Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Friedrich Glauser's The Chinaman

James Farny led the sergeant to another room which was fairly full. The room with the gleaming silver aluminium stove must have been the landlord's private parlour. In the bar the two had just entered there were four old men in greasy blue overalls sitting by the door round a table on which was a fifth-of-a-litre bottle filled with a light-yellow liquid. By the window were five more, dressed in similar dirty blue overalls, and these men, too, had low, thick-sided tumblers in front of them.

‘Bätziwasser,’ said Herr Farny contemptuously.

Sitting at a round table in the middle of the room were four young lads in city suits with incredibly loud ties, their collars all askew. There was one among them who struck Studer right from the beginning. He looked older than the rest. He had a thin face with a pointed nose sticking out that was so long it looked like a caricature. The four young men were drinking beer. The barmaid was sitting behind the bar knitting. Her two fat brown plaits were pinned round her head like a bizarre wreath. Herr Farny made his way to the table next to the one where the young lads were sitting. There was an old farmer sitting at it quietly enjoying a glass of wine.

‘Well then, Schranz, how's things?’ the ‘Chinaman’ asked.

‘Hmm,’ the old man mumbled.

‘What's Brönnimann doing?’

‘Playing Jass …’ Herr Farny sat down and Studer did so too. There was definitely an unpleasant atmosphere in the room. There was tension, though it was impossible to say what was the cause. The four in blue by the door and the five in dirty overalls by the window looked at the two new arrivals, contempt smeared all over their faces.

It wasn't the storm that was causing the tension, nor Herr Farny's elegant clothes. Studer clearly heard the words ‘Bloody cops,’ but he couldn't tell which table it came from.

But how had the people found out there was a policeman among them? Of course! The police badge on his machine. But … why were the people from the workhouse afraid of the police? And the lads in their city suits and crooked collars, who must surely be from the horticultural college?

‘Brandy,’ Herr Farny called out. ‘Huldi, two brandies. And make sure it's the good stuff.’ Shyly the barmaid came over. Her complexion was striking. It looked as if her skin were covered in mildew. ‘Certainly, Herr Farny,’ she said, and, ‘With pleasure, Herr Farny.’

But she never got round to bringing the order. All at once the four at the table by the door started bawling out, ‘We don't want any cops in Pfründisberg, Pfründisberg’ to the tune of ‘We don't want any Krauts in Switzerland’. They stood up. One picked up the bottle, the others armed themselves with the thick-sided tumblers and they advanced from two sides on the sergeant's table, still singing their stupid song.

The ‘Chinaman’ balanced on the back legs of his chair, his red leather slippers dangling from his toes. He seemed to be enjoying the whole business.

‘Afraid, Inspector?’ he asked, stroking the white, silken strands of hair covering the corner of his mouth.