“Miss Von Croy”, a voice said, and a white haired woman stepped to her side. “Why, whatever is wrong? You are as white as your gown!” The woman put her arm around Elfie’s shoulders. “And you are shaking like a leaf. Come, dear, let me get you to your dressing room.” The woman’s arm pressed lightly on Elfie’s shoulders, urging her forward. Soon she was seated in the dressing room,
becoming more aware of her surroundings, and looked up to see Analiese Dorfmeister in front of her, looking worried and holding out a glass of water. “Frau Dorfmeister, thank you.” She took the glass, took a sip, and sighed.
“Frau Dorfmeister, did something happen back there, where you found me?” Elfie looked at the woman anxiously.
“Yes, but how could you know?” Analiese asked.
“What happened? Please tell me. I...I...felt something, heard something, I need to know, did I imagine it?”
“All right, dear. No, it wasn’t your imagination. It happened thirty years ago. Liesl Henninger was a coloratura soprano, one of the best in the world. She had just finished a rehearsal for a performance, and had gone to her dressing room. I was assistant dresser then. When I went to help her change, she wasn’t there. Then I heard a scream, and when I ran out, Ingrid Erstweiler was standing staring at something on the floor, shrieking. She was also a soprano, not quite as good a Liesl. When I got there, several others were there, and I saw it was Liesl. Someone felt for a pulse, and said she was dead. The police came, and arrested Ingrid, but had to let her go, as she had been with the concert meister until just before everyone heard the scream. They never found the killer.”
“I see. Thanks, Frau Dorfmeister. I still don’t understand, but I saw her, and heard her. She said I was the only one who could help her.” Elfie shook her head. “I don’t know why, or what I can do. But she said she is held here until her killer is caught.”
“Perhaps you should talk to Ludwig Zingler. He was the main detective on the case, and he has never given up. He comes back every year, on the anniversary, talking to those of us who are still here. If she spoke to you, perhaps she will again, and it could be that she knows who did it. He will do anything he can, and solving the case would be the biggest satisfaction of his life. I can give you his address if you want to talk to him. He’s retired now, but this he will not give up.”
“Yes, please, Frau Dorfmeister. I feel I must do what I can. I still don’t know why I’ve been chosen, but I think I will find that out soon.” Elfie stood up and started to gather her things. Soon she was on her way out, to find Stefan at the stage door, waiting to take her home.
“Elfi, what’s wrong? You are white as a ghost!” he put his arm around her shoulders. “And you are shaking! Did something go wrong with the performance? We were there, and it seemed perfect to us.”
“No, Stefan, all went well. It’s something else. I’ll tell you, and mama a papa, when we get home. Just please, let’s go.”
His arm still around her, Stefan walked her to the auto, helped her in and went to the driver’s side. Soon they were on the way, and twenty minutes later, they were seated in the livingroom. Elfi took a deep breath, and told them all the story of what had happened to upset her so. When she mentioned Liesl she saw her mother go dead white. She looked as though she was going to faint.
“Marta,” Heinrich said as he wrapped his arms around her. “It is hard, I know, hearing that name again after so many years.” he held her until her colour came back, and she lifted her head.
“Mama, what is wrong?” Elfi cried. “What have I said to upset you so? Who was Liesl Henninger?”
Marta took a deep breath, and looked at Heinrich. “Tell them, my dear, Elfi at least should know. And there is no shame in it. Just much sadness and heartache.” He clasped her hand and smiled at her.
Marta turned to the children, paused, and said “Elfi Liesl Henninger was my favourite, beloved,
aunt. I was eleven when she was killed, and I was devastated. She had been coaching me, along with my voice teacher, and with her death I lost all interest in singing. When my first child was a girl, I honoured her with the name. But I could not call you Liesl, that was just more than I could bear. Perhaps, though, that and the fact that you are so like her, is the reason why she has been able to contact you. I think you should go to that detective and talk to him. Perhaps, if you can bring yourself to seek her out, she will be able to give you a clue, and her killer will, at last, pay for his crime.”
Heinrich nodded. “Yes, Elfi, I agree, if you will not be too upset. You were very pale and shaken when you got home, and we would not want you to do anything that might frighten you.”
Elfi sat quietly, feeling better now she had talked to her parents. For several minutes she thought about the experience, and realised that although it had been frightening, she had never felt in danger. And perhaps mama needed a resolution to the mystery as much as Aunt Liesl did. She looked around at the family and nodded.
“Yes, I can do it, and I want to. For mama’s sake as well as Aunt Liesl’s, it’s time to bring the killer to justice, if he is still alive. At least, we should know who it was. But, would you both come with me to see Herr Zingler?”
“Of course we will,” Heinrich said. “We can call in the morning, and see if we can talk to him in the afternoon.” They all agreed, and soon were asleep. Elfi said a special prayer for the Grand Aunt she had never known, and, at peace again, drifted off reliving her success.
Ludwig Zingler was still a big man, six feet six inches, and in remarkable condition for a man in his seventies. He greeted them pleasantly and invited them into his study, seeing to their comfort before getting down to the reason for the visit. He was stunned when Elfi told her story.
“I have never given up on that case,” he said. “I have copies of everything we found out, here, and as often as I go over it, I still cannot find an answer. Young lady, if you are willing to spend time backstage at the Musikverein, perhaps at last I can find some peace. I heard Miss Henninger sing many times, and I was deeply in love with her. The night she died, I had seen her before the performance, and she had accepted my proposal. My heart died with her, and so I never married. Do you think you can do it?”
They were all stunned at his news, and Elfi nodded. “Yes, Herr Zingler, I can do it. There is no danger for me there. It was just the shock of seeing her body, and hearing her voice that upset me. Now I know I can see and hear her, and remain calm. We must do all we can to give her peace. And you, too. When will we go?”
“It is only half past two, why not now? I am quite anxious to try. I know there must have been a clue we missed, and perhaps she can tell you.”
Elfi stood up “Herr Zingler, I, too am anxious to find out what she can tell me.”
Soon they were all standing in the hall, near the joining of the corridors where Elfi had had her experience. “Mama, papa, Stefan, I think it will be best if you stay well back. I was alone each time she spoke to me, so I think the fewer people here, the easier it will be for her to speak.”
“Perhaps I too should stay back,” Herr Zingler said.
“No, sir. I think, if she had agreed to marry you, she wouldn’t be held back by your presence.”
Marta, Heinrich and Stefan walked away until they were almost to the first dressing room, and turned to watch. Elfi and Herr Zingler moved forward, into the area where Elfi had experienced the first contact. Elfi closed her eyes and whispered Aunt Liesl, what can you tell us about your killer? Then she stood, silent and relaxed, waiting, and barely conscious of Herr Zingler’s presence beside her. And then she felt the other presence, and heard the same voice start to speak, faintly.