XXXIX.

Vienna ran like the wind, as authors are perhaps too fond of saying. She did not stop to take her bike. She just ran.

She reached her destination with a stumble over the flowerbed bricks.

"It's me, it's Vienna!" she cried.

Rosetta stood up quickly, startled, and Vienna collapsed onto the piece of railing her friend had been occupying. The newly-named Secret Circle fixed their eyes on er expectantly.

"What now?" Jessica queried calmly.

Vienna told her story almost incomprehensibly. "I own a house but the house is here! It's Das Flotenhaus! I own this place! That means I never stole the flute or the letter. They were on my land. They were mine. But tomorrow all the laywers and everyone have to come here and prove it all. But what if they find the shed where the fire was? I can't tell them I've been trespassing. But I can't tell them I haven't because the lawyers might do inquiries everywhere."

Rosetta didn't know anything about a flute or a letter, but she could solve one problem.

"You'll have to tell them," she said, "if they find the place."

"I know," suggested Carla, "you could say you're going to explore the rest of the place and come back saying there's a half-burnt shed that would be a lovely playhouse. Adults would take that; they always think we're so much more babyish than we are. Clever Jessie to knock the torch, switched on of course, out of the shed without even realising it, and then closing the door. If you're going to attempt to sabotage the shed, you might as well do it properly, Jess! It wasn't burnt at all on the inside."

Jessica giggled. "Well I'm sorry. But it still smells of smoke and the fire was nearly three weeks ago."

"Going back to what you said, Carla," Vienna changed the subject, "what if they want to see the 'playhouse'?"

"They'll be too excited looking at the remains of the real house to want to."

"Do you think so?"

"I wouldn't say so if I didn't."

"Then that's alright then." Vienna sighed, reassured. "Shall we take a look at the shed? Is the door open? Have you been airing it?"

"Wide open. It's mostly lost the smell. Jessie's just making a drama," Rosetta said as they picked their way through the black ashes, which were gradually being swept away into a compost heap out of sight, to where the shed stood alone in the wreckage of ashes and charred tree trunks, blackened and burnt, with flaking paint - the paint which had protected the shed from the worst damage.

"It's not bad," Rosetta insisted as she stepped inside. Jessica quickly took a seat on one of the chairs and Carla muttered "lazy lump."

"Another day or two would do it," said Vienna. "At least it's not cold."

Meanwhile, Jess's eyes had caught a view of the CD player, which had taken up temporary residence on the table to make room for the vast quantities of chocolate provided by the four devious thieves. For the past three weeks the Carters at least had been puzzled by their inexplicable losses of sweet food, but Carla had cunningly blamed it all on Carl.

"Thank goodness it's still here," Jess said thoughtfully.

"I've inherited a fifth of the people's money so we can get those curtains I was about to mention," Vienna said.

"I can contribute to that," Carla said. "I found some amazing red velvet in the loft the other day, and bagged it for my room where it's been kicking round aimlessly. If we can sellotape some curtain rings to it then I'm sure we'll manage."

"Not sellotape," Rosetta replied. "My mum's good at sewing, and if I cook the dinner one day she'll do it."

"We'll all come and help you cook the dinner!" Carla cried at once.

"Not if I know it! I know you, Carla! You can't cook to save your life. You'll be organising a spaghetti fight or a food-tasting competition if I let you come."

"Then I'll read the recipe," declared Carla insouciantly, but Rosetta shook her head vigorously.

But Jessica was still looking at the CD player.

"I meant the CD player. Do we actually have any CDs?" she asked Vienna.

"There's one in there."

"Do we need a plug?"

"It's on batteries."

Jessica pressed the power button, then the play button.

"It was the first CD I picked up," explained Vienna apologetically as Ilsa Krause filled the shed.

"But it's lovely," Carla murmured. In silence they listened. When it reached the theme Carla recognised it and gasped.

It was only a few minutes long, played by two pristine flutes, but at the end Carla and Vienna's eyes glistened. Rosetta too felt some meaning in the lovely piece of music, though she was not by any means musical. Jessica, who was also very little musical, despite an excellent sense of rhythm, listened and marvelled, but she could not really appreciate the music's worth.

It ended and there was a prolonged silence.

"It would be wonderful with your trumpet," Vienna observed at last.

"I like it on the flute," said Carla resolutely.

Intense brown eyes met starry blue ones.

"I have the piece written out. My mum gave it to me."

"You have the piece in music form? With the harmony?" Carla asked wonderingly.

Vienna nodded. Her eyes filled again. "It's called Ilsa Krause," she explained. "A man called Heinrich Eichmann composed it for her in Germany fifteen years ago. They married a while later and had their honeymoon in Sweden. Ilsa was my mum's best friend for two years. It was my mum who recorded them playing it on their flutes and burned it onto the CD. Then they oved to England. I didn't realise it was so appropriate when I brought it, but I've practically brought this CD home. Ilsa Krause herself lived in the old house right here on this site for a month. But she died in the fire."

It took a few sober moments for this to soak in.

"All the more reason to play it here then," Carla said. "As a little thank you."

"That's how I feel," Vienna assented. "And I never knew her!" No one asked what the 'thank you' was for. Perhaps no one knew exactly.

"I have to go now, and help my mum cook for Livvy and Harry," Jessica intervened typically. She was unwilling to break the heartfelt conversation, though she felt, being Jess, that it was time to return to earth.

The others mumbled their farewells, still entralled, and dispersed also.

The End

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