The Woman in Red: 10. Very important guests
The castle looked huge with a lot of rooms each of them competing with another. They were all designed in an eighteen-century style. Lots of splendor and glory, goblin tapestries with hunting scenes, armor and old weapons, beautiful furniture with artistic carved wooden panels. Jean-Pierre looked astonished. He had never seen such things before.
Katarina had given a short explanation about the rooms they saw. They got a name of a color, just as his guest room. Through one of the windows, he saw a big garden delimited by tidy cut hedges. A bit further there behind a grassy plain a forest encircled the castle.
‘Later on we’ll have dinner, Jean-Pierre,’ Katrina told him at a certain moment. He looked at her because she stood still. ‘You’ll meet other guests. It's perhaps important that I tell something about them.' It was if she was searching for words, not certain what she would say to him.
‘There are two ladies and two gentlemen, besides you, who stay at the castle for the moment. The oldest one of the women is Frau Hofmeister. She’s German and one of our best clients. She’s the wife of a very prominent German minister. As frivolous as she is, she probably will flirt with you at the table. It's her second nature, stronger than herself. She's also a good friend of my mother, and it would distress Maman if Bertha Hofmeister should be annoyed with anyone.'
Jean-Pierre nodded. ‘Yes, I can understand that. Be reassured, I know my world. If you don’t mind, Schatz,’ he added naughtily in German. ‘I will not die from a little flirtation, you know.’
Katrina smiled. ‘Our second female guest is Madame Thérèse Dupont, a very wealthy dowager who has recently become a widow. In comparison with Frau Bertha she is…,’ she tried to find the correct words, '...? a bit younger and more pleasing to watch. She is one of the most benevolent donors of the Chateau Dauphin. Without her money the accommodation here would be less luxurious.
At that moment, Jean-Pierre made the connection with what he had seen in the secret corridor. He realized that he had seen Frau Hofmeister in action. If Madam Dupont was the prettiest of the two female guests, the weighty naked woman must be Frau Bertha. What did he say to Katarina…, wouldn’t he die from a little flirtation? Okay, he thought, now it was too late now, and he would take it as it came along. Obviously he had to treat both women with kid gloves if he should believe Katarina. Red velvet kid gloves if she had to choose.
‘Of course we must not forget the men. The Nestor of the two is General Jules Tavernier. Belgian originally, but he lives here in France for a while. He’s part of one or another police force…, I have forgotten the name. His influence is particularly valuable to us. All legally, of course, it's always good to have influential friends in your inner circle.
What a strange mishmash of guests, Jean-Pierre thought while Katarina was giving her explanation. They were all persons he didn’t consider to belong to his usual social habitat. Could be interesting. It was just like Katarina said; it was always good to sit together with influential people.
His female companion touched her earlobe and moistened her lips. ‘Monsieur Charles, I have to admit I don’t know his last name, is the odd one out here. He’s an artist in…, different things. Yes, I can’t explain it more accurate,’ she apologized when Jean-Pierre looked very questioningly at her.
‘He’s a talented musician and plays different instruments. He has a beautiful tenor voice making you almost faint when he sings. I remember..., he can draw very well. At a particular moment, he gave me a pen-and-ink drawing of the castle and it was..., sublime, so alike. But what makes him so special is him being one of the best hypnotists in the country. I've seen things not many will imitate.'
Without being noticed, Katarina watched Jean-Pierre very close. Till now, everything proceeded as planned. Jean-Pierre didn't know that she had administered him some drug on the way to the Chateau. He wasn't even aware of where he was staying. Just the name of the castle and even that wasn't officially the truth. Katarina bit her lip. How would she persuade him? Everyone had his price. For how much would Jean-Pierre get on board?