The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons is unintended.
As Steffi returned home totally exhausted, Olivia and the girls rushed to meet her and hugged her, their faces simultaneously a mask of both anxiety and relief. All sorts of rumours were flying around about the disturbance of the previous evening. Steffi had been stabbed herself, or someone else had died. Steffi had been charged with murder. The police or the Institute were closing down the student house and terminating their scholarships. All the girls were shouting at once as they went into the lounge and Steffi explained what had occurred. At least she explained all that she knew, that Francisco had stabbed Pablo and had been arrested, Pablo was in hospital with a stomach wound, and her whole future, and possibly theirs as well, was very uncertain. Olivia produced a tray of strong coffee laced with brandy. She seemed worried about the future of the house and her job there, and that of her cousin who did the gardening. She was a widow, and was worried by something she had been told at second hand to the effect that the Institute was going to put the house up for sale.
Steffi had been told to remain at the house until she received further instructions from Herr Bauer. Although she was exhausted, she was too tense and excited to sleep. Olivia gave her a sleeping pill and she eventually went to bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
Olivia and all the girls stayed in all the following day, waiting impatiently for the phone to ring. Eventually, Olivia took a message from Herr Bauer at 8 p.m. He would be attending the house at 6.30 p.m. the following day, which was a Saturday. He wanted to speak to Olivia and all the girls in the lounge to update them on the situation.
Herr Bauer drew up outside a few minutes early. Olivia brought some coffee into the lounge, but no one touched it. She joined Steffi, Katarina, Sophie, Erika and Luisa, who were perched anxiously on the edge of the two leather sofas, listening attentively, hanging on his every word.
Herr Bauer stood in the centre of the spacious lounge, looking out of the window. He looked tired and drawn, and was obviously stressed and not in a good mood. He turned and looked briefly at each of the girls in turn. “Can you please leave us, Fraulein Muller,” he said to Steffi. “I will speak to you separately.” Steffi nodded and left the room, crestfallen. This sounded ominous, she thought. Herr Bauer closed the door to the lounge and she was unable to hear anything that was said. Steffi went to her room and lay on the bed, her face buried in the pillow.
“Thank you for your attendance,” he said. “I wish to update you on what has occurred, and how this will affect your future. As you are no doubt aware, there was a very serious incident in the street outside early on Thursday evening involving Fraulein Muller and two of her boyfriends, Garcia and Martinez.”
“You mean Francisco and Pablo?” asked Katarina.
“Correct. Martinez, Pablo, he was stabbed by Garcia. Francisco, that is. Martinez is still in hospital with a serious stomach wound but is expected to recover. Garcia has been charged with an offence of wounding. It is still undecided whether Fraulein Muller will face any charges.”
“But that’s not fair, Herr Bauer, Steffi didn’t do anything. Its not her fault,” Erika protested. “Its just not fair.”
Herr Bauer ignored the interruption. “I want to talk to you about how this affects your future at this house,” he continued. “I have spent the past two days talking to Professor Scharfschwerdt, our Consulate in Rosario, the Mayors Office, and the Chief of Police, amongst others. Some matters have yet to be decided, and I will know more tomorrow. However, I am aware you will all be concerned about what has happened, so I decided to speak to you all tonight to let you know the situation as it stands.”
“Professor Scharfschwerdt was most concerned about the incident, and its effect on the reputation of the Institute. I wanted to talk to you specifically about how this affects you, separately from Fraulein Muller. He is aware of the complaints to the police from the neighbours. Some of them are actually convinced that the house is operating as a brothel.” The girls collectively gasped, and began to protest. “But that’s not true, Herr Bauer,” said Katarina. “We haven’t had any parties here for ages, and we’ve told our boyfriends they cant come round after 8 o clock, just as you said.”
“That’s true, Senor Bauer,” said Olivia. “The girls have been very good since the last trouble. They have done as you instructed.”
“Thank you, Olivia,” said Herr Bauer. “But the events of Thursday evening have changed everything. Professor Scharfschwerdt has seriously considered the option of simply closing the student house. You would in that case be required to leave this address and obtain alternative accommodation at your own expense, or that of your parents. Though your tuition would still be paid, you would no longer be provided with accommodation by the Institute free of charge. And as you know, Rosario has a very large student population. Suitable accommodation is in short supply and can be quite expensive. That is precisely why the Institute has provided accommodation for you in the first place. You would no doubt find somewhere to live, but it would not be of the same quality and so conveniently located near the campus.”
The girls began to protest vigorously, all at once. “But that’s so unfair, Herr Bauer,” said Sophie. “None of us had anything to do with the trouble on Thursday. And my parents couldn’t afford to help me get somewhere else.” The girls all made similar objections.
“I accept what you say,” said Herr Bauer. “That was the point I made to Professor Scharfschwerdt. That and the disruption to your studies, particularly those of you in your final year. After some deliberation he decided not to follow that course. The house will remain open, at least for the time being. But I would stress to you, and I cannot make this point strongly enough, that there must be no further incidents of any kind. There must be no further complaints. If anything further should occur, the house most certainly will be closed with all that means for you. You should have no illusions about this. This is in the nature of a final warning, not from me personally, but from Professor Scharfschwerdt and the Institute.”
The girls breathed a collective sigh of relief. At least they were okay for the moment. “Can you please ask Fraulein Muller to come to the lounge,” said Herr Bauer.
Steffi entered the lounge and Herr Bauer closed the door. The other girls hung around outside, trying to eavesdrop without much success. She looked at him apprehensively. “Please sit down, Fraulein Muller,” he said. “I must say, you look more human than on Thursday night.” Steffi had been crying again, but she had deliberately toned things down and was wearing a sensible knee length skirt and blouse, with no make up.
“I wanted to talk to you separately, Fraulein Muller,” he said. He explained the situation with Francisco and Pablo, and reminded her that she should not try to contact either of them under any circumstances. He told her that he had personally made various representations on her behalf when he attended the Mayors Office in Rosario and that of the Chief of Police. No firm decision had as yet been taken on whether she would have to face any charges, or how this would affect her course and scholarship. He was trying to clarify everything the following morning, though it was a Sunday. He was expecting calls from the police the following morning with their decision.
“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me, Herr Bauer,” said Steffi. “I appreciate I must have completely ruined your weekend. I’m so grateful.”
“I will be quite busy with all this tomorrow morning,” said Herr Bauer. “I want you to attend my office at the Institute at 3 p.m. tomorrow. By then the situation will have been clarified. I hope we can keep you out of the courts but its not in my hands. I have done all I can on your behalf, as have Professor Scharfschwerdt and the Consulate, but well have to see. I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose for you to face charges as well, but well have to see. Ill explain whats been happening in more detail to you tomorrow afternoon. I’m going home to get some sleep.”
Steffi felt a sense of relief. At least Herr Bauer seemed to have been trying to help her as much as he could. He looked so tired and stressed out. And he had given up his whole weekend to try to help her. She felt ever so grateful to him.
To be continued.