She was angelically attractive. And devilishly distraught. When Lt Maciejewski came to the door of her apartment in the Europejski Hotel, he discreetly wiped the muddy toe of his shoe on the back of his cuff.
“I’ve been called to broken safes before,” he said, kissing her perfumed hand. “But this is the first safe I’ve seen so tightly closed.”
She smiled. She kept her distance; she was a lady. She had been described in a similar tone – though much more crudely – by Detective Zielny when he referred the matter to the lieutenant. Orally, because it wouldn’t do at all to put it in an official report.
The day before in this very same suite, the minister of internal affairs himself had made an incognito stay. Whoever he met, for business or pleasure, is none of our business. Unfortunately, when leaving, he forgot to take from the safe the folder of state documents, and the secretary sent for them had obviously written down the wrong combination.
Zielny asked naively whether it wouldn’t be better to call the minister. But the bombshell emissary calmly and patiently explained to the plainclothesman – like a good teacher to the class dunce – that he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. First, the minister’s documents weren’t supposed to be in a hotel safe at all, so if journalists were to catch a whiff of something… Second, she personally wouldn’t wish on the detective the consequences of the minister hearing that someone else knew the secret of his unfortunate negligence. But also third, upon receiving the documents, he would certainly ask for the name of the officers who had treated the law with understanding, and would be appropriately thankful.
“Please don’t worry, the safe will be handled by an experienced and discreet professional.” Maciejewski once again kissed the hand that was like something from a painting. They sat so close together on the sofa that the lieutenant felt a current of electricity. “I had the pleasure of meeting Minister Raczkiewicz when I received the citation for catching the Uhrusk Strangler. You weren’t working in his office yet?”
In fact, she said, she had taken up her current position and seen the minister for the first time only in January that year, but he had immediately welcomed her with great trust. Maciejewski understood the minister; blue eyes like hers could never lie. And he would gladly have spoken with her longer, but there was a knock at the door and an older gentleman in a bow tie entered, laden with a bag of rattling metal tools.
“My compliments, madame. Myszkowski, a retired thief.” He bowed and set to work.
Amused by the pleasant conversation, the lady explained to the lieutenant that Minister Rackiewicz was still a bachelor, and most likely the policeman was dealing with the future Mrs Rackiewicz. Maciejewski wished to express his regret that it wasn’t Mrs Maciejewski, but at that moment the bolt clicked softly and the safe door swung open. Inside they saw a bundle of documents, tied together with twine.
“Yes, these are the documents, I recognize them!” Pleased, the secretary stood up from the sofa. “He used to tie presents up the same way – I remember from the Ministry’s Christmas party.”
Maciejewski also stood up, lifting the delicate hand to his trembling lips and… with a practised move, slapped a handcuff onto it. Mr Myszkowski bowed as if nothing out the ordinary were happening, slipping unnoticed out of the room.
“How did you know I was a foreign agent?” the femme fatale asked pleasantly, not losing a drop of her charm.
“For three reasons, madame,” the courtly lieutenant replied.
* Fill in with invisible ink.
ANSWERS: 1. According to the statement, the documents were supposed to be in a folder, but they were tied together with twine. 2. It’s not the proofreader of “Przekrój”, but our heroine who mixed up the minister’s name, calling him Rackiewicz instead of Raczkiewicz. 3. Since the supposed secretary had met the minister for the first time in January, she couldn’t have been at the ministry’s Christmas party. As they still teach today at the Lubyanka: you have to know how to drink, and also how to lie.
Translated from the Polish by Nathaniel Espino
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