Returning from Belshazzar’s feast, Agnetha and Benny grew increasingly despondent, and by the time they reached the hotel both of them were staggering under the oppressive weight of grim Scandinavian misery.
“If Fernando were here,” groaned Benny, “He would brighten things up. He could draw sunbeams from a cucumber.”
“You forget that Fernando is but a fictional character in a songlet, Benny,” snapped Agnetha. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.
“Oh,” said Benny, staring out of the hotel window. He saw Anni-Frid flit past, like a phantom. Agnetha was beating her fists upon a piece of pine furniture.
“At least here there is no mysterious writing upon the wall, as there was at the feast,” added Benny, trying to open a crack in the gloom.
All of a sudden Björn came striding manfully into the hotel lobby. His hair and beard and face and clothing were blackened from the charcoal he had been burning.
“I am looking for Anni-Frid,” he said, “Have you seen her?”
“No,” said Benny, lying through his teeth. But had he really seen her? Or were his eyes playing tricks on him again, as they had in Uppsala?
“Check the abandoned cow byre,” said Agnetha, “She went there earlier to clean her rifle.”
“Since many years I haven’t seen a rifle in her hand,” said Björn. He dashed outside into the mist that engulfed the hotel grounds.
Agnetha and Benny slumped in the lobby armchairs, expecting to hear a rifle shot in the distance. But none came. The only sound was the whirring of the fan above their heads and, outside, the strange cries of such Scandinavian birds as had not flown south for the winter.
“Anyway, how would Fernando draw sunbeams from a cucumber?” asked Agnetha, eventually.
But Benny had fallen asleep, lost in dreams of Belshazzar.