Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Where did we find him?”

“Outside a pizzeria on the Alpenring in Walldorf.”

“Obviously a man who travels first class.”

Hans chuckled.

Dolf stretched: “So, before he vanished, on camera, from a locked cell, and the infestation of sharp dressed young men with Hamburg accents began, what did our mystery guest tell you?”

Hans pulled out his notebook: “He spoke almost perfect Hessian. I had to get my grandfather to verify my translations. Grandpa said that he was speaking ‘Darmstadter’, and he hadn’t heard that spoken since he was a child.”

Dolf raised a hand: “So he’s a bit of a linguistic mystery as well. Move on.”

Hans grimaced: “We’ll have to. The suits took the tapes.”

Dolf glared at Hans.

Hans ducked his head and continued: “He claimed to be Grustaf Kolingt, a ‘Geldaj’ – some sort of private detective. Anyway, he had been hired to look into a trio of disappearances, one every fifty years or so. Now, things got weirder when I asked about their cold case methodology, because he didn’t understand. Lifespans where he comes from average two hundred and fifty years. Two of the disappearances had made headlines that Grustaf had read!”

Dolf looked up: “Only two?”

“Yes. The first one occurred before Grustaf was born. The fourth was imminent. Grustaf was hired to prevent it, and find the cause.”

“Man from another world ends up in Walldorf? Come on, Hans.”

“I thought the same. Then he listed the three missing people, and one of them was familiar.”

Dolf sat up: “In what way?”

“Frankfurt,” Hans waved his hands as Dolf started to rise “on-Oder. The other Frankfurt. I read about the stranger that appeared there when I was a kid. Said he came from ‘Laxaria in the country of Sakria’, but vanished before authorities could do anything. That was back in 1851. Next one was in 1905: a man caught stealing bread in Paris. Had a torn map of a place called ‘Lizbia’. He spoke no language anyone could interpret. Again, he vanished before anything more could be done. Then, in 1954, a chap was detained at Tokyo airport: presented a well-used passport from ‘Taured’, in Andorra. They locked him up overnight, -”

Dolf interjected: “And he was gone by morning.”

Hans grinned: “Precisely. So, Grustaf did some basic detective work – common themes, places, etcetera. The only overlap was visiting some place called Mantuk, an abandoned town in what we’d call Connecticut.”

“Let me guess. Our intrepid private detective went out to Mantuk, didn’t he?”

Hans grinned: “He did. Found an abandoned naval station with generators still running. Inside, he found what I would call a ‘mad scientist’ by the name of Johann Titor. Unfortunately for Grustaf, he had henchmen. They overpowered him, then threw him into Titor’s machine. He has no idea what Titor was trying to achieve, but the result of a failure is what happened to the disappeared, and to Grustaf. They become ‘Losgemacht’: slipping from one reality to another, until they encounter the reality that matches the resonance that Titor’s machine imbued them with.”

“What happens to those who don’t find a matching reality?”

“They spend a short time in each reality, then ‘drift’ on. Until they die.”

Dolf leaned back and laced his fingers behind his head.

“Then I hope Grustaf Kolingt gets lucky and lands in a reality where they need impetuous detectives.”

Hans raised his coffee cup: “I’ll drink to that.”

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