On a spring morning, two and a half years before Claire´s birthday, where the blossoms were shedding their pollen and the birds were singing their songs, the once independent village of Weymouth was shocked by the headline in the daily newspaper.
Rarely was there news that could throw a village - a whole country - into turmoil. Perhaps too little had happened, and this news hit like a bomb.
With the appearance of the first newspapers to the residents, the old people could talk more about it in the afternoon at the inn. They connected this murder with a visit by two men two years ago (around four and a half years before Claire´s birthday).
A young woman, just seventeen years old had been killed. For the people of Weymouth, it was clear that something strange was coming. Just as the wind from the east was cursed as bringing disaster, doubts now arose about having trusted those two men.
The Weymouth residents wondered to what extent the once-reclusive du Murnaux clan was involved. They quickly remembered the two young men who had upset the entire village with their appearance some years before.
Reaching the community school could be done comfortably by tram. Surrounded by spruces and firs, the old monastery lay in the middle between Asteneck, Weymouth and Pfalzburg. The tasteless monstrosity had become a fusion between baroque architecture and new-modern architecture.
Linoleum was extremely popular. Squeaky doors with narrow windows too. Small rooms for large classes and a courtyard with sprawling roots gave a bad impression of the school. Therefore, the teachers were handpicked by the headmaster to give the young people of the surrounding hamlets an education like the ones in the big cities, without any fuss about the Goddess, preached by monks and priests.
The bell woke them all from the nightmare.
The endless corridor to the rector led past empty halls. Pictures of the hostile places hung side by side. Windows gave a view of the inner courtyard. The du Murnaux siblings did not need to knock, they were expected. The door stood ajar.
The office was plastered with wall cupboards. Books were everywhere. Between them were forgotten azaleas and portraits that had fallen off. The desk was large and wide, yet it offered too little space. Between tomes, a glass, stamps and a magnifying glass, school documents cavorted. Its best years were behind it, and the same was true of the armchair.
Albert Reck, with his coal-black, combed hair, the magnificent moustache, and the rectangular glasses was a wise old man by his age, which seemed unknown to everyone. He had a big nose. His tomato-shaped face made his eyes large and round and his broad, long eyebrows could grow together when he grimaced. His deeds were far back: his family was the adopted children of the du Murnaux, and his hobby was his profession; he was a historian. His sallow, wrinkled appearance was taken by many as a sign of old age, yet it was rumoured that he was not even sixty.
"Sit down," he spoke anxiously.
He put a map away. Karoline and Stephan du Murnaux followed his words. They knew what it was about. It had flown to them with the newspaper. Reck seized his authority as a leader and closed his eyes.
"It has been a long time since I called you here. I am surprised that you have found the way."
Karoline smiled unimpressed.
"You know it," he murmured.
He put the daily newspaper in front of her. The picture, which took up half the page, was oppressive, memorable, it burned itself into the cornea. How could they even print that photo? The writing underneath was no better; it cried out for blood. Those menacing, spiteful letters became devoid of content. The picture was the main focus. This room defaced and with stains everywhere that were obviously blood, the shattered window glass and the hair lying on the floor between torn clothes.
"Whoever committed this murder was not a righteous person."
The eldest took the paper closer. The lines were skimmed, a list came to three more pages with the subject. She did not think of giving the newspaper to her brother. Carefully she had put it back.
"There is nothing to discuss," she expressed.
"It has been a long time since the country has mourned like this. And yet there exists a group of people who have longed for this day. It has taken three months. An eternity for all of them." the rector explained, "I should have seen it coming."
"We were called to you now, for what?" asked Stephan.
"They were with us. Léonard de Waarfay and his friend, the writer. The time has come to find out more about him."
"Where is he? Do you know where he lives? He was silent towards us," Karoline admitted.
"I will try to locate his sister. We can't notify Julius. He has too much to do with himself," Albert spoke. "I want to know who we've been messing with. His recklessness is deplorable."
He paused, racked by gloom. With a jerk, he folded up the newspaper.
"When they showed up and they revealed their desire to me, it was an exaggeration to call them fools. He is sincere, I realised, and yet... the whole world is his enemy. I hope I manage to contact him. What they seek must be truly cruel that murder became the consequence. Did they both foresee it?"
"Didn't they say it was suicide yesterday?" interjected Stephan.
"It wasn't a suicide. Léonard and Julius know that too. Certainly, he had his reasons for finishing this book, of course, it gave him hope. But he didn't understand the story. They still exist."
"Nameless people?" whispered Karoline.
"That's what Léonard named them."
A cold shiver came over the old man. In his mind, he cast a dark look at the ceiling.
"What should we do?"
"I will make contact. I have to get Léonard to come here. After that, I'll try to reach Julius. You two keep quiet. We mustn't cause a stir."
"Do you have the book?" Stephan wanted to know.
"It doesn't belong in your hands," he muttered, "We have to be careful not to get their attention."
"Léonard..." Karoline whispered.
"You were really wrong about him," Stephan said teasingly, "You fell for him on the very first day, and now... well..."
"Stephan!" said Albert loudly.
"The poor thing..."
"They knew it from the beginning. It wasn't a secret," the headmaster murmured.
That same evening, Albert Reck wrote a long letter to Léonard. He could not let it fall into the wrong hands. If he and his friend seemed to fail, he was grim at this blindness. If they knew from the start what they were getting into, why had they risked it?
The intention of the two was the same. It merely had a different framework. The rector never received an answer. It had to wait over two years before Léonard got back to him.
The ball was rolling. With his appearance in Sehlingen, two and a half years later, Léonard's continuation began. He seemed to be collecting chess pieces for sacrifice, but he probably never expected the intrigues he had fallen into when he started the game.