The Berne Connection

The exclusive, private and somewhat mysterious Klopstock & Billreuth bank was mentioned in the AgriWealth financial data and has ties to the Dossier. As such the financial institution has apparent ties to what is emerging as a global conspiracy of unknown scale. It there proves a tempting target for Sanctuary to infiltrate and learn more about the organisation they have found themselves at odds with. In spite of what they’ve seen so far, the concept of genuine vampires still seems too far fetched, but money doesn’t lie. With a solid cover identity in place, Aisha prepares to join a batch of new recruits and get a good look at how the bank operates and assess opportunities to take more proactive requisition of its financial data. The rest of the team travel with her to Berne, Switzerland, headquarters of the bank, to act as backup if needed.

The mission takes an uncomfortable turn the moment the team arrives in Berne airport. Their Sanctuary contact, Sebastian Dichsel, is nowhere to be found, neither at the arrivals terminal nor at the fallback rendezvous. The team trackdown his place of residence and question his landlady who informs them that he has been killed in a terrible accident.

“Oh it is terrible – they say he fell into a zoo enclosure. By the time the zookeepers arrived, the wolves had already attacked him.”

She allows them into his apartment where they are able to locate the last few pieces of Aisha’s pre-arranged cover identity. The rest of the team begin to investigate Dichsel’s death while Aisha heads to her first day of work at the bank.

Klopstock & Billreuth’s recruitment policy is unusual. Aisha learns that they frequently take on batches of heavily screened applicants, all of whom serve a short contract before being dismissed with a respectable bonus. Only a lucky few ever get to stay in a permanent position and the recruits appear eager to one-up and denigrate their fellow hires if it means they’ll get a better chance at the highly sought after permanent roles.

The recruitment policy is not the only unusual thing about the bank. It has an overwhelmingly old-fashioned approach to banking and technology in general. The huge wood-panelled open-plan main floor has no computers of any kind and both staff and customers are relieved of any electronic devices upon entering. In addition, the majority of the banking records are hand-written and, when needed, are laboriously transcribed into the computer systems kept in a secure IT room at rear of the upper floor. Aisha’s job is to conduct transactional information from the records room enter it to the electronic systems inside the cramped and stifling computer room, under the hawkish glare of the IT manager Susi Isler.

Meanwhile the rest of the team visit the Tierpark to get CCTV footage of Dichsel’s final moments. They see him arrive at the wolf enclosure, before static washes across the scene. When the image returns, Dichsel is fighting to climb up the enclosure wall while the pack of wolves begins to circle. Realising his danger, he makes a dash to get away from before disappearing from the camera’s field of view. A few moments later, a grey-haired man in his 60s reaches the site and looks around. Then he presses a mobile phone to his ear and moves off screen.

Seeking out the detective in charge of the case, the agents manage to convince him to let them examine Dichsel’s phone. Carefully retrieving and cloning the SIM, they search for any contacts that he might have spoken too before his death. Three numbers stand out – two local to Berne and third to a mobile phone registered in Germany.

Following up the phone numbers builds a picture of Dichsel’s life in Berne. He had a girlfriend, Julia Weissbrott, a local school teacher with blonde hair and a rough woollen sweater. Gabe manages to break down her initial hostility and she admits she had some suspicions about Dichsel’s profession. She says she had a lot of connection in the poorer parts of the city especially among the immigrant communities. She recalls a time she was taken to a lovely, if unlicensed, Turkish restaurant and Dichsel shared some quiet words with the manager.

This information correlates with the heavily accented voice at the end end of the second phone number. The team make their way to a downmarket, grimy city block on the west of town and meet Fuat Maroush, proprietor of the reputed ‘restaurant’. With a little questioning he reveals that it was he who help Dichsel organise Aisha’s cover but that had no contact with Dicshel after completing the job. He does recall that Dichsel had expressed concern about being followed and that he was increasingly paranoid that his small investigation into Klopstock & Billreuth had raised some unwanted and unexpected attention. From whom, he did not know – he only told MAroush that he was seeking outside help.

Aisha’s unusual workday concludes; she and the other contract workers leave the bank and begin to make their way back to their various accommodations. For security, Aisha has arranged to be picked up but not in the near vicinity to the bank. As she picks her way through the expensive, tidy and surprisingly quiet city streets, she spots a man following her. He his wearing a long dark coat and his face is hidden beneath a high collar. She changes her route and crosses to another wide street to see if he follows. As she pauses to inspect the contents of a fashionable boutique’s window display, sure enough, her shadowy follower is right behind her. She turns another corner, breaks into a run and slips into the shadows of an alleyway. She listens as the slow, measured pace of her pursuer pads past. She hurries down the alley as the team prepare to quickly pick her up in the Mercedes. As the car appears and safety is in sight, the stranger lands between her and the car in a billow of his coat, having apparently dropped from the rooftop three stories up. There’s little time to ruminate on the supernatural as he springs at Aisha, his fingers curled into ragged talons. Kore guns the Mercedes’ engine in the hope of circling the block and reaching the other end of the alley in time to rescue Aisha.

Aisha realises she has little chance of escape without the car, brandishes her umbrella and prepares to defend herself. She swats aside a flurry of alarmingly fast lunges and repays them with a dizzying strike against her assailants head that sends him reeling. They continue their martial contest as rainwater patters down in the alley gloom. Aisha’s rigorous training is tested to its limits as she hold the stranger’s attacks at bay, but although she’s landed several heavily blows on him, she’s running low on strength and his lightning fast swipes and slashes shows no signs of tiring. She edges back towards the where she first entered the alley and the Mercedes, then turns and runs as it squeals to a halt, door open, Gabe levelling his heavily pistol. She plunges inside as Gabe’s gunshots ring heavy in the quiet streets. The door slams shut as Kore stamps on the accelerator. The whole car shakes as the creature – its bestial fury is surely not human – crashes into the rear wheel arch. As the car accelerates, Jim and Gabe lean out to fire into the monster as it tries to claw its way inside. Finally its grip weakens and they leave it for dead in the gutter as they speed away into the night, distant sirens just beginning to wail.


m1stershades AlW

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