The Hackerhaus mystery
Jay wrung his wallet in his hands. It was gone. The picture of his little brother had disappeared. He pushed his back against the wall of the Hackerhaus, hiding for the worst of the torrent which had emptied the street. He took another look in the leather wallet. Only minutes ago, just before heaven had opened its flood doors, he felt his wallet disappearing from his pocket. When he looked, it was too late. In the following chase, Sam had lost trace of the pickpocket, until he found his wallet on the floor in front of Hackerhaus.
He pressed his forehead against the door and squinted through one of the small windows. No sign of the robber. Determined, he thrust open the wooden door and stepped inside. Water dripped on the floor as he took up the entrance of the Hackerhaus. He had only been in Munich for a few months and had not yet visited the place. It struck him as old, antiquated even, but in an authentic way without the obliged corniness of a textbook tourist trap. All sorts of trinkets occupied a wooden table to the right, while a small barrel stacked in the corner, housed a nice lamp. Wooden plates hung down from the ceiling, separating income from the restaurant as if he was walking through the gate of a castle into the court.
As he stepped into the restaurant, he marvelled at his surroundings. Almost as in a mosaic, dozens of pictures, drawings, plates, and old-fashioned advertising hung randomly on the walls, informing the visitors of the rich history of the Hackerhaus. It was not the good old days Jay was interested in though. He scanned the customers for any indication and sighed: “how the hell am I going to find him”. He turned left and stepped into the first small dining hall indicated with red letters above the arching entrance: Burgerstube.
The small room housed about ten tables, each covered with a red tablecloth and a half litre mug filled with knives and forks. From the wooden sealing, which hung a bit lower compared to the rest of the building, dangled multiple lampions. The orange and yellow painted glasses threw shadows, rolling softly over the white walls. At least, that part which was still visible. Just like in the income, multiple pictures and portraits covered the walls all the way down to the wooden lower part. For a moment, Jay feared all customers would stop their business, mimicking a cliché western, and stare at him. None of such. The few people present minded their own business and continued eating or talking under their breath. It was almost as if the sudden storm outside affected the people inside, bringing calmness and a subdued atmosphere.
To his left, a man and woman, about 50 years old. He with a moustache and a body, which showed signs of a wealthy lifestyle, squeezed into a nice suit. She, a bit modest, listening to him, her hair laid back carefully behind her ears revealing nice golden earrings. On the other side, a group of friends, in their early twenties. Their subdued talking was loud enough for Sam to realize they were not German. Polish was his guess.
The orange and yellow painted glasses threw shadows, rolling softly over the white walls.
Dinner for one
He moved on, back into the hallway where a few small tables formed a row against the wall. On each, a tiny candle threw a flickering light on a pot with a single flower. Two people looked up as he passed, a woman, old in age, quick in eye movement, read a newspaper, an empty plate and her glasses on a napkin next to her. A young guy, somewhat strict and stiff in his motions reverted his eyes when Jay tried to make eye contact. He went on and arrived in what seemed to be a lounge area
Nice, antique lounge chairs invited visitors to relax. Wood- and glass closets with dozens of cups and glasses from the house brewery fit in nicely with the lower wooden part of the walls. The wood looked old and used but well taken care of. A bust of a stern looking figure kept watch in the corner. Jay could imagine the living room of a 19th century rich Bavarian looking exactly the same. The prizes of his many hunting escapades hung on the wall in the form of antlers and a boar head. In one of the corners, gathered around a big, round table, sat a family. A father with a big walrus moustache fed a small child, not much more than one year old, while the mother took care of the two other, older children.
Sam turned left and came eye to eye with a waitress, rushing out of the kitchen. She wore a plush, elegant red dirndl, the traditional Bavarian dress, fitting in with the décor. She carried a large plateau filled with two plates with fries, schnitzel and a hamburger. A wine and a Helles balanced on the edges of the platter.
A glass cabinet next to the kitchen entrance reflected the yellow light of the lampions hanging from the vaulted ceiling. Sam almost felt as if he was entering a secret cave system of hundreds of vaulted halls and cellars stretching out under Munich, lighted by small lampions. At the same time, the arches above him seemed to enclose him in a soothing embrace, bringing a comfortable homeliness even if his culture was not Bavarian.
Here too, about ten tables offered seating to customers. Only two groups made use of them. A boy, dressed somewhat strangely in sandals and short pants and a girl sat at one table. A guy of the same age at the table next to them talked loudly, laughing hard at his own jokes. At the other side, close to the glass doors leading out to the walled terrace, two couples enjoyed their meal, conversing softly over their plates. Jay sat down, took his cell phone and made a call. Ten minutes later he got up and walked towards his target.
The butler did it
The old lady looked up, showing no sign of surprise when Jay sat down in the chair across from her. “Hello”, he began, testing for her understanding of English, “my name is Jay, and I believe you have something of me ». The woman didn’t respond, looking at him questioningly. Sam smirked: “I don’t believe for a second you don’t understand me, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll do the talking. There’s very little material in this world which I care about. The wallet? The little bit of money in it? Couldn’t care less. Unfortunately for you, inside the wallet, there’s a picture of my little brother who died when he was 4. That picture is one of the few things we have left of him… and I would like it back”. He indicated to the two police officers in the entrance, shaking off the water from their jackets.
“Are you the one who called us?”, one of them, a thirty-year-old with a well-kept dark brown beard, inquired. “Yes”, came the reply. “I believe this lady here stole my wallet, emptied it and threw it outside the Hackerhaus”. “That’s ridiculous”, the old lady shouted in German. Jay smiled when he noticed how quickly the woman had learned English and continued: “I have not seen her do it, but I’m sure that if you check her wallet, you will find the picture of my brother, along with my credit cards”.
A short conversation between the officers and the lady seemed to infuriate the old woman. To Jay, it seemed she insulted him and the officers with the most gruesome terms but the two men remained calm. “She is not confessing but refuses to show her wallet. Therefore we have invited her to the station”, the bearded man declared, “can you come as well, please?” “Of course”, Jay nodded.
“Excuse me”, the stiff guy behind the lady asked, “it’s none of my business, but I’m curious. If you hadn’t seen her take your wallet, how did you know it was her?” For a moment, Jay felt as if he had just accused the butler. “Well, it’s simple. I walked through the entire restaurant”, he explained while taking his jacket, “everyone seemed to be dry and warm. She too had hidden her wet jacket. Her glasses, however, were so wet that the water had moistened the napkin beneath. The glasses had dried, but the napkin didn’t”. Jay said goodbye and walked alongside the officers and the complaining lady to the door. Outside, the sun had driven away the clouds and shone happily on Jay’s smiling face.