Herr Lutz observed the young woman next to his new client with growing anxiety. He always became anxious when new—brilliant ideas seeded themselves inside his own, old head.
He opened the right hand drawer of his desk, and fumbled one-handedly through the organized parchments until he found the thick file. He didn’t take remove it completely from the drawer; only set it atop the other parchments and leafed through it, glancing from it to the young man and woman, and then back again.
“And—I’m sorry, your relationship with this young woman is..?” he spoke to the man, and gestured to the girl.
“She’s my younger sister.”
Lutz found the particular sheaf of paper within the file, and scanned the small, cramped contents he himself had tediously written upon it some years before.
As to what Kaspar and Maria observed, Lutz seemed to forget all else as he reclined back in his chair and beheld the new discovery within his desk drawer. He retained such silence for a moment or so, perhaps a bit longer; long enough for Maria to idly wonder if Herr Lutz had come across a new rule against hiring a Y---.
Then, finally Lutz sat up once more, and held the torn file against his chest.
Curtly, he asked to be alone with Kaspar. Maria rose and was out the door before Lutz had gotten the third word out of his mouth; so hard and deep was obedience writ to her conscience. The door clicked shut, and through the window Lutz saw her demurely take a seat in the empty waiting room. Then, his question, he sprung:
“How old is your sister?”
That one question startled Kaspar into utmost attention; his eyes filled with infuriation, and betrayed his voice, which ever held the proper, respectful tone to his new employer.
“Oh. She’s very mature, yes?”
“Yes, she is.”
“She does what you tell her to, too.”
“That’s a very coveted trait in women in this area of the country, if you haven’t noticed. I might have a high-profit position for her.”
Kaspar turned in his chair to see Maria in the waiting room; this action seemed to force his courage slightly from its restraints, as he turned to face Lutz once more.
“Forgive me, sir,” he began quietly, his head bent forward. “I don’t wish at all to believe in an ulterior motive within your words—please, if you’d be so kind as to—to repeat yourself, a little more clearly. I hope I’ve misunderstood you, sir.”
Lutz was undeterred, but rather he apologized, and asked that his former approach be excused; he had used the wrong words. Apparently, Lutz thought, someone has made inappropriate suggestions concerning the young woman before, for Kaspar to immediately presume that Lutz was eager to have a go with her, like he had.
Kaspar apologized, and sat back in the chair once more, not in the least embarrassed; his brow furrowed; he obviously was still contemplating Lutz’s suspicious choice of words to unnecessary extent, yet relief softened the rest of his features.
“What high-profit position did you have in mind, sir?”
“…You and your sister are Y---, obviously. So you probably haven’t heard of Doctor Lautenmayr,”
“Doctor..? No, I haven’t. Is he a medical doctor?”
“He’s very famous for his studies. A profound genius—this region’s environment wouldn’t be half of what it is today, if it were not for him.”
A curious half hour later, Kaspar emerged from his employer’s office; a pallid state had fallen across his face, and Maria knew it was pointless to ask questions for a good long while.
She was required to keep her silence until dinner time at the Y--- shelter that evening, when at last Kaspar had sorted out his troubles enough to talk.
“Herr Lutz has offered us—you, a job. A high profit job.”
He spoke quietly in a regional language from an eastern sector of the country, which no other Y--- at the shelter was sure to comprehend or extract sense from very clearly.
However, Maria heard the uttered words perfectly—and they did nothing, but rendered her poor heart broken for a desolating moment between one of her last remaining brothers, and herself.
Kaspar, unaware of Maria’s state of misconception, waited another endless minute before continuing.
“There’s a famous plant scientist Herr Lutz knows—he’s known him for quite some time. For decades.”
Maria sent up a small, silent prayer to Mother, to Pieter—whoever still cared enough for her well being and morality while she continued to live.
“And, would you know it?” said Kaspar, “Herr Lutz wants him dead. Spied on, then dead. Killed. And—Maria? He wants you to do it.”
Maria immediately set down her fork on their tray, and asked Kaspar what on earth he was talking about. Kaspar ignored her inquiry, but turned and looked straight into her eyes, daring her to look at any one thing else, for even a moment. She didn’t, and he proceeded with the earlier thoughts Lutz provided him with.
Doctor Cecil Lautenmayr, the plant scientist, is highly, highly intelligent, according to Lutz. He has a borderline superiority complex; therefore, he has no friends, only acquaintances. A very short temper; the only ones who aren’t terribly weary of him are the plants he nurtures and devotes his whole being to.
Lutz blatantly refused to provide a justified reason for dearly wanting him spied on and killed; only that the latter task be performed as subtly and as unsuspicious as the former.
Kaspar noted, that Lutz made an assertive point that he wanted Lautenmayr killed—not murdered.
Maria listened to her brother silently, hardly comprehending his words to their full capacity. Her heart simply seemed to be unsure of what to feel.
Kaspar continued to explain that Lutz had quickly ‘grown’ an idea in his head as soon as Maria and Kaspar unwittingly stepped into his office.
When Lutz laid eyes on Maria, he said he had remembered a fraction of a statement Lautenmayr’s younger brother had made years before, when asked if women were ever romantically present in Lautenmayr’s life.
His brother replied that, as far as he knew, Lautenmayr hadn’t any romantic interests for decades, but Lautenmayr had indeed dated before, in high school—but only twice. Two separate girls, on two separate dates, and that was as far as women had ever been present in the great entirety of Lautenmayr’s life.
What type of girls had they been? Very small, and Y---, Lautenmayr’s brother said. Dark hair, black eyes. Darker skin. Neither of the girls were very pretty, but they both held an unseen trait, a sort of air about them that Lautenmayr invariably found attractive. And, they were unmistakably intelligent. Whatever Lautenmayr lacked, his brother a good idea of—safely assuming it was the girls who had halted a relationship from progressing.
If a girl closely resembling those Lautenmayr once deemed worthy of his company suddenly appeared in his life, Lutz thought, who was to say Lautenmayr wasn’t capable of becoming interested in her, in the very least?
Any girl that interested Doctor Lautenmayr at this stage of his life held great potential to nurture it into something more—especially if the girl was young. An older woman wouldn’t have the desired dynamic effect, because an older woman who could initially interest Lautenmayr was a woman who decidedly would grow predictable, boring, and troublesome, as independent of men as she would be. And, an intelligent old woman, is an extremely intelligent old woman, who would be unappreciative and competitive of Lautenmayr’s own genius.
Lutz, a former psychology student, correctly predicted that a girl who would be capable of permanently attracting Doctor Lautenmayr, would have a moderate, above-average intelligence, and would appreciate and revere him for his genius, while not particularly minding her own.
Maria, being small, Y---, dark-haired and dark-eyed, darker skinned, and not
pretty—but cute—fit the physical description perfectly. As for the above-average intelligence—Lutz had only Kaspar’s immediate positive input to rely on, until he was able to converse with Maria himself.
He had only a few details of how his plan was to be carried out, as it was formulated so quickly. He would make several changes later, but he enlightened Kaspar of the initial plan, assuring him that if they accepted his proposal, Lutz himself would contemplate and create a complete file providing clear detailed analysis of every necessary aspect, as well as second and third options if needed should one or two not commence or pan out properly.
‘And what if we refuse your proposal?” Kaspar challenged Lutz, earlier. ‘What if we go straight to Lautenmayr’s place right now, and tell him all this, and that you want him dead?’
‘…Recover what you have just said, Mr. Heiliger.’ Lutz replied coolly. ‘Who would ever listen to you? Believe you, a Y---? And either way—if you left for Lautenmayr’s, and arrived there, you would not speak to him, but his secretary—who, I can assure you is accustomed to hearing such stories from any one person off the street looking for a reward in the form of money or a high paying job, in exchange for information of random, fantasy assassination plans on Lautenmayr’s life. You would be dismissed from the facility immediately—and barred from mine. It’s your choice.’
Kaspar furrowed his brow, glanced at Lutz, and then settled his gaze on the cheap, weathered wood of Lutz’s desk while he took the time to review his current situation.
It was all undeniably intriguing, Kaspar did admit to himself—but also undeniably dangerous. Maria—and Kaspar—had been through enough already, and this—job Lutz was ready to set before them seemed particularly strenuous; something neither of the siblings needed to partake on their emotional stability.
Then, still remaining resolutely and intruding, there was the conflict of money.
Would the job Lutz accepted Kaspar for initially really be enough to get he and Maria out of the Y--- shelter and supporting themselves? Maria was earning a ducat a week for presiding over the younger children in the Y--- shelter, and keeping them in line. When combined with what would be Kaspar’s new job, a day watchman, which would pay ultimately one ducat a day—eight ducats total for each week amounted to thirty-two ducats a month, which was indeed enough to repay their debt to the shelter, but nowhere near enough to rent even a one-room apartment, to provide enough food, or any other necessities. Saving their earnings was an option, but a seemingly endless one, and ultimately pointless; the longer they lived at the shelter, the more their debt accumulated, until it would become near impossible to leave.
Sitting in Lutz’s office that day, twenty-seven year old Kaspar dumbfoundedly realized that he had never completely considered their situation in quite this way.
To start a new life, this job Lutz proposed began to seem more and more inevitable.
‘How much will you pay her?’ Kaspar finally asked.
‘Her? You’d be helping, too. It would mean turning down the job you came here for in the first place, you know. That’s how high profit this job is.’
‘…I see. How much will you pay us, then?’
‘Hmm…Of course, I couldn’t pay you it all at once. I say, I’d pay you a quarter of it, down-payment. When the final stages of the job are in order and ready to be commenced, I shall pay you another quarter of it. When everything is done, you will receive the remaining half. I won’t go back on my word; I’ve decided the payment and it’s method right here, because I know you obviously are highly concerned with money figures, and won’t seriously consider anything unless you know about them.’
A quarter of it, down payment? Kaspar thought. It certainly sounded like a considerable amount.
‘How much will you have paid us in all, Herr Lutz?’
Kaspar’s heart nearly stopped.
Twenty-thousand? That meant five-thousand down payment. He and Maria—could be out of the shelter within a week. Hell, five-thousand ducats could rent them a three room apartment with furniture for months. For over a year.
“Sir…S-Sir,” Kaspar struggled for a moment to construct a reply in the regional language; he was so taken aback that he had forgotten any and all words foreign to his mother-tongue.
Herr Lutz smiled at him, understanding, and Kaspar fell silent.
“I’m as serious as I’ve ever been,” Lutz said, “I wouldn’t plan to pay you ten thousand before the completion of the job, if I intended to dupe you.”
Kaspar rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands, as if to keep himself from fainting straight off.
“Really, I’m the one taking a chance, here—you could end up taking the money, and just… disappear.”
“…No. No, we would never do that.” Kaspar managed to state.
“I hope not,” said Lutz.
Kaspar stood, his knees quaking beneath him. Doing his best to sort his thoughts into the regional language once more, he told Lutz that he would discuss the job with Maria, but he seriously thought they would decide to take him up on his offer.
Kaspar finished his repetitions, and took a bite of the meal he and Maria shared. He usually forced Maria to eat her serving and half of his as well, as only one was so ridiculously inadequate, but tonight he wordlessly accepted when she pushed the entire tray toward him.
She looked understandably sick from disbelief and shock; she might regurgitate if she ate even a bite more.
She was relieved somewhat that Kaspar wasn’t going to make her sell herself to this old ‘plant scientist’ he mentioned, but this was…unbelievable. Twenty thousand ducats, for a job that bases itself entirely on the human psyche?
“Herr Lutz wants to speak with you tomorrow morning.” said Kaspar, “He’s offered us the job, but he wants to make sure you’ve got enough wits about you to really go through with it. I already told him you were highly intelligent, so you must be sensible when you speak to him tomorrow. Don’t you dare purposely act dumb—or do anything that’ll cost us the job.”
“K…Kaspar…” Maria began to weep.
“…Kaspar…You haven’t even asked me if I wanted to do this,” she said, “…And I don’t th-think…I…Herr Lutz is crazy!”
“Don’t say that. The man is going to pay us twenty thousand ducats. You’d better be prepared for whatever he or I tells you to do.”
“But…but he won’t pay everything until after. Who says I c-could ever—be prepared for—“
“If we accept, we could be out of this place by tomorrow night. We could buy and make our own food again—wouldn’t you like that? And you could start practicing your music properly again. Maybe we could each have our own bed. Or—” he conjectured, “We could just live here for the rest of our lives. Maybe we could have a baby, hmm? You’ll take me as your husband, and then we’ll raise a family in this shit hole. That sounds good, doesn’t it?”
Maria buried her face in her hands, before Kaspar ripped them away and forced her to face him once more.
“No. You’re going to do what I tell you to do, you hear?”
“But I always, always do what you tell me to do! Please!”
“There is no other option. If you’d shut the fuck up, you’d see that.” He spat.
“But b-but but,” he mimicked. “That’s your favorite word now, isn’t it?”
Maria at last fell silent, but made no conscious effort to stop the tears from pouring out of her eyes.
Kaspar ate the rest of their supper and got up himself to stack the tray among the numerous others, and volunteered to help clean them as he did so. If helping the shelter as often as he could lessened his debt, it only meant more of the five thousand ducats would be his to keep, when he received it.
He walked into the kitchen; someone handed him an apron and gloves without a glance before hurrying out to bring in the first stack of trays. He stood waiting around a large white tub with three other men who were near to his age, and younger.
Kaspar knew Maria had probably gotten up from the table by then, and had either forced herself into a better mood by entertaining a few of the younger children, or had crawled into her cot in the woman’s wing of the shelter to dread her predicament.
He understood her pain perfectly(or at least he thought he did); however she didn’t seem to understand that taking this job would eventually mold the course for the rest of their lives, and their children’s lives, if either of them had any in the future.
This job was risky, and no doubt unstable—but five thousand ducats for merely accepting the job was just too amazing an opportunity to pass at this era of their lives.
The details of the job were as of yet unclear, but Kaspar understood the most primary aspect: Maria would seduce this Doctor/Scientist and marry him, and then, she would ‘disappear’ and be ‘brutally murdered’—(namely, she would fake her own death)
—driving the Doctor/Scientist, formerly a potential suicide suspect, insane. He would no doubt either be locked away in a mental institution, or would, as Lutz predicted, commit suicide. Both outcomes were the only ones with potential, considering the Doctor/Scientist’s state of mind that he had so far endured; it would be psychologically impossible for such an occurrence not to leave a profound traumatizing effect—that of which would be deeper than any other he had caused himself to undertake, at any point in his life.
Kaspar had his utmost faith in Maria, that she would be able to earn them the final sum of twenty thousand ducats. He, himself would help her in any single way he was able to, in any way that the situation presented.
Tomorrow, Maria would feel better, Kaspar decided, and she would speak calmly and truthfully to Lutz at his office. She would be accepted, and then—either that day or the next—they would be resting in their new apartment, with furniture, and running water, and a stove that Maria would use to concoct the most extravagant meals—like she used to every night, years before, for their family of sixteen.
The very thought of this relaxed Kaspar, and allowed him to look forward to the next day, for the first time in too many years.
Kaspar looked up from the dirty tray in his hands, and the dirty face of the young man across from him came boldly into view. The boy’s smile was so big it must have hurt; it provided a clear view of the two missing teeth near the back, giving the boy—who couldn’t be a day older than twenty—a goofy, singular disposition.
“Hey—I’m getting out of this place in a couple weeks, ya’ll.” He whispered. “I got a job. I finally got a fucking job.” He cackled, and the other men patted his back, congratulating him.
“I’m the new day watch-man,” he said. “over at the new indoor market across the village.”
Hadn’t that been the job Kaspar had initially accepted from Lutz?
Kaspar gave a congratulatory smile and a nod to the boy, who probably hadn’t been so happy since his entire family was alive. Perhaps taking this new job benefited much more than he imagined, Kaspar thought; maybe Maria would soon realize that too.
Very early the next morning, long before the shelter’s other inhabitants stirred in the slightest, Maria and Kaspar gathered their belongings as they did every morning
(for, though they lived at the shelter, one’s belongings could not be abandoned for even a moment, lest they be tampered with), and hasted on their way to Lutz’s office building, arriving there moments before Lutz himself.
Lutz looked unsurprisingly pleased; he beckoned the two siblings inside after unlocking the office building: Maria was immediately whisked away to Lutz’s personal office, leaving Kaspar behind and alone in the waiting room. Lutz absently forgot to illuminate the waiting room lanterns accordingly, resulting in Kaspar having to remain in the darkness. Kaspar remembered noting the long lighting stick in Lutz’s office the day before, but he didn’t bother him from Maria’s interview for even as simple a task as providing light; so eager was he to receive his much anticipated down-payment.
He sat down and watched Maria and Lutz through the office window.
“Maria, Maria,” Lutz sang as he drew open the curtains, illuminating the room with new, adolescent sunlight. “I met a girl named Maria—and nothing will ever be the same again. No—young lady, I fancy I may write a song about you, if you’re as perfect as I think you are.”
Maria felt a slight unease at Lutz’s joy: he was plotting to kill a man, after all. She felt an extreme repulsion towards the entire situation, in general—and especially towards Kaspar. However, no matter what she thought or felt, there was nothing whatsoever to help the situation, in the slightest; Kaspar was, after all, the only reachable thing she had left in the world, as far as she currently knew. What could she possibly gain by refusing his requests of her? What would she have left, that she could literally turn and talk to, and care for, right in the present?
“Of course I’m perfect enough,” She replied. “Ask every other man who’s hired me to seduce an old scientist for twenty thousand ducats.”
“You seem in much higher spirits today, if I may say so. You were rather solemn-looking, yesterday—but I presume your brother prefers you to play the silent accessory.”
Maria smiled bashfully.
“I’ve always been taught to be docile in the presence of men,” she said. “My Mother used to punish me if I ever drew attention to myself, or spoke out of turn.”
Lutz nodded and sat down; he drew a new file from the left drawer, and took hold of a pencil on his right. The new file held three blank sheets of paper, and Lutz held his pencil poised over these.
“Has your brother discussed everything with you?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, I think so.”
“What do you think about it?”
Maria was preparing a formidable answer for him, when she suddenly realized the rather surprising naivety of the question, coming from a man who was hiring them for such a ruthless, cold multitude of a job.
She stared at him. What did she think about it?
Well, for one, she thought Herr Lutz might have different, secret personality that he hid in his daily life. A stark-raving mad personality.
She thought that, had it not been for Kaspar, this job would never have even been considered. She had been absolutely terrified at the shelter, when Kaspar told her about it.
She was still terrified: she hadn’t stopped shaking since dinnertime the night before, and she didn’t know if there would be any remedy to calm her again completely until the job was over.
By God, what did she think of it? They had accepted the job, and it was going to be completed, Maria knew, so why in heavens did it matter what she thought of it?
“I must confess, I’m a little at a loss, sir. I’ve never encountered anything of the like. Ever.”
“No, I didn’t think you had. Kaspar seems to care a lot about you, and I don’t think he’d ever get you involved in something demoralizing, like prostitution, or some such drivel.”
Maria did her best not to grimace. Wasn’t putting her up for this particular job similar to prostitution, in a way? While Kaspar wasn’t necessarily forcing her to sell her body on the streets, it was still quite obvious to her that she was going to have sleep with the old scientist, and she knew that Kaspar had been well aware of the fact, all the same.
“Yes, I know. He does care. His intentions are always good, anyway.”
“Yes…” he gazed at her.
Maria glanced at him and shifted uncomfortably, in the silence. She avoided his gaze as best as she could; she was really starting to dislike the old man.After a lengthy moment, Herr Lutz sat forward and cleared his throat.
“Now, before the war,” he began, to Maria’s relief, “what education had you so far acquired?”
“…Not enough, sir. I went to school, but my Mother removed me once I turned ten.”
“Because, I was needed around the house. That was more important than education, or at least in my situation it was.”
“Your situation?” Lutz wrote as he spoke.
“Before the war, I had twelve brothers, and a sister.”
“Yes, but they couldn’t all have needed taking care of,” said Lutz, “you obviously had other older siblings, like Kaspar, who could’ve helped.”
“I did,” she said, “but I was the first-born daughter in my family, which, traditionally meant that I would stay at home and take care of my family until my parents died. And, Y--- men traditionally don’t help with housework. Not even little boys. At home, caring for the house and the younger children, was where my place was, rather than the classroom.”
“So, you could never have married, had your entire family remained alive?”
“…How many of your family remain, now? Is Kaspar your last remaining relative?”
“No, sir. I have a twin brother who was placed in a boarding school, a few years back before the war. We don’t know exactly which boarding school, or which city he was sent to, though, so we haven’t been able to contact him. And—a small number of my immediate family members might still be alive. We don’t know for sure. The only deaths we know occurred were those of my Mother, three of my older brothers, and five of my youngest siblings.”
“…So that leaves the survival of your Father, and four of your siblings.”
“Yes, sir. Including Kaspar.”
“…Had you ever engaged in a romantic relationship, before?”
“Yes, sir. Twice.”
“How serious were they?”
Maria folded her hands in her lap.
“I had a boyfriend for about a year and a half, starting when I was fourteen. He was a year older. He was my first love, but at that age, as you know, something like that could never be overwhelmingly serious, and of course, it wasn’t.”
“Is he still alive?”
“Yes, sir. He wasn’t a Y---, just the son of a farmer on the edge of my home village.”
“…I see. What was the second relationship? Who ended the first?”
“I did. The second relationship was with a boy about my age. He was a Y---, but he was sent away just before the war.”
“Because of the war?”
“No, sir. He just…had some problems to be fixed. And most people didn’t think we should’ve seen each other anymore.”
“Who thought that?”
“My parents…and some other people.”
“Why? He was a Y---, wasn’t he?”
“…Yes. He couldn’t speak, though, and his leg was crippled.”
“That’s hardly reason to send him off. How intense was your relationship?”
“Very,” she replied quietly.
“Did you hold intercourse with him?”
“Yes, sir. Many times.”
“Is that why you were separated? You were separated because of each other, weren’t you?”
“Hmm. Even that isn’t reason enough to geographically separate you two. There must have been a more serious matter involved.”
Maria looked at him and bit back her agreement. She didn’t have to inform this man with every detail of her relationships, even if he was going to pay five thousand ducats down-payment.
“Miss Heiliger, I’d appreciate it if you would answer me. This job is depending upon your willingness—and your ability—to cooperate.”
Maria blushed and avoided his gaze, fixing her own upon her folded hands that lay in her lap. Lutz grimaced.
“This boyfriend of yours,” he tapped his pencil impatiently on the paper. “He was one of your brothers, wasn’t he?”
Maria visibly jumped, and her hands flew to her mouth; concurrently her tan face took on a darker reddish hue than before, perceptibly enough.
“…I see. Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter. I just need to know about your behaviour in previous relationships. Have you held intercourse with Kaspar, before?”
“No sexual experiences with older men?”
“Alright. What do you enjoy doing? Any hobbies?”
The blush still remained; Maria remained mortified until the end of the interview.