Heinrich worked for the East German police force before the wall fell. There is a story the Germans tell, that the fall did not begin in Berlin at all; that the protests began in a small hamlet to the north and traveled South: an unbroken line of unrest, like a fuse traveling steadily to a keg of powder.
But Heinrich knows that these are the stories people tell themselves. He knows a thing or two about the importance of assembling facts to fit a certain shape. But that, too, is a story.
In Düsseldorf he meets Kenzo Tenma. He has seen men like Tenma before. They always came in two types: the wide-eyed idealists who spoke loudly but inevitably froze within a hundred yards of a Checkpoint Charlie, all courage bleeding softly out of them onto the German soil; and the others, with fire behind their quiet voices, who may not have dared the murder mile themselves, but who still came close enough to stare it down, as if they could unwrap the barbed wire links with sheer willpower. As if the stories they had heard from their fathers, and from their fathers before them, had not been raw or real enough to pass down the warning.
Heinrich does not care for stories of sparks leading to flames leading to the toppling of countries. Heinrich cares for facts. He cares for misread memos and international propaganda, and everyone being too tired to go after the protesters when they began to topple the wall. Heinrich cares for two missing children and three identical candy wrappers, and the wild look in Tenma's eyes when he sees him again nine years later.
After the war the landscape across the country is a flat unbroken line of brown and gray-green, a vast ruined amalgam of army trucks and Deutschland. Heinrich fits himself into the Kriminal AMT, one more perpetual amalgam. He is a collector of facts, most of which are dirty from time and ill use, like Tenma himself when Heinrich next sees him. He interviews the woman, Heinemann, and sees from the shrill rise and fall of her voice that she is still in love with Tenma; still in love and hating herself for it. But that is not a fact that Heinrich knows what to do with. There is no folder into which he can slot it. He has been told before, during this investigation, that he fails to see the big picture, but he dismisses these as impractical concerns. The disk in his head holds everything he needs to know. There is no category written on it for things like love and self-hatred. He lets Eva Heinemann's love slip through his fingers.
Heinrich is Tenma. He has come from Japan. He has studied in Europe with years of diligence. He has a father who has a modest business and tells all his neighbors how proud he is of his son, the medical doctor. He has made few trips home in the nearly twenty years he has been living in Germany. He settled in Germany because the Japanese have always had a fascination with this place. The Japanese tell German fairytales and recount German folklore to their children. Heinrich is Tenma. He is easily drawn to stories. He likes narratives that make sense, that have morals, stories of good and evil. Heinrich is Tenma. Tenma is the good, kind doctor. Tenma is the doer of good. Tenma would go to any extreme to make things fit into his fairy tale.
In Prague, Heinrich who is Tenma practices eating with chopsticks. Suk laughs at him, but seems to respect the importance of Heinrich's investigative procedures. And then there is the red mansion, and everything is red. When Runge sees Tenma again in Düsseldorf, Suk is ruined, and the good doctor has grown defeated under the weight of the stories he has been telling himself, the stories Heinrich has been repeating so long they are beginning to sound like the truth. In Prague, Suk is still himself, and eating his sandwich with both hands. Heinrich who is Tenma looks down at his chopsticks. Heinrich who is Tenma looks down at his chopsticks and deliberately puts them away. He does not tell himselves narratives. Not yet. In Düsseldorf, Runge sees Tenma and the weight of carrying such a story slides off his shoulders. He feels relieved.
In Laubenheim the person of interest Grimmer walks with Heinrich along the river and talks about taking him out for a drink. He has bought Tenma drinks. Heinrich has been Tenma, who has been Grimmer's friend, and Tenma is the worker of fairy tales, so Heinrich supposes it will be okay to accept. In Laubenheim which was Ruhenheim, the air is rich with the scent of apples and sausages. The glacial moraines bracket the town like bookends, and although it is not a factual deductive analysis, it as if they are there to strand everyone within the borders of the town. It is a town that is about to explode.
Heinrich never waited out the murder mile. He only heard the stories of it: how victims had fallen into the trenches, had been pinioned on the barbs for hours until the medics could come, how some had even been stupid enough to drive trucks through the furrowed roads until the insides were gutted and they were stranded there in the middle of the open ground, soldiers firing at them from both sections, gunshots raining all around.
Heinrich does not believe most of those stories. The stories themselves served to keep most of the defecting parties away, and that is what they were most useful for. Now, in a reunified country, the only good they do is to horrify the listener, make them grateful for a new, glorious present.
There are stories being told in Laubenheim of an unseen monster. In Prague, Heinrich had heard these stories. He had discounted them, but he had also felt them in the Mansion of Red Roses. The person of interest Grimmer says that all great detectives have intuition—the ability to put together stories and make them fit into a picture that makes sense. Heinrich Runge, as Kenzo Tenma, agrees. As Kenzo Tenma, that is what he has been doing for months upon months. Heinrich Runge, as himself, has followed Tenma across Europe and back again, to a town where the rains have trapped them in on all sides, where ghosts and nightmares take human form and fire guns, on all sides of the valley, gunshots raining all around.
In Ruenheim, the rain falls around them like sparks to ignite the powder keg. And the powder keg is the story he has refused to tell, is the story about a monster who escapes and takes on a life of his own, the story that has escaped, too, like that monster. The powder keg is the green-grey Deutschland fairy tale, the tale that flings itself headlong onto the barbed wire, bleeding itself onto the consciousness of listening, waiting children.
In Ruenheim, he is the story, he is bleeding, and blood runs down his shoulders onto the gray-green ground. And near him Tenma kneels beside the pale head of a monster, saying his name softly, because he is the story, and the story is the monster, and the monster is Heinrich, and a heart throbs in his hand, a life; another story Heinrich will never be able to tell.