“Sweet Abby, would you mind clearing the desk for me?”
I obliged. Mister Scheiber placed a box on the desk and from it he took out a large stack of multicolored folders. Each folder contained different volume of paper in them, but they all seemed generally unorganized and a tiny bit damaged. If I had been given the pile of multicolored folders I would have imagined that they belonged to either a kindergarden teacher or an eccentric art collector from the sixties.
“So, all legal matters now taken care of, here is how we shall start our work: These boxes that I have brought with me are only the latest of all the paperwork that we are to handle. The information in them date between the later half of this century and today.”
“Later half being nineteen-sixties, maybe fifties?”
“Genau. More sixties than fifties, those boxes are at my other establishment on the other side. Although it all looks slightly messy, they are separated in their appropriate ages. This box right here is from between… Nineteen ninety-five and nineteen ninety… no, wait, two thousand. What we need to start doing is separate all files by date.”
He finished laying out the folders from the box, then brought another box to empty.
“Do the colors on the envelope have a specific meaning? Or do you just like to jazz it up a bit?”
“For that I shall bring my record player tomorrow, I never could stand the absolute silence of the Durdens. Lovely a family as they are, they’d rather listen to their gardens instead of music. Ah, but the folders are colored in accordance to their category, and we have two types of those: Species and Severity.”
“Yes, each species has a different colored folder, and we have twenty of those so far. For each species folder we have two shades in accordance to their severity: darker shade for serious and lighter shade for, well, light.”
Edith walked in carrying a tray with tea.
“Sweet Edith, always with impeccable timing! So, Miss Abby, after we have separated the files in groups of year, we should end up with something similar to this.”
He separated a bunch of folders randomly.
“Imagine these are all from, say, nineteen ninety-eight. Within this group we will separate the dark colored folders from the light colored folders, in order of date if you please. And we should have lovely colorful groups of folders everywhere. Understood?”
“Will we file them anywhere else besides these boxes? Like, maybe a file drawer?”
“Until we are provided with one, no. The files shall remain as part of the room. Any other question before we begin?”
“No, I am ready.”
“Ausgezeichnet! Let us begin!”
We each took a pile of folders and began inspecting them individually, letting each-other know of the groups we were forming, myself consulting any doubts I had of the information I read. The folders had the data I needed on the third page, which looked a little something like this:
I expected to discover a little more information from the page I needed to inspect, if only to satisfy my curiosity, but the data on it was basic. So for the next two hours I checked each file for the date, wrote it on the outside of its folder and grouped the files. The task was rather easy, slightly boring, but easy. My boredom only interrupted every so often by small details in each file that I interpreted as hints to the bigger picture no one had taking the time of illustrating to me. They were usually things like the diversity of places sited under the space of ‘location’ which I took as meaning that this alliance had business nearly everywhere. The oddest I found of these was ‘location: unknown’. Other times the date appeared to be corrected numerous times with different hand writings, and once in a while I found someone filled out the data in anglo-saxon runes.
Mister Schreiber and I worked mostly in silence, himself completely immersed in the work and myself deciphering each handwriting. At around five-thirty a grandfather clock from somewhere in the hall began to ring. Mister Schreiber checked his pocket watch and muttered something in German, then Edith came into the room, empty handed, and announced:
“Lunch is ready for both of you out in the gardens.”
“Wunderbar, sweet Edith. We shall be there in a moment, Danke.”
Mister Schreiber got up and I followed. We walked down the hall, past the library and another locked door, then we made a turn into the dinning room. I had imagined that the Durant’s dinning room, if existent at all, would be as elegant as possible so as to match the air of their personas. But the most elegant bit of the room was the subtle chandelier hanging in the middle, candles long replaced by light bulbs, but the illusion of grandeur still hanging to it like a cobweb. To the back of the dinning area was the glass wall and eventual door leading to the gardens. Edith opened the door and stretched her hand gesturing us to head outside.
“Mister Durant is also out having lunch, he’ll be waiting at the garden table to your left.”
We headed out into the garden through a wooden archway covered in ivy, and were embraced by shades of green. The trees were plenty and tall, the bushes crowded by flowers, a couple of fountains were visible, and the grass was neatly cut. The smell that accompanied the view was equally abundant and fresh. In itself a garden with plenty of life, more life than what the rest of the house manifested. I honestly found it a little implausible that a garden this big belong to a house this small, or at least to a house that seemed small on the outside, and yet here it was. Being four-ish in the afternoon the light had started its transition from yellow to orange, and the effect on the garden was slightly painteresque.
“Luc, child! Many a moon since I’ve seen you! Wie gehts dir?”
Mister Durant looked less somber than he did last night, but tired none-the-less. Fully dressed in a messy way, he made me think of someone who was keeping himself awake to escape bad dreams. A look I recognized from nights of insomnia past. He did not get up, instead only outstretched his hand to greet Mister Schreiber.
“Tant mieux, merci. Et vous?”
“Gut, gut… Miss Abby will be joining us for lunch, for the rest of her stay here, I believe.”
“Lovely to see you again, Miss Abby. Sit, Si’l vous plaît.”
The table was set for three, and the meal of the day was elaborate looking sandwiches and a generous salad. The food on Mister Durant’s plate was half-eaten-half-abandoned, his attempts to renew his energy in vain. Mister Schreiber pulled out a chair for me and I obliged, he then sat down, started serving himself and I followed suit with my plate.
“Did you sleep well, Miss Abby?”
“Yes, thank you. Fell asleep without a problem, actually. And you? You look kind of tired.”
“Haven’t slept a wink, unfortunately. Last night’s events left me a bit on edge.”
“That’s one word for it, Luc. I’d say you won’t sleep until you and your sister have taken care of the beast! The Association notified all available warden after your sister sent her report, so fear not. You are sure to rescue your sleep in no time!”
“Merci, Monsieur Schreiber.”
We ate mostly in silence, Mister Schreiber miraculously silenced by food, myself only taking breaks from my food to look above and around to appreciate the garden a little more.
“It looks like rain, has the weather been this cloudy all day? I think it was sunny when I woke up…”
Mister Schreiber looked up to confirm, his face in slight disbelief but then establishing an expression of comprehension.
“I do believe you’re right… oh dear, this is not a good omen. Luc?”
But Mister Durant did not look up, instead he began to rub his forehead and making a long deep sigh.
“Je suis conscient, je… je… Je ne sais pas.”
“Luc, are you sure you are all right?”
“Oui oui… Forgive me, I am merely unrested, but I am fine. I believe I’d better wake Adele up, excuze moi.”
Mister Durant got up with less enthusiasm than a man leaving his mother’s funeral and went back into the house. Mister Schreiber continued to eat his salad, as he finished he checked his watch and looked up at the sky again.
“Mister Schreiber… is the change of weather happening because of whatever happened last night?”
“You are turning out to be quite sharp, Miss Abby. A valuable asset to the team! It appears as thought it might have a direct connection, yes. Weather of this type is not commonplace for this area during this time of year, and even less so with such power.”
I looked up again to try and find the unusual part of the storm that Misters Schreiber and Durant were probably seeing, but it looked like a normal thunderstorm to me.
“Depending on the outcome of this storm we shall see how natural and how unnatural it is. Now, Miss Abby, back to work!”
“Um, do we leave the plates for Edith?”
“The what? Oh, yes, don’t mind them.”
We stood up and the air began to feel slightly cooler and it smelled like incense, the type that new age stores light up and they never reveal its name. As we went indoors the house felt livelier as footsteps from upstairs resounded all the way downstairs, presumably Miss Durant getting ready. By the time we reached my office the footsteps ceased and were replaced by the sound of running water. About twenty minutes later Mister and Miss Durant scuffled downstairs and called back to Edith:
“Edith, we shan’t be later than dawn, please have dinner ready. Merci!”
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