“What was that?” I mumbled, walking slowly to her.
She shook her head and dropped on her buttocks by the fridge, drained of strength. She’d put all of it in her confrontation with Damian.
“I’ve been trying to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. We’re in serious trouble, real trouble, Alice.”
I sat by her side, my brain buzzing with increasing alarm, now that Damian wasn’t close enough to keep my reason numb. Still, I refrained from pressuring Ruxandra and resorted to watching her intently. She looked stricken and took a while of eye darting and head scratching before she spoke, measuring her words.
“Getting Marius Iordache talking wasn’t easy, you know? He was suspicious even about the food, paranoid even. It was hard work persuading him it wasn’t poisoned. Now part of me wishes I hadn’t succeeded.” She shuddered.
“Is his story that ugly?”
“You don’t begin to imagine.”
“You know who People are, Rux?”
She inhaled deeply, trying to act calm, but she knotted her fingers nervously. “Ten years ago, Marius Iordache covered a hot story that should’ve made headlines – the Cezare Lupan case. However, while the ink was still fresh on paper, the R.I.S. classified the file, then shot down Marius’ story, stating it was all sensationalism. Marius lost all credibility.
“He archived the article at Adevarul and started his own investigation, determined to prove the story real and restore his name, but always ran into a dead end. The audience labeled him paranoid and obsessed with conspirators when he came out on TV – only cheesy trash shows – alleging the Romanian Intelligence Service had switched off all sources and covered the truth. He became the fool of the year, which is why he eventually dropped the matter, but never forgot it. Luckily, being the boss’ nephew, he didn’t lose his job, not to this day.
“Now here’s the first interesting turn: A month ago, Svetlana contacted him. They met in Bucharest, where she told him she knew all about his story, and that she’d even seen the Cezare Lupan file. That she could help him prove it all real. Marius, still obsessed with the matter, agreed to give her the archived original article from 1995 in exchange for a look at the file, which she was supposed to enable. She didn’t keep her word and went off radar. He got a hold of her in Constanta, told her he’d be a thorn in her rib until she fulfilled her promise.
“The attempted rape was the first subject we began to bond on up in the attic. Marius alleges that Svetlana, cornered by his presence in Constanta, led him on. She even invited him on this trip, facilitating access to Cezare Lupan himself. Marius was thrilled, and agreed to keep his identity secret ‘til the ‘right moment’ – if Cezare discovered who he was, he might’ve not come along or disappeared. Once here, Svetlana subtly came on to Marius and later staged the attempted rape to make him look the villain, so nobody would trust anything he might say about her. She punched him in his weak spot – credibility.”
Makes sense. Last night she’d come with him to the room and lay by his side without objection. I hadn’t even noticed them. Objection came late, very late, but that still didn’t get the rapist off the hook. The asshole should’ve stopped at her first no.
“Get to the point, what was the story?” I urged her.
“This is how Marius summarized the article: In 1994, fifteen-year-old Cezare Lupan got on a train. His purpose: illegal work abroad, since he was underage. He never came to destination though. The train broke down in a village close to the border – somewhere around Oradea, but still in the middle of nowhere – and he checked at an old inn, which offered free lodging for him and eleven other people who travelled from different places and for various reasons. What they had in common? They’d all transferred to that train in Bucharest and had almost no contact to their families. A few days after that a farmer found the place empty and messed up. There were stains of blood everywhere, and the windows broken. It looked as if a massacre had taken place, save for the main element – bodies.”
A chill went through me. “How did Iordache come upon all this?”
“Wait. One year later, Cezare burst into a hunting lodge in the Apuseni Mountains, surprising a ranger, who fortunately stopped to think before he reached for his rifle. The ranger managed to reason with him, contacted the authorities and gave him in. He was the only man Cezare ever talked to. The boy didn’t say a word to the cops, doctors or shrinks. The police got their info from the ranger, and Marius from his well established sources within the police force. But, as I said, the Romanian Intelligence Service closed the cops’ snouts overnight and he was left with nothing.”
“And what else? What had happened at the inn? Did Damian ever tell the ranger?”
“He told him that and more. Apparently there was an ambush on the inn the night Damian – or Cezare – spent there. None of the others were ever found, dead or alive. But the most shocking part was actually in the headline, which I saved until now, because it only makes sense in the context: Cezare Lupan escapes the hands of organ dealers.”
Enjoyed this? Find the previous episodes here: Prologue, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI, Episode VII, or buy the entire book here, to enjoy fully. And there’s more good news: The Executioner Part II is already in the fine-tuning phase, and it’s due to come out 3 – 5th of July, when we’ll have a grand promotion that will last three days – like all miracles and good things : ) Until then,
enjoy the next personality test that will reveal what your Death Quotes say about you tomorrow, and a new episode of The Marquis on Friday. Stay tuned!