“What time is it?” asked Van Veeteren.
“Half past five,” said Reinhart.
“All right. Let's have a summary, M"unster. And those of you who've been lounging around at home, sit up and listen carefully.”
For the last half hour the investigation team had been all present and accounted for-apart from Jung and Moreno, who had succeeded in remaining incommunicado all afternoon. It was still Saturday, February 17, and they had achieved a breakthrough.
Or a possible breakthrough, at least.
M"unster leafed through his notepad.
“This woman,” he began, “calling herself Maria Adler, moved into Mrs. Klausner's house-into one of the four rooms she has to let-on Sunday, January fourteenth. A month ago, in other words. She said she had enrolled for a three-month economics course at the Elizabeth Institute. There is in fact such a course, which started on January fifteenth, but it lasts for only six weeks, and they've never heard of Maria Adler. When she moved in she paid the rent for half the occupation in advance, she never mixed with any of the other tenants, and she seems to have vacated her room once and for all yesterday afternoon, or possibly yesterday evening. The reason why we know about her is that Katrine Kroeller-one of the other tenants-had seen her with a tape recorder pressed up against the receiver in a phone booth, and she let us know about it after having read in the newspapers about that telephone music… Well, that's about it, more or less.”
“Is that all we have to go on?” asked deBries after a pause. “It doesn't sound all that convincing…”
“That's all we have so far,” said Reinhart. “But she's the one, I can feel it in my bones.”
“So far we've found four different Maria Adlers nationwide,” said M"unster, “but she's not any of them. I expect we'll find another one or two, but I've no doubt we can assume that she has been using a false name.”
“Didn't this landlady check up on what kind of people she let rooms to?” asked Rooth.
“Mrs. Klausner assumes the best in people,” Reinhart explained. “She doesn't know how old she was, nor where she came from-nothing… She assumed the best because her prospective tenant paid half the rent in advance.”
“Our technicians have gone over the room with a fine-tooth comb,” said M"unster. “So we can take it that we have her fingerprints, at least. And if she's on our database, we can identify her.”
“Are you saying she simply cleared off?” asked Heinemann, holding up his glasses against the ceiling light to check that his polishing had been effective.
“Yes,” said Van Veeteren. “That's what's so damned frustrating. If only that girl had phoned us yesterday instead, we'd have had her by now.”
“Typical,” said Rooth. “What does she look like?”
“That bloody artist is in my office with Mrs. Klausner, the girl who rang us, and another of the tenants. He's been sketching away for over an hour now, but he says he needs a bit more time…”
“A photofit picture?” said deBries. “Don't we have an actual photo?”
“No,” said M"unster. “But it's not really what you would call a photofit picture. They've seen her every day, more or less, for over a month. It will be just as accurate as a photograph.”
“And it will be in every damn tabloid tomorrow morning,” Reinhart growled.
“Hmm,” said Heinemann. “But what if it isn't her after all? It could just be somebody who's run away from her husband. Or something of the sort. As far as I understand it, there's nothing definite…”
Van Veeteren blew his nose, long and loud.
“Damned cold,” he said. “Yes, you're right, of course. But we'll take the risk. I also have the distinct impression she's the one.”
“If she's innocent, no doubt we'll be hearing from her,” Reinhart said.
“But the opposite also applies,” said deBries. “If we hear nothing from anybody, we can assume that she's the one.”
“We can also assume that she'll change her appearance a bit,” said M"unster.
“I'm sure you're right,” said Van Veeteren.
Nobody spoke for a while.
“I wonder where she's gone to,” said Rooth.
“And why,” said Reinhart. “Dammit all, there are so many important questions. Why did she do a runner just now?”
“The day before we received the tip,” said M"unster.
“Interesting,” said Rooth. “But it could mean that she's finished what she set out to do, of course.”
“A possibility,” said Van Veeteren, contemplating a toothpick bitten away beyond recognition. “Her task might have been to kill these three, and she's done just that.”
“Has anybody checked her alibi?” Rooth asked. “Just in case. Might she have been away at precisely these times?”
“We've started,” said Van Veeteren. “We'll let the artist finish his drawings first, then we'll have another go at these ladies. But I don't really think they are going to be of much help. They don't seem to have any idea of what the rest of them in that house are up to. The landlady reads two novels per day, and Maria Adler didn't mix with the others. If anybody were to bump into her at the relevant time, it would be pure coincidence. Or an unfortunate happening, one should perhaps say.”
“I get you,” said Rooth.
“How much longer does that artist need?” asked Reinhart. “Surely he doesn't need half a day to create a face? Is there any more coffee?”
“Rooth,” said the chief inspector. “For Christ's sake, go and find out what's happening. Tell him we have to have a picture soon if we're going to be able to place it in the newspapers.”
“Okay,” said Rooth, rising to his feet. “Wanted, dead or alive.”
“Preferably alive,” said the chief inspector.
“That was the last one,” said Jung, looking at the list. “What do you think?”
“I suppose we'll have to hope it was Klumm's Cellar,” said Moreno. “If not, he must have been in Maardam.”
“Good God,” said Jung. “How many restaurants are there in Maardam? Two hundred?”
“If you include pubs and caf'es, it's probably twice as many as that,” said Moreno. “It's a great task, this one. It was such fun talking to all his workmates before we were given it. Why did you join the police?”
“People who are no good at anything become police officers,” said Jung. “Anyway shall we see if we can find this waiter? We might just get lucky. Then we'd better ring round and see if we can find somebody who was with him… Before we start on Maardam, that is. Or what do you think?”
Moreno nodded and consulted her notebook.
“Ibrahim Jebardahaddan,” she read. “Erwinstraat 16… That's just before you come to that sports field, I think.”
Fifteen minutes later Jung rang the doorbell of an apartment on the first floor of a rather shabby three-story block. Fifties, or early sixties. Crumbling plaster and mainly foreign names on the list in the entrance. A bronze-skinned woman on the far side of middle age opened the door.
“Hello… who are you looking for?” she said with a timid smile and a pronounced foreign accent.
“Ibrahim Jebardahaddan,” said Jung, who had been practicing both in the car and on the stairs.
“Please come in,” she said, ushering them into a large room containing about a dozen people of various ages, sitting on chairs and sofas. Some children were playing on the floor. Faint music in a minor key played by stringed instruments was coming from hidden stereo speakers. A low, square table was laden with bowls of exotic-looking food emitting warm, aromatic fragrances that seemed almost tangible.
“Smells good,” said Jung.
“Perhaps we ought to mention that we are police officers,” said Moreno.
“Police officers?” said the woman, but there was no trace of fear in her voice. Only surprise. “Why?”
“Routine inquiries,” said Jung. “We're trying to find out about a certain person who might have had a meal at the restaurant Ibrahim evidently works at…”
A young man had stood up and was listening.
“That's me,” he said. “I work at Klumm's Cellar. What's it all about? Perhaps we should go to my room?”
His accent was less pronounced than the woman's. He led them through the hall and into a small room containing not much more than a bed, a low chest of drawers, and some large cushions. Jung showed him the photograph of Innings.
“Can you say if this person visited your restaurant last week, on Friday evening?”
The young man cast a quick glance at the photograph.
“Is that Innings?”
“Yes, he did. He had a meal at our place last Friday. I saw on TV that he'd been killed. And in the newspapers. I recognize him.”
“Are you sure?” asked Moreno.
“A hundred percent. I've already told my friends that I saw him there. I was the one who served him as well. A few days before he was shot. Yes, Friday it was.”
“Good,” said Moreno. “Do you know who was with him?”
Jebardahaddan shook his head.
“No, I didn't see him so clearly. It was a man, but he had his back toward me, if you see what I mean… I don't know if I'd recognize him again.”
“It doesn't matter. Presumably it was one of his friends-we can check on that in other ways. Anyway thank you very much.”
The woman who had let them in appeared in the doorway with the same timid smile.
“Have you finished? Then you must come and eat with us. This way please.”
Moreno looked at the clock. Then at Jung.
“Why not?” she said. “Thank you very much. We'd love to.”
“We certainly would,” said Jung.
Van Veeteren stared at the picture. Reinhart, M"unster, and deBries were crowded behind him.
“So this is what she looks like?” said the chief inspector.
It was a very well-drawn portrait, no question about it. A woman somewhere between thirty-five and forty it seemed. Quite short, straight hair. Thin lips and a somewhat bitter expression around her mouth. Round glasses, a slightly introverted look. Straight nose. Quite a few wrinkles and marks on her skin.
“He says the eyes were the most difficult,” said Rooth. “So much depends on the moment. Her hair is brown… mousy, if you like.”
“She looks a bit haggard,” said Reinhart. “With a bit of luck we might find her in police records.”
“Have they finished fingerprinting?” Heinemann asked.
“I think so,” said M"unster. “There must be masses of them; she's been living there for a month, after all. I suppose it'll be best if deBries takes care of that, as usual?”
DeBries nodded. Van Veeteren picked up the picture and scrutinized it from close quarters.
“I wonder…,” he muttered. “Manon's spring… yes, why not?”
“What are you on about?” Reinhart wondered.
“Nothing,” said Van Veeteren. “Just thinking aloud. Anyway, M"unster: make sure this picture goes out to every damned newspaper in the land.”
He rummaged around among the papers on his desk.
“Together with this communiqu'e,” he added. “Apart from that, I think the best thing we can do now is to go home and get some sleep. I want you all back here tomorrow morning at ten o'clock. We'll be swamped with tips and speculations. With a bit of luck, we'll get her tomorrow.”
“I wonder,” said Reinhart.
“So do I,” said the chief inspector. “I'm just trying to spread a little optimism and a belief in the future. Good night, gentlemen.”