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Authors: Tionne Rogers

Into the Lion's Den

BOOK: Into the Lion's Den
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Into the Lion's Den

by

Tionne Rogers

COPYRIGHT © 2011 by Inés A. Toledo

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic, without written permission of both publisher and author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles or reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cover Image: Lions' study by Albrecht Dürer.

ISBN: 978-1-4467-3485-8

To Stacey Jo,

who made the magic flow through its proper course.

 

To Higashi,

who encouraged me to work with her good advise.

To my family and their incredible patience.

Chapter 1

September 25th, 2001

Buenos Aires

“You owe me big time, Vero. Big time.” The light brown, almost blond boy sighed when he saw the big bakery truck parked at the door, the driver already upset that he was coming in time and not ten minutes earlier as the man would have preferred. “Hi, Mr. Fernández. I'll get it open in two minutes.”

“About time, blondie. Hurry up. I'm freezing out here!” the delivery man scoffed through his chewing gum.

“Just a second. I'll get the alarm off,” Guntram sighed as he unlocked the employee’s entrance and quickly typed the security code. “Ready.”

“Can you give me a hand, boy? My back is giving me troubles today.”

“Yes, no problem.”

“Great. Grab those trays with the croissants and then the bags with the bread. I'll take care of the cakes,” the man jovially said, glad that Guntram had agreed to do most of his work.

“Don't run away because I have to check the things. Martin counts up to the last piece of bread and charges me if something is missing.”

“Yeah, he's quite an asshole. Believes he's better than the rest of us because he's the super clever manager.

Hope they kick him out or at least make him eat his University books.”

“Hey, I go there too. I want to be one of those assholes in the banks,” Guntram joked and picked up a large bag filled with crispy baguettes.

“No way! You couldn't fire your mother like those assholes would.”

“That's because I have no mother.”

“Shit! Sorry kid. I didn't mean it.”

“That's OK. Don't sweat on it. It's been years ago,” Guntram replied softly but sadly smiling. “Nothing left over? I could have breakfast.”

“Some donuts from yesterday. Still tasty and almost fresh. If I would have known it was you today, I would have brought something good along.”

“Last minute change of plans,” Guntram shrugged at the delivery man. “Wait a few minutes and I can get you a coffee to go.”

“No, thanks. I have more deliveries to do. Bye, kid.”

“Good-bye. See you in three days.”

Ten minutes to eight, Guntram had the tables ready, the coffee machine cleaned, as the night shift had not done it, the cakes artistically set in the refrigerator—but he preferred that Martina would slice them—the lights on and was waiting for his colleagues and the first customers. One of the waiters, Luis, rushed in, nearly tripping over the chairs, thinking that he was already late.

“Hey, it took me half an hour to put everything in place!” Guntram protested while he was setting the cups on the boards, still hot from the dishwasher.

“Shit!” he cursed, rubbing his pained knee. “Thought the Asshole was here.”

“No, Verónica called in sick last night.”

“And he went to play the gynaecologist?”

“Don't be vulgar. She's a lady.” Guntram growled deeply upset that his co-worker was so rude.

“Fuck Guntram. She's a little vixen like many others around here. Look at you. Two big tears and you're playing the slave for her. Bet she's still getting all the good tips from your side. Welcome to the real life, not the posh school you were going. You have to grow a thicker skin. No one says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ like you do. A lady?

Pleeeeaasee
!”

“I'm doing a favour for her. That's the minimum any man would do in any case.”

“Smarten up Guntram. From where I come from, you'd better have the dagger out before your neighbour does. You're no longer in St. George's with the mighty princes.”

“Still, it doesn't give you the right to be rude to her.”

“Grow up and get your feet on the ground because none of your fancy friends give a shit about you. You have no money or connections and the best you could get was this job.”

“I think you should better start to work because there is a customer at your table,” Guntram answered back while he set the porcelain cups on the board with more strength than necessary.

The rest of the morning was uneventful, with the exception of Verónica coming to work at 9:30 and telling Guntram that “he was a saint for filling in for her; a real sweet”. She started to get her apron neatly done under his baffled stare as the girl seemed to be in perfectly good health when last night she was coughing like Marguerite Gautier.

“If you would fuck her at least!” Luis whispered when he passed by Guntram's side while the lad was busy organizing his tray and earned a really dirty look from the fair boy.

Verónica saw immediately the strange foreigner that had come twice in a row, always sitting on Guntram's side and leaving very good tips; more than twenty dollars for a twenty-five dollar order. “Guti, can I have the guy over there?” She batted her long eyelashes to add more realism to her plea.

“Sure. I have my hands full with seven grannies having tea at table thirty-four,” Guntram shrugged as he continued to pile cups and small dishes filled with amoretti biscuits over his tray for the aforementioned table.

“Thanks, you're an angel!” She flashed him a smile and went to the foreigner's table swagging her hips.

“Thanks, you're an angel.” Luis imitated her false light voice. “Can you take the trash out for me too?”

“Shut up! I'm trying to work,” he mumbled, cursing softly as he had forgotten if the granny with the green pullover wanted orange or strawberry jam with her toasts.

“On top, she crapped you with the old ladies! That was
her
table. Those witches don't leave a single cent and drive you nuts. I bet they're retired schoolteachers.”

“Are you finished?”

“Yeah.”

“Wise ass,” Guntram mumbled again as this was turning out to be a really bad day and he had still six more hours to survive.

The old ladies and the two other businessmen he served didn't trouble him much and when he was back at the counter asking for the bill for table number twenty-eight, Verónica loudly set her tray over the wooden surface.

“Fucking asshole!” she half shouted, her head pointing toward the tall, dark haired man, sitting in his area and looking completely displeased in a rather unnerving way.

“ What's up?”

“After serving him for two days, that asshole decided to speak only fucking French! Already sent me back with my orders twice. I don't understand a fucking word he says. I gave him what he ordered yesterday.”

“Calm down Verónica. I'll ask him what he wants and then you can bring it to him and come back to his good graces.”

“He's a fucking gay, Guntram! That's gross!”

“Verónica, we are in Santa Fé Avenue in case you didn't notice. The largest concentration of them in all Buenos Aires. I have no problems with them as long as they're polite.”

“Good luck with the twerp. You'll need it!”

Guntram gulped as he hated to speak French. His deceased parents had been French and he could speak it as his nanny had been an old French lady who had taught him, but he had forgotten it over the years, mostly because of the sad memories the words brought back to his mind.

“Bonjour Monsieur, Qu'est-ce que vous désirez?”
He said very curtly as he was somewhat irked with the way the stranger's dark eyes were looking at him, making him feel vulnerable and exposed.


Cette sotte que vous avez par collègue m'a aporté du café au lait alors j'avais demandé de l'eau minéral, du
thé et deux croissants. Est-ce que vous écrivez le menu en français, mais vous ne parlez pas la langue?


Je vous demande pardon. Je vous apporte ce que vous voulez, Monsieur.
” Guntram replied trying to look professional but very upset with the man's impoliteness; the customer was always right, but it didn't give him the right to insult people.


D'accord, mais n'envoyez plus cette petite idiot!

“Bien sûr, Monsieur,” was Guntram's reply grinding his teeth.

The man didn't miss a single movement from Guntram as he placed the ordered croissants, the teapot, the cup and opened the mineral water to pour it in the glass. The boy felt as if he were making the test for the Michelin Guide as the dark eyes were inquisitive, never missing a wrong move or a mistake, making him very nervous.


Vous n'êtes pas Français? Vôtre accent pourrait être Français mais vous parlez comme un étudiant de
l'Alliance Française.
” The man stated.


Mon père était Francais mais j'habite en Argentine depuis longtemps. Je n'ai jamais été en France
.”

“I'm Russian but lived many years in Paris as my mother was an emigrant child from the Revolution. We moved back to Odessa when I turned ten and my father got a position in the Party's committee. If you feel more comfortable, I can speak English.”

“I hope everything is to your liking now, sir. I have to return to work,” Guntram said hurriedly, as the need to escape was very strong and his heart was beating quickly.

“You also speak English very accurately, unlike those waiters here who think that “coffee, tea, marmalade and red wine,” are enough as to write “bilingual” in their resumes.”

“I went to a private school. I have to work. I'm sorry,” the boy blurted out, clutching his tray to escape to the well known safety of the counter and tables filled with old ladies drinking tea.

“Juan, I take five minutes, is that OK?” He asked the cashier who only nodded, as Guntram rushed to the books area, to the Arts Section to take a deep breath and calm down. 'Was this guy hitting on me? It looks like. Nah.

I'm not gay and who would be so crazy as to hit on me? Yes Guntram, you're so desirable that you're still a virgin and telling yourself that you're waiting for that “special person in your life,” when in fact no girl ever offered you—or answered to—anything. This year for sure you take home the “Cretin of the Year” Award. Fefo is right. You need to get laid to chase the ghosts away.' Still nervous, Guntram mechanically took out of his pocket a small piece of paper and a pencil, and went over to one of the reading tables where he quickly began to draw the contours of a dog one of the ladies had in a basket. After finishing the sketch, he felt more relaxed and ready to face the remaining part of the day. He made a ball with the paper and threw it into the basket.

At the end of his shift, Guntram felt very tired and only wanted to come home to get rid of his waiter's uniform, eat something and study a little before going to school from six to eleven. He folded his apron and left it on his shelf before grabbing his old jacket and putting it on, and checking if his keys were there. He greeted the boys from the night shift and walked toward the main entrance, crossing the library area because he always liked to see the old theatre transformed into a vast, well illuminated and filled with thousands of volumes book store. The bar was the former scenario and the book store comprised the foyer and sitting areas. As usual, he briefly stood by the Arts section to look at the impressive book about Leonardo's drawings but the price, seventy-five dollars, was completely out of scale for him.

“One of my favourites, pity they don't auction anything from him,” the Russian said, making Guntram jump in surprise. “Do you like it?”

“Very much. It's so deceptively simple but complex at the same time. You can copy it but you will never master the inner beauty it has,” Guntram whispered, blushing as the man obviously thought that he was a boring dork or a nerd.

“Have you ever been to Italy?”

“Never, it's too far away.”

“It's only a fourteen hour flight, but what you see there remains with you for the rest of your life.”

“It's too far away for my budget, sir. Excuse me.”

“My name is Constantin Ivanovich Repin,” the man introduced himself, cutting Guntram's escape by extending his right hand.

“Guntram de Lisle.” The boy shook the hand shyly but the man kept it long clasped as he looked again into the boy's deep blue eyes, making him blush and look down.

“We do know each other but you don't remember me,” Repin said. “We were introduced at Martina de Alvear's birthday party a few weeks ago. You were with her son,” Guntram looked at him dumbfounded. “The Russian collector? The same who wanted to buy some of your pieces? Didn't your friend tell you about me?”

“There must be a mistake. I sell nothing. I'm no painter.”

BOOK: Into the Lion's Den
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