1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 36
Byron gave a sharp grin. “So it is, and that’s the boy that was with him that night at the fights. Don’t know the woman, though.”
Gotthilf decided this was an opportunity for observation. He grinned back. “It’s about time we had something to eat, right?”
“By all means, partner,” Byron replied. “Let’s duck into the tavern and grab a bite.”
And so they did.
Simon opened his mouth to say something about the Polizei men coming in the door, but Hans looked at him from under lowered eyebrows, so he closed his mouth without saying anything. The three of them proceeded to have what Simon found to be a very pleasant luncheon. He finally sat back, unable to eat any more. Hans looked over at him and winked. “A good day, eh lad?”
Simon nodded with another silly grin.
The three of them sat there for a while, just idly talking about various things that crossed their minds — usually whatever crossed Ursula’s mind. Simon didn’t say much, but his hand would reach up every few minutes and touch his new boots, which action would be followed by another smile.
The pleasantness came to an end for Simon when the two detectives finished their last flagons of ale, stood, and came toward their table. Hans looked at him again, so Simon didn’t say anything. But he did shrink away from them a little. He couldn’t help it. Men like that usually caused him problems.
“Good day to you, Herr Metzger.” That was the up-timer speaking. “And to you, too, lad. I don’t think I heard your name when we met the other night.”
Simon had to clear his throat twice before he could answer. “S-Simon Bayer, sir.”
The up-timer nodded, then looked back at Hans. The down-timer, however, was looking at Ursula. Simon startled to bristle, but Hans’ hand grabbed his leg under the table, and he settled back.
“Good day, Lieutenant Chieske, Sergeant Hoch.” Hans’ voice sounded pleasant to Simon’s ear, although the firmness of the grip on his thigh told him that Hans was not especially pleased by this encounter.
“And a good day to you as well, Fräulein . . .” That was the down-timer sergeant. Simon startled to bristle again, only to feel Hans’ fingers clamp almost to the bone on his thigh.
“Metzger,” Hans growled. “My sister, Ursula Metzgerinin.”
Lieutenant Chieske nodded politely to her, but Sergeant Hoch stepped forward, gently lifted her hand where it lay on the table, and bowed over it, almost but not quite drawing it to his lips. “A pleasure, Fräulein.” He straightened with a pleasant smile on his face.
Simon bit the inside of his cheek to keep from gasping as Hans bore down on his leg. He’d have bruises in the morning, that was certain.
The sergeant stepped back, and Simon gave a sigh of relief as Hans released his leg.
“Just so you’ll know, Herr Metzger,” the lieutenant said, “we’re looking into some odd events that have occurred near the river in the last couple of months.”
“If you happen to think of anything unusual you’ve seen or heard, you might let us know.”
Hans grunted again. Simon saw the lieutenant’s mouth twitch a bit.
“Well, we’ve got to get back to work. Enjoy the rest of the day Herr Metzger, Fräulein, Simon.” The sergeant started when his partner tapped him on the shoulder. They both nodded, then turned away. Simon looked to see Hans following their departure with a hard-set mouth and narrowed eyes.
“A nice man, that Sergeant Hoch,” Ursula said with a bit of a smile. “The other one was a bit brusque, though.”
Hans grunted. Simon looked to him, then said to Ursula, “He is an up-timer. They are all a bit odd; some more than others.”
“Ah. An up-timer. I see.” Ursula looked toward the door. “Do you know, I think that is the first up-timer I have met?”
“And please God, it will be the last,” Hans muttered. “They are nothing but trouble.”
Simon had no reply to the last statement.
The whole encounter had cast a pall over the afternoon. They soon arose to return to their rooms.
“What was that all about?” Byron asked, disturbing Gotthilf’s thoughts.
“What was what all about?”
“You made a big deal over Fräulein Metzger back there,” the up-timer pointed out. “You don’t normally do that. So what was it all about?”
“Two things,” Gotthilf answered distractedly. “First, it occurred to me that leaving her with a positive memory of us might be to our advantage. And second, I think I’ve met her before, or at least seen her . . . but I cannot remember where or when.”
He staggered a bit when he was unexpectedly clapped on the shoulder by his partner. “Ah, you’ll remember it sooner or later,” Byron said. “You always do.”
Gotthilf hoped so. This was like having an itch in the middle of his back — he couldn’t reach it.
The rest of the day passed in a fog for Simon. He knew they had to have returned home, because he woke in his usual place the next morning. He knew he had to have changed clothes, because he was wearing some of the new clothing. He knew that he had to have gone to Frau Zenzi’s and swept, because a loaf of her bread was on the table. But all he could remember was the sheer joy of having new-to-him clothes. And shoes. Especially the shoes.