In The Sphinx Bar
“Well, what do you think of Pawlik?” Gyldendal turned to Poniatowski. The manifestation had long since faded away; the medium had been carried out. The public room of the police building appeared harsh and sober as before.
The police commissioner had excused himself as well, in order to prepare a report to all the neighboring police departments. Poniatowski braided psalms together about Pawlik, whose mediumistic power he thought to exploit with future inventions.
“All of her statements are correct,” confirmed Gyldendal, “the only question is in which sense. Think of the remarkable appearance of the Fire Lilly! In Waldmeister’s personal description a tattoo of a Fire Lilly on his left breast was mentioned. But what about the Sphinx Bar? Is it really in India?”
The detective rang for a servant to bring an India travel guide from the official library, and paged through it briefly.
“That fits as well. You see, there is a Sphinx Bar in Surate. So our prospects of still apprehending Waldmeister are shrinking considerably. For that reason I propose to you, that we leave Pawlik entirely out of the game and go next to the crime scene with good old methods. If we go faithfully and steadily, perhaps Waldmeister’s fate will have an encounter with us.
Poniatowski was in agreement. They left the police station together like old acquaintances, and then went into a café. The chandeliers flickered over wavy hair and white necks. Gyldendal ordered a travel guide and several schnapps which Poniatowski greedily gulped down. The refreshed inventor became talkative, his eyes flashing wildly toward the ladies at the next table, and spoke of new ideas.
Gyldendal calmly endured the fireworks over his head for a while, and then pulled Poniatowski out of the paradise. They stood once more in the street, shivering in the snow and wet clothes. Poniatowski would have rather gone in a carriage again, but Gyldendal stepped along lustily on foot. Then the path showed mild and calm between the houses. The heavens themselves were covered with a tender white veil, under which the large tired eyes of the stars closed. The wind blew cold.
“Today there was a slaughter in the east, in which people were killed,” spoke Gyldendal. “Soon it will be here in the west. And we are sneaking after a man, who has killed, in order to kill him. Why?”
Poniatowski didn’t have any answer.
They came to the hotel of the crime scene; the landlord showed them Waldmeister’s room. It lay on the first floor, was beautiful and spacious. At Waldmeister’s arrest all possible care had been taken to leave it undisturbed. The clothing of the murder victim still lay on the sofa; Gyldendal fleetingly bent down over them.
“Noisy, silky things, that swish as you move,” he smiled, “giving warmth to the living and coolness to the dead.”
There was also a muff and a lady’s comb in a chest, which the victim must have brought to Waldmeister’s a long time ago. They found a picture of her in a drawer:
She had a symmetrical, peaceful continence, surrounded with a quiet glow. Her heavy dark hair was wound up into a single knot. Gyldendal laid the photo back in the drawer. Otherwise there was nothing of interest in the entire room. The disappearance of the corpse remained puzzling; the window was much too narrow, as Gyldendal determined, to force the victim through the tight opening in broad daylight. The floor boards, walls and stove appeared cool and intact.
“Hopefully we will be able to speak personally with Waldmeister sometime,” deplored Gyldendal. “I would be glad to hear what really happened from him. In any case, he appears to know his victim.”
Then the first reporter came snooping through the door, the landlord in tow, questioning him about the scene of the crime, and bowing to Poniatowski and Gyldendal. The inventor happily drizzled out his life’s story and that of the murder into the notebook of the reporter; Gyldendal remained wrapped in icy silence. Then they left, while the reporter strengthened the twofold article for the wrap up with warmed over sausage.
They stood once more on the street, the wind had risen, went in cold, heavy blasts right through Poniatowski’s worn out coat; the inventor leaned against a wall shivering. Gyldendal straightened him up.
“Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the failure of our effort. We have done our duty up to this point. Now we will recuperate after such an adventurous night and end it just as adventurously. What do you say to a little ending in a bar?”
Poniatowski nodded frozenly. They left.