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Authors: Frank Tallis

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Mortal Mischief

BOOK: Mortal Mischief
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Table of Contents
Mortal Mischief
Frank Tallis is a writer and practicing clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts in clinical psychology and neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry and King's College London and is one of Britain's leading experts on obsessional states. In 1999 he received a Writers' Award from the Arts Council of Great Britain and in 2000 he won the New London Writers' Award (London Arts Board)
He lives and works in London. For further information visit
www.franktallis.com
Also by Frank Tallis
Love Sick
(Century, 2004)
Mortal
Mischief
Frank Tallis
VOLUME ONE OF THE
LIEBERMANN PAPERS
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
ISBN 9781409066101
Version 1.0
www.randomhouse.co.uk
Published by Arrow Books in 2006
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Copyright © Frank Tallis 2005
Frank Tallis has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be indentified as the author of this work
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author's imagination and any resmblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in the United Kingdom in 2005 by Century
Arrow Books Limited
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The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
ISBN: 9781409066101
Version 1.0
Part One
The God of Storms
1
It was the day of the great storm. I remember it well because my father – Mendel Liebermann – had suggested that we meet for coffee at The Imperial. I had a strong suspicion that something was on his mind . . .
A
ROILING MASS OF BLACK
cloud had risen from behind the Opera House like a volcanic eruption of sulphurous smoke and ash. Its dimensions suggested impending doom – an epic catastrophe on the scale of Pompeii. In the strange amber light, the surrounding buildings had become jaundiced. Perched on the rooftops, the decorative statuary – classical figures and triumphal eagles – seemed to have been carved from brimstone. A fork of lightning flowed down the mountain of cloud like a river of molten iron. The earth trembled and the air stirred, yet still there was no rain. The coming storm seemed to be saving itself – building its reserves of power in preparation for an apocalyptic deluge.
The tram bell sounded, rousing Liebermann from his reverie and dispersing a group of horse-drawn carriages on the lines.
As the tram rolled forwards, Liebermann wondered why his father had wanted to see him. It wasn't that such a meeting was unusual; they often met for coffee. Rather, it was something about the manner in which the invitation had been issued. Mendel's voice had been curiously strained – reedy and equivocal. Moreover, his nonchalance had been unconvincing, suggesting to Liebermann the concealment of an ulterior – or perhaps even unconscious – motive. But what might that be?
The tram slowed in the heavy traffic of the Karntner Ring and Liebermann jumped off before the vehicle had reached its stop. He raised the collar of his astrakhan coat against the wind and hurried towards his destination.
Even though lunch had already been served, The Imperial was seething with activity. Waiters, with silver trays held high, were dodging each other between crowded tables, and the air was filled with animated conversation. At the back of the café, a pianist was playing a Chopin mazurka. Liebermann wiped the condensation off his spectacles with a handkerchief and hung his coat on the stand.
'Good afternoon, Herr Doctor.'
Liebermann recognised the voice and without turning replied: 'Good afternoon, Bruno. I trust you are well?'
'I am, sir. Very well indeed.'
When Liebermann turned, the waiter continued: 'If you'd like to come this way, sir. Your father is already here.'
Bruno beckoned, and guided Liebermann through the hectic room. They arrived at a table near the back, where Mendel was concealed behind the densely printed sheets of the
Weiner Zeitung
.
'Herr Liebermann?' said Bruno. Mendel folded his paper. He was a thickset man with a substantial beard and bushy eyebrows. His expression was somewhat severe – although softened by a liberal network of laughter lines. The waiter added: 'Your son.'
'Ahh, Maxim!' said the old man. 'There you are!' He sounded a little irritated, as though he had been kept waiting.
After a moment's hesitation, Liebermann replied: 'But I'm early, father.'
Mendel consulted his pocket watch.
'So you are. Well, sit down, sit down. Another
Pharisäer
for me and . . . Max?' He invited his son to order.
'A
Schwarzer
, please, Bruno.'
The waiter executed a modest bow and was gone.
'So,' said Mendel. 'How are you, my boy?'
'Very well, father.'
'You're looking a bit thinner than usual.'
'Am I?'
'Yes. Drawn.'
'I hadn't noticed.'
'Are you eating properly?'
Liebermann laughed: 'Very well, as it happens. And how are you, father?'
Mendel grimaced.
'Achh! Good days and bad days, you know how it is. I'm seeing that specialist you recommended, Pintsch. And there is some improvement, I suppose. But my back isn't much better.'
'Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.'
Mendel dismissed his son's remark with a wave of his hand.
'Do you want something to eat?' Mendel pushed the menu across the table. 'You look like you need it. I think I'll have the
Topfenstrudel
.'
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