Glass Curtain by Thaddeus Hutyra

chapter 73

 

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WAS IT NOT A JOKE FROM HELL?...

Author:Thaddeus Hutyra

 

Herman van Veenen found quite a good apartment for Tadek Vangard,one overlooking the Wellington harbour and in the neighborhood of Mount Victoria.
-“You’re safe here,Tadek.No one knows about you staying here,except of Helene.”- He said when he was leaving.
During the next days Tadek Vangard tried to adjust himself to the new conditions.There was a Chinese takeways nearby so the problems with food were solved.At first he enjoyed staying in the apartment but after two days had it enough.He rented a car,second hand Ford Capri,and began voyaging all over the town and the capital’s neighborhoods.He looked also inside some governmental departments in which he applied for the New Zealand citizenship.He learnt he had to wait yet half a year longer till the proceedings were going to be completed.So he enjoyed himself,visited some of his Kiwi and Polish friends quite often,went to cafes,pubs and restaurants as well as cinemas and theatres.And the time went by surprisingly fast.Despite that he had some girlfriends he made sure not to get trapped into a lovemaking.He knew that as soon as he will get New Zealand passport he will leave the country.So he did not want to leave a broken heart behind himself.Besides,the painful memory of his relationship with Raquel in which he was betrayed by her,was still not gone away from his mind.
He met quite often with Herman and his family.He liked them and they liked him.They often discussed the world affairs.
The real situation in the world,the one apart from the story,was complicated but generally quite good.People were optimistic and expected the twenty first century will be much better.Everything indicated towards that.The cold war was over.The comunism gone.Modernity and technological development at its best.Worldwide web triumphant.There were already over three hundred million web sites in Internet circulation.World leaders were less blood thirsty than ever before.Of course,there were some problems but not of such horrendal natures as in the first half of the twentieth century which was marred in two world wars.Boris Jeltsin,the Russian president,had some problems with the communists at the Duma parliamentary legislature who even staged a revolt against him.The Russian president crushed them,in a spectacular way,as was his habit and usurped even more presidential powers than there was the case earlier.
President Clinton was as popular in the United States and abroad as always.He was a perfect president,one who knew how to deal with the world leaders and international conflicts.He was nearly always successful.He had ability to bring much needed relaxation and calming down to any situation which threatened with exploding.And he had a charisma,a presidential charisma,despite some blunders who only added to his advantages.
Tadek Vangard was worried when he learnt the postcomunist bloc,SLD,won parliamentary elections in his native country.But,just within a week he could relax.The new government announced continuation of the Polish doctrine of uniting with the West,originated with their predecessors from the Solidarity movement who ran the government till they lost because of too tight reforms,which were too much for ordinary citizen,as well as because of many mistakes.The world learnt fast that the people who formed the new Polish government could no longer be considered as postcomunists but as the ones who joined the ranks of the European socialdemocracy.
Tadek Vangard learnt also from Herman van Veenen not everything within his family was on a very smooth way.His sister,Alice Thompson,was separated from her husband and met openly with her Polish friend,Antek.
Johan,the son of Sonia Dandermond,who was found murdered one morning-was a heavy drunkard.
The voice of Herman van Veenen went definitely low,full of sadness and anxiety,when he announnced the most terrible news to his friend.
-“Do you remember Jack Waugh,the Sonia’s boyfriend? He always denied categorically he murdered her.He was saying he loved her.One day he was found dead in his cell.He hanged himself.He left only a note in which he scrambled he didn’t kill her.”
-“Oh,how terrible!”- Tadek Vangard was shocked.
-“I’ve always had mixed feelings about the murder.”- He added.
-“What do you mean?”- His friend asked and looked at him strangely.
Tadek Vangard did not answer at first.He observed the harbour’s sea-waves.He felt,naturally,uncomfortable in that moment,despite that the day was fantastic,full of sunshine and they sat on a nice bench.There were many passerbyes around,many of whom with their children.
Finally,he decided to say what was hidden deep in his mind.
-“Herman,I’m saying this only to you.You see,I have never believed Jack Waugh murdered her.The evening before it happened I discovered Raquel was betraying me with Johan.I saw them together,in lovers alike postures,at a student café at Victoria University.The next day in the morning she came home awfully mismanaged in her behaviour and terribly out of touch with anything.She locked herself in her bathroom.It was then when our relationship ended.I packed up and went away.Ever since then also Johan has been strange.He was never a drunkard before.The most strange to me was the fact they ended their affair with themselves at that time.This suggest something horrible happened.They might have been the ones who…,oh,no,Herman,I can’t finish it.”
His friend looked pained on his face.He was unable to say a word for a moment.So he said nothing.They sat long time on the bench,without one word further to say.Finally Herman van Veenen put his hand on Tadek Vangard’s arm.
-“We’ll never know the truth,Tadek.Poor Jack if he really was innocent.”- He just said.
Tadek Vangard learnt from his friend yet another important news ,when they met for a dinner in his house.
-“Tadek,Andreyev Golubin is in trouble!”- He announced.
-“In trouble? What’s that?”- Tadek Vangard turned himself only to listening.
-“You see,Tadek,the matter is connected to the discoveries made by your friend,Steven Mac Dantosch at the Harry Gullivers’ estate.There was found evidence Andreyev Golubin was part of a strategy,the so-called strategy Capital,together with Harry Gullivers and Carlos…
-“Are there not too many of those strategies?…”- Tadek Vangard interrupted.
-“Unfortunately,never too many for fanatics,terrorists and maniacs! The Americans demanded to remove Andreyev Golubin from any posts.
-“Do you believe,Herman,Russians will do it?”- Tadek Vangard was sceptical.
-“This time it’ll be the case,Tadek. We-I mean our government,the American one-we got assurances from Russians.”
-“O.K.Let’s hope so.The guy is a beast! The earlier he is out the better.” – Tadek Vangard replied but felt far from optimism in that regard.Russians simply could not be trusted.He lost his humour and noticed his friend was also humourless.
-“My dear men,let’s stop talking politics!”- Helene van Veenen took the charge into her hands and she did it with such an enthusiastic voice they really forgot their problems on the spot.
-“This evening I want you to laugh with me.I want lots of laugh here.”- She announced and said it with such an angelic face they had nothing else on their faces as just pure smiles.
Tadek Vangard was always astonished with her talents.She had absolutely everything in herself,she was a devine beauty and had astonishingly smart wit.A total perfection.An angel!
A few days before his March birthday of 1994,Tadek Vangard got finally his New Zealand passport.Some days earlier he had to participate in a public confirmation of his allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II,the head not only of the United Kingdom but also of the Commonwealth New Zealand was part of which.He had a free way to go in any direction of the world.To the four points of the world! It indeed felt great.
Just a few days before his scheduled diparture for London he visited Angela Butterby at her hospital bed.It was very painful for him to look at her,parylized in half and traumetized.Nevertheless she managed to extend one hand,the good one,to him,with a smile on her face.
-“Tadek,come here.May I kiss you.”- She said. He did so.She kissed him but he kissed her,too.
-“Oh,my dear Mrs.Butterby,if not me,you wouldn’t be parylized.I feel so guilty!”- He whispered with tears in his eyes.
-“No,Tadek,it did not happen because of you.It was a fate! I think I have already told you that.A fate,Tadek.Besides,I want to thank you for saving the lives of my son’s children.If not you,Dick would kill both kids.God,both his own kids!
She was suffering even more at that moment.Tadek Vangard did not know how to react.
-“Oh,I’m so sorry,so sorry…”- He repeated one and the same.
-“No,don’t be sorry,you saved them!”
-“Yes,because Carlos appeared there and fought with Dick! Paradoxically,he is the one…”
-“No,Tadek,you did it! If you haven’t appeared in Dick’s house then,Carlos also wouldn’t appear there.A chain reaction,Tadek.With you as the crucial one! If not you,Dick would shoot them with his gun.God,he was mad! And,when they fought,you took my grandchildren away from them.You ran away together with both kids! You saved thir lives!”
Tadek Vangard smiled to her gently.
-“It was a fate,dear Angela Butterby.”- He said,repeating her own words said by her a moment earlier. -“It was more than that,Tadek!”
He bod farewell to her and yet the same day to all of her other family members.
Only Helene,Herman and Angie went with him all the way to the airport the next day in the morning.They asked him to keep in touch and wished him the best of luck in Europe.
-“Don’t forget about us,Tadek!”- Helene van Veenen shouted when he was already walking towards the entry to the plane.
-“Sure!”- He called back.
When he found himself inside the plane he was satisfied he chose British Airwaves to fly to London.There was comfort at every corner,the stewardesses were friendly and the passangers did their best.The flying was long,with stopovers in Melbourne,Sydney,Bombay,Dubai and Damascus amongst others.Over twenty hours of non stop seating,numerous serving of drinks and food by the stewardesses,watching movies on the screen,reading books and newspapers.The worst was lack of movement.Tadek Vangard sat at the window side and next to him sat an old lady,terribly fat,who in fact took half of his seat away from him! Nothing strange that when the flying took already ten to twelve hours the remaining hours were already a pure nightmare to him.He was relieved when the plane landed at Heathrow airport in London.
His joy of having a New Zealand passport died out the moment when he had to deal with the customs.While the other passangers were let go easily because most of them were either British citizen or Australians and New Zealanders naturalized also in Britain he was stoped.The custom officer looked at his passport long time,turned the pages despite that they were empty,went to another office and did not appear back at least for half an hour.
Tadek Vangard knew what was the reason.Yes,the passport was a New Zealand one but the problem was his birthplace was mentioned in the passport."Born in Poland" indicated he was a Pole and,therefore,was considered as such one in the eyes of the British customs.Not even ten New Zealand passports would help him in this regard.He was proud he was born in Poland  but he has already heard the British customs officers had psychomaniacal attitudes to Polish travellers by not letting most of them to enter the country.  Surprisingly,they did it against their fellow Europeans! Against the people of the nation who fought on their behalf during the second world war as not any other nation.It was typical to the British who engaged in sleazy betrayals.
The first such a betrayal was when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland.They did nothing despite that both countries had a pact of helping each other in case of invasion by Nazi Germany.They participated in selling Poland to Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union after the war.And they have even “baptized” it as the so-called:”Iron Curtain”,the term used by Winston Churchill for the first time.And when Poland finally threw the communism away and regained freedom they have once again been showing their psychotic nature to Poles.
After half an hour of waiting Tadek Vangard finally saw the custom officer coming back who smiled to him and gave him the passport.Tadek Vangard never before saw such a false smile.
He went away from the custom officer,without a word.
He followed the signs to the London Underground Network and got inside a train which was bringing him to the City of London.Surprisingly to him,not even fifteen minutes passed and he found himself at the Piccadily Circus and as all the signs pointed this was probably one of the main parts of London,the City.He was indeed bewildered by all the impressions of a world class town,the numerous and colourful signs and advertisements,sometimes as large as entire blocks of monumental houses.The most frequent were the images of all sorts of cigarettes,aggressively advertised by world tobacco corporations.But why there was not even a single advertisement on behalf of saving the world from environmental disasters? Unfortunately,there was not even a single corporation existing which would make profits by saving the world from continuous degradation of the environment as well as the global warming.Tadek Vangard decided to stay a week in London and then planned to go to Paris,for a month or so.Nothing strange he had a very tough schedule.He wanted to see as much as possible and enjoy as much as possible,too.He looked to every tourist spot during that week,saw the musical:”Phantom of the Opera”,dined in top restaurants and looked,naturally,to every floor of worldwide famous Harrods.He was delighted with the spectacular look of Westminster and Buckingham Palace,amongst others.By the time he was departing in a coach for Paris he thought he realized his schedule in a decent way and smiled to himself by the realization he was a real tourist.The French customs behaved more fiendly to him.They just had a quick look at his passport and gave it back to him.
Paris impressed him as much as London earlier.Chateau de Versailles,Eiffel Tower,Notre Dame,Bastille,Champs Elysees,Musee de Louvre,Sorbonne and thousands upon thousands of cultural objects brought him to a state of absolute astonishment.And there were so many cafes! So many tables under the open air! Despite that it was just a spring! He thought he was dreaming.And it would indeed be the case if not the fact the French either did not really speak English or did not want to speak the language.Tadek Vangard was shocked how difficult it was to get information by speaking English only.He thought before coming to Paris that entire world spoke English.And it was not true.It was just his illusion due to his long staying in English spoken New Zealand.The fact of unability to communicate in English thrilled him so much he decided to go to Amsterdam earlier than he thought but feared the same might happen also there.How little he knew about the real life in Western Europe!
He travelled this time to Amsterdam by train,via Brussels.When the train was passing Antwerp,the second largest town in Belgium,he smiled to himself.He had his own house,shared with his older brother,in that town and in fact he should have begun his European trips by coming first home.Nevertheless,he understood himself.He was a sort of a free bird,one who wanted to exercise as much freedom as possible and be away from any patterns of interdependence.He did not want one even a person to know about his wherebouts.
Once he arrived in Amsterdam he nearly bursted from happiness.Everyone spoke English! Absolutely everyone! It was a delight out from heavens! And when he saw the city lights,the famous Amsterdam red lights districts,the numerous taverns and cafes with rock bands,Luciano Pavarrotti’s image on a large screen above Damrak square and many other wonders,he thought he lost his head.
He enjoyed then Amsterdam for seven days and seven nights.People were beautiful there and so much friendly,the rock bands in cafes incredible.There was not one even an evening he would not be present in one of those Amsterdam cafes or tavernes,filled with all sort of music.But one night he felt it was enough.Enough was enough! Not that he suddenly disliked it all.He was far from that.The problem was he realized he should have come first to his house in Antwerp.He did not even know how his own house,shared with his brother,looked? He knew nothing about his own house.Was it not strange?
He found himself once again in a train and went this time to the Flemish city of Antwerp,a town inhabited by people who spoke Dutch but were entirely a different nation apart from the inhabitants of the Netherlands.Antwerp was the largest town,plus minus seven hundred thousand people,in Flandria,one of the two main provinces in Belgium.The other province was called Wallonia and the people who lived there spoke French.
It was already late afternoon when he arrived in Antwerp.His first impression was mixed when he got outside the station.There was a large space but people could not walk there.Just flowers.He imagined it instantly as an original square with a fountain of sculptured naked people holding an image of a monumental diamond.There were two old houses next to the building in which there was situated Quick restaurant.He saw in his imagination a modern shopping centre in place of one of of the houses in which there was a cinema situated some time ago as the sign:"Astrid" suggested.He named the new complex which he envisioned in his mind as: "Astrid Shopping Centre".Next to it he imagined a round,glass or mirror alike rather tower in place of the other house,the tower of about forty floors up the sky in which there would be placed offices and business centras for the top business people from the diamond world.He had a name for the tower,too.He called it:"Diamond land".He already knew Antwerp was a worldwide capital of diamonds.But he also knew nothing is forever.If the facilities are bad the business people are fleeing and not coming any more.He noticed yet another thing when he arrived in Antwerp.The city life was there much quieter.There was something original in the air,something what defined the town.What was it? It was too early to say.He got inside a taxi and was brought to Berchem part of the town,just a ten minutes ride from the Central Station.
He did not know what to think,what to say and how to feel when he found himself outside his and his brother’s house,the one he saw for the first time in his life.Yes,he was impressed.The house was not that small,three floors,large,stylish windows,red bricks but above all it was definitely a house of a cultural value.A sort of a cultural object.Real old.He knocked to the doors of the neighbouring house as he was instructed by his brother.Plus minus fifty years old lady opened the door.She looked average,a typical middle age woman.
-“Tadek?”- She asked straightforwardly,without even waiting for him to say anything.
-“Yes,my name is Tadek.Tadek Vangard.How do you know?”
It was then when the lady began to laugh.
-“Oh,my,you look so similar to your brother! Your eyes,your nose…”
Tadek Vangard also began to laugh.It was not exactly the truth because he was not really so much similar to his brother as the lady suggested,despite that there was indeed some similarity,but he knew she must have seen photos with his images,shown to her by his brother. She invited him inside her house and after a quarter an hour they were so good friends as if they knew each other for months.It was already an evening when she gave him the key and let him go to his house.Everything was there in place,made or prepared earlier by both of his brothers.He felt sad one of his brothers,the younger one,was already gone forever.
He sat down in a leather armchair.
-“I think it is enough for today.No,I must make yet a telephone call.I must call to Melissa.I must learn from her what is happening with Steven.”- He thought.
As he thought so he decided.
He reached for a telephone handle and dialled the numbers to Melissa Charleroi’s parents.
-“Hallo?”- He heard a female voice.
-“Melissa?”- He asked and heard his heart pumping wildly in his body.Nothing strange taking into the account he did not speak to her for years.
-“No,Melissa’s mother.Who is speaking?”- He heard the answer.
-“Good evening.My name is Tadek.Tadek Vangard.We met at the American Embassy before Melissa returned home with you.”- Tadek Vangard introduced himself.
-“Oh,Tadek! Hello! How are you doing?”
-“Fine.Is everything good with you? Melissa?”
It was then when he heard a cry and a deep worry penetrated his mind.
-“Is something wrong? “- He asked and waited for answer.
-“Melissa,Melissa…disseappered! It’s already well over one year she is away!”
-“God,it can’t be!”- Tadek Vangard panicked.
-“But this is what happened!”
-“And your husband? Can’t he find her?”
-“He’s dead! He shot himself.It was too much for him.Oh,I can’t!!…”- There was a cry of a woman in despair.
-“And Steven? Does he know it?”-The answers were more important for Tadek Vangard than the women cry at that moment.
-“Steven’s here.Here,in Belgium.He’s seeking her.”
-“May I have his telephone number?”
-“I don’t have one.He has also disseapeared.I haven’t heard from him for months.Oh,I’m dying from despair!”
Tadek Vangard felt numbminded.Not even in his worst nightmares did he foresee what he just learnt from Melissa’s mother.
-“Please be patient,everything will be good.Steven will come back to you one day together with your daughter.I’m sure!”- He tried to inject some hope in that woman,the one who must have swallowed tons of tears.
-“Yes,I hope,I hope,I hope…”- Melissa’s mother did not stop crying.
Tadek Vangard gave her his telephone number and asked to call him back as soon as she knows anything about Melissa’s or Steven’s wherebouts.
Then he just stayed in his armchair till the late night hours,unable to move at all as if he still dealt with the aftershocks of a knockout on a boxing ring.
It indeed was a knockout.He expected everything but not this.Melissa Charleroi disappeared.Steven Mac Dantosch disseapeared.Melissa’s father shot himself dead. Her mother a living dead…
Was it not a joke from hell?…
To be continued…Author: Thaddeus Hutyra,e-mail: tadekhutyra@hotmail.com  or: clubbers@funworld.be
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