The story takes place in Berlin. [What is Das Experiment]
I wake up this morning, my head buzzing with thoughts of the terrible 24 hours I spent the day before.
A smell of humid waste hangs in the air, and on my shirt is emblazoned a strange piece of art made of blood and Cuba Libre.
Sitting on the bed, my throat feels like a desert, begging for some water.
I get up, dazed by the hangover and my dislocated jaw.
A damn headache nails my brain to the back of my head and I almost cut my foot open on a brand of glass lying among the mess spread on the floor.
Swaying, I stand in front of my mirror, the room swirling in my head.
An ugly face stares at me, big eyes, yellow teeth.
It disgusts me, this, my reflection, and I turn away.
The phone rings and my blood freeze when I read the name showing up on the screen.
How the hell did he get hold of my number?
Wondering whether I should answer or not, I put the phone down for a second and pick it up again, my mind blurred by the alcohol still running in my veins.
My finger hovers over the green button, undecided, hesitant… Do I answer or not?
Suddenly someone hammers on the door, the noise echoes thunderously against my head, pain shooting through me, my skull exploding.
Startled, I press the green button. A shrill voice can be heard through the phone while the door threatens to burst open under the blows!
“Hold on a second”, I yell, addressing this to the whole world rather than anyone in particular.
The hammering on the door stops, I put the phone against my ear and tell Ulric to take it easy.
He hangs up and that does not bode well, but I have the damn door to open and no time to think about it.
A bellhop in royal blue uniform stands on the doorsteps, an envelope in his outstretched hands… ”Für Sie”.
I look incredulously at the crack in my door and back at him. The boy is barely five feet tall.
Did this guy almost smash my door? I cannot figure out what is going on, but do not dare to ask.
“Danke, für dich” I reply, confused, before tossing a coin at him.
He gives me a sardonic smile and walks away, unflustered.
As his silhouette disappears at the end of the corridor, I realize that I am still holding the closed letter and tear up the envelope.
The writing is difficult to decipher and my German unperfect, but the summoning is clear: I must be meeting a certain “Master” at 18.00 or I will be in big, big troubles (or so I understand from the deliriously long German words)… what the hell, as if I was not already.
I close the door and look at the clock: just 6 hours! Fuck I need a clear head!
I take off my t-shirt and boxer, get in the shower and turn on the cold tap.
The ice-cold water flows through my body and almost brings my heart to burst.
My blood, spilling apathetically through my veins ten minutes ago, has now transformed into a raging torrent.
My muscles shake, my teeth rattle, and in my head I hear the stern voice of my father: “When you are stressed, never take a hot shower, always a cold one! Ice cold! Heat lulls you, preparing your defeat. Cold makes you alert, focused”.
I had never made him proud, me, the little brat always quick to pick up unnecessary brawls. I had even escaped my military service.
And yesterday, I crossed the line, getting myself in an imbroglio with the Belorussian mafia. Maybe the devil himself.
It was time for redemption.
Wearing clean clothes and with a clear head, I delve into my suit from last night.
It stinks of alcohol, cigarettes, sweat and sex.
I spread on the bed the things that I fish up from the pockets.
A Polaroid taken around 8pm shows me doing shots with two girls in a club, but I cannot even remember their names.
I was still relatively sober at that point of the night, I recall. And unaware of the troubles ahead.
Among the half-empty cigarettes packs, clubs tickets and other bits and pieces in the pockets, I find a tiny red lacquered box.
Strangely I cannot remember this box at all… but what is a lot worse is that it drips…
My stomach cramps. Blood?
Fuck, just my luck. The stain on the carpet is not red though, it may not be blood.
Relieved, I lift the lid…
My eyes widen and I puke on the floor.
In the box lies the severed finger of a woman, painted dark purple and ornated by a ring.
The bed of ice underneath has already melted.
Promptly I close the lid back and push the box away from me on the nearby desk before opening the window for fresh air. It feels like the whole room smells of rotten flesh.
Would that be why everyone was after me yesterday? But then, how did it find its way in my pocket?
I mainly recall the 500 gr of cocaine I somehow got from Ulric at poker. Could not believe my luck. Maybe having a line on the King of spade card that won me the round, just in front of him, was pushing it a bit though. He got me kicked out of the club with a good punch on the jaw by one of his henchmen. Will have to see a doctor about that. I know I somehow lost the 500 gr of cocaine too and Ulric wants it back now. I hate sore losers, but then I do not have much leverage in this affair.
What a shitty day. I hardly remember last night, I have to find 500 gr of cocaine, I have the severed finger of women in my pocket and I only have five hours before I should meet this mysterious master.
My head is buzzing with all the tasks and I have no idea which one I should take care of first. Especially since each task has an inherent high potential of violence. One thing is clear: I need a weapon.
I throw on a heavy black coat, grab my leather gloves and grey cashmere scarf before getting out of my hotel room and into the street. The sidewalk is covered with a thick layer of snow.
I walk for a few hundred meters, my feet getting wet in my elegant leather shoes and finally, I reach the S-bahn station.
I know a place on the outskirt of Berlin, a dodgy neighbourhood with a small hidden shop for “hunters”. Clearly people who haunt the place aren’t killing birds and rabbits.
The subway is overcrowded, countless people are standing on their feet. I squeeze beside a beautiful woman, which attracts several angry looks from male bystanders.
The steady rumble of the wagon and the warm, stuffy air lull me. After a few minutes I find myself dozing off and escaping into my thoughts.
I wake up just in time to get off the train in Köpenick and the cold air slap me out of my semi-coma.
Although two years have passed, I find the way back to the shop with no problem. Thankfully it still exist, near a disaffected factory.
Last time I was here I bought a load of G3 rifles.
My entry into the lucrative business of illegal weapons.
I push the heavy door and enter the shop, looking dishevelled despite my elegant clothes.
The owner looks at me with acute attention, examining my face for signs that he should be wary of me. After all, this is no usual business.
I walk towards the counter and ask without hesitation for a 3rd generation Glock 22 semi-automatic handgun. Nothing fancy.
The guy still looks suspiciously at me, wondering whether he can trust me or not.
“Need to order it. Takes a week”, he snarls. “I do not have that much time. What else have you got there?”, I reply.
Without a word he reaches under the counter and pulls out a revolver, which I know from 1930′s gangster films.
The dealer seems to notice my sceptical look. ”A Smith & Wesson Model 36, Chiefs Special, caliber .38. Short and compact, just right for you. Ideal to make heads explode in a red cloud”.
He stares at me and grins. His smile is infectious.
I pay cash and get a belt strap along with the gun, cowboy style. There is no point in trying to hide it, if the Belarussians or that “Master” want to find it, they will anyway.
If troubles arise, I will have to be fast, that’s my only chance.
With a smirk, the owner looks at me leaving the shop and as I close the door behind me I have this gut feeling that something is going to go very wrong very soon.
I walk back to the S-Bahn and catch it in the opposite direction. I have to go back to the centre, to the place where it all began last night: the club.
The subway is almost empty, I sit down. Everywhere dirt, rubbish and Graffiti. “Fuck you “,” Michelle, I love you ” or “ Death to all Nazis” are painted in black, red and white letters on the walls. The black bag containing the weapon and the belt is on my knees.
A bloke stares at me intently. I hope he has not noticed the revolver.
Germans are very narrow-minded when it comes to carrying weapons in public, and the police is the last thing I need now.
The man is wearing a long brown dust jacket, so worn out and stained it looks like the props of an old spaghetti Western.
His face is stern and his skin has the texture of tanned leather. His pale blue eyes pierce through my skull and I cannot hold his stare.
I get up and walk down the compartment, but briefly turn around to look behind me and realise he got up as well.
I finally reach the door going to the next car, open it and feel the brusque breath of wind rushing inside.
Before I can step on the platform and open the next door, the guy catches me, pulls me back in and pushes me against the compartment’s wall next to the door. It closes back brutally.
“You’re pretty careless for an arm dealer mate. I could’ve spotted your gun 200 yards away”, he says, his forearm pressing against my neck, almost strangling me, his hand pulling my collar towards him. I can’t talk. In fact I can barely breathe.
There is no help in sight. The car is completely empty, as if someone had erased all the people from the scene.
“What… do you… want?”, I stammer, using my last breath of air. ”Well, what good?”, the man chuckle and squeeze even tighter. ”Your money, your watch, cell phone, and the damn gun!” His right hand fumble around in my jacket and fishes out the wallet.
In his greed, he wants to search the other pocket too, but has to switch hands. Just as his grip gets loose, I jump up. A horrible grinding sounds confirms my hit. I have broken his nose with my forehead.
Blood shots out and splashes on my clothes. “Not again…”, I moan and roll my eyes.
My attacker brings his hand to his bleeding nose, stumbles backward, trips over and falls on his back.
The shock knocks him unconscious, allowing me to take a closer look at him. His face looks vaguely familiar. Did I meet him at the club yesterday? Ulric had a particularly large entourage with him and I could have seen the bloke without noticing him. I have a feeling a quick search in his pocket may reveal a Belorussian passport, but I don’t feel the urge to look for answers. Given his strength, I do not want to take the risk of waking him up.
I step over his body and walk towards the other side of the car, to the last door, where I wait for my stop – Berlin Hauptbahnof.
Just as the train driver announces the terminus, I see the body moving and slowly the man manages to sit up. He looks confused, then catches sight of me and tries to get up. But a jerk, as the train comes to a stop, throws him against the door and leaves me enough time to jump off the wagon and disappear into the crowd.
Curious stares meet me as I slalom through the crowd with my blood-stained clothes. The bag hanging on my wrist, I fold my arms on my chest and follow the sign on which is written WC in bigger letters.
I accelerate my pace and the bag swings back and forth excitedly.
I kick the door with my foot in vain. “Pull” is written above the latch. I roll my eyes and fling the door open.
The room is empty. But the stench leaves me breathless. Piss, shit, vomit and beer, I can smell it all and I choke.
Regrettably the sink does not look better. There are even small and large chunks of shit floating inside.
I puke in the sink right next to it.
Only two hours until showdown.
I rinse my mouth out and button up my jacket so as to at least hide half of the blood.
I dig in my pocket and search for the letter, I have forgotten where I am to meet the master.
My hands produce all sorts of stuff, only not the note. I must have forgotten it in the hotel. “Fuck, I need that note”, I curse before grabbing my bag.
Cautiously I open the toilet door and peek out. None of the people rushing by seem to be interested in me and I disappear into the crowd again.
Back at the hotel I run upstairs and arrive on a crime scene. Yellow tape is barring the door of my room and half a dozen cops are guarding the place. I ask them what the hell is going on.
“The room client was shot dead an hour ago. Actually he was blown to pieces. His face has been pulverized but we identified the finger prints”, replies one of policemen, in a strong German accent.
I looked at him, puzzled, for a minute. The man says he understand it must come as a shock, but reassures me nothing else will happen in this hotel anymore, the police is encircling the area. I am barely listening to him, stunned and struggling to understand what is going on.
“Entschuldigen Sie”, I ask in broken German to the police, “but can you tell me who the dead person is? I was here to errr… meet a friend.
The policeman looks at me skeptically. ”I’m sorry, but I may not pass on such information at this time.”
“Thanks anyway”, I whisper and walk towards the stairs. Luckily the black bag along with the revolver remains unnoticed.
Back in the lobby I pause to think about my next move. Someone tried to kill me…
“Hey, you over there. With the black bag…”, I hear behind my back. I turn around and see two men in uniforms rushing towards me. I start feeling hot and sweat breaks out.
“Ah, you mean me”, I stutter and curse myself for not keeping my cool.
“Guten Tag. My name is Kläsner, this is my colleague Brauner. We are of the BKA”.
I inspect the ID cards they are holding, but have no idea whether they are real or not.
“We have a few questions”. I nod and Kläsner signify me to seat down. Brauner and him fall in the opposite leather chairs.
“Well, “ begin Kläsner, leaning slightly forward, “You asked upstairs, who the dead person is because you were supposed to meet a friend here. Is that correct?”
“Yes that’s right”, I admit.
“Was he the occupant of the room?”
I hesitate, but figure out that this is a good opportunity to get some information.
“If I tell you now that the dead man is Ulric Boskovic, a Belarussian with German origins and known for drug trafficking and violent offenses, would you still describe him as a friend?”. Kläsner grins.
“Would you not describe as a friend someone that can always get you very horny women, who do anything you want them to? “, I ask back. “And I mean, really everything!”
As Kläsner leans back in the arm chair, Brauner cannot suppress a smile.
With Ulric’s death several of my problems have been settled: 1. Ulric himself, 2. I don’t need to worry about the 500g of cocaine anymore either.
“But joking aside”, begins Kläsner again, as he places two objects on the table. “What can you tell us about this?”
On the table lie a red box and a folded letter.
I freeze at the sight of the letter. “Could I have a look at this piece of paper?”, I ask in a tone I hope to be neutral.
“Of course. Bitte schön”, says Brauner as he passes the letter on to me. I unfold the crumpled sheet of paper trying to refrain a smile. These policemen are being very helpful indeed.
It is now 17.30 and the letter says 18.00. But no precise place for the meeting is given, that’s why I couldn’t remember any. I am not even sure what the master want from me. But I am certain that he is behind Ulric’s death somehow.
I give back the letter to the officers who are now looking at me intensely. “What do you think?”, ask Brauner.
“I have no idea”, I reply in a half-lie. After all, it is rather true that I do not have a clue what this letter means.
The two men look at me suspiciously and I have the feeling they do not believe me. But I get up to signify them I have nothing else to say and they do not try to stop me.
“I am sorry I cannot help you further gentlemen, but Ulric was a loose acquaintance and I do not know what brought him here or even why he wanted to see me”, I say, this time with confidence. I slightly bow my head to say goodbye and move towards the exit.
I can feel their eyes following me as I walk out the door.
I am baffled their investigation has not yet made the link between me and the hotel room in which Ulric was killed, nor found out that we spent the night in a club yesterday. Why did they not even ask my name?
I stop in front of the hotel. Undecided, I watch the swirling crowd, walking along the street.
Suddenly, many people begin to run, others scurry into buildings. It starts to rain.
First only lightly, then the downpour grows stronger. Huge rain drops slap me in the face, and within seconds I am completely wet.
The rain seems to wash my mind away, my head is empty. I have no idea what I should do now.
A taxi stop in front of me, water spills over the curbstone and pours into my shoes.
The passenger door opens and a woman leans over. ”Need a taxi?”, she asks kindly, showing her prettiest smile.
“Why not,” I reply and get in the car.
“Clara Reißer”, she introduces herself, “Where are you going?”
I get out my last 50 euros note. “Until this is used up”.
“Oh, all right”. The surprise in her voice is unmistakable.
Without any further question, the driver steps on the accelerator and we rush away through the rain.
In the rear mirror, I catch sight of what looks like Kläsner and Brauner.
The silence during the trip is awkward. Clara’s lightness is gone, replaced by a growing tension.
She presses her lips together and clings to the steering wheel. Suddenly the radio crackles.
“Barbara, man, where are you? Can you give your status please? We have heard nothing from you in three hours. Do you even have a customer?”
“That’s my colleague Barbara, she is missing. It has been a very strange day… ein Komishes Tag… and… you are strange too”, says Clara, a little uneasy.
“I am sorry, I am disoriented. This day has been strange for me too”, I reply with a tired voice. I sink in the soft Mercedes Benz back seat, the heavy rain beating the windscreen frantically swept by the wipers. The comfort and stability of the car gives me the impression to be safe and I wonder, what could happen to me know?
The vehicle carries on its course in the grey streets of Berlin, but I can hardly distinguish anything. Was that the Brandenburg Tor? I have now absolutely no idea where I am and I don’t care. I want to go to sleep and wake up tomorrow with no crazy master after me.
My eyes are closing slowly when the car suddenly crashes into something and I am thrown against the window. Blood starts running down my forehead. Everything around me is now still and, as I slowly move, I can see that Clara is held above the wheel by her belt, unconscious.
I unfasten my own belt and open the door next to me. The window falls out, my left arm seems broken and my head is swelling. I stumble out of the car, bent forward and holding my forearm. The rain is still falling hard, my heavy black coat sticking to my body.
As I raise my head slowly, a petrifying feeling of terror overwhelms me. Fate will not let me escape. In front of me stands Club Übel, the club where I partied the night before and all my troubles started.
To be continued…