I stand like stone in the middle of the room and stare out of the window.
My gardener is looking in at me; the expression on his face is almost cheerful. The spell breaks and my anger is back, as if someone had flicked a switch—the anger and the piercing headache. Those Siamese twins.
‘Why are you doing that?’ I yell.
He frowns. He doesn’t seem to have heard me, but he can see my angry face. I fling open the window.
‘What the hell is this?’ I ask him.
‘What’s what?’ Ferdi asks, puzzled, looking at me with his big, brown boy’s eyes that are both out of place and touching in his wrinkly face.
‘That song you were whistling…’
I don’t know how to finish the sentence; I’m afraid that Ferdi’s going to say, ‘What song?’ or something like that, and then I’d have to scream—scream and scream and scream and never stop.
‘Don’t you like the Beatles? It’s a great tune!’
I stare at him.
‘What exactly were you whistling by’—my mouth is dry—‘by the…by the Beatles?’
Ferdi looks at me as if I were completely off my head. Perhaps he’s right.
‘It’s called All You Need is Love. Everyone knows it!’
‘It’s funny,’ he says. ‘Since I heard it coming from your house yesterday, I’ve had it stuck in my head.’
Now I’m wide awake.
‘You were here yesterday?’ I say. ‘But you’re never here on a Thursday.’
I can feel my knees trembling.
‘Yes, but you said the other day that I could arrange my time to suit myself, so I thought it would be okay to come on a Thursday just this once.’
For a few seconds, I gape at him.
‘Should I have let you know?’ he asks.
‘No, rubbish,’ I stutter. ‘Of course not.’
I don’t know what to say. My face feels numb.
‘Ferdi, I need to speak to you. Would you mind coming in for a moment?’
He looks confused. Maybe he’s worried I’m going to sack him.
‘Well, I was actually about to pack up. I’ve got to be getting on to another client.’
‘Just for a second. Please!’
He nods uneasily.
On the way to the front door I try, without success, to put my thoughts in order. When I reach the door and fling it open, Ferdi is already on the doorstep.
‘Did I frighten you or something? With my whistling?’ he asks.
‘No, you didn’t, but—’ I stop short, not wanting to go into it standing in the doorway. ‘Come on in first, Ferdi.’
He wipes his feet, leaving big clods of dirt on the doormat, and steps into the house.
‘Sorry,’ he says, rolling his R in that inimitable way of his, and I wonder at the fact that I’ve never got round to asking him where his dialect is from. Ferdi’s been looking after my garden for many years now and it must be making him nervous that today, for the first time, I didn’t greet him with a smile. He’s not as young as he was—must be well past retirement age, despite his dark hair and dark brown bushy eyebrows. I like him a lot, and apparently he either needs the work or enjoys it because he’s never shown any sign of wanting to give up. That’s for the best: it would break Bukowski’s heart if I lost Ferdi and had to look for a new gardener. Bukowski loves Ferdi more than he loves almost anyone else.
As if on command, I hear a noise upstairs. Bukowski has woken up and, at the sound of our voices, he comes shooting down the stairs and jumps up at us—first at me, then at Ferdi, then at me again, and I almost have to laugh at him—my dog, my mate, this bundle of fur and energy.
I pick him up, take him in my arms and hug him to me, but he has no truck with my sentimentality, and twists and turns until I let him down again, then begins to scamper up and down the hall, chasing invisible rabbits.
Ferdi shifts his weight from one leg to the other, like a schoolboy expecting trouble.
‘It’s nothing serious, Ferdi,’ I say. ‘Take a break and have a cup of coffee with me.’
My knees are like rubber. I go on ahead into the kitchen. If Ferdi really did hear the music, then maybe it means that… And then everything else might also…
Not so fast, Linda.
I offer my gardener the kitchen chair I sat on yesterday (was it really only yesterday?) to have my photo taken. He lowers himself with a groan, but only because sitting down with a groan is the done thing at his age; it’s all put on. In actual fact, Ferdi is fitter than I am.
As the coffee machine gurgles, I grope for words.
‘So you were here yesterday and got a song stuck in your head?’ I say.
Ferdi looks at me, his head on one side. Then he nods, as if to say: Yes—so what?
‘You really heard that song?’
‘Where?’ I ask.
‘Through the window. I didn’t want to bother you, I really didn’t. I saw you had visitors.’
I can see Ferdi hesitating.
‘Why do you ask?’ he finally says.
How much should I reveal?
‘Just wondering,’ I say.
‘Wouldn’t want you to think I’d been eavesdropping,’ Ferdi adds.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ I say. ‘That’s not why I’m asking.’
The coffee’s ready.
‘Well,’ he says, ‘the windows were open yesterday and I was digging in the bed outside the dining room when I heard the song. The music was quite loud. But you’ll know that.’
I want to laugh and cry and rage all at once. Instead I take two cups out of the cupboard.
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Of course. I was there.’
As if on autopilot, I pour the coffee into the cups. This new piece of information is more than my brain can cope with.
‘No milk or sugar for me,’ says Ferdi.
I hand him his cup and, clasping mine, I take a sip, then put the cup down when Bukowski comes bounding up to me and starts licking my hand.
I play with him for a while, almost forgetting that Ferdi is there until he says, ‘Thanks for the coffee. I’d better be on my way.’
Bukowski runs off after Ferdi, yapping and wagging his tail, leaving me to sink back onto the chair in a daze.
What kind of game are you playing, Herr Lenzen?
So the music was real. I wasn’t imagining things.
But if it was real, who was behind it? Victor Lenzen? Because he’d read my book and come to the conclusion that I’d react to the song in the same way as my literary alter ego Sophie? Yes, if the music was real—and real it was, because I wasn’t the only one to hear it—then Victor Lenzen must have been behind it. Because he had a plan. He was lying when he said he couldn’t hear it.
Hang on a second. Thoughts are fluttering inside my head like a flock of startled birds. The photographer was there too! He must have heard the music and should have reacted to it in some way!
Unless Lenzen had an accomplice.
That’s too weird, Linda.
It’s the only possibility.
It doesn’t make sense. You’re not thinking straight.
What if one or both of them put something in my water or in my coffee?
Why in God’s name should the photographer be involved?
He must have been.
A conspiracy? Is that what you’re thinking? Lenzen’s right; you need help.
Maybe the photographer tried to warn me. ‘Take care of yourself,’ he said on his way out. ‘Take care of yourself.’
It’s just a turn of phrase.
I get up. I cross the hall and dash upstairs—trip over, stumble, struggle to my feet, take the last steps up, run along the passage and reach my study.
I boot up my laptop and, still standing, begin to type with trembling hands—type and click and search—searching, searching, searching for the homepage Victor Lenzen showed me on his phone. Spiegel Online, August 2002: ‘Our correspondent in Afghanistan.’ I search and search. It’s not possible—how did he do that? But it’s true. I can’t find it; it’s vanished—the archive page with Lenzen’s reports—with Lenzen’s alibi.
It’s not there.
Jonas relished the feeling that spread through his stomach as he sped along the dark road. He was exhausted and wanted to get home.
His head was buzzing with all the facts his team had gathered that day concerning the second murder victim. Apart from the physical similarity, there was no connection whatsoever with Britta Peters. The search for a culprit from the small circle of shared acquaintances had been called off for the time being. They would have to come up with another method of approach. It wouldn’t be easy.
After work, Jonas had let off steam as best he could with some boxing practice and had felt a bit better afterwards. Since seeing Sophie Peters, however, the relaxation that goes with hard physical training had been blown away. She was the reason he was taking this case so personally. He wondered whether it was having an adverse effect on him—whether it made him overlook things, make mistakes.
Sophie had been different this evening. She had seemed gloomier and more vulnerable. It was only a feeling, but Jonas instinctively reduced the speed at which he was hurtling along the road. He’d seen Sophie’s face before him—her look of resignation. The way she’d said, ‘Goodbye, Superintendent Weber.’ So sad, so final.
Should he drive back? Rubbish.
Sophie wasn’t the kind to harm herself.
Less than a quarter of an hour later, Jonas was lying fully clothed on his bed. He wanted to have a rest before going over the case again in his study. He could sense the emptiness beside him that his wife had left when she’d gone to live with her best friend to ‘get a few things clear in her mind’. Jonas closed his eyes. He had the feeling that he was at last stepping off the carousel of thoughts he’d been riding round on all day.
When his mobile pinged with a text message, he gave a groan. Maybe it was Mia? Picking the phone up from the bedside table, he didn’t immediately recognise the number, but eventually it dawned on him. Sophie.
Jonas sat up and opened the message.
It consisted of only two words: He’s here.