Joachim took his time on the drive back. He trusted Hannah that much. It was two kilometers down the Autobahn, at a rest stop that he turned his phone back on. It was halfway to Munich that he got even halfway decent internet reception.
Who carved symbols into a human bone? Crazy people that was who. And wizards. He already knew that wizards exist. He had a two Euro coin made of solid gold to prove it. They didn’t look like any living language and the display of his burner phone was frustratingly slow.
He was almost in Munich when he got Jan-Hendrik’s email with a download link for a bajillion pdf files. The city was cloaked into darkness, pierced by ever-more-frequent city lights. It was at that point, almost home, inside a stolen car that Joachim realized that his home was gone and so was his computer.
He stopped somewhere off Leopoldstraße and cursed silently.
He probably could have stayed with Hannah’s gang, but they specifically told him to stay away. Not that he knew where to find them. Not that he had any number he could call. Just a bunch of email addresses.
“Fuck it,” he mumbled, still sitting in the driver’s seat of Andrej’s car. Still parked in front of a brightly lit Irish pub style bar, tempting him.
“Fuck it,” he whispered as he opened his email app and just started adding all the email addresses he knew of them into the BCC field.
Sort of homeless, he wrote. Need place to stay. Will trade spot on sofa for Andrej’s car that I am currently holding hostage at an undisclosed location. Best, Joachim.
“That oughta get their attention,” he mumbled.
He checked his watch. It was too late for him to hit an electronic store and just buy a laptop out of his savings. He doubted that Mehmet, who had been accommodating to him before when he couldn’t get home without putting people in danger, would be available on short notice. He had three credit cards in three different names inside his wallet.
He got out of the car and just now remembered he could’nt lock it.
“Fuck it”, he mumbled, opened the door and tucked the GPS tracker back under the passenger’s seat. If somebody was going to steal this car, at least Joachim would know where they went.
He started wandering down the street.
The street lights in this part of town gave the area around a ghostly quality. Just the people though. The various cafés, clubs, bars and restaurants had their own light, throwing it against their own walls, making their buildings more real than real. Joachim’s fellow wanderers in the young night – some in groups and laughing and talking, some alone and determined, few just strolling, without any place to be – moved around the buildings like moths dance around light bulbs.
There was barely a wind, even here in the city. Even the cars swooshing down the dark, icy road barely stirred the cold, dead air.
Joachim had the vague goal of going to a bar he had visited once, years ago. One that served breakfast well into the night, as well as hard liquor. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember where it was though. He wandered forward, his hands jammed into his pockets, his face serious as if he was on his way to the National Conference for Responsible Guidelines for Agriculture or something.
What he really wanted was to get into a fight right now. Have somebody beat the shit out of him. That was mostly impossible though since the first blow Joachim landed, out of reflex probably, could fatally wound somebody. What did comic book heroes do when they were feeling self-destructive?
He stumbled and looked around to find himself in a bar. It was one of those jazzy places with the low lights and a bajillion glasses behind the bar in front of a lit screen.
Everything from that point on was sort of a haze. Joachim remembered the bar keeper, some smug college kid who seemed like a million times more charming than he was. He remembered two flat screen TVs showing stupid soccer matches between two teams no one cared about except the rich, drunk assholes in this place.
Who paid six bucks for a small bottle of beer anyway?
Joachim did. Joachim’s offshore credit cards did.
They also paid for a bottle of tequila that had a brand label but contained nothing but watered-down supermarket garbage.
Somebody insulted him. Or he insulted them first, he couldn’t remember. Either way they soon became friends, mostly because Joachim kept throwing money around. He had his arm around their shoulders and they sang a song. Or several. Simultaneously. Nobody could agree what to sing so they each sung their own. Good crowd too. Fat banker in a polo shirt who had his wife with him who drank and cursed like a truck-driver from… well… Bavaria. A couple of fellow computer programmers arguing over Ecuadorian craft beer.
Joachim remembered them playing cards. Pennies at first, then the stakes went up higher.
He remembered making out with the banker’s wife. Or the banker for all he knew.
Things got a bit out of hand afterwards and he was at the bar again. It was time he got his life priorities straight, after all. He couldn’t let other people’s problems distract him from his drinking. That was not a viable long term strategy.
Joachim remembered drawing out an Excel sheet on a napkin projecting his alcohol intake.
“The problem is,” he explained to the bar keeper, who was either listening enrapturedly or had gone home for the day to be replaced by a guy who kept chatting at the other end of the bar, “that I don’t know what my metabolism is like. Ever since – you know – the incident I heal a lot quicker. I can shake some things off I’m not like… like… liiiiike… whatever, I need to solve this equation for k – which is my metabolism coefficient, basically the number that says how well I handle alcohol, see? – and then I can estimate it. I was thinking about a two-… wait, no… three-dimensional graph between k and the amount of tequila I drink, showing how bad I feel when I get out of this. Hangovers are for suckers. See? See?”
They had this billiard table here or maybe it was a video game station. He remembered calling out large money bets and making a bunch of money. Mostly because the conditions for the bets were hazy and everybody was happy to call the bet off when Joachim looked at them all grumpy-like. That was the high point of the evening. It went down from there.
Joachim remembered somebody saying something racist about refugees. He remembered telling that man what he thought of him and his mother. He remembered going into vivid detail totally caught up in the process.
The man got up at this point and demanded they settle this outside. Joachim told him that wasn’t a good idea because – see? – he was way too strong and it wouldn’t end well for him. This went on for a while. It really interfered with Joachim’s life goal to reach his full drunk potential. He tried to explain that to the man using the graph he had drawn but he was having none of it.
His friends started to try and drag Joachim outside at this point, failing horribly, which caused Joachim to laugh his ass off, which caused them to try harder and put their backs into it, which caused them to fail even more horribly. That spiral went on for a while, happily escalating to a full-blown bar fight with lots of people politely apologizing or trying to deescalate, before throwing punches. Joachim sat that one out under a table somewhere.
Somewhere around that time must have been where the cops showed up. They mostly stayed outside though, waiting for backup or for things to calm down or something, because the ruckus had become a full blown riot at this point. People were raiding the bar. Bar stools were swung. There was some sort of no-rules multi-person fist fight going on where nobody wore shorts. One of the racist people – or maybe it was the banker? or his wife? – broke a cue against Joachims arm which was the funniest thing ever because it sort of wrapped around him and splintered and everything.
Joachim had figured that with him being involved, this was really not safe for anybody participating in this, so he walked out the door, calmly and slowly pushing anybody aside who got in his way. He took another swig of the bottle he had probably paid a month’s rent for – not that he would need next month’s rent now, he figured his lease was pretty much resolved along with the rest of his worldly possessions at that point – and the aroma of sweat and alcohol became the cold, calm air smelling of cigarettes and exhaust fumes.
That was the point where the cops arrested him.