It wasn’t far off Alexanderplatz, but the alley was dark and deserted. Kirsten sensed the man following her and walked a little faster than she otherwise would. He walked faster still and soon caught up with her. Touched her shoulder. She ignored him, but he grabbed her and twisted her around. Kirsten tried to break loose, but he held tight, shook and threw her against the wall. Gottlieb pushed himself against her. She struggled but couldn’t move. She tried to scratch his face with her fingernails, but he grabbed her hand and all she could do was scream.
Ulrich was enjoying the evening walk, no destination on his mind. Just an evening stroll in the city. He heard a scream nearby, from an alley he just passed. His senses awake, he turned and ran towards the sound. Turning the corner, he saw a man holding a woman against her will.
He breathed deeply before mustering up the courage, composed himself and ran down the alley. Before Gottlieb could understand what was happening, he was ripped away from Kirsten. Almost losing his balance, he smashed against the opposite wall. He pulled a gun from his pocket and aimed at Ulrich. The two men confronted each other while Kirsten tried to compose herself.
‘Put the gun away,’ Ulrich almost whispered.
‘Learn to mind your own business.’ Gottlieb aimed the gun between the man’s eyes.
Ulrich jumped to one side, confusing Gottlieb for a moment, then launched himself, knocking the gun out of Gottlieb’s hand with a karate kick. Both men seemed prepared to run after it but knew the other would use the opportunity to attack. Gottlieb punched toward Ulrich, but was thwarted. After receiving a heavy blow in the face, he ran away, out of the alley and out of sight.
Ulrich picked up the gun and smiled at Kirsten. ‘Hope he didn’t cause you any harm.’
‘No, I’m fine.’ Kirsten brushed her coat and smiled.
‘Ulrich, my name is Ulrich. Hungry?’
A moment later, they were in Alexanderplatz, laughing at the sauce running down her face as she took a bite. ‘Curry wurst may not be a great idea for a first date,’ she mumbled amusingly through the fat soaked wrapping. So beautiful, so elegant, yet so human. This perfect being mesmerised Ulrich. He saw his future right there, in her eyes. Fate had brought them together and nothing would get in their way.
Five men approached from the side. Ulrich devoured the sausage and clenched his fists. He was ready. Gottlieb, he recognised the man from the alley. They aligned themselves in a half circle, like gunslingers in a western, ambushing their prey. Kirsten moved closer to Ulrich, and he put his arms around her. They turned and walked off, knowing the men would come after them. Ulrich needed a plan.
The remains of the old Berlin Wall merely indicated at their former power. Covered in graffiti, the barbed wire and gun turrets were gone, but that didn’t make Ulrich and Kirsten feel any safer. The five men followed them at a steady distance, never letting them out of sight. As they approached the end of East Side Gallery, they took a sprint across Warschauer Straße, but could not get away. Two men attacked Ulrich, and he fell to the ground. Three went after Kirsten, grabbed her and dragged her to a car. As she was being pushed into the back, Ulrich, enraged, punched and kicked and got up. He ran towards the car, but someone shouted ‘Klaus!’ and he was tripped by one of the men. He fell on his face as the car sped off. The two men were back on their feet and started kicking him. Lying helpless on the ground, he remembered the gun he’d gotten off Gottlieb earlier. He pulled it out of his pocket, quickly turned and shot one of the men, which promptly fell into the Spree river. The other man ran off across the Oberbaum Brücke. Ulrich was in pain, but got back on his feet and ran after him.
He caught up with the crook halfway across the bridge. They slammed against the railing and almost lost their balance. The man resisted, but Ulrich drew the gun and pushed it under his chin.
‘Where did they take her?’
‘I don’t know.’
Ulrich pushed the gun upwards and it hurt Klaus. ‘Take me to her.’
‘I don’t know where they are.’
Ulrich searched Klaus’ pockets and found a phone. ‘Unlock it. Give me the name of the guy we’re about to visit.’
‘I don’t care if you die here and now, or later. Or not at all. I really don’t care. I just want that girl back.’
‘Go to hell.’
Ulrich pushed Klaus, so he almost lost balance, aimed at his knee and pulled the trigger. Klaus screamed and fell to the ground ‘Tell me.’ Ulrich pointed the gun at his other knee.
‘Tell me where she is or you’ll never walk again!’
‘Unlock it with 2014. Name is Gottlieb.’
Ulrich typed a text message. “Got rid of the guy. Where can we join you?”
Ulrich pointed the gun at Klaus again, while keeping one eye on the phone. ‘Don’t move.’
A message came in. “Tiergarten, under the Bismarck Monument.”
Ulrich hit Klaus on the head, knocking him out before taking his gun and waving a taxi.
The taxi stopped at the Victory Column and Ulrich got out. He walked straight to the path leading up to the Bismarck Monument, making no effort to be discreet. As the men saw him, he drew the two guns and fired. Two of the three men fell down. Gottlieb grabbed Kirsten and dragged her to one side, towards the trees. As they approached the English Garden, Gottlieb stopped and turned, pointing his gun at Kirsten.
‘If you shoot, she will die. You are too far away. She will be hit.’
‘Let her go.’
‘I’m telling you. This is your last chance. Your friends are all dead and I won’t hesitate to kill you too.’
Gottlieb pushed his gun against Kirsten’s chin and hid his own face behind hers. Ulrich raised his gun and aimed. Kirsten whispered something in terror but the words never came out. Ulrich held his breath, aimed and fired. Gottlieb let out a quick scream as he fell to the ground.
‘Let’s get out of here.’ Ulrich took Kirsten’s hand.
They walked towards the city, holding hands. As they stood under the Brandenburger Tor in the evening light, she turned and thanked him. He looked into her eyes and they kissed. They would never be separated again.
The evening sun cast shadows across the tiny room. Ulrich killed a cigarette in an overfull ashtray, stretched and typed THE END on his typewriter.
He got up from the chair, grabbed his coat and stormed out the door. The evening was beautiful, calm and chilly, and the Babylon Theatre cast its neon glow onto the pavement. Entering through the door, Gottlieb smiled as he looked at the ticket. ‘How often have you seen this film?’ He tore the stub off and let Ulrich in.
‘I don’t know.’ It was awkward to be recognised like this. He didn’t come here for the film, and it was none of Gottlieb’s business. He walked down the couple of steps to the candy stand. Kirsten smiled. ‘What can I do for you?’
He wanted to say so much to her. ‘Can I…’
’Sorry?’ She smiled patiently. How could she be so perfect?
‘You want popcorn?’
She smiled at him. ‘No problem. Cola, as usual?’
‘Yeah.’ This was awkward. Ulrich searched his trousers for change. It dropped on the floor, obviously. Embarrassed, he bent down, picked up the money and put it on the till in front of her. He smiled and she smiled back.
The film was the same as it had always been. He’d seen it around six times now. The half way point was here and the lights came on, but he stayed in his seat. He wanted to go out and see her, but he’d had enough popcorn and just standing there… it was awkward enough as it was. A moment passed, people returned to their seats, and the lights went out. The hero ran across a street and shot some bad guys, but the girl was still missing. She would be rescued towards the end. Ulrich had seen it all before.
He could not concentrate on the film. All he could think about was her as he put the leftovers of his popcorn away and stood up. There was no need for him to see the ending of this film anymore.
Ulrich apologised to the people in his row as he made his way towards the aisle, then walked up to the door. One last look at the screen. The hero was calling a taxi.
Ulrich opened the door and walked into the foyer. Kirsten was busy putting empty bottles into crates and arranging candy. Ulrich walked up to her. She looked up and smiled.
This story is the eigth installment in the Moments series