A matter of honor?
A loud ringing jolted me unpleasantly out of sleep. As I reached over to the receiver, I grazed an arm. Such a bummer! I had forgotten all about it!
Again the aggressive ringing. A glance at the clock showed me that it was three o'clock in the morning. The guy next to me stirred.
"Here Marko. We have a dead man. Come to the train station Ostkreuz. You certainly won't miss us!", and Marko had already hung up. I had enjoyed his staccato announcements a few times now and he just annoyed me. He was the new guy and I had to train him and to make things worse he was a macho man like the rest of us.
As I left the apartment, I took one last look at the guy in my bed. I briefly thought about what it was called, but I had already forgotten again. Secretly I just hoped he would be gone when I got back home.
Ostkreuz station was swarming with police cars, but otherwise there were few passersby and I thought the posse was excessive, after all the person was already dead, or?
The train station was shrouded in a strange fog, like in an old Sherlock Holmes movie when the camera drives through the dark streets of London just before the murder happens. Simply uncanny! A shiver ran down my spine. When I looked up, the water tower towered high in front of me, through the dense fog you could barely see the round top.
"Well, what does it remind you of?" Marko had stepped next to me and was grinning stupidly.
"What do we have?", I asked, emphatically bored. You just had to ignore his constant lewd remarks.
"Dead Asian on the tracks. Not yet identified. Got run over by a train. No one has seen anything."
"Do we have the videotape of the surveillance camera?"
"I'm in. They first need a thousand permits to get the tape out."
"Could the cigarette mafia be behind this??"
"Could be anything. I was dead tired. Wanted to get into my bed. I looked at Marko from the side. He didn't look fresh either, but the three-day beard kind of suited him.
Only the coroner was able to give us the victim's wallet an hour later, and he confirmed that death had occurred by being run over by the train.
"Otherwise, he has not found any traces due to foreign influence", Marko mused.
"So maybe suicide?" I sipped my fourth cup of coffee, but somehow that didn't cheer me up either.
"I still don't have the videotape. But our victim is Chinese, so no cigarette mafia. Or are they somehow organized?"
"I don't know", I answered yawning.
"Ah, probably a little listless, Commissioner. Huh? Probably tonight again totally exhausted, what?"
I would have liked to smack him in the face.
"Did he have family?" I tried it with piercing looks.
"According to the computer, a divorced woman: Lung Hui Chen. Professor at Humboldt University! Wow! And two children. A son, seventeen years old and a six-year-old daughter."
"Then let's pay them a visit."
On the way there no one said a word. It was clear to Marko from the beginning that as the man of our team he would drive the company car and I let him have the upper hand in this respect. Until now he had always driven me home, almost like an admirer.
When Mrs. Chen opened the door to us, I would have expected anything – a professor's conservative bun or thick glasses, perhaps – but not this petite child-woman with the long silky black hair, who eyed me intently.
"Rusche, Berlin CID. We are here for your husband", I introduced myself.
"Is he in trouble again? She did not seem surprised. Had her facial expressions fully under control.
"Can we come in??", Marko asked, as direct as ever.
She led us into a tastefully decorated living room, where the colors black and white dominated. Only a small red wooden display case with glass doors hanging on the wall was out of frame. She was painted in gold with Chinese characters.
Mrs. Chen didn't bat an eye when we told her of her ex-husband's demise.
"He was a good man, but unfortunately addicted to gambling. He almost bankrupted us with these. The whole family", she said matter-of-factly.
"Addicted to gambling?"
"Yes, he had debts everywhere. And that's when I left him."
The woman was definitely consistent, I thought.
"Where does your husband work?"
"He is a pianist in the Berlin orchestra. Ask his boss. His name is Heinze. If he hasn't kicked him out yet."
"Mrs. Chen, was your ex-husband suicidal?? Was there once a hint?", I asked as gently as I could, but Mrs. Chen didn't seem to mind the question.
"Chinese men don't commit suicide!", she said resolutely and I noticed how even Marko flinched a little at her harsh words.
"By the way, what is there in the little red display case?" I pointed to the wall.
Now, for the first time, Mrs. Chen showed some emotion: "Oh, these are very old scrolls from my husband's family. They are over 500 years old and very valuable. They are passed from father to son. Has been for generations!" She nodded the whole time she was talking and seemed very proud. Her face was radiant.
In the car we got a call that the video from the surveillance camera had arrived, and we immediately drove to the office. The video clearly showed someone pushing Mr. Chen onto the tracks after a scuffle.
"What's that in his hand??" Marko pointed at the screen.
"Something elongated. This mist! You can't even tell if the other is a man or a woman." I narrowed my eyes.
"Is it a knife?"
"Looked rather square?! Do you see now! There! There he pushes him onto the tracks."
"Murder after all!", Marko said determinedly.
"You will become a real commissioner after all!" I grinned at Marko.
"I can fool around on my own", he said with a deadpan expression, imitating Mrs. Chen.
"She just comes from a different culture where you don't show your feelings so openly", I defended her.
"She's lived with him for years and doesn't care that he's dead?", Marko said thoughtfully.
"Let's go see his boss. Maybe there was a fight."
Mr. Heinze invited us to his office. He was very shocked by the news.
"Don't get me wrong, but I wanted to kick him out more than once. He stole two thousand euros from our till. If only he wasn't such a fucking genius pianist…" He shook his head sadly.
"If there was a quarrel?"
"With me? No, no. He wanted to pay back everything. He said that he would soon have a lot of money and I believed him. But last night he had a fight with Luis. He also plays here in the orchestra. You can ask him. Luis was a giant of a man. Had a serious face with Slavic features.
"He was my friend", he said sadly "but he owed me almost ten thousand euros. Yesterday he tried to hit me up again. Said it would be the very last time. Ha! And the next day he wanted to pay me back everything. I don't know how he was going to do it. Anyway, I didn't give him anything".
"And what time was it exactly??", Marko asked.
"After the rehearsal. At about 10 p.M."
"And where did you go after that??", Marko asked sternly.
"Home! Where else? You don't think that I…??"
Marko looked at me meaningfully: "You have to make a statement at the station. Think of an alibi already", Marko said arrogantly and I wanted to kick him in the ass.
Luis looked at me concerned.
"Come by if you can arrange it." I handed Luis my card.
"That was unnecessary! We're not on TV, damn it!", I snapped at Marko in the car.
"It was him, wasn't it?! Who else?? Ten thousand euros! Or would you lend any of your friends so much money and never ask for it back?! They were arguing and jerking around! The giant put him on the rails."
My cell phone rang, my colleague was on the line. They had found Chen's cell phone. It was between the tracks.
"And who called him last?", Marko asked me in the car.
"Funny, or? She didn't mention anything about it, said Marko.
"She must have her reasons, and besides, we didn't ask her."
"Maybe he tried to borrow money from her yesterday?", he thought.
"Maybe he got to a loan shark and he got pissed off and showed up at his ex-wife's place?", I added.
"I still think it's that Luis guy. He certainly had a motive", Marko answered.
"We're going to see his wife again. On the way I thought about the video of the surveillance camera. I saw the two people fighting in my mind's eye: they were both the same size.
"How big was this Chen?", I asked Marko, I knew he was writing down all the details. That's how all the rookies did it.
"Maximum 165 centimeters, yes, it says here: 162 centimeters exactly. Why?"
This time the Chen's son opened the door to us, he had short black hair and an interesting face. His almond-shaped eyes looked sad.
"Can we talk to your mother??", Marko asked, pushing his way into the apartment.
The daughter jumped happily through the living room, she probably did not know yet.
"Go to your room, Ling. We have something to discuss", said the mother to her and the son stayed with us in the living room.
"We have learned that you called your husband last night, shortly before the accident. Please tell us what this conversation was about?", I asked. Mrs. Chen became nervous for the first time. Rang with his fingers.
"He was here yesterday and he was shouting. I wanted to tell him never to come here again." Mrs. Chen sounded almost tearful, again and again she looked at the display case and then at her son.
"So they had a fight? What was it about?", Marko hiked after.
I eyed Mrs. Chen's petite figure and wondered if she would be strong enough to push her husband onto the tracks. But real anger, as we know, releases special forces.
"To nothing in particular. Only money, as always", she said emphatically nonchalantly and made a throwing away gesture. She tried to put on the mask of indifference again.
"Was it about the scrolls? Did your husband want to sell it?", Marko asked and I was amazed at his acumen.
"Yes, that's how it was! He took her with him. Mrs. Chen now seemed very determined again. Her gaze was fixed on Marko.
"And that's when you ran after him…?", Marko insisted further.
"Yes! And we were arguing… At the train station… And that's when he went backwards… And fell on the tracks. That's how it was!" She nodded.
She was breathing intermittently, as if on the verge of a heart attack, but her face was completely motionless. I admired their self-control.
"No! No!", Ling suddenly called out and came into the room. She must have been listening behind the door. "Dan ran after him. Not Mom, but Dan!" She pointed at her brother.
Mrs. Chen jumped up: "Don't talk such nonsense! I told you to go to your room!"
Ling burst into tears: "You can't lie, can you, Mommy, or? Dan was drenched in sweat. Vibrated all over the body.
"So, you went after him, and then??", I said quietly to Dan.
Dan yelped loudly and slapped his hands against his head: "I didn't mean to do it!", it burst out of him. "He was yelling something about a new beginning. But I knew he was lying! He always lies! And now he also wanted to hawk the family heritage! I had to prevent that! Mrs. Chen stood up. Took her son in her arms. She stroked his hair tenderly. Her look was full of concern and compassion.
"You must believe him, it was just an accident. Just a bad accident."
On the way home we drove past the tower at the Ostkreuz again. I stared up at the sky.