This is Part 1 of the Alluminati thriller. Read Alluminati: Prologue before you read any further. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then go read Alluminati: Synopsis. If you still don’t know what’s going on, go have a beer and come back another time☻
Scene 1 – Giannis
Giannis takes his time this morning of March before leaving his house. At 58 years old, this police officer has nothing in the world to worry about. He’s only a few years away from his pension, and he has had a happy, quiet life. Stepping outside, he takes a look at the beautiful view of the trees and flowers along his street, and he takes a deep breath. He puts on his sunglasses, he rolls a cigarette and he starts a slow walk towards the main square of the town, greeting the neighbours and the children on the way. At the local cafe, simply called kafeneio, he orders a coffee and engages in a casual chit-chat with the owner of the place. He steps outside, playing with his komboloi – a classic fidgeter’s favourite – under the shade of a platanos tree while slowly sipping his Greek coffee. He says to himself “I should be getting to the police station soon”, but he doesn’t hurry to finish his coffee. This is his favourite morning ritual, which what kept him going for the 32 years that he’s been a police officer. He takes another sip of coffee, closes his eyes and thinks “zoara, what a life”. In that moment he sees a call from his partner, Giorgos.
“Gianni, the boss called, we have to go to the job. Some tourist got eaten. I go down now, I’ll be there in five ten minutes”. Giannis knows that Giorgos will be there in about half an hour, so he doesn’t rush. He takes another sip.
When Giannis arrives at the police station, he sees Giorgos smoking a cigarette outside and sipping on his takeaway frappe.
“Kalimera file, morning my friend”, he mutters, with no trace of the immediacy with which he had called Giannis just 30 minutes before. Giannis then starts rolling another cigarette to accompany Giorgos, but they are interrupted by Petros, who pokes his head out the window. Petros, their boss, disrupts all peace and is only eloquent when yelling.
“It’s 11 o’clock, paidia, what the hell are you doing? Having a good time? And here people are dying and the Europeans are coming and they are going to blame ME!” Petros has a tendency for overreacting and for putting himself in the centre of all good and evil in the world, which is always directed at him. Some years ago all colleagues chipped in to give him a crown with fake gemstones attached to it, for the Carnivals. “Here boss, for when you want to do some drama queen business”. The officer who dared make the comment had not had a proper case since. The others felt just fortunate that Petros didn’t punish all of them fairly.
Petros hands them a short memo with the facts recollected up to now: the head of a German tourist appeared at Sifis’ lake at 8am detached from the rest of its body; the circumstances of the incident and the facts prior to its finding are unclear; the German tourist is presumably dead.
Petros then briefs the two detectives about their assignment, as they will be in charge of investigating who this German tourist was and what he was up to the days prior to the event. Giorgos interrupts him “Malista, drunk tourist falls into crocodile lake. Easy boss”, and he takes another noisy sip off his coffee. Petros yells back “We have to prove it to the damn Eurocrats! They are raising suspicion of an homicide, some people already want to turn it into a hate crime against the Germans… Plus what if they blame Sifis? God knows that the last thing Crete needs right now is having to hand our beloved Sifis to the German authorities… Be careful!”
Giannis picks up the file on the German tourist, gives a sign to Giorgos, and they walk towards the car.
“So what do you think Giorgo, how hard is this case going to be?” he says, almost to himself, while going through the file. The owner of the bodiless head was called Martin Stühl, natural of Stuttgart in Germany. He travelled to Crete alone, according to Aegean Airlines, but he joined a group of young tourists and locals in a hotel called Cauldron. The group were travelling through the island as in an organised event, so it would be easy enough to track down the events that preceded his death.
The first clue was to find the group, and ask some questions.
Scene 2 – Hans
Hans is a very successful man. He did everything right, from the very beginning. He never skipped school, he never cheated on an exam, and he never wasted time procrastinating. For him, doing nothing productive is laziness, and sitting down to “think”, as the hippies call it, is being lazy.
He eats his meals in very measured proportions, and he only needs 10 minutes for every main meal. His daily routine is optimised to the extreme of what is possible. Every morning during breakfast he reads his newspaper. Today the headline is: Greece demands reparations from Germany for World War II damages. He looks to the photo of his deceased German shepherd Rex, and expresses out loud how nonsensical and absurd it is – why would hardworking Germans support their laziness? They are just grasping at straws. Below the article, depicting several charts and numbers proving that the Greek demands are, Hans notices is another article: German tourist thrown to the crocodiles in Crete.
Hans is preparing his comment to Rex’ photograph about the dangers abroad and the brutality of those savages when the phone rings. It is his superior, Peter Weber, who had never called him outside of working hours before. Hans looks at the phone suspiciously, annoyed by this informality but at the same time incapable of ignoring a superior. He decides that, although he must pick up the phone, he will also make note of this lack of professionalism of Herr Weber for the future.
“Hallo?” asks Hans, not concealing his annoyance.
“Hans, did you see the news? Pack your bags, we’re sending you to Crete on an important national mission. You need to overview the entire investigation, make sure you don’t miss a detail, and report to us. Come to the office with your bags and I’ll give you the file with all important information on the case. I imagine you do have a suitcase?” vomits Peter, efficiently and authoritarian.
Hans almost suffers a heart attack when he hears he has to go abroad for a mission. He’s in his early forties but his heart has been suffering ever since that homeless man almost stole his car. Since he was in his twenties and he joined the Polizei he’s always been the first to get to the office and the last to leave. But he’s never liked field missions because he’s afraid of the kind of people he might encounter. In the end criminals to him are lazy, jobless, poor people, that end up going rogue. They most probably didn’t deserve better. Because a structured, stable life like his, that requires merit. He hates field work enough in Berlin, but what unknown savages he might find elsewhere? This is fully out of his comfort zone! And why him? Why not any of the field agents?
His mind process this anger and disappointment quickly, but unable to disobey direct orders from his superior, Hans decides to try to convince him of his mistake once at the police station. Yes, that will work. Herr Weber is probably regretting it already, realising the error. He goes into his storage cupboard, and takes his suitcase out. Brand new, bought three years ago just in case. He brings it to the bed and he opens it, finding the travelling essentials he had bought at the time. Seven pairs of socks, seven pairs of underwear, a security passport holder, a set of essential toiletries in travelling size… He adds some clothing: slightly different versions of the same shirt, same pants, and a second pair of shoes, to complement the ones he will be wearing. He looks at the suitcase with satisfaction – it is very neatly packed – forgetting for a second the reason for packing. Annoyed again, he closes the suitcase, measures it on the scale – exactly 14.9 kg – and adds one more pack of dental floss, just in case.
Scene 3 – Primož
The wide open balcony doors let the sea breeze enter the reasonably luxurious hotel room. The white curtains are floating in the wind, as if they were dancing to the sound of the waves, strong and loud in the quietness of the off-season paradise. As if to culminate the portrait of paradise, a cloud-like bed fills the space facing the open doors, with perfectly white sheets topped with fluffy pillows, just waiting for someone to rest their head on them.
Suddenly a phone rings. A grunt, if ever was a name for the sound of death on earth awakening, follows an arm reaching from behind the bed. A young man, swearing obscenities between grunts and taunting at nobody and nothing in particular, stumbles around the room, seemingly following the sound of the phone ring. Kicking empty beer cans as he goes, he reaches the bathroom, falls down, and finally reaches the phone.
A merciless feminine voice shouts at the other side.
“You’ll miss THE breakfast, you have to see THIS!” she says, as if there was never a more important endeavour as breakfast.
The young man manages to stand up, his head spinning with vertigo from his 1.90 metres height, and he tries to find his pants. He finds them in the balcony, and doesn’t even question the events leading to it, as if it was the most normal circumstance. He picks up his tobacco and he starts walking towards the restaurant. Along the corridors he sees some known faces that he disregards, too focused on his mission to get out to notice the alarm in their voices. But even if he did, he wouldn’t care. Whatever it is, his mission is to reach breakfast before it’s over. Once outside walking beside the pool he decides he needs a break and he sits to roll a cigarette. His shaky hands hardly manage to hold the filter and he doesn’t even see Giannis and Giorgos until they’re right above him.
“Are you mister, Jot… Iotsevarr Primos?”, asks Giorgos.
Primož Hočevar, which is his real name, is so confused, and in such a state, that denies it.
Giannis explains that they have interviewed the leader of the group, some French guy called Benjamin, but that, in the official papers he gave them, Primož’s name was listed as the secretary of the group, so they had to interview him too. Benjamin had insisted that he was the current leader, but they had to find Primož Hočevar all the same.
Primož looks startled. “Benjamin? Leader? That guy? He told you he was… our leader?” And he bursts laughing. The two policemen are as confused now as Primož, and decide to go straight to the point.
“Mister, if you are Primož Hočevar and you are part of this group, we need you to tell us if you have seen this man in the last 24 hours” demands Giannis losing his patience and displaying a picture of someone showing his behind and drinking from a funnel at the same time.
“Ha! What did the idiot do this time?” Primož responds cheerfully.
Meanwhile, from the other side of the pool, two silhouettes observe the scene. The taller one is a young man with long, black, curly hair, all messy as if he just woke up or never went to sleep. The shorter silhouette is a young woman, wearing what seem to be a bikini and a dress back to front as if she got dressed with her feet. Her hair, like her friend, also looks messy tied up in a bun. They are both eating from plates with what appears to be a mixture of omelettes, brownies, bacon, tzatziki and ice cream. The order and the inevitable mixture doesn’t seem to bother anyone.
“Shouldn’t we go see what’s going on with Primož?” suggests Nikki, the girl, while taking a sip of coffee and feeling sorry for Primož and his failure at rolling his cigarette while being harrassed by the cops.
“Eeee, what’s the rush, let’s finish this first” responds Mitsos apathetically, while putting more bacon on his omelette.
“You kept it in the room? You know, the herbs” asks Nikki cautiously.
“There’s nothing left I think” responds Mitsos while double-checking his pocket. “What the hell did we do last night?”
“Don’t look at me, I need more cake before that, with extra bacon”.
“When and where was the last time you recall seeing him, and when did you notice his disappearance?”, insists Giorgos, losing his patience. Giannis tries a different approach and decides to let the truth out at once,
“Mister Primož, we’re sorry to be the ones to inform you that Mister Stühl has appeared dead this morning. We don’t want to cause alarm in your group but since Mister Benjamin said you have been in charge of this group before and that you know everyone well, we wanted to track what Stühl had been up to the days prior to his disappearance, and when has his disappearance been noticed. We also want to give you our most sincere condolences”.
Giannis thinks, to himself, that no one ever prepares you to give difficult news to those close to the victim. To their surprise, Primož doesn’t react as they were expecting after the news: he doesn’t react at all, staring at them as if they had said something in a foreign language. He has stopped rolling his cigarette, and the cops probably assume that the news have left the young fella in a state of shock, because they tell him they will let him breath and will come to talk to him in another moment.
Scene 4 – Nikki
“Primož, dude, what’s up?” calmly calls Nikki as she approaches him, as if the policemen had never been there. “I saved you a plate, but I ate half the brownie on the way…” She adds with no hint of regret. Mitsos follows just behind, slowly.
“What the fuck. Don’t know. They just. What the fuck.” Primož is still confused about everything.
“What?” asks Mitsos when they arrive. “Did they find our weed? Like, I mean you know, did we finish it last night or what? What happened?”
“Dude I don’t know, apparently Stühl is dead. Like it happened last night. Don’t know dude” finishes Primož clumsily.
“WHAT?” Nikki and Mitsos exclaim at the same time. “How?”
Primož doesn’t seem to have more words than that, and he just decides to eat what is left of breakfast. Nikki observes him and dares to talk about the elephant in the room.
“So why did they question YOU?” she asks, trying not to sound intimidating.
“I don’t know, Benjamin sent them to me, he told them I know the group for longer, what a douche”.
Mitsos doesn’t seem faced, he just keeps repeating “It’s all gone man”.
“Why would Benjamin ever pass on an opportunity for being the centre of attention?” Nikki keeps questioning.
To the shrugs of her friends, Nikki decides to drop it. She’s still sceptical about Stühl being dead, but something seems odd. There’s some memory trying to come out but everything is blurry. She leaves her friends behind, to head for a shower, which will hopefully help clear her mind.
On the way to the hotel room she looks at her phone, in search for clues. Pictures, texts, something that can explain what she does remembers about last night… A key word… Did it happen? She arrives to the room and she finds codeine to help with her hangover. She mixes it with a rehydration pill, and she jumps in the shower. She lets the water run through her hair, releasing the knots of a very intense night. While she shampoos her hair she notices bruises on her right arm. She checks the rest of her body and she notices some bruises on her legs too. Some of those, she things, were there before, but there are definitely some fresh ones too. In a normal situation after such a blackout she would just claim not to ever drink again but this time is different. The idiot died. As they had wished for so many times. “I wish he’d fall off the edge” someone said just two days ago during a trip on a cliff. Is it possible? But no, surely not. Surely. Most likely. She tries to think harder but her head is not working and the codeine is only making her brain weaker.
After the shower, she looks at herself in the mirror. Gosh, it’s only been 3 days, but her face already looks like she’s coming from war. When did it start happening, that alcohol and weed would make her look so wasted after such a short time? And the never ending hangovers? Maybe it was the age. She was almost 26, but this week she was behaving as an 18-year-old again. Surely that contributed to it. Gosh, she thinks, my skin looks tender as if it’s full of liquid. And her body is indeed full of liquid, and the wrong kind. These events are rare now, unlike when she was in her early 20s. But she is also less prepared for them.
Her memories of last night might suggest she’s not a good person. May they? But she is! She’s a good person… She is usually a vegetarian, she does yoga, she volunteers. But how long has it been since she did yoga for the last time? She thinks of the bacon she just ate, bacon, BACON! Are these events the ones transforming her or is it her friends? But if she’s of pure nature, as she claims to be, how can she be sure it wasn’t the others who did it? After all, they went straight to Primož. The cops must have a clue they didn’t tell him. Plus the story of Benjamin telling them that he was one of the leaders in the past, therefore he knows more about the group… what bullcrap! When did Benjamin started being honest about his weak leadership?
And wait, Mitsos. He didn’t even react to the news of Stühl’s death… like he knew already? He was only talking about the weed, that it was all gone. What if he smoked too much weed and he doesn’t remember what he did? It wouldn’t be the first time but… what if he took something after the weed was gone, something stronger, a hard drug? Could that have provoked a violent outburst?
** Someone should kill that motherfucker. Don’t worry, I’m sure someone will, soon, and we’ll make them a monument. Or maybe he kills himself. Or maybe someone makes it look like a believable accident. Oh my God is he dead already? **
All these sentences ring in Nikki’s head. She knows they were said. What she doesn’t know is in which context, by whom. By her? By her friends probably. Whatever the context these words are very harsh and Nikki has guilt and fear of her own mind. So she decides that the only way to get better is to get some clues, from the others. It’s all so confusing, and her head doesn’t stop spinning. She puts yoga pants on, she lets her hair loose, and she finds her flip-flops.
She decides to join her friends again, and try to find out what happened from them. She realises that if they did it, the worst thing she can do right now is to leave them alone to discuss how to hide it…
They are both smoking on the sunbeds, right where she left them.
Scene 5 – Mitsos
“She’s being so weird. Did she puke last night? Because I don’t know but she’s being weird” says Mitsos.
Primož, who just finished the plate, responds “I don’t know man, I don’t remember last night”.
“Me neither dude, did we finish the weed?” attempts Mitsos one last time. “Maybe that’s why Nikki is acting weird. Is she upset? Did we finish it without her?”.
As they see Nikki approach, they stop talking. They feel sometimes she’s like a ticking bomb. Say the wrong thing once and she might laugh. Say the wrong thing a second time and you might know what hell looks like. Standing in front of them as if inquiring why they stopped talking, an unbearably uncomfortable silence makes Mitsos stand up suddenly and shout “I’ll go have a shower too”. He leaves without looking back, walking slowly away from the other too. He has no recollection of last night whatsoever but he’s pretty sure they had weed to last them a few more days. When he enters the room he lies down on his cloud-like bed and closes his eyes trying to remember where his feet lead him last night, maybe shedding some light in the mysterious affair of the misplaced weed. He then falls asleep.
** Mitsos is looking at Stühl, being eaten by sharks at Elafonisi. Mitsos is just looking at all of this happening, but does nothing. One of the sharks comes out of the water and sits next to Mitsos on the beach. Mitsos looks at him and nods with the head, then asks “wanna smoke?” **
Mitsos wakes up and checks his phone. He slept for one or two hours, and his dream is still vivid in his mind. Because smoking with a shark was pretty awesome, but also because he just lived Stühl’s death. Or re-lived? Is this what happened? Was he present when Stühl died? Why can’t he remember where he put the weed? Did he finish it with the shark?
Mitsos has a quick shower and when he gets out his hair is like a wet mop. It would take a couple of big towels to dry that hair plus a hair drier. He looks at himself in the mirror and he thinks “you look handsome today”. He dresses up, taking it slowly, and he sits down on the terrace of the room. It must have been a few hours now that he’s sober, and his wits are slowly coming back. He thinks back at the dream he just had, and he’s perplexed that he can’t find any connection about Stühl and last night. And why was Nikki acting so weird? Does she know what happened last night? Is the shark of the dream actually Nikki? Maybe she killed Stühl, and then had a smoke with him. Maybe he didn’t interfere in saving Stühl because of his friendship with the killer… Or it could have been Primož. After all it was him who was interrogated by the police. Or both of them, while Mitsos looked? Another scary thought comes to his mind: maybe it was all of them. Mitsos knows that he is no killer. But he’s also known the other two for 7 years, shared so many trips and good moments, so many nights discussing politics and trying to imagine a fair society, so many nights talking about possible technological inventions they could become rich with, and theorising quantum mechanics. He knew they were not idiots, and they were not violent either. But he also remembers nothing about last night. He sees only Elafonisi, and sharks, and Stühl brutally dying while he impassively observes from the shore.
Mitsos rolls a cigarette, his hands becoming more steady after the food and shower. He realises that now might be the time to join his friends again, see what they have to say for themselves…