Chapters 21 - 34

Chapter 21 – Death on the Rialto

Of the two people that morning who saw Celia leave Franz at the door of his hotel in Venice and walk back towards the vaporetto stop outside the train station, Isaiah Kjolo – an African street seller - was the more cheerful. He had just received a new delivery of handmade earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches from his family in Ghana and he knew he’d easily sell them over the next few days to the tourists clogging the city’s tiny streets and alleys. Whistling and with his sports bag over his shoulder, Isaiah walked past Celia, heading for his favourite spot in the Campo di Santa Maria Formosa.
Boran Vukovic on the other hand, who was sitting on the station steps smoking while waiting to see where Celia went, was simmering with frustration. Boran had been hired to tail Celia and things were not going well.
‘It’s an easy job,’ he’d been told by the sharply-dressed young man who came round to see him in his squalid flat in a suburb of Zagreb. ‘The Colonel just wants you to follow her back to Munich and see if she meets anybody on the train. If she does, you get a photo of them with this,’ he handed Boran a small rucksack. ‘There’s a camera hidden under the label, you need to…’
‘I know what to do,’ growled Boran. ‘I was using these things when you were still in kindergarten.’
The young man shrugged his shoulders. ‘Okay granddad. Bring any pictures back to me. Here’s €500 expenses for now and you’ll get a bonus if you get a photo of her with someone interesting to us. And remember, stay out of sight. Got it?’
It was an insult, thought Boran bitterly, that Ivan Kaiec hadn’t contacted him personally. Boran had been in the Colonel’s unit when they invaded Bosnia in ’95. They’d been comrades back then, kicking the shit out of those Serbs and Muslims, covering each other’s backs. Like the time he shot that suicide bomber who was about to blow himself up near Ivan. Or the time Ivan just wagged his finger at him after he fucked some girl he’d found hiding in a ditch outside some flea-bitten village and she’d had the nerve to complain. That evening they’d drunk a bottle of schnapps together and laughed about the whole thing. But in the new Croatia, everything was different. All these big shots with their shiny new careers in business and politics, pretending they didn’t remember anything about the war and what they’d done. Yes, there had been a time when Ivan Kaiec hadn’t been ashamed to know him, but now he only contacted Boran when there was nobody else available to do a job. The young-man had made that perfectly clear. Arrogant turd.
It was the thought of how unfair everything was that mostly occupied Boran’s thoughts. There was Ivan with shit-loads of money, more women to screw than anybody had a right to, and respect from everyone. And there was him with no money, no woman willing to give him the time of day unless he paid them, and no respect from anyone. He’d done just as much as Ivan for Croatia in the war, but he’d ended up with nothing. It made him act a little crazy some times.
And now this stupid English whore was making things difficult for him.
 She was supposed to be going straight back to Munich from Zagreb on the night train, but instead she suddenly got off the train at Villach at two o’clock in the morning and Boran, who had been dozing in his seat in the corner of her carriage, nearly lost her. He’d got off just in time, but then had to hang around in the cold while she sat in a tiny all-night kebab shop outside the station, waiting for the train from Munich to Venice to arrive and chatting to the owner. He’d got a photo of them through the window, but he doubted some shitty kebab grinder was what Ivan was looking for.
In fact the whole trip looked as if it was going to be a complete waste of time. The change of direction had added considerably to his expenses which he probably wouldn’t get back. He’d had to buy a new train ticket from that stuck-up conductor who seemed to be the woman’s husband, while she got given a sleeping compartment. He would happily do something painful to that little prick. The way he’d looked at him when he sold him his ticket, as if he were a piece of dirt.
And now he was in this rundown dump of a city which barely managed to stay afloat. When Boran had been training army recruits he’d sometimes pushed their heads under water when they were swimming across a river, just for fun. He could imagine doing that to Venice, but keeping it pressed down until no more bubbles came up.
He threw away his cigarette butt and followed Celia to the vaporetto stop. There were quite a number of people there, allowing him to keep out of her sight as they waited for a boat to arrive. He stole a map from the back of a student’s rucksack and opened it out to study her discreetly. She was a good-looking woman, he thought. Nice hair, good tits, she’d probably smell clean and expensive. At which point something occurred to Boran, something which could make this job more fun. He’d done it a couple of times before back home and got away with it, why shouldn’t it work here, where nobody knew him? Ivan need never find out. Perhaps he’d even be relieved to have one less thing to worry about. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a little plastic envelope with some small shards of crystal meth inside which he swallowed. The tip of his tongue flicked out as he licked a last crumb off his upper lip. Maybe this trip wasn’t going to be such a waste of time after all.
When the vaporetto arrived, Celia sat near the front as it began its slow chug down the Grand Canal. She always tried to find a seat there and, if she was successful, she felt the buildings, the water and the light lifting her spirits. Around her, and in all the other boats going up and down alongside, people sat and clicked their cameras and Celia wondered how many photographs in the world featured Venice. It was understandable in a way. It was nearly impossible to take a bad photograph of the place. But it meant that many people only ever saw the city through a camera lens.
Her thoughts turned back to her meeting with Ivana Kaiec. Was Ivana right in thinking that Ned’s story could still cause trouble for people? That was more or less what Timothy Arnold had implied and Franz had been worried too. She hadn’t had a chance to tell him what she’d found out yet. He’d been too busy to talk on the train journey and too tired when they arrived at Santa Lucia, Venice’s train terminal. Was she actually putting herself in danger? She shook her head; sitting in the sunshine on a vaporetto, surrounded by tourists and with the Rialto Bridge just ahead, such an idea seemed absurd.
When they reached San Zaccaria she followed the crowd off the boat, undecided where to go. Franz would still be asleep until at least midday, so she had a few hours before they were supposed to meet. She decided to avoid the crowds in St Mark’s Square and go to the quieter Campo di Santa Maria Formosa. She could sit in a café and try to decide what to do next.
Isaiah noticed the lady from the station as soon as she entered the square near his spot. He had spread his wares on a blanket beside a large stone water basin on the south side, next to his friend Adofo who sold replica Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags. He beckoned to her; Celia hesitated for a moment and then went over to have a look.
‘Welcome signora, welcome,’ he said. ‘We have beautiful things ... what about this necklace?’ he held up one he knew his wife had made. It had highly polished black wooden pearls, mixed with small carved quartz stones.
‘It’s lovely,’ said Celia.
‘A beautiful necklace for a beautiful lady. It will bring you and your husband joy whenever you wear it.’
‘How much?’
‘€50. But for you I make a special price, only €25!’
She bought the necklace and then something for Franz, Max and Tante Ilse, and haggled good-naturedly with Isaiah about the prices until they agreed on €50 for everything. Then Isaiah felt €50 was probably too much, so he gave her a pretty hair slide as well.
‘Thank you, Isaiah,’ they had exchanged names by now. ‘When I wear it I shall always think of you.’ She shook his and Adofo’s hand and went across to a café and sat at a table with a book, waiting for the waiter to take her order. It was then that Isaiah noticed the man on the other side of the square, watching her from the shadow of a building.
The idea that had come into Boran’s head earlier while waiting for the boat had grown, driven by the crystal meth running through his system. He found himself fantasizing about her underwear, the colour, the material, the feel … he could barely keep his excitement under control. While she had been buying the African’s crap he’d studied his map, checking the area. He’d worked out that only certain streets in Venice were busy. He knew what he had to say to her so she’d follow him. He’d asked around his contacts in Zagreb to find out why Ivan wanted to keep an eye on her. He could take her up a side street and there would be dark dead-ends or small courtyards with nobody around. He would take his time and enjoy himself and afterwards … well, wasn’t it lucky he’d brought his gun along with him? Once again he licked his upper lip.
Celia had nearly finished her drink when the stranger sat down in the chair opposite her. He looks like a reptile, she thought. His acne scarred cheeks gave his face a scaly appearance and his eyes were cold and blank. She had a vague feeling she’d seen him somewhere before. On the train perhaps.
‘Mrs Thomas?’ he began. ‘I have informations about your brother. Maybe you interested, yes?’
Isaiah watched carefully as the man came across the square to sit with Celia. He was uneasy: something wasn’t right. Celia at first look annoyed, but then the man spoke and she sat up to listen carefully. They discussed something and the man got up and pointed across the square. Celia took her bag, put some money on the table and they left together.
‘Adofo, look after my things. I have to see where she is going with that man. And tell our friends that I might need them,’ and he set off after Celia, as Adofo sent Isaiah’s request to all the other street sellers in Venice by text message.
Boran couldn’t believe his luck. The woman was doing exactly what he’d hoped, following him obediently as he led her further and further away from the tourist trail. He was sweaty with anticipation. Not much further…
‘This way. Hotel not far! Your brother want to meet you…’
There! That street looked perfect! He dived down a small alley and ducked into a tiny courtyard, closely followed by Celia. The walls towered up above them, with all the window shutters closed. It was very still and quiet.
‘Where are…’
He slapped her hard across the face and pushed her against the wall, his left hand tight around her throat, his knee between her thighs and his right hand tugging at her blouse. Celia was shocked but clenching both fists she smashed them against his ears as hard as she could, then kicked herself towards him off the wall with all her strength. Boran, half stunned, was caught off-guard and fell backwards, pulling her down on top of him, releasing her throat. She screamed and then felt somebody tearing her off her attacker.
‘Run lady, run!’ It was Isaiah. He grabbed her hand and they fled from the courtyard, her shoes left behind, running faster than she would have thought it was possible at her age, or at any age come to that. There was a loud bang and the bricks in the wall alongside Isaiah splintered. Another bang and he did a somersault and sprawled across the street in front of her. ‘Go,’ he bellowed, ‘Go!’ and she jumped over him like a racehorse, feeling that she had no breath left but she was not going to stop and be touched by that evil man, she was not. She crossed a bridge, head kept low, fearing another bullet, turned a corner and found herself in a street full of tourists again and could no longer run. She leant against a wall, panting hard, peering behind her. The reptile man was gone and she saw she was not far from the Rialto. There might be a policeman there, she could get help, they could go back to look for Isaiah.
Boran stopped and wiped away the blood seeping from his right ear with the back of his hand. Where had that bitch learnt a trick like that for Christ’s sake?  This was bad, really bad. He couldn’t let her get away. What would happen if they found out in Zagreb about her being attacked and she gave a description of him? Ivan wouldn’t just wag a finger this time. Boran whimpered at the thought of what would happen to him for not following orders.
Think! Think! Where would she go now? He looked at the map. She’d probably go for that large bridge and try to get back to the station and her friend from the train. He could cut her off there. He reloaded his revolver, hurried down the Riva del Carbon and positioned himself in the shade of one of the shops in the middle of the Rialto.
Celia carried on, constantly looking over her shoulder, convinced at any moment she would see the reptile man behind her again. She’d just put her foot on the first step of the Rialto Bridge when someone touched her arm and she nearly screamed again. It was Adofo.
‘Not go that way. Man is up there waiting for you. You must stay away.’
‘But we have to get the police! Isaiah needs help. I think he’s been shot!’
‘No police! Not to worry. We already find him and take him to safe place. But if you tell the police they lock him up. He has no papers.’
‘But how… how did you find him? How did you find me?’
‘We street sellers know every corner of this city. We see everything and everybody and we are running, always running from the police. We know Venice better than anybody else, we know where everybody is.’
‘That man too? That’s how you know he’s on the bridge? But he’s dangerous. He has a gun, he might come after me again.’
‘No, don’t worry. My friends solve that problem for you very soon. Come with me now. Here your shoes. I take you to hotel where your husband stay. Come, come!’
On the Rialto, Boran waited, sweating hard now as the sun began to beat down. He moved to the edge of the bridge, keeping a careful eye out for his target as the people flowed past. Another one of those black men came slowly towards him, offering fake handbags to the tourists.
‘Louis Vuitton, Gucci, only €50 … hey mister…what about you? Buy one for special lady – tell her it real Gucci! Look, look!’
Boran shook his head. God why couldn’t the lousy police in this stinking city get rid of this African trash?
‘No? But mister, mister, look, look – special offer, only €40 for you, nice present!’ The man waved a bag in his face.
 Boran stepped forward to push the bag seller away, which meant he didn’t see the second man coming from behind. The long knife slid expertly up under his ribs and pierced his heart. He never even made a sound as he died.
The two men held him upright for a moment between them, then gently lowered him to the ground with the knife still in place so that no blood should leak across the ground and alarm anybody. They leant him with his back to the marble balustrade of the bridge and one of them carefully placed a half-empty bottle of wine in his lap. Then they vanished into the crowds once more.
For the rest of the day, waves of tourists washed past or stepped over Boran as his sightless eyes kept watch for Celia. It was only when the rubbish collectors came in the evening that anybody realised he was dead.
Chapter 22 – Reunion

Franz didn’t begin to relax until the night train for Munich had left Verona behind it on Saturday night and he’d checked all his passengers. He’d been roughly woken at midday by a bruised and badly scared Celia banging on his door. She’d insisted he come downstairs and give all his money to an African street seller, waiting outside the hotel because the receptionist had refused to allow him into the lobby. They’d spent the rest of the day barricaded in his room as she told him about the attack. He’d wanted to go to the police but Celia had refused.
‘It’ll just cause trouble for Isaiah and Adofo,’ she said. ‘I can’t do that after what they’ve done for me.’
She’d gone over the details again and again obsessively and insisted Franz stay with her. She’d slept briefly, but it was a restless sleep, full of twitches, the muttering of random words and small sobs. After she woke he’d persuaded her to go with him to get some food from a small salumeria across the road and she’d reluctantly agreed, nervously looking up and down the street and clutching his arm as they’d stepped out of the hotel. When they got to the train that evening, Franz had put her in a sleeping compartment and told her to wait for him there and not come out. He’d carefully checked all the passengers, but Celia’s attacker was not to be found. From Celia’s description he remembered selling the man a ticket on the train the night before, a face that creepy was hard to forget. What Adofo meant by saying the man would no longer be a problem Franz did not know. He was just grateful that it seemed to be true.
Between Verona and the Brenner Pass there was nothing for Franz to do, so he quietly let himself back into Celia’s compartment. She was sleeping properly now and he sat at the end of her bed by the window, watching over her. He was filled with admiration at everything she had done since she’d first sighted her brother, nothing seemed to stop her. The thought of what a world without Celia would have been like if the attack had succeeded slowly overwhelmed his senses, making his heart ache and his revulsion with the pornification of everything around them seem trivial in comparison. As far as he knew, he only had one life. Why was he wasting it?
The train jolted and Celia’s eyes flew open. She started when she first saw him, but then smiled when she realized it was Franz.
‘It’s safe,’ he said. ‘He’s not on the train.’
She sat up and touched his face with her fingers.
‘You’re crying,’ she said. ‘You mustn’t cry…’ and then she held out her arms to him and they lay together until, finally, everything was all right between them once more.

Chapter 23 – Burglars
Shortly after two o’clock in the morning Ivana woke up. She wasn’t sure what it was that had disturbed her and she lay there for a while, puzzled. She rolled out of bed, padded over to her bedroom door and listened. Downstairs somebody was moving around in her kitchen and she could hear the sound of drawers being slid open. She swore under her breath, then standing on tiptoe, put her hand on top of the large clothes wardrobe that stood next to the door and felt for the butt of her husband’s double-barreled shotgun. She slid it as quietly as possible towards herself, clicked it open and pushed two cartridges from the box she kept next to it into the barrels.
She listened again, could hear nothing for a while and then the sound of liquid being splashed around. What was going on? She opened the door and moved softly down the stairs, carefully avoiding the seventh step which always creaked. She waited at the bottom, gun aimed at the door and with her heart pounding so loud she wondered the intruder couldn’t hear it. The door slowly opened and a man dressed in black stepped backwards into the doorway, facing into the kitchen and holding something in his hand. He pressed a button and a flame appeared at the top of a lighter.
‘Turn around!’ said Ivana, her voice just a panicky croak.
The man jumped in surprise, then spun round to face her, the burning lighter still in his hand. It was then that Ivana felt what seemed to be a giant’s fist crushing her chest as a massive heart attack burst her aorta, killing her. She gave a gasp and fell forward, pulling the trigger of her gun and blasting the intruder’s legs from under him. As his lighter hit the ground, fire sprang up from the petrol he’d just poured over the floor. He tried to stand but Ivana’s buckshot had destroyed his knees and he could only use his hands to claw his way towards the door, his hair and clothes already ablaze, screaming until the greedy flames sucked all the oxygen from his lungs and his skin began to crackle and blacken.
At the Brenner Pass Franz left Celia sleeping and went to his service compartment to do his paperwork. It was three in the morning so he was surprised when after a while his personal mobile phone beeped. He read the message and went straight back to wake Celia.
‘It’s Max,’ he said. ‘There’s been a break-in at home!’
When the two of them got back to Münchner Freiheit early next morning, the police had already finished their work and they found Max and Tante Ilse having breakfast in her flat. Amadeus was disappointed not to receive a Venetian pastry and went to the drawing room to sulk.
‘The rooms are a complete mess,’ said Max. ‘The burglars turned everything upside down. Luckily I was sleeping here last night.’
‘But when did you find out what had happened?’ asked Franz.
‘It was the Kleinfelds downstairs. You know they always like to complain to the police if they can. They heard sounds upstairs at two o’clock in the morning and called them to say we were having a party. When the police got here they found the door open. They rang Tante Ilse’s bell to see if she’d noticed anything strange, but we all slept through everything, even Amadeus. The police said we have to work out what’s been damaged and what’s missing so we can claim the insurance. They said they’d send somebody round this afternoon to see what you’ve found and tell you if they’ve got any fingerprints.’
It was a distressing process. Everything was upside down, pillows, mattresses and chairs had been ripped open, and books and files scattered all over the place
‘I don’t understand,’ said Celia as they cleared everything away. ‘I mean, it’s not as if we have very much valuable to steal, but the few things that might be worth something, like the pictures from Tante Ilse and the silver from my parents, are still here.’
When the police returned they confessed that they too were mystified. The break-in had been done by professionals, they said. There were no finger prints apart from the Thomas’ in the flat, but as none of the obvious things had been stolen, the thieves must have been looking for something in particular.
‘But what could they have been looking for, Celia?’ asked Franz after the police had gone. They were sitting glumly in the kitchen on the undamaged chairs, eating take-away pizza.
‘Well, luckily it wasn’t our porn collection,’ said Max, coming into the kitchen with a DVD in his hand. ‘We don’t have very much. Is this yours Mum? It was on the floor amongst your papers,’ he held up the copy of Pricks and Prejudice that Bernard had given her. Celia blushed.
‘Oh, it’s not what you think. Look there’s another CD in here…’ she held it up. ‘…with pictures of Ned which this photographer I met in London had taken …’ she stopped in mid-sentence as a thought struck her. ‘Wait a minute…’ she jumped off her chair, searched the bookshelf next to her desk and then hurriedly searched through all the other shelves in the flat. Finally she gave up and rejoined Franz and Max in the kitchen.
‘They got what they were looking for,’ she said. ‘They wanted any information I had about Ned and they’ve stolen my file. The bastards!’
Timothy Arnold sat on his bed in his Munich hotel room looking through Celia’s file. On the one hand it amused him that the Department had gone to such a lot of effort on the Colonel’s behalf to get hold of this pathetic collection of faded newspaper cuttings, photographs and lists of Croatian towns. If this was all Celia had, then everybody was panicking unnecessarily. On the other hand he was pretty certain that the Colonel would not believe that there was nothing else and he did not know how far the Colonel and the Department would be prepared to go to deal with the supposed resurrection of Ned Atkinson.
 Because panicking was the only description of what was now happening. None of his previous jobs had prepared him for anything like this. After arriving in Zagreb on the previous Monday morning, he’d met the Colonel and they’d worked out a plan for handling the situation. They would bring Celia to Zagreb and then give her some free time to see if she could lead them to her brother. Timothy was still not convinced that Ned was alive at all but he could see that if he was, this would be the best way to find him. Timothy’s task was then to persuade them both that it was in everybody’s interests for Celia and Ned to be very quiet about what had been happening in ’95. There had been a dramatic change in the plan early on Friday morning when the agent given the responsibility for following Celia reported that she’d travelled with her journalist friend Tomislav Lederer to Barlovcar on Thursday night and had met Ivana Kaiec. The Colonel had exploded and insisted on speaking to the head of the Department in Cardiff. This was now Jennifer Dawson, his old case officer, who’d replaced Harris on his retirement.
‘Colonel Kaiec,’ she’d said. ‘I can assure you that we’ll do everything possible to deal with the situation in Munich and Zagreb which is why Timothy is there for you as our liaison officer. ’
 ‘And how are you going to deal with this Thomas woman and her brother, if he’s alive,’ growled the Colonel.
‘We’ll find a sensible solution when we’ve found them both,’ said Jennifer. ‘But we also need to see if she’s already collected any information about what her brother was doing in Zagreb in ’95, so Timothy, you’re to go to Munich and check into a hotel. You’ll receive your next instructions there!’
Timothy had no idea what she was talking about, but nodded wisely to the Colonel as if he did.
After the conversation the Colonel had glowered at Timothy for a while.
‘Maybe it would be better if I dealt with this problem myself,’ he said.
‘Colonel Kaiec,’ answered Timothy with a confidence he didn’t feel. ‘I can assure you that you don’t need to worry. Let us sort it out. You should just focus on getting yourself elected to parliament. That’s the most important thing right now.’
So, Timothy had taken a plane on Friday afternoon to Munich and waited in his hotel until Sunday morning, when the receptionist called to say a package had been left downstairs for him. A totally useless package.
He got up and began pacing backwards and forwards, trying to think of what to do next. Why hadn’t she listened to him when they were in London and dropped her investigation as he’d advised? She clearly hadn’t believed his story. The problem was he liked Celia and she’d accidentally become mixed up in something very dangerous. Yes, the Colonel clearly wanted Celia alive so as to carry on work on his chapel, but perhaps not if she damaged his political ambitions. He stopped by the window and rubbed his head, willing himself to come up with a solution that could help everybody.
And then it occurred to him. What about Celia’s ambitions? The work she was doing for the Colonel could make her internationally famous. Would she sacrifice everything looking for a brother who – even if he was alive – had clearly decided to disappear from her life? Perhaps, thought Timothy, she needed to lose her job. He picked up his mobile and dialed Colonel Kaiec’s number.

Chapter 24 – Fired

On Tuesday morning Celia arrived at Dr Lenz’s office feeling uneasy. She’d called Markus and Rudi early on Monday to say that she wouldn’t be able to drive with them to Istria, because of the burglary and that afternoon Lenz had sent a curt email insisting she come to his office early the next day. The tone had surprised her; there was no word of sympathy about the burglary or questions as to how she was. Celia did not have much respect for Lenz personally, but she recognised he was good at the political networking necessary to make sure their department had enough money, allowing her to get on with what she liked best, restoring works of art. They had been a good team.
When she entered his office, Lenz was sitting at the meeting table and to Celia’s surprise a strange woman was alongside him.
‘Ah, Dr Thomas,’ said Lenz, avoiding her eyes. ‘This is Frau Huber from the Ministry’s Human Resources department. I’ve asked her to attend our meeting.’
‘Oh,’ said Celia. ‘Why’s that?’
‘Umh… to make sure …umh … you know…procedures, processes…’ he tugged nervously at his tie and looked at Frau Huber in desperation.
‘We’re here to discuss a severe disciplinary matter, Dr Thomas,’ said Frau Huber, taking over. ‘There’s been a complaint.’
‘A complaint? Who from?’
‘From a client, Mr Ivan Kaiec. It relates to your behavior towards him on the project last week in Croatia.’
‘What on earth are you talking about? I didn’t even see Colonel Kaiec last week!’
‘That is part of the problem. Yesterday the Minister himself received an official complaint from Mr Kaiec which contained several points. Firstly, you left the restoration site early on Thursday morning to travel to Zagreb…’
‘But Colonel Kaiec said he wanted to see me!’
‘Not according to Mr Kaiec. Secondly, Mrs Kaiec claims that you were extremely rude to her on the journey after you’d demanded she give you a lift to Zagreb with her in her husband’s car.’
‘But that’s nonsense, she’s making it up! It’s just her word against mine…’
‘Her word and the chauffeur’s. But that’s not the real issue. Apparently, once you arrived in Zagreb you not only reserved yourself a luxury suite at an expensive hotel which you did not pay for, you then were not even available to talk to Mr Kaiec when he tried to contact you. In fact …’ Frau Huber checked a piece of paper. ‘…you disappeared on Thursday afternoon in the company of a local journalist and drove to a town outside Zagreb called Barlovcar. You spent the night there with this journalist before returning to Zagreb early on Friday morning. Again, Mr Kaiec tried to contact you but you remained unavailable. ’
‘But I only went to Barlovcar because I was told the Colonel was in Brussels. And on Friday I called his office repeatedly and he…’
‘So, you don’t deny you left Zagreb and went on some private pleasure trip of your own?’ interrupted Frau Huber, looking down her nose disapprovingly at her. ‘Dr Thomas, what you choose to do in your private life is not our concern. It is however completely unacceptable for the Ministry that you should behave like this towards an extremely important client.’
‘Look, this is all completely made up! I demand…’
‘But it isn’t made up, Dr Thomas, is it? You just told us you went to Barlovcar. I regret to inform you that you are suspended from your duties forthwith while the Department for the Conservation and Restoration of Historical Monuments decides what steps to take next. I should warn you, we may be compelled to dismiss you for gross dereliction of duty.’
‘Dr Lenz, please! You must see this is completely unfair!’
Lenz looked unhappily at his papers.
‘I’m very sorry Dr Thomas, but there’s no alternative. I’m very disappointed with you. Very disappointed indeed.’
‘You are of course entitled to take legal advice,’ continued Frau Huber. ‘But I guarantee you will lose any court case and the publicity will make you completely unemployable in your field, as well as affecting your … domestic situation.’
Celia sat completely still. Everything that she could say … should say … shot around her head, but she wasn’t sure she would be able to say anything with the steady voice she wanted. She stood up, marched with her head held high to the door, opened it and turned to look at the two of them.
‘You are mistaken, Dr Lenz,’ she said with just a slight quaver. ‘After ten years working together, it is I who am disappointed that you should choose to believe I would ever behave unprofessionally. Very disappointed indeed!’ and then she walked out, leaving the door unslammed behind her, and Dr Lenz’s assistant open-mouthed at her desk.
The Theatienerkirche at Odeonsplatz was Celia’s favourite church in Munich and a place she visited when she needed to think. Although it had some tourists wandering around inside, it was large enough for them not to be disturbing. As always, she lit a candle to the Black Madonna near the entrance and then went to one of the aisles to light another candle for the less popular St Judas Thaddeus and sit on the wooden bench facing him. What had she achieved with all her questions, she wondered. What had all her digging into the past actually uncovered? She’d had a chance to make a sensational art historical discovery and now it would probably all be taken away from her. Nor was she going to be able to find her annoying brother, who probably didn’t even want to be found, or else why had he never tried to contact her?
‘May I join you?’ asked a quiet voice. Without waiting for an answer, Timothy Arnold sat down on the bench next to Celia.
‘What are you doing here?’ she hissed. ‘Why are you always turning up unexpectedly?’
‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ he answered. ‘But you look troubled, Dr Thomas.’
‘That’s why I’m here, Mr Arnold. I’m looking for guidance and St Judas is the patron saint for hopeless causes. I thought maybe he might help.’
‘Is that so? Well, then perhaps St Judas sent me to talk to you. May I suggest we take our conversation outside? If it’s not too much trouble?’
They walked slowly around the Hofgarten opposite the church. It was an odd setting for their conversation, thought Celia, the orderliness and peacefulness of the baroque park contrasting with the violence of the topics they were discussing. Timothy had decided to be very frank with her. He explained about the Department for British Export Development and how they’d secretly brought Colonel Kaiec together with British arms dealers in the 90s. He confirmed that Ned had got wind of this, with the result that his apparent death had been a great relief to some people.
‘The story he was researching would have caused the government of the day to collapse if it had come out. But now we have a different situation…’ he paused for a moment. ‘… different but also dangerous,’ he stopped walking and looked her earnestly in the face. ‘Dr Thomas, Celia, I beg you to let sleeping dogs lie. If Ned is alive, which personally I don’t believe, finding him will just cause trouble. There are a lot of interests tied up with Colonel Kaiec getting into politics in Croatia. It’s very delicate at the moment.’
‘The man’s a bastard!’ said Celia. 
‘Yes but he’s our bastard, that’s the point. He could be very useful to us if he gets into government. Would it be too old-fashioned of me to suggest that you held back for the benefit of Britain?’
Celia looked at him with scorn. ‘Do you really think you can pull the same despicable Queen and country trick that you used on my brothers? Does a country that breaks UN embargoes deserve any consideration? I don’t think so!’
‘Well, yes…’ said Timothy, backtracking hastily. ‘… but there’s your own personal safety to consider. And that of your family. When we were in London I warned you about these people your journalist friend was upsetting. If you carry on I fear that they will start getting violent. You need to think about that possibility.’
‘It’s a bit late for that…’ Celia said, and told him about Venice and her attacker.
‘But why do you think this man was sent by Colonel Kaiec?’ he asked, horrified.
‘To get me to follow him he said my brother was in Venice and I, like an idiot, believed him. The Colonel knows Ned’s my brother because a couple of weeks ago I, like an idiot, told him. I imagine it was him that had my flat burgled and stole my file on Ned as well. In fact, thinking about everything, I’ve just been an idiot from start to finish in this whole business!’ She sat down on a bench breathing deeply and biting her lip, trying to hold back the tears that wanted to flow.
Timothy sat next to her and patted her awkwardly on the back, feeling guilty. This information was new to him.  But why would the Colonel would have authorized an attack on Celia? He needed her too badly still. Had there been an enormous cock-up? He’d have to find out, but whatever the reason it was going to make the Colonel’s job much more difficult.
After a while, Celia blew her nose and stood up again.
‘Listen,’ she said. ‘You can tell your people and you can tell Kaiec that I’ve had enough, I’m giving up. I don’t know who it was I saw on that train anymore and even if it was Ned, he hasn’t bothered to try and contact me for the last fifteen years.  I’ve lost my job, my reputation and I can’t risk losing my family as well, for somebody who isn’t interested in me.’
‘That’s very wise,’ said Timothy. ‘You’re making the right decision. I’m so sorry about all of this.’
‘Just promise me one thing,’ she said.
‘Don’t ever let me see you again!’ and for the second time that day, Celia stalked away from an interview.

Chapter 25 - Speculation
It was her voice that finally brought Ned round. His senses clung to the gentle words in a language he didn’t understand and it was as if they pulled him up out of the deep, deep waters burying him. His eyelids flickered and a face leaning over him suddenly swam before his eyes and came slowly into focus. Large, anxious eyes and full lips, shaping words that meant nothing but seemed to be pleading with him while a soft hand stroked his brow, cooling his forehead. The voice became more urgent, calling to somebody else. There was movement and then a man’s face was there.
‘English? You speak English?’
Ned nodded weakly.
‘You safe now. Maria, my daughter, find you,’ the first face appeared again beside the man’s, smiling shyly. ‘She look after you. We think you die,’ Ned felt Maria’s soft hand take possession of his. He moved his lips, but his throat was dry and no sound came out. The man said something and a warm arm was passed under his head, raising him slightly so Ned could be given sips of water, his cheek pressed against Maria’s yielding breast.
‘Who are you? What your name?’ asked the man. Ned thought for a moment, his brain searching for an answer.
‘I … I … don’t know. I’m sorry … I don’t know!’
‘That’s your theory then?’ said Celia to Max. ‘Ned had amnesia and that’s why he never got in touch?’
Celia, Max, Franz and Tante Ilse were eating dinner in Tante Ilse’s flat, discussing why Ned might not have tried to get in touch with her in the fifteen years since he had disappeared.
‘Yes, but that’s not all,’ continued Max. ‘Maria, the farmer’s beautiful daughter nursed him back to health. They fell in love, married and the farmer - who didn’t have a son - gave the farm to Ned and Maria. You always said he was into organic farming, so he settled down there, was given a new name and began a new life. He has no interest in finding out where he comes from and Maria probably tries to make sure he never sees any English newspapers in case he remembers what he did before. I may have three or four Bosnian cousins over there. It could happen, amnesia’s a real thing isn’t it Tante Ilse?’
Tante Ilse smiled. ‘Yes, though normally it’s not quite so idyllic for the amnesiac. They have bad dreams, and memories come back little by little. But it could happen. Especially if he was lucky enough to be rescued by a Bosnian Sophia Loren,’
‘Sophia Loren?’ said Max. ‘Who’s she?’
‘Look her up on the internet,’ said Franz. ‘Then you’ll understand. I have a different theory…’
The blast from the tank shell hitting the village shop knocked Ned out for a few moments and when he came round, the man he’d been about to interview was very dead. Outside Ned could hear shouts from a Croatian army unit entering the village.
Wiping the dust from his face he staggered over to the hole in the wall made by the shell. He saw the soldiers moving slowly past, rifles raised and with Jeremy Fisk and the other journalists in their middle. Fear gripped him. He only had a moment, they’d be back looking for him after they’d questioned their captives and with what he knew about Colonel Kaiec his chances of surviving more than a couple of hours were slim. He had to make everybody believe he was dead. He pulled out his wallet, stuffed it into the pocket of the dead man and then for good measure, took off his gold signet ring and put it on the little finger of the corpse’s left hand. Finally, he hid himself under a cupboard which had been blown sideways by the explosion. When they found the body with Ned’s wallet and ring, everybody drew the obvious conclusion …
‘And then?’ asked Celia. ‘Why didn’t he make his way back to London?’
Franz scratched his head. ‘I haven’t worked out that bit yet,’ he admitted. ‘Perhaps it was an existential revulsion to the world he experienced as a journalist. If he could drop out of everything from his past then he could start his life all over again, doing something completely new. But if he contacted you then he’d have to take on all his previous responsibilities again … and … umh … yes, then maybe he did meet a farmer’s daughter and decided he would be happier being a farmer than a journalist and it all just got too embarrassing to admit that he was still alive.’
‘Hmmh,’ said Tante Ilse. ‘So a combination of philosophy mixed with embarrassment. If Ned were anything other than English I’d say that was absurd, but, as we all know, embarrassment is a powerful emotion for the English.’
‘Do you have a theory, Tante Ilse?’ asked Max.
‘Well, perhaps it was something like this…’
The most important thing about the man opening the door to Ned when he knocked was the revolver in his hand. He said something in Croatian and indicated Ned should step into the house, a request which Ned felt was difficult to refuse. He was pushed up against the wall, his wallet taken and his signet ring pulled roughly off his finger.
‘I’m a journalist,’ called Ned over his shoulder. ‘I just want to …’ a sudden blow to his legs knocked him to the floor and the man stood over him.
‘Good bye journalist,’ he said pointing his gun straight at Ned’s face. He could see the man’s fingers whitening as he slowly squeezed the trigger. There was an enormous bang and Ned assumed he was now dead. He lost consciousness for a moment but when he came round he was still alive while his attacker had been blasted into pieces by the tank shell. Half deafened by the explosion, all Ned could think of doing was escaping. He made it out of the back door and managed to hide himself in a tool shed outside until the soldiers were gone.
‘And after that?’ asked Celia.
‘Well, then of course he was psychologically damaged. Probably at some stage he was found by local people and looked after. He might have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. If that was the case then the last thing he’d want to do is go back to his former life. He’d want to try and escape anything that reminded him of what he’d experienced.’
‘Not very encouraging for me, any of this,’ said Celia.
‘What do you think happened, Mum?’ asked Max.
Celia sighed. ‘I don’t know and to be honest it’s a bit academic now, I’m giving up. I’ve had nothing but trouble since I saw whoever it was on the train and it’s all got too dangerous for me.’
They were silent for a while. They could see her point. Celia had told them everything about what had happened in Croatia and Venice on her last trip. Nearly everything.
‘What are you going to tell this journalist guy, Tomi?’ asked Franz.
Celia looked away for a moment and took a sip of wine before answering.
‘I’ll have to see if he contacts me. But then I’ll just say he should stop. He’ll have to make up his own mind what he wants to do.’
Tante Ilse looked at her hard. ‘Shouldn’t you warn him about what happened to you?’ she asked.
‘Oh, he knows about the Colonel already,’ Celia stood up suddenly. ‘Come on, let’s clear the dishes. I’ve got to start looking for a new job tomorrow.’
Although it was her intention to be busy the next morning, Celia didn’t actually get up until Franz and Max had left for work and school. She felt relieved that the pressure to do something had gone, so she just pottered around the flat doing very little until the doorbell rang at midday. The postman, she thought to herself. Probably my official letter from Lenz.
She went down the staircase in her dressing gown to sign for it, ignoring the disapproving looks from their neighbor Frau Kleinfeld. She opened the door but to her surprise, standing outside was a delivery boy with an enormous bunch of flowers and a card.
Celia looked at the card and then went slowly back up the stairs and knocked on Tante Ilse’s door.
‘Look at these flowers,’ she said. ‘They’re from Colonel Kaiec. He wants to meet me!’

Chapter 26 - Apologies
Tante Ilse suggested that Celia should arrange to meet the Colonel in the lobby of the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski for tea that afternoon.
‘It’s the safest place in Munich, my dear,’ she said. ‘Nothing can happen to you there and you need to find out what he has to say. In any case, they serve an extremely good English afternoon tea. You should at least put him to some expense.’
As Celia entered the lobby with its beautiful glass cupola she saw the Colonel sitting at a corner table, his bodyguard a discreet distance away. When he caught sight of her, he stood up and a waiter hurried over to pull out a chair for her.
‘Dr Thomas,’ he began once they were seated and tea ordered. ‘I’m very grateful that you agreed to meet me. I want to begin by apologizing for certain things that have happened to you recently for which I was indirectly responsible. It was never my intention that any harm should come to you but I’ve learnt from Mr Timothy Arnold that you were attacked recently in Venice by somebody who was paid to follow you by one of my people …’
‘I was nearly killed, Colonel Kaiec,’ said Celia, her voice suddenly shaky. ‘I only escaped being raped and murdered thanks to a very brave man who was shot and injured helping me.’
The Colonel held up his hands ‘I know, I know and all I can say is that this man was only supposed to follow and see if you met anybody, that is all. It is unforgivable that …’ he stopped suddenly as the waiter brought them tea and scones. Celia fought to keep herself under control and dug her nails into the palms of her hands. She drank some tea and felt better.
‘Why should I believe you?’ she asked. ‘I know about your arms deals in the 90’s, I’ve spoken to the first Mrs Kaiec. You’re terrified that I’m going to find my brother and together we’ll destroy your career.’
‘Wait a minute, Dr Thomas. I understand your anger, but what I want to do today is to put things right between us. First of all let me give you a short history lesson …’
He explained to Celia how at the start of the war the newly created Croatian army was without weapons to defend itself.
‘… we had no choice, we had to smuggle weapons into the country if we were going to survive.’
The bulk of the weapons came from former eastern bloc countries but the quality was sometimes very poor. For the army’s elite troops the Colonel needed something better.
‘That’s how I met Timothy Arnold. He told you recently about the function of the Department for British Export Development. My connection to British arms manufacturers was authorized from the very top.’
With the Department’s help the Colonel arranged to buy automatic rifles, body-armour and communication equipment. It was at this time that he first met Ned.
‘He was introduced to me by my wife at that time, Ivana. He was very charming, but much too idealistic. He couldn’t understand that what we were doing was necessary…’
‘Did you know that he was working on a story about your buying arms from the UK?’ interrupted Celia.
‘I found out after his death – or at least his apparent death, if what you think is true and he’s still alive. But you need to understand something: being quiet about my connection to the Department was never for my benefit, it was for the benefit of your country. If your brother had been able to prove the connection between me and the British government at that time they would have been extremely embarrassed.  However as far as people in Croatia are concerned I’m a hero for my smuggling. I saved the republic, talking about it would help my current political campaign. I have a daily battle with my campaign manager who begs to be allowed to mention it. I always say no.’
‘What about the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague?’
‘They’re interested in war-criminals and rightly so. The Serbs did the most terrible atrocities in the war and our people were no angels. But I have no anxiety on that front.’
She wasn’t sure how it was happening, but Celia felt all her certainty with regard to the Colonel slowly draining away. She grimly bit into a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. He wasn’t going to take that away from her.
‘You recently met my ex-wife Ivana, didn’t you?’ he continued. Celia nodded. ‘It’s very sad what has happened to Ivana. When I first met her she was amazing, but alcohol does terrible things to a relationship and it became impossible to live with her.’
‘She says that you stopped her setting up a business after the war and she made you leave her alone by threatening to expose your smuggling.’
The Colonel gave a small, sad smile, then leant forward and looked intently into Celia’s face.
‘Dr Thomas, you’ve seen her yourself … you’ve seen what this illness has done to her. Do you really think I needed to do anything to damage her chances? She does that herself every time she opens a bottle of vodka.’
This is awful, thought Celia. I’m starting to sympathise with him. She pulled herself together.
‘What about the burglary of our flat? And complaining to my boss about my work? That was completely unfair!’
The Colonel nodded. ‘You’re quite right. So let me try to put things right.’ He opened a small leather briefcase, pulled out a folder and gave it to Celia. It was her file about Ned.
‘Stealing this had nothing to do with me,’ he said. ‘That was organized by Mr Arnold. When I found out, I insisted that he give it to me to return to you.’
‘It’s a bloody cheek, I can’t believe that something like that happened to us! My son could have been sleeping there. What would they have done to him?’
‘Mr Arnold told me they chose that time because they knew nobody was in the flat. I also want you to send me bills for anything which was damaged and needs to be replaced. Which brings me to the question of your job…’
The Colonel had been to see the Minister and Dr Lenz and told them that he wanted to continue the research on the chapel with Celia in charge.
‘I said that there had been a misunderstanding and miscommunication from my people to me. The person responsible had been fired and you were to be reinstated. They’ll be sending you some sort of official letter.’
‘Why on earth would I go back to working for you? Somebody who sent a psychopath after me. How can I possibly trust you?’
‘Because I’m here today trying to apologise to you. Look, I admit, when I heard you had got this journalist working for you and that you had visited Ivana, I was nervous. My political future is important to me and to Croatia. I didn’t want to put it at risk and I suspected that some of my political enemies were using you. That’s why I had you followed on the train, I wanted to see if you met anybody there and who they were so I could know what to do. But that was all and I am very, very ashamed of what then happened in Venice.’
Celia felt almost hypnotized by his words. She found herself wanting to find a way to remove the sorrowful look from his face.
‘Dr Thomas,’ he continued. ‘I made a terrible mistake, but if you don’t continue your work and rescue these paintings, you’ll be making one as well. You have the chance to make an international name for yourself with this project,’
These were the same thoughts that had been going through Celia’s head and she gave a little nod, almost without realizing it. The Colonel pressed home his advantage.
‘Give up this pointless quest for a brother who even if he is alive, doesn’t seem to want to be found,’ he said. He paused for a moment and looked at the back of his hands. ‘Or it’ll be somebody else who gets all the credit. Dr Lenz suggested this morning that he could take over for you if you felt unable to continue …’
‘No!’ said Celia involuntarily. ‘I mean … he wouldn’t be the best person for the job. You should get my assistants Marcus and Rudi to carry on the work. If really necessary. I have to think about what you’ve said and discuss it with my family.’
‘I understand, but I should warn you, I told Dr Lenz that I would tell him tomorrow whether he has to take over the restoration work.’
Celia felt her professional pride twitch nervously, but she remained firm. ‘I’ll let you know this evening, I promise. There’s one more thing that I insist on. That awful man … the one who attacked me … you must have him arrested. He needs to be locked up. I’m prepared to testify against him in court.’
The Colonel smiled for the first time in the course of their discussion.
‘That won’t be necessary.’
Celia banged her tea cup onto its saucer and eyes from the surrounding tables turned towards them.
‘Well, then there’s no possibility of a deal, Colonel. He may attack somebody else and the next person may …’
The Colonel held up a hand.
‘Wait, wait!’ he said. ‘It won’t be necessary because I learnt this morning that Boran Vukovic was found dead with a knife in his back on the Rialto Bridge on Saturday night,’ the Colonel looked at Celia’s shocked face very carefully. ‘I don’t know who your friends are, Dr Thomas, but they’re certainly very efficient.’ 

Chapter 27 - The smuggler

Are you insane?’ shouted Franz at Celia. ‘What are you thinking of? Of course you’re not going back to Istria. That man nearly got you killed. I forbid it!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Franz. You don’t own me, you can’t forbid me anything. I’ve explained to you what happened and why I’m going back.’
Celia was taken aback by Franz’s reaction that evening when she told everybody that she was going to continue working on the chapel.
‘But are you sure it’s worth the risk, Celia?’ asked Tante Ilse mildly. ‘That attack may not have been intended by Colonel Kaiec but it was certainly instigated.’
‘Thank you, Tante Ilse!’ said Franz. ‘And what about Ned, Celia? Are you just going to forget about him?’
‘Well he’s certainly forgotten about me! What’s the point of looking for somebody who doesn’t want to be found? And anyway, perhaps I did make a mistake…’
Franz exploded. ‘Oh thanks! After you treat me like some kind of monster when I express a tiny bit of doubt about your story. That’s just great!’
‘Look, I’m sorry, Franz, I agree I was a bit unreasonable about that. To be honest I don’t know what to do about Ned. But I don’t think looking for him is worth passing up this chance to achieve something amazing.’
‘So, Colonel Kaiec is buying you off, is he? You drop looking for Ned and in exchange he lets you restore these pictures and get yourself a big name? ’
‘I’m sick and tired of trying to find somebody who doesn’t want to be found,’ said Celia mutinously. ‘Why should I sacrifice the opportunity of a life-time?’
‘Because you’ll be working for somebody who’s probably a war-criminal, that’s why! Is that really what you want to do?’
‘He’s not a war-criminal, I’ve explained that to you. The Croatians had nothing …’
Franz jumped to his feet. ‘Right, that’s it. I’m not listening to any more of this rubbish! You go and do what you want, I’m going to bed. But you might like to think about this when you’re cleaning those paintings. How did the Croatians pay for all these weapons? And where did your precious Colonel get all his money from? Behind every great fortune lies a great crime!’ 
‘Dear Franz,’ said Tante Ilse after he’d slammed the door behind him. ‘He would storm off leaving a Balzac quote behind him.’
‘You understand, don’t you Tante Ilse? You can see why I want to do it, can’t you?’
‘I can see why you want to, Celia dear. Whether you should is another matter which only you can answer, not me.’
‘I’ll settle for that at the moment.’
‘When will you be going back?’ ‘
‘Probably Friday. Tomorrow I’ll have to make sure that what the Colonel says is correct and Dr Lenz has reinstated me. Then I’ll rent a car and drive to the villa I suppose. Marcus and Rudi are already there, I think we should just stay and carry on working until it’s finished…’
On Thursday Celia had a most satisfying meeting with Dr Lenz where he was forced to apologise, and early on Friday morning she set off in the direction of Croatia. She and Franz gave each other a frosty goodbye. Max rolled his eyes. Not this again.
On Sunday night Nicoleta Solovei sat on the edge of her seat as the train from Zagreb approached Villach, rubbing her hands together nervously. At sixteen this was the furthest she’d ever travelled from her village in Moldova, more than two-days train journey away. Although exhausted, she got out her shiny new Hungarian passport and once again mentally rehearsed what she’d been told to say in her school English if a policeman asked her any questions. Her name was Zsuzsanna Ferenc, she was from Budapest and she was going to visit her aunt who lived in Milan for a couple of weeks. Her uncle was going to meet her in Villach and take her there.
This wasn’t exactly true. She was going to Italy because she’d got herself a job there working as a maid. At last, this would give her the chance to get away from her awful home and make some money, in the same way as that lady who’d put the advertisement in the local newspaper which had caught her eye. She’d been just like Nicoleta a few years earlier, the lady told her when Nicoleta went for an interview. Then she’d worked as a maid in Milan and now she was rich, had her own house and a car. It was all so easy, the lady said. Just a little bit of cleaning and maybe taking care of some children. She would make sure that Nicoleta worked for a nice family who’d look after her well and - hey - a pretty girl like her would be sure to find herself a rich Italian boy and get married in a couple of years. Nicoleta giggled nervously. Boys weren’t really her thing.
Everything had then happened so quickly. A couple of days later the lady had driven her and two other girls to the station at Chisinau, given them train tickets, the new passport (which Nicoleta knew had to be fake) and some money ‘… to get yourself some food on the train.’
At first everything had been very pleasant for the three girls. It was like a school-outing almost, but with no teachers to tell you what to do. But then at Bucharest they’d been met by that frightening man covered in tattoos who told them that there had been a change of plan: Nicoleta was to continue alone to Zagreb and then catch a train to Italy, while the other two were going to jobs in Germany. They’d kissed each other goodbye, promised to stay in touch and then Nicoleta continued on her journey to Villach where she would be met by her ‘uncle’.
Shortly after the Venice train left Villach, Franz’s colleague Vassili came to see him in the service compartment.
‘Franz,’ he said. ‘We have a problem in Wagon 42. I need your help.’
When they got there Franz found a man banging on the door of one of the lavatories and shouting in Russian at somebody inside. Other passengers nervously poked their heads out of their doors.
‘There’s a young girl locked herself in there,’ said one of them. ‘I saw her run past.’
Franz approached the man cautiously. ‘Excuse me, sir. You’ll have to stop that noise. What’s going on?’
‘Open door!’ he said, slurring his speech and breathing alcoholic fumes over Franz and Vassili. ‘My niece ill. She fall and hurt herself. Open door!’
Franz looked him over – it wasn’t a pretty sight. ‘Can I see your ticket, please?’ he said, playing for time. The man swore, but put his hand inside his jacket to get it out. Franz looked at it carefully – it was made out for two from Villach to Milan.
‘… and your passport please.’
To Franz’s surprise it was Italian but with a Russian name. It seemed authentic, but he wasn’t an expert for these things. It was then that an idea occurred to him. The police would be getting on the train at the next station in ten minutes. They could deal with the situation, he just needed to stop things escalating.
‘Vassili, can you take Mr Solukin to the service compartment and give him a beer from our fridge?’ He turned to Solukin.
‘Let me talk to your niece, Mr Solukin,’ he said. ‘I’m sure I can persuade her to come out if you give me a little time.’
Solukin looked suspiciously at Franz, then stumbled off after Vassili. As soon as he was out of earshot, Franz called ahead to the police and told them he needed somebody to be removed from the train. Then he knocked gently on the door.
‘Miss? Miss? He’s gone, you can come out. What’s the trouble?’ He thought he could hear sobs from inside over the noise of the wheels, but the door remained shut. He knocked again.
‘Listen, in five minutes the police will arrive and I’ve asked them to take your uncle off the train. If you don’t open the door and talk to me, I’ll ask them to take you as well. Do you want that?’
Again, there was no response and Franz was just about to give up when the door opened wide enough to reveal one eye looking at him through the crack. He smiled encouragingly and the door opened a bit wider.
‘See? He’s not here. Let me help.’
‘Not police, please no.’ There was a flaming red mark on her cheek and her blouse was torn at the shoulder. She crossed her arms over her chest defensively and plucked at the tear.
‘Who is that man?’ asked Franz slowly. ‘Is he your uncle?’ The girl shook her head violently.
‘Do you want to talk to the police?’ Again she shook her head.
‘Please, no police. Not good.’
Franz hesitated for a moment, then took a decision.
‘If I put you back in your couchette until the police are gone, will you explain what is going on?’
She nodded and followed Franz back down the corridor to her cabin. Franz saw that although it had room for six people, only two beds were being used. It looked as if there had been a fight.
Franz took the small rucksack the girl indicated belonged to Solukin. He didn’t want the police coming to search the compartment and finding the girl.
‘Wait!’ she said. ‘My passport …’ she rummaged inside and pulled out two passports, then started in surprise as her hand touched something hard. ‘Look!’ She held up the open bag to Franz. Inside he could see a small revolver. Franz felt sick as he thought of what could have happened if Solukin had been carrying it with him earlier. But it would definitely be of interest to the police.
There was a nasty scene when the police arrested Sulokin shortly afterwards, but there were six of them and he was quickly overpowered. After the train had set off again, Franz collected the girl from her couchette, took her to the service compartment, sat her down and gave her some hot chocolate. Then in a mixture of English and Russian - which Vassili translated - she told them her name, how she’d got there and what had happened once she’d met her ‘uncle’.
‘…at Villach he drunk already. On train he take my passports and say he need them for ticket man. I ask him about where I work as maid and if he know family. He laugh and say I stupid girl and I not work as maid but must do sex work for men until I pay back cost of transport to Italy. I say I not do that thing. He say I have no papers, if I not do as he want he give me to police. They send me back to my village and everybody say I prostitute. I cry, then he hit me…’
When she’d finished, Franz put her back in the couchette and told her to get some sleep. They’d take her to Venice and discuss what she should do when she was rested.
‘You’ll have to take her to the police,’ said Vassili when he returned. ‘She can’t stay in Italy on her own without any money. Trouble is, if she’s sent back to her village, the people who trafficked her here will come after her again. The Italians won’t be able to keep Sulokin in prison long.’
Vassili was older than Franz and had been on the night trains for many years. He’d been born in the Ukraine, but his family had moved to Croatia and he’d grown up there before moving to Germany after the war ended in 1995.
‘How do you know all this, Vassili?’ asked Franz.
‘I worked on the railways in Croatia before I came to Germany, remember? We saw everything there and I can tell you, human trafficking is a big business,’ he said. ‘It started in the war with smuggling weapons into Croatia and people out into Europe who wanted to leave. But then the people doing this realized they could make a lot of money smuggling people and drugs, so they carried on after the war. All over the east there are people believing that life in the west is like in the movies and they’ll do anything to get over here and try to start a new life. As soon as they’re on their own in the foreign country the criminals take their papers and say they have to work for them until they’ve paid the cost of the transport and documents. Or they sell them on to other gangsters in the country they’re transported to. They’re modern slaves.’
‘What do they do?’
‘Everybody in the west wants everything cheap, cheap, cheap. So, any business that needs to cut their costs will hire them. Construction sites, restaurants and … like with Nicoleta … the sex industry. That’s probably the worst thing. They take these young, ignorant village girls, promise them some nice job and then when they’re on their own in a foreign country they tell them what they really have to do. The ones that refuse are beaten, starved and raped until they agree. If they escape to the police they’re sent back to their village with their reputation destroyed and pretty soon the traffickers turn up again demanding repayment of the original debt. Of course the only way they can pay it is by doing what the traffickers wanted in the first place.’
‘So you’re saying that if we turn her over to the police, the same thing will happen to her all over again?’
Vassili nodded. ‘Probably. But she’s an illegal immigrant, Franz. If you help her you make yourself criminally liable. What else can you do?’

Franz shook his head. ‘I don’t know at the moment, but I’m going to have to try and think of something!’

Chapter 28 – Jesus and the dinosaurs

Both Marcus and Rudi were relieved to see Celia when she arrived at the villa on Friday evening.
‘We had a mail from Dr Lenz saying he might be taking over the project and we weren’t to communicate with you any more about the chapel. What’s been going on?’
‘It was just a misunderstanding. It’s all been cleared up now,’ said Celia. She didn’t feel like involving the two of them in her troubles.
‘Well, that might be thanks to us,’ said Rudi, looking pleased with himself. ‘On Monday evening, guess who came to visit? The Colonel and Mrs Kaeic. The Colonel wanted to see how far we’d got. I think he was a bit disappointed that we weren’t further along and so we told him how we needed you here to make the big decisions.’
‘And we said that the only restoration work Dr Lenz had ever done was gluing the handles back onto broken tea cups,’ added Marcus. ‘That was the clincher!’
That would explain the Colonel’s enthusiasm to have her back, thought Celia. But she was pleased. After all the adventures she’d had over the past few weeks working on the chapel felt like a holiday. Why did Franz have to be so disapproving?
Marcus and Rudi had already agreed to stay on over the weekend to speed things up, so on Saturday morning they put on their overalls and trooped down to the chapel. Since Celia had last been there, the two had continued working methodically on the panels behind where the altar would have been placed, moving from the outside towards the middle.
‘What’s the condition of the original painting like under the alchemy stuff?’ she asked. Marcus grimaced.
‘Patchy. We have to take it very slowly because whoever painted over the original stuff didn’t remove any of the grease and soot that covered it. In fact that’s actually quite good from the point of view of protecting the paintwork, but it means we have to constantly change the cleaning material that we’re using according to what we’re dealing with.’
‘Another problem is woodworm,’ added Rudi. ‘Some corners have been really chewed up. But at some time somebody must have realized what was happening because they treated it.’
‘Really?’ asked Celia. ‘How?’
‘Very clever actually. They blocked all the holes with beeswax so the worms had no oxygen and died. Much less poisonous than the chemicals we use for woodworm.’
Celia was always fascinated by the ingenuity of previous generations of restorers.
‘What’s that horizontal line?’ she asked, pointing to a line which appeared on the left side of the paintings
‘The area has been divided into smaller sections. We think there are probably six rectangles illustrating a particular sequence of bible stories.’
Celia nodded. It was a common mediaeval and early renaissance method to make the bible accessible to an illiterate audience. Like giant cartoon stories spread across the walls of churches with its own cast of super heroes, villains and damsels in distress.
‘Have you worked out what the sequence is?’
‘The early life of Christ. It looks like Mary as a young girl down here on the left.’
They’d cleaned the area around the head of the girl that Celia had shown to the Colonel. It showed a young girl standing by a well with a young man standing next to her.
‘It could be an Annunciation,’ said Celia.
‘That’s what we thought,’ said Marcus. ‘Doesn’t look much like an angel though. No wings. And I don’t remember the Annunciation taking place at a well. And have a look at this section …’
They went across to the right side of the wall. The panel had only been partially cleaned but it seemed to show a mountainous landscape with a cave, in the entrance of which were three strange creatures. Both Marcus and Rudi laughed at the astonishment on Celia’s face.
‘They really look like little dinos, don’t they?’ said Rudi.
‘Hmmh, Jesus and the dinosaurs. That really would be an art historical sensation. And you’re sure they don’t belong to the 19th century paintings?’ asked Celia.
 Marcus shook his head.
‘Definitely. It’s all the same style and material as the Virgin on the other side. Perhaps it’s a representation of the devil.’
Celia nodded.
‘Probably. Well, shall we get started? I only want to clean enough so that we can have an idea of what exactly we’re dealing with. And then we need to make a decision with the Colonel about where we complete the job.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘So far the original paintings have been protected by the plaster and the 19th century stuff on top of it. But now we’re starting to expose it all to the atmosphere and we can’t control what happens in this chapel. It’s warm enough now, but the roof isn’t waterproof and we won’t be finished here before winter comes. With the changes in temperature the wooden panels are going to start expanding and contracting which will damage the paint. The x-ray photographs we did originally showed us where the panels are fastened to the wall, so I’m hoping he’ll let us take everything down and finish the conservation work in Munich. I think it’s too risky to try and do it here.’
‘Will he agree?’
‘I can’t see why not, but they’re his paintings and it’s his chapel so he has to give permission. It will of course add to the cost of the project, so we need to prove it’s worthwhile.’
For the next three days they slowly continued cleaning the panels. Dab, dab, dab with a cotton swab dipped in solvents, wait a minute, wipe it clean and start again. The final layer of dust and soot on the panel surface had to be removed in the traditional way with saliva. Franz hadn’t believed Celia the first time she’d told him about this technique.
‘You’re telling me that you clean a Rembrandt by spitting at it?’ he’d asked.
‘No,’ she’d replied. ‘I spit in a cup, dip swabs in it and then clean the canvas inch by inch.’
‘It sounds so disrespectful,’ he’d said. ‘Not to say unhygienic.’
‘It’s the best way to get organic dirt off a painting though. The enzymes in the saliva melt the dirt but don’t hurt the paint and then you can just rub it away with a soft cloth. Leaves the poor restorer very thirsty but your Rembrandt nice and shiny.’
They barely left the chapel. To save time their food was brought to them by Eva, the housekeeper. Little by little more details started to emerge. Strange details.
‘What bible were these people using?’ asked Marcus finally, as it became clear that the area he was working on included lions and other large cats alongside Mary on a donkey. ‘I’ve never seen this kind of thing before!’
‘I can’t imagine,’ said Celia. ‘Look what I’ve got!’
They crowded around her. She’d carried on working on the area with the strange creatures.
‘Is that a baby Jesus?’ asked Rudi, pointing at a small child standing at the entrance of the creatures cave with his hand raised. Behind him was a small group of people looking at each other in consternation.
‘He’s got a halo so it seems likely,’ said Celia. ‘It must be showing the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. There’s Mary on her donkey covering her eyes because she can’t bear to see what happens next and that must be Joseph next to her with the white beard. He doesn’t seem quite sure if he should be doing something. But I don’t know who the other people with them are supposed to be. Any ideas?’
‘Actually, if you look at the dinos they seem to be bowing, don’t they? Perhaps …’
There was a knock on the chapel door and Eva came in with their sandwiches and coffee.
‘Rudi, can you ask Eva what she thinks. Perhaps it’s a local legend,’ said Celia. ‘These things sometimes survive for centuries.’
Rudi explained their problem and showed her the painting. She looked at it, puzzled at first, and then her face lit up.
Zmajevi!’ she said. ‘Isus Krist i zmajevi!
It was the story of Christ and the dragons she explained to Rudi. After Jesus was born and the family wanted to escape Herod and travel to Egypt, they had to travel through the wilderness. At one point dragons appeared and they were all afraid they’d be eaten. However when Jesus put himself in front of the group the dragons bowed down to worship him and let them shelter in their cave. She’d learnt the story when she was a little girl from the village priest.
They ate their sandwiches and drank their coffee in silence, staring at the picture.
‘The story must come from the Apocrypha,’ said Celia finally. ‘Giotto painted a story about Mary’s mother St Anna in the Scrovegni Chapel and in London there’s Leonardo’s picture of The Virgin of the Rocks. Both those stories come from the Apocrypha,’
‘Have you read them?’ asked Marcus.
‘A very long time ago and I can’t remember much about them,’ answered Celia. ‘They’re like fairy stories really and the Catholic Church never pretended that they were anything more than that. They were written about 150 years after Christ died, or even later, and were meant to satisfy people’s curiosity about his early life. I think in some of them he’s shown to be a bit of a nightmare as a child. Getting into fights, teachers always complaining, Joseph and Mary having to calm down other angry parents … not much fun being Jesus’s mum and dad!’
‘I always felt sorry for Joseph,’ said Rudi. ‘Your wife’s first boyfriend is God – that’s a tough act to follow!’
Celia laughed.  ‘But do you realize, if this is a complete cycle of illustrations from the Apocrypha in a church, then I think it’s unique! We need to speak to the Colonel.’
That evening Celia had a long conversation with him. He wasn’t easy to convince.
‘What happens if they’re damaged in transit?’ he said. ‘And how do we keep this quiet? Too many people will know about what’s happening.’
‘It’s a risk, but you’re going to have to take them down anyway at some point. You can’t leave them in the chapel for ever. They’re too delicate.’
‘The frescoes in the church in Beram are still there.’
‘They’re painted on the walls so you can’t move them. But these wooden panels might well start splitting soon because of the change in atmosphere. We can’t prevent that if they’re fastened to the wall, we have to treat the back as well as the front.’
There was a long silence at the other end of the phone.
‘All right,’ he said finally. ‘How do you plan to do it?’
Celia was relieved. ‘I’ll go back to Munich tomorrow with Marcus and we’ll plan the transport together with Dr Lenz. Rudi will stay here and start preparing the panels for the journey. With luck we can get back here by the weekend.’
‘Good,’ said the Colonel. ‘Then I shall be there to watch.’
She rolled her eyes. A nervous customer was the last thing they needed to have hanging around, getting in the way, but there was nothing she could do. They said polite goodbyes and hung up.
Celia sat for a while, trying to work out where Franz would be and wondering if he’d be free to talk to her. Finally she decided to send him a text to say she’d be in Munich again the next day and then went to join the others for supper which they were eating in the villa that evening.
Before she went to bed she looked at her phone and found his reply:
- Bringing somebody back with me from Venice. I think we might need to get hold of a lawyer.

Chapter 29 – The Inquisitor
‘She’d just disappeared! I knocked on the compartment door when we got to Munich and she and her bag were gone.’
On Tuesday evening when Celia arrived home after driving back from Istria she found Franz in the kitchen of the flat, beside himself with worry about Nicoleta. He had smuggled her onto the night train back from Venice to Munich, but at some stage on the journey she’d got off the train again. What worried Franz was that it might not have been of her own free-will.
‘The traffickers probably had her mobile phone number. They may have threatened her with reprisals against her family if she didn’t get off the train at Verona or Villach and I was so busy dealing with passengers that I wasn’t looking out to see if she was all right. It just never occurred to me…’
Franz stopped walking and sat down at the kitchen table. He started picking at the label on a wine bottle in frustration.
‘Have you contacted the police?’ asked Celia.
‘The Italians and the Austrians. I told them what I knew about her and that she was only a child but they seemed more interested in what I was doing bringing her to Germany.’
 ‘You did the right thing though, Dad,’ said Max. ‘You had to try and help her.’
Celia nodded. ‘Yes. And you’ve done all you can for the moment. It’s possible she decided to make her own way back to Moldova. You’ll have to wait and see if you hear anything.’
‘I suppose so. But there’s something else I haven’t told you yet. You see…’ he tore a long strip of paper off the bottle. ‘… I’ve been suspended by the company. The Austrian police reported what I’d done to the management. My boss said they have to investigate my behavior. They may fire me!’
‘But, that’s not fair! They can’t do that!’
Franz shrugged his shoulders. ‘It seems they can according to my contract. I’ve got the union on my side but it’s probably just as well you kept your job, Celia. I’m going to be sitting at home for a while I think.’
The next day Celia was busy organizing the transport of the paintings to Munich and came home late. Franz was waiting for her at the door.
‘Come on, we’re taking Amadeus for his walk!’
‘But Franz, I’m really hungry I …’
He held his finger to his lips to silence her and led her downstairs with Amadeus - looking very confused at this unusual activity - in tow. Franz said nothing until they were walking along a path by the River Isar in the Englischer Garten.
‘I had a phone call today from your friend Bernard in London,’ he said finally. ‘Or rather, he rang me briefly and then asked me to call him back from a public call box. He gave me a number which I rang from the café downstairs.’
‘But why all this secret service stuff?’
‘He was very nervous. He didn’t want to call you in the office. He seemed to think the line could be tapped. He wanted to know if you’d looked at the DVD he gave you.’
‘What, the pornographic film?’
‘No the other one of course! With pictures of Ned. He said that shortly after you’d visited him he was arrested by the police. They claimed they were investigating him for child pornography, but he said in the interviews they kept on asking about you, Ned and your connections. He thinks there may be something important there. Have you looked at it yet? I wasn’t sure.’
‘No, I haven’t had the time. It didn’t occur to me there could be anything particularly significant on it.’
‘He’s not sure there is either, but he thinks it’s worth examining.’
‘Oh God, this is awful. I seem to cause trouble for everybody around me. Is there anything I can do to help him?’
‘He says not to worry. He’s got a good lawyer and they have no evidence. But he said we need to be very, very careful. We shouldn’t even talk about what we’re doing in the flat in case it’s bugged, that’s why we’re out here now.’
 ‘Perhaps I should speak to Jeremy Fisk, he might be able to help.’
‘I suggested that, but he told me not to bother. He said Fisk wouldn’t risk getting his hands dirty with a case involving alleged child pornography.’
Behind them there was an indignant huff as Amadeus lay down on the ground and refused to walk another step. They turned around and - with difficulty - Franz picked him up.
‘We’d better go home, I think Amadeus has had enough. Shall I start going through the DVD? I’ve got time on my hands after all. Your agreement with the Colonel to stop looking for Ned only covers you, it doesn’t include me.’
Celia was silent for a moment. Was this going against her agreement? Technically not, and she owed it to Bernard at least to find out what was on the disc.
‘That would be good,’ she said. ‘Moving these pictures to Munich is going to be really difficult and I have so little time. I want to try and get everything ready by the weekend. With any luck I can then do the rest of the conservation work back here.’
‘I think that’s sensible. If Bernard is right, maybe you’ll be safer here than in Istria.’
There were an endless number of things for Celia to deal with at work over the next few days, but finally she and Marcus had cleared enough space in the conservation studio, installed humidifiers to control the atmosphere and agreed terms with the transport company. Celia went to see Dr Lenz in his office to check if he’d arranged the necessary insurance terms and found him in a meeting with a visitor.
‘Ah, come in Dr Thomas,’ said Lenz. ‘Let me introduce Herr Morfeus Herman. Herr Herman is Colonel Kaiec’s business partner, he’s here to deal with the finances of this project.’
Herman’s short, grey beard and watchful eyes reminded Celia of a 16th century El Greco portrait she’d once seen of a Spanish Grand Inquisitor. The man had had something like three hundred people burnt to death for religious heresy she remembered.
‘I didn’t know the Colonel had a business partner, Mr Herman,’ said Celia. ‘Have you worked with him long?’
He was slow to answer, weighing each word he spoke carefully. His English was more strongly accented and not as fluent as the Colonel.
‘Twenty year. We meet in war time. We make much business together. But I stay in background, not like Ivan. Is good team.’
She remembered what Ivana had told her about the gangsters the Colonel mixed with in the war. Was he one of them? Herman looked at her intently, a polite smile on his lips. Celia felt he was trying to read her. Did he know about Ned? Was he trying to see if she was keeping her side of the bargain? She stared back, determined not to be intimidated.  
‘Will you be in Istria with the Colonel when we move the paintings?’ she asked. Hagi laughed and looked away.
‘I have better thing to do with my time. I just organize payment for Ivan’s hobby.’
Dr Lenz – anxious that the conversation was taking an unfortunate turn – intervened and quickly dealt with Celia’s question about the insurance. She left his office with an uncomfortable feeling that Herr Herman did not trust her.
On Friday morning Marcus came by in a van to collect her for the drive to Istria.
‘I’ll carry on working on the DVD,’ said Franz as Celia leant out the window to say goodbye. ‘I haven’t found anything yet, but maybe I’m missing something.’
 ‘All right,’ she said. ‘And try not to worry too much about everything. I should back by Monday at the latest!’
Franz stood on the pavement and waved until the van was out of sight and went back inside the building. He stopped by their letterbox to see if there was anything to take upstairs and there – between a leaflet for Punjab Pizzas and a credit card bill - he found a letter addressed to Celia from Croatia.

Chapter 30 – Discoveries
Franz was uncertain as to whether he should open Celia’s letter or not. Could he be sure that this had something to do with Ned? Suppose it was something personal from the Colonel? Or that journalist she’d met, Tomi? He stood by the sitting room window examining the envelope in the light, hoping it might give him a clue as to the contents but there was no sender’s address and the postmark was just a smear. His fingers could feel a small hard square shape inside which made them tingle with curiosity so after a moment’s further hesitation he slit open the envelope. Inside was a second envelope and inside that Franz found a hand written letter with a camera memory card taped to it.
Dear Celia
I hope you don’t get to open this letter. I’m giving it to a friend in Bukovar with instructions to post it if something bad should happen to me, so if you’re reading this now, I’m most likely dead. Which sucks!
 I just met you and your friend Tomi last night and I told you how Ned and I had been collecting information about Ivan’s connections with British arms dealers and the British government. I wasn’t sure about giving it to you because I’ve always been able to use it for myself when I needed something from that bastard, but I figure if something bad has happened to me then it may be useful for somebody else.
On the disk are a couple of pictures of people, draft meeting reports, faxes and lists that we pulled out of dustbins or I stole from Ivan’s briefcase and copied. Most of the stuff is correspondence between Ivan and a seriously creepy guy, Morfeus Herman, who Ivan took up with back in the early nineties. After the war they went on to do a lot of business together and I’m guessing they’re still partners or something.
When I threatened Ivan I’d send this to the UN, I never specified exactly what I had, because I couldn’t make much sense of it all. I just know that he didn’t like the idea of any bad publicity and maybe he felt a bit guilty about the way he’d treated me. Enough to back off anyway.
So, if you do ever find Ned again, let him know what happened and make sure you use this information to take Ivan down. And, as I said to you before be really careful. These are dangerous people to mess with, as this letter proves!
Sincerely yours,
Franz read the letter twice, then looked inside the first envelope again and found a small newspaper article in Croatian. He couldn’t translate it but he guessed Ivana’s friend had slipped it inside as an explanation for sending the letter. It included a photograph showing the burnt out ruin of a building which Franz deduced must be the remains of the bar which Celia had visited. There was nothing else.
He sat still for a while, the sick feeling of anxiety for Celia which had accompanied him since the attack on her in Venice increasing. He daren’t try calling her to make her come back. If their flat and phone really were bugged, the listeners would realise they were still looking for Ned and that would endanger Celia. He would just have to wait and hope that the Colonel was so fixated on getting the pictures restored that she’d be safe. He’d have to see what information he could get out of Bernard’s DVD and from Ivana’s slip-disk. He set to work.
The 16th century craftsman who had fixed the wooden panels to the chapel’s altar wall really hadn’t wanted them to be taken down. The x-ray photographs Rudi had taken showed a complex system of bolts and struts in place to hold them firmly there. However, that was not Celia’s biggest problem. That was the Colonel who insisted on watching and spent the whole time hopping from side to side, wringing his hands and interfering in their work. Finally Celia lost her temper.
‘Get out!’ she shouted and started pushing him towards the door. He looked at her in amazement. ‘Get out now, or we’re leaving and you can do what you want with the paintings yourself!’
‘I’m only trying to help,’
‘But you aren’t helping, you’re just getting in the way. You have to understand, I’m like a surgeon. To save the thing you love I’m cutting it open. It will be stitched back together again eventually, but at the moment you’re endangering the whole operation. Go back to the villa and we’ll tell you how everything went after it’s finished. Otherwise I swear we’ll leave!’
The Colonel opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it when he saw the look on Celia’s face, and left. Celia went back to the paintings which Rudi was covering in a protective plastic film.
‘What are you smirking at?’ she asked.
‘You’re probably the first person who’s told the Colonel to his face he can’t do something for a very long time.’
‘It’s just as well you got him out of here now,’ said Marcus. ‘He’d have a heart attack when we split the panels up to get them through the door…’
Franz, Max and Tante Ilse stared at the wall of Tante Ilse’s sitting room, now covered in print-outs of pictures from Bernard’s disk, interspersed between portraits of deceased von Wülows looking down aristocratic noses.
‘What do you want us to do, Dad?’ asked Max.
‘I’ve looked at these pictures again and again and I can’t see anything special in them. So I thought you two could have a look and maybe you’d see something unusual.’
‘What should we be looking for? Do you have any idea?’ asked Tante Ilse, holding up a lorgnette to inspect a picture of Ned.
‘Hmmh. Well, why don’t we start by you telling us if you know any of the people? This one must be Ned. He looks very similar to Celia. And you too, Max.’
‘Yes, that’s right. I imagine the countryside behind him shows somewhere in Bosnia.’
‘Who are these people with Ned, Dad?’ Max pointed to another picture which showed a group sitting outside a café. Besides Ned, there were two men in civilian clothes and two in army fatigues.
‘I don’t know all of them, but I think the guy next to Ned is Jeremy Fisk, the journalist with Ned on his final trip. I met him briefly at Ned’s funeral. The middle-aged man in the suit has to be English. He looks like a diplomat or something.’
‘Was Fisk the man Celia saw when she was in London recently?’ asked Tante Ilse.
‘That’s the one.’
Tante Ilse sniffed. ‘He looks like he could do with a haircut. He seems very friendly with those two soldiers.’
‘I don’t know the man with the beard on the left, but the one in the middle is Colonel Kaiec. At least, it’s a younger version. The present one is fatter.’
‘When did you meet him?’ asked Max.
‘I haven’t. When Celia started this restoration work I googled him. As he’s a politician there’s a lot to find.’
‘What about this picture? Ned looks like he’s having a good time!’
It showed Ned, apparently in a night club. He was standing at the bar next to a man with his back to the camera. The man had his arm round the waist of a girl who was wearing a lot of not very much.
‘She looks like fun,’ said Max.
‘Only if you can pay for it, Max dear. I think that should be perfectly clear, even at your age,’ said Tante Ilse. ‘Who’s that behind the bar watching them?’
‘The barman I suppose,’ said Franz. ‘I hadn’t noticed him before.’
Max got a magnifying glass and went up close to the picture and inspected it carefully.
‘Oh!’ he gave a sudden squawk of recognition and turned to look at them. ‘It’s that other guy. The soldier sitting next to the Colonel. You know … the one with the beard!’

Chapter 31 – Evidence
By Sunday evening the panels had been taken down and carefully packed into the lorry for their journey to Munich. Celia stood with the Colonel as it set off down the drive. He had behaved himself well as the crates were loaded, even though by now he must have realized the panels had been divided.
‘Don’t worry,’ Celia said to him. ‘They’ll come back and then they’ll amaze everybody.’
 ‘I know. But they’ve been here for maybe six hundred years and belonged to my family for the last hundred and fifty years, even if we didn’t realize they were there.’
Celia nodded.
‘You’ve no idea how difficult it was,’ he continued. ‘Being away from this place. My father mentioned it in one context or another, nearly every day. We all belong together here, I don’t like any part of it being gone.’
‘Why don’t you come down to the chapel?’ asked Celia, trying to distract him. ‘I can show you the hiding place behind the panels.’
They walked back to the chapel together, the Colonel smoking a cigar.
‘I met your business partner, Mr Herman, in Munich  the other day,’ said Celia. ‘He’s very different from you. Dark and mysterious. A bit scary actually!’
‘Yes, that’s a good description of Morfeus. He hasn’t had a lot to laugh about in life.’
‘Really? Why?’
‘He lost his whole family in the war. They had a farm in Bosnia Herzegovina.’
‘What happened?’
The Colonel didn’t answer straight away, as if he were weighing up what he could tell her. They reached the door of the chapel, but instead of entering he stopped outside.
‘His family’s farm was in an area where Serbs, Croatians and Bosnians had lived side by side for generations, without any trouble. When the fighting began in ’91, Morfeus wasn’t worried. It was a political thing, nothing to do with ordinary people, he thought, until one evening Serbian militia surrounded the farm and set fire to it. When they tried to escape the Serbs caught them all. They chained Morfeus to a tractor so he could watch while they killed his parents and raped and shot his wife. Finally they beat him until they thought he was dead.’
He told her simply and directly. Celia felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickling with horror.
‘The terrible thing for Morfeus was that the people who did it came from a neighbouring village,’ continued the Colonel. ‘He’d been to school with some of them. Anyway, eventually he came round and freed himself, buried his family and somehow made his way to Zagreb. He joined my unit and in the war he was not only very brave, he was also very useful to me.’
‘In what way?’
‘He has an incredible head for numbers and in the negotiations I was having with arms dealers at that time he was just what I needed. He can calculate interest rates, payment terms or anything else you need in an instant. It’s uncanny.’
‘What happened after the war?’
‘We went into business together. I do the networking to set up the deals and he sorts out the money side.’
‘I see. How terrible about his family though. No wonder he looks so bitter,’ said Celia. ‘Did he ever get any justice?’
Again the Colonel paused. ‘Oh yes,’ he said eventually. ‘Morfeus made sure of that. Revenge is something that he knows a lot about.’
He pushed open the chapel door. ‘Let’s have a look at this secret chamber then, shall we?’
It took a while for Franz to access the material from Ivana and Max had to help. They decided to print it all out. There were a lot of pages to look at and amongst them the photograph of Ned in the nightclub.
‘It must mean something then, Dad!’ said Max. ‘Otherwise he wouldn’t have given it to Ivana.’
Franz nodded. ‘But what’s important in the picture? Is it the soldier-barman? The girl? The other man? Or is it the bar itself?’
He put it to one side and picked up what seemed to be part of a fax that had been crumpled and thrown away. Somebody had rescued it and carefully flattened it out before taking a photograph. It was written in the precise, burocratic English of a lawyer.
…with regard to the shipment agreed in our discussions recently in Vienna we would ask you to confirm that the initial down payment of $500,000 ( five hundred thousand US dollars) will be made to the Queenstown International (Cayman) Bank Ltd by the end of July 1994 to the usual account. Once this has been confirmed, the shipment shall be made available for transportation from our Budapest branch.
 The outstanding sum of $2,500,000 (two million five hundred thousand US dollars) shall be paid in three tranches:
- August 31 1994
- September 30 1994
- October 31 1994
The shipment will consist of:
- 850 sets of Aramid fibre body armour
- 435 Z5 assault rifles + 800,000 rounds of ammunition
- 200 BLOWTORCH grenade launchers + 10,000 grenades
‘This doesn’t really help that much,’ said Max. ‘There aren’t any fax numbers, nothing to connect this shopping list with British suppliers or the Colonel. This is exactly the problem Ivana and Uncle Ned had.’
‘Well, we just have to keep looking,’ said Franz. ‘Until we find something that they missed.’ 
Celia and Colonel Kaiec peered inside the small chamber in the bare wall.
‘What do you think it was used for?’
Celia shrugged. ‘Probably things of value like a cross or maybe a relic from a saint in a precious casket. This was a chapel that pilgrims used for services so the local priest would’ve needed equipment.’
‘Or maybe he just kept his lunch there.’
Celia laughed. ‘Yes that’s possible.’
‘Where you hoping you’d find something valuable there?’
‘Of course. Every art historian hopes for something like that!’
The Colonel took a torch from the pile of equipment on the floor and shone it around inside.
‘It’s a bit like this whole political box that I’ve opened,’ he said. ‘You hope that you’re going to find something wonderful, but I’m starting to think that if I do get elected I’ll find there’s nothing particularly exciting about being in government. Just a lot of hard work.’
‘You sound a bit disillusioned. How’s the campaign going?’
 ‘Very well according to my campaign manager. My opponents are worried and starting to sling a lot of mud. They’d love to find something they can use against me.’
‘What are they afraid of?’
‘I told you at that lunch we had a few weeks ago, my family has always tried to serve Croatia. If I get elected I mean to stamp out the corruption in government, the judiciary and the police. Croatia has become a transit land from east to west for weapons, drugs and people, and there are many in positions of power that profit from this. They’re afraid I’ll damage their interests.’
‘Well, that sounds good, but what makes you think you’ll be able to succeed?’
‘I’ve got an advantage. I know how the smuggling is done, remember?’
‘That’s true. But if your enemies are trying so hard to find dirt on you, aren’t you afraid they’ll dig up something? I mean …’ she couldn’t resist asking this question. ‘… how did you build your fortune? You came here with nothing and now you’re a very wealthy man.’
The Colonel nodded. ‘After the war there was so much that needed to be done to rebuild the country. With my connections here and in the Americas it was difficult not to make money. I didn’t need to carry on smuggling, everybody wanted to involve me in some project. Infrastructure, tourism, telecommunications, you name it, we’ve helped out there somewhere. With Morfeus alongside to make sure the figures are right, the money just kept pouring in.’
Celia shook her head.
‘But during the war, when you were doing all this smuggling, how did you pay for everything you bought? I mean the Croatian government was nearly bankrupt at the time and you weren’t wealthy then.’
The Colonel dismissed her question with an airy wave of his hand. ‘Donations. The Croatian diaspora funded us.’
‘That wasn’t what Ivana thought. She believed that you were getting involved with people who were not just smuggling arms into Zagreb, but also with drugs and human trafficking to pay for the weapons. People like Morfeus Herman perhaps.’
The Colonel laughed. ‘Poor Morfeus, Ivana always disliked him. But that was all in the past.’
‘But how can you be sure it’s in the past if you leave the money side to your partner? My husband… ’ Celia told him about Franz’s experience with Nicoleta on the train.
After she’d finished the Colonel was pensive for a while. They went back to the Villa. Celia collected her bag and set off for the drive back to Munich with Rufus and Marcus.
Max had given up long before and gone to bed and Franz’s eyes were crossing with tiredness from looking at the print-outs from Ivana’s disk. He had found interesting material on a range of topics connected with the Colonel, but nothing that linked him directly with the fax.
He sighed and turned to the computer to shut it down. He looked at the list of photographs and decided to run through them one last time on screen. He clicked through slowly, then stopped and went back to look at one of them more carefully. It showed the Colonel in uniform cradling a rifle in his arms and standing next to some crates which had just been unloaded from a lorry. Franz expanded the picture to get a clear picture of the rifle, which he then compared with a picture of a Z5 assault rifle he found in the internet. It was one of the rifles that the Colonel had ordered, he was sure. He scoured the picture, what other clues could he find?
He stopped and expanded another section of the picture, just next to the Colonel’s hip. On the crate was a label with a name and address that the internet confirmed belonged to an arms manufacturer in Birmingham.  This was good, but not conclusive. The crate could have just been recycled from somewhere else. He carried onto the next picture. It seemed to be a customs declaration list for imported teaching materials: pencils, chalk, rulers, crayons and so on. Franz had been puzzled by the list before, it seemed to be such an unlikely list of materials in the middle of a war, and why was the colonel involved? His signature was at the bottom of the page. He was just about to go on to the next document when he spotted the name of the company providing the goods.
‘Bingo!’ said Franz. ‘Bloody bingo!’
It was the same as on the crate with the Z5 rifles.

Chapter 32 – The Fool
When she reached the end of Ivana’s letter Celia buried her head in the arm of the sofa and wept while Franz knelt beside her, stroking her head and feeling helpless. She’d arrived back late on Sunday from Istria but Franz had waited until Monday evening before showing her the letter. He knew she would feel responsible for Ivana’s death.
Eventually she stopped, got up, went to the bathroom and washed her face, then came back and sat down next to Franz, twisting a handkerchief in her hands.
‘Celia, you need to look at the rest of the things that Bernard and Ivana sent you,’ Franz said. ‘We need to decide what to do.’
‘I don’t want to look,’ she said. ‘I’m too frightened. Ivana was right. Whatever it was that she and Ned uncovered it’s too dangerous for us. We’re not superheroes. We don’t have any special powers. It could be us next. We should just destroy everything.’
‘But then Ivana’s death will have been in vain, won’t it? You have to see what I’ve found.’
Reluctantly she allowed him to show her the pictures that he and Max had printed.
‘That’s Morfeus Herman and Timothy Arnold in the café with Ned and Jeremy Fisk,’ she said. ‘A lot younger but definitely them. My guess is that Arnold must have been the middleman that Ivana said Ned had discovered. He’d have organized the contacts between the Colonel, Herman and the British arms suppliers.’
‘Max said that you can see Herman in this picture, too.’ Franz showed her the picture from the nightclub. Celia took a magnifying glass and looked at the whole picture carefully.
‘Yes, that’s him. It seems unlikely he was just a barman though. Perhaps it’s a brothel or something. The girl doesn’t look as if she’s only there for decoration.’
‘No, she doesn’t. But the photo must be particularly significant in some way, it was in the material from both Bernard and Ivana,’ said Franz. ‘But now look at these ones.’ He showed her the pictures of the Colonel with the rifle, a blow-up of the address on the crate and the shipping list with the British arms manufacturer’s address. Despite herself, Celia was excited.
‘This is it! This really nails the British government. No arms manufacturer would have dared do anything like this without their approval. If we show this to the International War Tribunal in the Hague there’ll be a major stink. But why didn’t Ned spot this?’
‘Back in ’95 he wouldn’t have been able to expand the photo like I did. He’d have needed specialist equipment. Any computer can do it nowadays.’
Celia got up and walked around the room. ‘I still think it’s too…’ she began, when the phone rang.
‘Dr Thomas?’ asked a familiar voice.  ‘This is Ivan Kaiec…’
The Colonel had heard about Ivana’s death and then called Morfeus Herman on Sunday evening to ask what he knew about it. Morfeus admitted he’d sent somebody to her house to try to get hold of any material she had after he’d heard about Celia’s visit.
‘He said he was doing it to protect my political career. He hadn’t wanted Ivana killed but something had gone badly wrong because the man he’d sent had failed to reappear.
‘I then decided to ask him those questions you put to me about the money for the weapons we bought. He told me that we’d financed them through a mixture of donations from the Croatian diaspora and smuggling cigarettes into Italy. But that’s not the worst of it …’
After the war Herman had set up his own businesses.
‘He began using the smuggling routes we’d set up during the war to move drugs and prostitutes from the east into western Europe.’
‘Did he tell you all this?’ asked Celia, amazed.
‘Not exactly. I found that out when I got back to Zagreb this morning. A friend of mine at police headquarters warned me that the Italian police had contacted them, asking questions about Morfeus. It seems they arrested a Russian pimp and some girl he was bringing to Milan recently. His mobile phone had Morfeus’ number in its contact list and even text messages. From the sound of it, this is the girl your husband found on the way to Venice, the one you told me about.
‘Anyway, I called a meeting with Morfeus this afternoon and said I was cutting all links to him. We had a terrible argument and that’s why I’m calling you. You may need to be careful.’
‘Yes. Until now I’ve been like a brother to Morfeus. I was all he had after his family was killed and he blames you and your husband for our split. When he left my office he told me I would regret this and now he’s disappeared. The police wanted to interview him about this Russian pimp but they can’t find him. I’ve arranged for an extra bodyguard for myself and Natalia and the children, but it’s just possible that he may come after you.’
After the Colonel had finished, Celia and Franz took Amadeus out for his evening walk.
‘I have to do something, don’t I?’ said Celia finally. ‘Whatever Ned and Ivana uncovered has to be made public.’
Franz nodded. ‘How though?’ he asked. ‘I’m not sure if the War Tribunal are the best people. If they’re typical burocrats it’ll all take too long.’
‘I’m going to contact Jeremy Fisk,’ said Celia. ‘He promised he’d help me and he’s got the right media contacts to get maximum publicity. We need pressure from the press so that the police do something quickly to get hold of Morfeus and lock him up.’
Next morning Celia rummaged amongst her papers until she found Jeremy’s card with his personal mobile number and called him, this time from Tante Ilse’s phone. Just in case hers was being listened to.
It took a long time to explain everything. When she’d finished, Jeremy was full of praise.
‘I can really see you’re Ned’s sister. He’d be so proud of you if he knew what you’ve uncovered. Just give me a couple of days and I’m going to come up with some ideas of the best way to handle this. I need to check a few details this end, but I’ll be in touch again on Thursday.’
After she’d hung up, Celia asked Tante Ilse for her Tarot cards. She shuffled the pack, picked a card and placed it on the table.
‘What was your question?’ asked Tante Ilse.
‘I asked how this is all going to end,’ said Celia. ‘It would be nice to have some idea.’
She turned the card over. It was The Fool.
‘Oh dear,’ said Tante Ilse. ‘Anything’s still possible. How very unhelpful!’

Chapter 32 – The Fool
When she reached the end of Ivana’s letter Celia buried her head in the arm of the sofa and wept while Franz knelt beside her, stroking her head and feeling helpless. She’d arrived back late on Sunday from Istria but Franz had waited until Monday evening before showing her the letter. He knew she would feel responsible for Ivana’s death.
Eventually she stopped, got up, went to the bathroom and washed her face, then came back and sat down next to Franz, twisting a handkerchief in her hands.
‘Celia, you need to look at the rest of the things that Bernard and Ivana sent you,’ Franz said. ‘We need to decide what to do.’
‘I don’t want to look,’ she said. ‘I’m too frightened. Ivana was right. Whatever it was that she and Ned uncovered it’s too dangerous for us. We’re not superheroes. We don’t have any special powers. It could be us next. We should just destroy everything.’
‘But then Ivana’s death will have been in vain, won’t it? You have to see what I’ve found.’
Reluctantly she allowed him to show her the pictures that he and Max had printed.
‘That’s Morfeus Herman and Timothy Arnold in the café with Ned and Jeremy Fisk,’ she said. ‘A lot younger but definitely them. My guess is that Arnold must have been the middleman that Ivana said Ned had discovered. He’d have organized the contacts between the Colonel, Herman and the British arms suppliers.’
‘Max said that you can see Herman in this picture, too.’ Franz showed her the picture from the nightclub. Celia took a magnifying glass and looked at the whole picture carefully.
‘Yes, that’s him. It seems unlikely he was just a barman though. Perhaps it’s a brothel or something. The girl doesn’t look as if she’s only there for decoration.’
‘No, she doesn’t. But the photo must be particularly significant in some way, it was in the material from both Bernard and Ivana,’ said Franz. ‘But now look at these ones.’ He showed her the pictures of the Colonel with the rifle, a blow-up of the address on the crate and the shipping list with the British arms manufacturer’s address. Despite herself, Celia was excited.
‘This is it! This really nails the British government. No arms manufacturer would have dared do anything like this without their approval. If we show this to the International War Tribunal in the Hague there’ll be a major stink. But why didn’t Ned spot this?’
‘Back in ’95 he wouldn’t have been able to expand the photo like I did. He’d have needed specialist equipment. Any computer can do it nowadays.’
Celia got up and walked around the room. ‘I still think it’s too…’ she began, when the phone rang.
‘Dr Thomas?’ asked a familiar voice.  ‘This is Ivan Kaiec…’
The Colonel had heard about Ivana’s death and then called Morfeus Herman on Sunday evening to ask what he knew about it. Morfeus admitted he’d sent somebody to her house to try to get hold of any material she had after he’d heard about Celia’s visit.
‘He said he was doing it to protect my political career. He hadn’t wanted Ivana killed but something had gone badly wrong because the man he’d sent had failed to reappear.
‘I then decided to ask him those questions you put to me about the money for the weapons we bought. He told me that we’d financed them through a mixture of donations from the Croatian diaspora and smuggling cigarettes into Italy. But that’s not the worst of it …’
After the war Herman had set up his own businesses.
‘He began using the smuggling routes we’d set up during the war to move drugs and prostitutes from the east into western Europe.’
‘Did he tell you all this?’ asked Celia, amazed.
‘Not exactly. I found that out when I got back to Zagreb this morning. A friend of mine at police headquarters warned me that the Italian police had contacted them, asking questions about Morfeus. It seems they arrested a Russian pimp and some girl he was bringing to Milan recently. His mobile phone had Morfeus’ number in its contact list and even text messages. From the sound of it, this is the girl your husband found on the way to Venice, the one you told me about.
‘Anyway, I called a meeting with Morfeus this afternoon and said I was cutting all links to him. We had a terrible argument and that’s why I’m calling you. You may need to be careful.’
‘Yes. Until now I’ve been like a brother to Morfeus. I was all he had after his family was killed and he blames you and your husband for our split. When he left my office he told me I would regret this and now he’s disappeared. The police wanted to interview him about this Russian pimp but they can’t find him. I’ve arranged for an extra bodyguard for myself and Natalia and the children, but it’s just possible that he may come after you.’
After the Colonel had finished, Celia and Franz took Amadeus out for his evening walk.
‘I have to do something, don’t I?’ said Celia finally. ‘Whatever Ned and Ivana uncovered has to be made public.’
Franz nodded. ‘How though?’ he asked. ‘I’m not sure if the War Tribunal are the best people. If they’re typical burocrats it’ll all take too long.’
‘I’m going to contact Jeremy Fisk,’ said Celia. ‘He promised he’d help me and he’s got the right media contacts to get maximum publicity. We need pressure from the press so that the police do something quickly to get hold of Morfeus and lock him up.’
Next morning Celia rummaged amongst her papers until she found Jeremy’s card with his personal mobile number and called him, this time from Tante Ilse’s phone. Just in case hers was being listened to.
It took a long time to explain everything. When she’d finished, Jeremy was full of praise.
‘I can really see you’re Ned’s sister. He’d be so proud of you if he knew what you’ve uncovered. Just give me a couple of days and I’m going to come up with some ideas of the best way to handle this. I need to check a few details this end, but I’ll be in touch again on Thursday.’
After she’d hung up, Celia asked Tante Ilse for her Tarot cards. She shuffled the pack, picked a card and placed it on the table.
‘What was your question?’ asked Tante Ilse.
‘I asked how this is all going to end,’ said Celia. ‘It would be nice to have some idea.’
She turned the card over. It was The Fool.
‘Oh dear,’ said Tante Ilse. ‘Anything’s still possible. How very unhelpful!’

 Chapter 33 – Blackmail
Celia threw herself into her work the next day. The panels had arrived in Munich and she, Rudi and Marcus had to make sure they were properly unpacked and stored.
‘There’s a little damage to the areas around the joins between each of them,’ Celia was able to report to Dr Lenz. ‘But nothing that can’t be repaired.’
‘What about the backs? What sort of condition are they in?’
‘One or two may need to be replaced and they all have parasite damage. But overall they’re not too bad. We’re going to tackle them first so the top surface has stability. Rudi’s doing an infra-red scan at …’
Celia carried on without a break until the early evening before going home. Marienplatz and the underground were full of cheerful people, either going to or just coming from the Oktoberfest. Apart from the occasional encounter with an obnoxious drunk or two, Celia liked the Oktoberfest. In general she found Germans to be a dull-looking crowd, mostly dressed in sombre, conservative grays, blacks and browns. She missed the wild eccentricities that could be seen in London, or the sophistication and glamour to be found in Milan or Paris. But during Oktoberfest the local women blossomed into pink, green, blue and scarlet dirndls while the men wandered around in colourful check shirts with lederhosen. And it always amazed her that a festival built around so much alcohol should pass off, year for year, so peacefully. It was impossible to imagine something like that in Britain.
There was a note in the kitchen from Franz to say he’d gone to the cinema with Max and they’d be back late. Celia looked inside the fridge to see if there was anything to eat and was just pondering if she should cook something for all of them when the intercom buzzed and she answered.
‘Hello Celia,’ said Tomi. ‘Can I come up? We need to talk.’
Celia said nothing, her brain frantically trying to think of how to deal with this. He heard her hesitation.
‘Hey Celia, I just need a quick word with you in private. No big deal!’
She buzzed him up and let him inside. There was an awkward moment when he leant forward to kiss her on the cheek and she stepped backwards to avoid it.
‘Nice place you have here,’ he said. ‘Tasteful…’
They sat across the kitchen table from each other, Tomi - making an elaborate display of being at ease - chattered amiably about nothing. Celia didn’t bother to join in.
Since she’d last seen him on the platform in Zagreb so many things had happened, none of which she wanted to share with him. And then there were the doubts about his character that Ivana’s letter had raised. This made her feel slightly guilty. Perhaps she was treating him unfairly. After all, he had helped her in her quest to find Ned, at painful, personal cost. He’d always been constructive and if she was honest with herself, she’d lapped up the attention he’d given her. Was that all it was, she wondered? Had his appeal two weeks before simply been that he’d made her feel attractive again? And this, combined with the adventure of visiting Ivana and the opportunity provided by the stop at the hotel, had led her to sleep with him?  It was humiliating to admit but the strongest emotion she felt about him now was annoyance at the fact he was keeping her from her dinner. She decided to cut the small talk.
‘What do you want, Tomi?’ she asked. ‘I’d prefer it if you weren’t here when my husband and son get back.’
 ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘Uncomfortable for everybody. Well, this need only take a moment; I want you to give me the material that Ivana sent you.’
‘What makes you think she sent me something?’
Tomi grinned. ‘Because you’re not denying it. And because when I heard about her death I drove back to Barlovcar and spoke to her neighbours. One of them told me they’d sent a package to Munich. Well, that has to be you, doesn’t it?’
Celia paused a moment, then shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t. Ivana said I wasn’t to share it with you.’
Tomi shrugged his shoulders. ‘That doesn’t change anything, Celia. I want what she sent you and I want it now.’
‘Why? What can you possibly do with it?’
‘That’s my business!’
They glared at each other.
‘I can’t give you anything.’ said Celia finally. ‘I’m grateful for the help you gave me, but I can’t go against Ivana’s last wishes. I think you should go.’
‘I’m sure you do. But I don’t think I will, quite yet…’ he took an envelope out of his jacket pocket. ‘You see, I have something here that I’d like to show your husband,’ he said and held up a photograph. ‘And maybe your son would also like to know what his mother gets up to when she’s away!’
Celia felt the blood drain from her head and then a rush of nausea. She just made it to the sink before throwing up.
Tomi laughed. ‘That seems a little unnecessary,’ he held the picture up to the light. ‘They’re really very tasteful as these things go. And I love that look of enthusiasm on your face in this one. Really giving it your all, wouldn’t you say?’
‘You utter shit! How did you do this?’
‘This was the third time, remember? Just as that beautiful morning sun rose and filled the room with light. Amazing what you can get one of these smart phones to do nowadays if you position it right. A picture every sixty seconds.  I could probably have set the sound recorder going as well. That really would have added something. “Ugh…  ugh…oh … oh… yes…yes…yes!” Shame I didn’t think of it.’
 ‘But why would you even think of doing such a thing?’
‘Hey, Celia! I wanted something to remember you by. And then I thought at some point it might be useful to have something on you. Like now. So, either you give me Ivana’s material, or I share my beautiful memories of our night together with your husband.’
At that moment they both heard the sound of a key in the front door and for Celia time started to go very slowly. Everything passed through her mind: from the initial sighting of Ned on the train, the work in Istria, the visit to London, the meeting with Ivana and her subsequent letter, her night with Tomi, the attack in Venice and her reconciliation with Franz. Her reconciliation with Franz…
Time resumed its normal speed and the door opened. Tomi turned to her. ‘You have no choice!’ he hissed.
 ‘The film was rubbish so we left early. Oh, hello …’ said Franz as he walked into the kitchen and saw Tomi. ‘I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Franz, Celia’s husband.’ He looked at Celia. ‘Are you all right? You don’t look well!’ There was a silence.
‘Where’s Max?’ asked Celia.
‘He said he wanted to pick up something from one of his friends. He’ll be back in an hour. Sorry Celia, but who’s …’
‘Hi Franz, I’m Tomislav Lederer,’ said Tomi shaking Franz’s hand. ‘I’m sure Celia’s told you about me. I came round because Celia promised to give me the material that Ivana sent her. That’s right isn’t it, Celia?’
Both men turned to look at her, Franz puzzled, and Tomi expectant. Again Celia had the feeling of time moving very slowly as she opened her mouth to speak. It was true. She had no choice.
‘Franz, this man is trying to blackmail me into giving him Ivana’s material,’ she said, her voice shaking slightly.  ‘A few weeks ago I slept with him and he took photographs of us in bed together without my knowledge. I’m very, very sorry that you have had to learn about it in this way.’ She drew herself up as tall as she could and looked contemptuously at Tomi. ‘As for you, I’ll give you nothing!’
A look of disbelief crossed the faces of both men, which then turned to fury in Tomi’s case.
‘You stupid, stupid bitch!’ he shouted at Celia, then pulled out several photos from his envelope and thrust them under Franz’s nose. ‘Take a look at this, here she is! Really enjoying a good fuck for a change! From the noises she was making I guess she hadn’t had any of that for a long time! The slut!’
Franz caught Tomi’s arm and with a quick movement twisted it behind his back. He grabbed the collar of his jacket and pushed him out of the kitchen.
‘Open the door!’ he ordered Celia, and without the struggling Tomi being able to stop him, Franz threw him out the door and down a flight of stairs. Tomi picked himself up painfully, wiping blood off his lip where he’d bitten it.
‘This isn’t over!’ he shouted before disappearing down the next flight of stairs and out into Münchener Freiheit.
 ‘I didn’t know you could do something like that,’ Celia said as Franz came back into the kitchen.
‘I learnt it from Vassili,’ he answered. ‘Sometimes you need to throw people off a train.’
Lying face down on the floor was one of Tomi’s photos where it had fallen during their struggle. Franz knelt down.
‘Don’t look at it!’ said Celia. ‘Please don’t look!’
He picked it up without turning it over, tore it into small pieces and put them in the bin.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered and put her hand on his arm. Very gently, he removed it.
‘Celia,’ Franz said. ‘I want a divorce.’

Chapter 34 – False friends
They argued themselves into an exhausted sleep shortly before dawn next day. At some point Max returned home, took one look at his parents’ faces and told them he was going next door. He let himself silently into Tante Ilse’s flat and fell asleep, holding on tightly to a snoring Amadeus. Tante Ilse covered them with a blanket when she found them curled up on the sofa together early next morning. She phoned the school to say Max was ill and then went to see Celia and Franz.
Celia’s face was puffy and blotched. Tante Ilse made tea while Celia told her everything that had happened.
‘Where’s Franz now?’ asked Tante Ilse. Celia shook her head.
‘I don’t know. He went to sleep on the sofa at some point and I went to bed. He must have got up early and gone out. What happens now?’
‘What do you want to happen now?’
‘I want us to become a proper husband and wife again. It’s been pretty bad since he lost his job at the university, though it started to improve after that trip to Venice. I’m not proud of going to bed with that little creep, but at the time I really wanted to. I’m angry about putting myself in his power, but I’m also angry with Franz because it would never have happened if he hadn’t made me feel so … so …’ Celia searched for the right words. ‘… old and ugly! Yes, that’s it, old and ugly!’
‘So you slept with Tomi to bolster your ego?’
Celia nodded. ‘Looks like it. Not a very admirable reason.’
‘The ego is important. If it’s constantly put down then it will either rebel and look for affirmation elsewhere or you end up despising yourself. What you did was perhaps necessary for your mental health at that point. You couldn’t have predicted how it would turn out.’
‘But what do I do now? I understand that Franz is hurt and I’m very sorry that he found out in this way. If there was another option I’d have taken it to protect him. But he thinks that it’s destroyed everything we’ve ever had in our marriage, which I don’t believe. It’d be ridiculous to get divorced over this, but Franz just seems fixated on the idea.’
‘At the moment. Let’s see what happens,’ Tante Ilse got up. ‘I have to go back and see Max. I found him on the sofa with Amadeus this morning.’
‘I must talk to him …’
‘No. Go to work. You’ll probably make things worse for him just at the moment and you won’t do yourself any good. Go somewhere where you have to think about something different. You can talk to him this evening.’
‘Just do it, Celia. I’m ordering you as a doctor…’
So she did and as Tante Ilse predicted, it helped. The restoration work on the Colonel’s wooden panels needed her full concentration and she was able to put everything out of her mind until it was time to go home.
As she stepped out of the front door of the department and headed towards Marienplatz, her mobile phone rang.
‘Hello Celia, this is Jeremy,’ he sounded tense. ‘Listen, I haven’t got time to talk, I’m about to board a plane to Munich. We need to meet and I want you to bring everything you have relating to Ned’s investigations. I’ve got somebody who is very interested in finishing this whole business for you, but he wants a guarantee that he gets all the material and he wants to have a preview to make sure it’s as big as you say it is. Now this is what we’re going to do…’
Celia’s heart leaped. If she could only hand this responsibility over to someone else it would leave her more time and energy to deal with her other problems. She listened carefully, asked a few questions and by the time she’d got to the front door she’d fixed a suitable place for them to meet the next day.
She found Franz on his own looking morosely into a glass of Scotch from a bottle that a well-meaning house-guest had bought from an airport duty-free shop two years earlier and had been sitting untouched at the back of a kitchen cupboard since then.
‘Max has gone to stay with Kaspar,’ he said. ‘I tried to talk to him but he said he didn’t care about our problems and I should leave him alone.’
‘I think you should have waited until I was here as well,’ she said.
‘I don’t think I have to pay attention to anything you think,’ he answered.
They glared at each other. Celia dug her nails into her hand. She was not going to be provoked.
‘Look, I know this probably seems a strange time to bring up this topic, but I have to. It’s about all the Ned material we’ve collected …’
She told him about the call from Jeremy and asked Franz to come with her to see him.
‘Why?’ he asked, pouring himself another glass. ‘You don’t need me.’
‘But we collected all this evidence together. And it was you that found the really crucial information in the photographs. You could explain it better. And I’d feel happier if you came along with me. Safer.’
‘Really? Safer with your stupid, impotent husband? Can’t you find yourself another journalist to escort you? That last one seems to have been a real cracker!’
Celia opened her mouth as if to say something, then stopped. She collected all the papers relating to Ned from around the flat, went to the bedroom, reappeared with a bag a short time later and slammed the front door behind her without saying another word. Franz winced. Why wasn’t hurting her giving him any satisfaction? The revelation the previous evening had been so awful. That smug bastard Tomi standing there, smirking slyly at him, one button too many undone on his shirt, certain he was going to get Ivana’s information. And Celia had been magnificent, standing straight, head back and refusing to be blackmailed by those photographs. He couldn’t help but admire her integrity, giving in to Tomi would have been so easy. It had given him pleasure hurting Tomi, it really had. But then he was gone and there was only Celia left and he felt flooded with so much anger, jealousy and guilt that he wanted to hurt her too. Only this gave him no pleasure and he hated himself for his petty, spiteful remarks. And the whisky made him feel sick.
It was a long night. When he finally slept his dreams were filled with horrible images. He’d torn up Tomi’s picture without looking at it, but his imagination supplied all the possible details.  
He finally woke at about midday next day to the sound of the doorbell being rung loudly and repeatedly. He staggered to the door with his head pounding and his mouth feeling like a used laboratory petri dish.
‘Dr Thomas?’ said the elderly man standing on the doorstep next to Tante Ilse. ‘I hope you will excuse my persistence, but I needed to speak to you and hopefully your wife as well. The Grafin told me I should ring until you came to the door.’
‘She’s not here. Who … who are you?’ asked Franz, suddenly aware of what he must look like and how much his breath must smell.
‘Arnold, Timothy Arnold. May I come in?’
Despite his hangover Franz was fascinated to see this person who had been indirectly connected with his life for such a long time. He stumbled around the kitchen and made coffee while Timothy explained why he was there.
‘Your wife probably told you about my work for a British government agency. Recently she’s attracted a lot of attention from my former employer due to the material she uncovered about British suppliers of arms and equipment to Croatia during the UN embargo. I warned her that many people were anxious that this material should not be made public and that’s why I’m here today. Is it true that she’s planning to hand over all the material she’s collected to someone today?’
‘Yes. She believes that this is the best way to make it public. She’s taken it all with her, by the way, so if this is some last ditch attempt from your employer to stop her than you’re too late!’
Timothy looked extremely worried.
‘You don’t understand. I said former employer. I was just fired because I refused to take part any more in this cover-up. You must tell me who she’s meeting.’
‘Why would I do that?’ asked Franz. ‘You were the middle-man for all these deals, weren’t you? You’ve got a lot to lose from these revelations hitting the newspapers. You’re worried you’ll end up in jail alongside Morfeus Herman.’
‘I was never the middle-man for the deals, Dr Thomas. I was an organizer of meetings, rooms, transport that sort of thing. All the negotiations were run by somebody else. If you want this story to be made public, then it has to get to the right people. Who is Celia meeting?’
‘How can I possibly trust you?’
Timothy groaned. ‘This is getting us nowhere and time is running out!’
‘I have an idea,’ said Franz. ‘You tell me who you’re afraid she might be meeting and if it isn’t them, we can all relax.’ He took a sip of his coffee. It had to be Morfeus Herman that was causing the old man so much anxiety.
‘All right. But if I’m correct you have to do something straight away. This is a desperate man. Please God, don’t let her be meeting Jeremy Fisk!’

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous15/1/15

    Hi James,

    you certainly are gifted for creating suspense: reading the last sentences of chapter 29 makes one think instinctively "couldn't she have waited just a few moments longer!" or "couldn't he have checked the letterbox before Celia left!"

    :-) Lotte


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