It was an elegant break-in.
Léonard's knowledge of the corridors and hallways, the offices, and the locked doors quickly served him. Together with Monique, they were able to march through the main entrance after wandering over the bridge from the side house. The labyrinthine vaults and outbuildings served to impress, intimidate, and confuse the visitor. Rarely had ordinary employees found the highest floors or the most diverse basement rooms.
What stands in the Empire itself as the epitome of security and secrecy – the Maiden´s Well - was in the Free Duchy the Seelenherz Inc. There was no right or wrong way. They all led to the main building like the tentacles of an octopus. Like a heart that served only the brain, the corridors and hallways pumped workers and employees through the countless corridors to keep the economic organism alive.
Léonard felt wonderful. It reminded him of his wild escapades through the domains. The many games of hide and seek came to an end, before which he liked to play cops and robbers for once.
An invisible coldness shaped the harmony of the couple. They knew that somewhere within the walls the abbey was waiting for them.
"It's like Knokenhofen. They feel at home in these labyrinths," whispered Léonard, "Like woodlice seeking the dark, you scare them away with light."
Monique sought shelter. She was not entirely comfortable being alone with him. She saw the red and yellow glowing eyes of the cowls everywhere. An eerie, strange choir sang behind them. The head allowed itself a prank. Women's voices made a chant of otherworldly power. Everything disintegrated into spidery shadows as he operated the lift.
White clouds and large windows served as wardens along the way. Startled, she grabbed his arm.
"Do you see them already?"
"They're everywhere." he muttered, "They're waiting for us to meet. They won't come out on their own."
"You have already described it in your letters," Monique said softly, "They are like shadows. You are one of them as soon as you enter their sanctuary."
Léonard pushed his fiancée aside as the lift doors opened. With a sweep, they had managed to see a cowl as it went up. Or was it a curtain carried by the wind?
"How many will there be?"
"Haarmann will be there. And my source, I hope."
"Haarmann is enough. He's crazy enough."
A relief, rather a healing, swept over them when they were above ground. It was a new beginning of permanence. Cowls flitted. Chants chased. Red eyes, green, yellow.
“Haarmann, unfortunately, interfered with my game with my source. I think that's why my source has been so quiet since Kapellengarten.”
Across a courtyard, chilled by the snow and the cold of the night, they came through open doors to the lift they had been looking for.
"He should be waiting for us up there," he croaked.
It took half an eternity before he woke the filing cabinets with a lot of noise. The journey upstairs took even longer. He looked at Monique.
"You're not well," he spoke uncertainly.
The blanched Monique supported herself on the lever.
"Wait here. I'll be right back."
"I'm sorry. For my stubbornness."
"You chatterbox." she smiled, "I did what I wanted."
The well gave water. The lamps were doing their work. The door to Haarmann's office was the only one open. A bitter kiss served as a brief farewell.
Agitated and speechless, Léonard strode across the tiles into the office.
“I´m here," he opened the conversation.
A nod. Nothing more. He accompanied the nameless cowl through another room. Light gave meaning to life. The black casket resided on a table. Lonely and abandoned, it resembled a trap. In a moment, the cage was going to come crashing down on him. A reach for the cursed thing irritated Léonard.
The cowl had placed the casket in his hands.
"You have what you want," someone spoke optimistically.
"I thank you for that," Léonard returned.
"Keep following the cowl."
He recognised Haarmann's voice. Hidden under a cloak, he concealed his identity. A staircase led further up.
"Your fiancée is in the lift," Haarmann spoke calmly.
"She is not well."
"That is a pity. But it doesn't matter. I'm interested in you."
The roof of the company was lined with nothing.
The view during the night served as a philosophical haven for the owls. Occasionally a little bird flew past the three figures. A few lights illuminated the town's castle. More coloured lanterns brightened the Ice Lake near the horizon. In the darkness lay his flat. Somewhat disoriented, he thought of Monique.
Léonard held the casket tightly in his hand. He didn't mind the cold. The footprints in the snow were his testimony to existence. As if to applaud, Haarmann clapped and made an ignorant face.
"Now we are up here, and I have no idea what this is about."
"I haven't heard from you in a long time," Haarmann frustrated.
"I have nothing to do with you."
"Cheeky brat. She's not your girlfriend."
With one powerful blow, he slammed the back of the second cowl's head.
"I don't understand anything anymore," Léonard admitted, "You know that I'm only interested in the caskets. What game she plays with the Abbey or you with her, I don't care. I did what she said and nothing more."
"Well, my dear Léonard," Haarmann grinned, "as you know, I explained to you in Kapellengarten that Medeais not the boss. The abbot is our supreme master; in other words, he decides what we do."
His acting left much to be desired, he circled around the silent person.
"But he knows nothing. Or did you think he would allow Mother´s caskets - which we have been searching for for four hundred years - to be given away as easily as a glass of wine?"
"They have nothing to do with the matter. That is her business and mine alone," he interjected, “We have a contract.”
"I know I'm not supposed to interfere, but this profligate woman is seriously planning to give our caskets to a fool like you," he hissed angrily, "so it's clear that I can't be absent from intrigues. It´s time that we make a contract, a real contract that is between the Abbey and you.”
Léonard remained silent.
Haarmann pulled out a wide envelope and handed it over reverently.
"What are you doing?"
"Objectively, a contract. Read it!"
Squeamishly, he opened it and pulled out the contents. Medeapeeked out from under her hood while Haarmann gleefully let the corners of his mouth grow into a big grin.
Léonard´s eyes skimmed the lines at the beginning. As time went on, he read names and terms that not only confused him but completely took his breath away. His conjectures were ultimately a chaste theory. There was no proof. Now he had a filigree contract before him.
"I can't do that."
"Think of it!" pointed out Haarmann, "You'll get the last casket in Virchow. You know you can't say no and she no less."
He hit her in the back of the head again.
"I am sorry that you had to deal with such a fool. Had I not been in Weidenfelsbucht when you visited us, I would have gladly welcomed you to our abbey. I would not have made such a game of it," he laughed ominously.
"We're not here to sign that contract," Léonard said, "I don't intend to do that."
"What do you think will be after your demise? You have no choice, you of the Blue Capuchins."
"You are disgusting."
"Am I? And Medea? She's cold as ice, kills, and lies. I'm only here to mediate."
"Leave me out of this, please," she whispered.
"Watch your tongue, cheeky woman! You have steered everyone in the wrong direction for long enough! If our abbot knew that, he would have ordered you back long ago. Such a piece of dirt like you, betraying us for your own good.”
“Aren´t you the same?” Léonard asked, “Who will give me proof that this is not as fake a contract like the one between Medea and me? I do not trust you not to enrich yourself.”
Haarmann meticulously pulled out a pen and bowed as he handed it to Léonard. He almost tore off his robe.
“That´s why there is no trust. There is only the signed word.”
With one eye on the paper, the second on her, Léonard read the contract again. He noticed how an equilibrium had been destroyed. Breaking through Léonard's armour with ease had never been easier. His security granted him a certain freedom. If he lost that quality, it added up to disaster.
"I can't do this."
"You have already put someone's life at risk once. Kamilla Siebenfeder."
"This has nothing-"
"It was a provocation to our venerable order!" roared Haarmann, "How do you like it when someone spills your secrets? Truly a stubborn man! You are not worthy to be a nobleman."
Her counterpart giggled.
"Medea!" cried Haarmann, "We didn't come here for this!"
The cowl held its breath.
"I'm not thinking about this contract."
Léonard put it back in the envelope. With a bow, he thanked him for the letter and the casket. When he came to Léonard, he smiled sheepishly.
"If you don't, we're out the door,” Haarmann said.
"I know. But there are many doors in the world."
Haarmann snatched the envelope from him. When he tried to grab it, the woman intervened and handed it to him.
"What will you have left after you die? Your friends will stand alone in the world, killed one by one. As long as you exist, you must protect them, otherwise…" Haarmann explained, but Léonard looked at Medea.
A brief glance was not enough to recognise Medea's face. Haarmann pulled her back. A third time she received a blow.
"See you in Virchow! You'll think about it."
"I understand so much and so little," Léonard murmured, "I'll think. But not because of you!"
He pointed at Haarmann.
"Because of you."
"Then you may go," he laughed angrily.
With a jerk, he spat in his face. He punched him in the stomach and continued laughing. Léonard took it easy.
"I don't know exactly what's going on between you two, but I don't like your relationship," he spoke, "I'm the most important person at Seelenherz Inc.! I'm in charge here!"
"You are so small-minded. I thought in Kapellen Castle that you were helping her."
"I am justice. I don't help anyone, I judge," Haarmann returned.
Another blow into the pit made Léonard slump briefly. Manically mad, Haarmann turned to Medea.
"I'll probably talk to the abbot about what you're up to, though. This is treason.”
It was the last Léonard heard of them. He was hunched over, holding the contract and casket in his chest. With an unblinking gaze, he wiped his saliva off with the envelope and crumpled it.
"I don't need to think. You are just a meddler. You criticise your members because you are not able to set up something of your own. Haarmann, you will not be my friend."
"I didn't intend to be your friend, you filthy son of a whore."
Haarmann wanted to throw him off the edge of the roof with one push, but Léonard had already jumped off.
The fall into the Flio was forgotten by the population.
Its hero was ousted from the daily newspapers. Valdebourg trembled before a miracle. A miracle that reduced all previous accidents and supernatural deeds to the size of a speck of dust.
The headline travelled from the mountains to Pfalzburg in three days. It is said that even the Baron was interested in the article. It was even reported in the foreign press.
Overnight, Léonard became famous. At the same time, he was a nobody. The texts gave rise to rumours. He was a homeless person. The Goddess had protected him. It was an employee of Seelenherz Inc.
The company denied all allegations and, in the morning, Amon Haarmann and his colleague, Mr. Schummel made a statement about it. Both assumed that the person intended to break in and thus allowed himself entry into the company's headquarters. He - as a representative of Seelenherz - did not give the SG the chance to interrogate and arrest him. His punishment was already bad enough and nothing was stolen, after all.
Amon had personally paid a visit where Léonard apologised.
It is easy to manipulate the media when you have the power and the money. People believe the written word and the voice from the radio rather than an educated man who brought the theory with him. The practice was that with this power everything became possible.
Above the morality of good and evil, such good-for-nothings had already managed to lead entire countries by the nose. Now a city was made a fool of in order to whitewash the nocturnal visit.
Monique had called the three and explained to them in a concise manner that they should come here.
Léonard was in the hospital. The miracle of Valdebourg was a fall from a height of nearly three hundred feet, almost unharmed. The Goddess had watched over him. Priests used it as a façade for a carefree life as a believer, filled with hope.
Julius was the first to know about it.
"This time he exaggerated."
The train stopped in front of the hospital, just by a forest that hid the promenade by the river. The hospital was a sanatorium of nature. The greenhouse-like domes and the round shape, stocked with every imaginable plant, served as a health resort away from the city for the patients.
"He fell from three hundred feet height. Why?" asked Emma.
She had left the newspaper on the tram.
"We'll have to ask him that ourselves."
"It wasn't all planned like this, Léonard," Julius muttered while trying to light a cigarette.
The weather was fine. The snow remained and breathed life into the noble hospital. Visitors stood at the gates, inside the nurses collected the injured. A doctor was trying to chase a magnificent, colourful bird that had been driving him up the wall for days.
"This is incredibly beautiful here," Emma enthused.
"Yes. Different from Regenschloss."
"This is nothing. It's a dump," Emma said seriously, "This is what a sanatorium must look like."
"This way." he brought them back.
A wooden bridge for the visitors and a stone structure for the bedridden led them into the second of the four or five dome-like buildings. Room 124 was their destination.
A quick knock did not serve to tell the patient anything, but to put him on standby.
Léonard lay in bed, smiling at the three of them, while Monique sat next to him with a worried expression on her face.
"The view from the window is not the greatest," he greeted the three.
In fact, the glass gave them the thought of being in prison. Firs and spruces succumbed to the masses of snow and threw them down. Green spray brought exciting night hours.
"You seem fine," Julius replied and closed the door.
"Yes... but I can´t leave..."
“Why? You don´t have any wounds.”
Léonard nodded at Emma.
“Haarmann was pretty quick to get me to hospital and said I need rest, so he can keep me here in prison.”
"Anyway, it's a miracle you were able to do that," Claire said, "What were you doing on the roof?"
He told them about the night.
"So, you have it? The casket?” Julius asked.
"No one is interested in my Hero's Chronicle?" Léonard clowned around.
"That was just idiotic," his friend muttered seriously, "You're crazy!"
"Thank you. You too." he smiled, "We have achieved what needed to be achieved. Now it's a matter of taking you away."
"We're waiting for you to recover!" objected Emma, “Or when can you leave?”
"How long will this last? How long will the Goddess torture me? You leave for Virchow right now! Take the caskets and get out of Valdebourg! I don´t know how long Haarmann will keep me here.”
As if on command, Monique handed them a bag. One could guess their minimal weight, they were like children's hearts, warm and small.
"Haarmann came to see me today, who knows how long he will keep me here? All the doctors are his friends.”
A cactus stood on the ledge. It looked depressed and dry. Claire could understand it well.
"What about you? What about you?"
"The abbey has bigger plans for me," Léonard spoke thoughtfully, "For both Monique and me. You are in danger, for they already know that you are travelling with us."
Emma opened her mouth.
"There is no time!" said Monique, "Take the last train to Virchow tonight. Do it for us! Should the abbey become aware of us, the caskets will be in danger!"
"They're giving them to you, aren't they?" defended Emma.
"Léonard, I don't understand it anymore either," Julius interjected.
"The Mönchsberg Abbey is not actually after me. My source - Medea- has been my help for years. If at first, I really assumed that she was summoned by the abbot to stop me somehow, I now realise that she acted headstrongly. That's why Haarmann was there in Kapellen Castle. He has nothing whatsoever to do with it, and yet he now nestles himself into the leading role of our game," Léonard explained quietly, "Or I'm very much mistaken and it was all planned to confuse me. I guess I won't realise it until I get to Virchow."
They had no idea what Léonard meant. He himself did not quite see through it. He had to wait for another meeting before he could know the whole truth.
"Now smile a little!" he interrupted the gloomy mood, "I feel better already because you came here. But now I want you to leave Valdebourg. I'll see you at Virchow! And Julius; take care of them!"
END OF CHAPTER XIX