Jakob Pichler cherishes his quiet mornings and the green stillness of his garden. His neighbors have gone off to their day jobs, leaving him in peace. The only traffic that passes the garden gate is the occasional old woman walking a tiny dog. Jakob lights his morning cigar, settles back, and lets his mind wander over the infinite possibilities the morning offers.
Comfortable in his favorite chair, his feet up, Jakob watches a cloud of smoke drift over the tall juniper hedge that surrounds his perfect garden. This is his oasis, the miniature green living room where he spends his weekday mornings. The only company he needs are the sparrows snatching sunflower seeds from the bird feeder. All that he wants is to not be interrupted. Left to himself, everything is possible.
On the table at his elbow are the few things he requires. There is a full French press, his favorite coffee mug, a glass of mineral water, and a wireless speaker. The slow tones of a David Gilmour guitar solo resonate from the speaker; a specific song chosen for this Viennese summer morning.
Jakob smokes, sips his coffee, and listens to Pink Floyd. He sees Mario the mouse scampering under the juniper hedge; a raid on the bird feeder is in progress. Jakob smiles, happy that Mario has lived through another night of dodging prowling cats and hedgehogs.
The peaceful morning is shattered by harsh shouts, and the pounding of running feet on the sidewalk Jakob cannot see. A black satchel sails over the green hedge, spinning in the still air above Jakob’s garden. The satchel seems to hover over the grass and flower beds, as if orbiting at the top of an arc. Jakob’s eyes freeze on the flying object, not comprehending what they are seeing. Running feet slap past his garden gate, with more heavy footsteps in pursuit. Then the bag falls from its acme, landing with a heavy thud on the gravel of the garden path. The satchel rolls once, coming to a stop three meters from Jakob’s chair.
Jakob Pichler lurches to his feet. In his haste, he upsets the table at his elbow. Coffee sloshes from his favorite mug. He hesitates, eyes on the black satchel. The sound of footfalls against concrete fades away, and the stillness of his garden returns.
He takes two swift steps towards the bag before the sunlit morning vanishes in an eruption of fire and light and thunder. His eyes are seared by the flames, and his body pierced by hundreds of steel shards. The force of the explosion flings his broken body into the air.
Jakob tumbles and spins through a kaleidoscope of fire and pain, his screams silent against the deafening roar. Then everything is gone, and he is engulfed in a black silence.
When Jakob opens his eyes, he is floating in the air above a clear alpine lake. Clouds are mirrored on its surface, and the cragged peaks of mountains. For the span of a single breath, everything is still. Then he is plunging to the mirror of water, cool air rushing past his burned face.
Jakob Pichler lurches from his chair, the cigar still clenched between his fingers. He takes three swift steps and crouches beside the satchel, sliding back the heavy zipper. Peering into the bag, he sees bundles of Euro notes bound in paper bands. The cigar falls from his hand. Snatching the bag from the ground, he disappears into his apartment, slamming and latching the glass door.
He tosses the bag onto a low coffee table. Rushing about the small apartment, he gathers his wallet, passport, and shoes. Grabbing up the bag, he zips it closed and bolts to the front door of the apartment. He does not bother to lock it.
His feet echo off stone stairs that descend to an underground parking garage. The echoes of his footsteps are almost as loud as the pounding of his heart. Hurrying through the shadows of the concrete garage, Jakob crosses the darkened space. He unlocks a steel fire door on the far side of the garage and runs up another stairway.
Jakob emerges into the morning light, amongst the buildings of his quiet apartment complex. Forcing himself to walk, he threads his way through landscaped pathways to the far side of the complex. Once on the street, Jakob hurries to the nearest bus stop. He pauses, looks around, then walks on.
Jakob Pichler lurches to his feet, knocking over the table at his elbow. He stumbles over the table as he lunges for the glass door to his apartment. He is falling through the doorway as the morning erupts in a tidal wave of fire and noise. The force of the flaming wave throws his body across the living room, engulfing him in a stinging storm of pulverized glass. A thousand tiny shards pierce his flesh as his body slams into the sofa on the far side of the room. Rebounding from the sofa to the floor, Jakob lands on his back. More fragments of glass grate into his already maimed flesh.
Smoke is swirling above his blinking eyes, and he tries to focus, wondering if his cigar has set the room on fire. Thunder rolls in his ears, and behind the thunder he begins to hear the slow, bending notes of a guitar solo. The notes rise and fall, up and down the scale, perfect and beautiful, until they are replaced by the two-tone wailing of sirens.