“For the record, can you confirm that your name is Franz Hausler?” General Müller asked.
“Sure,” Franz replied.
“Is it true that you have not been in contact with your parents for at least the last two years?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“What do you think they were up to during the last two years?”
“Who, my parents?”
“Yes, your parents.”
“How would I know? I thought we just agreed that I haven’t been talking to them in years. And what do you mean ‘were up to’? What happened to them?”
“What do you think happened to them?”
“I was told they died, in an accident or something.”
“Are you sure they are dead?”
“Again, how would I know? Wait a minute, you don’t know if they are dead?”
“We’re trying to determine what’s that you know, Mr. Hausler.”
“Well, I don’t know anything, other than you told me to come because…” Franz couldn’t recall any definite details about the phone conversation he had had in Barcelona about his parents. Did that happen yesterday? Two days ago? “What am I doing here? What happened to my parents?”
“Mr. Hausler, we would appreciate your help.”
“My help with what?”
“Are you willing to help us, Mr. Hausler?”
“Not sure if I can help you with anything.”
“Would you try, Mr. Hausler, helping us?”
“Sure,” Franz said, and then there was a prolonged silence. General Müller opened a folder and read for a while. “When is the last time that you communicated with any of your parents, Mr. Hausler?” he finally asked.
“Phone conversation, around five years ago.”
“I see, who made that call?”
“What was the conversation about?”
“My mother wanted to know how I was doing, supposedly, but very soon it became clear that she just wanted me to call back and pretend that I wanted to talk to my father, show some interest in the family affairs, that type of thing. She thought that if I did that my father could end up suggesting that I should visit them for a couple of days.”
“What happened then?”
“Nothing happened. I didn’t phone my father.”
“Because I didn’t feel like it?”
“You didn’t feel like it, I see. What else?
“Nothing else, I didn’t hear anything else from them.”
“What about letters?”
“No letters, from me or from them.”
“Did you read anything about them, in a newspaper perhaps, or someone mentioned something to you about them? Maybe something that you thought it had no importance whatsoever?”
“No, not really.”
“I see.” General Müller read the same file again, looked at Franz, opened a different folder and read again, leisurely, as if wasting a few minutes of time was the appropriate thing to do. When he addressed Franz again he seemed even more serious than before. “Are you tired, Mr. Hausler?” he said.
“Yes, actually, I am.”
“Would you want to take a break, continue this conversation later.”
“I don’t see how that’s going to help anyone, I don’t have anything else to tell you about my parents,” Franz said, then he added “What happened to them?”
“We were hoping you would tell us that, Mr. Hausler.”
“Are they dead?” Franz asked, making an effort to modulate his tone into being so calm and friendly that General Müller would answer his question in simple and clear terms, and maybe even disclose details and conjectures.