"Piątek's novel is not only a satire on the heartless contemporary media but also a tale of the emptiness, sterility, and loneliness that so painfully torment today's thirty-somethings. 'Heroin' and 'Several Nights Away from Home' show that Piątek already has a style of his own: slightly ironic and spiced with intelligent humour." (Mariusz Czubaj)
Several Nights Away from Home is a crime novel by Tomasz Piątek, whose first novel Heroin was a big success. Information about the mysterious disappearance—and subsequent murder—of some young people appears on the internet before it is picked up by any other media. One of those who disappears is the leader of a cult rock group. Another is a much talked-about female TV announcer despised by members of the youth subculture. The protagonist, a journalist named Maciek Niwiński, begins an energetic investigation with the help of several colleagues. The police are also investigating. Then one of Maciek's fellow journalists becomes the next victim. The situation becomes increasingly confused and begins to resemble a nightmare—it is hard to tell whether it is taking place in the mind of the protagonist, on the computer screen, or on television. Everything falls under the sway of a weird logic. Old friendships and loyalties disappear. The rules become increasingly opaque and the world goes off the rails…
I recognised his voice, and the way it sounded over the telephone, but not his face. Who was he? Someone I had talked to on the phone? To jog my memory, I repeated to myself exactly what I had said a moment ago, the sentences, the words, the intonation. And suddenly I understood what it was all about.
He was talking about Criminet. This was not about somebody killing people in order to obtain a news story. This was a matter of somebody having created something like a net in order to draw evil thoughts out of people, act them out, and then, in addition, to tell the tale via the internet. So that evil, in mental form, would keep spreading. Criminet did not mean "an internet service about crime." It meant, simply, "a network of crime."
They draw evil thoughts out of people. Then they act them out and also publicise them. But how do they draw them out? How do they draw them out, since these people swear that they've never told anyone about their thoughts, anyone at all? How is it possible?
I knew that answers to these questions existed, and I slowly began to get a sense of what the answers were. I knew that if I thought about it some more, I would find a rational explanation.
The whole idea was, in fact, so straightforward that it did not bear thinking about for long. Yet in its simplicity it was so extraordinary that you had no sooner stopped thinking about it than you started again. A net, an organisation, or whatever, that reached into the deepest hiding places where people keep the worst things they possess. The net knows how to draw them out and perpetrate them in public. But why? Why do they do it?
Could someone simply have come upon such an idea and needed to carry it out because it was beautiful?
The phone rang again.
"It's that reader again."
"Put him on."
"Maciek," the quiet voice began again. "I have to tell you something else, which I'd rather not talk about."
"That story I told you… That story about the monstrous thoughts. You're starting to like it. You're starting to like the idea. You might start to want it to be the way I told you about, because you liked the idea. And that idea will start to grow inside you, until it eats you up. You'll feel like a complete monster, and so you'll be happy about controlling that inferior being. But you're the one who'll be an inferior being, except that the monster will blind you by transferring its own feelings to you. And then it'll be able to eat you up."
At her computer, Anka started shouting, which further upset my equilibrium.
"Can we meet face to face?" I asked him.
"Of course not."
He hung up again. I turned to see why Anka was shouting.
Her computer was turned on, and she was on the Criminet website. I leaned over to read the news: "A twenty-six-year-old reporter from Warsaw, Adam Litwak, was murdered yesterday in the vicinity of Kretomin, near Koszalin. His body, discovered on a forest path, bore marks of torture. Among other things, the perpetrators had burned his naked, bound body with red-hot coins. Adam Litwak had recently quit his job and become a volunteer worker at a center in Kretomin for boys from local juvenile delinquent gangs."
Before I could finish reading it, Anka had managed to soak my whole T-shirt in her tears, pressing her face into the Rat from the Poisoned Sewer. I sat down on her chair.
"What the fuck's going on?" asked Beata in her own inimitable way.
Nobody answered. I was remembering how Adam had once slept in the back seat of the car. We were driving at night and the street lights shone on his face at intervals. He was there, and then he was gone.
Anka was already sitting in my lap. I thought that, if she had behaved differently, Adam might not have gone off to those little gangsters. She must have sensed what I was thinking, because she began sobbing even louder.
After a while, I called Teresa.
"You know what happened," she said when she heard my voice over the line.
"You too," I said.
"Come over here right away," she said. "Alone."
I made my way through all those plexiglass rooms to her office. Teresa was drinking whisky and sitting looking at Criminet. It must have hit her, but it was hard to tell how badly, since she had been to another one of those non-verbal communication training sessions, which relaxed her. She poured out a glass for me, of course, but I didn't want any. At the moment I felt that dulling myself a little wouldn't make the hurt any softer. It would only make me softer, and then the hurt would be all the worse.
Adam goes on the front page, of course," she said. "Above the fold or not, depending on whether anything mega-important happens in politics today."
I took a sniff of the whisky.
Translated by William Brand