Claudia shook her head.
“I mean it. You and I need to go. We need to get the doctor.”
Claudia shook her head again. “Too long. I go with Unc before. Long walk.”
“I know how far it is. I walk it everyday and we will be fine. I will carry you if I must but we need to go now.”
She shook her head again. “I stay. She’s sick.” She pointed toward the bedroom.
“That’s why we need the doctor. And you can’t take care of her anyway. You are too little. Now let’s go.” As he spoke Isaac put on a light coat and grabbed the key for entrance to the factory. “Come along.”
It took a little bit more convincing but eventually Claudia came willingly and seemed to have largely forgotten her worries as she ran along in front of Isaac. He carried her twice but only for about twenty minutes total, and he felt more tired than she seemed by the time they arrived near the town. Taking the side road, away from the house of the town doctor, he led them up to the porcelain factory.
It loomed before them in the deepening twilight, smoke from the ever-burning furnace leaking into the soft blue sky. The windows were few and they mostly reflected the darkness, waving shadows and occasional flashes of the moon the only interruptions. Isaac walked toward the entrance but Claudia stopped.
“No. I have to check in at work. I missed coming today and need to check on some things. Come along.”
She did, stopping once they were inside to look around at all of the shelves full of various porcelain pieces. She reached out to take one down but Isaac stopped her, telling her to follow him deeper into the building. He entered the furnace room, holding the door for her, and then closed it slowly behind them. It took four minutes to strangle Claudia, her resistance minimized by the fact that he had pushed her to the ground with her one arm pinned underneath her body. By the time it was done the adrenaline was coursing through his body once again, the elusive rush from early that same morning returning in full force. After he calmed down enough, it was a simple matter to load her body into the furnace, although the intensity of the heat did leave a slight burn on Isaac’s face. As he watched from the thick glass window of the furnace door, her clothes flared, her skin lit like candle tallow, flickering and resisting the fiery force, and then it was washed over in a rush of flame. He stayed there, peering in, until every last trace of her had vanished.
The next morning, almost delirious with exhaustion especially after the long trek back to the property and the lighting on fire of the cabin, Isaac was back in town to fetch the doctor. Two days after that, Lydia was feeling much better and Isaac had answered all of the relevant questions from an inquisitive but generally non-energetic police force. They had seemed to believe that the misadventures of foreigners were little of their concern, although they did press Isaac on how he received the scratches on his face. He put that off to Lydia’s flailing around as he tried to put the fire out on her dress. The question Isaac had expected to be the hardest, in regard to the whereabouts of Claudia and Wyatt whom everyone in town knew lived on the property, had been easily explained. They had left last week, homesick for the states. Isaac had not thought it something worth talking about at work or in town, where he was generally thought of as a quiet type anyway. That seemed to satisfy the authorities and Isaac breathed an internal sign of great relief. On the sixth day following Claudia’s murder Isaac got up to finally return to work. They had insisted he take several days off to recover from the ordeal with his wife. He wrote the letter as he drank some tea.
April 7, 1884
I write with sad tidings from Lippelsdorf. Wyatt and Claudia perished several days ago in a fire here on the property. They were asleep when it started, no one seems to be able to say exactly how, and never made it out of their cabin. None of us here at the other house, which is some distance away, even knew it was on fire until it was much too late. I gave them both a proper burial here on the property where we have a cemetery in a nice, quiet place. I am sure that they will rest peacefully. I am moving on from here with my family, the sorrow being too great for me to remain. I know this news will be hard for you to bear and you will remain in my thoughts.
When Harriet received that letter on May 9th, just six days before her scheduled departure to visit Wyatt and Claudia in Germany, it shook her to the very core. It took her the remainder of that day to do just two things. Burn all of her remaining clothing that was not black and to walk into town to purchase two large frames, behind which she mounted one item each. Olivia and Claudia would be together forever in that frame, their carefully cleaned and ironed infant dresses staring down at Harriet from the place on the wall where she mounted them. That was all that she really had left.
Isaac, returning home from work on that sixth day after Claudia’s murder, presented his wife with a special present, items she had been eager to acquire for quite some time.
Porcelain coffee mugs.