"I hold surgery till after noon."
"Well, he was quite a sight. Sitting there in his best suit, on a good chair, too; Frau Vesalius had to carry it up and down for him. A grown man, petting his dog and taking his coffee. Out in the yard! A jacket and tie on him, and cuff links. It was like he was going to the opera. People would pass and didn't know what to do. Doff their hats and wish him a good day. The Herr Zellenwart. Some boys took to yelling abuse at him, but he made a list of their parents' names and that put an end to it."
"Yes. And then one morning he comes down and the dog's nowhere to be seen. It was some lad that found him, in the yard across the road. Didn't call the police, mind, just left it there and showed it off to his friends. Took a whole two days till he heard about it. Speckstein, that is. Frau Vesalius says he went white as a sheet when he finally found his dog. Fell right down on his knees and cradled the bloody thing."
"Cradled it? Down on his knees?"
"Like a babe. Mind, I didn't see it for myself. Happened sure enough though. I even had a police detective here, looking sheepish. Said he had never investigated a dog killing before."
"How extraordinary," Beer said yet again, aware of the repetition, then sat pondering while both the girl and the old man studied him intently. He looked from one to the other, comparing their stares. The girl's was open, and very serious: it was the face he himself tried to assume when he spoke to a patient about his or her ills. He didn't think he had ever managed it as well as this, the very picture of good faith, her thoughts a mystery underneath. The old man's features were less composed. There was amusement there, about the fact that the good doctor seemed so interested in the neighbourhood gossip, as well as wonder, about the ways of the rich; and surliness, too, born of long habit, and resentful now for having been upstaged.
"And they are sure there is a connection to the murders?" Beer asked at last. "The Fräulein said - "
But at this very moment he was interrupted by a noise behind him and turned to see a man enter the cellar workshop. It was impossible to tell whether the man had just arrived or had been standing outside, in the darkness of the hallway, and chosen this moment to stage his entrance. He was an extraordinary sight, or in any case sick: an emaciated young man, very thin and even somehow physically crumpled, with stringy blonde hair and an ill-fitting suit. Beer knew him from his practice. He was a night watchman who lived in one of the garret flats and suffered from chronic bronchitis. Beer had ministered twice to him, both times without accepting payment, and remembered only the man's anxious talk about his duty: he had refused, both times, to be written sick and had dragged his body over to the warehouse where he sat all night waiting for burglars who never came. Now he gestured to the janitor with jerky agitation, and even walked over to him to whisper urgently into his ear.
The janitor nodded and stood.
"I'm afraid I have business to attend to," he muttered abruptly, then folded up Beer's chair no sooner had he risen and shaken the man's dirty, massive hand. "A pleasure talking to you, Herr Doktor."
Beer had no choice then but to walk out, replacing his hat as he climbed the stairs up to the courtyard and the bright October sun.
Excerpted from The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta. Copyright © 2012 by Dan Vyleta. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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