“….I slipped him the car keys: “If we get separated, you drive off,” I said, anticipating possible Red violence and costly damage to the car. “And I’ll phone you later.”
We walked a hundred yards, and turned the last corner, and I saw three goons peel off the wall on the other side of the otherwise empty street across from the entrance. Phrases from Raymond Chandler skidded through my brain. What would Philip Marlowe have done?
In their early forties, they were burly, stubble-faced and wearing weatherproof jackets—they were hard to place. There was something about them that reminded me of the thugs with baseball bats who smashed my Chicago dinner in September 2000; my fifty guests had included five professors from DePaul University—one thug smashed a chair into my face, other guests were cut by flying glass. After a moment’s hesitation, they crossed the street diagonally towards us.
Ignoring them, we walked right through them. “Mahlzeit,” I nodded: Good afternoon. “Let’s drop into that Kneipe,” I murmured to the student—the bar on the next corner.
“Too late,” he said, dropping the car keys furtively back into my hand. “They’re following. I recognize one. Staatspolizei!”
I doubted it. How could he know the Stapo by sight?
This was no time for “The Long Goodbye.” We split at the corner. Briefly out of sight of the goons, I quickened my pace. The rental Ford Focus was round the next corner. The men had split up. One was following me, a hundred yards behind; two were pursuing the law student.
Round the final corner I speeded up again, walking briskly in the middle of the street, not visibly aiming for anything. I pressed the remote, and heard the soft answering clunk of the car doors unlocking. I ripped open the front right hand door and dropped into the seat, and locked the door. The goon was ninety yards away, and he had begun to trot. Supposing he took out a gun?
My hands reached for the steering column—but the wheel wasn’t there. It was not a British car. It was Swiss. I was on the wrong side. Jeez, you’re getting senile, or perhaps you just needed that sleep. Drive all night, and this is what happens. Your brain clouds over….”