More heavenly than earthly despite his weight, as if he was without roots. In his facial expression, the pride of true expertise. A face like an egg. A humble and serious little moustache that never droops in the soup. A perfectly well-ordered kitchen and a weightless mass that glides around among the pans.
The pride of being fat and of being a bon viveur. A pastry chef who was skinny would be suspicious. Shoes so polished they gleamed, like his white apron. Short in the leg, no neck. The cuckold from a Feydeau farce? Well, no. Nothing laughable, nothing ridiculous, a charisma, an indefinable presence. Bulky and light, rugged and round, a paradoxical expression that contradicts every contour, moving about like a milky cloud in his kitchen.
The master of the house, the master of the pastry, always impeccable. Flowing and floating with the hands of a butcher.
Hands which, one night, had strangled Veronica. Hands which had grabbed the dancer’s blue boa and pulled it tight around her delicate neck.
Because Veronica was rejecting him? No.
Because she was making fun of him? No.
Because she had cheated on him? No.
Because she didn’t want to marry him? No, not that either.
Because she had dared to say that Monday’s whipped cream was not as good as usual.
You could say anything or do anything to Mr Fratt, but criticizing his pastries was more than an act of bravado. He put as much care into making his cakes as he did into shining his shoes, or keeping his apron an immaculate white, or... strangling Veronica. Behind his bonhomie a maniac was hiding. His every gesture, sharp and clear like the blade on his professional knife.
He could not bear the least criticism of what he was sure he could do better than anyone else in the world: patisserie.
Mr First, the owner of the Ange Rouge, had one day expressed his disappointment at the taste of a mille-feuille. Mr Fratt had taken a big wooden ladle full of chocolate and methodically coated the head of his astonished boss with top-quality cocoa.
Mr First had not been able to get rid of him: Mr Fratt was the best pastry chef in Berlin.
Veronica had not been able to leave him: Mr Fratt was the best strangler in Berlin.
Translated by Wendy Cross