Tried in the Fire: Inimical (episode twenty-three)
Tried in the Fire
“Now all is finished one’s mind will be easy,” said he, and came home in the evening quite sleek and comfortable. The mouse asked what name had been given to the third child.
“It won’t please you any better than the others,” answered the cat. “It is All-gone.”
“All-gone!” cried the mouse. “What an unheard-of name! I never met with anything like it. All-gone! Whatever can it mean?”
The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership
They stood outside the door of number 62. True enough, this address had proved a shop, but the windows were shuttered and latched. Nothing could be seen through the door; inside, a blind had been pulled down and fastened behind the glass. The glass itself was clean, with only unreadable traces of gold lettering that had once told something about the business…its nature or the name of its proprietor…and had not been thoroughly scraped away. The black paint on the shutters was fresh. Nothing about the façade looked disrespectable, yet the shop seemed unoccupied.
“Fräulein, what is your opinion?”
The question was neutral. The phrasing invited her to make a mistake. Greta had not been expected today; she had not been expected to arrive at the doorstep. There might be a reason for secrecy—if so, the secret belonged to someone else.
Kneussl stepped back and studied the windows above the shop. He went to the door and rapped out a peremptory summons. He waited, listening. The shop had no bell.
“I’m sure it doesn’t matter. I have money,” Greta said. “I can go to a hotel.”
“You’ve made arrangements. If the Steiners have not been truthful with you, I would find that unusual.”
Unusual. She had given him the address; he would have had it checked. She hadn’t thought of it. Greta knew of no reason to lie for the sake of helping these strangers; or of any reason to think they needed help…but she’d been on the verge of saying, “I must have made a mistake about the address.”
Kneussl abandoned Greta by the door. He walked a short distance up the street…he’d left her no instruction. She hesitated where she was, and watched Kneussl observe the scene with seeming abstraction. Everyone on foot was on the move, no one loitered. Traffic was sedate. One did not see the London habit of hauling sideways across a lane, and edging in by jerking forward.
Across the street, at the end of the opposite block, the blank, reflective windows of a grey stone building’s upper story interested Kneussl for a moment.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)