Monday, December 12, 2011

H:tV Bowen's Journal Thursday, September 13, 1956

Morning has broken on another useless day. It’s cold and it’s only going to get colder. Doc got me a roof over my head, a couple of walls, and a place to lay down, but that was all he could manage, and really more than I deserve. But it doesn’t stop me from shivering in the morning, and wishing I had better heating, or less “unintended” ventilation.

But that’s this morning. This morning, I’m a poor, graduate student.

Last night, I was a hero, if only for five minutes.

I spent the morning in the stacks at the University Library (boring name for an impressive place). I still couldn’t find any of the resources that the catalog said should be there, but aren’t. I asked a resource clerk, who said everything had been removed and the catalog hadn’t been updated. That’s simple insanity! The history of those books alone makes them priceless. I immediately headed over to the special collections to talk with the librarian there, but was halted by a cute little German grad-student named Heidi, who thought I could get an appointment sometime next month.

I booked the appointment, and made another with Heidi for tomorrow night.

After those three frustrating and wasted hours, I headed over to Doc’s apartment in the English quarter. It feels like we haven’t been at Doc’s place in . . . well, forever. I ran into Doc on the way in, and then we immediately ran into Ragman. You’d think we’d be able to smell him long before we ever saw him, but maybe it’s better we didn’t.

Ragman said Heinrich, the well-dressed-man we’ve been hunting down, was trying to kill him, and he wanted out protection to get to the local police station. No problem! I was running short on cash anyhow, and Ragman had plenty of the Doc’s.

I have to admit, in my many years of cavorting and living the jet-set lifestyle on my father’s dime, even I have never been able to burn through such a relevant abundance of cash as the Ragman claims he did in less than six hours. Certainly not without easy access to Dom Perignon and some Cuban cigars. Ragman was hesitant to part with what little money he had left, but a quick raid of the Doc’s liquor cabinet convinced him to give me a fistful of dollars. I won’t see much in the way of revenue from my new “transportation” job, so I’ll have to scrape every barrel in the meantime.

We walked the Ragman over to the police station and there met Officer Rutger. Rutger immediately put me on edge. He seems like the kind of guy who, given the opportunity would shoot his best friend in the back if it was the “right thing” to do. Still, for some reason, I have a high degree of faith and trust in Rutger. Either he’s an excellent cop, or I’m a push-over for his do-the-right-thing attitude. I ended up telling him just about everything I’ve written in this journal. Not much about myself, but our on-going investigation into the murders and so forth.

Rutger immediately decided we needed to confront Heinrich, even though the evidence was flimsy and based mostly on the information we’d provided him. To his credit, he asked Doc and I to go along, Doc being the police consultant and all, and I being the only thing that keeps Doc alive in these situations.

As soon as we entered the grounds of Heinrich’s place, I knew we were on the right track. I can’t say how, but this seemed to be the culmination of days of effort and tracking through Berlin’s rainy, cold streets. I checked my weapons, made certain my spare clips were in place, and Rutger gave me a cop-look of disapproval but didn’t comment. Lucky for him.

No one was answering at Heinrich’s but we could hear something that sounded like rushing water. Not like someone was taking a shower, but more like we were up the hill from a river. It was a creepy sound, but not especially suspicious. It wasn’t a scream or a cry for help, or the sounds of gunfire, so Rutger was pretty much helpless.

Fortunately, when Rutger wasn’t looking (and after I turned the knob) the door opened all on its own (after I shoved it with my foot). The sound of rushing water was louder, but water isn’t illegal, even if you have a river running through your house. But we knew someone was in the house (my future silver Porsche was parked outside). Rutger told us that he was here to get answers, that Heinrich was suspicious enough all on his own, and, in what I took to be a slight bend to his otherwise rigid world-view, he was going into the house.

Gotta say, it was a nice place. A bit on the German gothic for my tastes, but I’m an American and (past tense) “nouveau riche” so what do I know? Still, dollar signs filled my eyes. I quickly made an inventory of Heinrich’s wealth, and hoped things were about to go down the way I thought they would.

They did.

We made our way up to the second floor, with the sound of water rushing louder than ever, and at the far end of the hall we saw the man himself: Heinrich. He was dressed in crazy, scary robes, and there was some kind of swirling vortex before him. Power radiated from the man, and not the kind of power you feel when you meet a president or a general or someone like that. This was the kind of power you’d think Merlin could use to throw thunderbolts from Olympus. I don’t mind telling you that my mouth was dry, my bladder was full, and my palms were as sweaty as a virgin groom’s on his wedding night.

The confrontation was fast, and deadly.

Heinrich made some motions, and ghosts, I swear to Almighty God or whatever Powers That Be, actual ghosts came at us. Rutger fired first, and I watched in horror and dismay as exactly what you think would happen, happened. The bullet went right through the apparition.

Well, if we couldn’t shoot the ghosts, then we should shoot the guy who made them appear. My two guns came into my fists, and for the first time in days, I knew exactly what I was doing and why. Once my weapons were in my hands, I didn’t hesitate. I pulled both triggers, once.

Once was enough.

Two slugs hit Heinrich and he went down, dead before he hit the floor.

There’s not much I can brag about in this world, but you put a pair of pistols in my hands, and I guarantee I’ll hit more than the broadside of a barn.

Immediately, the rushing water sound was gone. The ghosts, gone. The swirling vortex of fear, gone.

Rutger was in shock, but I wasn’t. I sent the poor man downstairs to call in the event. What followed next was a mad rush of events that culminated in my “liberation” of several highly portable items of decent worth, and, I’m proud to report, the aforementioned silver Porsche.

Unfortunately, when the police arrived and took my statement, they also insisted on taking my guns. The beast within me, that darkness and anger immediately welled up. I actually calculated my odds on shooting four armed officers of the law. The odds were in my favor, but escape would not have been. Berlin is a city on the brink, and locked down tightly by not just one government, but four. And not just four governments keeping the peace, but four armed camps ready to spring into full killing action should the order be given. I might have been able to keep from killing all the German police at the scene, and I might have been able to get away temporarily. But I’ve seen enough movies to know that you shoot a cop, and the world will fall down around you like a ton of bricks.

What additionally swayed me was the officers promise that I would get back the weapons, and the fact that I had “liberated” a Luger from Heinrich. I was not weaponless, and my weapons were safe. With some help from Rutger, and a little Jean Valjean, I might be able to get them back without the police being the wiser. I’ve made some inquiries, and a plan is forming.

Now, I gotta give the Doc credit for some quick thinking here. He managed to take off the license plate of a police car, and exchange it for the one on the Porsche. Granted, we’ll have to ditch the police plate as soon as possible, but it did give us immediate safety for the transport of the Porsche into Doc’s garage.

It is such a smooth, beautiful, lovely machine. I drove it with the same kind of relish that a man, forced to eat nothing but processed luncheon meat for months, would find for an excellent, medium-rare, porterhouse steak. It was a pure treat to not be bounced around by poor shocks or truck-tires.

I’d love to keep it.

I don’t think I can.

The funding it would bring far outweighs the perilous nature of keeping the machine. I would be better off selling it, and purchasing something more practical . . . by which I mean legal. Something far lower profile that would allow my commerce to flow more easily between checkpoints.

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