A few days ago I found a note on my roommate’s door.
I frowned instantly when I saw it. By now I’d grown quite annoyed at Tom’s antics. Ever since he started dating Jessica, he’d started doing this. She was the one who gave him the idea, saying it was cute and romantic.
Needless to say, when Tom left notes for me, they were neither cute nor romantic. Half the time they were plain stupid. You can’t imagine how often I found one saying ‘If you read this you’re a dumbass’ or ‘Please throw me away’.
At other times he used them to actually inform me about things. Saying he’d be gone for a day or two, that we were out of toilet paper, or telling me that he’d be working overtime at his dad’s law company.
You never knew which it was though.
When I had a look at this one it said:
‘Meet me at the Lebowski’s at five.’
I was a bit puzzled by that. The Lebowski’s was a bar in town we used to hang out at quite a bit in the past. Why today though? Weren’t we going to Fred’s place to watch the damned soccer game? He’d been going on about it for the past week and begged me to tag along. Why’d he suddenly want to change plans?
In the end, I shrugged and went on my way to work. To be honest, it didn’t matter to me, I wasn’t exactly a soccer fan.
On the tram, I pulled out my phone to call him why he wanted to go to the bar. It went straight to voicemail. So much about those perks at his dad’s company he’d been telling me about. I dropped him a quick message on WhatsApp and put my phone away.
Work was slow that day. I spent most of it sitting in front of my computer, pretending to be busy, while secretly browsing Reddit.
To be honest, I was looking forward to hanging out at the bar. It had been ages. Ever since we’d graduated, we didn’t have much time to hang out and even less since he was with Jessica. It would be nice to chill and have a few beers together again.
The moment my shift ended I was out of the building. Ten minutes later I was at the bar. It was still a quarter before five, but I decided to chat up the barkeeper. The dude was pretty much an old friend.
“Hey there, how’s it going? Been a while, hasn’t it?”
He eyed me for a moment before he recognized me. His face grew dark in an instant.
“Is your friend coming, too?”
“You mean Tom? Yeah, he told me to meet him here at five, been a while since-”
“Okay, listen up, I got no problem with you. Get yourself a beer, take a seat, fine by me. Once your friend arrives, you two get the hell out of here, alright?”
I was dumbfounded.
“What did he do? I mean it’s been a while, but I am pretty damn sure he didn’t do anything.”
“Don’t care, he’s not getting in again. Not after what happened with the girl.”
“What girl? What the hell are you talking about, man?”
“Alright, listen, you want to know what’s up? Get yourself a beer, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
Well, I got myself a beer and let the man talk.
He told me Tom had been here a couple of months ago with some of his old fraternity friends.
Apparently, the guys got quite drunk and started hitting on a group of girls. At first, the barkeeper said, he shrugged it off. As the evening continued though, the guys got a bit too touchy, so he told them to knock it off and leave the girls alone.
The real trouble started when one of the girls went to the toilet. After a couple of minutes, he noticed that her friends wondered where she was. A quick look around revealed that Tom was gone as well. He frowned and making sure nothing was wrong, he went to check up on things.
What he found was Tom pushing the girl against the wall in the hallway. His hand was over her mouth, and her blouse was ripped open.
The barkeeper tackled Tom in an instant, at which the girl started to scream that he’d wanted to rape her. Of course, Tom said it was bullshit and she provoked him, but the barkeeper said he knew what he’d seen.
He told the guys then and there to get the hell out of his bar. He asked the girl if she wanted him to call the cops, but in the end, she shook her head. Wasn’t worth the trouble, she said.
As I listened to that story, I’d no idea what to say. It sounded like complete and utter bullshit. Tom wasn’t the type of guy who’d do shit like that. It must’ve been someone else.
“You sure it was him?”
“Without a doubt. You guys had been regulars for years, no way I’d mistake someone else for him. I’ll probably recognize his face the moment he steps in.”
I didn’t know what to reply, so instead, I decided to wait until Tom would arrive. Hopefully, he’d be able to clear this whole thing up, and we could move past it.
It soon turned five, then ten past and then a quarter past. Where the hell was Tom?
Finally, someone approached me, but it wasn’t Tom. It was some lanky dude who’d entered the bar a while ago.
“Sorry, are you Chris?”
I nodded and before I could even say a word the guy handed me a note.
“I’m supposed to give you that.”
“Wait what’s this now?”
The guy shrugged.
“Don’t know, some random chick told me a guy named Chris would be here today at five. Gave me some money, so why the hell not.”
I looked down at this new note. What was it with notes today, I cursed to myself.
As I scanned it, I saw that there were only two things on it. A tram station and a line telling me to find Anna Schuster.
I sat there, sipping from my beer and looking down at the thing. Was this another one of Tom’s stupid antics?
I looked up trying to find the guy who’d handed it to me, but he was gone already. Instead, I turned to the barkeeper.
“You know what this is all about?”
He gave me an annoyed look. “What do you think I am, twelve? Why the hell would I be passing notes around?”
Sigh, he was right, this was ridiculous.
I finished my beer, paid up and left the bar to make my way home. I couldn’t help but look at the note again. A girl had given it to him, he’d said. Who the hell was it? Had it been this ‘Anna Schuster’?
Nah, don’t think about it.
A minute later I searched for a route to the station on the note. I cursed at myself again, but I was curious what this was all about.
The worst part was that the station was on the other end of the city. It would take me almost half an hour to get there. Well, as they said, curiosity is a bitch.
When I arrived at the station, I found myself in the middle of nowhere. Other than me only one person, an old lady, had left the tram. It couldn’t be her, I concluded.
For a while, I sat around waiting to see if anyone else would arrive.
“Where the hell are you, Anna?” I wondered.
After I grew tired of waiting, I got up and had a look around. There was nothing at the station. No notes, no hint, nothing but advertisement and the timetable for trams.
I googled the name, but all I found were dozens if not hundreds of Facebook Profiles. Great, I thought.
This was getting more and more stupid. What was I supposed to be doing here? There was nothing here! Was this nothing but a silly prank?
I ripped out my phone to call Tom again. It still went straight to voicemail. I looked up at the departure board and saw that the next tram would arrive in about ten minutes.
I looked up and down the street. Nothing. On the other side was this huge, modern factory complex. There was no way I’d go there and search for someone. Other than that though, there was nothing, no other buildings nearby. All there was, was a bounding wall behind me, most likely closing off some private property.
Finally, I opened Maps to see if there really was nothing else around. I realized why there were no buildings on my side of the street. The bounding wall belonged to a cemetery.
Was I supposed to meet this girl at the cemetery or…
I found the gate soon enough and went in. This had to be some fucked up joke, I told myself. With an ominous feeling, I started to make my way around.
I hoped that soon Tom or maybe some of his fraternity friends would jump out from behind a gravestone to scare me.
It didn’t take me long to find something else though, Anna Schuster’s grave.
The date on the gravestone told me she’d died about half a year ago. The engraved text said that the lovely daughter was taken from her family much too early.
What the hell. What’s this all about? Why send me here?
Then I got an idea. I took out my phone and this time I searched not only for her name but also her age and the day she’d died.
At first, I saw nothing of interest until I stumbled upon a long post at a local forum. It talked about a controversial case related to the rape and murder of a young woman.
As I started reading my heart dropped. It described that Anna Schuster had been out with friends, but never made it home that evening.
She was found the next morning, dead and the victim of sexual assault.
The official story was, that no perpetrator was ever found and that the case remained open to this day. The real story though, the poster said, is that it was clear who the perpetrators were. There were witnesses, and there was evidence pointing to a group of young man. They’d been harassing the girl before at a bar.
It couldn’t be I thought, as I read on.
The poster said those things soon changed. Witnesses changed or retracted their testimony, and evidence vanished. It was a full-blown cover-up. The poster mentioned seven names in total. One is the supposed son of the head of the police, another the son of wealthy parents, yet another the nephew of a politician. The list went on. Tom’s name was sixth on the list, the son of a successful and influential local attorney.
I read on and found out that the case was dropped without ever making it to trials.
I felt cold as I read this, very cold. How the hell had I never heard about any of this, but the answer was right in front of me. They’d swept it under the carpet.
Was it true though? Could Tom and his friends really have done that? I had to confront him about this. This way too serious. On my way back to the station I tried calling him once more. He still didn’t pick up.
Once I was on the tram, I opened up the forum thread again. As I scrolled down, I found pictures of Anna and her family. In one she was posing with her parents, and in another, she was posing with… her sister? At least that’s what the caption said Anna and Karoline Schuster.
This couldn’t be. This girl was the spitting image of Tom’s girlfriend. No, the longer I looked, there was no doubt that this WAS Jessica. My head started to spin. What the hell was going on?
I tried calling Jessica, but I couldn’t reach her either.
The rest of the tram ride I was all pins and needles. I had to get home. I had to figure out what was going on.
As I arrived home, I went straight to Tom’s door and started knocking, but there was no answer. Then I remembered the note. Why this damned note. Don’t tell me…
I called his dad on his office phone. Even though it was almost nine in the evening by now the man answered. Before I could even so much as ask him he ranted to me about his useless son who thought it was okay to not show up to work. I cut him off.
“Tom hasn’t been in today?”
“No, he hasn’t,” the man answered annoyed.
I hung up right away and went back to his room. When I tried the handle, it was looked, as I’d expected.
Shit, what do I do? I was way too confused. I walked back and force before I went to my room.
At that moment I saw another note that was put up on the door to my room. There was only one line on it:
‘The key is in the potted plant in the kitchen.’
I ripped it in an instant. I felt goosebumps on my arm as I stumbled into the kitchen.
In an instant, I found the key and rushed to Tom’s door. As soon as I opened it, the smell hit me. It was the strong, irony smell of blood. With shaking hands I hit the light-switch. I stumbled back in shock and disgust.
When the ambulance arrived, it was clear that Tom was long dead. He’d been gagged, bound to a chair and there were various long cuts on his arms and legs. It was evident that these and the resulting blood loss had been the cause of death.
When the paramedics said he’d died only a couple hours ago, I realized what this whole thing must have been about. If I’d made it home in time, Tom might have still been alive, and if he’d get me to notice him, he’d been saved. Instead, though, I was out trying to figure out what those notes were all about. Now I knew.
The police found something else in the room. It was an audio statement, in which Tom admitted that he and his friends were responsible for the death and rape of Anna Schuster.
The moment I heard this confession, I crumbled up Jessica’s, or better Karoline’s, note in my pocket and hid it.
I said nothing about the things I’d found out at the bar and the cemetery or Jessica’s true Identify. No, I stayed quiet and said I had no idea about the whole thing.