Claire should have turned around.
Or stop Haarmann when he took her into the lift. Father had come out of his office, especially for her. It was a nice feeling.
But shame and her own inability to return warped this happy memory into a sadistic work. What did he want to say? What had he forgotten or initially not dared to say?
A family party on a sap-green meadow. Dew lies on the smallest blades of grass. The sky dances with the clouds. Laughing children running. Talkative adults and an aura of peace. But I can't show a smile. I sit in the shade. Under a tree and listen to the birds. I see my family playing there, they are a blur. I don't really hear them. I don't want to anymore...
She was sitting in the tram. Beside her, Julius despaired of her. Hopelessly lost in a panic, affected by paralysed knowledge of a forgotten bridge, she had ordered him to leave her alone.
The past that was brought up made her more unstable. It was a terrible moment in retrospect, she wanted to get out and run back immediately. As if the rising pain in her legs could cure her frustration and stupidity.
Did he want to give me his address? Talk about Giselle? About the missing million Kronen? Bolderich? Did he want to mention Mother? What? What?
Further attempts to coax her out of her head-case failed as miserably as the attempt to stop Emma from going into Claire's room when they were back in the apartment. A loud scream changed Emma´s euphoria to understanding.
Claire didn't even stir when the growling stomach trumped the gentle throbbing in the evening. Hungry, she fell asleep.
Was it a wise or stupid decision to sneak out of the flat the next morning, certain that Léonard had been watching her from the living room?
He and Monique slept there. Since there weren't enough rooms and beds for everyone, they slept on the sofa if they didn't have a night ride planned.
Claire's excursion, meanwhile, was limited to the early morning. A wafer-thin layer of fresh snow had fallen, making the streets mysterious and haunted. Anyone could have walked behind the young woman as she sprinted to the tram under the broken streetlights.
It made her daring when Léonard didn't pursue her. He wanted her to go back. Had he planned it from the beginning? For a brief moment, she felt as if he had his own script in his head and she was a character in it.
The rising dusk changed the city. It wasn't Berlyne, she had to say. There she often came home with Daphne early in the morning, around the time when the first underground trains were running. Those long nights and well-rested mornings were a delight, linked to the perpetual cycle of repetition.
Valdebourg was different. It disgusted her. This town was a prison in the mountains.
Seelenherz Inc. was a different order of magnitude. Claire stood alone in front of the many buildings and felt agony. Lethargically, she walked up the steps and opened one of the many doors.
The dimly lit reception hall was empty. Few staff stood in a row and were being snubbed by a cocky gentleman in a suit. Somewhat despondent, she stood in front of the oak tables waiting for a reaction.
It took the boss to teach them that they had to have eyes on their backs, after all, someone was waiting to be served. With this greeting, he said goodbye. Claire's request was listened to and kindly awaited.
“Mr Silberlilie is not present. He usually comes around ten o'clock," the young man explained, "Alfred? Alfred! Mr Silberlilie, human resources manager, he comes later, doesn't he?"
A black-haired man next door nodded without pleasure.
“Mr Silberlilie will not see you."
"Good morning, Mr Haarmann!"
With a well-rested smile, the deputy director greeted the receptionists and Claire.
"He is travelling back to Berlyne today."
Is that what he wanted to tell me? That we won't see each other again until...?
Haarmann laughed almost jealously.
"Didn't you want to see me? That disappoints me."
“No,” she said immediately.
"Come with me, you can phone your father."
His cold hand on her shoulder and the emerging demonic grin went unnoticed by the people at the reception. She became passive. She let herself be led to the first lifts.
"I can write him a letter," Claire defended herself.
"Don't worry, nothing will happen."
Amon Haarmann was obviously angry. His two-fingered beard was vibrating. Was it the cool draught in this narrow room? She got used to the cold hand. Her shoulder turned to ice.
"If the families of my employees are doing well, I am satisfied. Mr. Silberlilie has been very tired and unfocused lately. You can't afford mistakes in his position," he explained.
The endless corridor from yesterday was in front of them. Many steps, more lifts behind them.
The fountain in this strange vestibule spat no water. They took the door straight ahead.
What was going through her head she could not comprehend. Somehow, the surging stomach acid confirmed that she was caught in a trap. Was it a joke? In reality, her father is sitting in his office working and he wants to surprise her. Or she was just dreaming.
"What are you laughing about?" he asked curiously.
"I was thinking of something."
"You always disappoint me," Haarmann laughed with relish.
His office had become the scene. Thousands and thousands of thoughts flashed through her mind as he locked her in. It was excessively large for a single person. With a beautiful view of a geometric street intersection. The straight lines excited him anew every day.
He picked up the phone. It didn't take a while when he handed her the black thing.
"It's your father's turn."
Startled, she took it.
"Claire? What are you doing with my boss?"
"I wanted to come to you. What did you want to tell me yesterday?"
"Glad to hear you're curious. I am leaving for Berlyne. So, if you should visit me, you will find a locked door. Please write me a letter when you travel on."
His voice sounded wistful and cold.
"Yes. I will do that. Aren't we going to see each other anymore?"
"No. I'm off to the main station right away."
Benedikt cleared his throat.
"I... I have realised that you have become a young woman. But please always take care of yourself, all right? Promise to write to me if anything happens to you! I have nothing else to give you."
His words sounded choked out, dishonest, and read. Dreading his next speech, he continued before Claire could reply.
"We will see each other... for next spring? I'll invite Giselle and Bolderich. Maybe I'll be a grandfather by then."
He laughed sincerely.
"Yes. Let's do that..."
"You may bring Emma and Léonard too."
"I have to go, goodbye, Claire. Take care of yourself.”
“Yes?” He replied.
“I´m sorry about everything.”
Claire did not choke out the words. She spoke them like a feather and it felt as if something liberating was swelling in her stomach.
“Don´t apologise for things I´ve caused, Claire.”
She didn´t know why, but Claire thought, that her father was smiling.
“Bye,” Claire said.
A cold shower woke her up. Haarmann took the phone from her.
"Didn't hurt, did it?"
"No." she returned, "Thank you."
"Always happy to. You see, I'm not just a lecher like you think."
"I don't think so."
Gritting his teeth, his hands went to a suitcase. A few documents came to light. Haarmann helped himself to a cigarette. With relish, he puffed the smoke in her direction. Her mistake was to stay. Petrified, her legs were as if expecting something. Somehow, she had to build a conversation. She now understood what Léonard wanted from her. It was Haarmann she was supposed to confront. But what for?
"Do you work a lot with my father?"
"I am present at the training places. Otherwise, I check the contracts. Every now and then, more documents come to be signed. One of our business partners is very conservative. He wants everything signed off by the boss's boss," he explained boredly, "It was a genuinely nice party."
"The one at the Melaten estate. Your friend knows how to celebrate a birthday."
Reminiscing, Haarmann stared at a painting behind her.
"How do you know him?"
"We have business together," he said in surprise, "Claire, don't you know? Didn't he mention it to you?"
"No. We never talked about you."
"And again, I break at your voice!" he theatricalised with strange movements of his head.
He never mentioned him. He was at the birthday... But it was more Monique who was with him... us…
A quiet suspicion came over her.
"He knows a lot of people," she babbled.
"Yes. Please tell him, that he should come to visit me. His contract is due.”
She wanted to nod. Then she squeaked, just as she was about to inhale. Befuddled by Haarmann's entire display in his office, this opaque room unwillingly became a closed, helpless chamber of fear.
"You don't talk anymore, Claire. Do you understand what I'm asking? This is about a contract that has now been left out for some time. Adult business that is important.”
“Correct, Claire. You are not stupid. You can count and see what´s behind my words. But can you also guess that I am a very changeable person? This contract has been on our nerves long enough now and because of you, everything was dragged out because Léonard thought he had to find you. Follow my instructions and everything will be fine. And tell him, that Medea is gone. It´s now my contract.”
"Just give this message to Léonard. Oh, and perhaps a greeting to Mr. Siebenfeder. I almost didn't recognise him yesterday."
"Do people know who you are?" she whispered, disgusted.
"Seven people is not much. But when you decorate such a post as I do, you have the pleasure of deciding who knows and who doesn't."
"Does my father know...?"
She thought Haarmann hadn't heard her.
"It would complicate our relationship. Would you like to call him and tell him?"
Claire replied in the negative.
"Clever girl. May I say that you are remarkably similar to your father in that way? He also sees everything a little sceptically and from a distant perspective. Because he prefers to solve such problems with himself."
He saw her body getting goosebumps all over.
"You don't have to be afraid. Nothing will happen to you. Decide for yourself whether or not to tell Léonard about the message. He hasn't had a meeting with Medea for a long time if I'm not mistaken. It's probably because other strings have been pulled. I wanted to give him the message by myself, but it seems he didn´t like me… The door is not locked, by the way.” laughed Haarmann, "It was your curiosity that locked you in. You may go."
She straightened up and stood by the door. Like an intimidated cat, she managed to touch the handle.
"Goodbye, Claire Silberlilie."
A revulsion came over her. Glad to be alone in the lift, she had to keep in mind in the deserted corridors, where she got lost several times, that she had by no means been dreaming. Haarmann had told her; that a member of Mönchsberg Abbey was in front of her. It was a danger that now emanated from this awe-inspiring building.
During her return journey, she worried. It could be a trap, but to what end? Alarmed at her own pessimistic-black-sighted head, she ran back to the flat from the madhouse.
Her heart had never beaten more wildly. Her legs had never hurt as much as they did today. If she were carrying a bomb that was about to blow up at any moment, a mixture of a hundred things would dice her brain awake. The bet was on. Slipping, she jumped from foot to foot. First, write a letter to father or tell Léonard the situation? She was unsure.
It was the only place in the world where she could hide, she felt no safety when she jumped into Léonard´s arms. Shocked at what she had done, she told him briefly what had happened.
Léonard was surprised and relieved at the same time. He was happy about this news. Of course, he wanted to follow it up immediately. Claire threw in her idea of the trap. His confident demeanour managed to reassure her a little. He would never have expected her to go to Seelenherz Inc. alone.
He told her that he knew Haarmann from Kapellen Castle. He was in hiding and finally handed over the casket to him. Apparently, his source miscalculated and Haarmann interfered to get a piece of the pie too, or the source was a traitor from the start. That's why Léonard explained, that Haarmann was also at the birthday to keep an eye on him.
Claire needed sleep. Léonard had been dealing with him the whole time - through his source. She didn't understand the meaning behind it. Neither did Haarmann, Léonard had concluded. Either he or his source was betraying the abbey, he suspected.
A kind of fainting fit overtook her in the early evening hours. When she woke up the next morning, it seemed to have been a nightmare. One of those she couldn't run away from. Where her legs stood still and everything around her saw it.