The police station was accommodated in an old building, a school from the 19th century.
It took me three hours to get anywhere near Benny.
They had me fill out seven forms, both sides, all identical. The policeman in charge ripped two forms apart, and I had to start again. “Hand slipped.” His comment slapped my ears. This was nothing but mile high harassment. I knew it. The policeman knew it, and I tried not to get too angry.
Then they had me write down what happened from the phone call on, till now.
Time delaying tactics. Maybe they searched and bugged my apartment right about now. They must have turned Benny’s upside down already.
I tried to remember if there was anything suspicious in my flat, something that could get me in jail.
Nothing to hide…
No political literature, besides what was permitted and encouraged. Some family photos, but I’m the only one left alive, so no danger on that end. No newspapers or magazines, no radio – lucky me. Only cigarettes, coffee and booze and dirty laundry.
Still, they told me to wait.
On the other side of the dirty window, the sky caught fire on the margins. The sun would be up in less than half an hour. Exhaustion burned under my eyelids, like sand. I attempted to close them, it stung like salt on an open wound.
I feared my eyelids wouldn’t go all the way down. I pushed with my fingertips against them. The burn eased a tiny bit, only to be replaced by a headache. Benny mattered now most. As soon as I opened them, the artificial light made them water. I had to focus on Benny.
From somewhere outside, they dragged Benny in, hands cuffed behind his back. He stumbled forward, face pale and bright and full with terror. He was scared to death. From the stains on his clothes, I could tell he had wet his pants.
This was, what a man on death row looks like. Nausea greeted me.
God! I had to push that thought out of my head fast.
At first glance, there seemed nothing wrong with him, only a split lip. His wet hair stuck to his sweaty forehead. I was three feet away from him. I could reach out, but I knew better than that.
The uniform holding his left elbow grunted. “He fell all by himself. Clumsy, like a child.” The other man at his right and the policeman, I gave my forms to, laughed. It was a roaring filthy laugh, a laugh you laugh at a salt covered foaming snail, or at a cringing burning spider. The smell of ethanol and urine hit me.
The man on his left pulled a lighter out of his pocket. Benny whined and jerked back as far as he could. I had to swallow hard, clench my teeth, so no reaction escaped me. The uniform at his right lifted his right elbow, forcing him down. His face got close enough to the flame that he could have breathed it out. He did nothing. He just trembled.
Behind me, the slick voice from the telephone harrumphed. The man put away his lighter, and the other uniforms straightened up. Everything went silent.
“So you are friends with Jews and Hungarians, doctor?” That man... The hair on my neck stood on end.
Benny’s face fell, he winced. Slowly, I turned around. “Uncuff.” His voice was barely audible, but the uniforms obeyed. Clicks and a sigh could only mean, Benny was free now.
The man leaned with his elbow over a filing cabinet, posture most casual. He was bigger than me, wiry in stature. He had a broad forehead, a long crooked nose, broken once but healed well and bushy brows. His dark eyes seemed to sparkle with mischief.
From the edge of his lips hung a lit cigarette. Ash clung to the paper. His clothes were elegant, no uniform, coat, and shoes handmade. He blew smoke through his nostrils right into my face. I didn’t breathe. Manicured hands, I noticed. Nothing cheap about this man, this was no foot soldier. This was a someone, a well educated high ranking officer.
He smiled a peaceable smile, perfect teeth hid behind his lips.
This man could only mean trouble.
I steadied my voice. “Only this one.” What a stupid thing to say! My head was empty.
“Your boss says, you are a capable man. A bit soft, but capable nevertheless. We’ll see about that.” He looks at his manicured nails with interest.
He noded a tiny bit, and the men shoved Benny into my back. I felt him bump into me, grab for the sleeves of my jacket and go down unto his knees. His shoulder, his temple pressed into my knee pit and the back of my thighs.
The man chuckled and waved a hand. “So collect your garbage and go.”