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Austrian Murder Case

At the Konditorei

 

Close, warm, and humming with the relaxed sounds of post-

midday Kaffee-Kuchen. The  cakes are modestly presented in a

glass cabinet: stripes of sponge alternate with chocolate cream;

globes of mango gleam on mousse. Oblongs of raspberry and

banana jelly. Older couples sit at round tables, sip kaffee and

lift cake-cream inch-by-inch to mouths. They’re conscious not

to eat too quickly, so as to avoid nausea, and ensure instead

continued pure delight. A little nothing, pleasant chat; a few

read the papers.

 

Our protagonist has the table by the window, hung with a doily

curtain. There’s a cigarette smoking itself out in his thrown-

away left hand; his closed right one rests on the open pages of

an empty notepad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See (1)

 

Florian was walking with his schnauzer, Bernie, along the far

shore of the See. He preferred this less trodden, further side

because it meant he had a good view of the town, busy and

self-important on that nearer side. And he liked being closer to

the great faces of mountains, which jacked themselves right up

hard, grey and granular, above all the people’s things and

houses.

 

His head was clear and only had in it air, Bernie running and

her fetching the next stick, and the soft-firm earth and grass

under their feet.

 

They stopped on the path to look over the See. Its surface was

soft as a lady’s undergarment. You could place your finger in

its surface and feel it drop under, without resistance. Today’s

winter water had black, mirrored surfaces; nothing could be

seen beneath them.

 

Then Florian’s eye settles on something, as a fisherman

focuses on the red point at the end of his line in the

water. His eyes are drawing an outline – round the

objects he can see. They are – this shape – like this – two

rectangles bobbing among some dead black stalks. The

black of the rectangles is greyer than the See’s black.

Their sheen is harder than the water’s; more moulded,

less easy to penetrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Pension

 

The protagonist arrives at the pension. This is situated in the

village adjoining the town, where slopes are levelled in tiers to

make space for the houses. There are broad, roofed shelters to

store rows of clean logs for heating the farmhouses.

 

As he completes his information in the hotel ledger on the

counter, something catches his eye. He pauses. Another guest is

in the doorway, dragging two large, grey plastic cases. They

must be very heavy, judging by the discomfort of the man

dragging them indoors, the sweat on his brow and the red of his

face.

 

‘Hallo Herr Leitner,’ says the pension owner, over the shoulder

of the protagonist bent over the ledger. The handles of the

suitcases spring back into place as the guest lets them go to

return to his car. The pension owner explains to the protagonist

that Herr Leitner holidays here in the village by the See every

year. Usually he would bring his wife. By the look of the

luggage it would appear that she is joining him later. The Herr

had made a last-minute reservation for the New Year; perhaps it

is a surprise occasion for her, the pension owner suggests, and

he is going to fetch her subsequently, with everything made

ready for her here first. That wouldn’t be rather strange – to

make a preliminary trip only for the luggage? The owner laughs

at the foreigner. ‘No, not really strange.’ Herr Leitner reappears

heaving a third piece, a woman’s black, faux-leather holdall

with patent panels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hands and Feet

 

Bernie is excited by the smell in the suitcases. They are heavy,

and Florian is curious too. He prises open the slimy rim of one

of the cases. Inside, right there on the lake path: somebody’s feet

and hands, cut off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Divers

 

The police fitted the masks over their faces, oxygen tanks

securely clipped. The superintendent watched while his men

slipped into the water, as easily as steel poles or two long fish.

The See closed after their entrance her soft, wide black eyelid.

 

They weren’t long gone. This was the sixth dive. They had

already found a male corpse, so the superintendent was

pleased. But the last diver believed he could make out a second

shape between the rocks on the lake-bed here – 5km out in the

water and 150m deep – something artificial, but he needed

assistance to dredge it out.

 

The superintendent watched as the two divers re-emerged.

Only the neoprene tops of their heads were visible at first, like

the caps of mushrooms. Then their plastic eyes, followed by

the whole hi-tech, life-saving contraption of gear rigged on

their narrow shoulders. The divers staggered over the

reinforced deck of the police boat, dragging between them a

black bag, veined with green and water: a dank-smelling

woman’s holdall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her Head

 

Just the head itself. Oblong of blue-cloud

concrete – cheap, breeze-block type –  piled

round the damp ovoid of face and eyes.

Head+Block. hedinblok. Sculptural; a

possible art piece?

 

Her, cast. What could you do with the

concrete shell of her? Make another her. In

fibreglass, beeswax, ebony, bronze. But this

cast is poorly made. Inside, the head of

her’s too heavy, weighs its inner jellies

down to burst the tensure of the sand and

stone grains which surround her. The

concrete barely reaches her cheeks, lips,

eyebrows, nose in patches. There are fragile

rings of grey and silver hair. The head-

matter, blood and damp, sags of skin –

strains against this brutal box.

 

Nose tilts up, the forehead raised. Maybe she’s an angel zephyr

made from chiselled stone, her eyelids flowing lines of wind.

She rides up mountains – out of box, suitcase, coffin, block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See (2)

 

The See looks on. The protagonist walks away, notepad in

hand. He leaves the town with his insight into one dramatic

story, like the brief, quivering shudder of a swimmer as she

leaves the lake, feels the air on her body, cold.

 

The See looks on. She looks at herself. Because she is the See

she can begin to see from the perspective of her liquid centre,

her navel, and see all the shores as equidistant from this point.

In all directions is only sleek and black wet water, the houses

distant rectangles.

 

See swallowed the man and his body, the plastic bodies of his

cases, the contents / bodies of the hands and feet of his

dismembered wife. See swallowed him and his ball and chain:

the heavy block of head with its agonised face, heaved beside

him in a black holdall. The failed sculpture all cast and ripped,

dead biological matter straining its manmade case.

 

The lake swallowed it all, feeling green and secret. But still

they scanned and fished. They plumbed a line and got all the

things out, laying them one by one on the boards, and fitted

them together in their human way, to get to the bottom of the

story.

 


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

received an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers' Award in 2014. Her pamphlet Harp Duet was published in 2016 by Eyewear.


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