joachim vernau, a lawyer in berlin

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“If I were you …” She looked at me more closely. “It still doesn’t look good on your face. Not that it ever really did look good, you know what I mean. How did you actually knocked those two down?”
“With my legendary right hand.” …
“You got into it with Lukas M. and Marvin P., by the way. Twenty-one and twenty-two years old. Two real sweethearts.”
For a while Marie-Luise and I had shared an office. What had been between us before that was mined territory that we avoided widely. The city was big enough for both of us. While she poured the biscuits into my Bauhaus bowl by Marianne Brandt, which until then had not even been allowed to touch a speck of dust, she helped me in my search for the missing mosaic stones. …
“I have taken the liberty of approaching Vaasenburg and the public prosecutor as your lawyer.”
I could guess what effect her appearance must have had on the authorities. She still looked like a student, even though wrinkles were beginning to appear around her eyes. She was my oldest, my best, my only friend. I was not a social person. One of her commendable traits was to completely ignore that.
“Lukas and Marvin claim to have been passing by purely by chance when you attacked Scholl.”
At first I thought she was making one of her incomprehensible jokes. Then I realised she was serious.

from: Totengebet
(my own translation)

The Good Lawyer of Berlin

Joachim Vernau worked his way up, only to be relegated again. He comes from the circles of the truly still hard-working: his father was on the railway. Verbau decided to study law, which he mastered with brilliance. Eventually, the opportunity arose to join a renowned law firm. It so happened that he became engaged to the daughter of the firm’s owner, a successful, aspiring politician.

This seemed to make a fairy tale of social advancement come true, if … if his fiancée’s family hadn’t been dirty, if they hadn’t had skeletons from the Nazi era in their closet … that Vernau couldn’t let rest. That was the end of the fairy tale for the time being.

Vernau took a deep breath and made a new start.

In the following years, Vernau cares lovingly for his clients and is always there for them. He likes to immerse himself in the cases, research around and – of course – meet corpses and crimes. Vernau is a good man. He is intelligent and can be very charming, but sometimes he is a little too naive. This leads to trouble, he gets into trouble and has to take a beating every now and then – sometimes life-threatening encounters with evil.

Vernau remains alone. His mother, her friend and Marie-Luise are his closest reference persons. I wondered whether he and Marie-Luise might not become a couple after all; even mined regions can be traversed with care.

Vernau’s Berlin is a postcard idyll. There is this typical Berlin milieu with corner pubs and the partly restored, partly run-down tenement houses – pre-war goods. Next to it there is the new, glittering Berlin, as one imagines it, with wealthy residents, rakish politicians, criminal elements … In the middle of it all, Vernau finds his clients or special clients find him.

He no longer resides in a streamlined office suite with lots of windows, a view and a designer desk, but rather in a backyard. However, he keeps in touch with his former partner Marie-Luise, as well as with his old fellow student Sebastian Marquardt, who is doing considerably better – financially, on the fast track with a chic, modern villa and generally. But as it turns out … he is going astray.

What does Vernau deal with?

His cases always touch on the German past. The Nazi era is so far away for him. His time as a volunteer in a kibbutz comes back and gets him into hot water. Obscure associations of the upper class let them live rituals from the pre-war period. Events from the time of flight and expulsion come to light and much more – remnants from recent German history are mixed with current developments such as cybercrime, bribery, fraud, contract killing … Vernau takes everything personally, which on the one hand contributes considerably to solving the complex cases, but on the other hand also steers him into dangerous waters. In the end, Vernau wins, but he also always loses something.

Vernau is now in his late forties, still alone and still sitting in his small, unpretentious law office with a view of the backyard. At least he is always well dressed – at least in the movie versions. Let’s hope he continues to earn enough money to keep swimming in the future.

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a faint cold fear thrills through my veins ... william shakespeare