An Immigrant - Roxana Nastase - ebook
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Victor is on the trail of soulless killers and ends up at the tip of a blade. Will he survive with his hide in one piece?‘An Immigrant’ is a crime novel weaved with suspense, twists and turns, romance and dry humor now and then. It will intrigue and hook you. A touch of paranormal will sprinkle the story and raise the interest a notch.Don’t miss your chance to delve into a convoluted intrigue and meet unique characters. Oh, and don’t forget – you will get a bonus at the end of the novel – the recipe for one of the most delicious Romanian cakes. It melts in your mouth, with an explosion of flavors. Disclaimer: the taste matches the calories and it is addictive.

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Table of contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 – CARVED LIKE A THANKSGIVING TURKEY

CHAPTER 2 – FATE LOVES A GOOD JOKE

CHAPTER 3 – SOMETIMES GOD SMILES UPON YOU

CHAPTER 4 – THE RECKONNING

CHAPTER 5 – AXEL IS CURIOUS

CHAPTER 6 – ONE PLAYER IS KICKED OUT OF THE GAME

CHAPTER 7 – SURPRISES ABOUND

CHAPTER 8 – NITTY - GRITTY POLICE WORK

CHAPTER 9 – EVERY BULLET HAS ITS BILLET

CHAPTER 10 – AN AWKWARD MORNING

CHAPTER 11 – AT A SNAIL’S PACE

CHAPTER 12 – BATTLE OF WILLS ON ALL FRONTS

CHAPTER 13 – DISCONTENT AT A CRIME SCENE

CHAPTER 14 – THEORY AND REALITY

CHAPTER 15 – TRUTHS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS

CHAPTER 16 – ONE ATTEMPTED MURDER AND ONE KILL

CHAPTER 17 – AWE AND TRUCE

CHAPTER 18 - WHEN ONE VALUES THEIR SKIN

CHAPTER 19 – GRAVE THOUGHTS FOR A CRUISE

CHAPTER 20 – WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS

NOTE REGARDING TORONTO MUSIC GARDEN

BONUS - GRETA GARBO CAKE RECIPE

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY

BOOKS BY ROXANA NASTASE

AN IMMIGRANT

CRIME NOVEL

ROXANA NASTASE

SCARLET LEAF

TORONTO, ONTARIO

2018

© 2018 by ROXANA NASTASE

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers, with the exception of a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.

All characters in this book are fictive, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Scarlet Leaf Publishing House has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended.

ISBN: 978-1-988397-54-2

PUBLISHED BY SCARLET LEAF

To my mother

She always enjoys my writing

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 – CARVED LIKE A THANKSGIVING TURKEY 9

CHAPTER 2 – FATE LOVES A GOOD JOKE 14

CHAPTER 3 – SOMETIMES GOD SMILES UPON YOU 25

CHAPTER 4 – THE RECKONNING 32

CHAPTER 5 – AXEL IS CURIOUS 43

CHAPTER 6 – ONE PLAYER IS KICKED OUT OF THE GAME 49

CHAPTER 7 – SURPRISES ABOUND 55

CHAPTER 8 – NITTY - GRITTY POLICE WORK 60

CHAPTER 9 – EVERY BULLET HAS ITS BILLET 67

CHAPTER 10 – AN AWKWARD MORNING 82

CHAPTER 11 – AT A SNAIL’S PACE 96

CHAPTER 12 – BATTLE OF WILLS ON ALL FRONTS 113

CHAPTER 13 – DISCONTENT AT A CRIME SCENE 122

CHAPTER 14 – THEORY AND REALITY 130

CHAPTER 15 – TRUTHS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS 145

CHAPTER 16 – ONE ATTEMPTED MURDER AND ONE KILL 156

CHAPTER 17 – AWE AND TRUCE 169

CHAPTER 18 - WHEN ONE VALUES THEIR SKIN 177

CHAPTER 19 – GRAVE THOUGHTS FOR A CRUISE 190

CHAPTER 20 – WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS 196

NOTE REGARDING TORONTO MUSIC GARDEN 211

BONUS - GRETA GARBO CAKE RECIPE 214

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY 217

BOOKS BY ROXANA NASTASE 218

CHAPTER 1 – CARVED LIKE A THANKSGIVING TURKEY

‘ Bad move, Victor boy,’ Victor thought, glancing around him with his blue, sharp eyes, searching the surrounding shadows.

Unease whirled inside his chest, and he rubbed his fingers unconsciously. He was itching for a cigarette and in a bad way. He had decided to quit, but his resolve was challenged once more. His job didn’t make quitting easy.

He had a bad feeling. It had been bothering him since he accepted the rendezvous with the so-called informant in the Music Garden. His eyes swept the grove again.

‘ Not a smart spot for a clandestine meeting,’ he mused, looking around with apprehension. ‘Especially not so close to midnight and at the Sarabande,’ Victor shook his head, displeased with his lack of foresight. ‘I should have insisted to meet at the Prelude or Minuets,’ he repeated for the tenth time that day.

The Sarabande, majestic in daylight, looked gloomy at night. The anemic moonlight, barely penetrating the thick and heavy clouds, didn’t help at all.

The weather man had announced rain, but Victor had stopped counting on his accuracy for a long time. The weather channel had been announcing thunderstorms for the last three days.

Victor still had to see a rain drop or hear the thunder. Following one of the hottest summers on record, that late September was scorching, and he would have welcomed a little rain.

Victor leaned on the closest tree and patted his pocket, where he had stashed a recorder. He knew his source wouldn’t have liked to know he intended to record his accounting, but Victor couldn’t care less. He paid for that information, and if he paid, he understood to take full advantage and use it as he found fit.

Restless, he kept his eyes and ears open. He knew his impatience to solve the case had made him overlook some elementary cautious measures. Now, he had to compensate, if he wanted to keep his hide intact.

‘ One mistake, one step closer to the grave. Things won’t always go your way, Victor boy,’ he thought. ‘I’m far too old for taking such stupid risks. Heck, I’m far too old for this crap,’ he chided himself, just one second before he heard a crack somewhere on the right.

He had just turned his head toward the noise when a strong arm shoved a knife into his back. Victor groaned and fell to the ground like a log. A strapping man, over six feet tall, and around 220 pounds, his fall felt like a small earthquake.

‘ Now, I’m done,’ he thought, his brain on fire, pain churning in his belly and chest. ‘Carved, just like a Thanksgiving turkey,’ he observed with bitterness.

His fingers knotted in the leaves on the ground. He felt grateful when the sound of receding steps reached his ears. At least no one was pressed to finish him off on the spot. Then, he passed out.

***

Leah burrowed more into Axel, as if she wanted to steal his heat, although it was warm enough, even with the balcony door open. His arms surrounded her, and his head rested on top of hers. Axel’s lips brushed absently over her hair now and then.

She felt comfortable, cherished and, quite strangely, protected. ‘What the heck! I don’t need protection, do I?’she wondered, a slight feminist streak showing its head.

Leah had lost count of the evenings and nights she had spent with Axel. Days had turned into weeks and weeks into months. Well, about two or three months, give or take a week or two.

The movie on TV didn’t hold Leah’s interest, but Axel’s scent and heat did. She closed her eyes, breathed him in, just content to be in his arms.

Axel’s thoughts didn’t overwhelm her mind. Now, she found that restful. In the beginning, that bothered her, but not for long.

It was quite a change of pace not to pick on random thoughts from someone she dated. More often than not, those thoughts had had the gift to sour her mood.

With Axel, the unknown exhilarated her. She had to guess what he wanted. She didn’t know what he thought when he looked at her. That kept her on her toes, and she became more attuned to him.

Despite the action on the TV screen and the explosions blazing through the speakers, Leah fell asleep in Axel’s arms, her head on his chest. Her fingers burrowed beneath his shirt, as if she wanted to get closer, and Axel grinned, leaning back to see her face.

One by one, Axel had broken down all Leah’s defense walls. It hadn’t been easy. Not for the first time, he wondered if he shouldn’t thank that wacko woman who had stabbed him. Leah had cared for him afterward, and that counted for something.

Axel leaned his chin on the top of Leah’s head once more, and returned his eyes to the movie. Leah amused him. She had chosen a very bloody and noisy film, and yet, she had fallen asleep.

Her even breathing relaxed him and Axel stroked her arm and shoulder with tender touches. His mind wandered away, lulled by the lack of tension.

Suddenly, he gasped and his arms tightened around Leah’s body. She woke up wincing.

“ What’s wrong, Axel?” she asked when her eyes met his fixed gaze.

Axel appeared to stare into space.

“ What’s wrong?” she asked again, and this time, she also shook him for good measure.

Axel blinked and glanced at her. He brushed his fingers on the side of her face.

“ We have to go now, Leah,” he said with sadness.

“ Go where?” she asked, her eyes showing her confusion. “What happened?”

“ Someone might die,” Axel replied very matter-of-factly.

Leah’s eyes widened and her lips parted in surprise.

“ Now?” she asked in a loud whisper.

Axel just nodded.

CHAPTER 2 – FATE LOVES A GOOD JOKE

The weather man hadn’t been wrong this time. The sky lit with lightning and the downpour belted Victor’s face, half buried in the leaves scattered on the grove’s floor.

With a groan, Victor stirred under the cold rain, and opened his eyes with effort. Aches assaulted him from everywhere. Strange enough, his back felt numb.

‘ How accurate. I’ll die under the rain,’ he groused with cynicism, his sight blurry. ‘Full circle, huh?’

Victor remembered his mother’s stories about his birth. He had laid eyes on the world in a small village in Transylvania in late September.

‘ Yep, five more days and I’d have celebrated my birthday,’ he scoffed.

It had rained heavily the night he was born. His mother almost hadn’t made it to the new communal hospital. At that time, hospitals were set up in cities, metropolis and counties. The small communal hospital was just a pilot project, and not one very well thought.

The way she said it, Victor hadn’t seemed happy with the surroundings. With intrinsic determination — the same determination that would see him through a lot in his lifetime, the baby had bellowed his discontent.

His wailing had travelled beyond the improvised maternity ward and made the two other nurses on duty wince. He had good lungs.

Little did he know at the time that his name would go down in the history book of the small cluster of villages. He became a celebrity on his own — the first baby born in the new hospital, built at the foot of the mountain.

‘ Is this the crap, people think about when they conk out?’ Victor wondered, flexing his fingers, just to make sure he was still alive.

Then, Victor shook his head. It wasn’t like him just to give up. He was a man of action.

He tried to move and fire blazed through his entire body. He tightened his teeth, and a long hiss escaped through his lips.

‘ I need a moment only,’ he surmised, when the pain subsided. ‘Then, I will surely move,’ he groused with determination.

If he wasn’t anything else, Victor was a determined man. When he made a decision, he followed through to the bitter end. He decided he would live, so he would.

He closed his eyes and fisted his hands. He would take a moment to rest and try again later. Meanwhile, he had time to ponder on his life.

He hadn’t had the time for that for the last twenty-two years. What, with the university, and then, immigration... A lifetime…

He was due a serious thinking. It wasn’t as if he could move and do something else right then.

Victor’s life had followed a predictable path for the first eighteen years. Victor wasn’t very studious, but he had street smarts, and a good memory to go with that.

He would talk his way out of anything. If he had to lie, he didn’t shy away, but lied with such a serene face and conviction that people believed everything he said.

In class, teachers avoided asking him questions. They did ask him questions at first, but they learned their lesson.

He had a special gift — he talked fast and in circles. He would confuse everyone, including the teachers. No one knew the correct answer afterward.

Not few teachers found themselves looking into text books after discussing a topic with him. They doubted their own knowledge.

Anyway, it wasn’t like they could make him repeat the year. The policy was clear — no child left behind.

So, Victor graduated year after year and most of the time, with good marks. Not because he worked hard. Yet, if he came to class, he soaked up information like a sponge. That helped him to get admitted into high-school, as well.

During the winter of his thirteenth year, things changed, at least at the surface. The change came with the boom of the revolution. New possibilities arose.

The shift between socialism and capitalism began, and Victor sensed that the latter could make or burry a man. He had seen enough movies on that fantastic invention that populated his last two years — the video player. He had a clear idea about what was going on in the world.

He had his eyes and heart on possible businesses, but he had forgotten one thing — he also had a very strong-minded mother. He had taken after her, above all.

As most people living in the country and farming the land, Maria Dobrota dreamed of having her son graduate from university. She desired a diploma for him.

In the words of her fellows, she wanted him to become a gentleman. Not because she was ashamed of her work, but because it was hard and back-breaking work and she wanted better for her only son.

She refused to listen to any of his teachers’ words, who advised her to send him to a trade school because high-school was expensive. The boy would have had to go and live in the county capital, and that meant a lot of money for residence and meals.

She fought them when her Victor finished grade school and went to junior high-school, and she fought them when he passed his admission exams for superior high-school.

She was more than ready to fight them again now, and she decided to pay for private tutoring, just to have her son become an engineer. The sound of the word made her giddy with pride.

‘ Oh, mother, mother,’ Victor thought with tenderness. She had always seen the best in him and nudged him to be someone.

Victor had tried to change her mind. He explained to her that times had changed and an engineer wouldn’t have had the same prestige as a businessman, but his mother was unmovable.

Maria Dobrota knew nothing of that businessman stuff. What she knew was that her cousin’s son was an engineer and everyone respected him, even though they didn’t know what exactly he was doing.

She wanted her son to enjoy the same respect. She daydreamed about talking to people about her son, the engineer, with pride.

Victor didn’t stand a chance. He was saddled with a university professor who tutored him in exchange for a good chunk of his parents’ income and their farming goods.

Victor’s father would grumble now and then, but, in their household, his mother was reigning with an iron fist and that was that. The man had hung his pants the day he married her, although he towered a good foot over his wife.

Victor cursed the lessons, and the professor gritted his teeth. Yet, he did his best to make Victor learn the principles of calculus, algebra and geometry. Luckily, Victor liked mathematics.

Two months into the grueling schedule, Victor was introduced to yet another university professor who accepted to tutor him in Physics, one of the subjects Victor abhorred the most. Give him a subject in history or literature, he knew everything about.

In his defense, that poor man didn’t know what he was getting into. He had miscalculated. He didn’t think of what came with the advantage of having a student from the country, who would provide him with things he couldn’t find at a reasonable price in town.

He hadn’t foreseen that he would have to cover a good chunk of the subject. His pupil had spent years playing hooky and driving his Physics teachers up the wall. Victor had probably spent a total of a few minutes with the Physics text books.

Ironic enough, Victor passed the entrance examination in the Polytechnic University and became a student. He found his name somewhere at the middle of the admission list, but it was there.

Everybody, but his mother, shook their heads when they heard the news. Not even Victor had thought it was possible for him to master Geometry and Physics enough to be admitted in the university.

His tutors added his performance to their portfolio. If they succeeded in teaching him so he got admitted, then they could teach anyone.

‘ Of course, they intended to bank on that,’ Victor thought. ‘I’d have done the same,’ he reckoned.

He tried to shrug, but the fire flashed back through his body, awakening nerve endings he would have preferred to remain asleep. He gritted his teeth once more.

To forget about the pain, Victor returned to the past. It wasn’t like he could stand and go anywhere. Or crawl, for that matter. He was stuck there in the grove, anyways.

Revolution aside, hard times were bound to come. Everything changed, seemingly overnight. Values turned upside down and politics showed its ugly face. A guy had even said on TV that it would take twenty-five years for the things to get better. Not that Victor believed in such ad-hoc prophecies. It always depended on people.

The prices showed the tendency of going up and up. They had forgotten their way back down. Every morning would come with a few more cents added to the price for bread or milk. Many people lost sleep over that.

‘ Not my mother,’ he smiled, recalling that year.

His mother was in the seventh heaven and couldn’t care less about prices. She would strut full of pride on the main street and accost people at the drop of a hat. She was full of stories about her son’s success.

Soon enough, sick and tired of hearing about Victor’s genius, people learned to avoid her. Whenever they ran into her, they would sprint to the corner of the street or remembered about visits they had to make right that moment.

However, some weren’t fast enough and had to hear again and again about Victor’s great achievement. They would nod and smile, and their mind would brush up their curse repertoire.

Breathing in the smell of wet leaves, Victor remembered he had had no care in the world at that time. He spent a beautiful summer before his first year in university.

His mother decreed that the boy had worked hard enough. He deserved the best vacation ever before he went to university and prepared for a career that would last a lifetime. It was his last summer when he could enjoy his days without a worry in the world.

She was also all over the moon that the revolution had put an end to the draft. Victor wouldn’t have to sacrifice a year of his life to the army.

Despite the pain, Victor’s lips arched into a smile. He still remembered that summer.

Her mother efforts had led to a wonderful and expensive vacation at the seaside for an entire month. That year, it was the first time he had seen the sea and it fascinated him. Not enough to forget about his mountains, but enough to make him dream about it once in a while.

At the time, Victor’s father tried to make his wife understand that it was too much for them. They didn’t make much money and they had already spent most of their savings on Victor’s tutoring.

In the fall, they would have to pay for the boy’s residence and food and books… There were lots of things to take care of.

Victor wouldn’t have qualified for a social scholarship, and with his academic track, no one would give him another type of scholarship. The boy had never chased good marks.

Now, nearing forty, Victor understood his father’s worries. Then, he had been happy to have his mother in his corner.

She turned a deaf ear to anything his father had to say. She knew her son needed relaxation and a suitable reward. She gave Victor enough money to last him for an entire month.

She was happy. Now, she considered herself an engineer’s mother, as if Victor had already had the five years of university and final exam in his pocket.

That vacation opened his horizons. For the first time, out from under his mother’s wing, Victor saw what life was really about. The years spent in residence during high-school hadn’t prepared him as much as that vacation.

Victor lost a quarter of his vacation money during the first night on the beach. He joined a group of older guys who introduced him to the beauty of a card game he had never played before — poker. He was hooked.

Two more nights of losses came along, but he gritted his teeth, and his street smarts and sharp mind helped him to soak every rule and every move. The fourth night brought him the jackpot and he never looked back.

He had learned a skill which would help him put food on the table and a roof over his head whenever life hammered him down.

Victor’s fingers brushed the leaves away. He put his head on his folded arms, a smile tucked in the corner of his mouth.

He remembered well his parents’ surprise when he had stopped asking them to send him money. When he also started sending money back home, they were baffled.

Victor recalled his father’s pride when he told him he had got a job. Little did the man know that Victor’s job was cleaning rich people’s pockets playing poker.

At least he had ensured he could pay for the five years of residence, for his meals and his books. He loved to read and with his gains, he could buy all the books he had always dreamed about.

Victor sighed, staring into the night. Contentment glimmered in his eyes. At least he had made the old man happy once in his lifetime.

The echo of hasty steps coming from the direction of the Gigue reached his ears. With trepidation, Victor lifted his head and stared unblinkingly into the night.

Anxiety and fear nudged at him and he pushed hard with his palms into the ground to move. Pain instantly radiated everywhere in his back, but resolute, gritting his teeth, he tried to crawl under a tree. It felt as if he had moved through molasses. Each inch he covered brought more sweat and aches.

‘ At least I’m alive,’ Victor thought. ‘But not for long, if I don’t move out of this darn trail,’ he groused and pushed harder, gritting his teeth to contain his grunts.

“ He fell somewhere here,” a strong male voice shredded the silence.

“ Are you sure? I can’t see anyone,” a throaty female voice replied with evident doubt.

Victor stopped any movement and tried to become one with the ground. He knew he was in the shadow and they couldn’t see him.

“ I can hear him,” the woman said with enthusiasm, and Victor grimaced.

‘ How the heck can you hear me?’ he wondered and his eyes widened. His fingers dug into the floor of the grove, as if he wanted to anchor himself.

‘ I’m not saying jack,’ he thought. ‘I’m not so out of my mind that I’m talking without being aware of that, aren’t I?’

“ Yeah, I hear him too,” the man’s voice replied. “He’s kept his humor so he mustn’t be in a very bad shape,” he noticed drily.

Victor’s eyebrows shot up his forehead. ‘Who the heck are these people? More important, what the heck do they want with me?’

“ I don’t hear anyone around,” the woman said. “Take out your flashlight,” she ordered.

‘ She’s like a drill sergeant,’ Victor mused, listening intently to every sound they made.

CHAPTER 3 – SOMETIMES GOD SMILES UPON YOU

Victor gave up any pretense when the light swept over him. He didn’t know those people but there were only two options —either they came to save him or finish him. There wasn’t any way around that.

He lifted his head, and gnashing his teeth, he turned to the light. The flashlight blinded him, and this time, he couldn’t hold a groan.

“ He’s there,” the man said, and rushed to kneel next to Victor. “Hey, buddy, are you still with us?” he asked, and Victor sensed the smile in his voice.

Victor grunted and nodded once. He didn’t know whether he still had his voice. His eyes searched the man’s face. Satisfied he had never seen him before, he laid his head on his folded arms again, and closed his eyes.

“ Is he still alive?” the woman’s voice asked.

“ Yes, he is. What should we do now?” the man inquired, rousing Victor’s curiosity.

‘ Why would he ask for her advice?’ he thought, and the next moment, the man’s laughter filled the air.

“ Because she’s the boss now,” the man replied with good humor.

His words shocked Victor, and he just froze, his eyes zeroed in on Axel. He couldn’t even blink.

“ Now look what you’ve done, Axel,” the woman chided her companion. “You scared him.”

“ He’ll survive,” Axel answered matter-of-factly, and Victor had the distinct impression that the man shrugged with nonchalance.

“ Who are you people?” Victor croaked, unable to keep his mouth shut one second more.

He felt as if he had fallen in a strange dimension. This time, he was sure he hadn’t voiced his question.

The woman’s cold hand brushed his hair off his forehead, soothing his increasing fever.

“ I’m Leah MacKay, a detective, and this is my boyfriend, Axel Arnett,” she replied in a kind voice. “I’m going to call an ambulance for you,” she continued.

She tried to stand up but the man’s fingers closed over her wrist with surprising strength.

“ No police,” he groused.

He bit his lips. The sudden move had sparked arrows of pain along his spine and lower body.

Arnett burst into a hearty laughter. The sound gritted on Victor’s nerves. If he had had the strength, he would have knocked the man down.

“ Sorry, pal, the police are already here,” Axel explained with cheer, making Victor lock his teeth again.

Leah pried his fingers off her wrist gently and took her cell phone out of her pocket. She dialed 911 and explained to the operator who she was and that she needed an ambulance and her team at the Sarabande.

Defeated, Victor sighed and laid his head on his arms again. He’d seen a commercial once with a small hedgehog coming out of a hole just to be hammered down once more. Now, he was the hedgehog. He had lost control of his life. ‘Eh, it’s not for the first time,’ he mused.

Axel Arnett leaned over him and whispered, “Everything will be well, don’t worry. She’s the best.”

“ That’s what I’m afraid of,” Victor grumbled, prompting Axel to chuckle.

Axel liked the man and felt satisfaction that they got to him in time. Hopefully, he would survive.

Axel felt the strength in him and counted on his built. He wasn’t a man that could be easily taken down.

***

In less than fifteen minutes, the place was crawling with people. Apparently, the detective, Leah MacKay, carried some clout.

Two paramedics kept prodding at him and Victor felt like clubbing them over the head, and repeatedly. He was already battered. They needn’t try so hard.

They didn’t remove the knife, which was still stuck in his back, and he thanked God for small favors.