To: Chief of Police
Misty Hook Police Department
Misty Hook, NJ 08726
April 4, 2016
Please read all of this, please save any judgement until the end, for I am writing to request your help, a second time, in locating a thief, a man I once knew, a crazy man who has come back into my life from long ago, from the war, to torment me again. He has taken the only thing I cannot lose. Because your officer, Sergeant Toomis, sorry if the spelling is wrong, did not seem to believe anything I said when he investigated the robbery last week, I will repeat the details, now with a calmer head.
My name is Tobias Reisner, born Tobias Koertig in 1932 in Berlin, U.S. citizen living in Misty Hook at 39 Munro Lane, age 84 and of sound mind. I am a loyal tax payer, too, though my income is meager, only Social Security and a little cash from portraits. In the warmer months, with fading talent, I sell quick charcoal sketches of people at the nearby shore.
On March 31, I drew a cheerful lady and her daughter for $15, visited Margo’s Bakery to eat a jelly doughnut, and then came home to find my apartment in disarray. I admit that I am not a careful housekeeper, that the three small rooms never look entirely clean, but it was obvious that someone had ransacked the place. Cabinet doors were flung open, drawers lay upended on the floor, their junk scattered everywhere. The television, however, had not disappeared, and a jar of laundry coins also remained untouched. This was no ordinary thief. Then I discovered that Feigling! had been scrawled in charcoal on the closet wall, and that the rusty Maxwell House can hidden in that closet was tipped over, emptied of the only item it contained, the medal.
My heart flipped. Feigling, if you do not know, is German for coward. And the medal, I am distressed to type it, just as I was distressed to reveal it to Sergeant Toomis—the medal is the Iron Cross, awarded to German soldiers for battlefield valor. There was no doubt: Werner Fenzel had been here. Nothing could be more ridiculous. Fenzel, my old commander and antagonist, slipping into my bedroom like a phantom! Still obsessed, still unhinged, with those misaligned eyes and his ever-present fury, now almost 90, finally possessing what he always prized, what he claimed would have gone to him in the spring of 1945 if the Russians hadn’t shot off his nose.
In fact, I had done nothing heroic. A scared and scrawny boy, a poor soldier, I received the medal through a misunderstanding, which pushed Fenzel into madness, and then led to everything else—to the tyrant, to heavy burdens, to end-of-world misery, to flashes of love, to a makeshift wedding in the ruins, to the final river. That is why I never discarded this token of war, and why I need it returned. It holds all that. It forces me to remember what I would mostly rather forget.
Of course I must explain. So I will tell the whole story now, on paper, from start to finish.
Bless Fräulein Krukenberg, even though she took her ruler to my knuckles, for making me a decent typist. Forgive any errors, a few keys are sticky, I falter sometimes with English, and I do not have eraser ribbon. But all of what follows is true.