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The Trap: Chapter 31

I am sitting in a taxi outside his house. To my immense relief, there are lights on; he’s at home. He’s divorced now, but he still lives here. That much, at least, I know. Not that his marital status should be a matter of interest to me in the present situation.

I am breathing a mixture of smells: leather seats, sweat and pungent aftershave. I let my gaze rest on the front steps, and remember how we sat there in the darkness sharing a cigarette, an infinitely long time ago.

I haven’t seen Julian for almost twelve years. At the beginning of those twelve years, I had been convinced that couldn’t be all; that he would get in touch sooner or later—give me a ring, drop me a line, turn up on my doorstep, make some kind of sign. But there was nothing. Superintendent Julian Schumer. I remember the bond between us, as invisible and as real as electricity.

I have missed him. Now I’m sitting here in a taxi outside his house, a classical music station on the radio, the driver drumming the beat on the steering wheel, and time running through my fingers as I try to summon up the courage to get out of the car.

I pull myself together. I stride towards the front door, dazzled partway by the light triggered by the sensor. I climb the steps, ring the bell, brace myself to meet Julian. My feelings are irrelevant. What matters is that he believes me—that he helps me. I manage one deep breath, then the heavy wooden door opens.

A very tall, very beautiful woman stands before me and looks at me enquiringly.

‘Yes?’ she says.

For a moment I am speechless. What an idiot I am. Why had this possibility never occurred to me? The world has carried on turning.

‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ I say. ‘Is Julian Schumer in?’

‘No, he isn’t.’

The woman folds her arms across her chest and leans back against the door jamb. Her auburn hair falls in loose waves over her shoulders. She glances at the waiting taxi, then turns her attention back to me.

‘Will he be home tonight?’ I ask.

‘He should have been back ages ago,’ she replies. ‘Are you a colleague of his?’

I shake my head. I can feel the woman’s mistrust, but I have no choice but to ask her for a favour.

‘Listen, I urgently need help. Can you try to get hold of him on his mobile?’

‘He doesn’t have his mobile with him.’

Oh, Linda. So much for your plans.

‘Okay. Then…could you give him a message when he gets back?’

‘Who are you anyway?’

‘I’m Linda Michaelis. Julian investigated my sister’s murder many years ago. I urgently need his help.’

The woman frowns. She seems unsure whether or not to ask me in to hear what I have to say—and evidently decides against it.

‘Tell him I was here. Linda Michaelis. Tell him I’ve found him—the man from back then. His name’s Victor Lenzen. Can you remember that? Victor Lenzen.’

The woman stares at me as if I’ve gone mad, but doesn’t reply.

‘Tell him to come to this address as quickly as possible,’ I say, rummaging in my bag for my notebook and tearing out the page where I’d jotted down Lenzen’s address.

‘As quickly as possible, okay? It’s really important!’

I look at her imploringly but only succeed in making her back away from me.

‘If it’s as important as all that, why don’t you ring the emergency number?’ she asks. ‘Julian isn’t the only policeman on the planet, you know.’

‘It’s a long story. Please!’

I hold out the scrap of paper. She stares at it. Without stopping to think, I grab her arm and thrust the paper into her hand, ignoring her startled gasp.

Then I turn and leave.

In the light of the street lamp, the taxi is glowing orange like the setting sun. I make my way back to it on wobbly legs and get in. No more detours. I give the driver the address and brace myself. Lenzen’s face appears before me and adrenalin surges through my belly and mingles with my anger. My body is so full of energy that I find it hard to sit still. I take some deep breaths.

‘Everything all right back there?’ the driver asks.

‘Everything’s fine,’ I say.

‘Do you feel ill?’

I shake my head.

‘Can you tell me what we’re listening to?’ I ask, to distract myself.

‘It’s a Beethoven violin concerto,’ the driver replies. ‘But I couldn’t tell you which. Do you like Beethoven?’

‘My father loves Beethoven. He used to play the Ninth at full blast whenever he got the chance.’

‘The most fascinating piece of music ever written, if you ask me.’


‘Absolutely! Beethoven composed the Ninth Symphony when he was already stone deaf. That wonderful music, all the different parts, the instruments, the choir, the soloists—all those divinely beautiful sounds—came from the head of a deaf man.’

‘I didn’t know that,’ I lie.

The driver nods enthusiastically and his enthusiasm makes me happy.

‘When Beethoven conducted the Ninth for the first time and the final notes died away, the audience behind him went wild with excitement. But Beethoven couldn’t hear them. He turned round to face the audience, unsure how his symphony had been received. It wasn’t until he saw the ecstatic faces that he knew it was good.’

‘Wow,’ I say.

‘Yes,’ the driver replies.

Then the taxi gives a jolt and we stop.

‘Here we are,’ the driver says.

He turns round and looks at me. I look back.

‘Good,’ I say.

I leave the protective cocoon of the car and it immediately vanishes into the darkness. I’m on the edge of town, in a quiet, well-heeled residential area. Bigger houses than in my parents’ street. Avenues of chestnut trees.

I recognise Lenzen’s house. I know it from photographs taken in the early stages of my plans by a private detective I had charged with finding out as much as possible about Lenzen, his family and his social milieu.

For the third time on this strange evening, I’m walking up a gravel path. But this time my knees aren’t trembling, my heart isn’t racing. I am calm. The sensor goes off and lights up my way. I climb the two steps to the front door. Inside, a light is turned on, and even before I have time to ring the bell, Victor Lenzen opens the door to me.

Those pale, clear eyes.

‘I should have known you’d come,’ he says, and lets me in.


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