Excerpt taken from Chapter 7 – Lake Zurich:
On New Year’s Eve 1998 my shift at Abacus lasted until 1am. Cinema Abacus was located in the center of town. Finding a taxi proved to be impossible and all public transport had stopped. I was exhausted from a fifteen hour day and barely conscious when I stumbled through the streets of Zurich, evading people that were still toasting each other into the New Year. I resigned myself to a long walk home. After a while I got out of the thickest throng of people. The streets started to thin out. I paused for a moment at a bus stop, willing myself to not sit down. I would have fallen asleep instantly. While contemplating if I really cared at this stage or not, a large silver Mercedes stopped next to me. An elderly gentleman rolled down his window and asked me if I needed a lift.
I never hitchhiked before. This was as good a time as any to give it a try. I longed to get home and disappear under my blanket.
After giving him directions the elderly gentleman agreed to drive me home. We made polite conversation. Ten minutes later we were parked in front of my house and still talking. He came from the same area in Southern Germany and many years ago had worked in a movie theater as well. Some of my tiredness disappeared in the face of this charming man. After a while his right hand meandered from the drivers side onto my thigh. Ever slow in the flirting department it dawned on me that he was trying to pick me up. I thanked him politely, explaining that I wasn’t interested. We parted ways amiably. When he asked me for my address I was too polite to say no.
Approximately two months later Rudolf and I received a letter from the Zurich homicide department. They wanted to see both of us on official business. I called them, yet was told that further information could not be divulged. Rudolf and I were obligated to show our faces at the homicide department on the requested date and time.
At the end of February that year a very nervous and mystified married couple made their way into town to confront the homicide detectives. We were obviously not just nervous about being questioned by the police. At that moment we were far more nervous about the fact that we had been invited as a married couple. How would homicide react when Mrs. William was quite obviously a man?
They gracefully overlooked this abstract fact. It turned out that I was the main person of interest. It was procedure to interrogate the spouse as well. Poor Rudolf – in the midst of his major depression he had to confront stern-faced detectives – and all because of his good-hearted offer to me a few years prior.
I was nervous and at the same time not. As controversial as my history might have been thus far I couldn’t remember any homicides being in the mix.
The charming elderly gentleman I had amiably chatted with at New Year’s Eve had tried to pick up young men at a regular basis. He had been shot by one of the young strangers ten days after we parted ways on my doorstep. My fingerprints had been found in the crashed Mercedes as well as a handwritten note with my address in the glove compartment.
Rudolf and I were questioned in separate rooms at the same time. Poor clueless Rudolf was let go very quickly. I was interrogated a bit longer and experienced the unreality of movies first hand. I had seen many interrogations on screen. Everyone answered questions readily, months after the fact. When I was asked where I had been on the particular time when the elderly gentleman had been shot two months ago I drew a complete blank. I guessed it could have been a workday, but had no memory of when my short breaks had been that day. My schedule changed every day. Questioned if I owned a blue baseball cap I truthfully answered no. I was painfully aware however that even a perpetrator with a microscopically small IQ would have answered such an obvious question with a no as well. I was let go after a few hours.
Months later I received a polite letter from homicide stating that the murderer had been found and my name had been expunged from the records. I was profoundly sad to hear that the elderly gentleman had unknowingly picked up a young man who hated gays. Prejudice had led to brutal murder.