While the sky above Benedikt merged with the clouds, two women took a walk in a nearby district, free from the smell of the workers. For them it was a day off, which they wanted to use together.
Those who shopped here belonged to the upper class of the Greater Berlyner population. From expensive boutiques to exquisite department stores, Angelboulevard in Apex fulfilled all the wishes of the high earners. You looked in vain for the Kerner chain, Krinksdorf was on the posters of the underground railways advertising new hats or toothpaste, the large cinema sparkled at visitors with the latest silent films and daily news.
Once a truncated causeway to the north to reach the formerly independent municipality of Vena - Cava, Angelboulevard quickly developed into a prestigious residential area. Until the beginning of the Great War, construction was going on at a rapid pace. Villas and flats of the rich and intellectuals, theatres and, of course, department stores sprang up on all sides and corners. Cafés, bars, and cabarets transformed the former moorland into a cultural centre that was alive by day and by night. Not far away there was a zoological garden, and further north at the end of the boulevard was the duke's hunting lodge, forming the end of the more than two-mile-long Chaussee.
In one of the sandstone palaces, the two interested women examined the windows of a bookshop. The choice of topics was limited to natural sciences and politics.
The taller of the two was dipped in golden blonde, shaggy hair. It hid her spectacle frames and red earrings. The dark blue, huge eyes overshadowed the pointed nose with a birthmark.
Her clothes consisted of a black waistcoat, a white blouse, a dark skirt, and tights of the same colour. She was wearing the pumps for the first time. She was Miss Dr Elvira Kaufmann, the only female student at her university, which made her grow into a unique character. Her lecturers were overly impressed because of her daring theories and mathematical knowledge.
But she wasn´t noticed by passers-by.
The passers-by wandered past her companion. Her almond-brown, almost red pinkish hair which she had dyed, was not enough; her light green eyes faded to a yolk-yellow, her contact lenses made her look like a hawk. They were filthy dull and hard to beat for perkiness. The bow-legged woman was stooped, making her look older. She rarely wore her unadorned lilac dress out of the house, but her violet cloche hat was ancient. She was just pulling it down over her hair, which was braided into a ponytail when she heard someone murmuring about her. She had a small handbag with her where she kept her lipstick and otherwise seemed empty. The ankle boots she wore were too big for her, she slipped in them when she walked faster.
Valerie Berg was in her early thirties, which few people knew. Because of her pathological way of exposing everything and everyone, she was not allowed to study. This by no means lowered her narcissism. Her exaggeration and the urge to show herself to the world made her a rather unpleasant contemporary.
"Did you find anything?" asked Kaufmann.
"Nothing like that," her friend returned, glaring at a man with a walking stick, a folding cylinder, and sideburns.
Kaufmann strolled gleefully into the shop.
Instantly the salesman rose, brimming with joy. He immediately stepped up to the blonde.
"Can I be of any assistance to you, my lady?"
The salesman looked irritated at Valerie after she had followed her friend.
"We're just looking," Elvira spoke and walked past him.
"May I recommend the book The Human Politician toyou. It is a daring critique of our current situation," the salesman explained to Valerie.
"Are you unhappy with the current situation?" Valerie spoke aloud, "Unhappy with the HePo, the government and the Imperial Territory Leader?"
"No, not at all -"
"Then stop talking bad about something that isn´t bad. Besides, I didn't want to know anything. I'm just looking!"
The X-legged woman bumped into a table while looking for Kaufmann. The bespectacled salesman disappeared behind the cash register and became a dwarf. Between other customers who moved on in an educated manner, Valerie had to show that she existed. She howled loudly at the titles of the books and announced that she had read them all and none came close to what she loved so much.
"Do you have to be so disruptive all the time?" Kaufmann frowned at her behaviour. Her annoyance was immediately forgotten as she browsed through a tome about animals on other continents. "Unbelievable, such a giraffe."
"I show people that they don't have to be blasé," she said, justifying her actions.
Glancing into the book, she marvelled at the long neck. Fascinated by the hand-painted pictures, she looked for a volume and fell in love with its meticulous and detailed drawings. Both women carried the soft spot for animals. It was reinforced by their previous visit to the zoo.
While Valerie continued to admire the beasts from a world far away from her, the blonde listened to the salesman. He was talking very suspiciously to more customers, desperate to know their origins.
"What's the deal with this book?" she said calmly.
"It's right there in front. I bumped the table."
"The wood also needs to be trimmed."
She wanted to go to the shop window alone, her friend soon overtook her and grabbed the book. Heaps of dull blue publications piled up on top of each other.
The Human politician
by J. Septfontaines
Kaufmann read the back text. At several points she paused and pondered. Only moments later did she put it back, somewhat confused, when Valerie finished reading.
"Elvira, have you read it?"
"You recognise it too, don't you? This book is from him!"
"It's quite possible. I mean the name seems like a bad chosen pseudonym for Siebenfeder."
"We have to report that! That's impossible!" Valerie sounded the alarm, "The last one is not yet half a year old!"
"Aidos will take care of it," Elvira murmured, relaxed.
"Then she knows something about it! You can't do it like that! Why didn't they do it when they could? This is the third one! Wasn´t the death of his sister enough?"
"I guess he has nothing left to lose. Give me the book, I'll pay."
"No! I'll do it!" Valerie defended herself and took the new publication out of Elvira's hand.
After the short detour, they felt the warmth of the afternoon on their faces. Almost blinded by the sun, they had left the building and were standing at the edge of the arcade.
Fun music got the children dancing and hopping around. The organ-grinder continued to turn the hurdy-gurdy. His old military uniform and moustache gave him a drab appearance. The big smile delighted the listeners. A stuffed animal hung down the front and charmed those present.
Angelboulevard was crowded with chic ladies, their expensive dresses, and noble gentlemen. A few automobiles crossed the street. Singing and clapping children saddened Valerie as she and Elvira stood on the pavement.
"I don't like this weather," she grumbled, "It's too warm."
"Every year summer comes. An eternal cycle."
Valerie said nothing.
Her friend sometimes spoke in quotations. Her knowledge of the world annoyed her. Next to her, she felt like a tiny, dirty spider. But she didn't need to know. She was good enough, she told herself.
They wanted to go home.
The large, cross-shaped hall building made of shell limestone dominated the square.
Through the three large gates, they took four steps down and found themselves on the mezzanine level with many stalls. It was reminiscent of a fairground. Billboards and posters hung on the sunflower-yellow walls. A cool breeze mixed with the smell of metal blew towards them. A train was just coming in.
"Quick, the train's here!" the X-legged woman shouted and pulled her friend down the stairs onto one of the three platforms. She almost stumbled out of her boots.
Elvira shook her head.
"We're on the wrong train."
"We're on line IV right now, we have to go to II!"
Her ability to deal with numbers and letters had carried over from her profession into everyday life. She had no problems with these elements. Mishaps meant serious, even fatal losses for her.
Only in the right line did they rest. The tunnel was finished. The train travelled leisurely through the suburbs of the city. The sun pressed its heat into the carriages. Valerie cursed it.
Breaking, it came to a halt. People got off; seats became free. A conductor whistled. The train moved on.
Past the namesake fountain for the station, the washing fountain square in Vena - Cava had been a meeting place for numerous, picturesque street cafés. In the distance, one could make out the city centre.
A side street was entered. It became more lifeless. Crowds showed themselves less frequently. The smell of a cooling cake standing by the window rose to their noses.
Valerie unlocked the front door and the frail landlady rushed at her, taking the woman by surprise.
"Excuse me," the old lady croaked, "A man was here this morning to speak with you. I told him to come back later. He will call you tomorrow at 5 p.m."
"Thank you very much," Elvira smiled.
"Who could it have been?"
"I don't know."
The flat was sealed off from the outside world. Wind brought a new beginning. It poured into the dreary rooms as soon as Valerie opened the windows. The high ceilings were perfect for hanging some pictures. They remained bare except for a painting by Gustav Baumgarten. The tattered curtain was to be replaced. For weeks, the landlady had promised it. Valerie dropped onto the leather sofa and took off her shoes.
"It will have been Aidos."
Elvira did not speak until she had made sure that no one was standing outside the door listening. The landlady had got the bad habit from her late husband.
"What does he want from us?" fretted Valerie. "He has nothing to do with us at all!"
The doctor lit a cigarette with difficulty. She smoked at the window overlooking the city centre. Sky and earth were separated by an uneven, wooded horizon. A mixture of grey and brown was blown into the sky to the south. The chimneys of Ventriculare rose like single, gigantic fingers. From here, Vena - Cava, the millionaires look down to Ventriculare when they want to see their factories, a philosopher once criticised in his work. Lots of output means lots of profits. That, meanwhile, was one of Berlyne's many quotations.
"We'll find out tomorrow," she spoke reluctantly, "He may want to announce himself."
"Medea probably has something to do with it again, otherwise he wouldn't be living with her! Do you know what kind of flat they have?" the little woman got upset, "Something like that must be ours! Not such a dilapidated place!"
"If you took better care of your property and got us better furniture, it might be more liveable here. After all, it's been almost three years since we´re stationed here.... “
Valerie stood next to her. The red eyes sparkled at the smoker. They were the side effects of the yellow contact lenses when worn too long. She took it as a necessary evil. She liked the yellow colour too much not to wear them.
"You shouldn't wear them so long and often," Elvira said calmly.
"They live on the same line! Go to them and complain!" returned Valerie angrily.
She stomped into the bedroom.
"What for? I'm happy with this," she laughed and lit the second cigarette, "Do it yourself."
"No! That woman is damned!" she shouted back from behind the wardrobe.
Valerie came back in her purple chemise dress and was about to enter the bathroom when she heard her partner close the door behind her. With a brief grumble, Elvira lit a new cigarette and blew the smoke into the world as she ran a bath, ignoring her friend outside. The last thing she caught of her was her cursing as she tripped over her own ankle boots.
To the next part:Chapter V.3.