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Excerpt for Mistaken Identity by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



MISTAKEN

IDENTITY



Mistaken Identity

By

Alex Markman

From collection The Drama and Mockery of Fate




Mistaken Identity


Alex Markman


Published by Asteroid Publishing at Smashwords

All rights reserved.


eISBN: 978-1-926720-28-9


Copyright © 2012 Alex Markman



This story is based on true events. However, names, characters and locations are changed to protect the privacy of protagonists.




It was early Sunday afternoon when the sound of a mobile phone’s classical music disturbed the quiet of a one-bedroom apartment, where Gerard Frumm, a university professor of political science, enjoyed his solitude and the second cup of coffee.

“Who the hell is it?” he asked himself, searching in his memory for a likely intruder into his privacy. Having spent so many hours on weekdays among students and teachers, he abstained from social life, had no close friends, and therefore was seldom contacted, or invited, on weekends. Not finding a suitable answer to the question, he pressed the ‘talk’ button.

“Hello,” he greeted the caller with a frown, audible in the sound of his voice, while observing his stern face in a huge mirror, which hung on the wall opposite the sofa where he sat. His bathrobe, which he had put on after the morning shower, was wide open, exposing his hairy chest.

“Professor Frumm?” a heavenly melodic female voice asked with thickly accented English. Gerald immediately recognized a Spanish speaker. In the mirror, Gerard saw his frown changing to raised eyebrows and lips stretched in a weak smile.

This should be a young woman, thirty years old, not more, he thought, while covering his body with the bathrobe, as if the woman could see him.

“Yes, it is,” he said, while critically evaluating his reflected image for potential sexual attraction. His girlfriend left him half a year ago, and since then, up to this moment, he thought that he did not need any relation.

“My name is Bonita.”

In Spanish it means ‘pretty.’ Indeed, she must be, with such angelic voice, Gerard thought. He was as fluent in Spanish as in his native English.

“I got your phone number from Professor Felipe,” she continued.

“Oh, yes, I know Felipe, of course,” Gerard cut in, unexpectedly finding himself in a talkative mood. “Are you from Argentina?”

“Yes. We arrived a few days ago.”

“We? Who else?”

“My mother. I…I—”

“You can talk Spanish with me,” suggested Gerard in Spanish.

“Oh, thanks, it is much easier,” she said, now talking fast in her native tongue. “Is it possible to see you sometime? I won’t take much of your time—”

“No problem. Where are you?”

“Here, in Toronto. My mother and I rented an apartment in North York, Sheppard-Yonge area.”

“Not far from me. Just four subway stops from where I live. Actually, I have time today. If you wish, we can meet in two hours in one of the coffee shops near you.”

“This will be great. There is one, Second Cup, not far, in the plaza.”

“I know where it is. See you there in two hours.”

Gerard disconnected and observed his image in the mirror with the scrutiny of a match maker. Tall, skinny – which is good these days, he thought philosophically, as the fashion for bulky, powerful warriors has long gone – he looked imposing. His face, longish and sun tanned, exuded health and self respect, particularly evident in the expression of his large blue eyes. Not bad for forty-six years old, he concluded with satisfaction. He was looking forward to nothing more than a few trivial things or favours, and a pleasant acquaintance with an exotic beauty.

He took the subway, as it was faster, and in certain respects a more convenient way to get to the Yonge-Sheppard area. There was an annoying delay with the train, and Gerard was late to the meeting by ten minutes or so. After the first step over the threshold of the coffee shop, his eye caught sight of two women, sitting side by side at a table, and watching the entrance. The older one kept a large yellow envelope close to her chest. Gerard took a chair across from her and, turning his attention to the pretty face of the younger one, said, “Hi, Bonita.”

“Oh,” she flashed, “how’d you recognize me?”

“Because of your name. You are indeed pretty.” And, looking at the older woman, Gerard stretched his hand for a hand shake. “Gerard Frumm. I guess you are Bonita’s mother. Am I right?”

“Helma,” the elder woman said, raising slightly and shaking his hand. “Sorry, I don’t speak English at all. Not a word. I am so happy that we can speak Spanish.”

She placed the yellow envelope on the table and put her hands on it, as if afraid of an invisible force, which might blow it away in an unexpected gust of draught. Her hands were dry and wrinkled; the hands with long history of domestic work, and exposure to the sun. She did not look any bit Spanish though, at least not a Spanish of Latin America type. Her eyes were pale gray, her skin was white; a straight, protruding nose and large mouth suggested a typical North European woman, who was pretty in her younger years. But now, with the crown of neatly groomed gray hair, net of wrinkles, running from corners of her smiling and yet somewhat sad eyes, she was just an old woman, which Gerard wouldn’t notice in another circumstance.

“How do you know Professor Felipe?” Gerard asked, looking at Bonita. “Did you work with him?”

She happened to be what he expected; a pretty woman about thirty years old, with dark, olive-shaped eyes, long black lashes, nicely shaped nose and small, but sexy lips. She gleamed in a smile, straightening up in her seat, whereby demonstrating a nice shape of her sizable and, by the look of it, firm breasts. Hm, nice indeed.

“Sort of,” she said. “I did a cleaning job in his home. When he knew that we were going to Canada, and needed some help in German, he gave me your telephone number.”

“In German?” Gerard raised his eyebrows in genuine surprise.

“Yes,” Bonita confirmed, and looked at her mother, as if handing over the reins of conversation. Helma cleared her throat.

“Yes, German,” she confirmed. “I need to translate something from German.” She lifted the yellow envelope off the table. “Here are some papers.”

“Well…” Puzzled, Gerard observed Helma with renewed interest. “I can help you, of course. But… Why didn’t you ask someone in Argentina to translate it? There are many people there that know German. Lots of immigrants, even a few German newspapers.”

Helma cast her eyes down, avoiding Gerard’s stare.

“This is a long story,” she said. “I prefer to do it here.”

“Why don’t you tell Gerard the truth?” Bonita interfered. “No one knows you here.”

“It is a long story, but I will tell it short. My mother and father arrived in Argentina in 1940. I was one year old then, almost two.”

Gerard quickly made the calculation. Now, in the year 2000, she must be 62 years old.

“I don’t remember my father, as he died when I was a tot. We lived in a small city. I did not know any German person there. I grew up as a Spanish girl, really.”

“Did your mother talk to you in German?” Gerard asked.

“Never. As a matter of fact, she seldom mentioned being a German, and only if it was absolutely necessary.”

Gerard felt that the old woman was ill at ease in answering his questions.

“None of my business, though,” Gerard remarked. “What can I do for you?”

The two women exchanged quick glances, as if consulting each other regarding the next step. Bonita turned her attention to Gerard.

“There are some documents in this envelope,” she pointed her finger at it, not taking her stare from Gerard, “which are in German. Can you translate them for us?”

“Sure,” Gerard agreed. “Let me see what is inside.” He stretched his arm to take it, but Bonita’s mother quickly grabbed the envelope and pressed it to her chest, as if it was the dearest newborn.

“No, not here,” she exclaimed, visibly alarmed, and glanced left and right. “Besides, it is sealed. You can open it at your place.”

“No problem,” Gerard said, and leaned back in a relaxed pose, although his curiosity arose.

“Do you know German well?” Helma asked. “I mean, well enough to translate any paper into Spanish?”

“It is almost my native language.” Gerard smiled at her concern. “My mother was German, she talked to me German sometimes. But that is not the point. I am fluent not only in German and Spanish, but also in Italian and Chinese, which I love indeed. I translated numerous books and documents from all these languages.”

“Your service must be expensive, though,” Helma said, sparkle of concern jumping off her eyes. Gerard shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing. He looked at Bonita. Her dark, beautiful eyes pleaded for financial mercy.

“Bonita came here as a caregiver,” Helma explained her concern. “I don’t work, just came with her. You know, our means—”

“Don’t worry,” Gerard interrupted her. “I will translate it for you free of charge. It will be a pleasure.”

“Please don’t tell anyone about these papers,” Helma almost begged. Gerard chuckled. They had no common acquaintances in intellectual elite Gerard belonged to. Whom could he tell about Helma?

“I’ll tell nobody,” he promised. Helma, having no sense of humour, relaxed, and Bonita smiled. Her eyes told Gerard that she had more than a casual interest in him.

“Here you are.” Helma pushed the envelope across the table toward Gerard. He picked it up and put it on his lap.

An awkward silenced followed, lasting a long minute. Gerard felt it inappropriate to ask questions, which he had many, but the women were too shy to initiate. To ease the tension of the moment, Gerard resorted to a proven topic of northern latitudes.

“Nice weather,” he remarked, looking out the window.

“Yes,” Bonita agreed with enthusiasm. “I’d like to see places on such a day, but don’t know where to go. With my English, I wouldn’t be able to find my way back home.”

“Would you mind my company?” Gerard asked. “I would be delighted to show you places.” Consent in Bonita’s eyes made his heart skip a beat from excitement. Helma looked at her daughter, then at Gerard, and sighed.

“I’d rather go home,” she said. “You young people, go without me. Indeed, it is better to be outdoors on such a beautiful day.” She departed as soon as they were out the door.

“Let’s go to Sheppard-Bathurst park, Bonita,” Gerard suggested. “It is a long walk from here, about three kilometres, but it is worth it.”

“I have plenty of time.” Bonita, only being up to his shoulder, looked up at him. Fire of southern temperament glowed in her dark eyes.

“Tell me some more about yourself and your mother,” Gerard said.

“What particularly do you wish to know?”

“Have you seen these papers?” Gerard pointed at the envelope.

“Yes, but I wasn’t able to make out anything in them. Like my mother, I am a school dropout. My mother did not have money to afford me a better education.”

“Any guess why your mother did not translate them in Argentina?”

“Actually, yes.” She turned her face to him. Her eyes were wide open and mysterious. “On the very first page, you will see all these symbols at the time of Hitler. Swastika, eagle with a cross in its claws, these kinds of things, you know. I managed to make out my grandma’s and grandpa’s names there. Mama thinks that… You know, she thinks that her parents were somehow involved in wrongdoings of that time. Perhaps they were sent on a mission to Argentina. But the grandfather died, and grandmother was trapped there, and then there was war.”

“Did your mom see these papers before?” Gerard kept asking, unable to rein his curiosity. “I mean, when your grandmother was alive. She could’ve asked her.”

“Grandmother never showed her these papers. She died when my mom was fourteen. Grandma left her some money, few belongings and some papers, but Mom was never interested to read them. A short while ago, when we moved to another apartment, she browsed through her small archives and came across these.” Bonita pointed at the envelope. “Well, enough about me. Tell me about yourself.”

“Single, no girlfriend. My specialty is political science. Do lots of translations. A bookworm, in a word. Nothing interesting.”

“Single,” she repeated, giving Gerard a coquettish side glance. “This is interesting. I am single too. Was married, but divorced two years ago.”

They wandered about the park, and then, when darkness descended on the empty streets of the bedroom community between Yonge and Bayview, they told each other remarkable parts of their biographies, funny stories, and exchanged views on wide range of subjects, from sex to politics. Bonita had only elementary school education, but was smart, with good sense of humour and the talent of a story teller. And yes, she was coquettish in a subtle, clever way, which was an irresistible aphrodisiac to men regardless of their intellect. They agreed to meet next week, and departed, kissing each other on the lips.

After arriving home – it was already one o’clock in the morning – Gerard opened the yellow envelope. The first thing that met his eyes was swastika, and then the eagle, the emblem of the Third Reich at the time of Hitler. Gerard turned on the table lamp, and casually ran his eyes over the first paragraph, having no intention to spend much time with the papers. Interested, he read a few paragraphs, the contents of which made him hold his breath. He settled comfortably in an arm chair, and kept on reading. When finished, he sat motionless, watching morning light seeping through the blinds, and thinking about weird patterns of human destiny.

Three days later he called Bonita, but the phone was picked up by Helma.

“Good day,” Gerard greeted her. “How are you, Helma?”

“Oh, Professor Frumm,” she exclaimed in genuine joy. “Nice of you to call me. Bonita is not at home yet, she is at work, she is a caregiver, you know, and will come late tonight. She has a very high opinion of you, you know, and she is a very nice girl.”

“I know, I know,” Gerard assured her. “I hope I will meet her soon. Now, I am calling regarding your papers.”

“Have you already translated them?”

“Yes.”

“So soon? How nice of you. Anything interesting?”

“Yes. I can give the papers back to you, together with the translation. When do you wish to meet?”

“I am all curiosity.” She was really excited. “Any time. Even right now, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t. But I prefer not to meet in a public place. I would be happy to invite to my apartment, but it would be hard for you to find the way.”

“Please come to us. I will be happy to chat with you over a cup of tea or coffee. Or I can cook a nice meal, Argentinean style, you know, you will like it, I am sure—”

“Don’t worry,” Gerard interrupted her. “A cup of tea will do. I know your address. It will take me less than an hour to be there.”

And he came in time. Helma, dressed in her best clothes, as if for an important reception, met him with a smile on her scarlet painted lips. She invited him to take a chair in a small living room, furnished with a simple wooden table, three plastic arm chairs, and a bed.

“I sleep here,” she explained. “Bonita’s bed is in another room. “Cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

She went to the kitchen and began tea preparation.

“You can tell me, what is in the papers,” she said, “while I am doing tea.”

“No. I want you to sit here, in front of me.”

“Why? I am okay doing tea and listening.”

“Please, sit down, Helma. It would be better.”

She turned the electric stove on, placed the kettle on it with a feeble bang, and joined Gerard.

“I am all ears,” she said, beaming, but after watching Gerard’s face, the smile on her face transformed into a frown.

“According to these papers, you are not German,” Gerard said.

“What?” she almost yelled. “What did you say?”

“You are not German. You are Jewish. That is what these papers say.”

Helma’s hands dropped. Her lips moved, but no sound escaped her mouth.

“I can’t believe it,” she said at last, dumbfounded, and gazing at Gerard as if he was an exotic alien. “It couldn’t be. No, it couldn’t be.”

“Germans are very meticulous about accuracy of their records. Here,” Gerard extended a piece of paper, “is a Gestapo record saying that your grandfather voluntarily donated all his fortunes to the Third Reich. That is how they worded confiscation of Jewish property, or property of other alien elements. Further, it is said that your grandfather died of a heart attack. And here,” Gerard made a pause, “is something that would be difficult to accept. These are a few papers related to your mother. According to them, she was arrested in Czechoslovakia in the end of 1939. This was the time when Germany completed occupation of this country. She was accused of illegally emigrating from Germany. She was, as stated here, treated in accordance with the article such-and-such of the legislation regarding Jews. That was the wording of death punishment.”

Helma went pale. Her stare became frozen, almost insane.

“My mother was executed in 1939?” she asked in whisper.

“Yes. Perhaps you know, at the time of Hitler, being a Jew was considered a criminal offense punished by death.”

The kettle in the kitchen was boiling and whistling, as if in despair, but Helma did not pay attention to it. Her jaw dropped when she heard Gerard speaking; she was pale, her right cheek was in spasm of tic.

“The kettle…” Gerard reminded her in a low voice. Helma jumped up, rushed to the kitchen, took the kettle off the stove and came back.

“Sorry.” Her stare was filled with horror. Gerard had a feeling that Helma hated him for bringing this news.

“Here is the record of mandatory payment of twenty percent of property after the Crystal Night.”

“What is it?” Helma asked.

“This was the night of Jewish pogrom, one of the biggest in history of Germany. It was in 1939. After most of the Jewish property was ransacked and vandalized, the government demanded Jews give twenty percent of their assets to the government to compensate the state for damages. Here is the record of that.”

“I can’t believe it,” she mumbled. She touched her temples with her fingertips.

“There are a few other interesting papers here. Confiscations, arrests of your relatives in accordance with then-existing laws, some other things. Would have been a fascinating read, if it was not so repellent.”

“How did I… escape?” she asked under her breath.

“Your aunt was married to a German. She took you, a one-year-old tot, when your mother ran out of Germany in 1938, apparently before the occupation of Czechoslovakia. She and her husband arrived with you in Argentina in 1940. Your father stayed in Germany, why and what happened, you can only guess. He also was treated in accordance with the legislation about Jews. By the way, you have a solid proof of inheritance to the confiscated property. I can help you with this claim. Apparently, it is significant. Your grandfather was a high-ranking military man before Hitler came to power. Your grandparents had substantial property and money in their bank accounts, and your parents, too. It is all documented here.”

Gerard pushed two piles of papers across the table.

“This one is the translation into Spanish, for your own use,” he said. “And this one is the original.”

“Thanks,” she whispered, and closed her eyes.

“Are you okay, Helma?” Gerard asked.

“Yes.” She opened her eyes. “Thank you.” Her eyes were open wide and filled with horror.

Gerard stood up. “Remember, you can count on me. I will help you claim your compensation.”

“Very kind of you,” she nodded.

“Please ask Bonita to call me, whenever she has time.”

“I will. She likes you. You are a nice man.”

Gerard left. On the way home, he thought about Helma and Bonita. The women struggled with poverty and hardships, as a result of tragedies of the past. Perhaps their lives would be much better now, after they got the compensation, if one could call it compensation.

Bonita did not let him wait too long for her. She called on Saturday, at ten o’clock in the morning, when Gerard was leafing through a newspaper.

“How nice of you,” Gerard said. “Are you free today?”

“Yes. First, I want to thank you—”

“No, no, no, don’t mention it,” Gerard interrupted her. “It’s been my pleasure to help you. I am at your service. How does Helma feel?”

“She is okay. It was a shock for her, and for me, too. But now, everything is settled.”

“Okay, dear,” Gerard said. “May I call you dear?”

Bonita giggled. “Yes, dear,” she responded.

“I will come to your place at twelve. Is it okay? I will come by car and take you to interesting places. I will be waiting at the front entrance.”

At twelve, Bonita was already standing outside. She climbed into the passenger seat of Gerard’s SUV and gave him a warm kiss on the cheek.

“Where are we going?” she asked, looking at him with a sweet smile.

“First, to a nice park for a walk. Then we will go to a restaurant. At night, we will have a few choices.” He steered his car to the street.

“I accept all of them,” Bonita said.

“How is your mom today?”

“She is okay. She thanks you for your help.”

“When does she want start claiming compensation for damages? Have you discussed it with her?”

“Yes. She rejects the idea of compensation in principal,” Bonita said.

“What?” Gerard turned to Bonita to make sure that she was serious. She was. “Why? She has legitimate rights for this claim.”

“She has. She believes that this is not a fair deal. Accepting the compensation would mean that all matters are settled between her and her dead relatives on one side and the Nazis on the other. What kind of compensation would forgive the evils? She thinks that it is an insult to accept a consolation, or any sort of gesture, from the monsters. There will never be any settlement with them, on earth or in heaven.”

“If I were you, I would convince her to take the money. After all, this money belongs to her, and to you. Enjoy life, and whatever it offers to you.”

“I tried, but she is firm. It seems that she will never recover from this shock of revelation. All the foundation of her beliefs and notions of morality collapsed. I shall admit that it was a shock to me, too, but it didn’t last long.”

“Will you claim this money after your mother dies?”

“No. It is her money. She decides what to do with it, not me.”

“What has she been doing the last few days?” Gerard asked.

“She went to the church and talked to God.” Bonita chuckled. “She is Catholic. Weird, isn’t it? A Jewish woman discusses with Christian God Jewish matters?”

“Well..” Gerard said. “Christian God is Jewish as well. He’ll understand.”

“Let’s forget about bad things tonight,” Bonita suggested. “Life is beautiful, isn’t it? For now.”


END



Other works by Alex Markman:


Contra-ODESSA - novel

Messenger of Death - novel

Payback for Revenge- novel

The Dark Days of Love, collection of 4 novellas


Short stories:


Flavour of Paris

Of Gays and Movies

Born with Sin

Breakfast with the Cleaning Lady

Farewell to Past

Cardiovascular Patient




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