Big Dreams Cost Too Much, A Valentin Vermeulen Novella by Michael Niemann

dreams_kindleBig Dreams Cost Too Much (Kindle Single, $2.99) is a novella featuring Valentin Vermeulen, a United Nations fraud investigator who is featured in two other short stories and two full-length international mystery/thrillers, Legitimate Business and Illicit Trade. Book 3, Illegal Holdings, will be released on March 1, 2018. Sent to a peacekeeping mission in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, Vermeulen clashes with a beautiful but ruthless widow.

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The story that introduced Valentin Vermeulen, “Africa Always Needs Guns,” is also available exclusively on Amazon for $.99.

United Nations Investigator Valentin Vermeulen has been sent to a peacekeeping mission in the Ivory Coast, West Africa. After falsely accusing a higher-up at the UN, he is relegated to ferret out a suspected fraud in the miserably wet, politically volatile city of Yamoussoukro. A large amount of fuel has gone unaccounted for, and the culprit seems to be a petty bureaucrat named Khoury. But after Vermeulen confronts the man, he is shot and his death declared a suicide.

Vermeulen knows Khoury’s death was no suicide. He heard the gunshot and saw a young thug leave Khoury’s office. The suicide note did not appear until later. Vermeulen’s search for answers takes him to the offices of a beautiful widow, Desirée Doué, who runs a cocoa export company. For security, Madame Doué employs a group of young hoodlums known as the Jeunes Patriotes, and Khoury’s killer is one of them. Obviously someone in the UN is in league with her, but with the city’s politics in disarray, how will Vermeulen stop the perpetrators and remain alive? Fortunately he has an ally, Kwame Appiah, a member of UN troops with a trick or two up his sleeve.

Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career, he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he embarked on a different way to write about the world.

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Keep reading for an excerpt:

Bonsoir, Monsieur Vermeulen. Je suis Desirée Doué,” she said. Her French was the accent-free sort taught in expensive boarding schools. She traced the welt on my forehead with her index finger. I almost winced, but her touch was so light, it felt soothing. “Oh my, this looks bad. Why didn’t you just come along? Don’t you like invitations by beautiful women?”

“I don’t accept invitations delivered by thugs. Since you know who I am, you could have contacted me the conventional way. But using thugs seems to be your modus operandi.”

Her smile thinned in response to my gibe, but she retained her composure. Taking my hand, she led me to a chair in front of the desk.

“Come, sit. Let’s not dwell on the past. I’m pleased you are here. I don’t often get visitors from abroad. And interesting men like you are even rarer.”

Her flirty demeanor seemed out of place in this well-appointed office. The dark wood, the generous seating area off to one side of the desk, and the leather chairs all radiated a more masculine type of power.

“What do you want?” I said.

“I’m a businesswoman.” She sat down behind the desk. “I had you brought here because I have a proposition to put to you.”

“The kind of proposition you put to Khoury? Thanks, I’m not interested.”

She held up her hands, palms out, like a patient teacher.

“Just let me explain before you jump to conclusions. I’m a cocoa merchant. I inherited the business from my late husband a decade ago.”

That explained the office décor and the framed photograph hanging on the wall behind her under two crossed spears, depicting an older African man with white hair.

“You know how important cocoa is to the economy of our country. The civil war in 2003 made life difficult for traders like me. Everything was in turmoil. Once the UN arrived, we worked out a modus vivendi. The South exported via our port in San Pedro, the North via Burkina Faso and Togo.”

“What does that have to do with your kidnapping me? I don’t need a history lesson.”

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