The railroad tracks are quiet. The smell of blood hangs in the air. It’s quite a change from the streets of Los Angeles to a field in Germany.
As we cross the border between the two European nations and I approach the entrance, the infamous archway sign reading “Arbeit macht frei” tries to mock my presence.
I’ve been on the job for almost thirty years and haven’t seen the light of day yet. I was surprised when I got that promotion as early as I did, twenty years ago. It was a quiet night on the beat and I had just finished my rounds on the Wilson Block. The usual nightlife was around the hotel, but nothing seemed too out of the ordinary until I heard what I thought was a muffled gunshot. I darted through the doors and was directed up the stairs by the concierge.
Ear-piercing screams drew me to the correct room; one good boot to the door and I was through. There I met a middle-aged man who seemed not to’ve bathed or shaved in weeks, wearing a stained white shirt and blue boxers, standing over a younger lady soaked in tears. She had obvious bruising on her arm and a cut below her right eye.
“Do we have a problem here, sir?” I asked.
“Get lost, kid.”
It was an understandable response. I was barely twenty. I was lucky to have parents who sent me from the streets of The Bronx to a high school across the state in the small village of Little Valley.
I may have been a star student in secondary school, but it was my childhood that brought me to this musky hotel room. Growing up in one of the five boroughs is like no other experience. After I dress each morning, the power and authority of the uniform still glares right back at me in the mirror. Seeing the men dressed in dark blue and toting Browning HP’s paved my career path for me at first sight. Chasing down a robber with a thudding tackle and a shove into the back seat of the Ford Super Deluxe was my dream.
“Did you hear me, punk? Get. Lost!” His words were slurred, but I got the gist.
“Sir, back away from her right now,” I said.
He didn’t like this much, and threw a glass table across the room. With the muzzle of my Browning now trained on his forehead, he wisely chose not to move again.
“Hands on your head, face on the floor.” I’ve never seen a suspect eat carpet so fast.
“Ma’am, are you alright?” I asked. She was quaking from head to toe.
A German breeze now moves across my face as I approach the brick archway. The fresh air would be great, but lighting up a Camel in its Turkish paper is preferable to the death creeping up my nostrils.
“Detective Sirna, we need you in here,” a voice said from beyond the gates.
I guess now is as good a time as any, I thought. One last puff and I took my first steps into a new life—inside Auschwitz.