STATE OF BAVARIA, GERMANY
SATURDAY, JUNE 8
DANNY DANIELS LIKED THE FREEDOM OF NOT BEING PRESIDENT OF the United States. Make no mistake, he'd loved being president. And for eight years he'd performed the job to the best of his ability. But he really cherished his life as it was now. Able to move about. Go where he wanted. When he wanted.
He'd refused any after-office Secret Service protection, which was his right, spinning it by saying he wanted to save taxpayers the money. But the truth was he liked not having babysitters. If somebody wanted to hurt him, then have at it. He was anything but helpless, and ex-presidents had never been much of a threat to anyone.
Sure, he was recognized.
It went with the territory.
Whenever it happened, as his mother taught him, he was gracious and accommodating. But here, deep in southern Bavaria, on a rainy, late-spring Saturday morning, the chances of that happening were slim. And besides, he'd been out of office for six months. Practically an eternity in politics. Now he was the junior senator from the great state of Tennessee. Here to help a friend.
Because that's what friends did for one another.
He'd easily located the police station in Partenkirchen. The mountain town intertwined with Garmisch so closely that it was difficult to tell where one municipality ended and the other began. The granite edifice sat within sight of the old Olympic ice stadium built, he knew, in 1936 when Germany last had hosted the Winter Games. Beyond, in the distance, evergreen Alpine slopes, laced with ski runs, no longer carried much snow.
He'd come to speak with a woman being held on direct orders from the chancellor of Germany. Her birth name was Hanna Cress. Yesterday, a Europol inquiry revealed that she was a Belarusian citizen with no criminal history. They'd also been able to learn from online records that she owned an apartment in an upscale Minsk building, drove a CClass Mercedes, and had traveled out of Belarus fourteen times in the past year, all with no obvious means of employment.
Apparently no one had schooled her in the art of discretion.
Something big was happening.
He could feel it.
Important enough that his old friend, the German chancellor herself, had personally asked for his assistance.
Which he'd liked. It was good to be needed.
He found Hanna Cress in a small interrogation room adorned with no windows, bright lights, and a gritty tile floor. She was sitting at a table nursing a cigarette, the air thick with blue smoke that burned his eyes. He'd come into the room alone and closed the door, requesting that no one either observe or record the conversation, per the instructions of the chancellor.
"Why am I being held?" she said matter-of-factly in good English.
"Somebody thought this would be a great place for you and me to get acquainted." He wasn't going to let her get the better of him.
She exhaled another cloud of smoke. "Why send American president to talk to me? This doesn't concern you."
He shrugged and sat, laying a manila envelope on the table.
So much for not being recognized.
"I'm not president anymore. Just a guy."
She laughed. "Like saying gold just a metal."
"I came to Germany to deliver envelope," she said, pointing. "Not be arrested. Now an American president wants to talk?"
"Looks like it's your special day. I'm here helping out a friend. Marie Eisenhuth."
"The revered chancellor of Germany. Oma herself."
He smiled at the nickname. Grandmother. Of the nation. A reference surely to both her age and the long time Eisenhuth had served as chancellor. No term limits existed in Germany. You stayed as long as the people wanted you. He actually liked that system.