The Woman in Red: 36. Friend or enemy?
After a quarter of an hour, Katarina and Jean-Pierre heard footsteps approaching. The door was unlocked and Frau Hofmeister entered the room. She looked very stern and whispered something to the young man who was accompanying her. It was the man who had welcomed them at the villa with his two friends. Those two weren’t with him now.
‘Frau Hofmeister, let me…,’ Katarina immediately tried to tell her story but was stopped by an angry voice.
‘Schweigen Sie bitte! Be silent, please! I don’t want to repeat this. You just answer when you’re asked. Understood?’ Frau Hofmeister didn’t sound as the friendly, fond of laughing woman anymore Jean-Pierre had met at Chateau Dauphin. Her eyes were full of fire and her lips pressed together in anger.
‘I’ve received a very troubling phone call from Monsieur Charles. I probably don’t have to explain what he has told me.’
Both Katarina and Jean-Pierre looked very contrite. Neither of them dared to elaborate without permission. The young man had ostentatiously opened his coat to show that he was armed.
‘I want to know the truth, and I warn you, don’t lie or play games with me or you won’t see daylight for a long time anymore. This isn’t a bluff, I am an influential person here in Germany. If you make fun of me, as with Charles, you will be able to experience this first-hand. Why do you need those tapes?’
The most important question has been asked. Katarina just looked a second at Jean-Pierre as a sign she would speak for them. ‘Frau Hofmeister, Bertha, you have to trust us, you have to believe us. My mother’s life depends on it.’
Frau Bertha frowned and lost a little bit of her self-confidence. ‘Beatrice’s life? What has happened? Come on, don’t let me wait, tell me.’
Katarina cleared her throat and started telling from the beginning. The raid on the castle and their escape through the subterranean corridor. When she talked about Jacques, who had driven them to the ‘Tapis Rouge’ and their escape from the evil plans of the General, her facial expression softened. Their experiences with some help from Cecile, Katarina’s twin sister, wasn’t kept from her too. It was only when she came at the part where Beatrice had been abducted out of the Courthouse by the arrogant gangster that her eyes opened.
‘The man threatened to kill my mother if we won’t steal the three tapes my mother had given to you, Monsieur Charles and Madam Dupont. They would contain secret information a minister has told at the castle at one of his mistresses. I don’t know more. Now you know everything we have done and I swear to you, it’s the full truth.’
Frau Bertha began to pace up and down the room. Obviously she seemed very anxious. ‘I believe you. I know the minister who’s involved and doesn’t blow my mind, he’s involved with that kind of people. My God, I couldn’t have suspected that. Poor Beatrice, she probably almost dies of fear. Of course, you can use my tape.’ She gave a sign to her bodyguard and he freed them of the uncomfortable handcuffs.
‘Forgive me my lack of hospitality but I had to know the truth. I thought you wanted to set up a blackmail thing against that particular minister. We only use the tapes as insurance to keep the business we’re into. We’ll never make money off it. My apologies because I suspected you wanted to do this. But now I think you still have a greater problem than you think.’
‘How is that?’ Jean-Pierre asked, obviously relieved and rubbing his wrists where the handcuffs had been. ‘What can be worse, after all the things we know and have experienced?’
‘The last tape, as you told me, is in the hands of Thérèse Dupont. That’s the problem.’
Katarina shook her head because she didn’t understand why that would be an extra problem with the things that were waiting for them. ‘If we just are honest and tell her the same story we have told you, how things have evolved, wouldn’t she understand that we have to deliver the tapes to save my mother’s life?’
Frau Hofmeister shook her head. ‘No, I think that would be the worst solution you have thought about. I’ve recently found out that she made friends very well with the minister who told some sensitive information. She’s a woman who plays her cards like a professional. She has more important issues in the game than Chateau Dauphin. Interests that are connected with the influence the minister has. Recently she asked me if I had hidden the tape well enough. Suspicious, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, if that’s so,’ Katarina answered, discouraged. ‘We indeed just can forget it to ask it simply. If there’s a second party that wants to get hold of those tapes, it makes things even more difficult.’
‘She probably been warned by Monsieur Charles too,’ Jean-Pierre added while he questioningly looked at Frau Hofmeister.
‘No, I’m sure that’s not the case,’ she said, ‘I’ve informed Charles about her connections with the minister in question and he would not warn her. You can count on that.’
Neither Katarina nor Jean-Pierre knew how they had to proceed from there. They had two tapes out of three, but without the third Beatrice would die anyway!