yearzerowriters

Looking for Gupter [Issue 1]

Looking for Puncher

 

Gupter Puncher, little known writer of the seventies and child (and later an exile) of the East German-Soviet State, disappeared from this world on January 16th, 1980. On a beach near Yokohama was the last place he was seen. Some commented that winter had always been difficult for him to endure and for that reason he had killed himself, while others suggested that his compatriots from behind the Iron Curtain had finally caught up with him. Whatever happened that day, his stories remain.

But first there must be someone brave enough to write them…

 

      There was a tip off from someone who didn’t leave their name, telling me that Gupter was in a hotel in Wan Chai.

                              “Which hotel?”

      It was me who took the call.

                                                     “It’s in Wan Chai. The name is, wait a minute…”

      The man on the other end spoke with an accent. It sounded Balkan, probably a tourist.

                                                     “Yes, the Lockhart Hotel. You go there and I think you will find him.”

      I had one more question, an important one.

                              “Can I just ask, how do you know it’s him?”

      A stretch of silence then, “ahhh…”

      He hung up, so did I.

      I told the people in the office that I was going out.

“Wait, what?”

      It was the editor.

                              “I said, I’m going out. It’s Puncher…or it might be.”

“The German?”

                             “The East German, yes. He’s in a hotel in Wan Chai.”

      I picked up my bag. Its strap was starting to look worn. Poor thing, it had been with me since the start, since Japan.

“And what about your homeless piece?”

      The clock on the wall said three. He was right; if I went then there would be no article.

                             “Can you delay it till next week?”

      He shrugged. The other writers in the office stared hard into their screens.

“Billy, you can’t run off like this, not when there’s work still on your desk. And for some writer from East Germany? It doesn’t even exist, where’s the sense in it?”

                              “It does, it does exist.”

      I hurried past him and out of the office.

      I had been in Hong Kong for three months and at this particular magazine for seven weeks. It was a little more than freelance, but I wasn’t quite a staff writer. I was too unreliable.

      In the three years since I had met Puncher’s wife in Yokohama, I had worked in seven different countries for eleven different magazines.

                             “I don’t know why they keep hiring me…” I mumbled to myself while waiting for the bus to come and take me to Wan Chai.

      Of course, I did know, really. They kept hiring me because my resume said I was unique, and for an average of three months they would get at least ten outstanding articles out of me.

      After that, Gupter would be sighted elsewhere and I’d walk out on them.

      On the bus, I thought of what Gupter Puncher might look like.

      Miho Puncher, the wife left behind in Japan, never showed me any pictures of him. She told me lots of stories and sometimes gave a detail of his appearance, but never any pictures. I even suspected that she didn’t have any.

      As a substitution for his actual face, I imagined the frog like features of Cortazar, or that awkward looking shot of Ray Carver with fuzzy hair and his arms folded tight, or Pynchon, coy and ordinary in his naval uniform.

      But I knew he wasn’t any of these.

      He was a child of East Germany, he’d have to have German features.

      But then, he was anti-Soviet so would there be some kind of Hungarian or Czech aspect to him?

      I didn’t know. All I had were his notes.

      The notes and drafts that Gupter had left behind had been with me for the last three years. At this moment, they were the only things on the bedside table of my hotel room.

      But what about his face?

     

              Gupter?                        Gupter?                       Gupter?                      Gupter??

      One of Gupter’s drafts for a story was about a writer who wanted to save the homeless. It was called ‘Jurgen Platonov’ and it was Anti-Soviet. When I read the notes, I thought of Puncher as the eponymous character, and as a reference I thought of the actor Zach Galligan from ‘Gremlins’. I’m not sure why, he wasn’t famous, but it was his face I saw.

      Was that what Gupter looked like?

      Jurgen never saved the homeless in the notes. He was a hypocrite, a dreamer. He fucked a whore that his best friend had wanted to fuck. What a great character Jurgen would’ve been.

      Could still be…

      If I ever found Gupter, it would be my plan to make him write that story.

      The hotel stopped in front of the bus and I got off. It was huge. A monolith against the surrounding buildings, which were like children leaping up to its parent’s ear.

      The entrance was grand but not intimidating. The doormen didn’t judge me when they opened the doors.

“Good afternoon, Sir,” they said.

      I smiled back at them then walked to the reception desk.

                             “Hello, I’d like to find a guest staying here…”

“Yes, Sir, certainly. Do you have a name?”

                             “Gupter Puncher.”

“Gup-ter Pun-cher.”

      The man in the red uniform tapped on the keyboard.

“I’m sorry, Sir. There is no Gup-ter Pun-cher staying here at the moment.”

      Other names? Hmm…what would he use?

“Are you sure he’s here now?”

                             “Yes, very sure.”

      Would he use Jurgen?

                             “How about Jurgen Platonov?”

      More tapping.

“I’m sorry Sir, no Jurgen Platonov.”

                             “Do you have anyone German staying here?”

“German, Sir?”

                             “Forget it. You mind if I look around the hotel?”

“Would you like to book a room, Sir?”

      The man’s smile was firm, but I saw him sneak a look at the clock on the wall behind him. He was bored, his shift was almost over.

                             “No, I’m fine. I’ll just walk around.”

      There were forty-two floors in all, so I took the elevator up and started at the very top.

      My route was simple and had been used at numerous hotels before. Walk around the corridors on each floor and listen in at each door. If there was someone talking in German or a German accent then that would be him.

      It was a long shot, but I knew he was here. He had to be.

      The first six floors down were very quiet and very empty. I didn’t pass anyone in the corridors, except one man in a dressing gown who was carrying a radio in his hand. I listened to the DJ, but he wasn’t German. He sounded Middle Eastern, Israeli maybe. As far as I knew Gupter didn’t speak Hebrew or Arabic, although he had probably been there.

      When Gupter was exiled by those Soviet control freaks back in ’78, he took an interesting route to his eventual stopping point in Japan.

      He wasn’t supposed to, of course. He was supposed to die.

      There were two guards accompanying him on that trip. Their orders had been to lead him into the Russian wilds near Omsk and shoot him in the back of the head.

      But Gupter charmed them. He was a very charismatic and gregarious man, his wife told me.

      He managed to convince the two guards to change the plan and dip into Yugoslavia, where he met Selimovic at that symposium. Then into Russia and Leningrad, south into the Muslim nest of Iran, back into Russia and then south again into India. That’s where he had met Rudy Wurlitzer and lost the guards.

      But had he been to Israel?

      Did it matter?

      I looked back down the corridor at the man with the radio. He was stroking the walls and brushing off stains with his spare hand as if he owned the place.

      I refused to believe that such a man could be Gupter.

      I continued on down through the thirties and twenties of the hotel.

      There was something that had always bothered me about his exile. The idea that they would transport him all the way to Omsk just for one bullet to the head. That was strange, wasn’t it?

      I had always wondered why the Soviets didn’t just shoot him in East Germany.

                   

      On floor thirteen, I thought I heard a man speaking with a German accent in one of the rooms. I positioned myself against the door and listened in.

      It wasn’t German. I didn’t know what language it was exactly, but it wasn’t German. Not sharp enough, and far too melodic. One of the romance languages, Italian, perhaps.

      I found the stairwell and moved down to the next floor.

      I was becoming quite skilled at recognizing different languages.

      In the last three years, I had visited a lot of hotels and had stood outside a lot of hotel rooms, listening for Gupter. If I had to give a number, I’d say somewhere around two hundred. Probably more, now that I thought about it.

      I had heard a lot of couples fucking too. Luckily, they never opened the door while I was outside.

      In fact, no one had ever opened a door on me.

      I couldn’t remember the last time I had been involved in sex. Not in the last three years that was for sure.

      The strap on my bag, which carried my notes and my tape recorder and my pens, broke off from the metal clip. It often did that. I didn’t want to get a new one though. This one had been with me all the way. It had historicity.

      I clipped it back on and gave my bag a pat on the side.

      Down to floor five and still no sign of him.

      There were noises in each room I stopped at, but none of them were German, and none of them sounded like Gupter.

      It shouldn’t have been a surprise. There had been over three hundred tip-offs in the last three years and none of them had been successful. I had never found him.

      No, there was never any time to meet anyone, not for romance. When I wasn’t working at the magazines or searching for Gupter in hotels, I was reading his notes and story drafts.

      He had some great ideas, Gupter.

      There was that one set in the Venetian hotel, with the religious double moving down each floor of a hotel, searching for the man who could get him out and back to Tibet.

      I pictured myself in orange robes and sandals, searching each room for him.

      Only Gupter would get the reference though. No one else had read that story.

      Because it hadn’t been written. He had just left it in his notes.

      For someone else to write?

      No, he had to finish them himself. Only he had the talent.

      And yes, he would laugh if he opened the door and saw me in orange robes and sandals, telling him that I had been searching for him for the last three years.

      On the second floor, I passed another man. He was tall and had broad shoulders. The kind of shoulders that Gupter might have.

      Could it be…

      Gupter had been sent to a Soviet military camp when he was seventeen. They had taught him how to fight and, if he was ordered to, how to kill a man.

      I had read that in his notes.

      Gupter wrote, ‘they talked about the type of man we might have to kill. He would be tall like us, have broad shoulders like us, and would know how to kill a man, like us. They said the man would look German, but would not be German like us. He would be a capitalist German, a soulless German. That’s what they told us anyway.’

      Gupter had escaped the camp after a year, convincing the Soviets that he wasn’t tall enough nor broad shouldered enough. They agreed that he wasn’t a very accurate representation of Soviet East German strength and let him go.

 

 

      The man in the corridor with broad shoulders paused and greeted me in German. I stopped instantly, unused to hearing German without a door in front of me.

                             “Gupter?”

                                                     “Ah, English, are you?”

                             “Gupter Puncher?”

                                                      “I’m sorry young man?”

                             “I’m sorry. It’s-…are you Mr. Gupter Puncher?”

      The man laughed and his shoulders grew broader.

                             “Are you laughing because you are…him?”

                                                     “Gupter Puncher? Ha! It’s been so long since I heard that name.”

                             “Then you’re…Gupter Puncher?”

                                                     “Oh no. No, no, no.”

                             “But you know him?”

                                                     “Yes, of course. An old East German like me, I know him well. A good writer, he was. Shame, a big shame the thing they did against him.”

                             “What do you mean ‘did against him’?”

                                                     “The…how do you call it? He was sent away…”

                             “Exile? His exile?”

                                                     “Yes, and then the shooting in the head.”

      The man looked down at the carpet.

      I looked at his feet and saw he was wearing sandals. A lot of Gupter’s characters wore sandals. ‘A piece of prophet symbolism,’ he had written in his notes.

      Was this man Gupter?

                                                     “We all hear it after the wall went down. Will Gupter Puncher come back now, we ask? Who’s that? Gupter Puncher, the great writer. Will he come back to us? No, never heard of him, they say. Then there was one soldier, he was older, he knew Gupter. He was shot in Russia, he says. Oh no, what a crime, who’s going to pay for this thing, we ask, but no one cares. Gupter who? They start saying. Suddenly it seems no one heard of Gupter Puncher. Only a few Germans.”

      I grabbed him by the shoulders and told him that, “no, Gupter never got shot, they lied to you. He went to Japan, and then disappeared, but he was never shot. He tricked the guards, you see? He doped them up and paralysed them with an American writer helping him, Rudy Wurlitzer, you know him? And then, after the guards were doped, he was free, he escaped.”

      The man stared at me, probably in disbelief. What was the big deal here, East Germany had lied to him again, was it so hard to believe?

                                                     “How do you know this, young man?”

      I held Gupter’s imaginary notes in my hand.

                             “I have his notes, and his drafts. They’re all at home.”

                                                     “He left notes?”

                             “Yes, to his wife in Japan. She gave them to me. So you see, he’s still alive somewhere, and that’s why I’m here. I’m looking for him.”

                                                     “No, it’s impossible…there were no notes.”

                             “There are, there are. I have them! He’s alive!”

      The man shoved past me and walked off down the corridor, mumbling to himself in German.

                             “Wait, we need to talk…”

                                                     “Leave me alone, young man. I have no time for this ridiculone-…ridiclunenous-…damn it!”

      He accelerated and turned a corner.

      I ran down the corridor after him and as I turned the same corner I lost him. The corridor was empty.

      I had met only four East Germans in the last three years. One in Venice, a couple in Barcelona, and another in Cairo.

     None of them had admitted to being East German as fast as that man had.

     None of them had ever heard of Gupter Puncher.

     It was him, I knew it. I had found him, and then lost him.

     Fuck, how could such an old man move so fast? And in fucking sandals too?

     No matter, I would find him again. He was distinctive, he was wearing sandals, he was tall and broad shouldered. He had a face that I would recognize.

      I had a picture of him now. A real picture.

     I sprinted down the two remaining floors and asked the man in reception if a man wearing sandals had left the building. He shook his head. I asked him if he was sure and he shook it again, telling me that the hotel was always quiet in the late afternoon and he would’ve noticed if someone like that had left.

      I walked over to the couches by the entrance and perched on the edge of one of the cushions.

      He would come eventually and I would reveal him.

      After two hours, I got a call from the magazine.

“Billy, are you still at that hotel?”

                             “Yes, yes. But listen, I’ve found him. He’s here, it’s real this time.”

“That’s nice, but about your homeless piece, we had to-…”

                             “Forget the homeless, this is Gupter Puncher. The Great Writer, Gupter Puncher. We’ll get interviews, a feature, his latest work and a retrospective. It’ll sell world-wide…”

“That’s great, but-…”

                             “This will put your magazine on a much bigger map, Zachary. Trust me, Gupter Puncher is gonna be huge.”

      We both stopped talking. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was stroking his chin.

“Billy, I think we should have a little talk…”

      He was gonna fire me. Even after I had found Gupter, he was gonna fire me.

                             “There’s no need, listen. This is Gupter Puncher. Do you have any idea what that means?”

“No, I don’t.”

                             “But it’s Gupter Puncher…”

“But who is that? No one knows him, Billy. Who is this man? Who cares? I’ve never heard of him. No one’s heard of him. He’s never even been published, has he?”

                             “Yes, I know, but that’s because his work was oppressed by the Soviets. That’s why…and he published himself anyway. He fought oppression.”

“He’s self published? Christ, Billy, we can’t do anything with that. You know that.”

                             “No, but you see, his history, he’s East German…”

“East Germany is long gone. No one cares. If you want oppression, it’s happening in Africa right now. That’s enough for people. They don’t have time for some East German relic from thirty, forty years back…”

                             “But it’s Gupter Puncher…can’t you see?”

      There was another line of silence.

“Maybe it’s best if you don’t come back to the office, Billy.”

      I hung up and hit the sofa cushion in frustration.

                             “We’ve got a lot of publicity to do, Gupter,” I mumbled into the empty foyer of the hotel. “If you’re gonna make your mark on the world.”

      While waiting on that sofa I thought of Gupter’s past and Gupter’s future.

      In his past, I thought of the three nights before his exile, when he had delivered all those copies of his polemic to the houses of Berlin.

      He had written ‘The way out of the dome’ in two months during the winter of ‘77, and it was such an angry-…such a tendentious thing, and that had been the thing that had sealed his fate.

      But it wasn’t the thing, it was him. He wrote it, he had sealed his own fate.

      Was that still fate then? He didn’t have to write it, after all.

      In his future, I thought of the interviews he would have to give and the magazines he would choose to give them to. Not that shitty Hong Kong one I had just been fired from, that was for damn sure. I’d tell him exactly what they had said about him, the little pricks.

      No, each magazine and interviewer would be carefully chosen. One from each country.

      If Gupter hadn’t been keeping up to date with the media then I would help him choose. If he’d let me.

      ‘The New Yorker’ in the US. No, not them, they had refused a couple of my stories. ‘The Village Voice’ in Greenwich? Yes, they had class. ‘Die Augen Deutsche’ in Germany. ‘The Barcelona Review’ in Spain, ‘The Paris Review’ in France.

      He’d speak and I’d sit beside him, telling my part of the story if any of them asked.

      We would work well as a team, I knew it.

               [Insert pic of Gupter and Oli on the couch, sitting close with a camera watching them]

 

 

      I looked up and realized that the foyer had become crowded. When did this happen?

      I hadn’t been paying attention to the faces walking past. He might’ve slipped by already.

      I looked over at the reception desk for the man I had talked to before, but he wasn’t there.

      He was probably off duty.

      A few minutes later I saw him walking across the foyer in his regular clothes. I got up quickly and asked him if he had seen Gupter.

“The German guy?”

      He wasn’t calling me Sir anymore. Good for him.

                             “Yes, the German guy. Have you seen him?”

“No, not me. But someone in the kitchen said there was a strange looking guy up on the fifth floor trying to open the fire escape.”

                             “Did he open it?”

“No, the kitchen guy stopped him, told him he can’t do that.”

                             “Did he leave?”

“Ha! Not leave, no…he just stood there and waited for the guy to leave. He’s probably trying to open it again.”

                             “Can he? I mean, is it possible to open it?”

“With an axe, yeah. With your hands, no way.”

      I thanked him and started towards the elevators.

“Hey, who is this guy anyway? Is he famous?”

                             “No, not really. But he will be.”

In the elevator, I thought of the possible outcomes of our second meeting.

      One, he accepts that he’s Gupter and I’ve found him.

      Two, he denies it and speeds off again. If this happened, I’d have to run faster.

      Three, he denies it and lunges for me. This could be tricky; he knew how to fight, I didn’t. He’d probably knock me out and leave me, then leave the hotel. Bad, but not disastrous as I knew his face and I knew which city he was in. If he left, I’d chase him. I’d chase him for another three years if I had to.

      I thought of the last three years of my life.

      There were all those places and all those magazine offices and all those hotels, all supplements in my pursuit of Gupter.

      I had no permanent house, no girlfriend, and no real friends. Just blank hotel rooms and contacts.

      The girlfriend? Ha! What could they possibly be to me? None of them were writers, they weren’t exiles or dissenters, and they weren’t East German. They had never been oppressed, they had never fed opium to armed men who had been ordered to shoot them somewhere in the snow near Omsk. None of them had the words that he had, none of them had the instincts.

      Christ, it was hot in this elevator.

      I wiped the palms of my hands on my jacket.

      Christ, the hands that had almost started to turn those notes into actual stories. What was I thinking?

      Button number five lit up and the doors opened.

      The broad shouldered man who had to be Gupter was pushing against the fire escape.

      I was at the other end of the corridor but I could hear the faint curses in German.

      As I got closer he noticed me. He stopped pushing but stayed propped against the door.

      I wiped my damp hands against the back of my jeans.

                                                     “Ah, the young man again. I saw you sitting in the foyer…”

                             “I heard you were up here.”

                                                     “What do you want?”

                             “I want to talk to you…Gupter.”

      The man closed his eyes and placed his face against the door.

                                                     “I am not this man.”

                             “Yes, I think you are.”

                                                     “Think? Why? Because I am an East German? I am not this man.”

                             “Because you know Gupter.”

                                                     “Damnit, I tell you, I am not Gupter Puncher.”

      He struck the door with his fist and seemed surprised when the surface was chipped.

                             “Are you trying to get away from me?”

      He cursed in German again and quickly walked off.

      This time I was ready for his speed. I followed him down three corridors and around two corners until I finally caught up to him in the stairwell.

                                                     “Please, what do you want from me?”

                             “I don’t want anything. It’s not me. You see, I’m your fan. I have your notes. Don’t you remember them?”

                                                     “No, no. There were no notes. You’re wrong.”

                             “No, you’re wrong. I have them. Look, you can come with me and I’ll show you. I don’t live far from here, you can have them back.”

                                                     “But where did you get them?”

                             “Miho, your wife. She gave them to me.”

      He shook his head and said something in German. I recognized one of the words.

                             “What do you mean ‘lying’?”

      He raised his head surprised.

                                                     “You understand German?”

                             “Enough to translate most of your notes.”

                                                     “Ha! You really will give me no peace, no? Alright, perhaps I should tell you then.”

      He lowered his body onto the stairs and tried to lean back. The edge of the concrete steps forced him back up, and he compromised by kind of hovering in the space between.

                                                     “When I went to see his wife, she told me there was nothing left. I didn’t believe her, of course, so I…well, I made sure that she was telling the truth. Did she tell you about me?”

                             “What are you talking about?”

                                                     “I am talking about Gupter Puncher. This man, you say you have been looking for him, but I think I have been looking a little longer. Thirty years, young man.”

                             “But-…you’re Gupter Puncher.”

                                                     “No, wrong.”

                             “Then-…who are you?”

                                                     “I am the man they send to kill him.”

      He puffed out a breath as if such a revelation couldn’t be helped.

      We sat on the steps for another two hours and he ran through all the events that had brought him here.

      He told me what he had heard about India and Gupter’s escape. He said that the Soviets had been furious when they found out the two guards had failed to kill Gupter. No one really knew how it had happened, but the idea that one of their orders hadn’t been carried out was unthinkable to them, and, after the execution of the two guards, they had sent him to hunt Puncher down.

      And the order itself was very explicit. No matter how long it took, no matter how much it cost, no matter how far he had to travel. Christ, even if the Berlin Wall fell, this order must be completed.

      The man had been in Japan when Gupter had “disappeared” off the beach in Yokohama. When he read the report of the “missing German man” in the paper, he was only two prefectures away. That was the closest he had ever got.

      After talking to Miho Puncher, the wife, he had chased numerous leads and tip-offs, just like me, for the next twenty eight years.

      He had been to almost every country in the world. He had been to a lot of countries in South America several times. He had been to Mexico, the country where Trotsky was caught, eleven times, each time believing that Gupter would be there.

                                                     “You see, I knew Gupter in the military. We weren’t friends but we had talked. I knew how he was thinking. If he thinks I will catch him, then he will go to Mexico. Every call I got that says, ‘he’s in Mexico’, I think, this time, yes, it is him.”

                   [Insert pic of Gupter sitting, bag over head, waiting in one chair in the Mexican desert]

 

 

 

      But it never was him, and he was never in Mexico.

      Each country and hotel that was checked was always a failure.

      But the man kept on searching.

      Even after the wall came down, he kept on searching, just like his superiors had ordered.

                                                     “You know, since the wall was down, it has become much more difficult to find him. No one talks anymore, no one knows anything. They don’t even know his name, not even in East Ger-…I mean, Germany. It’s like he never lives.”

      I wanted to ask him why he never gave up. If I had to guess, I’d say it was something to do with him being defined by his pursuit of Gupter, and without him it would be like he had never lived either. Something like the unity of opposites.

      I told him my thoughts as best I could.

                                                     “Unity of what? I don’t understand this.”

                             “Ying and yang, you know that? Two sides. Good and evil. No good then no evil…”

                                                     “You say I am evil?”

                             “No, it was just an example.”

      I smiled, but thought: this man is trying to kill Gupter. What excuses does he make for himself not to be called evil?

                                                     “You think wrong, young man. This thing…my chasing of Gupter, it means nothing.”

      After he finished his story, he asked me what I knew of Gupter.

      I told him what I knew from the notes and the stories I had heard from Miho.

      He laughed when I told him about the doping of the two guards in India, but then stopped abruptly, telling me that he shouldn’t laugh when the two men had been executed.

      The window beside the stairwell showed us that it was dark outside.

      The man stood up and stretched himself out. He looked away from me and out of the window onto the lights of Hong Kong.

      I called him back.

                             “Gupter,” I said.

      He turned round rubbing his eyes, said “yes?” and then stopped, caught.

      After a few seconds he spoke.

                                                     “Which part did you not believe, young man?”

                             “Most of it.”

                                                     “Would you like to take a walk outside?”

      I nodded and we walked down the stairs.

      Outside, we walked away from the hotel and towards the harbour.

      We talked about his life again.

      Gupter told me everything, and this time it seemed real.

      He asked me:

                                                     “Why did you look for me?”

      The answer was simple.

                             “Your stories were my stories.”

                                                     “But three years?”

                             “Your life is my life.”

      I didn’t know if the line worked or not. I didn’t even know if it was what I meant, but it sounded good. An aphorism for Gupter to write about, maybe.

                                                     “You know that no one knows Gupter Puncher?”

                             “Not yet, but they will.”

      My voice rose in excitement.

      I pictured Gupter’s future again and the two of us on the same sofa telling ‘The Village Voice’ how everything unfolded, the whole thirty year story.

      Gupter shrugged and pulled his jacket tighter around him, protecting himself from…from what? It wasn’t that cold.

                                                     “I miss East Germany,” he muttered, not really to me but I still heard it.

                             “You miss that place?”

                                                     “From time to time, yes.”

                             “But they tried to kill you?”

      He doesn’t answer me.

      Later, we returned to the hotel and he told me that he’d call in the morning to arrange a time to collect his notes.

      I reassured him that I was never seriously thinking about turning his notes and drafts into stories.

      He laughed, a heavy laugh.

                                                     “Maybe you should try, young man,” he said.

      The next morning I waited for his call.

      By eleven I realized that he’d gone.

      I got a tip-off telling me that Gupter had been seen in Mexico.

      They told me he was somewhere out in the Sonora desert, spending his days watching dog fights with the locals.

      I went online and booked a hotel and then a flight for the following day.

      I packed my things quickly into a suitcase.

      Downstairs, at the reception desk as I checked out, they thanked me for staying with them and that they hoped to see me again soon.

      On the plane the next morning, I looked at Gupter’s notes and drafts and noticed that the colour of the paper was starting to fade. I wondered if he was leaving it too late to finish them. He wasn’t getting any younger, after all. And neither was I.

      I looked out of the window, at the sky floating above whichever country I was flying over, and thought back over the last twelve years of my life.

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