“As I bent, someone grabbed me, and his hands wrapped around my neck. He turned me, and as my breath left me, I saw his face. It was the same man. He was a friend of the concert meister, his name was Fritz something. As I lost consciousness, he took the locket from my neck. In it were pictures of my niece and nephew, Marta and Karl. And on the chain I had hung the ring Ludwig had given me. I could not wear it until we talked to my parents. He took from me my life, and my two most important keepsakes. Tell Ludwig, Elfi. Find him, and give me rest.”
The voice faded, and after a moment, Elfi turned to look at Herr Zingler. “Did you hear anything, sir?” she asked.
He looked at her sadly, and shook his head. “No, I heard nothing, but this time I felt her presence. What did she say?”
Elfi told him everything. His eyes lit up, and he smiled. “At last, I have the clue that I need. I know him, Fritz von Hoffmann. And I have seen that locket! His daughter wears it - I never recognised it, Liesl must have worn it inside her dress. Thank you, my dear. Now I will go to the present Chief and tell him what to look for. Thank you, thank you!” he clasped her in his arms and gave her a huge hug.
Marta, Heinrich and Stefan came hurrying up. “It worked!” Stefan declared. “I can tell, you both look so happy!”
“Yes, it worked. And now I must go to the police station and tell them what we have learned. It will not be easy to arrest the man, he is of a prominent and wealthy family. But if we can just get his daughter alone for a moment, we can prove his guilt. Please excuse me, I must go. Thank you all. Soon, I hope, my Liesl and I will have peace.” Ludwig hurried off.
Elfi explained to the others what Aunt Liesl had told her. Marta nodded when she mentioned the locket. “Yes, I remember it. It was gold, and shaped like a heart with very small diamonds around the edge. It could only be opened if you knew the secret. She showed me, and showed me the pictures. We must let Herr Zingler know that, or finding the locket will not help. The only proof that it was Liesl’s would be the pictures of me and Karl.”
“I will call him, Marta, when we get home.” Heinrich said.
It was three months later when a call came from Herr Zingler, asking if Marta and Elfi would please come to the police station. When they got there, they saw a woman of Marta’s age, looking shaken and bewildered, sitting in the Chief’s office. Ludwig Zingler was there, too. Then Chief Leopold Boxleitner stood, and held out his hand.
“Thank you so much for coming so quickly, Frau Von Croy. This is Brigitta Saxi, daughter of Fritz von Hoffmann. Please, sit down. We have explained why we wanted to see her, and she is willing to show us the locket, but she claims that it does not open. Here it is - it this the one you remember?”
Marta took the locket in her hand, tears in her eyes as she held it. Looking up, she said “Yes, this is Aunt Liesl’s locket.” Holding it between her thumb and forefinger, she squeezed, and it popped open. She looked at the pictures inside, and handed it back, tears streaming down her face. “That is me, when I was ten, and Karl was eight at the time.”Chief Boxleitner took the locket, and turned to Frau Saxi. She was staring at it in shock, and shaking her head in denial.
“No, no!” she exclaimed. “My father would never have done such a thing!”
“Please, Frau Saxi, try to be calm. When did your father give this to you?” the chief asked.
Taking a handkerchief from her bag and wiping her eyes, Brigitta Saxi took a deep breath. “He gave it to me on my tenth birthday, August fifteenth, 1898.”
“One month after Aunt Liesl was killed,” Marta said. “Oh, my dear, I am so sorry to bring such terrible sadness to you. But that is my aunt’s locket and it was taken from her neck the day she was killed. There was a ring hung on the chain, too.”
Slowly Brigitta took off her glove, and raised her right hand. On it was a gold ring with a central diamond with a small heart in white gold on each side. “He gave this to my Mother for their fifteenth wedding anniversary, in June 1899.”
Ludwig stepped forward and took her hand. “Yes, that is the ring I gave to Liesl that night. Inside are the Runes for our initials.”
Brigitta took the ring off, and looked. “Mother and I always wondered what they were, Papa said it was Love in an old language.” She looked down at her hands for a moment, then looked up. “I have to believe you, yet I can’t imagine my Father killing anyone. He was always so loving to me and mama, and so proud of her. She was a great singer. Her name was Ingrid Erstweiler.”
Ludwig stared at her for a moment, then said “She was arrested for the murder, when she was found standing over the body screaming. But it was easy to prove that she was innocent, so she was released. Perhaps that is why he did it. Liesl was one step above your mother, and was getting all of the attention from the meisters and the public. He must have loved her so much he wanted to give her the chance at the career he felt she deserved. I know that is no real consolation, Frau Saxi.”
For a long moment silence reigned in the office. Then Chief Boxleitner sighed and said he would have to arrest Herr Hoffmann. At that, Brigitta looked up. “Oh, must you?” she asked. “He is a very ill man, he is dying. Could you not let him die in his own bed, in his own home? The doctor said he had no more than two months, at most.” She looked around at them all. “I am not asking that you excuse what he has done. But....” she stopped, unable to go on.
Elfi looked up at Herr Zingler. She felt Aunt Liesl’s presence, and saw that he felt her, too. Then the familiar voice whispered “thank you, Elfi, Ludwig. I am at peace now, and am free. Let him die in his bed - he will soon be judged by God.” They felt the presence fade, and both smiled, happy to know that she was at peace at last. Marta had been watching Elfi, and smiled, too.
“Frau Saxi, we are content, now that we know the truth. Go home to your family and take care of your father. He will face the Great Judge, and we will leave him to His mercy.”
Brigitta held out the ring and locket. “These are yours,” she stroked a finger over the locket. “I have no right to them.”
Marta hesitated, then looked up at Ludwig Zingler, who shook his head. She reached over and folded Brigitta’s fingers over the jewellery. “No, my dear. They have been yours for many years, and they mean a great deal to you. Liesl would not want to take them from you, nor will we. I have many things to remind me of my favourite aunt. Keep them to remind you of your loving father and mother.”
Brigitta Saxi looked at Marta for a moment, then clasped her other hand over their joined hands. “Thank you, and God bless you all.”
With that the meeting broke up, and they all stood. Chief Boxleitner shook hands with everyone, and accompanied them to the front door. Ludwig Zingler stood with him, watching. As the autos drove way, they looked at each other in relief. At last they could put that case away. Both felt great satisfaction, even though there would be no trial, and no one would ever know how it was solved.