1 Thursday, November 3, 2011

When I got off the elevator, Kurt Bruckner was waiting outside the locked door. I already suspected what was in the broad envelope he had tucked under his left arm, but about it, later. Bruckner did not hear me come right so I could watch him for a few seconds as he barely noticeably rocked on his toes and focuses the white plastic case of the doorbell looked. I tried to read his thoughts, simply observe him. Apparently, the remnants of the paper, the glued on the doorbell irritated him. I had scraped the name plate by hand. The blue color of the felt pen shone through. The name was still indecipherable. Bruckner stroked his thumb and index finger across the bridge of his nose. He thought his part that I felt. Then he would have accepted and his gaze almost bored to the white tiles, with which the walls of the corridor were right up tiled at eye level. Only now he heard my footsteps and turned around. He looked at me and wanted to see what I had already done. I was late and I began our acquaintance with an apology.

»Sorry, you have been here long?«

Bruckner took a deep breath and the same again. He smiled. »No, no, no problem.«

Only now he held out his arm. His handshake was strong and decisive, he mastered his lesson of body language, which I did not expect otherwise.

»I thought that you have already gone up. Looks stupid indeed made to wait in the street below.«

Bruckner nodded. »I was lucky, someone has let me in.« He smiled again. »So you’re Herr Halls or should I say Mr. Halls?«

»As you like. Here in Hamburg one is quite international, right?«

»Yes, that’s probably true, Hamburg is very international, the gateway to the world, as they always say.«

With these simple sentences we had staked out the terrain. The man was quite sympathetic to me.

»But maybe we should go inside«, I suggested.

I had something else in store for him. I drew the key out of my pants pocket and flipped it open. I chose hook and tensioner and had only seconds to the pins in the lock cylinder to crack. With the tensioner I finally turned the cylinder and the door swung open. Bruckner saw me unimpressed, but I felt the question behind his face.

»A little hobby«, I replied. »Of course I would have a key to the apartments, but then I’d just run around with keys.«

Bruckner took the statement. I let him go ahead. The apartment was furnished so we should be able to sit in our conversation. I have not always in mind that apartments are furnished and which are completely empty. This indeed here was small but reasonably well equipped. In a corner of the room, two chairs and a small couch were squeezed, before a tiny side table. A futon bed stood across to the opposite wall and was converted with numerous pillows to a kind of bed. The kitchen had a two hotplate. After all, there were ceramic hobs, over which hovered a retractable hood. In addition, a microwave in the open wall was admitted. A rule of three cups and plates and a cutlery tray stood on the shelves and also belonged to the inventory, as well as the shapely blue coffee machine which rounded off the extensive facilities.

»Do you like a Senseo?«, I asked.

Bruckner thought about, then shook his head. »Thank you, no more coffee, please.«

He took a chewing out, grabbed it and shoved it into his mouth.

»That’s the bonus«, I said, as he began to chew.

Bruckner swallowed briefly and looked at me quizzically. »What do you mean?«

»The coffee machine and eighty of the pads.« I opened the cabinet and pointed to the bags with the coffee portions. »Who takes the apartment, gets it all as a bonus, but so far no one has to be convinced.«

»The neighborhood is quite nice«, said Bruckner. He went to the window, pushed the curtain a bit to the side and looked down at the street. »Is that your car, the Black Beetle?«

»Yes«, I said cheerfully.

»It stood before not there yet«, said Bruckner, »but I would rather have guessed that you drive a sedan.«

»But I love it sporty. A limousine is too cumbersome in Hamburg and so I have taken this Beetle. It is a 21th-Century Beetle.«

»Have seen the advertising. I think the car is brand new?«

»Very new, only a few days. Is a 2.0 TSI with 200 HP. The predecessor I had never taken, was too spherical. Before that I had a Audi TT, which has been stolen.«

»Around here?«

»No, in Sternschanze.«

»I thought to myself because the neighborhood here has upscaled in recent years.«

»For students, it is probably a little too quiet. That is what I hear always if I have someone here. And a coffee machine was not the right argument so far. For almost a year now we have been looking for a new tenant.«

»Is it a loss business for you?« Bruckner pulled the curtain back outside the window and turned to me.

I shrugged. »We are not the owner of the apartment and at the anticipated rent no high commission is of course there. My father in law wanted to return the job already, but I like it here anyway.«

I spread out my arms, as if I would present a giant empire. Bruckner began intense chewing and looked around again. The wallpaper was yellowed, and if I’m honest, at second glance the furniture were shabby. Bruckner finally pulled out his warrant card and fingered the police badge out of his pocket.

»Excuse me«, he said, »I have not even legitimized me.«

The police badge shone as if it had been polished. Out of politeness, I glanced at his ID Card. The photo was not even bad. But on the photo Bruckner had longer hair and stubble. I had to hold something against and so I searched inside my jacket for a business card. Usually I use the cards only if a customer is undecided. Then I finish a viscous conversation with my business card and the wish that the customer will change his mind later. I hate indecision and love people who can decide quickly and have clarified all the essentials. I handed Bruckner my card. He pondered and looked at it extensively.

»Gustav-Schmidt-Real-Estate!« He read from the card. »Gustav Schmidt?«

»That’s my father in law, he owns the real estate office. My wife is bred from Hamburg. She had study in New York, when we first met.«

»Interesting!« Bruckner turned back to my business card. »You call yourself project consultant!«

»That’s not all«, I said. »I’m also the manager, but for ordinary customers project consultant looks better. I have other cards that I use when it comes to really important negotiations and transactions and if I have to show that I have the final say.«

Bruckner looked further on ny business card. »Your first name, how do you pronounce?«

This question I had not expected so I rushed a moment and thought about phonetics. »The first syllable short and then the english word for man«, I said.

Bruckner tried. »Tillman!«

»That’s right!« I said to him.

He nodded. »Mr. Tillman Hall«, he repeated my full name. He looked at me. »You speak very good German, I mean your accent, no one can hear right away, that you are an American.«

I smiled. »Not at all. I still have difficulties with some word meanings and I use a lot of old German words. For example, the living room is always the barrack room and the bedroom the chamber for me. I get no more out.«

Bruckner laughed. „My grandmother has always said so.“

»Yes, you see, exactly that it is«, I said. »I have not learned the language from my wife, but from my grandmother. My grandparents were German.«

»Therefore«, Bruckner said nodding. »But my grandparents spoke the German of the twenties and thirties.«

»Really interesting«, said Bruckner. »I have determined any distant relatives in the States.« »The United State were and are just an immigrant country, even if it sometimes, as in my case goes in the other direction.«

Bruckner nodded in agreement, then he was apparently again aware of why he had come to see me.

I forestall him. »We shall let the old stories. Do you want to sit?«

I pointed to the two armchairs. Bruckner agreed with me, we sat down. Now he pulled out the envelope and put it on the table.

»Do you like a coffe now?« He shook his head. »No, thanks, really. I have not much time.« He looked at his watch. »In an hour I have to return to the presidium for a meeting.«

He tapped his finger on the envelope. »I have already told you on the phone that I would like to hear your opinion on a certain matter … «

That was too quick for me. »Yes, our telephone conversation«, I interrupted him. »Before you start, excuse me, I naturally wondered how you came to me.« Bruckner smiled. »You do not know?«

»No!« I really did not know it at this moment, even if the answer was simple.

»Experts and specialists File«, Bruckner said. »The ESPE, the BKA, the Federal Criminal Police. There I found your name. Your list entry has interested and motivated me. I want you as a consultant. Or are you the wrong Tillman Halls?«

Now it dawned on me, the matter had slipped my mind completely. »I’m the right man«, I said Bruckner initially before I started to disappoint him.

»It’s true, I add me there, when I moved three years ago from America to Hamburg. I also do not know why I did it. Maybe I could not give up my profession. That has now changed but, actually, I am no longer available and also in all the three years no one has contacted me. No one, you are the first, really.« I reached into my jacket pocket. »Wait.« I took my phone out and activated the voice recorder. »Just a minute!« I started recording, holding out the phone from my mouth. »Memo! Delete entry in E-S-P-E, immediately, urgently!«

I smiled at Bruckner. »Good thing, or what do you mean? And so convenient for travel, but I must not forget to listen the memos later.«

Bruckner did not seem impressed. »But you have worked in America as a profiler, is that right?«

I nodded. Yes, I had to admit. I had all entered into this database, everything. My time in New York, a good time. The three years at Quantico, for me an experience. And it was precisely this experience who Bruckner was interested in.

»Have you worked at the police or at the FBI?«

Bruckner’s second question I could not answer so casually. I was also to blame. When I came to Hamburg, I was kind of hoping not to have to give up quite so my old job.

But then I had a job and a lot of work. At that time Eva’s father was ill and so I entered in the business. And with time it has also given me a lot of joy. I was good for the job. We have well deserved, and after Gustav was full back, was no longer hanging everything to me. Actually this Bruckner had come too late, I thought.

»N-Y-P-D«, I replied to his question, »but I was mostly displaced, have worked a lot with the Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then they invited me to Quantico.«

»The FBI Academy?« »Quite right Quantico, at the local military base. Have you ever been in Virginia?«

Now I had asked a question, a meaningless question.

Bruckner shook his head. »I’ve never been in the States. New York I would be interested in.«

I nodded. »New York can be great. Quantico is not so great. At that time we lived in Fredericksburg, which is even less great, even backwater. Well, if you worked all day, then it is okay, but for my wife it was hard. She never felt quite as an American and then the province can be terrible. If we had remained in New York at that time, then maybe I would not be here in Hamburg, today.«

»And your wife does not like Quantico?«, Bruckner said.

»Fredericksburg, we had a beautiful house in Fredericksburg. I drove every morning to Quantico and return to Fredericksburg in the evening. Quantico, that’s only military and Academy and a bunch of Marines.«

»And you have been teaching at the Academy?«

»Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Profiling, I have transmit my experience, spiced up with a bit of psychology and applied science. Once I studied a few semesters physics. For the Nobel Prize it was not enough and I’m just went to the New York City Police Department.«

Bruckner nodded to acknowledge, though I did not want to impress him.

»I’m Profiler«, he said after a brief hesitation. »Here at the German police but it is called Case Analyst, Operational Case Analysis. Although it has a German name, everything comes from the States, but I think that you know better than I do.«

Now I had to be careful not to go too far. It was important to draw a line and see what Bruckner undertook. My next words were carefully considered.

»Detective, I do not want to be rude, but if I’m honest, it’s not very agreeable to me.«

That hit home. Bruckner was surprised. He ran back with thumb and forefinger on the bridge of the nose. It took a few seconds for a response.

»I’m sorry, I thought …« He cleared his throat. „I could not explain so much on the phone …« He paused, thought for a moment, then his voice was again solid. »I can go, so it is not. I had only thought, you might be interested in and you would like to help me, or to help the German police, I mean, but you were a police man … « Bruckner did not finish the sentence, but ran the palm of his hand over the envelope, without taking it off the table.

»No!« I shook my head. »I’m sorry that you have made hope?«

»But on the phone … «

I noticed that Bruckner had to slow down so as not to sound angry. He was aware that he wanted something from me and it was not nice of me, to stall him. But then he smiled.

»Why are you not stayed at the police, I mean in your career? You could have to go back from Quantico to New York.«

Now he was trying it this way. I had told him too much already, he saw through me. He felt that there was something. Of course I wanted to see what he made of the situation.

»You seem to know well about me«, I interjected.

»You have not answered my question«, he replied immediately.

Now he ventured a little bit. He felt somehow that my resistance was just played. I leaned back in my chair once and remained silent for a few seconds until I finally answered.

»So you’re interested in my life story?« Bruckner shrugged. »I have searched in the ESPE by an expert and the program has spit your name.«

»Only my name?« I said. »There’s got give other experts here in Hamburg.«

»Maybe, but the others did not interest me.« Bruckner paused, his eyes changed. »You saw things that we do not normally get to see. I would give a lot for owning your experience while I am already almost twenty years in police service.«

»Eight years on the road were enough for me and for my wife, too.« »For your wife?« Bruckner frowned.

»Of course, I love my wife and my three children and I love my family life. Actually, with the step to Quantico I wanted to say goodbye to the active service. But this is not succeed, if you remain faithful to the job, that was, at least my understanding. Then, of course additional difficulty that my wife was not suitable for this country life. Believe me, Virginia is beautiful, but it was not the right thing, and so we entirely tried just something else. I can recommend to anyone.«

Bruckner had listened my lecture restless. He does not care. There was only one that interested him.

»I want nothing at you«, he began again. »I have a few photographs that should you watch and tell me your opinion. In five minutes I’m gone. You need not justify yourself … « He hesitated. »… even not before your wife.«

I do not react. I had understood Bruckner provocation and he wanted that I entered it. Now there was actually a game.

»Are you married?« I asked.

Bruckner knew it was hard to enter me. »Yes, happily married, no children, townhouse in the suburbs. My wife loves the garden and I mean quiet when I come from the police service.« He rattled off the words as memorized down. Finally he grinned.

»Townhouse!«, I replied. »Are you interested in something new, maybe detached, with a larger garden, in a quiet but central location? We just get in new items. I live in Osdorf, there is also very nice.«

Bruckner straightened up in his chair. He now had to show that he also had an alternative and was called to renounce of my employees. He looked at his watch. The conversation lasted ten minutes. He again emphasized on the envelope.

»I could leave behind that and go. Either you look at it, when I’m gone, or do not. We could do it that way, but then I lose precious time. I do not hope that I have already lost precious time.«

We were silent for a few seconds. I took out my wallet, took out the photo that I always carry with me and that I replace every few months with a new one. I showed it to Bruckner.

»These are my children. Two guys and one girl. Bert is the oldest, he’s eleven. Ben is nine and Beth five.«

»Very nice, Bert, Ben, Beth«, Bruckner said, nodding.

I smiled. »We had also noticed when it had already been established. The children are called by its full name Robert, Benjamin and Elizabeth. Beth is a bred southerner. I have been working in Quantico, when she was born. The boys were both born in New York. I perched in a basement when Ben was born. Without the vest I would not have survived the night and never seen my child. Only three days later my wife has heard about it. I had no opportunity to come to my family. The investigations were at a critical point. We had to carry on without regard to the family.«

»Your work at NYPD? «, said Bruckner. I nodded. »Of course it was not always that like I have portrayed. Actually were such moments in all those years rarely, but it gave them and each of these moments could have been my last.«

»And since you have decided to quit?« Now Bruckner sounded amused.

»We have found a compromise: Quantico. I was there, of course, no longer in the line of fire.« »You mean resignation in rates«, concluded Bruckner.

I smiled at him. »Everything has it’s time. It is a satisfaction when you sell a suburban villa or a downtown penthouse for one or two million euros and it is a good feeling if both sides are satisfied, or what do you think. Even if I can hit only a dorm room like this. I have a really good feeling afterwards. No, I made my decision so far and I no regrets really. My wife is happy, my children also. I am happy and every night punctually at half past five at home.«

»Bravo, Bravo! Then I want not break you out of your new life. I am glad that you are doing so well.«

Bruckner did not mean what he said, and it took only a few seconds, until it came out of him. He shook his head and again he began.

»Okay, you can tell me anything. I believe you that you do not feel more urge to conduct any investigations on the front line, certainly not. But the flame is not extinguished, I can not imagine.« Bruckner rose from his chair. »I’m really late. I’ll insert that now.«

He took the envelope from the table and tucked it under his arm. He stepped aside and wanted to give me his hand. I stayed seated, did not move. We looked a long time. I nodded finally.

»And you work in homicide here in Hamburg?« I asked him in a bored tone.

*

Kriminaloberkommissar Kurt Bruckner had sat long again. His office was the Landeskriminalamt Hamburg. He worked in the department LKA 4, remit capital crimes, which included homicide in Germany. I had still made coffee, two empty cups stood before us on the table. We had talked about the police work. In the last three years I had not much interested me for police work. I knew well the opulent building on Bruno-Georges Square in Winterhude district, but had no idea that it was the headquarter of the Hamburg police. Kurt Bruckner had his office in any of the ten rating points of the building, as he called them. There he wanted already be back when we finally dedicated the sealed envelope, which was back on the table in front of us. Bruckner attacked now after that and began to solve the rebate. He looked at me.

»There are pictures and a description of the perpetrator.«

He held the envelope at an angle and at first the photographs sliped out. He sorted and handed me a bundle of five shots.

»This is the scene of the crime, the possible crime scene«, he said.

Bruckner wanted to reach the folded paper, which he had also pulled out of the envelope. »No, wait«, I told him. »First I want to see only the photographs.«

I took the thin stack in my hands and put shot after shot before me on the table. I exchanged twice the order, then it was right. The camera was positioned from right to left around the bed at each position of a recording. My eyes detected the details. There was a double bed, on the left and the right were nightstands. Each nightstand had a lamp with yellow shade. The wallpaper behind the bed was yellow, a dark yellow.

»It looks very tidy«, I said finally. Bruckner nodded. »There was also no dust, no crumbs and no fibers or remnants of material.«

»How do you mean that, there was no dust?« Now Bruckner unfolded the report. There were only a few pages. He scanned the first lines.

»The members of the securing of evidence were of the opinion that the crime scene had been thoroughly cleaned. Done by a special company, professionals, it could not done by a simple cleaning lady.«

»And the body was washed?«, I asked.

»That may be, please wait.« Bruckner looked again in the report. »Right, washed and even disinfected. According to the write-up they do not use sharp or strongly scented detergents. I read for you: On the skin of the dead man little scratch marks were found as in the action of a unparfumierten soap.«

»That was clearly the elimination of any forensic traces«, I concluded, and looked again at the photographs.

I took on an image after other and hold closely to my eyes. The last I kept in my hand and looked at Bruckner.

»But that is not your case?«

»What, I don’t understand?«

»You are not the first police officer who works on that case, that is a cold case, I mean.«

Bruckner began to smile. »How did you notice it. The pictures can not be it, that are brand new.«

»At the pictures you can not see it. But I found it strange that you had to look inside your papers.«

»A professional has all facts in his mind. Although you are professional, I will grant you, but it was not originally your case.«

»Eight years ago he came to death,“ said Bruckner. „The circumstances have never been clarified, the case was shelved, has been forgotten, until someone from top has said, that it could not stay.«

»You are not talking about murder«, I said.

Bruckner nodded. »The dead man was between thirty-five and forty-five years old. According to forensic medicine it can be considered a cause of death asphyxiation. Then during the autopsy evidence of a heart attack was found. But at the end the pathologist has decided that it was not natural death caused by third party. So it was a case of homicide.«

I looked again at the crime scene photos and pondered. »You’re not so sure?« I asked Bruckner.

»That it was murder?«

»Yes, caused by third party, murder, manslaughter, whatever.«

Bruckner rubbed his chin. »It would be easier if the man had had a gunshot wound or a stab wound, and because these and other clear signs were missing, was the matter to a cold case, as you called it.«

»No one will lie down in this way to die«, I said. »It should be clear, first. It must have been someone tampered the crime scene. Who should have been, who should interested to?«

»Look, here we are in the discussion. It’s just not that simple. Of course, all facts are verified, but the results are a bit poor.«

»Good! Let us proceed systematically, therefor you come to me. I begin also to speculate on, and that is not right. I’m just not in practice.«

»Proceed systematically«, repeated Bruckner. »I’m going to start again, you mention only the facts and tell me afterwards what you think.«

I nodded and leaned back in my chair. Bruckner assorted the documents. He began with the most important information.

»The body was found at September 30 in 2003 in the hotel Euroham in the Barkstraße 23, in a room that was not rented. The number 411 was empty for over a week before it was renovated due to water damage in the bathroom. The body was found by a new guest, a representative from Dortmund, who exactly wanted the room number 411.«

»Was this guest heard?« I asked. »Yes, but there was nothing, the man was just a guest.«

»Why did he want exactly this room?« »Also not unusual. He was a regular customer, came every few months to Hamburg, always rose in the same hotel and had just always the same room, the number 411, that’s all.«

We were silent for a few seconds. „Shall I go on,“ said Bruckner. I nodded, leaned back again.

Bruckner coughed an take the report. »The body was completely unclothed, sex male, with ninety percent probability not less than thirty-five and not more than forty-five years. The body lay on his back, the arms positioned on the side, slightly spread, the legs straight, the feets vertically. Mouth and eyes were closed. There was a dried-saliva flow in the right corner of his mouth. The body had no external injuries. There was no fully pronounced corpse spots. The position and arrangement of existing postmortem lividity did not suggest that the body was moved after death again. The pathological autopsy revealed the following findings.« Bruckner began to refer to the report. »Outer inquest: inconspicuous everyday scars from minor injuries. On both upper arms vaccination scars indeterminate age were found. No tattoos. On the inside of the right humerus a burn scar was found, which could also have served to eliminate an existing tattoo. Then, a surgical scar on his left knee with an estimated age between six and twelve months. Based on X-ray analysis, an operation to correct the ligaments in his left knee apparatus could be diagnosed. Otherwise, the X-ray examination found no fresh or healed fractures. An X-ray examination of the dentition to determine the dental status was not made. An evaluation of the teeth showed no serious abnormality, More can be found in the dental status report. From the corpse DNA samples were taken, and the fingerprints of all ten fingers.«

Bruckner looked up from the report. »There are pictures of the outer inquest.«

He reached back into the envelope, pulled out another bunch of photos and put them on the table. I leaned forward. One of the pictures showed the scar on his knee, two more the vaccination scars on the upper arms. I nodded, Bruckner continued the report.

»Autopsy: no internal injuries. Toxicological reports negative. Infarct-related changes to the ventricles and the heart muscle and the coronary vessels. A slight pre-damage of the heart could be diagnosed. The other internal organs, liver, lungs, kidneys, digestive organs, in line with the standard based on the estimated age of the man. Stomach contents negative. The last food intake must be done at least twelve hours before death. So much for the autopsy. I think, the tables and lab results I need not read for you.«

»Only if the pathologist has indicated something extraordinary«, I said.

Bruckner searched in the report again and then shook his head. »Toxicology reports negative, so we come to the scene.« He leafed through the pages. »The locality where the body was found was the hotel Euroham in the Barkstraße, in the district Hamburg-Wandsbek, subdistrict Bramfeld. Do you know in Bramfeld?« Bruckner asked me.

»A little, but I don’t know this hotel, never heard of it.« I thought about it. »Euroham in the Barkstraße, no.“ Bruckner was looking for other photos and put them in front of me. »This is the hotel from the outside and here the Barkstraße, a small side street. The hotel have rooms forward and to a courtyard.«

I looked at the photographs. Dustbins stood on the sidewalk, a bike with a flat front tire leaning against the facade of the hotel. The neon sign with the hotel name was broken at a corner, so that inside the neon lights were visible. The courtyard looked tidy. On the railing of a stairway to basement empty fruit crates and cardboard boxes were stacked. I put the photographs back on the table. Bruckner looked at me. He tried probably to read a response from my face, but that was not there, because so far I had not seen much spectacular. Bruckner proceeded on in the report.

»The hotel room: one queen bed, hundred sixty centimeters wide, two hundred centimeters long. Left and right next to the bed two bedside tables. The drawers of the bedside tables were covered with newsprint paper, otherwise the drawers were empty. By forensics neither fibers, hair or other particles were found. The same result for the entire hotel room. The DNA evidence was limited to the body. In the hotel room no DNA traces of other people have been identified.« Bruckner looked at me again. »The hotel room was in any case not very productive.«

He showed me another picture, a long shot. Throughout the room only three track cards were designed. The number one was assigned to the corpse. The number two had an irregularly shaped stain on the carpet.

»According to statements of the hotel staff it was an old coffee stain«, said Bruckner. »An old spot, I thought the room was renovated?«

»Not all stains disappear by cleaning«, Bruckner said, shrugging. »And the carpet was probably not renewed during the renovation.« »And! Was it coffee?«

»Yes, black without sugar and milk.« Bruckner grinned. The third track card pointed to a cracked edge at the right bedpost, a damage, which appeared to be older and also had been already repaired with wood wax, which was also confirmed in the report. »They are really no traces!« Was my conclusion. »What’s with the newspaper, which was found in the drawers of the nightstands. Where is the rest of the newspaper, which journal was it?«

»Wait!«, Bruckner said. He had something else in the envelope. It was a transparent envelope inside the old newsprint.

»Hamburger Abendblatt of September 27, 2003, Saturday edition. In the right bedside the political part with the double page one, two, five and six was found. On left side the Hamburg part with the double page seven, eight, thirteen and fourteen. According to the hotel staff, the drawers of the bedside tables were always covered with newsprints. The newspaper was inserted directly after the renovation.«

»Well, was that all?«, I asked. Bruckner looked at me. He held the papers in the air. »That was all, a five-page report and twenty, no twenty-one photographs. The body was cremated, there was no family and the cremation is cheaper than if the city is required to maintain a grave site for an unknown. That is common. The urn was buried anonymously.«

»Five pages! Pretty close.« I held out my hand and Bruckner gave me the report. Indeed the sides were described closely, but five pages are very little. At the NYPD no great writers are working, but our reports were never less than forty or fifty pages. Bruckner had guessed my thoughts well. He shrugged.

»The case just has potential to eternal Cold Case«, he said almost with resignation. I do not know if he had expected a miracle of me at this point. He looked at me at least that. We were silent for some time. Then I made him the situation clearly. First, I agreed with him.

»It actually looks for an eternal Cold Case«, I said, »but such a thing does not exist, of course.« »What does not exist?«

»There is no death, no murder or suicide or accident that can not be cleared up at some point. No sacrifice remains forever unknown. In theory, that does not exist.« »In theory?« Bruckner smiled. »Is that, what you told your students?« »It could be.« »Oh, and what does that mean?« Bruckner asked mockingly.

»Well, there are no usable traces, but we have a body, something that once was a man.« »We had a body.« Bruckner leaned slightly forward and folded his hands across his chest.

»I realize that the body no longer exists, but I assume that the German police and their apparatus has analyzed the body hard.“ I pointed to the report. „These findings should be the basis for the identification. If we know who the dead man was, then very quickly there will be more survivors or dead men, that stood in a relationship with him. Among these people may be the culprit, if there is a culprit.«

»I do not know«, Bruckner shook his head. »You must realize that we have considered all these possibilities.«

»What has been done since?« Bruckner leaned back in his chair and hesitated for a moment. He looked at me quizzically. »You can assume everything was made to identify the man through DNA to civilian and police databases.«

»What says Interpol?« I asked. »Of course, that’s standard.« Bruckner smiled. »Hospitals? Perhaps the man was a patient of a hospital and has made it to die in peace. Since it was such a scar on his knee?«

»Do you know how many knee surgeries every year there are in Germany? And the scar was not fresh. Also there was no evidence at the body that the man was treated in a hospital because of another thing.« »And what about the heart? Because of his heart problems probably he was in treatment.«´

»I do not know«, Bruckner said almost angrily. »I think the pathologist would have given an indication when the man would have been an acute heart patient and we would have turned to the hospitals or to cardiologists, or how soever they are named. But probably that was not. You can imagine, how many people have a heart attack, without ever being cardiac patients.«

»And! Was published a photo of the man in the press?« Bruckner was taken aback. »I can not say now … I would have …« Bruckner straightened up in his chair. »I would have to check it again, and if so, then nothing can be got out, otherwise, it would be noted in the file.«

»Go just now again to the press. What are already eight years. Perhaps someone will remember. You must publish the photo across the country, or throughout Germany.« I thought for a moment. »Or better yet, throughout Europe. There’s now only Europe, you publish a photo in the international newspapers across the continent, perhaps it is even known beyond, maybe relatives of the man living in the United States or in Australia.«

Bruckner smiled again. »Your proposals in all honor, but here it is not the search for an enemy of the state or the search for the heir of a multimillion dollar fortune. I do not know how much effort is justified.« Bruckner hesitated. »Well, we could publish the photo of the man again in the Hamburg press, that would be possible. I was just hoping that you had a really brilliant idea, something we have overlooked, something that leads to success quickly. If something does not come from you, then that is also not tragic, then it remains just a Cold Case.« Bruckner nodded at his last words.

»What you have given to me, is quite poor, you know that.« I leaned forward and wiped my hand across the table and distributed the photographs. »Do you know the principle of the staging, the crime scene staging. When I saw the photos, I initially thought that the perpetrators wanted to point out to something or that they wanted to create a false trail, but at the best of intentions I can not see it.«

»Staging, false tracks«, Bruckner said. »It is most efficient when you leave no trace. The perpetrators indeed do a very good job.« He looked at me for a few seconds, then cleared his throat. »Well, if you do not otherwise noticed, when there is nothing, which is already known to us, then we should finish here now. But I would like to thank …«

»The man could have come from the Ukraine«, I said before Bruckner had ended his sentence. »From Belarus, from Armenia or from another former state of Soviet Republic.« »What? Soviet Republic?« Bruckner had already started to pick up the documents from the table. He paused in the motion and looked at me.

»Do you know any former Soviet republics?«, I asked. »Wait, why do you think about that?« Bruckner seemed really irritated. »Estonia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, no, Kyrgyzstan, but Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova.« »Stop, stop, stop! What do you mean?« Bruckner sounded almost indignant. »Why Soviet republics? You find that the dead man was a foreigner?«

»I can not say.« »So what, what can you say?« »In my opinion the dead man has spent his childhood, and perhaps his youth in a Member State of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.«

»Now I understand«, Bruckner said, »or may not. What makes you think, what prompted you to this assumption?« »Correctly, adoption is the right name for it«, I said. »I can here and now, of course, not prove it.« I looked at the table and searched for two of the photographs. »The pathologist has yet documented the vaccination scars on the upper arms of the dead man?« I found the pictures and handed them Bruckner. »What is described in the autopsy about the vaccination scars?« Bruckner looked in the report. He had found the mark quickly, read them and then shook his head.

»Nothing else. Vaccination scars. The pathologist has just written that vaccination scars are present on both upper arms.« Bruckner gave me the appropriate side. I did not look, but I tapped on the photos that were on the table before us.

»Well, at a vaccination with a normal syringe, later you can not see the vaccinated spot. It is quite different when you using a vaccination gun. You know what that is?«

»Naturally«, Bruckner said impatiently. » In the factory farming vaccination is done in this way, I think, because it is fast and because a lot of animals are to vaccinating.« »You have just said.« »What did I say?«,  Bruckner asked. »That with the animals, something like that was formerly done with humans, a mass vaccination, while vaccination guns are just been used.«

»What is special that the dead man apparently took part at a mass vaccination?«

»By itself, there is nothing special, but it is not been common in Europe, or rather in the western world since the fifties to use vaccination guns because there were those ugly scars among others. In fact the vaccine was injected with high pressure through the skin. The contact points have often inflamed. In the Soviet Union they had apparently not so big problems and they only had stopped with the vaccination guns in the late seventies. Our man is no more than forty-five, has therefore not yet lived in the fifties. The probability is very high that he has become the vaccination scars brought in a Member State of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Did your colleagues investigate in this direction?«

Bruckner shook his head again. »I do not think that they had investigated in this direction.« He thought. »Of course at your assumption could be something right, but I think it’s still a long shot.«

»Why the vaccination scars were not investigated further? I think, it is not unusual that an Eastern Europeans staying in Hamburg or Germany?«

»Why do you know so much about vaccination scars or about the Soviet Union.« Bruckner had one of the photographs taken from the table and looked at it now in more detail. Then he looked at me.

»Cold War«, I answered. »In the US you learn a lot about people who come from the former Soviet Union, even the Cold War is very long ago. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of such vaccination scars. They are an important feature for containment of identity of people, at least in the States.«

»I think the pathologist will also have made his thoughts«, Bruckner said after he had briefly thought about my words. »We can not doubt the entire autopsy and we can not repeat it.«

»You want something hear from me, I told you something, I can not see more at the moment.« »At the moment?«, Bruckner asked. »Yes, if you want my cooperation, then I would look over all again, in a quiet moment. That is all I can offer you.« Bruckner seemed undecided. »A brilliant idea you have immediately, or never. That’s a principle, right?«

»That may perhaps sound unusual«, I replied, »but if you had a wealth of tracks, then I would just underline this principle. In very many tracks you will be blind to the most important thing when looking at it too long.«

»But we really do not have any tracks«, Bruckner said. »Exactly, that’s it. Perhaps hiding still something in the report or in the photographs.« »In addition to the vaccination scars do you mean?«

I shrugged. Bruckner smiled. He took out a business card and a pen and wrote a number on the back of the card. »You call me back when I can pick the stuff back.«

I took the card and looked at the telephone number on the back. »Your private Mobile?« »Mobile?« Bruckner laughed. »Oh, right, we stupid Germans say Handy to a cell phone. We will never say otherwise, I’m afraid.« Bruckner took his phone out. »I just bought a new one. I’m still not quite so familiar with the device. Even has GPS and Internet. These things are no longer Normal phones.«

»I also have one, only bigger.« Bruckner smiled and at first I did not understand why. I pulled my device also from the jacket pocket. »Is actually bigger«, commented Bruckner. »I use it a lot, not just to call. And you need the display size. Thus it is not as strenuous for the eys.«

»I understand«, Bruckner said, nodding. »Do you use also the calendar?« »Of course, the most important thing«, I said to him. »Someday you must show me where I can find special calendar from the Internet and how I can download it.«

»You mean calendar apps, because there are certainly many.« »Yes, I do not even know how that gets on the phone.« Bruckner smiled. »Perhaps on the occasion of time.« »Good! I like to show, on occasion. As for the calls. If you feel the need to contact me, it would suit me better if you call me directly on my mobile. Do you still have my card?« »Of course!« Bruckner took it from his shirt pocket.

»You can rule my office number actually. This results in our office only to confusion when the police call there. So please use only my mobile number. Or you can send an SMS to me.«

»Well, I do so, just over, what do you like to say, over your mobile.«

I stood up from my chair. Bruckner also rose. The forensic report and the photographs he had just left lying on the table. »But first you call me, if you still find something.« He looked to the table. »But I had to have my things back until Monday.«

»You do not believe that I can help you?«, I asked deliberately. Bruckner thought. »No, mo, you’ve already helped me. Against my boss now I can better declare that it is useless to reopen the case again.« He hesitated. »And as for the vaccination scars I think about in a quiet moment.«

He gave me his hand and a minute later I was alone in my dorm room. I cooked some more coffee, drank half a cup and then stretched out on the futon. I had to think, and also was not distracted by the phone that rang insistently.

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