Tried in the Fire: episode twenty-six
By her watch, it was near 6:00 a.m. She had recognized the peremptory knock, a funny thing to realize you knew about someone; also, the early hour. But, for having slept in her skirt and blouse, she’d awakened fit, at the least, to answer this summons. Greta combed her hair, blessed the bouclé that would not wrinkle, covered the miserable silk with the jacket she buttoned while hurrying downstairs to usher Kneussl into the shop. As she’d passed through the sitting room, she hadn’t seen the Steiners. Could they have gone out so early?
But they weren’t prisoners; she was a prisoner. “Do I get my bags?” she asked.
“Today I expect you to tell me why you’re here.”
She discovered that she didn’t know what to ask. He ought to be all right. To raise the question was to presume otherwise. “My friend, Mr. Malcolm-Webb,” she began again, “was taken into police custody. Did they let him go?”
“In London, you were reluctant to discuss your purpose in visiting Frankfurt. If there is something you wish to see, you have only today.”
No, he was not going to hear the question. She had nothing whatever she wanted to see, or was even, within the original terms of her mission, required to see. Geoffrey had helped her obtain information she could creditably report. She wanted to go home. Kneussl, she understood, was determined to push her until he believed he had got the truth out of her.
Yet she did want something…only for personal reasons. The request would cause far too much trouble; he would certainly put her on the train.
“Where is this lake called the Bodensee? Is it possible to go there?”
He actually looked at her. “Some hours from here, near Friedrichshafen, of course. As you know.” He held her eyes. “We have an early start, it can be done.”
“That’s my only request, then.” She contradicted herself immediately. “I wish you would tell me about my friend.”
“You will not see your friend again.”
“I don’t believe you!”
Not believing him was immaterial. They were soon in his car, a Daimler, suitable for speed; and this time, she could not complain. She knew they wouldn’t speak during the drive. Their last silent journey had been short; today, they would spend hours meditating, each in isolation.
Tried in the Fire
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(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)