Emma had no idea what had happened to her.
She blocked out the last few hours. Memories are deceiving, she thought, after being offered a chair to stare at the cold grey wall. She could not understand it.
Was it all a bad dream? She felt pain. It had to be reality. Her emotions rolled over between uncertainty and fear. Embarrassed and with a bucket of shame, she wanted to cry when she thought of her grandfather. There was no going home to Regenschloss, no warm bed or encouraging dolls in her room. Not a tear came from her eyes.
It had surprised Gerhard Weißmann, the head of the Speckern police station, to see Erich and Philipp doing their duty, so to speak. For their young age, they were feared by the population. Their recklessness had gotten them into inimitable situations several times, like just the other day when Philipp fell into the 100-Mile river with a horse. Nothing had happened to the horse, except for getting a little wet.
He locked the suspects in single cells to get the details. Around late afternoon they were interrogated. Weißmann took care of finding out the truth himself.
The two were in shock; they told what had happened. They found a note that led them to the mill. There they were confronted with the owner.
The inspector listened to them attentively. As a Speckerner, he was familiar with the mansion in Sehlingen. If he had rather expected some boys to break in, he was all the more relieved to hear that they had not known the owner.
Weißmann told them about the connection between the Lödingen murders and a tip from a person that the perpetrator had probably gone into hiding in the old Boulder Mill. As a father of two daughters and three sons, he knew what their guardians would now have to go through. He had notified them after the interrogation. For him, there was no connection between the two and the killer. They must have taken the message for themselves. Fortunately, Emma and Martha had lost the note from Léonard on the way to the mill.
Emma and Martha had to bridge the time in the cells. Furthermore, Weißmann consulted his best police officers to comb the entire area. The escaped prisoner had to be somewhere. He also sent out several telegrams to other stations to warn them of Léonard de Waarfay.
Emma was afraid of her grandfather. What was the future going to bring? Was her name pre-marked in the files? Cruel scenarios came to light about how she would be sentenced. She stood before the Imperial Criminal Police Office and was sentenced to life in prison.
But the HePo were friendlier than she imagined. Some of them brought over water and biscuits.
Around the sunset, Friedrich and Josef picked them up.
Relieved that nothing had happened to them, there was a portion of mercy. The tiny wound on Martha's knee and the torn clothes became a minor ache. The shackles had already been forgotten, only the red spots were still slightly visible. Emma felt like a dwarf between all of them when his grandfather asked a question.
"What will happen to them now?" Friedrich addressed the inspector.
"Nothing at all. We assume that they found the message unintentionally. When we have the real culprit, we can say more," Weißmann replied, "We are now searching for the escaped person."
Josef gave a big sigh as if he had just been freed from all guilt.
"That bastard only brings problems. Why don't we just tear down the villa?"
"There will be no consequences. After all, you are underage and have nothing to do with the whole thing," Weißmann smiled, "Just make sure you don't go out on adventures anymore. If you want to have real adventures, come to the LSG!"
He handed them brochures about the League of Sagauvelian Girls, the counterpart to the League of Sagauvelian Boys (LSB).
“To start a regular life in the Greater Sagauvelian Empire, it is important to begin with this early in childhood,” he explained eagerly. “In some sports clubs, it is already compulsory to be a LS member. In addition to sports, games and fun, comradeship, ties to the homeland and survival exercises in disaster situations awaits you. The bravest and most eager participants of the LSG and LSB could take part in the annual summer sports games, the Imperial and Palatinate Sports Games of the Sagauvelian Empire. Isn´t that exciting?”
Embarrassed, Emma and Martha accepted the booklets and returned the smiles. They both declined an offer of a biscuit on the ride home. Faber's carriage was the place every child dreaded during the journey. What was waiting for them now? It got worse because no one started shouting. The guardians spoke with a conscientious tone. There was no real trouble. Rather, they had already been punished by breaking into the villa. They were lucky to have escaped with the scare. Of course, they had to promise not to let guileless stupidity prevail again. Faber dropped the comment that Léonard had bewitched them to lure them into the villa.
By the next morning, word of the incident had spread. The Sehlingers broke through the door and windows of the villa and destroyed everything that had not already been smashed by their forefathers. They would have liked to set everything on fire but were fortunately stopped by the HePo, who rushed past. Silence remained outside the victims' doors. Neither Emma nor Martha left their rooms.
While it worked for Martha to distract herself, her friend could not resolve this remorse.
Léonard had abandoned Emma. But she was also worried about him. But isn't he also a murderer? How far could he escape with the handcuffs? Tear-filled anger made her pillow fly to the window. An apology could not undo anything. She wanted answers.
After anger came sorrow.
The feverish feeling of a contracted stomach led her to hate and miss him at the same time with every movement.
The hours passed. The departure became brighter. While the flowers blossomed and the world enjoyed the beginning of summer, Emma had the impression on her last afternoon that Sehlingen was the darkness and Regenschloss the light. She wanted to forget everything as quickly as possible. Léonard had become a distant memory. Had she made him up?
No drops fell.
It was cloudy, but not raining. Emma made herself comfortable in her bed one last time. The sadness of not seeing her grandfather for a long time was compensated by seeing her mother again.
She didn't know if it was because of Léonard or because of her. She felt more grown-up. This emptiness cut her off from her family. Emma felt a missing, warm shoulder.
In the middle of the night, she was woken up by a bad dream. After them, she usually hid under the covers and didn't dare open her eyes. Then there was a knock at her window. Lapsed in the nightmare, the knocking did not let up.
The window was gently nudged for five minutes. It resembled a melody. Crouching under the blanket, she reminded herself to have a carrier pigeon there. Goosebumps woke her up.
"It's me, Léonard," came from the other side at some point after the knocking melody came to an end.
Emma ran there, pulled the curtains aside and saw him standing on the ledge.
"How did you get up here?" she whispered after opening it.
Her worries and anger were blown away.
"I'll stay outside. I've got to go in a minute," he croaked and sat down on the board, legs dropping down, "Sorry to have woken you up. I've been knocking on almost every window in the house..."
He looked down at the garden. His climbing skills and balance were perfect. Both were speechless.
For a while, she gaped at him. Embarrassed, Emma wanted to tidy up her messy room. The dolls and teddy bears lay crisscrossed on the floor.
"I'm so glad nothing happened to you," she said, distraught.
He smiled. Actually, she had intended to tell him something different. Now that he was fine, she was getting angry.
"You left us alone!"
“You are innocent. I would have come to help you, don't worry. I just wasn't allowed to come to the station in person," he explained tersely, "Well, I didn't come here to talk about that. I'm here to apologise for what I did. I am also relieved that nothing happened to you. This provincial HePo is not like being out of town."
"Have you ever been arrested by the HePo?"
"No.", he replied with a grin, "A friend. He was chased out of university. Must have been a nice chase when they ran through the city. You could even read it in the newspaper."
Emma was worried. What kind of friends did he have?
"Doesn't matter. He's fine, physically speaking."
There was a pause. She eyed him from head to toe. His presence made her loosen up.
"Who are you really?" she asked with awe.
It was a serious question. The first one where she wanted an answer. Not finding it in his eyes, he turned away.
"It's too dangerous to know more about me."
"You didn't come to Sehlingen to solve this murder. That was too long ago. The real culprit must be dead or a hundred years old by now! “
Léonard took a deep breath.
"I can't tell you everything. It's a game of hide and seek. I don't do it willingly, but it is necessary. “
"I am hiding from nameless people who have found out about me. I thought I was safe here for the time being, but I was deceived. I strongly assume that the murder of the Lödingen officials were these people.
“It is also true that I am not particularly interested in your great-grandfather. I can only say with certainty that these nameless people are responsible for it."
"Who are they? Did you want to meet them at the mill?"
Moonlight entered the room. Rotating clouds and silver light turned him into a ghost. His body seemed to quiver. A cat was jumping around between the treetops. Emma would have liked to pull him in and not let him go. When the clouds cleared, the silver breathed new life into her eyes.
"That's all I can tell you. I want to say goodbye."
"Are you going home? You're wanted now!"
She felt unwell. Unpleasant nausea stuck in her stomach. Acid stained her throat. Stinging swallows made her lose a single tear.
With a gentle finger, he caught it on the cheek. His coldness was in complete contrast to the velvety touch.
"I've been wanted for a long time. Not by that stupid HePo."
"You mean the nameless people, don't you? Who are they?"
"You won't understand it."
"Where are you going?"
She was desperate and could not say why. Had he become so important to her? She held his hand tightly. She wanted to ask a question but didn't dare put it in her mouth.
"Not home. I have a new lead. Because I've just come from this meeting."
"They have shown themselves now? That was a rotten trick of theirs!"
"What happened? Was it the nameless people?"
"Wouldn't you rather know how I got rid of the handcuffs?"
She shook her head.
"You probably have a pocketknife hidden somewhere, right?"
Léonard smiled. He pushed her hand back and knelt on the ledge. He was about to jump down when he turned to her one last time.
"We will meet again, Emma. I'll be coming to Regenschloss soon."
Before she could say anything in reply, he was downstairs. He disappeared through the neighbours' gardens. Nimble as a cat, he sprinted past the Falk family's swing and disappeared into the darkness. The girl stayed at the window for a long time. She was awakened by the cooling wind. Emma was happy.
Léonard is coming back. This time even to Regenschloss!
END OF CHAPTER II