Steffi’s Punishment – Part Four

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons is unintended.

Part Four.

When Steffi saw Herr Bauer, she realised that the police must have called him using the numbers on the back of her laminated identity pass. He glanced briefly in her direction, the expression on his face betraying extreme anger and withering contempt. He turned and had a conversation with the sergeant and another officer. She couldn’t make out what was said.

Steffi could almost die of embarrassment. She stood in the room with her hands still handcuffed in front of her, her hair and clothing dishevelled, her face tear stained. Her mascara had run. She would never have  dressed this way when she attended the Institute. She was wearing the favourite black leather mini skirt borrowed from Katarina, a tight low cut top with no bra, high heels, jewellery, a lot of make up and nail polish. Her arm was bruised from where she had been struck with the baton, and her knees were grazed. She must look like a complete tart to him, she thought. She had always found him rather intimidating and she was frightened how he would react in dealing with the situation.

Herr Bauer and the officers seemed engrossed in various forms on the desk and completely ignored her. He produced some documents from his attache case and signed two forms on the desktop. He looked up briefly and pointed to Steffi. “Are the handcuffs still necessary?” he asked. A policeman stepped forwards and unlocked her wrists. She rubbed her wrists.

Steffi was required to countersign the forms. Her handbag was returned to her, minus the cannabis joints. Despite his obvious anger, Herr Bauer showed some concern for her welfare. “Is there anywhere that Fraulein Muller can wash her face?” he asked. She was taken to a small bathroom and washed her face at the sink. She did look a sight, she thought.

She hadn’t really been listening to what the police sergeant had said to her, and didn’t really understand what was happening. “You are being released on bail,” said Herr Bauer. “I have had to stand surety for your release. I will take you home shortly.”

They were shown out of the police station to the front car park, where his VW Passat was parked. He opened the door for her and she got in. He was obviously very angry but seemed deep in thought. Steffi found the silence more unsettling than any outburst of anger. She glanced at him and said nothing. He was so smartly dressed and distinguished looking in his dark suit and tie even at this time of night, she thought. The officers at the police station had behaved quite respectfully and deferentially towards him. She appreciated the small gestures of concern he had shown for her welfare. It seemed that her fate was being decided by others without any involvement by herself. She was relieved that Herr Bauer was there. She would still be in the cells otherwise. She felt guilty that she had caused him so much trouble. Being so close to him, Steffi noticed that he was quite handsome. She could see why Katarina had tried flirting with him. Perhaps when his anger subsided she might be able to rely on him to protect her interests.

Herr Bauer stopped the car abruptly en route to the house, near a mobile snack vending van. “You look like you’ve had quite a night, Fraulein Muller. I have as well. I don’t know about you, but I need a cup of coffee.” He returned shortly with two polystyrene cups. He put his cup on the dashboard, opened the window and lit a cigarette. He offered her one, but Steffi shook her head. “No, I was forgetting, you prefer cannabis,” he said. He stared into the distance, apparently lost in thought.

Steffi found the silence oppressive. “I’m terribly sorry for all the trouble Ive caused, Herr Bauer,” she said. “I’m so grateful you came to the police station to get me.” He silenced her with a wave of the hand. He finished his cigarette, collected the empty cups and put them in the refuse bin next to the van.

Herr Bauer got back in and sat staring into the distance. He sighed. “I suppose Id better tell you how the way things look at the moment,” he said. Steffi nodded and listened intently.

“I had quite a long conversation with the Captain at the police station,” he said. ” It seems that at first they thought you were a streetwalker who had stabbed her pimp.” He turned and looked her up and down. “I cant say I blame them. If you dress like a hooker and behave like a hooker, they’ll take you for a hooker.”

Steffi blushed deeply with embarrassment. “Apparently you were holding the knife when the police arrived, and a neighbour said he thought you had done it, so they thought you were the attacker at first. But the man who was arrested, Franco or Francisco, or whatever his name is, I take it hes one of your many boyfriends, admitted to doing it, and the police now accept that, so it looks like you’re off the hook for that at least.” He took a piece of paper from his jacket pocket. “That’s right, Francisco Garcia. Just as well given the way the Argentine courts work. They almost always convict and if the police had decided to charge you with wounding or attempted murder, right now you would be looking at a very long sentence in an Argentine prison. And Argentine prisons aren’t very nice places.”

Steffi breathed an almost audible sigh of relief. “So much for Boyfriend One. As for Boyfriend Two, whats his name, Pablo Martinez, hes in hospital with a stab wound to the stomach. I gather he needed an emergency operation, but its not thought to be life threatening. So at least hell probably live. It seems he has a bit of a record himself. Hes a drug dealer with convictions for drugs and assault. So as far as they’re concerned you’re a bit of a gangsters moll. I hope the newspapers back home don’t pick this up. They’ll have a field day with it.”

“But that’s not true,” Steffi protested. “Hes just a car dealer. Ive seen his dealership. Hes a businessman.” Herr Bauer shrugged. Most of these businesses are financed with drugs money. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter much.”

Steffi remained silent and tried to take in what she was being told. “As I said, I had to stand surety for you to get you out on bail. Otherwise you’d be in the women’s prison while its all sorted out. You are not to contact either of these two again, Garcia and Martinez, or you are liable to be rearrested and charged with obstruction of justice as well. All in all, its quite a mess.”

“I’m hoping the police will lose interest in you and just charge your rather unsavoury Boyfriend One with stabbing your equally unsavoury Boyfriend Two. But the Captain said they were considering charging you with an offence of violent public disorder. This carries a minimum sentence of a years imprisonment. And theres the drug possession, though its only cannabis. So youre not off the hook yet. They even spoke vaguely of offences like drunkenness and prostitution. Some of the neighbours who have been talking to the police seem to be convinced that the house is actually a brothel. And the way you and your friends have been behaving I cant say I blame them.”

Steffi didn’t know what to say. What he said was not unreasonable. She could still see herself ending up in court and in prison, with everything spewed out over the newspapers, even if they accepted she wasn’t the one who did the stabbing. Things still didn’t seem too bright. She apologised again to Herr Bauer for all the trouble she had caused. He seemed so self assured and in control. If she could convince him she was genuinely sorry perhaps he could protect her and help her out. Her future seemed to depend on his willingness to help her. She was glad that he was there for her as Moral Tutor. She really needed his help.

“What about the Institute and the scholarship?” Steffi asked anxiously. “I don’t know,” said Herr Bauer. “First things first. I’m going to spend most of tomorrow with Professor Scharfschwerdt and the Consulate seeing what we can sort out and salvage from this. Ill probably have to call at the Mayors Office and speak to the Chief of Police. Fortunately, the Institute has a good reputation and some influence in Rosario, though things like this certainly don’t help.”

“Unfortunately Professor Scharfschwerdt is somewhat conservative and old fashioned in his outlook, and he is very concerned about the reputation of the Institute. There is a zero tolerance policy on drugs, so your possible drugs charge doesn’t help. I don’t know what will be decided, to be honest. You could well be sent home. Well have to see.”

Steffi felt herself being drawn more towards this confident and self assured man. She felt so guilty at the trouble she had caused for him. He had helped her already and it seemed that he would be doing a lot more on her behalf. Her whole future depended on his efforts. She wanted to reach out and touch him and kiss him to thank him, but she remembered how Katarina had been rebuffed previously and didn’t dare. “I’m really grateful for everything you’ve done for me, Herr Bauer,” she said, staring intently into his eyes. “I really am. Thank you so much.”

“Its all part of being the Moral Tutor,”  he said. “I wish they’d find someone else to do it. Ill take you home. I suggest you get a good nights sleep. You’re going to need it.” Steffi stared after Herr Bauers car as he drove off from the house, her mind a mass of conflicting emotions.

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