world. He also writes non-crime fiction under the name Christopher Galt.

Winner of the CWA Dagger in the Library, he has been a finalist for the Golden Dagger, the French Prix Polar, Scottish Crime Book of the Year and the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger. Three of his Fabel novels have been made into films for German television.

A former police officer, Craig Russell is the only non-German national ever to have been awarded the Polizeistern der Polizei Hamburg (the Hamburg Police Star).

Also by Craig Russell

The Jan Fabel Series

A Fear of Dark Water

Blood Eagle

Brother Grimm


The Carnival Master

The Valkyrie Song

The Lennox Series


The Long Glasgow Kiss

The Deep Dark Sleep

Dead Men and Broken Hearts

As Christopher Galt

The Third Testament
(previously published as


How oft when men are at the point of death
Have they been merry! which their keepers call
A lightning before death.
William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet

No man knows till he has suffered from the night
how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.
Bram Stoker


The existence of near-death experiences is not disputed; their nature is. Many who experience an NDE are left with an overwhelming belief in an afterlife and lose all fear of death. Science views these experiences as powerful and convincing hallucinations triggered by the near-death release of highly potent neurochemicals and intense electrical activity in the brain.

Whatever the cause, whatever their true nature, near-death experiences leave those who undergo them profoundly changed.



The sky that day, he would later remember, had been the colour of pewter. When he thought back on it, that was what he would remember, the lack of colour in the sky, the lack of colour in everything. And that he hadn’t noticed at the time.

Winter had been half-hearted. That day.


‘So why, exactly, are we talking to this guy more than any of the other neighbours?’ asked Anna Wolff as she and Fabel got out of the unmarked police BMW. ‘Schalthoff has no record . . . never been so much as a suspect for anything and has no dodgy connections that we can find. I just don’t get why you get a vibe from him. What is it – some kind of hunch?’

‘No such thing as hunches, Anna,’ said Fabel. ‘Just your unconscious processing information your conscious hasn’t got round to putting together. I know something about this guy . . . I just don’t know what that something is. Yet.’

‘Okay . . .’ Anna stretched out the word. ‘That makes it clear . . .’

‘Bear with me.’

They crossed Grosse Brunnenstrasse and made their way to the apartment building. Like unseen fingers turning pages, an ill-tempered breeze peeled back the damp leaves clinging to the path and tugged at the flyers stapled to bare-armed street-side trees. The face Fabel had got to know so well – big eyes and tousled blond hair above a guileless grin – smiled out from the picture on the flyers. It was that smile, the innocence behind the smile, that had motivated what seemed like the whole population of Altona to join in the hunt for the missing boy. The neighbourhood was full of the flyers: small banners of hope that little Timo Voss would be found alive and well. Everyone was looking to find Timo alive and well. But not Fabel. His job was, and always had been, to find the dead and the guilty, not the living and the innocent. Fabel knew he was looking at the face of a ghost.

‘How do you want to handle this?’ asked Anna.

‘Let’s play it by ear. I want to see if we can jangle a nerve. He was just that little bit too scripted the last time.’

As they reached the apartment building, a small woman, coat- and scarf-bundled against the weather, emerged from the main entrance and barged between them. Anna caught the door before it closed, saving them from having to press the entry buzzer.

‘It’ll be a nice surprise for him.’ She smiled.

‘Second floor,’ Fabel said and he led the way up a stairwell that smelled faintly of disinfectant. When they reached the apartment they wanted, Fabel noticed that the landing, too, seemed to have been recently cleaned. Bass echoes of pop music, drifting down from one of the floors above, haunted the stairwell.

When he pressed the doorbell it made an angry sound, like a bee trapped in a jar. Fabel waited a moment then, when no one answered, he rapped loudly on the door and called out: ‘Herr Schalthoff?’

‘Maybe he’s out,’ said Anna when there was still no answer. ‘Or working a shift.’ But Fabel waited, leaning in to the door and listening.

‘I hear movement,’ he said quietly. He was about to knock again when the door swung open to reveal a man in his late thirties. Jost Schalthoff, who Fabel knew had worked since leaving school for Hamburg City Council, was still dressed in his work overalls. He was medium height and had an open, pleasant, friendly type of face. Likeable. The kind of face you instinctively trusted.

It was you, you sick murdering fuck

The thought fell into Fabel’s head the instant Schalthoff opened the door.
Little Timo Voss trusted that face of yours but all he was to you was something to be used and disposed of. You took him off the street, did what you wanted and then you killed him
. And in the same instant of clarity, Fabel knew that if they searched Schalthoff’s apartment, they would find little Timo.

Fabel could not pinpoint what it had been about Schalthoff’s expression that had not been there the first time he had interviewed the council worker. Whatever it was it had instantly triggered his total certainty – something in his expression, something vague and fleeting, in that instant when Schalthoff, who had thought himself now in the clear, saw the police once more at his door. Something more than just guilt.

‘We’re following up our Timo Voss inquiry, Herr Schalthoff. We have a few more questions, if you don’t mind.’ Fabel showed his ID and smiled, keeping his tone light and matter-of-fact; Schalthoff tilted his head slightly, his expression dutifully serious. And all the time Fabel knew Schalthoff was the killer, and that Schalthoff knew he knew.

‘Of course.’ The council worker held open the door and the two Murder Commission officers entered. ‘Anything I can do to help. Terrible business . . . just terrible.’

With the door closed behind them, the music from the apartment above was muted to a vague bassline beat. Schalthoff led the two police officers along a short hall to the living room. Fabel scanned as he walked: three doors. Two doors open: small bathroom and toilet, boxroom-cum-bedroom. One door closed, presumably the main bedroom. As he passed the bathroom, Fabel thought he picked up a hint of the same disinfectant odour he had smelled in the stairwell and on the landing.

Two doors open. One door closed

The living room was clean and tidy and extended into an open-plan kitchen. A picture caught Fabel’s eye; it hung on the wall of the hall, just where it opened out into the living area. It was an expensive-looking print of an oil painting, mainly in blacks, dark blues and reds that seemed to combine the abstract with the representational. A hooded and cloaked figure of indeterminate gender stood on the shores of a river. Behind the figure, a riot of shapes and colours suggested some fierce conflagration consuming a city; in the foreground, the figure and the blaze behind it were reflected in the dark, glittering water. The painting had been signed:

The picture looked a little out of place in the apartment – all the furniture was modern and tasteful without being expensive: a well-filled bookcase beneath the window; coffee table; couch and two armchairs. All clean lines. The kitchen counters were uncluttered and populated only by a kettle, toaster and counter-top microwave. Everything functional. Everything in its place. With the exception of the dark print hanging in the hall, Schalthoff’s apartment spoke of someone controlled; someone who sought reassurance in efficiency and order. Someone not given to untidiness. To chaos.

BOOK: The Ghosts of Altona
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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