A fool and his money. LawReader Editor interrogated by German Police!

Munich, Germany.  August 27.    By Stan Billingsley, Senior Editor LawReader.com. This story continues a series written by Stan Billingsley on his trip to Europe.

Its not as if I havent been around the block once or twice.   I know about things like going through customs, making hotel reservations, reading a foreign train schedule and even buying a ham sandwich in about seven different languages.  I have crossed the big water on four different occasions, once lived in a foreign country and attended school there….but I guess I was no match for the great pick pocket scam in Salzberg, Austria.

Yes just as the sun was setting in the west and our weary travelers felt the call of home…as our travel adventure was ending about $1000, credit cards,  some travelers checks, my driver’s license (my golf handicap card the bastard can keep) and my health insurance card…(he has socialized medicine what did he need my Humana health card for?) were picked from my pocket easier than Seinfield “touched? (not picked) his nose.

I can tell you when it happened, how it happened, and what the guy looked like..a perfect setup for the idiot American tourist.   Now imagine this and see how cool this was in so many ways…I have  to take my LawReader cap off for this criminal…this was smooth.

The train to Munich pulled into the crowded station in Salzberg, Austria. The train stops about ten minutes to unload and reload, so everyone has to hustle.  We were boarding the 11:03 to Munich.  I had two heavy bags and Gwen was behind me with her heavy suitcase.   Then add about 20 people behind us in line to get on the train.  I was lifting one bag up and a young man already on the train reached down and helped me with my bag.   (“What a nice young man?, I said myself.)   Then I turned around to help Gwen with her bag. With that accomplished and knowing the other people was anxious to get on behind us, I turned down the hallway on the train (it had private compartments instead of being one large train car…and of course the hall way was very narrow.

The young man who had helped me on the train and was in front of me going onto the train, suddenly turned around and started trying to get off the train against me and all the people behind me….I was forced to press against the wall to try to make room for him to squeeze by…and he raised up his bag to get over mine and he bumped against me and then pushed by Gwen and the others behind me and left the train.

About l5 minutes later, as we were entered Germany, already at about 50 miles per hour, I reached for my wallet to pay for a bottle of water I had ordered….and you know what…old “Buzz? Billingsley,  the experienced foreign traveling correspondent didn’t slap his trusty wallet, he only slapped some bare ass…and when his hand came back up it didn’t have a colt .45 or a wallet in it, it just had a fist full of fresh German air.

I knew instantly how this had gone down, and knew instantly that there would be no recovery of that money and probably the rest of the wallet was already being sold to Osama Bin Laden to help finance some Kathousa rockets for Herzbolla.

Well Gwen was right behind me but never saw anything suspicious.  After all I had been handing out large wads of cash to foreigners for the last 8 days!!

I had had my pocket picked clean.  I had violated the number one traveler’s rule…never, never put your fat American wallet in your back pocket!
    
With the help of a very nice Dutch lady who was going back to dutchland after spending some time in her Austrian mountain top bunker, and who spoke both English and German, I was able to report to the conductress of my misfortune…in the slim hope that I had dropped it and someone had turned it in to the lost and found.

The conductress handled the lost part very well, but there was no found portion to this tale of woe.

    I was advised by the Conductress to report the theft to the German police when I arrived in Munich.  I took this as an order and reported to the Bundespolizelinspektion Munchen immediately upon arriving at the train terminal.

    I found the office near track 26.  It had a small discrete sign with the word “polize? painted on a one-way mirror in the heavy metal door.  I pushed the intercom and explained I wanted to report a theft.  The buzzer on the door even buzzed in german.

I entered a small vestibule where they could view me, and then buzzed me through to the next room. Gwen accompanied me for moral support.  As the heavy metal door slammed behind me a chill ran up my spine. I had visited clients in jail and knew the sound of a metal prison door slamming shut behind me.

The police officers looked at me with cool dispassionate German eyes. These guys all had blue eyes…this was not a good sign. I instantly recognized the fact that they knew how to question Americans.  I was told to wait until they could summon a special officer who spoke English after they determined I was a foreigner.

The special officer came to the polize counter and looked at me as if he was sizing me up for the water board or the electric generator. He  waived me through another door.  I realized that one of my nightmare dreams was about to come true.  I was going to be interrogated by the German police deep within the bowels of the Polize headquarters.  Would my Wednesday golf buddies ever see me again?  Did Gwen know to immediately lodge a missing persons report with the American Embassy?  Would the American Embassy even care about me? Damn Rumsfield and his contempt for the Geneva Convention!

Gwen decided that discretion required her to remain in the waiting room while I was interrogated…(I looked at her…raising an eyebrow….trying to send a message of distress… expecting she would grab my leg and scream out loud “don’t take my man,  please don’t transport him like the others..? But no…she avoided all eye contact and started whistling a tune whose title was something like “Oh Happy Day.?)

The officer who spoke English, didn’t speak much English, and didn’t need to. He shoved a pink piece of paper and a pen at me across the metal table that was bolted to the floor of the sound proof room.   (Ah I thought, they have already written out the confession they want from me.  I know how this works, first try the easy way and if they don’t sign the confession…well these people have ways to make you talk!!)

The printed form directed me to give the details of the crime.  I checked it carefully to make sure it didn’t include anything about the Jon Benet murder or the Lindberg kidnapping and concluded that torture was not my thing. I would sign anything they wanted me to.

I was not without training for this type of interrogation. As a retired First Lt. in the National Guard I had received training at Fort Knox in Officer’s Candidate School. At OCS we learned that under the Uniform Code of Military Justice we were obliged to only give our name, rank and serial number and to not disclose the activities or numbers of my unit….and to hold out as long as I could before signing anything.  I have a great deal of admiration for Senator McCain, he held out for five years in the Hanoi Hilton, but these guys were Germans, and I must confess that I caved in immediately.

Now there are a number of you who may be reading this, and if you learn that you are wanted for questioning in the German Republic….please forgive me…I may be the source of your popularity in Munich.  I especially want to apologize to Mike Stevens, my brother Wayne, Mike McMain, Wilbur Zevely, Steve Horner, Jay Bamberger, Mark Modlin, Judge Mike Collins, Judge Charley Moore, Judge Frohlich, the members of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the members of the University of Kentucky College of Law class of l971, and the Vienna Boys Choir.  They seemed particularly interested in Mark Nickolas…sorry Mark, but I was desperate.

After completing the document, the  red headed officer with a chisled prussian face, who was wearing a light green uniform and carrying a Walther PPK pistol on his hip (or was it a Glock?), read my admissions and then took out his ink stamp and slammed it several times onto the pink document. (I wonder if the confession was printed on pink paper as an added humiliation?) I was sure that Gwen, who had abandoned me and had remained in the next room, could hear the loud noise of the stamper hitting the document and was sure that she would think he was “loosening me up a bit?.  Hopefully she will think I put up the degree of resistance that I shamelessly lead her to believe I had given.

Finally, after seconds that seemed like a lifetime, I was handed the pink paper I had signed, and told that the credit card companies would need this when I reported my loss to them.  Having successfully completed his interrogation, and having recorded my passport number and my hotel address, I was released. 

I immediately headed for the first taxi I could find in front of the train station and told the driver to get me to the airfield as quickly as possible..a large tip would be involved.  We took the autobahn.  Our driver was doing over 140 kilometers an hour, but still a parade of Mercedes, BMW’s and 12 cylinder Audi’s passed us in the fast lane like we were standing still. (I couldn’t tell if we were being followed.)  The driver said that motorists sometimes drove 200 m.p.h. in the fast lane on the autobahn…I didn’t doubt him and encouraged him to move over into the fast lane and to step on it. I hopped the next plane to London and left Germany immediately.
 

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