woensdag 24 december 2014

The Woman in Red: Chapter 10

10. Important guests

          The castle was enormous with many rooms which competed in beauty. 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 cut 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. Perhaps it’s important that I tell you something about them.’ It was if she had to search for some 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 is one of our best clients. She’s the wife of an import German minister. As frivolous as she is, she probably will flirt with you at the table. It’s her nature, stronger than herself. She’s also a good friend of my mother and it would vex 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 rich dowager who has recently become a widow. In comparison with Frau Bertha she is…,’ she tried to find the right words, ‘… a bit younger and more pleasant to look at. She is one of the most benevolent donors of the Château Dauphin. Without her money the stay 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 couldn’t be but Frau Bertha. What had he said to Katarina… he wouldn’t 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 important 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 acquaintances. Could be interesting. It was just like Katarina said; it was always good to sit together with important 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 not appropriate here. He’s an artist in… different things. Yes, I can’t explain it better,’ she apologized when Jean-Pierre looked very questioning at her.
            ‘He’s a talented musician and plays different instruments. He has a beautiful tenor who makes you almost faint when he sings. I know… he can draw very good. At a certain moment, he has given me a pen and ink drawing of the castle, and it was… sublime, so alike. But what makes him special, is that he is one of the best hypnotists in the country. I’ve seen things; not many will imitate that.’
            Without being noticed, Katarina watched Jean-Pierre very closely. Till now, everything proceeded as planned. Jean-Pierre wasn’t aware he had been drugged on the way to the castle, he didn’t even know where he was. Just the name of the castle and even that wasn’t the truth. Katarina was biting on her lip. How would she persuade him? Everyone had his price. For how much would Jean-Pierre get on board?

© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere 12/12/2014  

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