Authors: Frank Tallis
Vienna, 1903. In St. Florian's military school, a young cadet is found dead â his body lacerated with razor wounds. Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt, baffled by details surrounding the case, turns to his friend â the psychiatrist and disciple of Freud â Doctor Max Liebermann, for help.
In the closed society of the school, power is everything â and suspicion falls on an elite group of cadets, with a taste for sadism and dangerous games. A tangled web of uneasy relationships is uncovered, at the heart of which are St. Florian's dark secrets, which Doctor Liebermann, using the new psychoanalytic tools, begins to probe.
Frank Tallis is a writer and practising clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts in clinical psychology and neuroscience at the Institute of Psychology and King's College London and is one of Britain's leading experts on obsessional states.
In 1999 he received a Writers' Award from the Arts Council of Great Britain and in 2000 he won the New London Writers' Award (London Arts Board).
was shortlisted for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.
Frank lives and works in London. For further information visit
THE BAROQUE BALLROOM
was filled with flowers. Beneath three radiant chandeliers over a hundred couples were rotating in near-perfect synchrony. The men were dressed in black tails, piquÃ© shirts and white gloves, the women in gowns of tulle and crÃªpe de Chine. On a raised platform a small orchestra was playing Strauss's â
Rosen aus dem SÃ¼den
' and when the Waltz King's famous heart-warming melody was reprised, a number of onlookers began a sympathetic humming chorus â smiling with recognition and benign sentimentality.
Liebermann felt Amelia Lydgate's right hand tighten with anxiety in his left. A vertical line appeared on her forehead as she struggled to follow his lead.
âI do apologise, Doctor Liebermann. I am such a poor dancer.'
She was wearing a skirted dÃ©colletÃ© gown of green velvet and her flaming red hair was tied up in silver ribbons. The pale unblemished planes of her shoulders reminded the young doctor of polished Italian marble.
âNot at all,' said Liebermann. âYou are doing very well for a novice. Might I suggest, however, that you listen more carefully to the music. The beat.'
The Englishwoman returned a puzzled expression.
âThe beat,' she repeated.
âYes, can you not . . .' Liebermann paused, and made an effort to conceal his disbelief â. . .
Liebermann's right hand pressed gently against Amelia's back, emphasising the first accented beat in each bar. However, his guidance had no noticeable effect on her performance.
âVery well, then,' said Liebermann. âPerhaps you will find the following useful: the
consists of three steps in which you move forward and rotate clockwise by one hundred and eighty degrees, followed by three steps in which you move backward and rotate again by one hundred and eighty degrees. For the
you move forward on your right foot, rotating it to the right by ninety degrees, followed by your left foot, rotated another ninety degrees so that it is now facing backwards . . .'
Amelia stopped, tilted her head to one side, and considered these instructions. Then, looking directly into Liebermann's eyes, she said plainly: âThank you, Doctor Liebermann, that is an altogether superior explanation. Let us proceed.'
Remarkably, when they began to dance again, Amelia's movements were considerably more fluid.
âExcellent,' said Liebermann. âNow, if you lean back a little we will be able to go faster.' Amelia did as she was instructed, and they began to revolve more rapidly. âI believe,' continued Liebermann, âthat the optimal speed of the Viennese Waltz is said to be approximately thirty revolutions per minute.' He saw Amelia glance at his exposed wristwatch. âHowever, I do not think it will be necessary for us to gauge our performance against this nominal ideal.'
As they swung by the orchestra, they were overtaken by a portly couple who â in spite of their ample physiques â danced with a nimbleness and grace that seemed to defy gravity.
âGood heavens,' said Amelia, unable to conceal her amazement. âIs that Inspector Rheinhardt?'
âIt is,' said Liebermann, raising an eyebrow.
âHe and his wife are very . . . accomplished.'
âThey are indeed,' said Liebermann. âHowever, it is my understanding that Inspector Rheinhardt and his wife are more practised than most. During
not only do they attend
â the Detectives' Ball â but they are also regular patrons of the Waiters' Ball, the Hatmakers' Ball, the Philharmonic Ball and, as one would expect,' Liebermann smiled mischievously, âthe good Inspector has a particular fondness for the Pastry Makers' Ball.'
As they wheeled past a pair of carved gilt double doors, Liebermann saw a police constable enter the ballroom. His plain blue uniform and spiked helmet made him conspicuous among the elegant tailcoats and gowns. His cheeks were flushed and he looked as though he had been running. The young man marched directly over to Commissioner BrÃ¼gel, who was standing next to the impeccably dressed Inspector Victor von Bulow and a party of guests from the Hungarian security office.
Earlier in the evening, Liebermann had tried to engage the Hungarians in some polite conversation but had found them rather laconic. He had ascribed their reserve to Magyar melancholy, a medical peculiarity with which he, and most of his colleagues in Vienna, were well acquainted.
Liebermann lost sight of the group as Amelia and he continued their circumnavigation of the ballroom. When they had completed another circuit, he was surprised to see Else Rheinhardt standing on her own and looking towards her husband â who was now talking to Commissioner BrÃ¼gel and the breathless young constable. Liebermann's observation coincided with the brassy fanfares that brought the waltz to its clamorous conclusion. The revellers cheered and applauded the orchestra. Liebermann bowed, pressed Amelia's fingers to his lips and, taking her hand, led her towards Else Rheinhardt.
âI think something's happened,' said Else.
Manfred BrÃ¼gel was a stocky man with a large, blockish head and oversized mutton-chop whiskers. He was addressing Rheinhardt,
while occasionally questioning the young constable. Rheinhardt was listening intently. In due course, Rheinhardt clicked his heels and turned to find his wife and friends.
âMy dear,' said Rheinhardt, affectionately squeezing Else's arm, âI am so very sorry . . . but there has been an
.' He glanced briefly at Liebermann, tacitly communicating that the matter was serious. âI am afraid I must leave at once.'
âIsn't there anyone on duty at Schottenring?' asked Else.
âKoltschinsky has developed a bronchial illness, and Storfer â on being informed of the said incident â rushed from the station, slipped on some ice, and cracked his head on the pavement.'
âWhat extraordinary bad luck,' said Liebermann.
âWhy is it always
?' said Else. âCan't somebody else go? What about von Bulow?'
âI believe he has some important business to discuss with our Hungarian friends.' The air suddenly filled with the shimmering of tremolando violins, against which two French horns climbed a simple major triad. Nothing in the whole of music was so artless, yet
distinctive. âAh,' said Rheinhardt, âwhat a shame . . . “The Blue Danube”.' He looked at his wife and his eyes filled with regret.
âOskar,' said Liebermann. âCan I be of any assistance? Would you like me to come with you?'
Rheinhardt shook his head.
âI would much rather you kept my dear wife and Miss Lydgate entertained. Now, where's Haussmann?' The Inspector looked around the ballroom and discovered his assistant standing with a group of cavalrymen, gazing wistfully at a pretty young debutante in white. Heavy blonde coils bounced against her cheeks. Haussmann, having clearly been engaged in a protracted surveillance operation, was about to reveal himself. He was clutching a single red rose. âOh, no . . .' said Rheinhardt under his breath.
The Inspector kissed his wife, apologised to Amelia, and clasped Liebermann's hand. Then, moving quickly, he managed to intercept the rose just before Haussmann had reached his quarry.
THE INNKEEPER AT
Aufkirchen had been pleasant enough. Knocking a dottle of tobacco from the bowl of his clay pipe, he had warned Rheinhardt of a fallen tree: â
It's blocking the road â you'll have to go the long way round.
' The directions the man gave were full of local detail and difficult to follow. When the little Romanesque church with its distinctive onion dome and spire vanished in the darkness, Rheinhardt doubted whether the exercise had been very successful.
The interior of the carriage was illuminated by a single electric bulb, the glowing arc of which was reflected in Haussmann's eyes. Rheinhardt fancied that this flickering scintilla of light was connected with the young man's thoughts â the fading memory, perhaps, of the pretty blonde debutante.