Isla, December 8th, 2017

“But, isn’t that cheating?”

“Definitely not, we are just gathering information. It’s like going to the library!”

“Except it’s not a library”

“Well, it almost is. If the library was a person, it would live right here – come on”, Isla wasn’t convinced. She hadn’t stopped chewing her lower lip since Finn had told her about this new plan and felt increasingly nervous as the door was buzzed open. She could hear a dog barking somewhere on the upper floors, as Finn started leading her up a flight of stairs: “I told you about my granddad, remember? He knows everything there is to know about Salzburg and its buildings. I’m sure he will know where we have to go once we show him the clue”, he had lowered his voice a little as they climbed higher and higher until they had reached the top floor.

“But I am supposed to solve the riddle myself”, she was wheezing now, her anxiety momentarily pushed to the back of her mind, as she struggled to get enough air into her lungs.

“And you will”, Finn turned back to her breathless figure once more, offering a reassuring smile, before he knocked on the door once and opened it. Within seconds a small fluffy creature had jumped into his armes and enjoyed an extra round of cuddles until it barked to be let down again and threw itself at Isla’s feet. A moment passed, in which Finn realized that he had never asked her if she was okay with dogs – the alarmed look on his face absolutely hilarious – and Isla started laughing: “Oh, hi there, little one”, she smiled, feeling better about the whole situation already. She had always enjoyed the company of animals, having grown up with a dog herself and been a regular visitor to the animal sanctuary her aunt had started down in South Africa. And this little furry creature was no different. It had already rolled onto its back for a tummy rub, when Finn came out again: “You’re coming?”, she could hear the crooked grin in his voice, without even having to look up. Isla was vaguely aware of how rude it was to stay out on the corridor instead of going in to greet Finn’s grandparents, and yet she stayed a second longer, anxiety back at his place beside her.

*

Hours later they had been fed with a traditional Wiener Schnitzl – “something to check off your Austria bucket list” – and had enjoyed a long conversation with Finn’s grandfather about all things Salzburg and Mozart. As predicted by his grandson, Franz had known the right places within moments of reading the clue and together they had worked out two of the three last locations in Oliver’s paper chase. The second one had been the easiest, as Oliver had been nice enough to pretty much spell it out right for them, but the other two had taken more time to find. Luckily, Finn hadn’t lied when he had said his grandfather was the personification of a library, as the older man had not only an impressive collection of books about the city in the house, but an equally grandiose knowledge stored away in his own head. Therefore, the first location was discovered in no time, spontaneously inspiring the group to go there straight away – her little quest having evolved into a group project.

“This place is called the House for Mozart, previously known as the small festival hall and re-imagined in 2006 as part of the festivities for Mozart’s 250th birthday”, Franz told the little group, walking through the entrance with a wave to the security guard. Clearly, he was well known around here, Isla thought, remembering how Finn had told her that his grandfather was working as a tour guide, leading tourists through Salzburg on a daily basis.

“So, where do we think the clue is hidden?”, Finn asked, his voice echoing through the empty entrance hall: “Do we even think there is another clue hidden in here?”

“I was just thinking about it. On the one hand this sounds pretty final”, Isla held up the postcard she had found in the envelope instead of the classic sheets of paper Oliver had used until then: “but knowing my brother, I think my final prize or whatever comes in three parts and will probably only work if I have been to all three places”, she shrugged. It sounded just like something Oliver would do and she just didn’t understand why he would send her to all three places otherwise.

“Well, it sounds good to me. I shall talk to Gustav”, he indicated the security guard, “and ask him if we may see the concert hall itself. It is beautifully done, you will see”, Franz left them alone for a second, walking away. Isla nodded, even though she knew the older man had his back turned towards her now. She felt nervous again. This was the right place; she could feel it just looking around the vast entrance with its marble floor and interestingly panelled staircases.

“Are we ready?”, Franz had returned with a comically large key in his hands and the official okay for them to go see the concert hall: “Gustav has told me to show you the view from up top first, rarely anybody ever get’s to see it”, he explained leading them towards the stairs and up, up, up. For the second time this day, Isla was left winded and properly embarrassed, as her company seemed not to be minding the stairs whatsoever: “We go through here and into – ah, voilá! Just imagine ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ in this place. It was the opera they played when the House for Mozart opened its newly redone doors for the public again in 2006.”

And it was beautiful. Beneath them they could see row upon row of terracotta coloured seats and the walls looked as if they had been painted with gold, though Isla suspected it was the light playing a trick on her eyes: “Wow”, she heard Finn wisher, clearly as stunned by this unexpected view as she was herself. They appeared to be standing in the technician’s lounge, high above even the most elevated seats, a panel of different switches and buttons right in front of them. Isla let her gaze run over them, fascinated by the behind-the-scenes work she never thought of when visiting a theatre performance.

“Ahm, Isla …”, Finn’s voice brought her straight back into the room. She had been lost in thought, trying for the upmost time to recreate the path Oliver’s paper chase had lead her down, imagining the preparation and planning it must have taken on her brother’s end. Now, she turned around, needing a moment to orient herself as she was now facing towards the door they had come through, away from the bright lights of the hall and the stage downstairs. Finn just stood there, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness in this corner of the room, pointing towards an envelope taped to the inside of the door. It wasn’t small, as all the other ones had been before, but proper A4 sized and thick enough to contain multiple pages.

DO NOT OPEN UNLESS YOU’RE ISLA, it said on the front.

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