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Open Features: MTS Nacella - Part 4

Alfred Mielacher continues his tale of a young man who leaves home to go to sea, only to find himself involved in a muder mystery.

I woke up just before eight o’clock and went through to the kitchen, where I found Zeenat enjoying a cup of coffee. We chatted about this and that, plus the fact that Candice hadn’t been here when I had returned yesterday evening. Finally I asked her if she knew the neighbour across the passage. Vaguely, was her immediate response! My question whether Karl had family she answered with a simple yes, but knew they were living somewhere in the south of Germany. To my question what Karl’s profession was, she answered that she didn’t know, Mr. Schulte never talked about work. Nor did she ever gossip with Candice about it.

An hour later I left to continue with my mission. But first I rang the door bell of Karl’s neighbour once more. Again no answer! I then decided to interrogate the caretaker. As I took the lift down, I remembered Candice saying that she didn’t like the guy simply because he was unfriendly and uncultured. I rang the doorbell to his apartment and once he had opened and answered a few straight forward questions about Mr. Schulte, I understood why she wasn’t fond of him! This chap certainly falls into the category of humans that, instead of helping out a fellow man with the tiniest anything, would rather put on mountain boots and climb Mount Everest!

I settled on going about my business for the day and would try the neighbour again on my return.

I returned to the apartment after five (feeling satisfied with what I had achieved – four more shipping agencies and four more possibilities to fulfil my desire to journey the seas) and found Candice talking to the young man in white coat! She smiled at me however I wasn’t pleased to see her chatting to that guy!

“How was your day?” she asked, seemingly pleased to see me.

“What is that man doing here?” I said, not that it was any of my business who the lady of the house was talking to.

She looked somewhat confused at my question but I saw in her eyes that she was trying to find an answer instead of telling me to get lost; which I thought was a kind gesture.
I looked at the guy and said, “May I introduce myself. Uh, my name is irrelevant however I am a friend of Karl. And you are?” knowing all too well that I was pushing my luck here!

“Mr. Kreisler is from Scotland Yard and he is here to inform me about Karl’s accident!” Candice said swiftly, before the guy could reply to my enquiry.

“But Candice, I saw that gentleman entering the apartment building the other morning. How can he be from Scotland Yard?”

“Sir, here are my credentials!” and he brought forth a really good copy of a S.Y. badge, as I thought.

“Where were you the last two days?” focusing on Candice once more.
“I visited my parents, as I told you I would!”

“But... Zeenat had called your folks and they assured her that they had not seen you since last weekend! What is going on here, Candice?” I enquired, while the man got up and hastily left the apartment.

“Mr. Kreisler! Where are you going?” Candice shouted after him.

“Are you involved in Karl’s death somehow? Tell me the truth!” I raised the question.

“What do you mean do I have anything to do with my husband’s accident? Of course not! Whatever gives you that crazy idea!” she replied with a stern face.

She rose, went to Karl’s office and returned with a white hard cover file that had in black lettering ‘TOP SECRET’ printed on its side. She handed it to me, saying, “Here is some interesting reading matter! I am going out quickly, see you just now, okay?” and she was gone before I was able to comment.

I grabbed a beer from the fridge and settled into a comfortable leather chair in the lounge. As excited and intrigued I was to learn about Karl’s dealings, as scared and wary I was to find out more details. I took a long sip of beer to steady my anticipation and opened the folder.

The first page simply said in red letters KGB/ANC. I knew of course what the former acronym stood for but had no clue of the meaning of the latter; being not in the least interested in politics, home grown or foreign. I began reading nevertheless!
After having read three pages of the twenty five page document, I simply gave up, having understood virtually nothing! Besides that the ANC are some kind of South African Freedom Fighters, seeking help from the communist party to overthrow the white minority government at the most southern tip of the African continent. What did all that have to do with Mr. Karl Schulte?

Why would Karl have such a document in his possession? Was he a Russian spy living in Hamburg acting as a middle-man between North and South? Was Karl Schulte a weapons dealer for those ANC thugs? His real name was most likely something in the order of ‘Ivan Petrovich’ or ‘Stanislav Radovikovsky’.

Was that how he accumulated such a vast fortune? My mind spiralled out of control with these ridiculous assumptions!
But were they ridiculous? I remembered the broad spectrum of subjects we had covered in the car the other day and some of the things he had informed me about, with regards to the RAF and their hair splitting ideas. But does that make him a spy? In spy movies I had never seen an overweight secret agent or in documentaries regarding such a profession. Perhaps Karl had become unwillingly entangled in stuff he had no idea about; or he was holding that incriminating document for some other people as a favour of sorts; or possibly it was merely smuggled into his possession; or conceivably he acted as a middleman between people or agencies, not knowing what it was all about; or maybe the man in the white coat handed it to Candice telling her he had found it in his possession; or perhaps it was a false document to implicate Karl; or most likely I was simply spinning weird and wonderful thoughts. But that something was going on was incontestable and undeniable!

I placed the file onto the desk in Karl’s office and decided to try the neighbour once more.

At the second ring someone came alive behind the door. It slowly opened and I got a good look at a gentleman dressed in black PJ’s holding a big book in his hand. His hair was greying and visibly thinning which didn’t make him look old but merely appearing sophisticated.

“Good evening, Sir! Sorry to intrude but...”

“You are not intruding, please do come in! You are Mr. Schulte’s visitor, aren’t you? I so seldom receive a guest that it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance. Everybody calls me Professor!”

“Pleased to meet you, Sir!” (he must have seen me entering or exiting the apartment).

“Professor, please!” and he opened the door just wide enough for me to enter.

I followed him into the interior of a massive apartment which, judging by the tasteful decor, was probably at one time, not too long ago, occupied by a female as well. “Sorry for your loss!” I said, trying to get him onto my side by offering sympathy!

“Don’t be! She didn’t pass away, she left me! And by doing so she presented me the biggest gift. Can I offer you a drink of some kind?”

“Sure, please! A beer would be much appreciated, thank you!” I replied, feeling rather comfortable in his presence.

While he organised drinks for us, I quickly scanned the apartment. It was certainly different to Karl’s, in the sense that this one was totally open plan. There was no place to hide, there were no individual rooms with four walls and a door – partitions yes but no doors.

As he returned with two beers I said “Was your run-away the architect as well?”

“Yes, she was! An amazing combination of professions, isn’t it? She is not only an interior decorator but builds a home around the decor too!”

“Extraordinary, I agree!”

We clinked bottles and I took in my surroundings with admiration!

“What brings you to my door?” he asked, guiding me back into reality.

For roughly the next two hours we chatted about a lot of things, including his neighbour, whom he didn’t know much about. He did however gauge that Mr. Schulte was a very intelligent intellectual. The Professor knew Mr. Schulte more from newspaper articles than from neighbourly conversations. After some final niceties and inviting me to call again, he locked the door behind me.

What a lovely man, I thought to myself, as I returned to Karl’s apartment. I called out ‘Candice?’, but did not get any reply. What did she say when she left, see you just now? I began wondering what could have had become of her – kidnapped perhaps, or met a friend at the shop, or maybe she went to visit Zeenat to do what women do best; gossip!

I didn’t know and didn’t care. I was tired and the four beers with the Professor didn’t help to increase my staying-up power, so I wrote Candice a short welcome-home-note. On the way to my room I wanted to grab the white file to do some reading in bed, but it was no longer on Karl’s desk! Instead I went to bed wondering!

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