فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

A difficult decision

‘Please! You frightened me! You nearly fell!’ the Shark said.

Hiro stared in fear, unable to speak. The old man’s face was close to Hiro’s and he was holding his arm very tightly.

‘You must not stand so close to the edge of the platform!’ the Shark went on. ‘But this is your train. Climb in quickly!’ He moved even closer to Hiro. ‘Take great care, young man. Leave Berlin alive - not in a coffin!’

Their eyes met for a second, then Hiro felt the Shark give him a push. A moment later Hiro found himself inside the train, the electric doors closing behind him.

Almost immediately the train began to pull out of the station. Hiro couldn’t move. He stood in the doorway, looking at the Shark outside on the platform. The old man didn’t move either, but watched Hiro all the time as the train pulled away. Then the train left the bright lights of the station and the Shark disappeared from view.

At last Hiro was alone. Without thinking, he fell into a seat. Suddenly he realised he was wet with sweat. He undid his jacket. Was he dreaming or had the Shark really tried to kill him? It seemed a completely crazy idea, but Hiro couldn’t think of any other explanation. The Shark had led him to the edge of the platform, he’d moved behind Hiro, then reached out and caught his arm. And what was that final thing he’d said? ‘Leave Berlin alive - not in a coffin!’ Wasn’t a coffin the wooden box they use for dead bodies? Hiro suddenly felt very cold. He stared out through the train window at the city, but saw nothing except the Shark’s cold grey eyes looking back at him.

How he reached his hotel that night, Hiro never knew. It was like a terrible dream. When he thought about it later, he had a memory of getting off the train at Friedrichstrasse and following a group of other travellers down into the U-Bahn. He couldn’t remember anything of that underground journey except hearing ‘Hallesches Tor!’ After that he somehow made his way through the streets in the darkness, following the map in his guidebook. But he remembered the little old man, Herr Albert, who opened the door of the Hotel Alma when Hiro pressed the bell. Herr Albert had taken Hiro up to the second floor in an old lift with metal gates and wooden doors. That evening the hotel seemed like a second home to Hiro and Herr Albert like a second father. Hiro fell into bed and was asleep only a few seconds later.


When Hiro woke the next morning, everything came back to him immediately. There seemed to be no escape from the awful dream. The moment he opened his eyes it felt as if the Shark was standing next to the bed and whispering, ‘Leave Berlin alive - not in a coffin!’

Hiro’s first idea was to catch the earliest train out of the city. He would go directly to Prague, or maybe Warsaw or Amsterdam - anywhere as long as he could get out of Berlin.

But then, as Hiro lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, thinking about what had happened on the platform, he started to feel angry. ‘Why should an old man make me run off?’ he thought. Hiro began to wonder why he’d been so afraid. Perhaps it was because he was safe inside his hotel room, but Hiro thought he should teach the Shark a lesson. He would show him who was boss!

Hiro felt confused, but the longer he lay there, the angrier he became. If the Shark had really tried to push him off the platform, then that was… Hiro sat up, his blood boiling. Who was this man who called himself Erik Bjornson? If he had really wanted to kill Hiro, it must be because of the messages Hiro had read on his phone. There was one idea that Hiro couldn’t get out of his mind - the Shark was a killer. And the messages meant that he was planning to kill someone that night. Hiro had to do something. But what?

He thought about Akiko. She always knew what to do. For a moment he considered phoning her, but then he stopped himself. No, when Akiko had said she didn’t want to hear from him, he’d replied, ‘Don’t worry, you won’t!’ He wouldn’t be the weak one. If she decided to phone him, well, that was different. Hiro jumped up from the bed, angry that he’d even considered the idea for a second.

When Hiro went into breakfast, Herr Albert gave him a friendly wave and took him to a table. At one table a young American couple were discussing a boat trip on the Wannsee. Hiro ate some cereal, thinking how good it would be to have such an uncomplicated stay in the city. All of a sudden he realised that Herr Albert was at his shoulder.

‘You would like an egg?’ Herr Albert was asking softly.

‘I’m sorry,’ Hiro answered. ‘No, no egg, thank you,’ Then, without knowing he was about to say it, he went on, ‘Could you tell me where the nearest police station is?’

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