Category Archives: IX. AM OBERHAUSEN

Week 41

The yellow Lada pulled into an empty space in the parking lot of the Oberhausen Aquarium and sputtered to a stop.

A slight, middle-aged man jumped out and ran around to the passenger side to open the door for his wife.

The woman was much larger than her husband—quite large, in fact. It was with some difficulty that she emerged from the car.

She leaned heavily on the man as they walked slowly to the entrance, her face obscured by large sunglasses and a floppy hat.

They paused at the entrance as the man pulled out his wallet and extracted some Euros for the admission fee.

“Wo is Oktopus Paul?” the man asked in badly accented German as he waited for his change.

“Paul die Krake?” the attendant replied without looking up. “Links, links, rechts, und geradeaus.”

The couple shuffled awkwardly inside without so much as a “danke,” and the attendant scowled.

“Amerikaner!” he thought dismissively, as he watched the enormous woman waddle away.

It turned out that there were many signs directing visitors to the tank of the famous octopus, who was obviously the aquarium’s main draw.

Soon the couple stood staring at the psychic cephalopod perched on a rock just inches from the glass.

Ah! Putin and Snowy!” said a voice inside their heads.

The man steadied the woman as she snorted in surprise and took a step backwards.

“Don’t be alarmed. Paul is communicating with us telepathically,” the man whispered to his companion.

“That’s right,” the octopus agreed. “And I can hear your thoughts as well. I’ve been expecting you.”

“Of course,” thought Putin, for it was in fact he and Snowy, the noble War Bear, who were disguised as a tourist couple.

“I am glad you’ve come,” Paul continued. “There is grave danger approaching, and time is short.”

“Then you know we’ve come to take you back to the Fortress of Opulence, beneath the Kara Sea,” Putin thought.

“Yes,” Paul replied. “But it’s not as simple as just removing me from the aquarium.”

“Are you two thinking at each other?” Snowy asked aloud. “Because I can only hear the octopus.”

Week 42

“I’ll fill you in later,” Putin whispered to Snowy, as the psychic octopus sat patiently waving a tentacle.

“It sounds as if you have a plan,” Putin thought. “Yes,” the cephalopod agreed telepathically, “but it will require precise timing.

“As a young octopus, I studied ancient mind control techniques with the squid of the Himalayas. I can put myself into a death-like coma.

“The keepers will find me floating here in my tank, and will call Der Toro, Oberhausen’s premier tapas restaurant, to pick up my body.”

“So we must arrive in disguise, persuade the attendant that we are from the restaurant, and take you away,” Putin thought approvingly.

“Yes,” Paul replied. “But if the real pick-up van arrives first, you’ll find me on the menu tomorrow night!”

Snowy frowned as Putin and Paul continued thinking back and forth; she caught the gist of the plan from Paul’s thoughts, and was concerned.

“Don’t worry,” Paul thought reassuringly. “If anyone can make this work, HE can.” Snowy nodded and glanced shyly at her master.

“We’d best go make our preparations,” Putin said aloud. “Good-bye, Paul” they thought in unison as they turned to go.

“Auf Wiedersehen!” thought the Octopus in reply. “I’ll see you in the Kara Sea!”

Putin and Snowy spent the afternoon painting “Der Toro” on the side of the Lada and preparing their disguises—big, bushy Spanish mustaches.

They waited until 7:30, an hour after the aquarium closed, as Paul had directed, then drove slowly up the service road to the back entrance.

As they approached the loading dock, a plain white Opel van sped past them going in the opposite direction.

Putin was pleased to see an attendant already standing on the platform. “Guten Abend!” he said in a carefully practiced greeting.

“Wir sind von Der Toro. Wo ist die Krake?” The attendant looked confused. Putin feared his false mustache was making him hard to understand.

Putin winced as the man jabbered something in his barbaric language, smirking and pointing at the road with a cigarette.

“I think he’s saying that van we saw already made the pick-up for Der Toro,” Snowy said, although she did not speak German either.

Putin realized the War Bear must be right: Paul had warned them this might happen, and he was psychic.

Putin jumped back into the Lada, made a quick k-turn, and roared back up the service road in pursuit of the van.

The attendant stood watching them go, without so much as a “danke.” He pulled a long drag on his cigarette.

“Spanier! Gastarbeiter!” he muttered with disgust. And the fat one’s German was so bad, it sounded like Russian.

Week 43

Though the white Opel van had a considerable head start, the yellow Lada gradually began to pull closer.

Snowy watched in amazement as the speedometer needle crept up past 35 … 40 … up to 50 kilometres per hour!

The needle began to shake, and the whole car vibrated, but they were definitely gaining on the Opel.

Suddenly the van veered off the service road and onto the ramp for the A42 autobahn. Putin swore and spun the steering wheel hard right.

“Sir!” cried Snowy. “They’re on the wrong road! This isn’t the way to Der Toro at CentrO, Europe’s biggest shopping and leisure centre!”

“No,” Putin replied through gritted teeth. He stomped on the accelerator. Nothing happened for several seconds; then they gradually sped up.

The Lada merged into the center lane. The van was on the right, just a few metres ahead. Putin began to glow faintly green with the strain.

“This road leads to Dortmund,” Snowy gasped, dizzy from the speed. “Yes,” Putin replied grimly, “and from there … to Moscow!”

Before Snowy had time to think what he might mean, an enormous lorry with “REVERENCE” printed on the side roared past on their left.

Just at that moment, the white Opal van swerved in front of them from the right, cutting them off!

Without applying the brakes, Putin steered sharply to the right, almost striking a green Volkswagen Beetle, and shot up an off-ramp.

Hold on!” he shouted needlessly, as they crashed through the guardrail at the top and went airborne.

Snowy, who had never flown before, found it a curious sensation and was not sure whether she enjoyed it.

She definitely did not enjoy the extremely hard landing on the top of the Reverence lorry’s trailer.

As they sped down the autobahn on top of the truck, Putin could see the Opel van in his rearview mirror, racing just behind them.

Aware that something was amiss, the lorry driver began weaving back and forth, trying to shake them off.

The back of the swaying trailer smashed into a green Volkswagen, causing a massive chain-reaction pile-up on the busy Autobahn.

And yet, from out of the mass of twisted metal, the Opel van came shooting along the shoulder of the road, passing the lorry.

“No!” shouted Putin, as threw the Lada into gear and sped forward over the top of the truck and off into the empty air again.

Snowy decided that she did not like either the flying or the landing feelings. But at least now they were back on the road.

In fact, they were directly behind the white Opel van, tailgating it at a staggering 57 km per hour!

Week 44

As they gradually gained on the van, Putin pulled the Lada into the center lane. Soon they were racing along side by side.

Putin swung right, bumping the van, trying unsuccessfully to push it off the road. The van pulled away, then swung left, bumping the Lada.

“Get ready, Snowy,” Putin said. “You know what to do.” The valiant War Bear nodded, unbuckled her seat belt, and grasped the door handle.

As they pulled even with the van, Snowy opened the door and leaned out, her weight forcing the Lada’s front bumper to the pavement.

The little yellow car tore along the highway in a shower of sparks. And then the mighty bear jumped!

The impact sent the van careening across the right lane, off the road, and into a ditch.

The Opel rolled over and lay on its side, ominously quiet. How long before it would explode?

Putin cranked the Lada’s wheel hard to the right, almost striking a green VW, and skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the autobahn.

He jumped out and went running toward the wreck, toward Snowy, who was lying, unmoving, atop the van’s left side.

“Are you all right?” he cried, as he reached the motionless form, still clinging to the side of the van.

“I … think so,” she replied, slowly rolling over and onto the ground. There was no movement inside the Opel.

Quickly, Snowy used her claws to tear a gash in the van’s thin aluminum, opening the cargo area. Putin began tugging at the crate inside.

Snowy marveled anew at her master’s strength as he carried Paul’s water-filled tank to the Lada and placed it carefully in the back.

Then Putin ran back to the van and looked inside at the unconscious occupants, one of whom was bleeding rather badly.

Even with their bushy black false moustaches, Putin recognized them both.

The driver was Dr. Antonosky, whom he’d last seen at Chernobyl, and the other man was none other than the Commander, from the KGB!

Stunned, Putin turned and ran back to the Lada, started the engine, and drove away down the A42, heading back to Moscow.

He was grateful that Snowy didn’t ask if he’d recognized the men in the van, but then he wondered if perhaps she’d hit her head.

“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” he asked her. “Just bruised, I think,” she replied slowly, sinking into the seat for the long ride ahead.

After a pause, Snowy spoke again. “There was one thing: I kept seeing green VW Beetles. I don’t think it can have been the same one.”

“It’s Germany,” Putin replied with a smile, “it’s bound to be full of bugs.”