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HEARTLESS - Novel  (Best- and Longseller Germany)

Copyright by Bernhard Ganter,  Published "Herzlos" German Language

A highly explosive thriller about the machinations of criminal organ dealers

Roberto Magnani, ex-officer of the Italian anti-terror unit, owns a business for hunting arms in Abbiategrasso; Ghirlandeina, his lover, runs a debt-ridden restaurant in the same place. A shady bank offers her help, but only provided that in case of death, she agrees to leave her corpse to OSGU, an organization specializing in organ donations. Ghirlandeina agrees Ė only to die a short time later in a mysterious car accident. Roberto is being arrested as the prime suspect; however, he manages to escape from prison and starts to search for the real perpetrators. The trail of blood of the globally operating organ-mafia spans from Italy to the United Arab Emirates and BrazilÖ.

STORY AND BACKGROUND

The author and journalist spent more than three years researching the background for this story. He visited prisons, contacted freemasons, talked to insiders from the Italian finance and banking sector, and screened hundreds of pages of research material. While still working on the book HERZLOS, a key event made clear to him just how dangerous organized crime is. During his research, a Neapolitan police officer he knew well was shot dead by the camorra. His family was threatened with the same fate. The author spontaneously decided to go to Naples, where he barricaded himself with the family in their apartment before eventually managing to fly the family out of Italy and hiding them for over 6 months in Germany.

 HEARTLESS BERNHARD  GANTER

DEADLY DEAL WITH HUMAN "SPARE PARTS"

an action thriller disquienteningly close to reality: A Mafia -like syndicate of international proportions with highly respected banks and  clinics as "legal" fronts exploitsthe paar and indebted to provide new hearts for diseased millionaires who cling to life whatever the cost, When  Roberto Magnani setsout to pry behind the scenes of this cynical conspiracy, he gets into deep trouble with the syndicate. With breathtaking pace the story reachers its mind-boggling climax.      

Heartless, first Chapter

Bernhard Ganter

Translation: Christopher Magyar

Naples. It was morning rush hour in the Via Nuova Poggioreale. People scrambled about on their way to work, motor scooters rattled past, cars honked their horns, their tires squealing as they went around the curves. The air reeked of exhaust fumes.

It had rained just an hour ago. The oily puddles reflected the dirty gray facades of the buildings.

The Poggioreale, an infamous prison, is located on the Via Nuova Poggioreale. In criminal circles, they call it Satanís villa. King Umberto of Italy ordered it built in the nineteenth century. When he finally visited it, he was horrified: "Only a sadist could have built this prison," he said.

As many as four bunks clung, one above the other, to the walls of the tiny cells. The inmates lay as if they were on shelves. The distance between the bunks was so narrow that the prisoners had only a few inches of headroom. If an inmate wanted to turn over, he first had to push himself out of the berth and then crawl back in the other way. The windows, unreachable for the prisoners, were six and a half feet off the floor. Even if one of the men climbed up on the back of another prisoner, he still wouldnít see more than a bit of the courtyard. The sharply sloped window ledge, recessed four-and-a-half feet, blocked any view. Even when the whole city was bathed in glaring sunlight, the cells remained dark.

The architect in the kingís employ, the sadist, never got over his shame. He committed suicide.

The rusty, dented iron door in the small gate of the Poggioreale Prison opened slowly. Doctor Massimo Calvi was being released. He shoved his squat, overweight body through the narrow opening in the gate onto the Via Nuova Poggioreale. He was wearing an old-fashioned blue suit that smelt strongly of mothballs. In his right hand he was holding a worn black suitcase containing his few worldly goods: a razor, a toothbrush, books, photos and letters.

He didnít fare too badly in prison, at least when it came to eating. He worked as an orderly in the infirmary. The food there was more nutritious than in the other sections. They didnít have as many "brake pads", an undefined type of sausage that not only looked like bicycle brake pads but tasted like them as well, and less army-surplus N.A.T.O. cheese on whose tins the expiration date had been obliterated. There was also less "monkey fat", a spread something like margarine that stuck your teeth together like denture cream, and less "tank treads", as the inmates referred to the woody kohlrabi.

Calvi enjoyed more leeway than his fellow inmates. He looked after patients, he administered medications that the doctor had prescribed and he did a lively trade in drugs. His fellow inmates clamored not only for tobacco, coffee or pornography; they also clamored for certain tablets to numb themselves so that they could escape reality for a couple of hours.

Calvi went slowly down the street that ran along part of the prison wall. He moved timidly; his first steps into his newly won freedom seemed unsure. The summer shoes that the prison aid society had let him have were light as a feather, not heavy like the low-cut boots that he had to wear five years long.

He wasnít used to the sunlight and it caused his eyes to tear. Or was it the car exhaust that he couldnít take anymore? Massimo Calvi stood still for a moment. He observed the hated prison, whose cells were as small as chicken coops, behind whose walls perpetual darkness reigned, a darkness that drove men mad. He thought about the prison yard that was so narrow that the walls threatened to crush him, the yard that didnít let him see the sky because a roof blocked the view. This complex had been his home for five endlessly long years, years in which his hair had turned gray.

He had celebrated his fiftieth birthday not too long before but Doctor Massimo Calvi looked like he was sixty. He had gazed at the mat steel mirror that hung on the wall in his cell above the washbasin and he didnít recognize himself. His cheeks were swollen from the meager fare, his clean-shaven cheeks looked pale and flabby, his eyeballs with their lifeless amber irises sunk deeply into their sockets. He had never before looked at his face so closely, so critically. For years, the mirror on the wall hadnít been important for him. His vanity only returned once he got closer to release. The mirror became important again.     He was leaving behind years of humiliation. He could still hear the steps of the guards echoing in the hallways, the clinking of the keys as they turned in the locks.

Calvi shook his head as if he was trying to fling out the painful noises. He couldnít do it.

He saw the window of his cell for the first time from the outside. It was on the third floor in the Genoa wing. All the wings had city names: Milan, Rome or Florence.

Calvi looked at the tiny barred hole that allowed only a little bit of light to fall into the cell. It was another world behind these walls. A terrible world.

Other famous prisons like San Vittore in Milan or Regina Coeli in Rome were convalescent homes compared to Poggioreale. The Neapolitan prison was the scene of the largest prison revolt the country had ever seen in 1972.

More than two thousand inmates wreaked havoc. They had demanded prison reform, better food, better sanitary conditions. The rampaging prisoners had destroyed cell doors, set their straw mattresses on fire and decimated furnishings. They overpowered many of the guards who confronted them. More than ten inmates were injured in the wild shootout, some seriously. The police units which arrived as reinforcements not only had to deal with resistance on the part of the inmates; they had to push back prisonersí relatives whose ranks swelled in front of the gates as they proclaimed their solidarity with the inmates inside. The police put down the rebellion with brute force.

Calvi wiped his greasy face with his left hand. He thought about what a fellow inmate had said: "When youíre released, donít look back. If you look back, youíll come back ..."

Calvi smiled. He had no intention of coming back nor would he. An omen like that applied only to criminals. He didnít consider himself to be a criminal; he never had. Just because he had killed his wife five years ago, was no reason for him to feel like a criminal. It was just a case of bad luck, an idiotic misfortune.

Back then, five years ago, Calvi had made headlines all over the world. After years of research into the transplantation of human organs, he had developed a method that promised a ninety percent survival rate for heart transplants.

Doctor Massimo Calvi suddenly became a household name.

From that day onwards, his wife Juliana was relegated to the back seat. He neglected her more and more. While he luxuriated in the limelight, she was luxuriating in the arms of another man.

Juliana was an attractive, vivacious 28 year-old. Too young and too pretty to play the housewife that Calvi wanted. He excluded her more and more from his life. Was he afraid that someone might be more interested in his charming wife than him, the celebrated surgeon?

When Doctor Massimo Calvi finally got wind of Julianaís romance, his world came crashing down around him. He never had struck her, but that day, he went after her with his fists. Juliana didnít cry out, didnít even try to protect herself. She just held her tiny, delicate hands in front of her face. Her silence drove him to a frenzy. He grabbed her long, slender neck in his right hand and thrust her with all his might across the living room. Julianaís head struck the pointed knee of the heavy marble Cupid next to the door, a wedding present from friends that was supposed to bring everlasting bliss. Her body collapsed and fell to the floor as if in slow motion.

Calvi stared uncomprehendingly at the stone godís bloodied knee. It was Julianaís blood. She lay stretched out on the dark blue Persian rug. Dead.

Calvi saw the ugly gaping wound on her temple, saw the blood as it ran over her cheek onto the floor and seeped into the carpet. Her lifeless eyes gazed at him. There was no fear, no hate, but also no love, no forgiveness.

Calvi sat on the floor next to her the whole night. He was hoping for a miracle. Again and again he picked up the telephone to call the police, but he didnít do it. For hours on end he mulled over the idea of killing himself but he couldnít bring himself to do it.

No, he couldnít give up. He owed it to the people who hoped to find healing through his hands.

He had to get rid of the body and report Juliana as missing.

In the wee hours of the morning, he wrapped her in a bed sheet and carried her into the cellar where she lay for three days. He needed that much time to think. The fourth night, he stashed the body into the trunk of his Rover and drove to San Giovanni cemetery on Via della Republiche Marinare.

He had been there the day before, looking for a fresh grave, the grave of a young man who had committed suicide.

Calvi lifted Julianaís body over the cemetery wall and dragged it under cover of darkness to the grave. The multitude of red votive lamps cast ghastly shadows. Again and again he froze, straining to hear in the darkness. Sometimes there was a rustling in the bushes, sometimes a twig snapped. There were a lot of small creatures roaming about the cemetery. Calvi shrank with fear each and every time, his heart nearly stopped beating. From the bag that contained the body he produced a folding shovel and began to dig. Sweat dripped from his forehead, got into his eyes. Calvi was sure that no one would ever know that the grave contained two bodies. 

As good as his plan was, it failed. The prosecutorís office ordered the suicide victim exhumed just a few weeks later. Apparently there was some doubt about the actual cause of death. The gravediggers found Juliana and the police found her murderer.

Doctor Massimo Calvi had made the headlines yet again. The renowned surgeon was suddenly an infamous murderer.

Calvi received a relatively mild sentence: five years imprisonment for manslaughter. Never again would he be able to work as a surgeon; he was sure of that. No hospital in the world could afford to employ someone who had been convicted of manslaughter. But he was wrong.

In the meantime, Massimo Calvi had reached the bus stop. He was on his way to the train station. His train was leaving in an hour. While he waited for the bus, he produced a letter from his jacket pocket. The paper was worn and dirty. Calvi couldnít remember how many times he had read the letter. He looked at the sender: Clinica della vita, Bolzano Ė the Life Clinic, Bolzano. The letter invited him to come to Bolzano where a lucrative offer awaited him. Massimo Calvi needed a lucrative offer. His pockets were empty. His lawyers had taken every last cent.