“Gregor!”, yelled Radek. The others joined in: “Gregor, are you alright?” Alexej said: “If that is a joke, it is not a funny one.” Honza stayed calm: “This is surely one of Gregor’s pranks. Well done, Gregor, but I won’t give you an Oscar. That was way too melodramatic.”

“Do you think, he is alright?”, asked Janek. “Not, if we tell Josef about it. He will get thrown out of this group!”, pointed Honza out.

“I know, Gregor has a weird sense of humor”, Jenda added. “But shouldn’t he be back up by now, if it was a prank?” Everyone got silent for a while. “I will call him!”, said Radek. “Where is my phone?” He disappeared from the frame. At this moment, Martin was already on the phone. It took ages, till he heard the sound of someone picking up. A loud blast let him put the phone quickly away from his ear. But then there was only silence and shortly after that the connection broke down. “I cannot get him on the phone”, Martin explained.

“Gregor! Show up, please!”, tried Honza to clear the situation. But Gregor did not show up. There was no movement in his frame at all. Radek came back into the picture with his phone in the hand. “He does not pick up. I am worried.”

“What shall we do?”

Martin had an answer. “Well, we have to call the police.”

“Are you sure?”, said Honza. “It did look so fake. What if Gregor is just going too far?”

“He lives not that far from me!”, said Radek and put on a protection-mask. “I’ll go and have a look!” And without further notice, he ended the call.

“So we just wait, till Radek gives us notice?”, asked Jenda shyly.

“Seems so”, said Honza.

But Martin had his doubts. He hated it, but it was clear, that it was him again, who had to take control of the situation. He already had Gregor’s address in front of him. “We have to call the police.”

“This will be an embarrassment”, mumbled Honza.

“I am sorry, Gregor”, said Martin aloud. “I am calling the police. If that was only a joke, you can explain it to them.” He said it more for Honza than for Gregor. With every second he felt more and more assured, that Gregor couldn’t hear them or couldn’t react to them. He was already describing the details of the incident to the police and asked specifically for an ambulance. They would be fast at the scene, he was sure. There was nearly no traffic on the streets of Shutdown-Prague. “I will go there as well”, he explained the others. “I will tell you, what is going on.” He put the obligatory mask over his mouth and nose as he hit the street and headed due east. 20 minutes by foot, said google maps. He would be there in 8 for sure.

Martin’s fingers hesitated a tiny bit. Sibylle did not feel well in the lockdown. She had been eerily silent last week. But he could not not tell her about this. She would be furious, when she would find out later, that he hadn’t told her right away… well, and to be fair, he was in need of someone to tell this story to. “One of my colleagues was shot today”, he typed in the messenger app. “During our conference call. I saw it happen.” He let the phone slip in his pocket, as a policeman approached him again. “Please, send the video to this address.” The masked officer gave him a card. Martin had no gloves on him, so he used his shirt’s sleeve to grab the card without touching. “And now?”

“We have everything from you, Sir. Please, go home now and continue self-isolating.” Martin nodded. He also nodded in Radek’s direction. He had arrived shortly after Martin and the ambulance. The police had been the winner of this race. Radek nodded back from afar. He also got sent home.

On the way back, Martin called Honza to tell him the sad news. And Honza told the others, who were still hanging around in their conference call. “I am sorry, guys. It was not a prank. Gregor got shut. He was dead before the ambulance arrived.”

“Oh, that’s really irritating”, Honza replied after a shocked pause.

Martin went back to the office to send the police the video of the conference call. And because it was so damn easy, he also sent it to Sibylle. He was back home, when she finally replied: “What happened? Your colleague got shot? For real? I am so sorry. How are you? Are you at home? Or do you feel the need to run now? Did you get an address for therapy? Have you managed to eat something?”

Martin was a bit surprised by the answer. For someone, who talked about murder as much as his crime-story-writing friend, she for sure struggled to concentrate on the main topic. “I am alright. It was Gregor, who got shot.” He sighed. “But thanks for asking.” And then she actually called. On the phone! “Please, be careful”, she demanded. “You might not feel it right now, but this is a traumatic event. Don’t just go on. You have to rest as if you fell down a wall.”

“Okay”, sighed Martin. “I promise, I will take care. Can we now talk about the murder?”

“Sure. Do you have a suspect yet?”

That was more like it. “No, not at all. And the police also looked a bit puzzled. Gregor lived alone in the house since his grandmother died around a year ago. It is a nice tiny house besides a park. A bit old and unrenovated, but still nice. The door was unlocked. I have to check the video again, but I think, he didn’t look up. It was just Bang!, without a warning.”

“Which video?”, Sibylle asked surprised.

“The video of the conference call. We always tape them.”

Sibylle’s voice was sharp now: “You have a video of the murder?”

“Yes, I sent it to you.” Suddenly he felt guilty. “Maybe I shouldn’t have. You don’t feel that well… And I am not sure, if the police will be happy about it either.”

“I found it! It is over an hour long! When did it happen? More at the end, I guess? How brutal is it?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t watch it”, Martin suggested. “It is really dark. I shouldn’t have sent it.”

“Papperlapapp”, she said, using one of the more ridiculous German words. Martin could only guess the meaning. “Please, take care of yourself! And eat something!”

Fudge. He had completely forgotten, that he needed food. “Good idea, I need to head out for shopping.”

“Do that. I have some watching to do!”

to be continued

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