The Statuette by Carlos Usín

SINOPSIS: (based on true events).

During World War II, many risked their lives to save the lives of those who were massacred by the Nazis. Unknown heroes. So cautious and discreet that sometimes not even their families knew about it until many years later. This is the true story of Fritz and a persecuted man, whom many years later, fate gave the opportunity to thank for his action. Título original: “La figurita” disponible en Amazon (Link).

Versión en inglés: “The Statuette”, disponible en formato ebook (Link).

CHAPTER 1.

Katja could never have imagined that day would come to be so important in her life. There was no way of knowing what would unfold later. Of course, it wasn’t until a few days after that she was able to fit together the pieces of a tragic, mysterious puzzle with a happy ending.

She walked through the streets on her way to work in the PR department of a five-star hotel in Madrid. Spring had been kind to the city that day, making it perfect for a pleasant, early-morning stroll, even if it was only to go to work. She arrived on time, as usual, and headed toward the small office she had on the floor beneath the main floor of the hotel. Rather than an office, the most appropriate way to describe it would be to call it a compartment as it wasn’t overly large. On her perfectly tidy desk a photograph of her only sister and parents stood out. She’d recently divorced her husband and they hadn’t had any children so there were no photos like that around. On a shelf of the unit behind her chair there was another photograph where Katja stood alone with the Great Pyramid of Giza in the background. She was a fervent traveller, having always loved learning about other cultures, people, landscapes, customs; the inevitable impact of the many places and countries where she’d spent her childhood as a result of her father’s job. That and an open mind, always willing to accept others with their differences and explicitly because of them. Perhaps it was thanks to the Dutch origins of her family and the myth that every Dutchman is a migrant; perhaps it was due to the Protestant-based education she received, despite not actively practising the religion; or perhaps it was down to a mix of all those things that Katja enjoyed meeting very different people from diverse countries in her job. She was fluent in several languages:

Spanish of course, English, French, German and Italian. However, her family spoke Dutch when they were together.

When she entered her tiny office, she bumped into her assistant, Marga. Katja hated pretentious posturing, fake protocol and ridiculously pompous hierarchies in general, so she considered Marga her assistant rather than a secretary.

  • —“Hi, Katja. How are you?”
  • —“Great. It’s a lovely day today, isn’t it?” Katja asked with the enthusiasm that defined her along with her ever-present smile.
  • —“Reception has sent us the list of VIPs checking out today,” Marga said.

They went over them together and Katja began noting the corresponding times in her diary, along with what they would need to do when bidding farewell to their VIP clients. Today was going to be an easy day, she thought. There were only a couple of guests leaving the hotel: one at midday, Mr Simon Goldman, and the other mid-afternoon. The first was a fairly prestigious American sculptor, although Katja hadn’t heard of him, despite being quite the fan of art. The other was a Frenchman, a fashion designer, who had been invited to Madrid by a fashion house in a bid to reach some commercial agreements. This was also important information that helped Katja in her work.

  • —“Alright, Marga. We’ve got the check-outs sorted, now let’s take a look at those checking in,” Katja said.

Her job covered a wide range of activities that made it stressful yet highly appealing. In some way or another, Katja was in contact with different areas of the hotel, from the sales department to entertainment and advertising, bookings and marketing. But she was highly skilled and professional in everything she did, and she really enjoyed her job. 

At the agreed time, she received a call from reception. Mr Simon Goldman was settling his bill. Katja hung up the telephone and climbed the few stairs that separated her from the hotel lobby where she would find her VIP guest. She was wearing a springtime dress the colour of green apples, which fell just above the knee. She accompanied it with a large black belt and matching shoes with a kitten heel. Katja’s height of 170 centimetres, along with her blonde hair and blue eyes – typical Dutch features – did the rest. Her style was professional but it was completely impossible not to surrender to her charm, smile and Nordic beauty.

  • —“Mr Goldman? It’s been a pleasure to have you with us,” she said to him in perfect English while extending her hand to him and proffering her business card. “I hope you enjoyed your stay and should you return to Madrid in the future, we’d be delighted to accommodate you once again.”

The man was pleasantly surprised by Katja’s beauty, naturally, but there was something else that troubled him. Katja watched Mr Goldman stare at her business card for a few seconds that seemed to last forever, while a shadow crept across his face; a long, dark shadow that seemed to emerge from the past.

  • —“Are you alright?” Katja asked when she started to become worried about her VIP’s lack of response.
  • —“Oh, yes. Sorry. Your card brought to mind memories from a long time ago. I do apologise. Could I ask you a personal question?”
  • —“Of course, Mr Goldman,” Katja said in a professional tone that would see anyone refrain from trying anything inappropriate.
  • —“Many years ago, I met someone with the same surname as you. His name was Luns, Fritz Luns. Do you know him by any chance?”

Katja was somewhat taken aback by the question but even more so when she realised that she’d never heard the name of this pleasant gentleman.

  • —“Yes, of course. He’s my father,” she replied.

The man turned his gaze back to the business card Katja had given him. This time, the hint of a smile traced his lips while reticent tears on the verge of blooming appeared in his eyes.

  • —“Please tell your father, «Thank you for everything and it all worked out. » I’ve never had the chance to thank him personally but fate has given me this opportunity.”

Mr Goldman’s words sounded intentionally cryptic.

  • —“I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t understand. Can I ask what this is about?” Katja asked.
  • —“I’d love to tell you the story, I really would, miss, but I need to leave for the airport and I don’t have time. Please forgive me, but I had no idea you were the daughter of Fritz Luns. Ask him to tell you the story. Did he never mention me?”
  • —“No, he never mentioned your name. But don’t worry. Next weekend I’ll ask my father to tell me all about this intriguing story I seem to have missed out on.”
  • —“It’s an interesting story, a very interesting one. You’ll see. It was already a pleasure to meet you, Miss Luns, but now it’s been a real privilege. It’s been lovely talking to you.”
  • —“You’re too kind, Mr Goldman. I’ll give my father your regards and I’ll ask him to tell me what happened. Have a safe trip. Goodbye.”
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