For the past thirty years, I have been living in a picturesque village in the north west of Lower Saxony. Idyllic but remote. For the past twelve years, I have been a member of the Mörderische Schwestern – the Murderous Sisters Crime Writers’ Association. For the past ten years, I have been writing dark romance and crime short stories. And for the past ten years, I have been fatally attracted to Hercule Poirot, to his charm, his intelligence, his investigative skills and of course his green eyes. I can’t help it. It just happened. All of these things looked at individually are hardly dramatic. And until now it hasn’t caused me any sleepless nights or bothered me in any way. It is all part of me, like my name. But then something happened that thoroughly mixed up all of the above, suddenly resulting in a highly volatile combination – and I was sitting right on top of it all, on my very own powder keg.
The moment it all begins is flooded with sunlight. I am sitting in the Weidenhof Farm’s garden café, about twelve miles from my home, right in the middle of the never-ending bliss of a Saturday afternoon. Directly in front of me on a blue and white gingham tablecloth is a German apple pie from the farm’s own bakery. In my sightline are wedding guests, strolling along a path lined with flower tubs. Everyone is in cheerful anticipation of the bridal couple and the festivities. Balloons held by fine strings float over their heads. A child on a bike pedals towards the playground. A photographer is taking some snapshots in front of the rabbit enclosure. She doesn’t notice the guests departing for the wedding ceremony by the lakeside. She hurries after them, her hair streaming behind her.
Suddenly the square in front of the wedding barn is deserted. Silence has settled. And in this silence, I hear the crunch of footfalls. I know the man walking towards the rear corner of the barn well enough to get curious. But not well enough to shout after him like a fishwife. And he doesn't react, of course. I am cringing inside. Then I hear myself calling after him for the second time. The man has almost reached the corner. But I can't let him get away because someone is on tapping my shoulder. There goes your opportunity. Don't miss it. I’m just about to get up when he stops in his tracks. He walks towards my table. I am holding my breath as he approaches. That in itself should have made me wonder. But so far I don’t suspect anything.
He smiles at me, almost a bit contrite. I'm really sorry I haven't answered straight away, he says. But I just had some tunnel vision. Because tomorrow, he points to the lake, tomorrow I'm also getting married over there. For the second time after ten years. And to the same woman, too. My mind is suddenly flooded with a murderous cocktail of brain chemicals. It feels like an explosion. And in the centre of this explosion a volcano is growing, hurling a murderous idea into the sky with such staggering velocity that it carries everything around me with it.The park-like scenery. The wedding barn. The small lake. The coffeehouse and the garden café. It doesn't even stop at the rabbit enclosure.
And suddenly I know that I have been waiting for the past ten years. For this opportunity, to prepare the stage for a gentleman with green eyes, portly and immaculately dressed in nostalgic attire. A stage to pay homage to his skills and the charm that he exudes. Because I know this gentleman deep down in my soul. I have already spent many sleepless nights with him. Stuck close to his heels. Sipped a cassis with him while hunting a killer. But this literary love of my life is prohibited. It is literally subject to copyright. But in this sunlit moment, and although I am still a bit dazed by that murderous, potent cocktail, I don’t have the shadow of a doubt that I will find a way. A bypass, so to speak, which will lead me safely to my goal: To gift-wrap a declaration of love in a mystery novel.
I hardly have time to finish my hot chocolate because my synapses are already fizzing with every possible plot strand and implication. But first, we need the illustrious wedding party. And already a genteel, decidedly noble gathering assembles under the archway of the farm’s entrance. Many guests have arrived from England. Yet again the mayor pulls the notes for his speech from his jacket pocket.
I have a group of elderly ladies take their seats at the table next to me. In a trial run the above-mentioned gentleman is purposefully heading for one of the free tables under a sun umbrella. Gallantly he raises his matelot. He smiles at me. “Nes pa, Madame. This late summer heat is murderous indeed.“
I nod and return his smile. But right now, I don't have time to respond because I need to make my way to the large barn door. Towards my protagonists in their festive robes and their secretive glances. Scraps of their conversations carry over to me. I rise. All those people over there, by the barn door... they need me now.
After a few steps, I turn towards him again. He has changed a little, that gentleman over there, below the sun umbrella. He seems slimmer and slightly taller to me and although his shoes are still exquisite, they are also comfortable. And it is not the green of the beech leaves that mirror the colour of his eyes; it is the blue of the sky. And all of a sudden I know that person over there, just about to get up in order to stick to my heels. He is the result of a romance with the ravishing Verena Rosskova. His name is Achille Perrot. And he is the grandson of the magnificent Hercule Perrot. Because, mes dames et messieurs, that brilliant mind simply has to pass on his famous sleuthing gene to his offspring.
Yours C'rysta Winter