It’s always worse in the late afternoon. I don’t know why, God knows I don’t. I’ll be sitting in the old armchair – you know, the one with the wing-back I’m always going on about. Anyway, I’ll be sitting looking out of the big bay window, through the old nets, and suddenly I can’t breathe. It doesn’t stop me trying though – oh God, I’m trying now, trying to breathe around the wad of tightness and whatever-it-is in my chest. Goes on for about two, three minutes usually before I can get my breath again. Like something’s not working the way it should. I’ve been broken somewhere. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Claude, it’s a touch of angina, you’re old, you’ve had a good life,’ and all the rest of it.
But then, you don’t know me.
I can tell you, you can’t begin to understand.
There you are with your little blue tie and your nicely pressed (cheap polyester) slacks and your little degree in some kind of modern quackery and you don’t know me at all. But I know you, Doctor Simmons. I can see right through you.
“Hello Claude, do you know why I’m here today?”
Because my daughter is paying you $600 an hour you little twerp. I don’t care.
“I see you’re feeling a little better now?”
“Oh I’m sure I’ll survive.”
Have you ever killed a man Doctor? Have you ever punched a woman – a woman! – in her face just because she had the nerve to touch your uniform with her filthy infected fingers? Of course not. You just sit there halfway across the dayroom and fiddle with your pen. If I were a younger man I’d rise and smash the damn thing out of your hands and across the room. If I still had the power your bastard face would be splashed over the wall along with most of your head. I used to love seeing that. The human body never ceases to amaze me. But oh, you’re talking again Doctor!
“Have you ever heard of a man named Rupert Bahnhoff?”
Well well, this is a genuine surprise. Good for you! But why, how did you hear that name, the name of a great man long since buried?
“Oh, just a little research.” You’re a terrible liar Doctor, fiddling with the little pen collection in your breast pocket. “He was, as you may be aware, a prominent member of the German army. I was hoping you might be able to tell me a little about him, I believe you may have served together during the war. I have colleagues,” But what’s that, your expression hardening a little, as if squirming in the grip of an unpleasant memory? “Colleagues of mine in Nuremburg who would be very interested to know of his whereabouts.”
A deep sigh. I never took you for the theatrical type Doctor. The silence lays heavy on the room, doesn’t it? A membrane holding in the sounds. A Zyklon balloon, with neither of us particularly keen to break it. But I must, and here’s where the real chase begins.
“Perhaps, Herr Doktor, I should tell you a little of what I know of Rupert Bahnhoff.”
Like I said, it’s always worse in the afternoon.