The Legend of The “Grau Kiefer” InnKarlis Kadegis / Mystery & Detective
nd of The “Grau Kiefer” Inn: The Third Case
Copyright 2016 Kārlis Kadeģis
There is an old 1920s (1929 if I remember correctly) blues song that says: ‘If it keeps on raining, levee's going to break’. I heard it on radio earlier this week, and these words immediately come to my mind, as I recall the series of interactions between Rebecca and me. Now, I will not suggest that music or lyrical interpretation is one of my strengths. As a matter of fact, I would strongly argue that it is not. Yet, I feel that this line perfectly summarises how I felt as I… Know what? I think I am running ahead of myself, so let me start from the very beginning.
Most of those, who frequent news websites or read newspapers, must have heard of the “Grau Kiefer” inn a while ago. After all, the legend of the place became a little global sensation, with the story being quoted by most major media outlets worldwide. Largely because, as I got to know, the teenager, who found the first dead bodies, filmed the scene and posted it online before calling the police. One might think that the young man was in a state of shock. Yet the reality is that he and some of his friends had been camping nearby and medics had found traces of both alcohol and marijuana in the teenager’s system.
The next few paragraphs might seem redundant to those, who closely followed the case and events that surrounded it, so they can freely skip them. Though, to have everyone on the same page, I took some time and space to explain the history of the “Grau Kiefer” and the mystery that surrounds it.
According to local history archives, in 1927 two Latvian expatriates, Gērts Olavs from Austria and Līva Liepiņa from England, who had met in Paris four years prior, decided to get married and move back to Latvia, which had finally gained its independence. With money they had saved, the newlyweds decided to buy five acres of land twenty kilometres outside Tukums and rebuild its farmstead into an inn. Grēts had insisted that the name of the place must reflect the European sublimity of the owners, hence the choice to use German and name the inn ‘Grau Kiefer’. The decision to use German instead of English was based on the fact that many of the locals were of German descent. And it seemed to have paid off because the inn quickly became immensely popular among travellers for its self-brewed beer and meals, which were made only from what was produced in the nearby farms. Additionally, between 1928 and 1939, Līva gave birth to five children and it seemed that the future could not have been brighter.
The war, however, would not have any of it. There is practically no information about the ‘Grau Kiefer’ in the first two years of World War II. Yet, it is certain that by 1941 the inn and everything the Olavs family had ever built, was abandoned, but the couple, together with their five children, had mysteriously disappeared. Except for the rumour that a German soldier had been seen selling Līva’s wedding ring, there were no other leads. To date, no one has been able to explain what exactly happened to them. Some believed that they had fled to England. Others were certain that they were killed by the Nazis. But in the chaos the war had brought, such occurrences were dishearteningly frequent and not worth more than a curious thought.
During the communist occupation after the war, the ruins and its adjacent land retained its German name in the mouths of the locals, which was supported by an enormous pine that the family had symbolically planted next to their establishment. Meanwhile, most of the land itself was used for growing Sosnowsky's hogweed by the Soviet communal farmers as fodder.
After Latvia regained its independence in 1991, no successor ever came forward to attempt to reclaim the property. Therefore, it was divided between the neighbouring farmsteads. Though, because of the hogweed’s invasive and toxic nature, the field has been nothing but a nuisance to the nearby farmers.
The ill fate of the land, together with the suspicious disappearances, led locals to believe that the Grau Kiefer had been overwhelmed by agents of diabolical nature.
Twenty-three years later, however, the legend had died down. That is, until the teenage pothead found two corpses lying on the field just outside the notorious place. The bodies were covered with toxic blisters from head to toe. In fact, the injuries were so severe that the faces of the victims could not be identified by their relatives. At first the authorities did not consider the corpses as murder victims, but as a result of a foolish accident. Nevertheless, the discovery sparked a campaign for professional extermination of the plant in the area to avoid such horrible calamities in the future. Because of the enormous public pressure, the demand was promptly satisfied by Tukums municipality and the four owners. However, nobody was prepared for the secrets that were still hidden inside the hogweed field. During the initial extermination process, Grau Kiefer gradually revealed five more blistered bodies (of children) scattered across the field, thus sparking an unprecedented outcry – one that stretched across continents. These discoveries left the police no other choice, but to admit that after carefully examining the first two corpses, the case had already been quietly transferred to crime squad.
Initial autopsy suggested that some of the bodies were older than a couple of weeks, others – mere days. But they all had one common denominator - sex and age-wise each of them matched with a member of the Olavs family at the year of their disappearance.
After the first few exciting cases, my days had drowned into an involuntary routine. I had my job at the little prison library, but that was it. The only interpersonal head-scratcher was which book to recommend for the odd inmate, who was keen on reading. No one from the outside world had tried to contact me for weeks, nor was there a convict with anything particularly interesting to tell... The only slightly amusing scene that I had the chance to witness was a pair of prison veterans pulling their idea of a prank by forcefully stuffing a bone from a chicken wing in a newcomer’s nostril. At first it caused a grin here and there, but the dining room really burst to laughter, when the poor bloke could not get the bone out afterwards and was forced to report his mishap to the medical wing (the wording is intentional).
I got know about the Grau Kiefer incident just like many others – through the news. I was genuinely intrigued by it, but the investigators kept the crucial information away from the public eye. So I could not exercise my investigative skills before I got the inside scoop a month and a half later.
“Albert, so nice to see you. How have you been?” Rebecca asked with a bright and pleasant smile.
“Oh, you know. Dying with each passing day.” I chuckled as she sat down on the other side of the desk in the visitors’ room.
Her face became stern as she looked straight into my eyes.
“I’m only kidding,” I quickly explained. “When case-less, I’m bored out of my wits, but other than that I feel quite fine.”
“You don’t look too well though. Your face is very pale and it looks like you’ve lost quite a bit of weight since I last saw you.”
“Don’t worry about that. It must be the fact that I’m spending most of my time in a mouldy, windowless room.”
“Don’t all prison cells have windows?”
“I’m not talking about the prison cell, but about the library I’m in charge of.”
“You’re in charge…?”
“Yes,” I interrupted her. “You know full well that there is nothing more boring and miserable than spending your days, weeks, months, years in four walls and not going out. That’s why I’m more inclined to hear what kind of thrilling cases you are on.”
I leaned forward and crossed my arms on the table.
“Well… There is the one everyone’s been talking about for months. Have you heard of the Grau Kiefer?”
“It’s your case?!” I slightly raised my voice. “I’ve been reading on it, of course.”
“No, it isn’t mine as such, but pretty much every police investigator in the country has read its files. That case is under a different municipal jurisdiction, but I’ve been assigned to it as a consultant because the case is a viral sensation, or whatever the internet calls it these days.”
“I suppose it makes sense to assign the country’s leading detective, considering the scope.”
“Speaking ill of one’s colleagues is bad manners, but I’ll tell you this: if only they would hold me in as high esteem as you do, the case would have been solved by now. Instead, they blame me for not taking my job seriously enough when I don’t answer my phone on a Friday evening and Saturday morning.”
“What’s their reason for not taking you seriously enough then?”
“Age,” Rebecca promptly stated. “Inspector Grundbergs is a stubborn old fart, two and a half times my senior. He refuses to listen to me because ‘I’m too young to know how such crimes work’ or something. But what’s really funny is that he himself has spent his whole career recovering stolen bikes, not solving murders and disappearances.” She frowned.
“So the case has not been