Early in the morning, I already had to make a run for it. Packing my bag as quickly as possible, I stuffed some shirts and pants in a duffel bag. Taking my passport from the cupboard next to my small apartment door, I lifted the duffel bag over my shoulder. I left the door unlocked with the keys on the key hook next to the light switch. The police would come storming in anyway, might as well make it easy for them and save some trouble with a broken down door for the landlord. Taking two steps at a time from the staircase, I left the building. Time to go to the airport.
It was 5 o’clock when I arrived at the airport. I was 30 minutes late to take the earliest plane because the taxi driver had to drive onto the wrong parking lot and then we had to make a U-turn and go all the way back. I wasn’t happy with the taxi driver and he kept telling me that he drives to the airport all the time. I had to take the plane at 6 o’clock instead of 5:30.
My bag went on the plane, weighing 7kg. And I passed security without any trouble. My fake passport was done by John, a professional and a good friend of mine. I never use people’s surnames; when you think a certain way, you speak a certain way, and revealing your best mate’s surname to someone is a dangerous mistake. My brown hair was coloured an awkward blonde. The blonde didn’t suit me. The passport name said Anthony Cranes even though I absolutely don’t look like an Anthony. I didn’t have blue eyes or natural blonde hair. When John gave me my passport the other day and I saw the name, I told him to change it. He knew I didn’t like the name of Anthony, but he is a tease. Then he said that he had already registered the passport. He had done it on purpose. Pulling my jean jacket tighter as if it were cold, I passed a security guard. I always have a little fear that out of nowhere they realize that I’m a criminal and then go all ninja on me. As if missing my earlier plane wasn’t bad enough, I still had to wait another half hour at the boarding gate. These people are slow when it comes to putting their bag in the overhead compartment and sitting down. But finally seated, I laid my head back and slept.
After I got my bag from the baggage claim, I stepped outside. Time to rent a car. After again an awfully long wait, I got my car. Driving another 2 hours to a small village, I arrived in Mitterdorf. This was going to be my hide out for the weekend.
The hotel I was at, was fully booked and they gave me a room for 5 people and when I asked them to give me a room for one person they said that all the rooms were booked. So I chose the bed on the duplex, with a skylight. The room had a wooden floor and had a golden glow when the sun fell in through the skylight. It was a nice and cosy room. I did not put my clothes in the closet because soon I would have to flee again. The police are very pushy, when it comes to me. So, I left my stuff in my bag next to my bed. A normal guy would probable empty his bags on the extra bed and make the weekend a big holiday, but I was here to keep a low profile and stay focused.
The first thing you need to know about hiding is that you must know your surroundings, so I decided to explore the hotel after my shower. The hotel had a swimming pool that I had noticed when I entered. I went to take a look at it.
It was a medium-sized swimming pool, with a slide that seemed as if it would not go fast. It was meant for little kids, not adults. But as I went to take a closer look, I saw that a bunch of children who could already have been 15 or some even 18, were going down the slide like their life depended on it. So immature, they were having a very good time and it was borderline dangerous, the things they were doing on the slide. After looking at them for a while, I thought that they might have been a group of teens gathered from a different country since I heard that they did not speak German. But why they were here and on the first day of school, I did not know. I was planning on finding out, since it seemed that we were from the same country and they might recognize my face from the news. It seemed suspicious that I would go to the same country and city as a group of teens from Belgium.
The next day, I woke up extra early and sat down in the breakfast room. As I sat there waiting for the group of teens to arrive, I saw the lady put all the food on the tables. And slowly, the first people arrived. They were kids with the same shirts on, with a country name printed on it. Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands and Belgium I saw pass my table. They took breakfast and after eating they left to their rooms. Not 5 minutes later, they were down again. It seemed that their supervisors were the people that organized the trip. They seemed to lead the group outside to a car. I ran to my car as quickly as possible to not lose them on the road. Trailing them with my Rover was simple, the road was easy and they did not drive that fast.
I arrived at a big building, amidst fields. What surprised me was the height of the building and the absence of windows. I stood in line with these people, trying not to attract any attention to me. It was easy; these people all seemed very nervous and some could hide it very well. It was making me nervous too. What if there was security to pass? What if this was a trap? I was planning on turning around and going to the hotel, but then the doors opened. I was too curious to turn around now. The doors led to a staircase downwards and then to a….
A climbing wall? Seriously? I had expected something more dangerous or exiting, but a climbing gym? Come on.
Turned out it was the European youth climbing competition. There was an outside wall too. Pretty cool. I’d never seen a climbing competition.
4 hours later, the Belgian team had done a good job I think. They climbed pretty high and some fell. I think there were a few Belgians going for the semi-finals. I stayed a little longer and then went to fetch myself a time table to see when I had to be here tomorrow. This time I wasn’t going to wake up extra early to trail the Belgians and then skip lunch because I had to keep an eye on the climbers. Not because the competition was interesting, no it was not interesting and absolutely not nerve wrecking, but I just couldn’t turn away. Yeah that was it. It was all part of the observation. Nothing more.
So the time table said that the semi-finals were going to be in the morning. Let’s hope that the Belgians do good.
I went to a pasta restaurant that night and it was good to a certain extent. I was at the same restaurant as the team and I noticed a certain strain on the team, how they all sat down unaware of the fact that they made the group split in two, based on their language. Although they live in the same country, one part of the group spoke French and the other Dutch. But there was more to it. One was contemplating to ask to change seats but then thought to get over her anger and sadness and try to do what is right. How hard it is to forgive someone that hurt you. I was eager to know what they were talking about and eavesdropped. They were oblivious to the person behind them. It was like my relationship at home. I felt like a stranger in my own home. They were like that too. One was almost afraid to sit next to her former enemy. Making it hard to look at her, let alone talk to her. But she tried, not something I can say for myself. I ignored my friend that hurt me. I even beat him up once. I was not ready to forgive him yet.
I woke up later than the day before. I had all the time in the world before the competition started unlike the climbers who had to be there and start warming up and stretching their stiff muscles. But because I had extra time, I went for a morning run. The view is really nice and the mountains just make running feel like freedom. It’s a nice feeling.
The competition had already started. Normally I am always on time, but running with the mountains around me made me lose my sense of time. When I arrived, I saw that there were Belgians sitting on a bench, looking, and then I saw that there were Belgians climbing. Let me tell you who was in the semi-finals. First off, the competition was divided in different categories. The youngest are called the B category and the Belgians had 3 competitors in that category, called Charlène, Marie and Ine. Charlène and Marie were in the semi-finals, but Ine didn’t make it and ended 40th. These were the girls, the boys consisted of Luca, Aiko and Lionel. Luca and Aiko were in semi’s, but Lionel did a great job ending 30th. In the second category, the A category by the way (though when I’m back home I’m going to forget all the names, since I probably won’t keep track of climbing competitions afterwards), were 3 girls and 4 boys. Elfe and Cathinka made it to the semi-finals but unfortunately Laure-Anne made a little mistake and ended 34th. The boys were Merlin, Sven, Harold and Louis who all made it to the semi’s. Then the eldest, the ones that are 17 and 18 years old, Celine and Héloïse, the girls, and Nicolas and Simon, the boys, all made semi’s. And that was it.
The semi-final was a nerve wrecking event. Every time a Belgian climber with a blue shirt came on, I jumped up from my seat and was screaming around and supporting them. Because I was a little late, I missed a few climbers and I saw them sitting on the Belgian bench. I moved closer to them so I could hear them speaking. They were just talking Greek about the routes. “Foot hook with the left foot”, “Match the hands” and “Lolotte” and a lot of other weird stuff that I didn’t understand. But it was interesting to hear. I like eavesdropping on unknown people. So, I can laugh at all the things they say even if I don’t understand.
The Belgians did a great job in the semi’s. I was most impressed by Nicolas Collin, who topped his semi. Nicolas, the Belgians call him Nico, was really cool. I think a lot of people were very impressed by his performance. Simon, a boy from the same category, ended 9th missing finals by 2 places. Very good, but too bad. All he had to do was reach one or two holds higher and he would have made it.
The girls from the same category did a good job too. Héloïse made the finals, but Celine missed them by a few places.
One Belgian girl made a great attempt and I later discovered from the results that her name is Elfe, she ended 20th. She had a good go in her route and passed the roof without any trouble. Then there was a crux involving a very difficult move, and it was there that she fell. A lot of other climbers fell in that move.
In the B group, we had 1 boy in the finals, his name is Luca. Aiko did a great job too and everyone was very impressed by his performance. He was one of 9 boys that fell at the end of the roof. He ended 11th. Luca reached a few holds higher, which is super good. Among the girls, Charlene was 9th narrowly missing the finals by one place. Charlene fell in a sort of jumping move and she missed the hold. But she was really amazing.
So, that night I went to bed with these thoughts in my head. The Belgians must be really strong. Three finalists is pretty awesome. I wished them a good night’s sleep and a recovered body for tomorrow.
Rrriiiinnngg, rrriiiinngg. I jumped up, throwing the covers off my bed and blinked. My phone. Rrrriiiinnnggg, rrriiiinnngg. Snatching the thing off my night stand, I looked at the screen. A blocked number appeared. I hesitated to answer. The call could track me and if it is the police, then I’m busted. What to do? What is the right thing to do? Finally, I picked up the phone. It was time to forgive. I had to face my fears and troubles head on.
“Hello?” I said.
“Ah, are you Mika?” Asked a voice I knew all too well. It was George. The person that made me run from the police.
“Yes George, it’s me.” It became silent on the other end and I didn’t want to break it. I was waiting for him to apologize, but he didn’t.
“I need you to come back. The police have given up their search and are asking me to bring you back for an interrogation. They’re not going to put you in jail, they just want some information regarding the tragic event. They found evidence that you were not present at the event.” I ran my fingers through my hair and heaved out a sigh. I had hoped he would apologise to make forgiving him easier. But I guess it is sometimes better to forget the past and live on as if it never happened. Though our relationship is not going to be the same ever again, we can only hope it will become as close as it used to be.
“Okay George. I’m going to return home tomorrow.” I hung up, and looked at the time, it was only 5 o’clock in the morning. I fell back down on my bed trying but of course failing in getting any more sleep.
This time, I was not going to be late for the finals. I was determined to be present and to support the Belgian Climbing Team probably for the last time in my life. I was there waiting till it started and it took an awfully long time. But eventually the climbers came after an even longer ceremony. The first climbers climbed and then the second and then the third. Then came Luca and he did a good job with a lot of my supporting. And after him came Héloïse. Unfortunately, she lost a few places and then it was Nicolas’ turn. He too lost a few places. But my attention was focused on the cold that made people come together and I focused on the team that was having fun in spite of their disability to communicate with each other. I was surprised that they could help each other so quickly even though they were no friends. How the night made them talk, how questions were asked and compliments were given. Congratulations were exchanged and a team with so many flaws became complete.
The way home was long, but on the flight, I could talk with a nice lady from Austria. She talked to me for the whole duration of the flight. I was glad to be home again.
My phone rang the minute I landed and picking it up I already knew who was at the other end.
“George, I’m going to be at your house in an hour,” I said without giving him the opportunity to say any greetings. “Wait for me patiently.” I forgave him. I was never good at holding grudges. I will have to work with him in the future and it would be easier if we acted normally. He was after all my police colleague. “See you soon Officer George.”