126. The Apparition

Part 2 of the 'Apparitions' series. (Previously.)

OF COURSE IT WAS nuts. It was completely crazy. Professor Antonio Bergamote had, if you will permit me, no clue, so to speak, about detective work. All he had was a first name, and not even a real name at that. Mooki. What kind of name is that? I must tell you, as soon as I saw that name I thought to myself, only a prostitute would have a name like that. And then when I saw the photo she sent him, I knew I was right. She was a prostitute, Asian, possibly Filipino, probably a transsexual. Was she actually based in Cannes like she told him? I have no idea. To tell you the truth, Mooki possibly never even existed. That's my theory, anyway - my hunch. She was probably the figment of the imagination of a gang of teenage whiz kids in Nigeria or the Ukraine on the prowl for a shakedown trying their luck on the good professor. Of course, Professor Bergamote of the University of Leipzig was no doubt completely clueless about all of this. In his mind, a woman had fallen in love with him – a youngish (certainly much younger than mein liebe Herr Professor) and not unattractive woman, undoubtedly fair of face, if you like your faces a little on the mannish side, that is – and then had dropped out of his life as suddenly as she had popped into it, all in the space of a few days, a few emails, a few phone calls. The poor old heartbroken professor of Mediterranean history obviously wasn’t to know about the existence of teams of Ukrainian and Nigerian teenagers surfing Craigslist day and night in search of their prey, and at first he must have appeared a juicy titbit to Mooki or Mookachenko or whatever the puppeteer was called: a professor, well versed in the rottenness of the Mediterranean and yet completely oblivious to the rottenness of the worldwide web, his career more or less in terminal and worryingly rapid decline, stuck with nothing to do and no one to love in a strange and friendless city, with plenty of German euros (the best kind) twitching to be liberated from his bank account. The last thing this Mookachenko would have expected was that Professor Bergatrom would set off in pursuit of his true transsexual love like a modern-day Quixote! – oh yes, despite being a lowly French police detective, I too am occasionally capable of a literary metaphor - and if Betamogre is to play the part of Quixote, then surely I am better suited to the part of Pancho… At any rate, Chekamoonko has probably never been to Cannes in his life, has no doubt never even heard of the film festival. No, Cannes was merely a pretext for Mekachoonko and co to set their trap, a place – one of many – where men of a certain (late-middle) age with more euros than they could possibly spend on themselves in their few remaining years gather to indulge in certain fantasies involving younger women, the younger the better of course. Chookamenko, dog-like, gave our innocent Professor Megabroke a good sniff but quickly decided – before wasting too much time on him – that he wasn’t worth the bother, that there simply weren’t enough euros capable of being shaken out of him to make a continuation of the correspondence – all that romance, all that setting up, all that grooming, all that theatre – worth it. So far so good. What has got me stumped, however, what I would really like to know, is this: what was our good professor possibly thinking, stuffing his pockets with German euros and heading off on a train to Cannes? What did he imagine could possibly have happened to his lady-love? Did he think she had been kidnapped? And was he planning on saving her? But much as I would love to answer these questions, they are merely sideshow attractions, distractions from my most pressing task, which of course is to find the professor, or at least find out what happened to te professor. The German police are breathing down my neck, Interpol is threatening to get involved, the university authorities in Leipzig are hinting they will hire their own detective – it’s getting to be such that I may soon wish I had never heard of old Professor Metaborg and his Ukrainian-Nigerian-Filipino apparition.