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“A Kapitany”, Chapter 18
The morning sun poured across the room where Vadas left the drapes open. Elizabeth awoke and fished around the bed for him. She wondered what time it was and rolled across the bed to the nightstand. It was already 9:20am. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head. A slight headache and a dry mouth were the remains of last night’s drinking. Calling out to Vadas, she got silence for her effort. Obviously he had left. Where he had gone she hadn’t a clue. She was too drunk last night to ask any questions about activities for today. Perhaps he left a note somewhere in the room. A shower would help. The thought of breakfast turned her stomach.
After dressing, Elizabeth went to the reception desk to see if there was a note for her, telling her where he was or what he was doing. Perhaps he expected her to meet him somewhere that morning.
“I am Elizabeth Kovacs from room 136. Is there a message for me?”
The young man behind the counter immediately answered.
“Mrs. Dohendy. Your husband said that you were to have a driver and car if you wanted to go out. May I order one for you now?”
Mrs. Dohendy. Elizabeth tried not to show her surprise. What a cock-sure man he was! He must have registered them as husband and wife, days before she turned up in Budapest. Days before he asked her to marry him. He was that sure of her answer? He had some nerve.
“No, thank you. I will walk. Is the National Hungarian Gallery close enough?”
“Oh, Mrs. Dohendy. It is, but it gets rather warm at midday and of course we are in a hilly region of Buda. Surely wouldn’t you rather have a car?”
“No, I would not. Just give me a map, if you would be so kind and I’ll find my way. And if you see Mr. Dohendy, please tell him I’ll be back sometime this afternoon.”
Elizabeth walked out, clutching her map. The young man at the desk gave general directions, but the names of streets were not at all familiar to her. She would make her own way and not be tied to Vadas’ agenda. She had enough of that over the past few months, enough to last a lifetime. She had been a fool not to put her foot down before, and Vadas had run all over her. Now that she knew his ‘intentions’ she felt a little more power. The beautiful bracelet signified those, but she didn’t completely believe him. There were too many unanswered questions right now.
Elizabeth had pulled on a light sweater, covering the bracelet. It was obviously an expensive piece of jewelry and of course, in any city you could get mugged. The removal of this bracelet could mean the removal of her hand. She had heard stories before of thieves who had sliced off the hands of old lady tourists in Egypt. This was Budapest, but still there was a risk. One never knew.
She sat down on a bench at the end of a park. Budapest seemed to be a combination of huge, Baroque stone buildings, denuded of greenery, and then parks thick with trees and flowers. She could see how it would be broiling at midday in the summer.
It took a while to make her way to the National Gallery, now in the old Buda Palace. An imposing Baroque stone building with sculpture flanking the entrance and the huge Magyar fountain at the front. According to the brochure she got upon entering, the building had been bombed in 1944 and again in 1945. It looked completely restored to her. She made her way to the galleries and then was faced with making a choice: genre paintings, history of Hungary paintings, warriors and saints, kings and queens, landscapes, portraits and self-portraits, the list seemed to be endless and certainly overwhelming. She settled on landscapes.
The vast majority of these were dark, heavy paintings of castles with rather bleak landscapes. Most of them were from the Victorian period, though she didn’t think the Hungarians called this period “Victorian”. She had trained herself in the lighter English landscape style, with a mixture of watercolors and oils, and these before her were very formal, dark and heavy paintings. Impressive, but obviously the influence of Impressionism hadn’t made the journey from France to Hungary. What she was seeing would be tagged as “Romanticism” and excepting a few canvases, these were all to a type. In these few exceptions, the brush strokes were more of an impasto application, and that stood forth from the blended strokes of the other paintings. In some, the colors were lightened, and this was more to the modern style, an advance certainly unusual to the regular tints and tones, so dark and moody were these other paintings.
The modeling of the skies, the clouds and the far backgrounds reminded her of Constable and Gainsborough. She didn’t recognize any of the Hungarian painters except Antal Ligati, and his was one of the more modern ones. Lighter in tone, somewhere he found a huge palm tree to paint posed in front of a hill.
After a few hours Elizabeth decided her eyes could not take any more, and then again, she was tired. She also was hungry and stopped in the gallery restaurant for something fast, and the food was bad. So she bought a fruit juice and started on the way back to the Gellert.
She stopped at the reception desk, but there was no message from Vadas. Entering their suite, she stripped to her bra and panties and slipped into bed. She was tired. Walking the hills of Buda had been quite an exercise. Within a few minutes she was asleep.
Elizabeth awoke to the smell of Vadas’ cigarette. Turning over, she saw him stretched out in a chair. Usually Vadas was a natty dresser, but today he was wearing jeans, boots and a sweatshirt. She noticed his boots were a bit muddy.
“So, you’re finally awake. Did you have a good walk?”
Elizabeth yawned, and stretched. “I went to the National Gallery. The exhibit I saw was of landscapes. Big, dark landscapes. Apparently the Hungarians have avoided meeting the Impressionists.”
“Why didn’t you take a car?”
“Vadas, I’ve not had much exercise since landing in Hungary. I need it if I am not to get fatter. All this rich food you Hungarians eat! Plus, the walking up and down hills did me good. I needed the air.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed your day. Have you had enough sleep? You were pretty drunk last night. Did you awake with a headache?” Vadas smirked at her.
“And where were you, Vadas? What did you do all day? I see mud on your boots so you couldn’t have been inside.”
“No, Elizabeth, I have been outside with friends, tromping around. This mud is honest mud.”
Elizabeth laughed. “So tell me, what is the difference between honest and dishonest mud?”
Vadas smiled and continued to puff on his cigarette.
“So, who are your friends?”
“Some men of my acquaintance, Elizabeth. Some men who may come in handy.”
“What is going on, Vadas? Why would you need men?”
“Ah, Elizabeth, you ask too many questions. But since you ask and it is something I can answer, I will tell you a little bit.”
Vadas smoked, looking up at the ceiling. He was trying to decide how much to tell her about his activities of the day. He didn’t want to alarm her, but perhaps she should be. Perhaps she should feel a bit uncomfortable. That would put her in her place, as she seemed to wiggle out of it lately.
“It is complicated with Miklos, Elizabeth. And we both have much on each other. Of course, this has been built up over the years, but he isn’t going to take my leaving the business easily. Miklos is a possessive man, and he doesn’t like changes he doesn’t control. And this one he won’t. Nor will he like it.”
Vadas puffed away at his cigarette, sending up a haze towards the ceiling.
“Miklos is also a violent man, or pushed to it, he will be. And I have to consider what I have that he wants and therefore what he values. I will have to buy my way out of his control. Perhaps that is the only way he will settle. Remember, Elizabeth, everything with Miklos is about power and control. It is the same between Miklos and me.”
“So, what would he want, Vadas? Would he want your vineyards, you money, what?”
Vadas looked at her without expression, but there was something in his face Elizabeth could not read.
“Miklos would want to destroy me. Plain and simple.”
“Why, Vadas, what are you saying? Isn’t money or something of value, say this bracelet, enough to get rid of Miklos?”
“I know where the bodies are buried, Elizabeth, to use a phrase. You see all of us, Alexandra, her brother, Soffia, me, many others, we are pawns in Miklos’ games and we all have benefited from him. Until we wake up and realize our lives have been short changed by our activities or we want out. Then the fun begins. And it will be a dangerous fun.”
Vadas puffed hard on his cigarette.
“When Miklos sees that bracelet on your wrist he will know your status has changed. And he will know I am serious enough to force his hand. It is time, Elizabeth.”
“Then take off this bracelet, Vadas, and he will know nothing.”
“No, Elizabeth, I have given it to you as a promise and I have no desire to change that, even to throw Miklos off the track.”
Elizabeth had thought of the bracelet all afternoon. Where had it come from? Was she wearing stolen goods?
“Vadas, I have to ask. Where did this beautiful bracelet come from?”
Vadas exhaled straight at her. This was a trick he had when he wanted to annoy her, and it always worked.
“Ah, so you suppose that it is a piece of stolen jewelry? Let me tell you the truth. I gave it to Marta when we married. It came from my grandmother. There is also, somewhere, probably in a vault either here in Budapest or in Eger, a pair of earrings and a necklace. I haven’t checked for over 20 years. In fact, I forgot about it. Tonight Elizabeth, when those bitches Alexandra and Soffia see that piece on your arm, they will howl like jackals.”
Vadas laughed, but it was bitter.
Elizabeth felt embarrassed. She didn’t know what to say.
“I am sorry if my question insulted you. This is not the way I want things to go between us. But you have to know, after what you told me about your business with Miklos, well, it would raise some questions.”
Vadas didn’t answer and continued to smoke and look at the ceiling. Elizabeth thought perhaps he was put off by her question.
Vadas was thinking. This woman is no fool. If she was an opportunist, she wouldn’t question where the bracelet came from. She would just take it.
“Vadas, you still haven’t answered my first question. Who are these men and why do you need them?”
Vadas snubbed out his cigarette and considered his answer. Perhaps he should be honest with her.
“I don’t know how Miklos will take what I have to say to him tonight. But one thing I do know. Miklos will not be happy and he is unpredictable, Elizabeth. Today I have been with my men out in the woods. We have been discussing the possibilities of Miklos’ reaction. What I was doing was seeking advice from friends. Men stuff, Elizabeth.”
What Vadas didn’t say was he and the others, men he trusted and knew for decades, were an hour north of Budapest, where Miklos had his country home. Vadas had been there many times over the years, but this time was different. These handful of men would be watching the house and would react to any alarm. Vadas had his men, but Miklos certainly would have his. And both of them knew it.
Vadas looked at Elizabeth stretched out under the sheet. He didn’t tell her Miklos would probably want not only the bracelet on Elizabeth’s arm, but Elizabeth. She was a desirable little thing, and anything he had, Miklos was sure to want. This had been a game between them for four decades. He knew Miklos had wanted Marta, but her dying so early in their marriage had stopped him. He also knew of Miklos’ sexual proclivities and he didn’t want Elizabeth to suffer those. Miklos was a sexual sadist and that was something Elizabeth would not survive. At least not mentally. And perhaps not physically.
Vadas rose and came to the bed. Elizabeth watched him with half closed eyes. Sitting on the side of the bed he removed his boots. He lay down and took her in his arms. She turned to him and he placed his chin on the top of her head, thinking. Elizabeth rubbed her hand across his crotch and threw her leg over his hip. Vadas tightened his arms around her and felt her relax. Within a few minutes she was asleep, gently snoring.
Vadas didn’t sleep. He had a long night ahead, and possibly a dangerous one. Perhaps the threat was more to Elizabeth, but right now, he needed to consider all angles. Miklos could not be taken for granted. He played life like a chess game, and he usually won.