Book Extracts
Fever by Friedrich Glauser

The story of the clairvoyant corporal
“Read that,” said Studer, thrusting a telegram under
his friend Madelin’s nose. It was dark outside the Palais
de Justice, the Seine gurgled as it lapped against the
quai and the nearest street-lamp was a few yards away.
“greetings from young jakobli to old jakob hedy.”
The commissaire read out the words haltingly once he
was under the flickering gaslight. Although Madelin
had been attached to the Sûreté in Strasbourg some
years before, and therefore was not entirely ignorant
of German, he still had difficulty working out what the
message meant.
“What’s this all about, Studère?” he asked.
“I’ve become a grandfather,” Studer replied morosely.
“My daughter’s had a little boy.”
“That calls for a celebration!” Madelin declared. “As
it happens it fits in rather well. A man came to see me
today. He’s leaving tonight for Switzerland, on the
half-past-ten train, and he’s asked me to recommend
him to a colleague there. I’m meeting him at nine in a
little bistro by Les Halles. Just now it’s –” keeping his
woollen gloves on, Madelin unbuttoned his overcoat,
its collar raised in a protective curve round his neck,
and took an old silver watch out of his waistcoat pocket
– “eight o’clock. We’ve plenty of time,” he added in a
self-satisfied voice. With the north wind whipping at
his unshielded lips, he became philosophical. “When
you get old, you always have plenty of time. Strange,
isn’t it? Don’t you find that too, Studère?”
Studer muttered something. But then he looked
round abruptly as a high-pitched, squeaky voice said,
“And I may offer my congratulations too? Yes? To our
revered inspector? My heartiest congratulations?”
Madelin, tall, lean, and Studer, equally tall only
thickset, with broader shoulders, turned round. Trotting
along behind them was a tiny figure. At first it was
impossible to say whether it was male or female: its
long coat came down to its ankles, its beret was pulled
down over its eyebrows and its nose was wrapped in a
woollen scarf, leaving only its eyes uncovered, and
even they were hidden behind the lenses of a huge
pair of horn-rimmed spectacles.
“You be careful you don’t catch cold, Godofrey,”
said Commissaire Madelin. “I’ll need you tomorrow.
The Koller business is unclear, but I only got the papers
this evening. You’ll need to examine them tomorrow.
There’s something not right about Koller’s papers . . .”
“Thanks, Godofrey,” said Studer, “but it’s me that’s
inviting you two. After all, you have to splash out a bit
when you’ve just become a grandfather.”
He sighed. Greetings from young Jakobli to old
Jakob, he thought. Now you’re a grandfather, that
means you’ve lost your daughter for good. Once
you’re a grandfather, you’re old – on the scrap heap.
But it had been a stroke of genius to escape from the
empty apartment in Bern and the dirty dishes in the
sink, even more from the green-tiled stove in the living
room that only his wife knew how to light; whenever
he tried, the monster just belched out smoke like a
badly rolled cigar, then went out. Here in Paris he
was safe from such disasters. He was staying with
Commissaire Madelin, he was treated with respect, was
not addressed as “Sergeant” but as “Inspector”. He
could spend all day with Godofrey, ensconced in the
laboratory at the top of the Palais de Justice, watching
the little man analyse dust and X-ray documents.
There was a soft hissing from the Bunsen burners, a
somewhat louder one from the steam in the radiators,
and there was a pleasant smell of chemicals and not of
floor polish, as there was in police headquarters in
Bern . . .
The marble tables in the bistro were square, with ribbed
paper napkins on them. In the middle of the room was
a black stove, the top glowing red hot. The large coffee
machine on the bar was humming and it was the owner
himself – he had arms as fat as a normal person’s
thighs – who was serving.
They began with oysters, and Commissaire Madelin’s
favourite pastime. Without asking Studer, he had
ordered a 1926 Vouvray, three bottles at once, and he
downed one glass after another. In between he quickly
slurped three oysters, chewed and swallowed them.
Godofrey took little sips, like a shy girl; his hands were
small, white, hairless.
Studer was thinking of his wife, who had gone to
Frauenfeld to be with their daughter. He was silent
and let Godofrey babble on. Madelin was silent as
well. Calm and unperturbed, two huge dogs – a skinny
Great Dane and a shaggy Newfoundland – ignored the
yapping of a tiny fox terrier . . .
The landlord put a brown terrine of tripe on the
table. There followed some bitter lettuce, and another
three full bottles appeared in front of them; they were
suddenly empty, at the same time as the plate with the
runny camembert – it stank, but it was good. Then
Commissaire Madelin opened his mouth to make a
speech. At least that’s what it looked like, but nothing
came of it, for the door opened and a man entered
who was so strangely dressed Studer wondered
whether the Parisians had their carnival before the
New Year.
The man was wearing a snow-white monk’s habit and
a cap on his head that looked like a huge red flowerpot
made by an incompetent potter. On his feet – they
were bare, totally and completely bare – he wore open
sandals; his toes and instep were visible, his heel
Studer could hardly believe his eyes. Commissaire
Madelin, who ate priests for breakfast, stood up, went
to meet the man, brought him back to the table, introduced
him – “Father Matthias of the Order of the
White Fathers” – and told him Studer’s name, adding
that this was the inspector of the Swiss criminal
investigation department.
A Père Blanc? A White Father? The sergeant felt as if
he were having one of those strange dreams that sometimes
come to us after a serious illness. Light as air and
full of delight, they take us back to our childhood,
when we lived out fairy tales . . .
For Father Matthias looked exactly like the tailor
who killed “seven at one blow” in the fairy tale. His
chin was covered in a sparse grey goatee, so sparse you
could count each hair of his moustache. And such a
skinny face! Just the colour of his eyes, his big grey
eyes, reminded you of the sea with clouds passing over
it – and sometimes there is a brief flash of sunlight
on the surface, which spreads its innocuous veil over
unfathomable depths . . .
Three more bottles . . .
Father Matthias was hungry. He polished off one
plate of tripe in silence, then a second, did not stint
himself when it came to the wine, clinked glasses
with the others. He spoke French with a slight accent
that reminded Studer of home, and indeed, hardly
had the man in the white habit eaten his fill than he
said, patting the sergeant on the arm, “I’m a fellowcountryman,
from Bern.”
“A bah!” said Studer. The wine was starting to go to
his head.
“But I’ve been abroad a long time,” the tailor went
on – tailor! What was he thinking? He was a monk. No,
not a monk, a . . . a priest. That was it! A White Father.
A father who had no children – or, rather, all people
were his children. But he was a grandfather himself.
Should he tell his fellow-countryman, this expatriate
Swiss? No need, Commissaire Madelin was doing it
for him.
“It’s a celebration for our inspector. He’s just had a
telegram from his wife telling him he’s a grandfather.”
The priest seemed pleased for him. He raised his
glass, toasted the sergeant, Studer clinked glasses with
him. About time the coffee came. Ah, there it was, and
a bottle of rum with it. And Studer, who was starting to
feel a bit funny – that Vouvray, not as harmless as it
seemed! – heard Madelin tell the landlord to leave the
bottle on the table.
Godofrey was sitting next to Studer. Like many short
people, he dressed with exaggerated elegance. But that
didn’t bother the sergeant. On the contrary, he found
the presence of the little manikin, who was a walking
encyclopedia of criminology, calming and comforting.
The White Father was sitting on the other side of the
table, beside Madelin.
Finally, Father Matthias had finished eating. He
clasped his hands over his plate, his lips moving
silently, his eyes closed. Then he opened them, pushed
his chair back from the table a little and crossed his
right leg over his left, revealing two sinewy, hairy calves
under his habit.
“I have to go to Switzerland, Inspector,” he said. “I
have two sisters-in-law there, one in Basel, the other in
Bern. And it’s quite possible I may get into difficulties
and have to turn to the police for assistance. If that
should happen, would you be willing to help me?”
Studer slurped his coffee, silently cursing Madelin,
who had fortified the hot drink all too generously
with rum. Then he looked up and replied to Father
Matthias, also in French.
“The Swiss police does not usually concern itself
with family matters. If I’m to help you, I have to know
what it’s about.”
“It’s a long story,” said the priest, “and one I hardly
dare tell. You’ll all,” he made a circular gesture with his
hand, “laugh at me.”
Godofrey protested politely in his parrot’s voice. He
called the priest mon père, which for some unknown
reason struck Studer as extremely funny. His laugh was
concealed by his moustache, and he was still spluttering
with laughter as he raised his cup, which had been
refilled, to his lips. In order not to give offence he
pretended he was blowing on his hot coffee to cool it.
“Have you ever had anything to do with clairvoyance?”
Father Matthias asked.
“Cartomancy? Crystal balls? Telepathy? Cryptomnesia?”
Godofrey reeled off his litany of questions.
“I see you’re well informed. Have you had much to
do with that kind of thing?”
Godofrey nodded, Madelin shook his head and
Studer muttered a curt, “Con tricks.”
Father Matthias ignored him. He was gazing into the
distance, though in the little bistro the distance was
the bar with its shining coffee percolator. The landlord
was sitting behind it, hands clasped over his belly and
snoring. The four at the table were his only customers.
The bistro didn’t start to liven up until around two
in the morning, when the first carts with hothouse
vegetables arrived.
“I would like to tell you,” the White Father said, “the
story of a little prophet, a clairvoyant, if you prefer. It’s
because of that clairvoyant that I’m here, instead of
visiting the little forts in the south of Morocco, reading
mass for the lost sheep of the Foreign Legion.
“Do you know where Géryville is? Four hours beyond
the back of beyond! In Algeria, to be precise, on a
plateau 5,000 feet above sea level, as the inscription on
a stone in the middle of the barracks square tells
you. Ninety miles from the nearest railway station. The
air is dry, which is why the Prior sent me there last
September, since I’ve got a weak chest. Géryville’s a
small town with only a few French living there; most of
the population is made up of Arabs and Jews. You
don’t get anywhere with the Arabs, they don’t want to
be converted. They do send their children to me – that
is, they allow their little ones to come to me . . . There’s
a battalion of the Foreign Legion up there as well. The
legionnaires came to see me sometimes. My predecessor
had set up a library, so along they came – corporals,
sergeants, now and then a private – and went off with
books, or smoked my tobacco. Occasionally, one of my
visitors felt the need to confess. Strange things go on
in the souls of those men; there are moving conversions
of which people who think of the Foreign Legion
as the dregs of humanity have no conception.
“Well . . . One evening a corporal came to see me.
He was shorter than me, with a face like a crippled
child, he looked sad and old. He was called Collani, he
said, paused and then started to speak in a feverish
rush. It wasn’t a regular confession in the sense the
Church understands it. More of a monologue, almost
as if he were talking to himself. He spoke for quite a
long time. There were lots of things he had to get off
his chest which have nothing to do with my story. It was
evening and the room was filled with a greenish halflight;
it comes from the skies they get there in autumn,
they often have strange colours . . .”
Studer was resting his cheek on his hand and was so
engrossed in Father Matthias’s story he didn’t notice
he had pushed up the skin round his left eye so that it
was a slanting slit, like a Chinaman’s.
The high plateau! . . . The wide-open spaces! . . . The
green twilight! . . . The soldier making his confession!
It was so completely different from what you saw
around you every day! The French Foreign Legion!
The sergeant remembered he had once been going to
enlist, when he was twenty, after an argument with his
father. But he hadn’t wanted to cause his mother distress,
so he’d stayed in Switzerland and made a career
for himself, even rising to the rank of chief inspector
in the Bern city police, before that business with the
bank had cost him his job. Then, too, he’d felt like
dropping everything and . . . But he had a wife, a
daughter, so he’d given up the idea, swallowed his
pride and started at the bottom again, patiently working
his way up. But deep inside there still slumbered a
yearning for the wide-open spaces, the desert, the battles.
And then along came a White Father and
awakened it all again.
“So he spoke for quite some time, did Corporal
Collani. In his pale green greatcoat he looked like a
chameleon in need of a rest-cure. Then he was silent
for a while and I was just about to get up and send him
back to barracks with a few words of comfort when he
suddenly started to speak in a completely different
voice, deep and hoarse, as if there were someone else
speaking from inside him. And the voice sounded
strangely familiar to me:
“ ‘Why’s Mamadou taking the sheet off the bed and
hiding it under his coat? Aha, he’s going to sell it in the
town, the swine. And it’s me who’s responsible for the
linen. Now he’s going downstairs, across the barracks
square to the railings. Of course, he’s too scared to go
past the guards. And Bielle’s waiting for him at the
railings, takes the sheet from him. Where’s Bielle off
to? Aha! He’s going to the Jew in the alley, sells the
sheet for a duro —’ ”
“A duro,” Madelin explained, “is a silver five-franc
“Thank you,” said Father Matthias. He was silent for
a while as he rummaged in his habit under the table. It
must have had a deep pocket somewhere, for he
brought out a magnifying glass, a rosary, a wallet
woven out of strips of red leather and, finally, a snuffbox,
from which he took a generous pinch. Then he
blew his nose with a loud blast. The landlord behind
the bar woke with a start, but the priest went on with
his story:
“I said to him, ‘Collani! Wake up, Corporal, you’re
dreaming!’ But he went prattling on: ‘I’ll teach the
pair of you to swipe Legion property. I’ll show you
tomorrow!’ Then I grabbed him by the shoulder and
gave him a good shaking, I was finding the whole thing
pretty eerie. He woke up and gave me an astonished
look. ‘Do you know what you were telling me?’ I asked.
‘Of course,’ Collani replied and repeated what he had
said in his trance – that’s what it’s called, isn’t it?”
“Certainly,” Godofrey hastened to assure him.
“– in his trance. After that, he left. When I came out
of the house at eight the next morning – it was a very
clear September morning, you could see the chotts, the
great salt lakes, sparkling in the distance – I ran
straight into Collani with the quartermaster and the
captain. Captain Pouette told me Collani had reported
that sheets had been going missing and claimed he
knew both the thieves and the receiver. The thieves
were already locked up, now it was the turn of the
receiver. Collani looked like a water-diviner without his
divining rod. Though he was completely conscious,
there was a fixed look in his eyes and he was pressing
“I won’t bore you any more. At the bottom of an
orange box in a tiny shop run by a Jew who sold
onions, figs and dates, we found four sheets. Mamadou
was a negro in the fourth company, he admitted the
theft. At first Bielle, a red-haired Belgian, denied it,
but then he too confessed.
“From then on Collani was always called the clairvoyant
corporal and the battalion doctor, Anatole
Cantacuzène, organized seances with him: tableturning,
automatic writing, in short they tried all the
accursed nonsense on him that the spiritualists practise
here without the least idea of the danger they’re
putting themselves in.
“You will be asking yourselves, gentlemen, why I
have told you this long story. It was just to explain why I
could not ignore Collani when, one week later, he told
me things that affected me personally.
“It was 28 September, a Tuesday.”
Father Matthias paused for a moment, put his hand
over his eyes and continued:
“Collani came to me. I spoke to him, as is my duty
as a priest, imploring him to give up these satanic
experiments. He remained defiant. And suddenly his
eyes glazed over again, his upper lids came halfway
down over his eyeballs and his lips were twisted in a
disagreeable, mocking smile, revealing his broad, yellow
teeth. Then he said, in a voice I knew so well,
‘Hello, Matthias, how’s things?’ It was the voice of my
brother – my brother who died fifteen years ago!”
The three men round the table in the little bistro by
Les Halles listened in silence. Commissaire Madelin
gave a faint smile, as you might after a weak joke.
Studer’s moustache quivered, though it wasn’t obvious
why. Only Godofrey attempted to relieve the feeling of
embarrassment at the improbable story.
“Funny how life keeps forcing you to deal with
ghosts . . .” It could be a profound statement.
Very quietly Father Matthias said, “This strange and
yet so familiar voice was coming to me from the lips of
the clairvoyant corporal . . .”
Studer’s moustache stopped quivering, he leant
over the table. The stress on that last sentence. It
sounded false, feigned, affected. He shot a glance at
Madelin. There was the hint of a grimace on the
Frenchman’s bony face. So the commissaire had
sensed the false note too. He raised his hand and
placed it gently on the table. “Let him speak. Don’t
interrupt.” And Studer nodded. He had understood.
“ ‘Hello, Matthias, d’you remember me? Did you
think I was dead? Alive and kicking, that’s me.’ That
was the point at which I suddenly realized Collani was
speaking German. ‘You’ll have to hurry, Matthias, if
you want to save the old ladies. Otherwise I’ll come for
them. In . . .’ At that point the voice, which was not
Collani’s voice, became a whisper, so that I couldn’t
understand what came next. But then it was loud and
clear again: ‘Can you hear the hissing? That hissing
noise means death. Fifteen years I’ve waited. First of
all the one in Basel, then the one in Bern. One was
clever, she saw through me, I’ll save her till last. The
other brought up my daughter badly, she must be punished
for it.’ There was a laugh, then the voice fell
silent. This time Collani was in such a deep sleep, I had
difficulty waking him.
“Finally his eyes opened fully and he looked at me,
astonished. So I asked him, ‘Do you know what you
have just told me, my son?’ At first he shook his head,
then he replied, ‘I saw a man I nursed in Fez fifteen
years ago. He died, he had a nasty fever . . . in 1917,
during the Great War. Then I saw two women. One had
a wart by her left nostril . . . The man in Fez, what was
his name now? What was his name?’ Collani rubbed
his forehead, he couldn’t remember the name and
I didn’t prompt him. ‘The man in Fez gave me a letter.
I was to post it – fifteen years later. I sent it. On the
anniversary of his death, on 20 July. The letter’s gone,
yes, the letter’s gone!’ he suddenly shouted. ‘I don’t
want anything more to do with it. It’s beyond bearing. I
did!’ he shouted even louder, as if he were responding
to an accusation from someone invisible, ‘I did keep a
copy. What am I to do with the copy?’ Collani wrung
his hands. I tried to calm him down by telling him to
bring me the copy. ‘That will ease your conscience,
my son. Go and bring it now, at once.’ ‘Yes, Father,’
the clairvoyant corporal said, got up and went out. I
can still hear the screech of his hobnails on the stone
outside my door . . .”
“And I never saw him again. He disappeared from
Géryville. They assumed he had deserted. The battalion
commander instituted an inquiry, which discovered
that a stranger had come by car to Géryville
that evening and left that same night. Perhaps he took
the clairvoyant corporal with him.”
Father Matthias fell silent. The only sound to be heard
in the little room was the snoring of the landlord interspersed
with the quiet tick-tock of the clock on the
wall . . .
The White Father took his hands away from his face.
His eyes were slightly reddened, but their colour still
recalled the sea – though now there was a bank of mist
over the water, hiding the sun. The old man who
looked like the tailor from the fairy tale scrutinized his
It was no easy task telling a ghost story to three seasoned
members of criminal investigation departments.
They let the silence drag on until finally one of them,
Madelin, rapped the table with the flat of his hand.
The landlord shot up.
“Four glasses,” the commissaire ordered. He filled
them to the brim with rum and said, in an expressionless
voice, “A little something will do you good,
Father.” Father Matthias emptied his glass obediently.
Studer took a long, slim leather cigar case out of his
pocket and found to his dismay that he had only one
Brissago left. He went through the ritual of lighting it,
then handed his matches to Madelin, who had filled
his pipe, with which he gave his Swiss colleague a sign,
clearly inviting him to start the interrogation.
Now Studer pushed his chair back too, propped his
elbows on his thighs, clasped his hands and, in slow,
measured tones, began his questioning.
“Two women? Your brother hadn’t committed bigamy
by any chance?
“No,” said Father Matthias. “He got a divorce from
his first wife and married her sister, Josepha.”
“Did he now? Got a divorce?” Studer repeated. “I
thought that didn’t exist in the Catholic religion?” He
looked up and saw that Father Matthias was blushing.
A wave of red swept down from his high forehead over
his sunburnt face. When it faded, it left peculiar grey
blotches on his skin.
“I converted to Catholicism when I was eighteen,”
said Father Matthias in a low voice. “As a result I was
disowned by my family.”
“What was your brother?” Studer asked.
“A geologist. He prospected for ore in the south of
Morocco: lead, silver, copper. For the French government.
Then he died in Fez.”
“You’ve seen his death certificate?”
“It was sent to his second wife in Basel. My niece has
seen it.”
“You know your niece?”
“Yes. She lives in Paris. She had a job here with my
late brother’s secretary.”
“Now,” said Studer, taking his notebook out of his
pocket – it was a new ring binder that gave off a strong
scent of Russia leather, a Christmas present from his
wife, who was fed up with the cheap jotters bound in
oilcloth he used. He opened it.
“Would you be so good as to give me the addresses of
your two sisters-in-law?”
“Josepha Cleman-Hornuss, 12 Spalenberg, Basel;
Sophie Hornuss, 44 Gerechtigkeitsgasse, Bern.” The
priest was slightly out of breath as he spoke.
“And you really believe the two old women are in
danger, Father?”
“Yes . . . really . . . as I hope to be saved, it is my belief
that that is the case.”
Again Studer felt like telling him to stop speaking in
such an affected manner, but he couldn’t do that, so
he just said, “I’m staying here in Paris for the New
Year’s Eve celebrations, then I’ll take the overnight
train and be in Basel on the morning of New Year’s
Day. When are you going to Switzerland?”
“Today . . . tonight.”
“Then,” came Godofrey’s parrot voice, “you’ve just
got time to get a taxi.”
“My God, you’re right. But where . . .?”
Commissaire Madelin dipped a sugar lump in his
rum and, sucking his canard, called out to the snoring
landlord, who leapt up, rushed to the door, stuck two
fingers in his mouth and whistled. It was so piercing
Father Matthias put his hands over his ears.
Then the storyteller was gone.
Commissaire Madelin growled, “There’s just one thing
I’d like to know. Does the man think we’re little children?
I’m sorry, Studère, I thought he would have
something more important to tell us. He came with a
recommendation. From above. He has friends in high
places – and he didn’t even pay for a single round! It’s
him who’s the child, really, a little child.”
“Excuse me, chef,” said Godofrey, “but that’s not
true. Children can talk to the angels, but our White
Father’s certainly not on speaking terms with the
“Eh?” Madelin stared, wide eyed, and Studer, too,
gave the over-elegant manikin a look of astonishment.
Godofrey remained unperturbed.
“You can only talk to the angels,” he said, “if you’re
pure in heart. Our White Father’s heart is full of
deviousness. You haven’t heard the last of him. But
now we’re going to drink the health of our inspector’s
grandson.” He waved the landlord over. “In champagne!”
And he repeated the German words of the
telegram, “greetings from young zhakoblee to old zhakobbe.”
Studer laughed until the tears ran down his
cheeks, then he raised his glass to his two companions.
And it was a good thing Commissaire Madelin had
his police identity card on him, otherwise the three
of them would have been arrested for disturbing the
peace at two in the morning. Studer had taken it into
his head to teach his two friends the song of “The
Farmer from Brienz” and a uniform policeman was of
the opinion that a Paris boulevard was not the place
for a singing lesson. He withdrew his objection, however,
after he had established their profession. Thus it
was that Sergeant Studer was able to continue to regale
his colleagues from the Paris Sûreté with jewels of
Bernese culture. He taught them “I Know a Vale So
Fair and Merry” in which the word “Emmental” gave
him the opportunity to expound on the difference
between Emmental and Gruyère cheese. For the
French subscribed to the heresy that all Swiss cheese
came from the Gruyère region.

In Matto's Realm by Friedrich Glauser

Rude awakening
It’s five o’clock in the morning, a time when respectable
people are still fast asleep in their beds, and the
telephone rings. Wakes you up. It’s the chief of police
on the line, so of course you dutifully reply, “Sergeant
Studer here, sir.” Naturally you’re still in bed, you still
have a good two hours sleep left. Then you’re told a story
a half-awake brain has problems getting to grips with. So
you have to keep interrupting your lord and master
with “What?” and “Sorry?” until eventually you’re told
you’re a moron and you should wash your ears out . . .
That wasn’t as bad as it sounded; the chief of police
likes to express himself forcefully, and moron, for
goodness sake! . . . What was worse was that he
couldn’t quite cotton on to what he was supposed to be
doing. A certain Dr Ernst Laduner, he’d been told, was
coming to pick him up in half an hour, to take him to
Randlingen Psychiatric Clinic, where a patient by the
name of Pieterlen – yes, P for Peter, I for Ida, E for
Edith . . . – a patient by the name of Pieterlen had run
It happened now and then . . . At the same time, that
is during the same night, his boss went on, the director
of the loony bin – the chief of police had no very high
opinion of psychiatrists – had disappeared. He’d get
the details from Dr Laduner, who wanted to make sure
he was covered, covered by the police. And the chief of
police had made a joke involving the word “covered”,
not a very good joke, one with a whiff of the cowshed.
Laduner? Ernst Laduner? A psychiatrist? Studer had
clasped his hands behind his head and was staring at
the ceiling. Surely he knew a Dr Laduner, but where
had he made his acquaintance, on what occasion?
Because – and that was the remarkable thing about the
whole affair – this Herr Dr Laduner had particularly
asked for Sergeant Jakob Studer; at least that’s what
the chief of police had said. And, after he had told him
that, the chief of police had added that he could well
understand why. It being a well-known fact that
Studer had the odd screw loose, it was no wonder a
psychiatrist asked for him specifically.
You could take that as a compliment, thought Studer
as he got up, shuffled across to the bathroom and
started to shave. What was the director of Randlingen
Clinic called? Würschtli? No, but something like that,
it definitely ended in “li” . . . – The razor-blade was
blunt, tedious, since Studer had a heavy beard – . . .
Bürschtli? Ah, of course! Borstli. Ulrich Borstli. An old
gentleman, close to retirement.
So on the one hand there was Pieterlen, a patient
who had run off, on the other Ulrich Borstli, the director
. . . And somewhere between the two of them Dr
Laduner, whom he ought to know and who wanted to
make sure he was covered. Why did he want to be
covered by the police, and more particularly by Detective
Sergeant Studer of the Bern cantonal police? That
was the kind of unpleasant job that was always coming
Studer’s way. How did you behave in a lunatic asylum?
What could you do when the people behind the bars
just sat there raving? Carry out an investigation? It was
all very well for the chief of police to ring up and issue
instructions, but it wasn’t going to be much fun, that
was for sure . . .
In the meantime Frau Studer had got up, he could
tell by the smell of fresh coffee permeating the
“Grüess Gott, Studer,” said Dr Laduner. He had come
without his hat; his hair was brushed flat and a strand
stuck up at the back, like a heron’s crest. “We’ve met
before. You know, in Vienna.”
Studer still couldn’t remember. Being addressed
familiarly as “Studer” didn’t particularly surprise him,
he was used to it, and he invited the doctor, very
politely and slightly fussily, to come in and take off his
coat. But Dr Laduner had no coat to take off, so he
went straight into the dining room, said good morning
to the sergeant’s wife and sat down, all with an assurance
that amazed Studer, as if it were the most natural
thing in the world.
Dr Laduner was wearing a light-coloured flannel suit,
and the fat, loosely tied knot of his tie was a shimmer of
cornflower blue between the points of his white shirt
collar. He hoped Frau Studer had no objection, he said,
unfortunately he was going to have to borrow her husband,
but he promised to return him in full working
order. Something had happened, something complicated
and unpleasant. Anyway, he knew the sergeant
well, had known him for a long time – Studer gave a bewildered
frown – and had decided to treat the sergeant
as a personal guest. Anyway, it wouldn’t be that bad.
“Anyway” seemed to be Dr Laduner’s favourite word.
And the way he spoke was odd, a mixture of eastern
Swiss dialect and formal German that didn’t sound like
authentic Swiss German at all. And his smile was a little
disconcerting too; there was something of a mask
about it. It covered the lower half of his face up to his
cheekbones. That part was fixed and only his eyes and
his very broad, high forehead seemed to be alive.
No, thank you, Dr Laduner said, he wouldn’t have
anything, his wife would have his breakfast waiting for
him at home. Anyway, they had to hurry, reports were
at eight o’clock, and this morning he had to do the
round of all the wards; whether the Director had disappeared
or not, work still came first, duty called and
all that. Dr Laduner made little gestures with his left
hand, still with the glove on, then stood up, gently took
Studer by the arm and led him out . . . Goodbye . . .
It was a cool September morning. The trees on
either side of Thunstrasse already had the occasional
yellow leaf. Dr Laduner’s low-slung four-seater
behaved itself and started without a murmur. The
open windows let in a light breeze, which had a faint
hint of mist, and Studer leant back comfortably. His
black boots looked a little odd beside Dr Laduner’s
elegant brown shoes.
At first both men held back from speaking, and
Studer used the silence to rack his brains about Dr
Laduner. He must have met the man somewhere . . . In
Vienna? Studer had been to Vienna a few times, in
those distant days when he had been comfortably
installed in his position as a chief inspector with the
Bern city police, the days before that business with the
bank that had cost him his job and he had had to start
again from the bottom as a plain detective. Things
could be tough if you had too strong a sense of justice.
It was a certain Colonel Caplaun who had demanded
his dismissal, a demand that had been granted. The
same Colonel Caplaun of whom the chief of police
would say, in his unbuttoned moments, that there was
no one he’d rather see in Thorberg Prison. No point
in wasting his time going over the same old story; he’d
been cashiered and that was that. He’d started again
from the bottom and in six years’ time he’d retire.
When you thought about it, he’d got off lightly . . . But
ever since that business with the bank he’d had the
reputation of being a bit dotty, so actually it was
Colonel Caplaun’s fault that he was being driven to
Randlingen Clinic by a Dr Laduner to investigate the
mysterious disappearance of the director and the
escape of a patient.
“Can you really not remember, Studer? All those
years ago in Vienna?” Studer shook his head. Vienna?
All he could see was the Hofburg and Favoritenstrasse
and the police headquarters and an old and very
senior civil servant who had known the famous Professor
Gross, the leading light of criminology . . . But a Dr
Laduner he could not see.
Then Laduner said, keeping his eyes on the road,
“You’ve forgotten Eichhorn then, Studer?”
“Of course!” Studer exclaimed. He was so relieved
he put his hand on Laduner’s arm. “Herr Eichhorn!
Of course! And now you’ve gone in for psychiatry?
Weren’t you going to reform the care of children with
behavioural difficulties in Switzerland?”
“Ach, Studer!” Dr Laduner slowed down a little
because a lorry was coming towards them and sticking
to the middle of the road. “Here in Switzerland they
issue more directives than there are holes in a piece of
Emmenthal. And they’re about as effective, too.”
Studer laughed, a deep laugh. Dr Laduner joined in
with a laugh that was slightly higher.
Eichhorn! . . .
Studer saw a small room with eight boys in it, twelveto
fourteen-year-olds. It looked like a battlefield: the
table demolished, the benches smashed to matchwood,
the windowpanes shattered. He stood in the
doorway and saw one boy going for another with a
knife. “Now you’re going to get it,” the boy said. And in
one corner was Dr Laduner, looking on. When he
noticed Studer in the doorway he signalled him not to
intervene. And the boy suddenly threw the knife away
and started to cry in a sad, long-drawn-out wail, like a
dog that’s been beaten, while Dr Laduner came out of
his corner and said, in a calm, matter-of-fact voice, “By
tomorrow morning all this’ll be cleared up and the
windows replaced . . . OK?”
And the boys chorused, “Yes.”
It was in the Centre for Children with Behavioural
Difficulties in Oberhollabrunn, seven years after the
war. An institution without coercive discipline. A certain
Eichhorn, a gaunt, nondescript man with straight
brown hair, had taken it into his head to see if it was
possible, without priests, or sentimentality or beatings,
to make something out of these so-called juvenile
delinquents. And he’d succeeded. For once the
education authorities had a man on their staff who
happened to have a head on his shoulders. It does
happen. In this particular case it was a man to whom
Eichhorn’s simple idea made sense. His idea was as
follows: the little villains were caught up in an inescapable
cycle of misdemeanour – punishment – misdemeanour
– punishment. Punishment aroused
resentment, to which they gave vent by committing
further misdeeds. But what if the punishment were
eliminated? Shouldn’t there come a point where the
resentment had played itself out. Perhaps one could
make a new start there, build on it perhaps, without
the humbug or, as Dr Laduner had put it at the time,
“without the religious cod-liver oil”.
Eichhorn’s experiments had been much discussed
in specialist circles and when Studer had gone to
Vienna it had been suggested he have a look at them.
He had arrived at the very moment when the
resentment was reaching exhaustion point among the
most difficult group. And he had been impressed. As
he was a fellow Swiss, Dr Laduner, who was doing a
stint as a trainee with Eichhorn, took him to see the
director. They had talked together, in slow, measured
tones. Studer had told them about Tessenberg, the
reformatory in Bern canton, how bad things had been
there for a while. By that time it was ten o’clock at
night, and there was a ring at the front door. Eichhorn
went to see who it was and came back with a boy. “Sit
down. Are you hungry?” he asked him, and went to the
kitchen himself and brought some sandwiches. The
boy was starving. He stayed with them until eleven,
then Eichhorn’s wife took him to the guest room.
Afterwards Laduner told Studer that it was the third
time the boy had absconded. This time he had come
back of his own free will, which was why he had been
received in such a friendly way. Studer had been filled
with genuine respect for both men, for Dr Laduner
and Eichhorn.
“What’s Herr Eichhorn doing now?”
Dr Laduner shrugged his shoulders. “Completely
It kept on happening. A man tried something new,
useful, something that made sense, and for two or
three years things went well. Then suddenly he was
gone, vanished without trace. Well, Dr Laduner had
switched to psychiatry. The question was, how had he
got on with old Ulrich Borstli, the director who had
also disappeared?
For a moment Studer thought of asking about the
details of his disappearance, but then let it be; he
could not get the image of the young Dr Laduner out
of his mind, standing there in the corner of the
wrecked room watching the boy go for his classmate
with a knife . . . To grasp the psychological moment
when a situation is ripe! Even at that time he’d shown
great understanding had Dr Laduner. And Sergeant
Studer felt flattered, flattered that he’d been specifically
asked for and that Dr Laduner had invited him to
be his guest.
There was one thing that was strange. All those years
ago in Vienna Dr Laduner had not worn the smile that
looked like a mask stuck on in front of a mirror. And,
too – perhaps he had got this wrong, there was no way
of checking – he had the impression there was fear
lurking somewhere in his eyes.
“There’s the clinic,” said Laduner, pointing out of
the side window with his right hand. A red-brick building,
U-shaped as far as Studer could tell, with lots of
towers and turrets. Surrounded by pine trees, lots of
dark pine trees. It disappeared for a moment, then
reappeared; there was the main entrance and the
rounded steps leading up to the door. The car
stopped. The two of them got out.

The Chinaman by Friedrich Glauser

A dead man on a grave and two
men arguing
Studer switched off the engine, dismounted from his
motorbike and marvelled at the sudden silence all
around. In the fog, yellow, greasy and matted like
unwashed wool, walls appeared, the gleam of a redtiled
roof. Then the sun pierced the mist, striking a
round sign and making it shine like gold. No, it wasn’t
gold but some other, much less precious, metal, a flat
disc with two eyes, a nose and a mouth drawn on it and
spiky hair sticking out round the edge. An inscription
dangled below the sign: The Sun Inn. Well-worn stone
steps led up to a door, in the frame of which stood a
very old man. Studer had the feeling he recognized
him, but the old man seemed unwilling to acknowledge
the sergeant, for he turned away and disappeared
inside the inn. A gust set the fog swirling, and
once more inn, door and sign vanished.
Again the sun pierced the greyness. A low wall on
the right-hand side of the street appeared, glass beads
glistened on wreaths, gold lettering on gravestones
shone, and box leaves gleamed like emeralds.
Three figures were standing round a grave: an
officer of the rural gendarmerie in uniform, to his
right a smooth-shaven, elegantly clad man, who looked
young, and to his left an oldish man with an unkempt
blond beard streaked with white. The bitter argument
that was raging between two of them could be heard
out in the street.
Studer shrugged his shoulders, pushed his bike
alongside the worn-down steps, lifted it up onto its
stand and went into the cemetery, towards the grave
where two of the living were arguing while a third
stood watch in silence.
And Sergeant Studer of the Bern Cantonal Police
sighed despondently several times as he walked. He
didn’t have an easy life, he thought.
That morning the deputy governor had phoned
police headquarters from Roggwil. The body of a certain
Farny, he said, had been found in the cemetery of
the village of Pfründisberg. For the last nine months
this Farny had been living in the Sun Inn, and it
was Brönnimann, the landlord, who had found the
body and informed the village policeman. Merz, the
policeman, had reported that the cause of death was a
shot to the heart.
“So far I have not been able to put an investigation
in train, but it looks suspicious to me. The doctor
maintains it’s a case of suicide. I do not agree! To be on
the safe side, I feel it is important to have an experienced
detective present. The cemetery’s opposite the
inn . . .”
“I know that,” Studer had broken in as an unpleasant
shiver ran down his spine. A July night had come to
mind on which a stranger had foretold this murder . . .
“Oh, you know that, do you? Who is that on the line?”
“Sergeant Studer. The chief superintendent’s busy.”
“Ah, Studer! Good. Excellent. Come at once! I’ll be
waiting for you at the cemetery.”
Studer gave another sigh, shrugged his powerful
shoulders, scratched his thin, pointed nose and cursed
silently. It would be just the same as always, of course.
He wasn’t a celebrated criminologist, although in earlier
years he had studied a lot. An intrigue had cost him
his position as chief inspector with the Bern City Police;
he’d had to start from the bottom again with the cantonal
force and had quickly risen to the rank of sergeant.
Yet, although he’d been demoted, although he
had enemies, he was always the one who was sent when
there was a difficult case. This time too. After the telephone
conversation Studer had reported to the superintendent
and mentioned what had happened that
July night. “Off you go, then, Studer. But don’t come
back until you’re sure, until the case’s solved. Right?”
“If I must . . . Cheerio.” Studer had got on his bike
and set off. The July night had been exactly four
months ago, the night when he had met the stranger
with the Swiss name of Farny. A stranger who was now
dead . . .
“You can thank your lucky stars, yes, you can thank
your lucky stars, Herr Deputy Governor, that I’m about
to retire from my practice. Otherwise you’d have a few
awkward questions to answer. You may well laugh! Putting
the whole of the cantonal police on the alarm . . .
er . . . on the alert for an obvious suicide, yes, a
That was the oldish man with the profuse blond
beard, streaked with white, round his wide mouth. The
elegant, smooth-shaven gentleman raised his hands,
clad in brown kid gloves, to ward off these accusations.
“Herr Doktor Buff, I must ask you to moderate your
tone. After all, I am here in an official capacity . . .”
“Official capacity! Hahaha! Don’t make me laugh.”
Why are the two of them speaking High German and
not dialect? Studer thought. “You say you’re an official?
Any official could see at a glance that what we have
here is a suicide, a suicide, Herr Deputy Governor.”
“A murder, Herr Doktor Buff, yes, a murder. If you
can’t even distinguish between a murder and a suicide
at your age . . .”
“At my age?! At my age?! A young mooncalf like
you! Yes, a mooncalf, I stick by that word . . . trying
to tell an old doctor like me what’s a murder and
what’s not!”
“My instructions state that in cases of doubt an
experienced detective must always . . .”
Studer had stopped listening. A little verse crept
into his mind:
Things have happened on the Moon
That made the Mooncalf change his tune;
Honeymoon and Loondemyell
Both ran off with Mademoiselle . . .
But he called himself to order. It wasn’t respectful to
be thinking of amusing nonsense poems beside a
dead body.
The body: the face of an old man, a white moustache,
drooping down over the corners of his mouth,
soft, like the skeins of silk women use for fine needlework.
Narrow, slanting eyes . . . It was the man Studer
had met during a night in July four months ago. From
the very first moment he’d called him “the Chinaman”.
While the old country doctor, looking shabby in
his threadbare overcoat, continued to argue with the
elegantly clad deputy governor, Studer recalled that
night in July for the third time that morning. And if
the memory of that remarkable experience had been
vague the first two times, now it was clear, vivid, and
he began to hear the words that had been spoken
as well . . .
With a voice that sounded like the angel of peace
as he interrupted the argument of the two fellow
countrymen, he asked in his Bernese accent, “Who is it
who’s buried here?”
It was Dr Buff who replied. “The warden of the
poorhouse lost his wife ten days ago.”
The doctor nodded. His hair was rather long at the
back and over his ears.
“Can you explain, Doctor Buff,” the deputy governor
said, “how a suicide can shoot himself in the
heart, when the bullet has not made a hole in his coat
or his jacket, not even in his shirt or waistcoat? Is that a
suicide, Sergeant? You can see for yourself, the clothes
are all buttoned up. That’s the way we found the body.
But he was shot through the heart.”
Studer nodded, his thoughts elsewhere.
“And the gun?” Dr Buff squawked. “Isn’t that the
gun next to the dead man’s hand? Isn’t that suicide?”
Studer looked at the heavy gun, a Colt that he recognized.
He nodded, nodded – and then said nothing
more for five minutes because the night of 18 July was
flickering through his mind like a film . . .

It was mere chance that Studer had stopped in Pfründisberg
that evening. He’d forgotten to fill up in
Olten, so he’d gone to the Sun Inn.
He went in. By the door in the side room was an
iron stove, gleaming silver because it had been coated
with aluminium paint. Four men were sitting round
a table playing Jass. Studer shook himself like a big
St Bernard, there was a lot of dust on his leather
jacket. He sat down in one corner. No one took any
notice. After a while he asked if you could get a can
of petrol here. One of the card players, a little old
man wearing a cardigan with linen sleeves sewn on,
said to his partner in thick dialect, “’E wants a can o’
“Hmm . . . A can o’ petrol . . .”
Silence. The room was hot and stuffy because the
windows were closed. Through the glass you could see
the green wood of the shutters. Studer was surprised
no barmaid appeared to ask him what he wanted. The
old man’s partner said, “You forgot to count the king
and queen.”
Studer stood up and asked the way out onto the terrace.
The room was too hot for him and, anyway, at the
card table was a skinny man with a goatee whom
Studer knew – the warden of the poorhouse in Pfründisberg,
Hungerlott by name. An unpleasant man he’d
got to know when he was a corporal in the cantonal
police and had to escort people from the police station
to Pfründisberg. That evening especially he didn’t feel
like chatting with Hungerlott.
“The corridor at the back,” said the old man – he
couldn’t miss it.
When Studer stepped out into the open air he
breathed more freely, despite the fact that it was close.
Huge clouds were squatting on the horizon, a tiny
moon, no bigger than an unripe lemon, was at its
zenith casting its sparse light over the landscape. Then
it disappeared and the only thing that was brightly lit
in the area was the ground floor of a large building
about four hundred yards from the inn. The sergeant
leaned on the balustrade and looked out over
the silent countryside; close in front of him was a
maple, the leaves on the nearest branch were so
clearly lit he could count each one. When he turned
around to see where the light was coming from, he
saw, through a window that gave onto the terrace, a
lamp and a man writing. No curtains over the
windows . . .
The man was sitting at a table with five exercise
books covered in oilcloth piled up beside his right
elbow; he was well on his way to filling the sixth book.
How did a visitor come to be writing his memoirs in a
little village like Pfründisberg?
Pfründisberg: a poorhouse, a horticultural college,
two farms. The only thing that gave the hamlet any
importance was the fact that the larger village of
Gampligen, a mile and a half away, buried its dead in
All that went through Studer’s mind as he stood at
the window watching the solitary man tirelessly writing
away in his exercise book. A white moustache hung
down over the corners of his mouth, his cheekbones
were prominent, and he had slant eyes. Before he had
exchanged a word with the stranger, Studer’s name for
him was “the Chinaman”.
The sergeant would probably not have made the
acquaintance of the man on that evening of 18 July
had he not had a slight mishap. Was it the dust from
the country lane? Was it the start of a cold? To put it
briefly, Studer sneezed.
The stranger’s reaction to this innocent sound was
remarkable. He leaped up in such a hurry that he
knocked his chair over, and his right hand went to
the side pocket of his camelhair smoking jacket. With
two rapid steps to the side he was by the window,
seeking cover in the embrasure. With his left hand
he grasped the handle of the window and flung it
open. A brief silence. Then the man asked, “Who’s
Studer stood in the bright light, his massive figure
casting a broad shadow on the balustrade.
“Me,” he said.
“Don’t be so stupid!” the stranger barked. “Will you
tell me who you are?”
The man spoke German with an English accent.
English? The odd thing was that there was something
Swiss peeking out from beneath this foreign accent,
something Studer couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Perhaps it was the stress he put on the word “will”,
which came out as “wiu”.
“Bern Cantonal Police,” the sergeant said goodhumouredly.
Studer showed it, though with a heavy heart; the
photograph on his identity card always irked him. He
felt it made him look like a lovesick sea lion.
The stranger handed it back, but that did not resolve
the situation, for the sergeant knew the man had a
revolver in his jacket pocket. The thought of being shot
in the stomach was decidedly unpleasant. The word
“laparotomy” buzzed around inside his head like an
irritating mosquito, and he breathed a sigh of relief
when the stranger finally took his right hand out of his
Now Studer asked, quietly, with excessive politeness
and in his best High German, “And now might I ask to
see your papers?”
“Surely,” the man said in English, then reverted to
German. “Certainly.”
He went over to the table, opened a drawer and
came back with a passport.
A Swiss passport! Issued in the name of James Farny,
place of origin: Gampligen, Bern Canton, born 13
March 1878, issued in Toronto, Canada, renewed 1903
in Shanghai, renewed in Sydney, renewed in Tokyo,
renewed . . . renewed . . . renewed in 1928 in Chicago
USA . . . crossed into Switzerland 18 February 1931 in
Geneva . . .
“So you’ve been back in Switzerland for five months,
Herr Farny?” Studer asked.
“Five months, yes. Wanted to see my home country,
the Heimat, once more.” There it was again, that sound.
The Chinaman said “He-imat”, separating the “e” and
“i”, while an Englishman would surely have made
it a long “ai”. “Are you a . . .?” He was clearly struggling
with his German. “A . . . senior police officer?
A . . . what do you call them, an . . . inspector and not
just a plain constable?” The last word was in English
“Sergeant,” said Studer good-humouredly.
“Then you would be called in when there’s a murder,
for example?”
Studer nodded.
“You see, it is possible that I will be murdered,” said
the Chinaman. “Perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow,
perhaps in a month’s time. It might perhaps take even
longer. You’ll have a drink?