Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 7
From Part 6
Principal Neville called Raymond Hargrove into his office to show him a letter a student named Margaret Andrews wrote to Mrs. Wronski, confronting her about her delusions of Gita still being a child. Raymond was angry, heartbroken and ashamed to find out his mother was behind it all. He was also concerned that she may be experiencing a mental decline of some sort. He confronted her in her living room.
"I had a meeting today with Mr. Neville about little Margaret Andrews and what you said to her. Don't look clueless at me like that, you know darn well who Margaret is."
"Little redhead brat, if memory serves. She comes into the store a lot for ribbons and Hershey bars. Her dad buys Pall Malls and says 'Good day,' all hoity-toity like. And her mother, nothing but a snooty gossip with her hair all dolled up."
Raymond looked at his mother long and hard. He loved her, honestly, but she made him ashamed of her. And yet he was worried about her deteriorating behavior. "Ma," he said, voice quivering, "when did you become so bitter and mean? When I was growing up you were so kind and sweet. You built people up not tear them down. I don't get it. Where is my loving mama that made me feel loved and safe; the one who was kind and friendly to people?"
"I'm not bitter, Raymie," she said defensively. "But when your father left us for that woman after thirty-five years, I determined never to trust people again. That doesn't mean I'm nasty and bitter. I was just trying to help the girl. I'm sorry if it caused problems. Don't know what I can do to make it better. I meant no harm."
Here Comes the Judge
Borys Kowalski was still steaming when he got back to his office. He leaned back in his chair, arms behind his head and tried to figure out what Ula and Gita were up to. 'What can I do to find out?' he wondered. While he was working on it his intercom buzzed.
"What is it, Kamila?" he snarled to his salty secretary. Figuratively, Kamila Wojciechowski had hair on her chest and bulging biceps when it came to dealing with Borys. In reality, he respected her and thus kept her as his secretary for many years.
"Judge Mazur is here to see you," she said.
"Send him in."
Judge Jakub Mazur, a burly, imposing man and not a force to be reckoned with, walked into Borys' office. Borys was up and shaking his hand, ready to kiss up. Judge Mazur was one of the few people on earth that intimidated him. He and the Judge colluded many times to illegal activity for their own selfish gain. But Judge Mazur would never take no for an answer or even consider anything Borys might have to say about a particular sinister plan.
"Hello Judge Mazur, very good to see you, sir."
"Yes, I'm sure it is. Let's sit down, Kowalski." Mazur pulled out two cigars and handed one to Borys, who accepted it with honor. Mazur watched intently as Borys lit up. Borys could feel critical eyes boring into him.
Taking several draws to get it going, he looked up at Mazur and made the expected fawning compliment. "Most excellent, Judge Mazur. You don't find these often. The best."
Satisfied, the Judge lit up then got down to business. "Kowalski, we've got a problem, a big problem. That US Embassy crony we paid hush money to was found out. He wasted no time in pointing the finger at us. There will be an investigation. If this goes the wrong way, Kowalski, we could lose everything, and likely face prison if convicted."
Borys' stomach lurched and he broke out in a cold sweat. He knew he was about to be thrown under the bus. "So what's the plan, Judge Mazur? "
"The plan, Kowalski, is for you to take the bullet. I'm not going down." His eyes bore flaming holes into Borys.
"But Judge, I..."
"Don't grovel, Kowalski, it doesn't become you. Here's the rest of the plan. You are going to clear my name and confess it was you alone who made the payoff. I'll put in a good word for you and see if I can get you the minimum sentence if you're convicted."
Bile rose up in Borys' throat and all respect and obeisance to the judge disappeared. "Now you listen here, Mazur, I'm not going to take any bullet on this. I'm not confessing anything. We can pay off..."
Mazur remained calm. He drew on his cigar and blew out a mouth full of smoke, and made no effort to speak. The eerie long silence that followed made Borys weak in the knees.
"I've arranged for a press conference this evening. I suggest you watch and listen closely. If you choose not to confess, Kowalski, you'll go down one way or another. Losing everything, prison, or a little visit from our friends who love to make swiss cheese out of cowards with bullets." The judge stood, put out his cigar on Borys' desk and leaned into his face. "Don't try anything stupid, Kowalski, I have eyes everywhere." Mazur turned causally and strode out the door.
Borys fell hard into his chair. His heart thumped wildly in his chest and his hands were shaking. 'I have to think. What can I do?' He picked up the phone and called Oskar Lewinski, the low life private pilot who loved payoffs, smuggling, and all things illegal and clandestine.
"Oskar, Kowalski here. Fire up that jet of yours. I need a ride - now."
"Where to, Mr. K?"
"Sweden. I already have a passport. I'll be there in twenty minutes."
Borys decided not to pack anything except a change of clothes he had in his office closet. He wrote a note for Ula, saying he was sorry but he'd contact her soon. He didn't explain the circumstances, just that an important secret mission had come up. What did she know? She'd fall for it until of course, she saw the press conference.
When Borys pulled up to the jet on the tarmac of the small, private airfield he had an eerie feeling. He stepped out of the car and the silence sent chills down his spine. The jet sat quietly unprepared for flight except the door was open, but Oskar was nowhere in sight. 'Maybe he's in the bathroom in the hangar,' he thought.
He stood on the tarmac and listened. He called Oskar's name as he tiptoed slowly around the jet. As he rounded the back side of the jet he heard footsteps behind him and froze. He broke out in a cold sweat and felt like he was going to vomit. Two other men appeared from the hangar close by, one an armed stranger, the other a smiling Oskar.
"Sorry Borys, I work for the biggest purse. Judge Mazur left you in the dust."
Pain crushed Borys' chest and he dropped to the ground dead. Not a shot was fired.
Ula and Gita plopped down into the living room easy chairs exhausted. Borys was laid to rest and the last guest had just left the wake. The ladies sat together in silence, too tired to talk, but there was a powerful emotional connectedness. They were on their own now, but they would make their journey to a new life together.
After a time Gita looked at her precious godmother. It was Ula who loved and nurtured her after Mama disappeared, even though her father tried to interfere. He didn't like Ula because she was Mama's dear friend.
"Aunt Ula," she said, "what are your plans now that all the dust has settled?"
"Gita, there's another layer of dust ahead, and probably more than that. I have to settle all of Borys' affairs. I suspect the's left me with an extensive mess. I will have to hire his lawyer to help me. Borys was a secretive and corrupt man as you know. I'm hoping and praying he didn't leave me without any resources, or giant messes I can't clean up."
"Aunt Ula, we could sell one of our houses and live together, share everything. I'm still a working girl, though I don't make much. Surely you'll get some sort of benefits."
"We'll start looking into that tomorrow. The hardest thing for me, dear Gita, is the public humiliation of the scandal he was involved in. People blame me just by association. People stare, make snide remarks when I pass by, whisper to one another."
"Oh Aunt Ula, this sounds worse by the day."
"I'm scared Gita, really scared."
"Aunt Ula, you have always taught me to trust God even when life is hardest and unknown. The first Bible verse you ever taught me was Proverbs 3:5-6." They recited it together.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.
"Oh Gita, my dear girl, what would I do without you. Thank you for reminding me that God can and should be trusted in all of this."
"We're here for each other and the Lord is with us both."
Gita snuggled on the couch with her morning cup of coffee and the box of photos Aunt Ula had given to her. What a relief it was not to have to be secretive anymore. She had bought a photo album and now began the task of putting photos in it. She did not get too far, being so riveted to photos of her mother. She was a beautiful woman. 'What does Mama look like now?' she wondered. She tensed as she found a photo of their family. Her father, Rufin, Mama, and baby Gita. They had sober faces. People in that day did not smile often in photos, but Gita got a strong sense of tension and unhappiness. Tears gathered in the corner of her eyes. She grieved for the childhood she really never had or wanted. She had few friends growing up because Borys had spread rumors about Mama and another man running away to America. She knew it was a lie, but she had no proof one way or another. Borys was a powerful man. Who would take her word over his? Her only true friend growing up was Sasha, a boy she'd met one day running away from her father. They played together often under the magic oak tree, walked in the woods and talked for hours. Two years her senior, he was her protector and encourager. And they both shared their red hair. She remembered the day she broke in his arms, and nearly inconsolable. But he did console her.
Eight-year-old Gita ran through the woods sobbing. She stumbled on a big root and fell, skinning her knees and dirtying her dress. One more thing for her father to hit and yell at her for. She got up quickly and commenced running again, as fast as she could. She was running out her rage and sorrow, running to nothingness if there was such a thing. She nearly ran past the oak tree, but Sasha stepped out, concern all over his face. He opened his arms and she ran to them. He led her under their magic tree where they sat while she cried on his shoulder until she was spent. They sat in the silence, her head still on his shoulder. No words were needed. After awhile Sasha moved and pointed to something.
Gita sat up straight and tried to follow his finger. There was a large, four-point buck drinking from the pond. He sensed their presence and popped his head up, alert. He stared at them regally, without any fear. His presence and power filled up the woods, the forest was his. He put his head down to drink some more then began his way back into the forest. At the forest's edge, he took off, bounding with power until he was out of sight.
"Sasha, you remind me of that buck."
"What do you mean?"
"You are strong. I feel safe with you. Promise you'll be here for me forever."
"Forever is a long time Gita."
"Sasha, when are you going to tell me where you live? About your family? Why are you so secretive?"
"Let's walk to the pond," he said.
They stood at the edge of the pond and skipped stones in silence. After several minutes Sasha finally spoke. "My family is not important, Gita, not to our friendship. Let's just enjoy being together."
Gita looked up at his face and there was pain in his eyes. Worry. Fear. It made her uncomfortable to see him vulnerable. "Can you tell me your last name, Sasha? Please, just a last name."
Again he was quiet for a long while. "It's getting to be dusk. I'll walk you to your house."
Gita could see Sasha didn't want to talk any more about his name, or family. Instead, he pointed out plants to her and told her their names. He stopped at some wildflowers and picked some for her. Finally, they came to the grassy hill behind her house.
"Thank you for walking me home, Sasha." She kissed his cheek and ran off.
"Goodbye, Gita, little pearl." Sasha Mazur walked home in dread.
© 2017 Lori Colbo