The Last Weynfeldt

Adrian Weynfeldt is an art expert in an international auction house, a bachelor in his mid-fifties living in a grand Zurich apartment filled with costly paintings and antiques. Always correct and well-mannered, he’s given up on love until one night—entirely out of character for him—Weynfeldt decides to take home a ravishing but unaccountable young woman. The next morning, he finds her outside on his balcony threatening to jump. Weynfeldt talks her down, then soon finds himself falling for this damaged but alluring beauty and his buttoned-up existence swiftly comes unraveled. As their two lives become entangled, Weynfeldt gets embroiled in an art forgery scheme that threatens to destroy everything he and his prominent family have stood for. This refined page-turner moves behind elegant bourgeois facades into darker recesses of the heart.


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Excerpt from The Last Weynfeldt

Adrian Weynfeldt had spent this Saturday night as he spent every Saturday night: in the company of his older friends. He had two circles. One was made up of people fifteen or more years younger than him. Among them he was seen as an exotic original, someone you could confide in, but also make fun of sometimes, who would discreetly pay the check in a restaurant, and help out occasionally when you had financial difficulties. They treated him with studied nonchalance as one of their own, but secretly basked in the glow of his name and his money. In their company he could visit clubs and bars he would have felt too old for otherwise.
His other group of friends was composed of people who had known his parents, or at least moved in their circles. They were all over sixty, some over seventy; a couple had already reached eighty. And yet they all belonged to his generation. Adrian Weynfeldt was born late to a couple who had remained childless for many years. His mother was forty-four when he came into the world; she had died nearly five years ago, shortly before reaching ninety-five, when Weynfeldt was fifty.
Adrian Weynfeldt had no friends his own age.
Last night he had been with his elderly friends, in the Alte Färberei, a traditional restaurant in a guildhall in the old town, only ten minutes by foot from his apartment. Dr. Widler had been there, his mother’s doctor, increasingly listless in recent months, several sizes thinner and threatening to vanish inside his tailored suits—his wife Mereth all the more lively, her makeup, hair, and clothes impeccable as ever. And as ever, she took delight in contrasting her china-doll image with colorful language and vulgar remarks.
Remo Kalt joined them, Weynfeldt’s recently widowed cousin on his mother’s side, in his mid-seventies, wearing a black three-piece suit with a gold pocket-watch and a neat Thomas Mann moustache, as if he’d come from a portrait sitting with Ferdinand Hodler. Remo Kalt was an asset manager; he had looked after Weynfeldt’s parents’ capital and continued to manage it for their son. Adrian could easily have taken this over, but hadn’t had the heart to deprive Kalt of his last remaining client. There wasn’t much you could get wrong; these were not immense assets, though certainly solid, and conservatively invested for the long term.
They had ordered the Berner Platte, a shared meat dish featured on the menu throughout the winter. Dr. Widler had hardly touched a thing. His wife, a woman who had moved from willowy via slender to gaunt over the years, had taken two servings of everything – bacon, tongue, blood sausage, smoked ham. Kalt had kept pace. Weynfeldt had eaten like a man still vaguely concerned about his figure.
The evening was pleasant yet forced. Forced because Mereth Widler’s provocative remarks had long begun to wear thin, and because everyone around the table knew this was one of the last times her husband would sit at it.
The Widlers left early, Weynfeldt drank one more for the road with Remo Kalt, and when shortly afterward they ran out of conversation, they ordered Kalt a taxi.
Weynfeldt waited with him at the entrance. The night was much too mild for February; it felt like spring. The sky was clear, and the moon rising high over the old town’s steep roofs was almost full. The street was empty except for an elderly woman with an energetic spitz on a leash. They watched in silence: powerless, she let her dog walk her, stopping every time he wanted to sniff something, rushing to catch up when he wanted to move on, change direction, or cross the road.
At last headlight beams shone around the corner of the road, followed by a slowly-approaching taxi which stopped in front of them. They parted with a formal handshake, and Weynfeldt watched the taxi drive away, its sign switched off now, its brake lights red as it halted at the junction with the main road.
His route home included a stretch of the river and La Rivière, a bar he found it hard to pass at this time of night; it was nearly eleven p.m. He went in for a drink, as he so often did on the Saturday nights he spent with his elderly friends.
Two or three years ago La Rivière had been a run-down dessert café. Then it was taken over by one of the city’s many gastronomic entrepreneurs, who had turned it into an American-style cocktail bar. Two barkeepers in eggshell-colored dinner jackets mixed martinis, manhattans, daiquiris and margaritas, served in sleek glasses. On Saturday nights a trio played smooth jazz classics at a subdued volume.
It was still half empty, but that would change in the next fifteen minutes as the cinemas emptied. Weynfeldt sat in his usual place at the bar: the first bar stool from the wall. From there he could observe what was going on, and never had to deal with more than one neighbor. The barman knew him and brought him a martini. Weynfeldt would probably just eat the olive; he was a very moderate drinker.
Nor did he indulge in any other excesses. When he dropped by a bar on the way home, he wasn’t hunting for sex, warmth, a little company, like most single men. He did not suffer from loneliness. Quite the opposite: he liked solitude. When he did sometimes go in search of company, it was in a conscious effort to moderate his loner tendencies.
As for sexual needs, ever since a particular episode—or blow—earlier in his life, they had played an ever more insignificant role in Adrian Weynfeldt’s life.
And so the course of events that evening was highly untypical.