Stanford law student Brian Deiritz has it all—money, a talented fiancée, and a bright future—until he vanishes in his hometown of San Francisco one month before the wedding. The police and his family wonder if it’s suicide, murder, or kidnapping. But his bride-to-be, Hope Day, thinks he just might be walking out on his commitment to her.Distraught after the police question her, Hope flees to Germany, where she and Brian were supposed to honeymoon. She prays against all odds that her betrothed will be waiting for her, but it is not to be. Meanwhile, Vic, who is Hope’s best friend and Brian’s sister, launches her own search for her missing brother in San Francisco. Ironically, she becomes a whiz at being a grieving sister, investigator, ex-lover, and new lover all at once. Searching for the truth behind Brian’s disappearance, Hope and Vic find themselves separated by half a world and enmeshed in events that occurred six decades ago, during World War II. Their letters, filled with updates on their discoveries, start flying back and forth from Bavaria to California. Will their determination and love for Brian help them find him and the answers to their mystery?
So how’s Germany? Is it the asylum you were hoping it’d be? I have my doubts personally. Although most days I wish I could have escaped with you. Of course, you really can’t go anywhere to escape what’s in your head, now, can you? How about the dreadful flight? I worried so much about that small charter plane making such a long journey. But at least now you have obtained geographical distance from the chaos. Unfortunately, from me as well. I’m sorry we didn’t part on the best of terms. I do understand your need to be away from this. Don’t get me wrong—I haven’t changed my opinion of you going to Germany so soon after Brian’s disappearance. Part of that is because I think you need to be here, getting answers from the police, but part of it is selfish. It’s just been so hard to endure this without my best friend. The terrible thoughts that have been haunting me have no outlet.
It is impossible for me to get away from my mourning family and the incessant stream of investigators. I feel like a victim of the Inquisition. It seems like in the past week the SFPD has sent everything with two legs and a pulse to question or give us new and unhelpful information. I despise their constant attention. It’s not like I don’t appreciate their efforts. I really do. I want to know, more than anyone (except maybe you) what’s happened to my brother. But the media is too much! You would think that I would be accustomed to their attention (even understanding), given my vocation. The way I see it, anyone could be in the news for disappearing, but we get more exposure for such a mundane tragedy simply because we are part of San Francisco’s elite class, or something. It’s unbearable.
Just to fill you in, I am living with my parents temporarily. It’s hell. But I can’t be alone at a time like this. I’m having nightmares (I’ll spare you the details). Besides, they can barely handle daily tasks right now, much less things like investigations, the media, and Grandma Maggie’s calls. You know Brian was their favorite; this has left them devastated. I’m all they’ve got now, I guess, and they made me feel guilty for not wanting to join them in this house of pain. It’s difficult to breathe under their watchful eyes. Although my parents seem totally out to lunch, they are still surprisingly curious about every single thing I do—and about you. Yes, they’ve asked about you. I guess with Brian gone, you’ve been demoted to the position of my best friend now, and that’s more acceptable to them. Anyway, between them and the police investigators, I keep hearing that song in my head “Every Breath You Take…”
I suppose I should detail the investigative efforts that have been underway since your getaway. Land searches have been done and they’ve given the obvious areas a thorough combing: the route between his apartment and Stanford, the campus itself, the areas around his apartment, the restaurant where he should have met me that night. You know, the usual. Well, I shouldn’t assume you know what’s usual just because I do. Sorry. We persuaded the police to get an air search of a wider area conducted, with a lot of pressure and a little financial influence. My parents may be numb about this whole thing, but they can certainly throw their weight around to get things done—it comes so naturally. Nonetheless, that search proved to be pointless as well: no body, no car, no clues. We’ve suggested the bay, but that’s more than the police are willing to do for us. They are looking for a reason that Brian might have been a victim of homicide. It can hardly be a suicide because there is no body, although the razor and blood by the sink are evidence enough to reconsider the theory of self-inflicted violence. Maybe they—or is it the media?—want to believe our family has been victimized. A lack of evidence of forced entry or any unusual visitors has led them away from the hypothesis that it was a robbery or kidnapping gone awry. But the place was quite a mess, according to them, which was pretty unusual if you consider Brian’s habits of tidiness.
I needed your letter—if not for bringing peace of mind, then at least for shaking me out of the stupor that I’ve been in since I arrived here. Yes, stupor. Which only confirms that your warnings against my trip weren’t groundless after all: my escape turned out to be as futile as it was impulsive. The flight was dreadful. I couldn’t wait to finally set foot in this country and fall into Brian’s arms. I wasted my breath, obviously. So much for the “sign” he’d left for me—those rose petals strewn on my bed that I had found upon my return from New York. All through the long hours on the plane I couldn’t get them out of my mind. I even imagined the clouds serenely spread beneath me to be those same petals. Silly me…
In Munich, I took a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where I went straight to Tourist Information. Luckily it was within walking distance. Finding a place to stay was a challenge, though. A guy at Information showered me with booklets on the sights and activities but when I asked about a hotel room for a couple of months, he said that everything had already been reserved. The skiing season was about to start, so even if I could get a room until that time, I’d have to vacate it in a few days.
Imagine my state of mind. What was I supposed to do? Haul my suitcase back to the train station and look for another city, farther away from the Alps? I couldn’t do it. Not only was I emotionally and physically drained from the flight and everything, I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else but in this city. It was Brian’s choice for our honeymoon, I kept thinking, even if he didn’t meet me, what if he were here…what if…
I bit my lip, suppressing the sudden sobs rising in my throat, and dragged myself and my luggage away from the counter. I stopped at a stand displaying magazines and brochures and stared blindly. I needed time to pull myself together and assess my situation. If only I had a place to stay for at least a couple of weeks, until I could find the hotel where Brian had booked a room for us… It wouldn’t be impossible to track that down, would it? Unless he’d cancelled it… No, don’t think that, I told myself, you can’t afford to go to pieces…not yet…
I turned my head. It was another employee, a woman.
“I just called my aunt,” she said quietly. “She has a cancellation. If you agree to a very small room, I’ll give you her address.”
I was so relieved I could’ve kissed her.
So here’s where I live now: Blumen Strasse 32. It’s a two-story guest house with a wooden deck on the second floor and a fresco of shepherds herding goats above the entrance. Very Bavarian. But its best feature, aside from the fresco, is my room. It is tiny, true, but it’s furnished and neat and right under the roof. In the attic, actually (don’t cringe, Vic), but it has a balcony just for me. Gives me a chance to admire the Alps in solitude and to think things through.
So Frau Schultz, the owner, seems quite content with such a quiet mouse of a renter. I like her too. She’s in her seventies, gray-haired and round, wearing cotton dresses and aprons in pastel colors, looking like one of those soft rolls that she serves for breakfast. And her eyes sparkle with kindness. I only wish she didn’t expect me to speak more German than I actually do. But it’s a minor thing, compared to my situation, right? I mean, I should feel lucky about my lodging, and I do. It gives me protection from…
Nadezhda Seiler, a former English teacher, lives with her husband and their golden retriever in Springfield, Virginia. Cindi Rockett, a junior high school librarian, lives with her husband and their two children in Euless, Texas.