Although she loathed herself deeply for doing so, the chief of Stefan Blomeier’s department sat at the desk biting her nails. Given the sensitive nature of the terminated assignment her frequent spells of anxiety could hardly have come as a surprise. Stefan Blomeier’s disappearance had threatened to cause a major diplomatic incident, and besides all this the chief’s husband was sure to dish out a thorough chiding for her continuing this filthy habit. She wiped a saliva-sodden finger on her skirt and listened once again to the tape.
The sounds reverberated around the emptied office as the chief gazed out across the river. It may just have been her strung-out synapses playing tricks, but the flight of the birds seemed co-ordinated in time to the music as they jittered along against the grey sky. Blomeier’s cassette was on a constant loop, the music easing into a mantra by virtue of its endless repetition. The chief’s thoughts slowly became more abstracted as the hours passed and as darkness settled over the city and, once again, she contemplated Stefan Blomeier.
They had met only once, towards the end of the listening agency’s protracted interview process, and colleagues were already whispering breathlessly about the man’s abilities. By the third week of vetting the outcome was already beyond doubt, and the two had discussed Blomeier’s early life in Denmark, his development into a maths prodigy, his likes and interests, eventually just settling down to some inconsequential job interview talk. The chief was struck by how austere the man seemed, with Blomeier betraying not the slightest emotion during any discussions about his past. In fact the only time the prospective agent seemed likely to express any feelings at all was when he broke into a lengthy monologue about numbers. During this exchange Blomeier began to speak of the poetry that was expressed by certain equations, of a perfect symmetry that divulged what he came to regard as the supreme truth. During these exchanges he started to grip the chair legs tightly and once emitted a high-pitched laugh that she’d found alarming. The episode was quickly over as their conversation had turned back to the matter in hand.
During his six years with the agency Stefan Blomeier’s code-breaking skills had foiled several atrocities, and there must surely have been many individuals who’d wished him great harm. So when he went missing last week everyone at the agency had feared the worst. Usually Blomeier was like a Swiss watch, filing reports and replying to messages without fail, but the detectives sent to search his flat had found nothing to suggest any struggle or that anything at all was amiss. Stefan Blomeier led an ascetic life, and the only objects found in his living room were a wardrobe, a few clothes, a single bed and a laptop computer. Weeks went by as friends and family were all interviewed, and still silence until finally the tape arrived. Addressed to the chief, and handwritten in Blomeier’s inimitably precise script, the package had landed on her desk yesterday, and it was all that the chief could do. She had to play the tape back over and over, again and again.