Moments

Moments are little bits of fiction that don’t really rate being called a short story and are unlikely to ever be incorporated into a longer work. Needless to say they still constitute a finished work and I assert my copyright etc.

Moments No. 1

Nightingale: London 1966. By Ben Aaronovitch

Since the war it had become impossible, during his infrequent visits to London, to persuade Hugh to visit the Folly we naturally gravitated to the Navy and Military. The food was not a patch on Molly’s but like most of the survivors Hugh complained that there were too many ghosts at Russell Square for him to be truly comfortable…

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…‘I’m surprised that you stay there yourself,’ he’d said on an earlier trip. ‘But then you were always made of sterner stuff than us mere mortals.’

The chaps have always needed to set me on a plinth this way. I can see it in their eyes. If the Nightingale can take it so can I, they say and who am I to disabuse them or tell them of the nights I have spent pleading with the spirits for some peace. If only there were ghosts in truth, after all I had been educated in a dozen different ways to rid myself of those.

I, of course, could not abandon the Folly without first abandoning Molly and that was not something I was prepared to do. This duty had proved a strong enough thread upon which to hang my sanity, that and the stubborn streak I had no doubt inherited from my mother.

Hugh was in fine fettle that afternoon his son had recently taken a position with an old established firm in Hereford.

‘One had feared that he would be drawn to the bright lights of the Metropolis,’ said Hugh. ‘Instead I am graced by his presence most weekends. He’s taken a great interest in the bees of late.’

‘And how are the hives,’ I asked.

‘Thriving naturally,’ said Hugh. ‘I have a talent if I do say so myself.’

I’ve always thought Hugh’s desperate striving for normalcy was undermined by that strange quixotic urges of his. I’ve seen photographs of his ‘tower’ in Herefordshire and his interest in insects predated the war. David used to rag him unmercifully about his frequent field trips abroad.

‘Hugh is our modern Darwin,’ he once said. ‘Only he takes his inspiration from beetles not snails.’

I remember Hugh in those dark forests on the Ettersberg. He’d dropped his staff and picked up a rifle and with every action of the bolt he swore at the German infantry as if they were responsible for the things we’d seen.

We all reached the limitations of our art that night.

‘And speaking of our mighty capital,’ said Hugh over our Castle Puddings. ‘I’ve been hearing the most extraordinary things. The gypsies who came for the harvest this year said that there was a woman who’s claiming to be goddess of the River Thames. A coloured lady no less.’ Hugh grinned and waves his fork as if it was my fault. ‘Is this true? Is it even possible?’

I said that it seemed entirely possible and that I had met the young lady in question and she seemed entirely agreeable if somewhat forceful. Hugh expressed interest in how the Old Man of the River might be taking this new turn of events and I told him with the same indifference he’d shown to events below Teddington Lock these last hundred years or so.

‘I thought the old town felt different,’ said Hugh and a I felt a sudden moment unwarranted alarm.

‘Different in what way?’ I asked.

‘Oh I don’t know,’ said Hugh. ‘A certain frisson, a sense of excitement, youth, energy,’ he trailed off and shrugged.

‘The miniskirts?’ I said because Hugh had always had an eye for the ladies.

‘You don’t feel it then?’

‘I can’t say that I do.’

‘And yet you seem much more cheerful,’ said Hugh. ‘Has something changed?’

‘You remember what David used to say –“ everything is change”?’

‘I remember that you invariably responded with plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,’ said Hugh. ‘Perhaps you were both right.’

After lunch I gave Hugh a lift to Paddington to catch his train. During the drive he suggested that I might trade in my perfectly serviceable Rover P4 for something more modern and went as far as to quote Marcus Aurelius – in the original Greek no less.

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

I hardly saw what that had to do with my choice of automobile but once he’d put the idea in my head I began to see the advantages of perhaps acquiring one of the new model Jaguars. At the very least it would impress my colleagues at Scotland Yard.

And perhaps a new suit in the modern style to go with it.

The young lady in the picture is Erlin Ibreck posing for the Ghananian photographer James Barnor for a Drum fashion shoot in 1966.

Moments No. 2

Reynolds – Florence, Az. 2014

There’s something about these motels that makes me want to talk to Jesus.
When I was a girl I used to talk to him all the time, before races, exams, the occasional date, we used to be much closer. I had a friend in Jesus indeed. I suppose I stopped being so chatty as I got older. I reckoned Jesus did…

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…not need to know about every traffic jam on the way into the office, every burst pipe, lost cat, disappointing boyfriend – every trivial bump in my life. It’s not that I stopped thinking that Jesus loved me, I know he loves me as he loves all of us, I just felt he might have more important concerns. The world being what it is.
Still there’s something about these motel rooms that make me want to get down on my knees and pray, head down, eyes closed or as my Mama used to say – adopting the right attitude towards the Lord.
I’m tempted to call Mama and talk to her instead but she wouldn’t understand and in any event I’m not supposed to discuss these cases with civilians. Not even my Mama. She’d probably tell me to stop overthinking things and count my blessings. Which I do on a regular basis.
The motel room is painted a pale blue, there’s a microwave on top of the minibar and an old fashioned TV that promises cable at a price. The bedspread has an old fashioned floral pattern in grey and green, the bed is nice and firm which I like because when the Bureau send you out they don’t spring for anything but coach. Although you’d be surprised how often the badge gets me an upgrade especially out west. The air conditioning is good, thank god, and the wifi is decent.
Only the bed and the microwave are any temptation.
Florence has a main street called Main Street, a High School football team called the Gophers, a saloon that dates back to the old west and seven different prisons. Incarceration is the local industry here and business is booming as criminals keep breaking the law and we keep locking them up. I’ve seen a great number of prisons on this assignment and the towns they sit next to are just ordinary small towns with ordinary folks doing ordinary things.
According to Google there are some restaurants on Main Street but that would mean eating alone and that usually means having to fend off conversation. I was a much friendlier person at the start of this trip.
I keep imagining what it might be like to be sitting in a booth somewhere, my kindle propped up against the napkin holder wondering whether to have the peach cobbler or the apple pie. Hearing that pop pop pop sound in the distance or a scream or see the waitress fall down and realise that you haven’t even heard the gunshot. Hauling out my pistol, looking for a target, trying not to get shot.
I’ve only ever discharged my firearm in anger the one time and that was in a sewer under London, England and I missed the target.
When I was training at Quantico I was always imagined the silhouettes as bank robbers or terrorists or kidnappers but the men and women I visit in the prisons are so ordinary. Disgruntled highschoolers, angry ex-employees, ex-husbands. These are the ones that survive mind you, the ones that surrender to their teacher or the first LEO on the scene, or get overpowered by some brave folks using pepper spray or other improvised weapons. The other half of them get themselves shot or eat their own gun. No telling what they were like in person but from their files they seem as ordinary as anybody else.
There’s all sorts of theories about why people become an active shooter but truth is nobody really know the why. Only that they’re getting more frequent and more deadly. My mama says that it is a sign of the end times but she said that the day Obama got elected for his second term and also that time during the superbowl when Janet Jackson had her wardrobe malfunction.
So now I’ve been sent out to see if there’s anything supernatural about these killings. I do not believe they are going to be happy with my report because as far as I can tell a more natural bunch of murderers you will never find.
My mama always said that if something magical weren’t a miracle from god than it must be the work of the devil but if he’s behind these shootings he’s too subtle for me.
So first thing tomorrow I’m going to visit one of those seven prisons and interview a thirty six year old white male who shot his wife and his mother in law and was all set to shoot up his home town if he hadn’t been tackled by, of all people, the mail man. He barely made the local news.
The motel room is blue and I think I’m going to have quick talk with Jesus.
It’s that or the emergency box of Pizza Rolls I have in my case.

Moments No. 3

Tobias Winter – Meckenheim 2012

I’d only been back at Meckenheim for a couple of days when the reports arrived from London. I’d been out in the East, in Radeburg recovering a Case White artefact that the local police had uncovered from a suspected Werewolf cache. Don’t let the name excite you these jobs are always the same. I drive across…

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…the country, sign for a sealed package and drive back. I rarely get to spend even a night out on the town because the local boys can’t hustle me out of their jurisdiction fast enough. You’d think the bloody things were radioactive, they’re not you know, early on I ‘borrowed’ a Geiger counter from the forensics lot and started checking them before I put them in the car.

Judging from the weight and size of the package I’m relatively certain that it was a diary or ledger. If so I was in no doubt that my next task would be to scour through it for names to add to our database. My chief has often complained that our obsession with the Nazi past is holding us back. It’s certainly generated enough paperwork.

‘Sooner or later this national obsession has to pass,’ she said once. ‘We’ve all become far too comfortable playing this role.’

Although she’s never once said what exactly it was holding us back from and I for one was not in a hurry to find out. Like my father I favour a comfortable Germany it’s about the only thing we’ve ever agreed on.

I didn’t ask to join the Department for Complex and Unspecific Matters in fact I made a spirited attempt to blow the interview. When the Chief asked me why I’d joined the Bundeskriminalamt I told her it was because they wouldn’t have me in Cobra 11. That should have been it but instead the Chief smiled her terrifying smile.

‘You’ll do nicely,’ she said.

When we’re not transporting dangerous artefacts or chasing rumours of possessed BMWs, never Mercedes for some reason, we work office hours at the KDA. I like to get in at eight so I get an hour to myself before the Chief and the administration team arrive so I wasn’t best pleased to find an email from the secure communications section that they had a message for me. Protocol dictates that I collect such documents myself so down I went to the basement. I read the first page summary while I was still in the secure communications room. Then I asked the officer in charge to send a message back to London.

‘Can’t you send an email?’ he asked.

‘Not for this,’ I said.

They don’t have chairs in the waiting area of the communications section so I propped up the wall and speed read the bulk of the message while I was waiting for a reply when it came I put both in my secure briefcase and took them upstairs.

The Abteilung KDA was once a much bigger section and as a result we have a large number of empty offices at our end of the second floor. The fact that none of the departments have tried to appropriate them for their own officers should tell you something about how we are regarded by the rest of the Bundeskriminalamt.

I found the Chief in her office standing in front of the window looking out on her unrivalled view of the car park.

‘The Nightingale has taken an apprentice,’ I said.

The Chief is a tall, slender woman with a long pale face and red lips. She favours black skirt suits cut in a very elegant old fashioned style and I’ve heard her described as looking like the CEO of a corporation run by vampires.

I’ve faced a vampire and the only reason I’m able to talk about it now was because I was carrying a flame thrower at the time. So, no, I think she looks like a woman who needs to get out in the sun more.

‘Ah,’ said the Chief. ‘That’s unfortunate. How certain is this?’

‘The Embassy has confirmed it.’

She turned to check that I’d closed the door behind me and that nobody else could see or hear.

‘Shit, shit, shit,’ she said. ‘Why is it always bloody London? I told them we needed someone at the Embassy full time.’ She tapped a long blood red fingernail on her desk for a moment and then glanced back out of the window to see if the rain had stopped.

‘Get my things,’ she said. ‘We’re going for a walk.’

The Chief has a favourite smoking place amongst the trees at far end of the athletics track. She smokes dreadful f6 cigarettes but I’m certain these are an affectation like her Saxon accent – part of her disguise.

‘Details,’ she said as she jammed a cigarette into her long black holder.

I summarised the summary. She interrupted me only once and that was so I could light her cigarette.

‘What do we know about this Peter Grant?’ she asked.

‘African mother, English father, joined the London police two and a half years ago,’ I said. ‘The London Embassy have promised more in the next few days.’

The Chief stubbed her cigarette out on the nearest tree and jammed a fresh one into the holder.

‘We should have had someone in London full time,’ she said.

It had always been the consensus in the Federal Government that the supernatural had been ‘contained’ and the KDA’s job was that of a glorified cleaning service. The Foreign Ministry wasn’t about to allocate a valuable diplomatic position to someone whose job description could best be described as ‘hanging about in case something magical happens.’

Only now it had.

‘Do they have more information on the murder?’ she asked.

‘Four murders now,’ I said. ‘One of the victims was an infant. They’re sure the case is linked to Nightingale breaking the agreement but they don’t know why.’

‘So much for “contained”,’ said the Chief. ‘Do you know what this means?’

I’ve learnt not to interrupt the Chief when she’s in full rhetorical flow.

‘This means,’ she said blowing smoke, ‘that we’ll have to expand our own capabilities to match.’

She looked at me in a way that did not entirely make me feel comfortable.
‘Tobias,’ she said.

‘Ma’am?’

‘Have you ever considered learning magic?’

German version

Deutsch von Christine Blum

MOMENTE sind kleine Erzählungs-Schnipsel, die man nicht als Kurzgeschichte bezeichnen kann und die höchstwahrscheinlich auch nie in einem Roman auftauchen werden. Es versteht sich von selbst, dass sie trotzdem ein eigenständiges Werk darstellen und ich das Urheberrecht etc. pp. dafür in Anspruch nehme.

Tobias Winter – Meckenheim 2012

Als die Meldung aus London kam, war ich erst seit zwei Tagen wieder in Meckenheim. Ich war im Osten in Radeburg gewesen, um ein Objekt abzuholen, das im Zusammenhang mit Fall Weiß stand und das die dortige Polizei aus einem mutmaßlichen Werwolf-Versteck geborgen hatte. Lassen Sie sich nicht von dem aufregenden Namen täuschen – so ein Auftrag läuft immer gleich ab. Ich fahre durch die Gegend, nehme ein versiegeltes Päckchen entgegen und fahre wieder zurück. Meistens kann ich mir nicht mal einen netten Abend am Zielort machen, weil die Kollegen vor Ort es echt eilig haben, mich wieder loszuwerden. Man könnte meinen, die Dinger wären radioaktiv. Sind sie aber nicht – ich habe mir anfangs mal bei der Kriminaltechnik einen Geigerzähler “ausgeliehen” und die Päckchen geprüft, bevor ich sie ins Auto legte.

Aus Form und Gewicht der Ware zu schließen, handelte es sich mit ziemlicher Sicherheit um ein Tagebuch oder Rechnungsbuch. Wenn ja, würde meine nächste Aufgabe garantiert darin bestehen, die darin erwähnten Namen in unsere Datenbank einzugeben. Meine Chefin beklagte sich oft, dass die aufwendige Aufarbeitung der Nazivergangenheit uns ausbremste. Eine Menge Papierkram bescherte sie uns jedenfalls.

„Früher oder später müssen wir von dieser Obsession loskommen“, hatte sie einmal gesagt. „Wir machen es uns in der Rolle viel zu gemütlich.“

Übrigens präzisierte sie nie, wobei die Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung uns nun eigentlich ausbremste. Ich für meinen Teil wollte das auch gar nicht so dringend herausfinden. Wie mein Vater mag ich Deutschland ganz gern gemütlich und überschaubar – so ziemlich der einzige Punkt, in dem wir uns je einig waren.

Die Stelle in der Abteilung für komplexe und diffuse Angelegenheiten war nie mein Traumjob gewesen. Tatsächlich hatte ich beim Vorstellungsgespräch noch einen beherzten Versuch gemacht, mich zu disqualifizieren. Als die Chefin mich fragte, warum ich zum Bundeskriminalamt gegangen sei, erklärte ich ihr, weil die bei Cobra 11 mich nicht genommen hätten. Eigentlich hätte da Schluss sein müssen, aber stattdessen hatte die Chefin ihr furchteinflößendes Grinsen aufgesetzt. „Dann sind Sie hier genau richtig“, hatte sie gesagt.

Wenn wir nicht gerade gefährliche Artefakte herumkutschieren oder Gerüchten um besessene BMWs nachgehen (erstaunlicherweise sind es nie Mercedes), sitzen wir in Meckenheim im Büro. Ich komme gern schon um acht, damit ich eine Stunde für mich habe, bevor die Chefin und die Kollegen von der Verwaltung eintrudeln, deshalb war ich nicht gerade begeistert, als ich die Mail von der Zentralen Stelle für Kommunikationssicherheit las, es liege eine Nachricht für mich vor. Laut Vorschrift muss ich solche Dokumente persönlich abholen, also stieg ich runter in den Keller und las noch in der ZeK die Zusammenfassung der ersten Seite. Dann bat ich den diensthabenden Beamten, eine Antwort nach London zu senden.

„Können Sie denen nicht einfach selber mailen?“, wollte er wissen.
„Nicht in dieser Angelegenheit.“

Im Wartebereich der ZeK gibt es keine Stühle, also lehnte ich mich an die Wand und überflog den größten Teil des Dokuments, während ich auf Antwort wartete. Als sie kam, legte ich beides in meinen Sicherheitsaktenkoffer und nahm ihn mit nach oben.

Die Abteilung KDA war früher mal viel größer gewesen, daher gibt es auf unserem Flur im zweiten Stock eine Menge leer stehender Büros. Dass nie eine andere Abteilung versucht hatte, sie sich einzuverleiben, kann Ihnen einiges darüber sagen, welchen Ruf wir beim Rest des BKA haben.
Die Chefin stand am Fenster ihres Büros und genoss die unvergleichliche Aussicht über den Parkplatz.

„Nightingale hat einen Lehrling“, sagte ich.

Die Direktorin der Abteilung für komplexe und diffuse Angelegenheiten ist groß und schlank, mit einem langen, blassen Gesicht und roten Lippen. Am liebsten trägt sie elegante, altmodisch geschnittene schwarze Damenkostüme. Einige Kollegen sagen, sie sehe aus wie die Vorstandsvorsitzende eine Vampirkonzerns.

Ich bin schon mal einem Vampir begegnet, und hätte ich damals keinen Flammenwerfer dabei gehabt, könnte ich das jetzt nicht erzählen. Also – nein. Ich finde, sie sieht aus wie eine Frau, der ein bisschen mehr Sonne gut täte.

„Oh“, sagte sie. „Ungut. Wie gesichert ist es?“

„Die Botschaft hat’s bestätigt.“

Sie drehte sich um, um sich zu vergewissern, dass ich die Tür hinter mir geschlossen hatte und niemand uns belauschen konnte. „Scheiße, Scheiße, Scheiße“, sagte sie. „Warum immer London? Ich hab schon tausendmal angemahnt, dass wir dort eigentlich ständig jemanden in der Botschaft brauchen.“ Sie tippte ein paarmal mit dem langen, blutroten Fingernagel auf ihren Schreibtisch, dann warf sie wieder einen Blick zum Fenster, um zu sehen, ob der Regen aufgehört hatte.

„Nehmen Sie alles mit“, sagte sie. „Wir machen einen Spaziergang.“

Die Chefin hat eine Lieblings-Raucherecke unter den Bäumen am Ende der Hundert-Meter-Bahn. Sie raucht diese scheußlichen f6-Zigaretten, aber ich bin mir sicher, das ist nur Fassade, genau wie ihr sächsischer Akzent. Gehört alles zum Image.

„Details?“, sagte sie, während sie eine Zigarette in ihren langen schwarzen Halter steckte.
Ich fasste die Zusammenfassung zusammen. Sie unterbrach mich nur einmal – damit ich ihr die Zigarette anzündete.

„Was wissen wir über diesen Peter Grant?“, fragte sie, als ich fertig war.

„Afrikanische Mutter, englischer Vater. Ist seit zweieinhalb Jahren bei der Londoner Polizei. Die Botschaft will mir schnellstmöglich mehr Infos schicken.“

Die Chefin drückte die Zigarette an einem Baum aus und steckte sich eine neue in den Halter. „Wir hätten wirklich jemanden in London gebraucht.“

In der Bundesregierung herrschte der allgemeine Konsens, dass das Übernatürliche vollständig unter Kontrolle war und die KDA nicht mehr als ein besserer Reinigungsdienst. Das Außenministerium hätte daher niemals eine wertvolle diplomatische Stelle bewilligt, deren Beschreibung im Grunde lautete: “Da sein, falls mal was Magisches passiert.”

Nur war es jetzt passiert.

„Weiß man Genaueres über den Mord?“, fragte sie.

„Vier Morde inzwischen. Eines der Opfer war ein Kleinkind. Sie sind sich wohl ziemlich sicher, dass der Fall etwas damit zu tun hat, dass Nightingale gegen die Abmachung verstoßen hat, aber man weiß noch nicht genau, wie.“

„So viel zu ‚unter Kontrolle‘“, sagte sie. „Wissen Sie, was das bedeutet?“

Wenn die Chefin im Redefluss ist, sollte man sie nicht unterbrechen, so viel weiß ich inzwischen.
„Das heißt“, sagte sie in einer Wolke aus Zigarettenrauch, „wir müssen unsere eigenen Kapazitäten entsprechend erweitern.“ Mit einem Blick, bei dem mir etwas unbehaglich zumute wurde, sah sie mich an. „Herr Winter.“

„Ja?“

„Haben Sie schon mal daran gedacht, zaubern zu lernen?“