3. A family dispute
Katarina noticed that her friend, Jean-Pierre, was very startled by the letter she had given to him. Nonetheless, she had a lot of affairs to arrange, her first concern was to help him wherever she could.
‘If I can do something, honey, you know you can tell me anything.’ For a moment, she put her hand around his neck, pulled him somewhat nearer and kissed him softly on the lips. If her friend was unhappy, she felt the same way. It was a strange feeling, but it just was that way.
‘I guess I’m the only one to blame for us breaking up,’ he started to say while he shrugged in a desperate gesture. ‘Eventually, I’ve only reacted that way because I love my sister and not wanting her being emotionally hurt.’
Katarina didn’t understand what he was trying to tell, but she saw he had to get it off his chest. She would hurry or press him to unravel his family matters to her, but if he did so, she would be a good listener. She would even help him if she saw the opportunity.
‘You know, my sister is naturally adventurous set. If I tell you that she has hiked, on her own, through a great part of North-America without much preparation, you can already picture her character, I guess.’ Jean-Pierre rubbed his forehead as if he wanted to sweep away a few dark shadows.
‘Besides, after that journey, everything has started. She had made acquaintances with a guy from Salt Lake City, Utah. She seemed head over heels in love with him. Gerry Oldman was his name by the way. At first, he looked like a bright bloke, but something wasn’t right, it was difficult to pinpoint what it was but at that moment, something made all my alarms go off.’
Katarina was sitting on his side on a windowsill looking out on the castle's access route. ‘Sometimes a person has to follow that primeval instinct, Jean-Pierre. I suspect you were right not to trust him, weren’t you?’
‘Yes, indeed. I’ve got an old college friend who has emigrated to Denver, Colorado. We still have contact by email and now through Facebook. I asked him to investigate this Gerry. In fact, my friend works for the FBI, it’s true only in administration, but he has his contacts. I was just horrified when he told me his findings.’
‘Oh, that doesn’t sound so good,’ Katarina answered when she saw a dark glance shoving over her friend’s eyes. There was a little silence, but she wouldn’t push him to go on. It was his sister, his story.
‘In any case, he was very rich,’ Jean-Pierre continued, ‘after all, about that he hadn’t lied. It was only the manner he had used to become so prosperous that wasn’t so popular with me. Not that I could do much about it if the FBI couldn’t gather proof against him, who am I to do otherwise.’
Jean-Pierre swallowed for a moment and unaware of it, he started to fiddle with the cuticle of one of his fingers. The memories were so strong he had great difficulties to get out of his words.
‘Gerry Oldman was a blackmailer. Racketeering, they called it back in America. You know what this means?’ He looked at Katarina furrowing her brow.
‘Yes, I’ve once seen something about it on TV. It’s blackmailing people in exchange for protection. Is that right?’
Jean-Pierre nodded. ‘He owned this “organization” of accomplices who visited certain business people promising them protection against mobbing and any other banditry, if they paid, of course. Most of them whom they talked to the first time refuse, speaks for itself. However, it cost them dearly. The shop of some of them being torn apart as an example, the owner even hurt sometimes. It goes without saying afterward the majority with fear in their heart paid.
Katarina felt where this story took her, but she waited patiently until her friend spoke again.
‘I attempted to convince my sister to break with that man and said he was a gangster. She wouldn’t believe it, so I showed her the information I received from my friend. She asked if I could make that hard and I couldn’t. She blamed me that I didn’t want her being happy, so one thing led to another. Finally, after the last screaming discussion, we’ve parted shouting and crying at each other. She left for Salt Lake City and I never saw or heard her anymore.’
‘I understand, Jean-Pierre. It certainly had to be hard for you at that moment. In any case, you can't be held responsible. You've tried everything humanly possible and you've done it out of affection for your sister, baby. But look at it from another angle.
Jean-Pierre looked surprised at her. ‘What do you mean by that, Kat? From which angle?’
‘That man died. Now she wants to see you again. Maybe destiny has given you two another chance. Don’t you think you have to grab it with both hands? The past remains the past. There's nothing you can do about it.
But today and tomorrow are still pristine and virginal white, just like a fresh sheet of paper. What you will write upon that is up to you two.’ A smile slipped over Jean-Pierre’s face.
‘What now, have I said something wrong, honey?' Katarina asked him while putting her hand on his.
‘I knew you were smarter than me, Kat. In a few sentences, you can make my worries melt away. You’re right, I’ll take this chance with both hands. Tomorrow, I'll have my sister with back and because of that that I'm so happy.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere