11. A personal message
Fortunately, it didn't take long before Cecile arrived at the castle. To be sure she had contacted her friend, François herself. It was wise of her because Katarina was completely upset by latest developments and the fingerprints on the arson object. How did those fingerprints get on that can, Jean-Pierre didn't take care of such material? She didn't understand why anybody had hidden the can in their bedroom.
With tears in her eyes, she threw herself into the arms of her sister who comforted her and listened to what she had to tell. She led her to the parlor where she got everyone out telling them the Baroness needed rest. Cecile was polite but formal and the servants, nonetheless they only received orders from Katarina or her friend satisfied her request.
'You're so right, Katarina, it must be a big misunderstanding, and even if we don't know who's behind all this, Jean-Pierre has absolutely nothing to do with this. I spent a while thinking about on the drive her and do you know what I believe?'
In the meanwhile, Katarina had calmed down and was looking questioningly at her sister. 'Where is this going, Cecile, what have you thought the way here?'
'I think they took Jean-Pierre to hurt you or to get something from you. Is that not a possibility?'
Katarina looked at her sister for a moment and desperately shrugged. 'Yes, I've also considered that theory, it's possible. But that doesn't explain what has happened at the castle.'
‘No, Sis, but it could be just a combination of circumstances and both cases have nothing to do with each other. Or even so, I've learned to know Jean-Pierre for a while already and he's innocent. Don't worry, François knows it too, but he must take into account every circumstance. Checking every possibility and at the end, you have only the solution left.’
Just at that moment, Marie-Anne entered the parlor. Her face, if it was humanly possible, even paler than Katarina's. 'Is it true what I heard?' she sobbed.
Katarina, suddenly aware of the presence of Jean-Pierre's sister, turned as a leaf. From an upset woman into a comforting family member. She spoke to Marie-Anne with soft words and softly told her what had happened and that both she and Cecile were sure Jean-Pierre was a victim and not the culprit.
Marie-Anne calmed down and said she would never think such a thing of Jean-Pierre. 'He has a golden heart. He wouldn't hurt a fly, I..., I hope I won't lose my brother now that I just have him back.' She softly cried and again Katarina consoled her.
'We have to...,' but she couldn't continue because her mobile start ringing. She took the call as fast as she could but didn't recognize the number. For a moment, she thought it was Jean-Pierre who would tell her that it was all but a bad nightmare and that everything would be alright. Wide-eyed she listened to the voice on the other side of the phone.
Cecile and Marie-Anne were looking worried at Katarina's facial expression changing from fear to anger and back to fear. Eventually, she nodded and ended the conversation.
'What was that, Sis?' Cecile asked. 'Someone you know or was it new information about Jean-Pierre?'
Katarina rubbed her eyes and then looked tired around her. It felt as if she was playing a role in a bad B-movie and everything looked so unreal. She saw the red drapes of the parlor and looked at the decorations they had put up for the party. The party. For the second time, it wouldn't go through. She was aware of that now. Nothing would go as planned anymore. How could she think that she just had to pluck happiness? That wasn't her life to be. There was no future for her, certainly not when Jean-Pierre wasn't with her.
'Katarina, do you hear me, what's going on, it looks like you have seen a ghost..., or heard. What was that phone all about?'
Her sister's voice and the one of Jean-Pierre sister seemed to come from far away, and she only heard half what they were saying. She absently watched around her and suddenly saw the worrisome look upon Cecile's face.
Katarina sighed deeply. 'I do hear you, Cecile..., I hear you.' She stretched her arm and with her hand she caressed the cheek of her sister. 'Thanks, sis, for taking care of me. I know I can count on you and for that reason, I will be brave. For a moment, I just lost my mind, but I'm back again.'
'That's my girl, Katarina, you just startled me for an instant. I thought you would faint or even worse. Are you sure everything's okay, I'll call a doctor if you like? It's normal that a person doesn't feel good after all these events. You would get crazy for less.'
Katarina hugged both Cecile and Marie-Anne. 'I'm glad you are here, us three women has to support each other. Maybe we aren't stronger than a man, but we surely are three times smarter.' A faint smile floated around Katarina's lips.
Cecile interpreted it as the fact that her sister stood steadily with her both feet on the ground and that she would fight for her friend and his innocence in this matter.
She only didn't know how true this was. When Katarina arrived at her office a moment later and took out a little oak box from the bottom drawer of the left side of her desk, she knew she had to be strong. She opened the richly decorated box and took a gun out of it.
A Sig Sauer 226 X-Five Match, 9 mm caliber, 1290 gram and good for nineteen bullets. Nineteen chances to free Jean-Pierre out of the hands of his kidnappers. It was a competition gun she already had a long time. A gift from General de Tavernier when she became twenty-one. The General had also taken care of the license and had insisted she took shooting lessons. Although she didn't like fire weapons, she had followed his advice. Katarina had scored rather good during the exercises. She hadn't forgotten these lessons, and she knew how to use the weapon. Katarina remembered the phone call word for word she had received a moment ago.
'Don't talk but listen well if you want to keep your friend alive, Katarina, Baroness of the former Chateau Dauphin, nowadays Chateau Rouge. You probably have found out at this moment your friend Jean-Pierre has disappeared. He's our prisoner, and he's still alive..., for now.
How does it feel when somebody takes something away from you, Katarina? Does the anguish squeeze your throat? Do you heart pops out of your mouth? You know, I can't imagine the feeling, it's unknown to me. But I want you to walk through every register of these uncomfortable feelings of absence and sorrow, Katarina. Because, after all, when I must be honest, the only one I want to see suffer is you.
Come to the open place in the forest this evening. You do know the place, don't you. There where the secret passageway from the castle ends. Yes, I'm familiar with that little fantasy of the Chateau. Come alone, no police or any help. If you do what I ask, I'll set your friend free, and he will live. However, you won't have that luck...., it's a pity, isn't it? But I promise I'll try to put it off as long as possible, you can count on that.'
Katarina checked the gun and loaded the weapon with the mag of bullets, ready to make as much damage as possible. It was maybe the last day of her life, but she would take as many with her as she possibly could.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere
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