I showed the note to Mr Erdnuss today. He came down, as promised, in the evening to check on my ladder situation, wearing something that looked like an American baseball shirt. His hands were behind his back and he sauntered in as soon as I opened the door, peering at every corner of the apartment without so much as a greeting. When he was satisfied, he sat down at the dining table and lit this brown, oily cigarette.
‘I can’t explain it,’ he said. ‘The bastard must have made off with my ladders, that’s the only thing that makes sense now. Why does a man do something so degenerate? Don’t you have a saucer or something?’
I found a stout terracotta pot for his ash. I said, ‘I found this the other day. What do you think it means?’
‘Blott? What sort of name is Blott? An inspector? Huh.’
‘I guess they were looking for my old colleague,’ I said, ‘though I can’t think what he could be mixed up in. I suppose I’ll give them a call soon enough.’
‘I would not worry about it,’ shrugged Erdnuss. ‘Worrying is for birds and mice. Throw it away in the bucket now and open us a bottle of wine or something.’
I went into the kitchenette and slid a bottle from the rack. I put the note down on the worktop, next to the sink.
‘I don’t know what this is really,’ I said, pouring us each a glass, ‘I can’t read the bottle.’
Erdnuss drank his share in one go. He watched me. ‘You really should throw it away you know, the note.’
‘I will,’ I laughed. ‘Give me a chance, won’t you?’
His eyes pinched and he leaned over the table. ‘Let me tell you something about those inspectors up in their Complex. They put on a good face now but it was not so long ago they were less nice. Some of us still remember the old methods.’
We finished the bottle and Erdnuss suggested another but I pointed to my pile of files and notebooks—tomorrow would be a busy day. He waved at me dismissively and took his leave. Without his tense energy present, the apartment felt extremely empty.
I settled down to do some work but something was niggling me. Unable to focus, I brought out my colleague’s telephone book and found the number for the Hlavniwache, the police complex. A receptionist put me through to Blott, who picked up after a long time. The voice was high-pitched but languorous—I couldn’t place it.
I explained that I’d received the note in error and Blott sort of chuckled.
‘Present yourself tomorrow for an interview. You’ll find the address in the book.’
‘Alright,’ I said, but the line was already dead.
As soon as I’d replaced the receiver, an odd feeling came over me. It was the sensation that I was being listened to. I went from room to room, glancing around, but nothing was amiss.