Jeff kept his face hidden with the information card he'd picked up, but after a few seconds, he looked at it more carefully and discovered it had a section in English. He read this to himself, thinking he would only tell Lester the important parts, if any.
It was about riding the subway trains to get where you wanted in Berlin. Assuming, of course, one knew street names or landmarks. Unfortunately, it was no help in determining where to find a Subway restaurant. Jeff was also a little worried because they didn't even know where they had been when they got on. How were they going to retrace their steps back to the motel?
After reading a bunch of commercial propaganda about how great all of Berlin's public transportation was, he found some disconcerting news. Lester better hear this.
He leaned over to his paranoid traveling companion. Lester's magazine was entirely in German, but he'd found some cool automobile advertisements to look at. Jeff whispered, "Psssst. Lester."
"I'm right here, you moron." He would never admit it, but he was tense.
"Listen to this: The U-bahn operates entirely on the honor system, but if you're caught trying to evade paying the fare, the fine is forty euros."
Lester scoffed. "Caught? Ha! Who would catch us?"
"They have undercover spies on the trains."
"Spies on the trains. You think everyone is a spy now because of Chuck and Morgan's silly spy clubhouse under the Buy More."
"You didn't believe them either?"
"What? No way Chuck and Morgan are spies. Maybe Chuck's hot old lady, but the rest of that story they fed us? Ridiculous. John Casey a colonel? Preposterous."
Jeff agreed, but he didn't want to get sidetracked about that now. He pointed to the specific paragraph where he had read the information. "See? They have people who check for tickets and we didn't buy any."
Lester gave him that longsuffering look he'd used less often since Jeff got his brain clean. "Never fear, my pasty friend. What are the chances they'd be checking the one train we happened to run into when we were escaping a mob of fans?"
Jeff peeked over the four-page foldout ad of the shiniest black Mercedes to ever exist, which Lester was using to hide both of their faces while they were reading Jeff's brochure. Sure enough, some dude in a brown suit was walking down the aisle and talking to passengers. The passengers were showing him their tickets. Jeff pointed at the man, who was still a good seven rows away. "I'd say the chances were really good."
The Canadian Hin-Jew's brown eyes bugged out. He repositioned his magazine like it was a shield that would protect him from bullets. "Hide, Jeffrey!"
"Hide. Right." He looked over his friend, who, although not easy to identify behind the Mercedes centerfold, was nowhere near undetectable. "Lester, there's nowhere to go. We should just tell the truth."
"Are you insane? He'll never believe us. He probably doesn't even speak English."
He probably had a point about believing. Two rock stars lost in Berlin who didn't buy public transportation tickets because they were being mobbed by crazed fans? Jeff figured the chances of the undercover agent speaking English, however, were at least 50-50. Europeans were more bilingual than Americans.
While Lester tried to curl up in a ball on the floor, Jeff started mentally rehearsing what to say because there was no way they were going to duck this one.
Their fellow passengers had suddenly transformed from crazed fans trying to rip off their clothes, to highly civilized German professionals who were all exquisitely happy to prove they had purchased tickets. This would be a whole lot easier if someone else had tried to buck the system.
Because they had hidden in the very back of the compartment, the man in the brown suit came to them last. He spoke a short German phrase that may as well have been Martian. Jeff took a deep breath. "Do you speak English? My friend and I don't speak German." He swatted Lester's magazine.
The U-bahn undercover guy nodded and spoke with a thick accent, but at least it was English. "Ja. I need to see your tickets."
Jeff tried to stay calm. "We don't have tickets. We don't have any money. We didn't even want to get on the train. We were running away from our fans."
Brown Suit Dude's face wrinkled up like he didn't understand the word. "Fans? There are no fans in the station. It is not even hot this time of year."
"Not that kind of fan," Jeff said. How did you explain fans using simple words? He gestured around the train. "The people. They recognized us and mobbed us. We're Jeffster."
Lester interrupted. "They were going to crush us and rip all our clothes off."
Brown Suit Dude was not falling for it. Clearly, he had heard every excuse in the book, and probably more than his fair share from tourists who would assume that no ticket-takers or turnstiles meant 'free ride'. "I need to see your identification."
Jeff patted all his pockets, but he didn't even have a wallet with him. What was the point of a wallet if you didn't have any money? Lester somehow produced a California driver's license and handed it to Brown Suit Dude.
The German scrutinized the license with slanted brows. He looked back and forth between Lester and the ID and then at Jeff.
"I don't have any ID. Sorry."
"You are Americans, ja?"
Jeff said "yes" while Lester retorted, "Canadian."
"The fine is forty euros. Per passenger. If you do not pay, I call police at next stop."
Lester spread his wallet open wide with his thumbs and showed him the inside of the bill compartment. "Empty, see? No euros. No dollars. No dinero."
Jeff just shook his head. He'd already told the guy they didn't have money. Maybe if he had his keytar, he and Lester could sing on the train and take up a collection. Was eighty euros more like ten bucks or a hundred bucks?
Jeff stood up and announced in a loud voice, "Anyone wanna buy my hoodie?" They'd been clawing at it just a few minutes ago. Maybe it was worth enough to get them out of this mess. Lester shook his head, but Jeff didn't know if it was a 'you idiot' shake or a 'great idea but it'll never work' shake.
Brown Suit Dude grabbed Jeff by the arm. "Come with me." He slipped Lester's license into his jacket's inside pocket and then said, "You also, Canadian."
Damn. They were supposed to be living their dream and now they were being detained like criminals in a foreign land.
The train slowed to a stop. Brown Suit Dude said something in German to the other passengers. No one moved while the U-bahn spy pushed Jeff ahead of him and dragged Lester behind, moving toward the door. You fickle fans, Jeff thought of the people who mobbed them one minute and completely ignored them in their time of need.
Once off the train, Lester somehow broke free and tackled Brown Suit Dude with a head-butt. Jeff was surprised his diminutive friend would try at all, so he was doubly surprised when the hit caused the spy guy to lose his grip on Jeff's arm as he fell to the ground.
"Run, Jeffrey!" Lester screamed.
If there was one thing Jeff knew, always run from the po-po. He followed Lester as fast as he could, never looking back.
Still sprawled on the ground, Brown Suit Dude shouted something in German to their backs, probably some obscenity. Then again, most German sounded like swearing to Jeff.