The Woman in Red: 54. The invitation
Katarina pushed the wheelchair where Jean-Pierre was sitting in. He still wasn’t strong enough to walk great distances. However, it was a miracle he healed so fast. Since her visit at the hospital a great burden had fallen off her shoulders. She knew Jean-Pierre loved her, without reservation. She loved him so much too. Katarina would move heaven and earth to pay her debt to him, but she knew that with all the money in the world she wouldn’t be able to succeed in this. She was dressed in a sober black dressing, but whit a red shawl around her neck. Red accompanied her wherever she went.
Jean-Pierre, with the help of Katarina, had gotten into a tight suit, but he insisted wearing a red tie. He amusingly noted that everybody who hadn’t seen it yet now will see that they fitted together. It was a bit before three a clock p.m. and it was a sun-drenched day. A day in spring, one of the first beautiful days. The trees already had knots and the first flowers were showing. He had enjoyed the sight of crocuses and daffodils, the birds outwitting each other with a song. Life was beautiful and being in love made life even more worth living.
The General had invited them in his house that was surrounded by a beautiful flower field. Both sides of his home were flanked by giant oak trees. They majestically crowned the building and emphasized the importance of the person who was living there.
The wheelchair with Jean-Pierre had been carried up the stairs with the aid of two servants, to enter the house. Jean-Pierre took a good look around, but Katarina obviously had already been here and pushed the wheelchair in the direction of the study of the General.
When they entered the man came to greet them. With a big smile on his face, he welcomed them. ‘Katarina, Jean-Pierre, welcome my friends. Wait, I’ll make some place at my desk so you can sit next to each other. Please, don’t watch the mess I make. As a bachelor, I don’t have to take account of a woman and that doesn’t speak in my favor as you can see.’
The man exaggerated because although Jean-Pierre saw a lot of books and papers lying around, there was no sign of chaos or cleanliness. Katarina navigated the wheelchair before the desk and took a seat too. At the question if they needed something to drink they both answered that they were good. ‘Let us move on to the business of the day, General. Jean-Pierre still gets rather quickly tired and I would be a shame if this meeting would be harmful to his health.’
The intonation made the General look up at Katarina. He met her cold eyes, but he didn’t show any reaction.
After he had taken his place behind the desk and he had nipped at his glass of water, he folded his hands together and looked at them one after the other. ‘Katarina, Jean-Pierre,’ he started and cleared his throat for a moment. ‘I’ve asked you to come here to gather up the loose ends. I know you have still a lot of questions but, first and foremost, let me express my deepest regret with the death of your mother, Katarina. I would sell my soul if I could bring her back, but how hard we want it, it’s impossible to turn the clock back.’
He poured some water in his glass with a carafe that was on the desk. ‘Vincent Beau, your mother’s murderer, was not unknown to the police and the legal authorities. He was an illegitimate child of a mob boss and from early childhood went the wrong way. He had worked himself up the chain in the world of criminals and eventually was the right hand of one of the greatest drug mafia godfathers of Europe. They could never catch him in the act and he led a luxurious life with his lucrative salary he got from this drug boss. His specialty was a clean contract killing.
We learned through an informant that they had infiltrated the French government and that they were blackmailing a certain minister with his extramarital practices. This minister was a regular visitor of Chateau Dauphin.’
When they heard the name, both Jean-Pierre and Katarina looked at each other. ‘How did mother came into the picture? Why had she been accused of espionage? I don’t quite understand.’ Katarina seemed nervous and through the tone of her words sounded a trace of impatience.
‘I will come back to this in a moment. So we knew that the French minister had contacts with the drug mafia. We just didn’t know what his role was in their organization. Why were they blackmailing him and what had he to offer? It could be anything and we don’t want to alarm them by taking the minister to interrogate him. That’s why I went to your mother and have asked her the question if she would listen into the conversations of the minister and gather evidence of what he was doing.’
Katarina held her hand in front of her mouth. She was trying to hide her shaking lips because she was reminded of the death of her mother.
‘So you have asked Beatrice, the Baroness, to spy for you, to gather intelligence about the drug gang and their intentions, if I understand it right,’ Jean-Pierre summarized in a calm voice.
‘That’s correct, Jean-Pierre,’ the man behind the desk answered. ‘Beatrice was in the service of the DGSI, the ‘Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure’. It’s because of her activities and the tapes she has made that both the minister and the drug gang have been arrested. By the way, we have found the third tape. Someone of the cleaning service had found it while tidying up the rooms in the Carlton and took it home. The person in question has been fired instantly by the hotel management because of theft of the tape. I can only express my regret that things went that way. I know it changes nothing, but your mother has died while serving her country.’
Katarina had turned pale. ‘General de Tavernier, I do know my mother and I know one or two things about you too. The only thing I can decide about all this is that you have convinced my mother to do these things. She would never proceed to such actions out of her own initiative, not even for her country.’
The General tried to protest, but Katarina lifted her hand. ‘Don’t bother, General. With this knowledge, I can’t look you in the eyes anymore without seeing you as the indirect murderer of my mother. I expect your resignation from the Board of Trustees tonight and furthermore I don’t want to have any contact with you or with your organization anymore.’
The man furrowed his brow and sighed. ‘I had wanted it differently, but you can count on it, I’ll give you my resignation today, Katarina.’
‘Baroness Katarina, General!’ She stood and took the wheelchair of a surprised and startled Jean-Pierre and left without saying a word.