It was amazing how much my quest had turned into a real life version of “Code of the Clan”. In the final ten minutes of the movie, Ling has to leave China to go into India for his final confrontation (just as I was about to leave Germany for Belgium). In India, he was to take on an unnamed demon, a force of evil, the force of evil that had infected the Clan and made them turn on Ling’s father. Unfortunately, Ling is killed in India, defeated by the demon. But I was determined that my story was going to turn out differently. My “Code of the Clan” would end with the hero victorious.
I managed to find out what “MORESNET” meant easily enough, using the magic of the Internet; I discovered that Moresnet is a town in the Belgian Ardennes. Putting two and two together, I figured there was a very good chance that Moresnet was the town that Udo was hiding out in. I still wondered who put that note on Margit’s body, giving me such a vital clue. Margit herself? Somehow I doubted it. It was probably one of my numerous potential fathers. I spent a lot of time thinking about Bahnhof’s accomplice, the one I had karate kicked into the radiator. I may have killed a man. I had been blooded; it has to happen to every warrior eventually.
Getting to Moresnet was somewhat arduous. I took a train from Hamburg to Cologne and had to take a series of buses from there. Took me three whole days. However, I found out where Udo lived within hours of getting into Moresnet at least. His house was just on the outskirts of town, walking distance from the centre. It was exactly like Claus described it. Very tall, almost uneven looking, fucked up as shit; like something from a direct to video movie with bad CGI. I didn’t yet feel ready to face him, so I spent my days hanging out in a café full of teenagers near the centre of the town.
The day I finally met Udo, I started out there. I was in the café when a tap came on my shoulder. I reeled around, going into a Ling Fu Loo pose. Turned out it was a cute, young (but just to put your minds at ease, not too young) redhead.
“Would you like to join us for some green tea?” she asked in English, her big blue eyes burning through me.
I sat down next to the redhead. Across the table was her friend, a chubby blonde girl who liked trouble. She scowled at me, confirming my suspicions. Her look was loaded with all of the bile that comes from being the unattractive friend of a very attractive girl.
“My name is Françoise,” the good-looking redhead said to me in English again, and this time I took note of her French accent. She held out her hand towards me in the most feminine way imaginable. I took hold of it and looked directly into her eyes as I leant down to kiss her scented appendage.
“Berthold. Berthold Fritter,” I said.
“Really? This is a very German name, no?” she said while blushing.
“I was born in Deutschland.”
“Really? It is shame then that you cannot speak German. I speak German very fluently, you know, better than I speak English.”
I then wowed her, ripping into the Father tongue. I told her how beautiful she was first off. She was suitably impressed and we started trading sweet nothings in Deutsch. Everything seemed set for me to move in. But I hadn’t taken into account just how much of a problem the Blonde Obstacle was going to turn out to be.
“You need to work on your accent,” Françoise’s corpulent friend said to me, in English, in an accent I couldn’t place. Could be Czech, could be Hungarian, could be anything in that part of the world, and there was a lot of languages going on round there. I could see the Boonde Obstacle’s game streets ahead, even if I couldn’t gauge her nationality. Only problem was it was sort of having its intended effect. Françoise looked at me with diminished desire now that her friend was disapproving.
“Françoise, what do you say you and I step out of here? Go somewhere a little bit more quiet, yes?”
I said this in German and as I said “quiet” I glared at the Blonde Obstacle, who picked up on my non-verbal clue and made a face back at me (speaks German, so she’s probably Hungarian, I recall thinking at the time). Even better, the German word for quiet is “ruhe”, which makes a particularly guttural sound. It was like I was spitting at the Obstacle.
“Yes, that would be wonderful,” Françoise said. Wunderbar.
“So long as my friend can come along too, yes?”
I decided somewhere between the café and the edge of town that the three of us would go as a trio to meet Udo Draeger. It just felt right somehow. As we walked out of Moresnet, Françoise turned to me with minor alarm.
“Where are we going, Berthold?”
“A friend of mine lives on the edge of town.”
Françoise was happy with this, but the Blonde Obstacle was less satisfied and required more information. To be fair, I had asked neither of them what they were doing in that small Belgian village, and neither had volunteered the information; nor did they know anything about how I had come to be there either, which made us all effectively strangers. I could have been the local psycho, affecting a North American accent, collecting new potential victims.
“Who is this friend of yours?” the Blonde Obstacle inquired in a hostile fashion.
“An old friend of the family.”
The pudgy blonde would have asked more questions, but her attention was taken away by Udo’s house. There it was, all of a sudden, in front of all six of our eyes.
“Not the old haunted house, we aren’t going there?” the Blonde Obstacle asked in semi-horror.
“The town folk think the place has ghosts in it,” Françoise said, looking scared.
“Relax, girls. My uncle Udo is barrel of laughs,” I told them with a shit-eating grin on my face. I seemed so relaxed that they reluctantly followed me towards the front door.
I approached the face of Udo’s house with confidence. I would have been much more cautious in my journey to Udo’s doorbell had I been alone; it was now beholden upon me to appear self-assured with the girls in tow. I rang the bell three times before it was answered. This meant we were standing on the doorstep of that surreal house for over two minutes, one hundred and twenty seconds or so that the Blonde Obstacle spent staring at me with a combination of disgust and joy, happy that I was about to look definitively like a dick in front of Françoise at last.
What appeared to be an aged butler answered the door and asked who I was and what was my business, in German. I told him I was Udo’s long lost nephew and that I just happened to be passing through the Ardennes with my two girlfriends (which earned me another evil stare from the Obstacle) and I wanted to drop in on old Uncle Udo, just to see how he was. The butler looked at me strangely and then after considering everything I’d just told him for the briefest of moments, invited us all into the interior of that weird house on the edge of Moresnet, Belgium.
Françoise, the Blonde Obstacle and I followed the butler through the hallways of the labyrinthine house. It had looked large and imposing enough from the outside, but inside the place felt twice as large and three times as strange. As we strolled towards what I imagined was Udo Draeger, I looked at the numerous pictures dotted on the walls. I recognised a few of a young Uli and a young Margit. Nothing of Max or Rudolph or Claus, at least that I could pick out. Finally we got to a large drawing room with very high ceilings, even for this particular house. The walls of it were covered with 18th century paintings, or actually what I took to be fake 18th century paintings. At the end of the room, sitting in the farthest corner, Udo Draeger was propped up in a large sequined chair. It was unmistakably him, even through what all of the years that had elapsed since the picture from which I knew his face had done to him.
“That will be all, Adolf,” Udo barked at his butler. The manservant bowed and retreated, leaving us to face Udo on our own.
“Berthold?” Udo asked hopefully, almost sweetly.
“Yes,” I replied, wondering how he knew who I was so quickly and from such a distance.
“Come closer. I can barely see you.”
I started to walk towards Udo, the two girls following reluctantly behind me. As I got closer to him, the first things that registered were the scars he had all over his body, including his face. They looked like wounds made by a knife, all of them with the same one, perhaps a hunting blade, perhaps a sword of some description.
“You have become a very handsome man,” Udo said as I got within five feet of his chair.
“Thanks,” I said, not knowing how else to respond.
“I apologise for the incident in Eisenach.”
My eyes widened.
“It was you that tried to kill me?”
He shook his head.
“No. It was Rudolph Baer. He had both hoped that Claus would take care of you, but as you are aware, that did not work out so well. No, I did not try and kill you. I wanted to save you, in fact, but Uli and Rudolph were more alert to your movements. I was the one who put the note on Margit’s chest, however, so that you could find me. You have come about the money, I suspect.”
I nodded. There was nothing else I could really do at that point but listen, gather data.
“This is so cool,” Françoise said, gripping my arm as the Blonde Obstacle looked at me in semi-defeat. At least if nothing else, I was getting somewhere with the cute redhead.
“ADOLF! TEA!” Udo shouted.
All four of us adjourned to a large room where, over a pot of Oolong, Udo gave me his side of the story, in rather elegant sounding German.
“When I joined the gang, it was less about any sort of political conviction of mine and more about my attraction to Margit. I was, it’s rather embarrassing to say, in love with the girl. She seemed so strong and committed. And she had great legs. I’m a legs man, don’t you know.”
Udo took a long slug of tea and then continued.
“But after I joined and spent a lot of time with the other gang members, I soon saw just how dedicated she was to Uli. I knew that she would always love him; that there was no room in her heart for me. Realising this crushed me, utterly. And I began to hate Uli, which of course led to our later falling out and squabbles about money. I was seeking solace and I found it. In the arms of your mother, Freda. Berthold, there is something you should know. I am your father.”
Okay, this was getting fucking ridiculous now, I remember thinking to myself. Just how many of these Teutonic assholes did my mother have sex with?
“Udo, I’m pretty sure that’s not true,” I said.
“Oh but it is, my son. Can’t you see that you have my eyes?”
“Max Faust is my father.”
“No, no that’s impossible. Maximilian was on assignment at that time. It couldn’t be him.”
I’d heard similar stuff throughout my “European tour”; all of these ex-terrorists, trying to get inside my head.
“Well look, frankly I don’t give much of a shit. Sorry Udo, but you’re going to have to get in line to claim paternity here because there’s a lot of fuckers in front of you. I’ve had this same father shtick from Claus, from Uli….they were all sleeping with her apparently. It was like a big old love-in inside my mother.”
“This is just like “Mamma Mia”!” Françoise squealed.
The redhead’s timely reference to the Abba inspired musical made me laugh out loud. Udo didn’t take any of this too well. He stared down into his tea for a minute. Then Udo bolted to his feet, clearly very angry. I had woken the lion.
“So you think you can come here and break my heart and I will give you money? Is that it?” Udo asked me, through gritted teeth.
Udo then got up out of his sequinned chair and ran at me, knocking me to the floor with a blow to my chest that had me winded. Obviously, had he been slower in his build up, I would have had time to go into one of Ling Fu Loo’s defensive stances and taken him down. I got up off the floor and used Ling’s moves to go on the offensive. But Udo was equal to it, tripping me up and sending me flying against the wall. I wiped the blood away from my eyes, flowing from a minor wound on my forehead.
“Come on, Berthold! You can do it,” Françoise cheered me on.
“Udo! Udo! Udo!” the Blonde Obstacle chanted.
I got up and started to try and pace myself, circling my opponent.
“I shall kill you, I shall break you,” Udo said, “just like I broke little Margit Veilhaber those many years ago.”
I charged at Udo again. This time around I felt a blow to the head and that was it, I was out like a light.
When I came to, Françoise was cradling me in her arms and wiping my head with a cold cloth. Udo was sat back in his chair, exactly like he was when we walked in.
“I should let you know, Berthold: there is no money, actually,” Udo said In English. It sounded worse in English somehow. I bolted up to face him.
“Come again, sir?”
“Max got his cut, half a million dollars. How much of that he managed to get out of Jordan, I don’t know. I took seven million off of Uli and got all of that back to Europe. But a decade later I gave a large chunk to an American venture capitalist, a bridge-builder. Turns out he invested my money in Turkish lira. Turkish lira! Can you believe it? So most of it went down the toilet. And after Margit left Uli, she came to me and we started to see each other. One day she left me, taking the rest of the cash I had sitting around.”
He picked up his cup of Oolong and took a protracted sip.
“I still have this wonderful house and enough to live very frugally for the rest of my life. I consider myself lucky, all things considered. And at least I finally got my revenge on Margit. I waited too long for that.”
There was really nothing more to say, my mission having been declared a big old waste of time, so we left, Françoise, the Blonde Obstacle and I. Outside I turned towards the lovely Françoise.
“Want to come back to my hotel room for a drink?”
Her eyes lit up.
“I would love to.”
But the blonde one grabbed her friend’s arm and physically separated us.
“No, Françoise it is time for home. Your parents will be worried about you,” said the chubby chick, an obstacle to the end. The redhead looked up at me with resigned eyes, not having the heart to say the words of parting out loud.
“Goodbye, Françoise,” I said as I turned around and left, not really sure where I was headed to next.