The Woman in Red: 31. The code
Jean-Pierre had heard what had happened in there. He also had seen where Charles and Katarina had gone inside. He had to find a way to get there too. The only way to get inside the adjoining room was through the place where Katarina was performing her little acting. That’s why he walked as less suspiciously as possible to that particular door, meanwhile sipping from his glass of champagne. With his back to the door, he tried to open the door the door with is hand very carefully. It was less easy that he had thought, and he wasn’t even inside.
Eventually, he succeeded to put silently the door open on a crack. Now it was all or nothing. He turned around very quickly and sneaked in trying to make as little noise as possible. Luck was on his side. He was standing in a small vestibule that wasn’t illuminated. Jean-Pierre heard Katarina laughing because of a joke from Charles. He bit his lip because he was so nervous. Fortunately, Charles hadn’t noticed him. But did Katarina knew he was standing there, had she heard him or expected something. He peeped fast around the corner of the little space he was in.
Katarina needed all her charms to keep Charles away, but obviously, she was succeeding in it… for the moment. It was a shame she hadn’t an earpiece otherwise he could give her a sign. Without realizing he bumped softly with his feet against the doorjamb while he took a step back.
‘Have you heard that too, Katarina?’ Monsieur Charles was saying. Was he discovered? If this half-baked artist walked up to him, he had to be out in less than no time and go back the same way.
‘Come here, Charles, maybe you have doubts about the bet, finding a good excuse for wriggling out of it, isn’t that so?’ With a passionate gesture, she took his head in her hands and pushed it against her breasts while she was turning in that way, that Charles turned his back to Jean-Pierre. She pulled her eyes wide open while she looked in the direction of the vestibule.
Jean-Pierre didn’t need more encouraging. That brave Katarina had indeed seen or heard him. Her diversionary tactic worked excellently. He sneaked in and on the tip of his toes, he walked to the right side where there was another door. He had success because it wasn’t locked. In no time, he was in the other room where the locker was situated.
With a little tubular light bulb, he shone around while he heard Katarina and Charles in his earpiece. ‘No, Charles, I mustn’t do that… yet. I have also to stick to the bet. A word is a word. First, I’ll try to memorize the code. What was it already… 45279 if I remember it well. Just give me some time and I will let you know when you can make me forget it with one of your tricks. Agreed?’ Jean-Pierre could hear Charles panting in Katarina’s brooch, so sensitive the transmitter was.
‘Well, yes… agreed, you’re a very special lady, Katarina. You just want to make me crazy, admit it. But I can still wait for a moment. After all, I’m not an impatient adolescent, am I? Put your best foot forward. We’ll see who has the most power upon the mind.’ And then it became silent.
In the meanwhile, Jean-Pierre had discovered the small locker behind one of the paintings. He turned the code and with bated breath he opened it, hoping the tape was actually in it. Relieved when he saw the tape from the same brand Katarina had bought three new ones lying on a bunch of paper, he breathed again. Quickly he switched the tapes and put the original one in the inside pocket of his suit. Now getting outside again! Would Katarina be so smart to give a signal when he had to take his chance? He carefully opened the door.
It was as if she expected him. She looked straight at him when he was peeping if the coast was clear. ‘Okay, Charles, I’m ready, I give my memory into your skilled hands. Do your thing now.’
Monsieur Charles obviously was elated. ‘Alright my dear, you know the deal we have. That, I won’t erase from your memory. Just the code… and I’ll be fair, you can even guess three times after the code. How about that?’
‘Thank you, Charles, very chivalrous of you.’ Katarina shook her shoulders and moved her head from left to right. She wanted to give him the impression she would strain herself to the utmost not to get under his hypnotic trance.
In the meantime, Jean-Pierre pussyfooted walked to the vestibule and sneaked out the door. His mission had succeeded; he wasn’t discovered. But now he had to save Katarina out of the hand of Monsieur Charles. Who knows what this old man would do to her. He heard the hypnotist talking to Katarina.
‘You’re feeling tired and your eyes are closing…’ Katarina stayed silent in his earpiece and gave no sign anymore. This was the signal that he had to appear urgently.
He took a full glass of champagne and returned to the room were Katarina and Monsieur Charles were keeping their bet. Now he wasn’t light-footed anymore or even unperceived. He entered with a lot of noise and Charles was scared out of his wits.
‘Kat… Katarina, my… I’ve had a little bit… too much champagne, I think…,’ he spoke thickly.’ Maybe you could…, I mean, maybe I have… need for some fresh air.’ His shirt half out of his pants and his tie incredible skew, it all helped to convince his public he was drunk as a skunk.
‘Sorry, Charles… just change your code. We’ll finish this another time, I promise. First of all, I have to ventilate this alcohol monster. Have a nice evening still.’ Katarina walked away with a tottering Jean-Pierre to the exit door and was leaving a dazzled looking Monsieur Charles behind.