XII.

Vienna tidied the lounge and whistled the prelude to Ilsa Krause by Heinrich Eichmann. Her whistle, like her voice and flute-playing, was pure and true. The notes climbed as a yearning feeling expressed itself through the whistle, which, though shrill, could mist over the eyes of any listener.

Vienna slid a couple of books onto the shelf and shook out the cushions on the sofa. They had only been back in England from Sweden for four years, and in this house just a year, but even though Vienna had been at Allendale Junior School just a term, she loved it.

As she reached the end of the prelude, and of the tidying, Vienna went out into the small cosy hall and on into the kitchen. On the way she passed the hall mirror, the only full-length mirror in the smallish townhouse. In the frameless glass a short-ish, slim girl appeared. She had thick dark hair curving with a perfect shapeliness around her face, and giving way to a slight flick at the ends, pale skin and twinkling blue eyes. Vienna looked just like her mother, and her grandmother, and her great-grandmother before her.

Vienna sighed. She also possessed a charm inherited from her great-grandmother and down the line - the charm belonging to the quiet but clever, shy yet animated, kind and fun-loving; quietly brilliant her great-grandmother's school reports had used to say - but something prevented her from having an entirely free conscience. Her charm did not always work for her; that was only part of the problem.

Vienna whistled a few haunting bars of the theme running through Ilsa Krause as she brought a delicious-smelling sponge cake from the oven. Carefully it was emptied onto a cooling rack, and Vienna returned to the lounge where she glanced idly at a magazine which she had found under the sofa and dusted off. She read an appeal article about some foreign couple who had been lost track of along with their house and belongings, but did not take anything in. Something was on her mind.

Feeling a lump in her pocket, Vienna took out her purse, which jingled pleasingly. A plan was forming in her mind. But it hung on a few vital conditions.

Presently she wandered over to the window, where she noted what was happening in the street; a little thing interested her.

She watched until it had passed, before she found her bike in the small front garden: a purple shiny machine that had been hosed down that weekend and was still lying on the path in the sunlight of a warm day in late May.

Vienna snatched up a house key from the boiler house and pulled her bike to its feet, or wheels, depending on what you prefer to say. Scarcely pausing to strap her helmet on, quickly and yet deftly, Vienna cycled down the road, seeming unhurried. She was confident that she would be back before the cake was too cold to eat. She knew where she was going. She had known for weeks.

The End

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