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Humans Can Become Anything

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His journeys into imagination both end and start in Ruhenheim. He is Heinrich Runge, always Heinrich Runge, but sometimes, he finds his fingers working of their own accord, and then he is both Heinrich Runge and Wolfgang Grimmer.

He cannot bring himself to stop to the habit. His fingers, he knows, are acting on his subconscious mind's desires, but he (or is it Grimmer?) enjoys the...whimsy of imagining they have their own mind. And he (or is it Grimmer?) enjoys the shift in how he experiences the world. And he (or is it Grimmer?) enjoys life.

When he is fully Heinrich Runge, he accepts his subconscious is using his memories of Grimmer to help him adapt. No, to repair the damage he inflicted in his old life. Inspector Runge only saw value in facts and data. Professor Runge accepts facts and data need context to hold meaning.

People, after all, live to communicate. It seems disrespectful not to allow Grimmer (or is it him?) to reach others. So when his fingers start in on the familiar pattern, Runge allows himself access to Grimmer. It's the most fitting tribute he can think of for a man he might have called friend.

Humans are supposed to think that food is delicious.

Runge takes comfort in the familiar. His morning routine sets his footing for the day. As Professor Runge, he takes as little pleasure in his morning calisthenics as Inspector Runge had. Exercise, he suspects, will never be something he enjoys simply for its own sake. He does, however, enjoy keeping his body as fit and trim as his mind, so he classifies exercise as a pleasurable activity. His mind spots the trick, but allows it.

True pleasure comes at breakfast. Learning to cook takes some trial and error, but he does excel at analyzing data. It sometimes feels odd to use his (considerable) skills for something as mundane as improving his cooking, but the food...

The food is delicious. Each morning, Runge cracks open his soft-boiled egg and spies the golden yolk and feels a pleasant stab of something he never thinks to catalogue, so he's never quite sure what to call it. Pride? Anticipation? It doesn't last long. He has a schedule to keep, and more importantly, soft-boiled eggs are best enjoyed while the yolk is warm and runny.

He shares that fact with his daughter when she finally accepts one of his invitations to breakfast. It surprises her. "You never seemed to enjoy food before."

Truth, he's learned, works best with her. Especially when it involves admitting his failings. "I didn't." He taps a quick sequence on the table. The memories of countless family meals spin through his mind. They're sterile affairs. Thanks to the distance of time, he can see the evidence of strain, can see the clues he'd ignored because his home life was not one of his investigations. "Which is a shame, since I never told your mother she was an excellent cook."

"Is an excellent cook." She lifts her chin. If she wants to hurt him, there's plenty she could say (her mother is happier now) but all she does his hold his gaze.

"Is," he concedes.

The challenge fades from her eyes. "Perhaps I'll come again."

"I'd like that." He'd like his grandson to come, too. His invitations extend to both of them. She knows that, though, just as he knows her trust is hard to earn.

She gathers her purse and coat. "You're a good cook." She flashes him a quick half-smile. "Not excellent like mom, but good."

He walks her to the door. "I'll keep practicing."

"Then I will come again."

They're supposed to look forward to a picnic on their day off.

The BKA still values his expertise. They consult him on occasion, and there is no shortage of conferences to attend, presentations to prepare, lectures to refine. His days off are much like they were before, though barring the occasional consultation, most of the cases that occupy his mind are solved. The rest are so old, they'll never be solved. Both have value in his classroom.

He does have one personal investigation he conducts in secret. It galls him to think he may never solve it. Even if he had full use of BKA's resources, he cannot recreate destroyed records or resurrect the dead for interrogation. Wolfgang Grimmer's real name may be forever lost, and Johan Liebert may never resurface, but what is life without a worthy challenge?

He needs something to replace Tenma.

Runge must recreate Johan Liebert's last known location in his mind. There have been fifteen new patients in Johan Liebert's room at Bavaria State Police Hospital since the man's escape. Runge can visit the room, but there is no longer any lingering trace of Johan Liebert, and the feel of the subsequent patients interferes with his methods. It is easier to access his memory of the room from the familiarity of his home office.

"I am Johan Liebert." No, that is not right. "I have no name. Names are like clothes, easily changed and discarded, but I do value my Johan Liebert costume. It connects me to my sister." Yes. That is better.

Runge turns to his right. The hospital room has a large window. He sees it superimposed over his bookcases. Runge works his fingers and pulls up more of the memory so he can feel the weak sunlight on his face, see the flutter of the curtain, smell the freshly mown grass of the hospital's lawn. "But even with the connection, I am adrift. I must find answers before I seek out Anna again."

But where are those answers?

They are not in Southern France. Oh, the mother is there, safely tucked away in a convent, but all she says to him is that she went to the same university as Mendel. Runge does not think Johan has visited. She'd show fear, not sorrow.

He visits Grimmer's grave on his way home. It is, perhaps, odd to leave half of his sandwich and beer as an offering, but Runge is content being a little odd.

They're supposed to enjoy a good beer after a hard day's work.

He sees Detective Suk two to three times per year. Most of their encounters are at conferences. There's an annual profiling conference in Prague Runge makes a point of attending, and Detective Suk is once again one of his agency's rising stars, so they bump into each other throughout Europe. They're pleasant encounters. There are not many people Runge considers his friend, but Detective Suk is one of them.

"You know who was here last month? Or was it April?" Detective Suk motions to the bartender for another round. He's had two beers to each of Runge's. Either they make men sturdy in Prague, or Detective Suk is more accustomed to going out for a round with his fellow inspectors after work.

Runge never did at the BKA. He'd called it childish and stupid. Now he's more honest: he hates muddying his head. But he knows his limits, and the pub Detective Suk suggested has an excellent lager. Plus, he's already given his conference presentation, so if he does overindulge (something he's apt to do in Detective Suk's company), he can nurse his hangover in the back row. Or skip the final presentation entirely. Doctor Lander's work is hardly groundbreaking.

"Doctor Tenma!" Detective Suk sets his glass down carefully. Runge catalogues the data point. If Detective Suk has two more beers, Runge will see him home. Just as a precaution.

"Oh? I'm surprised."

"Ah. There was some medical conference." Detective Suk waves a hand. "He looks good. Healthy."

"I would imagine so, now that he's no longer a fugitive." Or a media celebrity. The newspapers no longer report on Doctor Tenma. There are more thrilling stories than a series of murders from years ago. The case's popularity is even fading in academic circles.

"Do you ever see him?"

"No." He exchanges Christmas cards with Eva Heinemann, of all people. That's as close as he gets to Tenma.

"No? He asked about you."

Runge's fingers twitch. That's an unexpected piece of data. "I'm surprised."

"Maybe he'll look you up the next time he's in Germany." Detective Suk raises his glass in a toast. "Two of you can drink to Grimmer."

"To Grimmer." Runge drains the rest of his lager.

Perhaps, Runge muses as Detective Suk walks him back to his hotel, he should contact Tenma. But he's already apologized, personally and professionally. He can't imagine what else Tenma might want from him.

It seems that we've arrived at the same place from entirely different clues.

Sometimes, the sound of rain extracts his memories of Ruhenheim, and he sees the ghostly image of that street, of Tenma standing at the far curb. They're both thoroughly soaked. The rain pounds its message into Runge with each icy drop: wrong, wrong, wrong...you compiled the data all wrong! He is never wrong, but the man before him is Tenma. Doctor Kenzo Tenma. Not Johan. And he knows he'd find Tenma and Johan, each in their own body because he'd been wrong, wrong, wrong!

He experiences a moment of gnawing emptiness. Now what does he have left? Tenma filled that emptiness before, but the Tenma with the stooped shoulders and ragged hair and shocked expression was never Johan. So what will fill the emptiness?

He is on vacation. But Ruhenheim is killing itself. And he is in the street with a rifle being beaten down by the rain (wrong, wrong, wrong...your conclusions are all wrong!) trying to save what's left of the town. His actions are not noble. The tinder in this town blocks the solution to the puzzle that is Johan-not-Tenma, so of course he'll douse the fire before it burns even more out of hand. It's in his way.

And Tenma's actions...no, they're not noble either, though they're closer to the mark than his. Tenma wants to stop Johan to save these people, not to solve a puzzle. Tenma's here out of guilt. Not the guilt of a killer (there's that emptiness again, so quick to devour false knowledge) but the guilt of a savior.

And there it is. Runge's solution. Hasn't he been saying it all along? He's a police officer, bound by both duty and oath to protect the public. He will do his job. He will thwart Johan's plans. And then he will question Doctor Tenma, input that data into his hard drive, and form the correct conclusion. Then he will...then he will move on.

He is Henrich Runge. Disgraced inspector Henrich Runge. Estranged husband and father and grandfather Henrich Runge. Perhaps he can salvage himself, but that must come after he fulfills his duty here.

"Doctor Tenma."

"I-Inspector Runge." Just like in the real Ruhenheim, Tenma's reply breaks the barrier between imagination and reality, and Runge returns to his present self.

"I am Henrich Runge." His fingers work, and he files himself in his proper place.