In a small village outside Leipzig, there lived an expat named Peter Baldrian, age 59. By all accounts, he was a law-abiding American, living and working in East Germany (in other words, not usually an assassin at all). He was originally from North Dakota, but that proved too small and provincial for his ambitious nature. Like every expat, he had to sacrifice his family, friends, and lovers in the US to fly to the old world and fulfill his destiny; to follow his dream.
Peter had lived and worked as an English teacher and translator in various countries in Asia and Europe, finally landing in Leipzig to work at the international school. Quite a scholarly type, who also played and taught guitar semi-professionally. He enjoyed meeting people and traveling. He also had a touch of the wild rock ‘n roll soul. This was due to having traveled as a professional guitarist in the American west, living out of a suitcase in different towns.
Peter liked to break the rules and could not stand any breach of his personal freedom, or any distasteful disagreement with his opinions. He might have been regarded as arrogant and selfish, if not for his sometimes-helpful nature. If things didn’t serve his cause, they weren’t worth pursuing. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, nor any interruption to his personal pleasures. He was his own number one. Moving out of Leipzig to a small village was not really his idea, but that of his then-girlfriend, Brunhilde.
He did it for love.
They rented a very nice house with a fenced-in yard and a big cherry tree in the garden. There was space for Peter’s dog, Peter Jr., and their two cats. They sat on the big porch and drank their wonderful, dark German beer until early light, reflecting on their rustic lives. The rental house had a fireplace and downstairs, in the basement, there was room for Pete’s musical projects. He would invite musicians over to jam and write songs. They did have neighbors, but only one house was built right next to theirs; specifically really close to their bedroom window. It was well within earshot, and below the window was a chicken coop with a few hens and a rooster.
And herein lies the crux of the story.
The rooster with its loud beak and beady eyes, living 20 feet from Peter’s bedroom window, was a pain-in-the-ass, ear-splitting cock! In German, “Keekerie-kee!” or in English, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”, blaring at 5:30 in the morning, every morning! A performance many roosters execute with punctual precision.
Peter accepted this noise, this crowing, for the first few months as a minor agitation and as part of village life. Even if he’d rather not admit it, it was a bit charming: the church bells nearby and the rooster caw-cawing and the
But, as life would have it, Peter and Brunhilde would eventually have visitors. None more important than Peter’s parents. They made the journey from North Dakota all the way to the tiny German village to visit their wayward son and his love. Peter had missed his parents deeply. As they were already in their eighties, he wanted their stay to be both comfortable and memorable.
Enter stage left – Beelzebub the rooster.
Any long trip between America and Germany involves jet lag and a certain amount of weariness. Instead of a full night’s sleep, the elderly Susan and Philip, along with Pete and Brunhilde, had the ‘joy’ of waking up at the crack of dawn to Herr Rooster’s caw-caws and cock-a-doodles. Even with the windows closed in the hot summer weather, it was very loud!
Peter’s parents were of the lucky class of Americans to have two acres and peaceful neighbors at home. Needless to say, both of them were wrung out with the disturbance of their rest for the whole of their short visit. Peter’s father would grouchily complain, “Fuckin’ rooster, Pete!” and “What the hell, Peter? Your poor mom, c’mon! Jeepers, Peter, do something!!” These complaints and admonishments dredged up Peter’s childhood feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Peter’s mom suffered in silence, which wounded Peter even more.
His parents asked if they could move to a hotel to finally be able to sleep and relax. Peter agreed and proceeded to check his parents, unwittingly, into an upscale brothel in the center of Leipzig, the Pepper Mill. They were all a bit confused, upon entering the lobby, by the huge painting of barely clad figures relaxing by a pool in a huge indoor garden. Sunlight bathed the flowers in a golden light and rippled on the pool’s surface. More than a couple of breasts were lit up. Peter’s father was disgusted, but his mother approved of the ‘European art’.
They quickly transferred to another hotel and eventually flew back home. Peter said “Auf Wiedersehen” to his parents and returned home to wreak his wrath on the little white devil next door who sonically humiliated him.
Peter made a plan.
He told no one, not even Brunny. He had in his possession a pump BB gun. Not a toy. He waited until early morning, before his neighbor, Herr Heinrich Himmel, was awake. The rooster was in full operatic mode at the usual 5am, waking up the whole damn neighborhood. Peter quickly crept to the fence separating the two properties and crawled under some old roofing lying on his lawn. He inched right up to the fence, near the coop’s door, where he knew the little devil would eventually strut. On cue, Peter’s enemy came around the coop, facing the gun protruding through the metal fence.
Ssst-plop! The rooster’s head exploded with the force of the thrice-pumped compressed air and bb pellet. The rooster danced its death dance. Pete fired, again and again, downing the demon as feathers flew wildly about. Peter quickly backed out of his hiding place and stealthily climbed over the fence to retrieve the now-dead creature. He prayed Heinrich was not looking out the window at that exact moment. He had murdered his neighbor’s innocent fowl in cold blood. Performed
a criminal act. A merciless act. Yet he had no remorse. It felt as if he had just thrown a strident, raucous alarm clock against the wall, breaking it into a hundred satisfying pieces.
Sweet silence now prevailed; sweet morning silence.
Peter was also a bit nervous because this was Germany. Being a foreigner, killing neighbors’ animals might be reason enough for him to be expelled from the country. It was ‘nicht in Ordnung’. If caught, he would surely also face the wrath of his neighbor and the whole village. He would probably make the regional newspaper with a story so scandalous.
Peter quickly brought the dead rooster home, wrapped it in newspaper, and then stuffed it into a cotton Lidl shopping bag, replete with the bloodstained evidence of his passion play. He then went outside in the dim morning light, put the bagged chicken into the trunk of his car, and quietly closed it.
It was at this exact point that his neighbor, Herr Himmel, came quickly out his front door, which just happened to face the parked car. He seemed excitable and was mumbling something to himself. Himmel reached Peter at his car and asked in German, “Have you seen Colonel Sanders, my rooster? He is gone and feathers and blood are everywhere. Have you seen or heard anything, Herr Baldrian? I can’t believe he would just disappear. He was a gift from my first wife.”
“Who would take my bird? Why?” asked Himmel.
“I don’t know!” exclaimed Peter. After a bit of thought, he offered, “Maybe a hawk took him up, or a fox broke into your coop?” All Peter could think of was the silent, dead rooster as it lay crumpled in the trunk, less than a meter from the grieving Herr Himmel.
Peter’s neighbor never put it together.
At least, he never showed any signs of distrust toward Peter, as far as he could tell. Even though Peter was outside, near the scene of the crime, at the crack of dawn. Putting something in his trunk with a guilty, pale countenance. Himmel never accused Peter of the crime. No neighbors saw or heard anything. Thank goodness he had never complained to Himmel about the loud rooster crowing so early. He buried the bird in an anonymous farm field, far from home.
Peter woke to silence the next morning and every morning thereafter and thought to himself, “Some crimes do pay.”
‘The Assassin’ was submitted by American Leipziger, Glenn Horvath. Glenn was the first American artist and drummer in Leipzig, in 1990. He was invited into the Connewitz alternative group, who were squatting in flats near the Connewitz Kreuz back then. It was there that he started painting, drumming in bands, and writing.
Glenn would like to stress that the central character in the piece, Peter Baldrian, is not a stand-in for himself. For more of Glenn’s work, including artwork and writing, check out his website. His new website, focusing solely on writing, is under construction.