5. Marie-Anne’s story
They were all three together, sitting in the ground-floor salon of the Chateau Rouge. Jean-Pierre, Marie-Anne and Katarina too who had just met with her boyfriend’s sister were sipping a glass of champagne. It was the right beverage to celebrate the reunion of two relatives according to Katarina. She had welcomed Marie-Anne with open arms as if it was a family member of her own.
At first, Marie-Anne was a bit overwhelmed though after a while being in the company of the new Baroness of the castle, she noticed for a fact that Katarina wasn’t pretending. Neither Jean-Pierre nor his girlfriend insisted on Marie-Anne telling about her life from the past years. They both supposed that the woman considering the fact her husband had died, she had lived a difficult time lately.
After talking about some generalities, Marie-Anne started herself to tell without an immediate cause.
‘I know you probably have a thousand questions, little brother. I’ll try the best I can to tell you everything that has happened. I assure you it’s even worse than you have expected.’ A shadow glided upon her face and suddenly the look in her eyes changed and they got a sad expression.
Jean-Pierre put a hand on her shoulder. ‘Marie-Anne, nobody forces you to explain yourself. I’m already happy to see you again knowing that you’re not angry with me. Take your time and it has not to be today.’
His sister smiled at him, grateful for his empathy. ‘No, Jean-Pierre, thanks for your sympathy but I just want it from my chest. I promised myself to tell it as soon as possible. And I will do it.’
Marie-Anne took a big gulp of her glass of champagne trying to find the courage in her drink. She cleared her throat and started a story that reminded a crime movie.
‘Gerry was a charmer, and I fell for him. Before I met him, I was never interested in men. I thought I was too young to commit or to have a love relation nonetheless many of my friends were married or even had a child.’ Jean-Pierre’s sister shrugged and went on.
‘I suppose when lightning has struck, an old barn easy catches fire. So they say and in my case, it’s the truth. Actually, from that moment on I couldn’t look past the blinkers. His charm and charisma, linked with the fact money wasn’t a problem for him, has persuaded me to travel with him to Salt Lake City and to become his wife.’
Katarina and Jean-Pierre listened without interrupting her. They supposed it was difficult for the woman to talk about that period and they let her the time to sort things out for herself.
‘It’s true, at the beginning, it happened like Gerry had promised. I lived as if I was inside a fairytale and I had everything. The estate we were living was extremely luxurious and surrounded with one of the most beautiful gardens from the region. His employees treated me as if I was a princess. At that moment, I knew for sure I had the right choice. Sadly enough I couldn’t have been more wrong.’
She played with her glass of champagne without drinking of it. ‘One night, I went to bed early but because of some reason I woke up and still a bit dizzy I shuffled downstairs. I heard strange voices even before I was there and I looked at the ground-floor.’
Marie-Anne swallowed. She obviously had a hard time, but slowly she went on. ‘Gerry stood there with two of his men. There was a plastic canvas on the ground of the parlor where they had shoved the table on the side. On the canvas a man sat on his knees, a gag in his mouth, handcuffed and he was bleeding.’ She was gasping for breath. There was a glance of fear in her face. She probably saw the whole picture before her eyes
‘I still remember putting my hand in front of my mouth otherwise, I surely would have screamed. At that moment, I heard Gerry giving the order to kill the man he called a traitor. Right in front of my eyes the man was executed with one gunshot from a pistol with a silencer.’ Tears flowed down Marie-Anne’s face. Katarina went sitting beside her and put her arm around her shoulders, comforting her.
‘Thank you, Katarina, but I have to continue my story now that I have the courage.' Marie-Anne coughed a few times and went on with her horror story. 'With great difficulty, I could master my repugnance and disbelief and silently I went back to my room. I don't know if Gerry had heard something, maybe yes maybe no? A few minutes later he entered my bedroom asking how long I was awake already. It must have seen it on my face that at least I had captured something. He threatened me that I had to keep my mouth or that I would go the same way. There was no trace of his charm anymore. I saw the brute as he was.'
Jean-Pierre furrowed his brow. He knew this Gerry person didn't have a clean bill of health, but a downright murderer was something else.
'From that moment on I was more treated as a prisoner then as his girlfriend. I wanted to come back, away from America, but easier said than done. They watched me and, in the beginning, I couldn't contact anybody. Gradually I made him believe that I didn't care anymore. How disgusting I thought it was, I shared his bed. It was the only way to have more freedom and get the possibility to escape. Eventually, he trusted me again.'
'How did you get away? Was is because he had died and you were free? Or has someone killed him too and his accomplices have let you go?'
Marie-Anne wiped her tears away with the back of her hand. 'I wished it was that simple, Jean-Pierre. Once you're inside that world, it's difficult to escape.'
'But you're here, Marie-Anne,' Jean-Pierre reacted on her last words. 'You must have found something to run away from America.'
'Yes, my little brother, eventually I have found a solution. The only way I would be free. I've made contact with a rival of my man, also a killer. In exchange for a passport and a plane ticket to Europe, I've given him the safety codes of the estate. It was very easy for him and his men when I was shopping one day, to sneak in the house and eliminate my husband. I haven't pulled the trigger to kill Gerry, but you could say I'm indirect the cause of his death. I'm a murderer on the run, Jean-Pierre!
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere