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30

Sunday, February 18, announced itself with warm breezes and a vague promise of spring. For anybody who had time to detect promises.

Van Veeteren got up at six, despite the fact that he had been listening to Sibelius and Kuryakin until late into the night. He fetched the Allgemejne from the letter box and established that the picture of Maria Adler was on the front page. Then he went to the bathroom and took a long shower, constantly adjusting the tap to make it increasingly cold, and tried to envisage the coming day.

That it would be long-another in a succession of long days-was beyond all doubt, of course; but he also knew there was a little chance. A possibility that it might be the last day of this investigation. Regarding the arrest, that is. Actually capturing the murderer. Then other things would kick in, other wheels would begin to turn-interrogation, charging, custody, and all the other formal procedures of the legal process, but that was a different matter. The hunt would be over. It would mean that his own role had come to an end, somebody else would take over ultimate responsibility Other officers, better equipped for such a role. Was that really what it was all about? he wondered. Was it really just those ingredients that drove him-getting his teeth into the prey and placing it at the feet of the red-jacketed hunter, black-robed judge? The bloodhound instinct?

Nonsense! he decided, and had a final rinse in icy cold water. These arbitrary analogies.

He left the shower and turned his attention to breakfast instead. Freshly brewed coffee, yogurt, and four slices of toast with butter and strong cheese. He had always found it difficult to feel really hungry in the morning, but today he forced himself. He knew he shouldn't begin today with coffee and a cigarette, as had been his custom for many years when forced to get to grips with the world and life at daybreak.

But on the other hand, he thought as he studied the picture in the newspaper, this chance, this suspicion he had that today might be crowned with success was not particularly strong. Perhaps no more than a pious hope, a chimera, something he needed in order to raise the strength to go to work on a Sunday morning in February.

Who the hell wouldn't need such a stimulus?

In any case, the woman he knew so far only as Maria Adler aroused his respect. If respect was the right word to use in the context.

There was something impressive about her. And frightening, of course. The feeling that she had full control over what she was doing was incontestable. Her way of striking and then withdrawing, over and over again, suggested both coldness and decisiveness. She had remained concealed in Mrs. Klausner's house for a month, had carried out her operations with unerring precision, and now she had disappeared. And as he stared at her everyday, slightly enigmatic face, he tried to analyze what this disappearance might imply.

Perhaps-as somebody had pointed out-it simply meant that she had finished. Her intention had been to murder just these three persons, for some reason the police as yet had not the slightest idea of, and since the task was accomplished, she had chosen to leave the stage.

Or-he thought as he scattered a generous amount of muesli over his yogurt-she realized it would be too risky to stay in the house. She knew (how?) that it was time to leave her hiding place.

Or-a thought one couldn't dismiss out of hand-she had chosen to move a little closer to her next victim. Take up a better striking position, as it were. Malik and Maasleitner and Innings had all been within easy distance of Deijkstraa-the first two in Maardam itself, the third only a few miles away. If it was in fact the case that Miss Adler had several more people on her list, and they belonged to the group who lived in different parts of the country (or even abroad), well, there was naturally a good reason for finding a new base from which to operate.

Van Veeteren started on the toast. If there were any other possibilities in addition to those three, he hadn't been able to think of them. He realized that number two did not necessarily exclude numbers one or three, of course; none of them seemed to him any more probable than the others.

Perhaps she had finished murdering.

Perhaps she had sensed the closing in of her pursuers.

Perhaps she was on her way to victim number four.

By a quarter past eight he had finished both his breakfast and his newspaper. When he contemplated the pale and by no means especially threatening sky through the balcony door, he decided to walk to the police station for a change.

His cold seemed to have given up the ghost, and he thought he had good reason to extend the good start to this day of rest-especially as he was unlikely to get much of that.

Things turned out to be rather worse than he had feared.

By lunchtime the picture of the wanted woman calling herself Maria Adler had reached every nook and cranny of the whole country and those who had managed to avoid it could only have been the blind and anyone sleeping off the effects of their Saturday night boozing.

According to Inspector Reinhart's understanding of the situation, that is.

By as early as eleven o'clock, the number of calls had passed the five-hundred mark, and by not much more than an hour later, that figure had doubled. Four operators were at the switchboard receiving calls; a couple of officers made a preliminary assessment and sorted them into two (later three) groups according to urgency, whereupon the material was sent upstairs to the fourth floor, where Van Veeteren and the others tried to make a final assessment and decide on what further action to take.

Another three women (to add to M"unster's four) had called to say their name was Maria Adler. None of them had anything at all to do with the murders and could prove it, and none of them seemed to be too happy at being called Maria Adler at the present time. A poor woman up in Frigge, the wife of the lord mayor, was called something entirely different, but evidently looked exactly like the picture in the newspapers-she had been reported by four different people in her hometown, and had phoned the police in tears, both locally and at the headquarters in Maardam. The lord mayor himself was intending to sue.

However, the majority of all the calls came from the Deijkstraa area. All of them claimed-no doubt correctly-that they had come across this Miss Adler in various places during the month she had been living in Mrs. Klausner's house. In the supermarket. At the post office. In the street. At the bus stop on the Esplanade and so on. No doubt most of these sightings were also correct; but, needless to say they were of little value to the investigation.

What they were looking for were two types of information, as had been stressed in the press release and repeated in the newspapers and the broadcast-news bulletins.

First: information that could (directly or indirectly) link the wanted woman to any of the murder scenes.

Second: evidence to indicate where Miss Adler had gone after leaving Mrs. Klausner's house on Friday afternoon.

By noon only a regrettably small number of calls had been received in those categories. There might have been indications suggesting that Maria Adler had taken a northbound train round about six o'clock on Friday evening. One witness claimed to have seen her in the station, another standing on a platform where he was waiting for a friend-a woman who didn't quite look like the picture of her in the mass media, but might well have been her even so.

If these two claims were correct, the train in question must have been the 1803, and shortly after half past noon Van Veeteren decided to send out a follow-up message to the mass media, urging anybody who had been traveling on that train and might have seen something to get in touch with the police.

A few hours later a handful of passengers had contacted the police, but what they had to say was hardly of significance. It sounded more like a collection of irrelevant details and guesses, and there were therefore grounds for believing that the train line (as Reinhart insisted on calling it) was not very promising.

By three o'clock, the officers in charge of the investigation were beginning to show the strain. They had spent the day in two rooms, Van Veeteren's and M"unster's offices, which were next to each other, and the piles of paper and empty coffee mugs had increased steadily for six hours.

Hell's bells, said Reinhart. Here's another call from the old witch who's seen our woman in Bossingen and Linzhuisen and Oosterbr"ugge. Now she's seen her in church at Loewingen as well.

We ought to have a better map, said deBries. With flag pins or something. I think we've had several tips from Aarlach, for instance. It would make things easier

You and Rooth can fix one, said Van Veeteren. Go to your office so that you don't disturb us.

DeBries finished off his Danish pastry and went to fetch Rooth.

This is a real bugger of a job, sheer drudgery, said Reinhart.

I know, said Van Veeteren. No need to remind me.

I'm beginning to think she's the most observed woman in the whole country. They've seen her everywhere, for Christ's sake. In restaurants, at football matches, parking lots, cemeteries in taxicabs, buses, shops, the movies

Van Veeteren looked up.

Hang on, he said. Say that again!

What? asked Reinhart.

All those places you chanted.

What the hell for?

Van Veeteren made a dismissive gesture.

Forget it. Cemeteries

He picked up the telephone and called the duty officer. Klempje? Get hold of Constable Klaarentoft without delay! Yes, I want him here in my office.

Now what are you onto? asked Reinhart.

For once things went smoothly and half an hour later Klaa rentoft stuck his head around the door after knocking tentatively.

You wanted to speak to me, Chief Inspector?

The photographs! said Van Veeteren.

What photographs? wondered Klaarentoft, who took an average of a thousand a week.

From the cemetery, of course! Ryszard Malik's burial. I want to look at them.

All of them?

Yes. Every damned one.

Klaarentoft was beginning to look bewildered.

You've still got them, I hope?

Yes, but they've only been developed. I haven't printed them out yet.

Klaarentoft, said Van Veeteren, pointing threateningly with a toothpick. Go down to the lab this minute and print them! I want them here within an hour.

Er, yes, of course, will do, stammered Klaarentoft, and hurried out.

If you can do it more quickly, so much the better! yelled the chief inspector after him.

Reinhart stood up and lit his pipe.

Impressive issuing of orders, he said. Do you think she was there, or what are you after?

Van Veeteren nodded.

Just a feeling.

Feelings can be helpful at times, said Reinhart, blowing out a cloud of smoke. How are Jung and Moreno doing, incidentally? With Innings and that Friday evening, I mean.

I don't know, said Van Veeteren. They've found the right place, it seems, but not whoever was with him.

And what's Heinemann doing?

He's in his office nosying into bank-account details, apparently, said Van Veeteren. Just as well, this would be a bit much for him.

It's starting to be a bit much for me as well, to tell you the truth, said Reinhart, flopping back down on his chair. I have to say I'd prefer her to come here in person and give herself up. Can't we put that request in the next press release?

There was a knock on the door. M"unster came in and perched on the edge of the desk.

Something occurred to me, he said. This woman can hardly be older than forty That means she would have been ten at most when they were at the Staff College

I know, muttered Van Veeteren.

Reinhart scratched his face with the stem of his pipe.

And what are you trying to say in view of that?

Well, said M"unster, I thought you'd be able to work that out for yourself.

It took Klaarentoft less than forty minutes to produce the photographs, and when he had put them on Van Veeteren's desk he lingered in the doorway, as if waiting for a reward of some kind. A coin, a candy, a few grateful and complimentary words at least. The chief inspector grabbed hold of the pictures, but Reinhart had noticed the hesitant giant.

Hmm, he said.

Van Veeteren looked up.

Well done, Klaarentoft, he said. Very good. I don't think we need you anymore today.

Thank you, Chief Inspector, said Klaarentoft, and left.

Van Veeteren leafed through the shiny photographs.

Here! he bellowed suddenly. And here! I'll be damned!

He skimmed quickly through the rest.

Come here, Reinhart! Just look at these! That's her, all right.

Reinhart leaned over the desk and studied the pictures of a woman in a dark beret and light overcoat tending a grave not far from Malik's; one was in profile, the other almost full face. They were evidently taken with only a short interval between: the photographer had simply changed his position. She was standing by the same grave and seemed to be reading what it said on the rough, partly moss-covered stone. Slightly bent, and one hand holding back a plant.

Yes, said Reinhart. That's her, by God.

Van Veeteren grabbed the telephone and called the duty officer.

Has Klaarentoft left yet?

No.

Stop him when he appears, and send him back up here, he said, and hung up.

Two minutes later Klaarentoft appeared in the doorway again.

Good, said Van Veeteren. I need enlargements of these two, can you do that?

Klaarentoft took the pictures and looked at them.

Of course, he said. Is it

Well?

Is it her? Maria Adler?

You can bet your life it is, said Reinhart.

I thought there was something odd about her.

He has a keen nose, said Reinhart when Klaarentoft had left.

Yes indeed, said Van Veeteren. He took twelve pictures of the clergyman as well. We'd better arrest him right away.

At last, said Reinhart when he snuggled down behind Win-nifred Lynch in the bath. It's been a bastard of a day. What have you done?

Read a book, said Winnifred.

A book? What's that? said Reinhart.

She laughed.

How's it going? I take it you haven't caught her?

No, said Reinhart. More than thirteen hundred tips, but we don't know where she is or who she is. It's a bugger. I thought we might even solve it today.

Hmm, said Winnifred, leaning back against his chest. All she needs is a wig. No suspicions, even?

She's probably gone northward, said Reinhart. She might have taken a train. We'll be talking to a guy tomorrow who thinks he might have been in the same coach as she was. He rang just before I left.

Any more?

Reinhart shrugged.

I don't know. We don't know about the motive, either.

She thought for a moment.

You remember I said it would be a woman?

Yes, yes, said Reinhart, with a trace of irritation.

A wronged woman.

Yes.

She stroked his thigh with her fingers.

There are many ways of wronging a woman, but one is infallible.

Rape?

Yes.

She was ten years old at most when they left the Staff College, said Reinhart. Can't be more than forty now-what do you think?

No, hardly, said Winnifred. Awful, but there's something of that sort in the background, believe me.

Could well be, said Reinhart. Can't you look a bit deeper into your crystal ball and tell me where she's hiding as well? No, let's forget this for a while. What was the book you read?

La Vie Devant Soi, said Winnifred.

Emile Ajar?

Yes.

And?

I think I need a child.

Reinhart leaned his head against the tiles and closed his eyes. Sensed two completely irreconcilable images flashing through his brain, but it all happened so quickly that he never managed to grasp their significance.

Assuming they had any.

May I give you one? he said.

If you insist, she said.


| Woman with Birthmark | c



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