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The Trap: Chapter 35


I am rudely awakened from a dreamless sleep by a telephone ringing and don’t at first know where I am. Then I recognise the hotel room where I’m staying for the time being—until I’ve sorted myself out and know where I’m going to live. Bukowski looks at me sleepily with one eye.

Instinctively, I grope for my mobile. I can’t find it, remember that it’s somewhere in the police station, realise that it’s the landline ringing and pick up.

‘You’re harder to get hold of than the Pope,’ says Norbert reproachfully. ‘Do you realise that Blood Sisters is coming out today, madame?’

‘Of course,’ I lie.

In fact, I hadn’t given it a second’s thought.

‘Tell me, I can’t get to the bottom of all this: have you really given up your hermit’s existence? Are you out?’

I almost smile. Norbert has no idea what’s gone on since his last visit to my house.

‘I’m out,’ I say.

Merde,’ Norbert shouts. ‘I can’t believe it! You’re having me on!’

‘I’ll tell you everything in good time, okay?’ I say. ‘But not today.’

‘It’s incredible,’ says Norbert. And then again: ‘It’s incredible!’

But he does eventually recover.

‘We never talked about your book,’ he says.

I suddenly realise how much I’ve missed Norbert. I suppress the urge to ask him what he thought of it, because I know he’d like to be asked and I feel like winding him up a bit. So for two or three seconds neither of us says anything.

‘You don’t seem to give a toss what your publisher thinks of your novel,’ he says at last, ‘even though he’s been bending over backwards for you for years. But I’m going to tell you anyway.’

I try not to laugh. ‘Fire away,’ I reply.

‘You conned me,’ says Norbert. ‘It’s not a thriller; it’s a romance disguised as a thriller.’

I’m speechless.

‘The press hates the book, by the way. But, funnily enough, I think it’s good. Maybe I’m getting old. Oh well, I thought I’d let you know. Not that you’re remotely interested, of course.’

Now I really do have to laugh.

‘Thank you, Norbert.’

He snorts, half amused, half peeved, and hangs up without another word.

I sit up. It’s the afternoon; I’ve been asleep a long time. Bukowski, who’s been dozing beside me, gives me a suspicious look, as if he were afraid I might go off and abandon him again, given half a chance.

Don’t you worry, mate.

I recall Charlotte’s face when she opened the door to me and, for the second time today, I have to laugh out loud. I’d dropped by to pick up Bukowski, and Charlotte had stared at me as if I were a stranger.

‘Frau Conrads! I can’t believe it!’

‘Nice to see you, Charlotte. I just wanted to pick up the dog.’

Bukowski had appeared on cue, but he didn’t jump up at me as he usually did; he stood there, perplexed.

‘I think he’s as surprised to see you out of the house as I am,’ Charlotte said.

I crouched down to let him sniff my hand. He did so, shyly at first, and then he started to wag his tail and give my hand a good lick.

I return to the present. There’s such a lot to do. First of all I want to go and see my parents and find out how they’ve digested the news. Then I have to go back to the police, speak to my lawyer—all that. I have my work cut out for me, but I know I can cope. Something inside me has shifted. I feel strong—alive.

Outside it is slowly turning to spring. Everything is coming back to life; nature, too, seems to sense that something new is beginning. It is stretching and flexing.

I think of Anna. Not the angelic Anna I’ve spent the past years creating in my mind and in my writing, but the real Anna I used to quarrel with and make it up with. The Anna I loved.

I think of Lenzen, who is dead and whom I now won’t be able to ask why there were flowers in Anna’s flat, or whether she liked cut flowers when they came from him.

I think of Julian.

I climb out of bed, have a shower, get dressed. I order breakfast from room service. I feed Bukowski. I listen to my voicemail that’s almost full. I water the orchid that Charlotte has returned to me, its buds about to open. I write a to-do list. I eat. I ring my publishers and my lawyer. I have a bit of a cry. I blow my nose. I arrange to see my parents.

I leave my hotel room and take the lift down. I cross the lobby towards the exit. The automatic doors open.

My name is Linda Conrads. I am an author. I am thirty-eight years old. I am free. I am standing on a threshold.

Before me lies the world.


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