He walked in the splendor of the night. Warm breezes lifted his dark brown hair and ruffled through his white linen shirt. He’d taken the shirt tails out of his pants and loosened his tie. He lifted his eyes to the shadows of trees where his ears picked up the sounds of night creatures calling. His mind was filled with the scene he’d walked away from. Though the rough surf sprayed a salty mist to his face, his eyes remained dry. He’d done what he’d set out to do. He’d exposed her for what she was. So, why didn’t he feel the once expected satisfaction?
What was it she’d said that day? “Sebastian…I am spoken for...' He’d walked away before he heard the rest. It didn’t matter. He told himself over and over as he’d walked the last eight miles. She lived in her rich mansion. Though her eyes glowed hazel and her hair gleamed in the sun…she was just an illusion.
He’d posed as her body guard. For a brief time he’d thought the attraction mutual but in the night’s warm darkness Sebastian knew a sense of loss. Though his job was finished and he would be paid a handsome fee; he knew only confusion.
He sat on the sand and pulled up his knees to rest his arms on. The water slapped the shore as he gathered in his emotions into a tight bundle to store away. His mind drifted to the year before…
Sebastian Vierras was the illegitimate son of rich gentlemen who owned a detective agency. Upon his father’s death, it was learned that the company was going under. Though Sebastian had two older brothers and one older sister, none of them knew anything about the business. Sebastian had come forward with proof of his identity. Yet, he asked for none of the family wealth. He asked for the detective agency. The family, knowing it was in dire straights gave the business to him quickly. But, they had made a major miscalculation. Sebastian had all ready known the financial difficulties. He was an employee in the book keeping department. Many times he had gone to his father and consulted him to try to save the business. Yet, his father was more interested in spending the money. Before Sebastian could tell his father who he really was, his father had died of a heart attack behind his desk.
Sebastian had put himself through college and was well informed of the detective agency his Grand father had built. He’d studied it and poured over the books for years. When he finally landed the job in the accounts department, he found that there were several problems. His father was living with expensive tastes beyond what he was bringing in. He owned an airport with a fleet of planes. He shared ownership in a local sports arena. He owned forty homes in several countries around the world.
Sebastian quickly liquidated several expenses and got rid of all but one jet and one helicopter which he kept at a small hanger on one of his own properties. He knew how to manage people and treated them with respect. Though he was shrewd and never missed what was going on with his employees or constituents, he was trusted and reliable. The detective business quickly rebounded to greater heights than it was before. Sebastian kept his expenses as low as possible and let go of many of the frills his father had brought in.
While lounging near his pool one day, he had received a visitor. His long time friend Luke Messner had dropped by to explain a possible job.
“I’m sure you have heard the story of the abducted perfume heiress?” He asked.
A servant came by and put drinks on their umbrella table. Sebastian leaned over and took a sip of his iced water. “Sure, who hasn’t? She was four years old and someone snatched her from the gardens.”
“Well, it seems Mr. Tremain of Tremain Perfume Inc. thinks he’s found her. She is now 26 years old and quite beautiful. He wants your agency to check her out.”
Sebastian tipped his head back and whistled. “Whooeee! That is an amazing story. But, I’m sure many have surfaced over the years with a story of being the missing heiress. What makes this one so special?”
Luke watched the sun sparkle over the pool water. “Well, this one hasn’t exactly come forward. In fact she denies being the heiress. She was raised in a convent in Mexico. She now works in a small perfume store. That is where Mr. Tremain found her. He swears she is the exact duplicate of his late wife.”
Sebastian began to laugh. “Well, does she know how much money they have? I’m sure news gets to Mexico these days. Or, is she playing some angle?”
Luke had sparked his interest and Sebastian took the job himself. He left his desk in the good hands of a trusted employee and made several arrangements. In two weeks he was in Mexico City walking into a small perfume store.
The glass window held many beautiful bottles of expensive perfume. The many smells assailed him as he walked in. “How may I help you?” said a petite blonde in perfect Spanish. Sebastian was fluent in the language as he was of Spanish descent.
“I’m looking for a lady whom I ‘m told works here. I believe her name is Katarina Rosetta. “ He watched as her face broke into a smile, showing perfect white teeth against a suntan that could only be experienced in the Mexican sun. She had the look of vitality and youth. Her hair was so fair it was almost silver.
“I am Katarina, how may I help you..again?” She laughed as she spoke and when she smiled her entire face smiled with her. Her eyes grew wide and sparkled and he noticed tiny little laugh lines at the corners of each eye. Her dimples showed as her mouth spread as if to give a gift to him. He was enchanted.
Sebastian spoke the truth in part. “Well, I’m sure you have now heard of the ‘Tremain Perfume Dynasty?’” He waited for a response.
Katarina glanced at him and wondered if he was that delightful man’s son. “Well, yes I have. In fact Mr. Tremain was here in this very shop a few weeks ago. I’m afraid he has me confused with his missing daughter. I tried to explain but…”
Sebastian interrupted her. “Oh, I’m sure he would hear none of it. However, there will be hundreds of people out looking to get a glimpse of you. I’ve been hired to make sure you are safe.”
“A body guard?” she asked.
Sebastian hadn’t thought along those lines. “Well, yes I guess you could call me that. If you could just take a moment to sit down with me I can explain.”
A few other girls worked in the store and waved at Katarina so she gestured to Sebastian to come to the back of the store. He followed her out the back doors to a little bistro table that sat under an awning. He looked up and saw a wide paddled fan moving the air gently. There was a small garden of herbs and flowers that he didn’t recognize.
“Wow, I’d never believe there is such a sweet little place just the other side of a busy market place.”
“Yes, the owner of the shop enjoys taking siestas out here.” Katarina eyed the man in front of her with not a little suspicion. “So, what is so important that I must speak to you?”
“Because of the news of the heiress years ago, everyone will want to see you. If it is found out that you live in an unprotected place such as this. You might be in danger of being kidnapped for ransom. The ‘Tremain’s’ are a very rich dynasty as you are aware of. Mr. Tremain would like for you to come and visit him and see the area where you might have come from. I understand that you are an orphan and was raised in a convent?”
“That is correct. I really am not sure who my parents were. The orphanage where I was originally, burned down and all of the papers went with it. I have been in three places while growing up. The catholic nunnery run by the Sisters found me when I was at the dumpsite looking for food. I was ten years old then.”
Sebastian’s heart turned over in his chest. Sebastian tried to think of this girl at the tender age of ten living on her own in a country where laws were so different from his country. What horrors must she have seen? He didn’t ask much about it because he couldn’t promise to hide his feelings.
“Would you consider coming to the United States with me? I can guarantee your safety and Mr. Tremain promises that even if you are not his missing daughter that he will supply all of your needs. I will be close to you at all times so you will be quite safe.”
Katarina blinked as her mind tried to take it all in. “Just because I resemble a child who was abducted, does that mean I am now at risk myself?”
Sebastian swallowed before answering. “I’m afraid so. That is, at least for now. You see, Mr. Tremain had several onlookers the day he came into your shop. There are all ready a few pictures of you floating around in the gossip news in the United States.”
“Well, wouldn’t it be wiser to stay here then?” Katarina had no way of knowing that as she widened her eyes at Sebastian, his heart beat quickened and he could hardly breathe.
‘Such an innocent dove’, he thought. “No, there is no way to protect you here. The government is not interested in a small girl who ‘might’ be an heiress. You could be picked up on the street and no one would be able to find you.”
Katarina nodded her head. She only had a few trusted friends from the Abbey and she would go and pray first. “I will go to the Abbey first. “
“I will go with you. I’ve been hired to stay here if you do not go back with me. This is quite serious Katarina.” Sebastian leveled his eyes so she would know he was serious.
Katarina went into the shop and explained that she would be leaving for the rest of the day. She would call the owner of the shop later. Sebastian took her into his rented car and they were off to the Abbey. A gentle older woman greeted them at the gate. “My precious one! How good to see you. Come in Come in both of you and sit down with me.”
As Katarina spoke to the Mother Superior, Sebastian could see that the woman understood the magnitude of the situation. “I believe that God plans all things child. This is a road you must trust to God. Take time to pray to him and you will reach your decision.”
Katarina went into the Chapel and knelt down. Sebastian stood at the back and observed her. He wasn’t quite sure of himself in a church. He respected others practice of religion but it seldom occurred to him to have any need of it. He’d worked hard to get where he was and never thought God or any one else helped him.
As Katarina rose from her knees, a decision had been made. She would go with Sebastian and see where this led. She walked to the back of the Chapel and found Sebastian standing there. “I am ready to go get my bag now. Do you have tickets or do we need to make more arrangements?”
Sebastian was glad not to have to talk her into this. “I have made all of the arrangements. We need only to go get your bags and I will drive us to the border. From Texas we will board a plane and go to see the Tremain Estate in New York.
Katarina eyes grew large and though she was not trembling on the outside, she was in fact quite frightened. “I’ve never left Mexico City since I was twelve.”
Sebastian saw the trepidation and quickly intervened. “You need not worry Katarina. I will not let you out of my sight. You will be safe.”
Sebastian drove to Katarina’s home and sat on the front porch as she assembled her meager belongings. It did not take long fro Sebastian to realize that Katarina did not own a lot. She lived with friends who wished her well. She carried a cloth satchel that contained three outfits, a pair of shoes and her make up. She had her passport, personal papers and jewelry in her hand bag. She smiled at Sebastian as he stood up. She had worn her traveling suit which was a navy blue suit with a pink silk blouse as she left the home.
Sebastian drove to the airport and they sat in the first class section of the plane. Sebastian smiled as he heard Katarina’s stomach rumbling. “I haven’t eaten either. I am sure we will enjoy our dinner on the plane though.”
Soon, they were dining on orange duck with a rice and vegetable medley. Katarina smiled as she ate. “This is delicious.” She said.
When the food was eaten and the dishes taken away, Sebastian showed Katarina how to lower her seat so she could rest. “It will be a four hour flight, so you might as well rest.”
Though she did not feel tired, she fell asleep almost immediately. This gave Sebastian a chance to study her features as she slept. He took out his laptop and brought up a picture of the Tremain family. It was true that Katarina’s hair was quite like her mother’s. Her delicate chin and pert nose were also the same. Her eyelids fluttered in her sleep, alerting Sebastian that she was probably dreaming. He was glad for the fact that she was less nervous. He looked down at her fingers as she crossed her hands on her lap. Sebastian saw little slender fingers with manicured nails. She wore simple gold studded earrings and yet the simplicity made her look elegant. Even her shoes were polished and shiny. Her feet looked to be a size six. “A larger foot would look out of place on this tiny woman.” He thought.
Soon, the place taxied down the Texas airport runway. They were to have an hour or so before the next flight. Katarina’s eyes sparkled as she looked from side to side. Her passport was ready again and soon she sat with Sebastian at an airport restaurant. She looked at the signs that advertised their food. “I am not really hungry, but a cup of coffee sounds good.”
Sebastian ordered them both something to drink. “I’d like to get to know you a bit. Would you mind answering some questions?”
“Oh, of course. There isn’t much to tell. I am an orphan. I was raised in three different orphanages. All of them taught about the Lord Jesus. I am a Christian. “
Sebastian knew all of that. “You have no idea who your parents were?”
Katarina looked down at her coffee. “No, I really do not know. It would be nice to think that Mr. Tremain was who he thinks he is. But really Mr.…”
‘Sebastian, just call me that Sebastian.” He smiled.
“Oh, all right. Well, I seriously doubt that I am the missing heiress. When Mr. Tremain realizes that I’m not her, will he send me back home or do I have to find work to earn the money to go back?”
“I am certain that you will be returned whenever you like, with no cost at all to you Katarina. But, why are you so sure?” He wondered at her quiet demeanor and even though she knew that there was so much money, she didn’t seem the type who would go after it.”
“The orphanages where I grew up had nothing to do with gringos. That is the term used for ..” Once again Sebastian interrupted her. “Yes, I know what that means. But, isn’t it possible if a baby is left that they will help it?”
Katarina nodded. “Oh, yes they would never turn any child away. But, they would use their connections with the government to find the family. I’ve seen it done so many times. They only keep those children who they know belong to their country.”
This surprised Sebastian. He knew that this was not the case in many instances but she seemed so sure. He proceeded in a different direction. “You do not look Hispanic.”
“No, I realize that. I’ve no answer to why I look the way I do. Perhaps there was an affair and I was just the result of that.” Katarina was serious and talking quietly so that no one could over hear.
Sebastian suddenly felt quite protective of her. “Well, I think it’s time we go to wait for the next flight. He paid for their coffee and took her hand. She looked up questioningly. “It’s best that if anyone spots you, they know you are with me.”
Katarina nodded and said no more. The next flight brought them a light snack and soon they were in New York airport. A long black limousine met them as they walked out the doors. Inside the limousine Katarina was reunited with Mr. Tremain. “Hello child, I’m so glad you decided to come. It’s so good to see you again.” He bent over and kissed her cheek as he took her arm. She was soon nestled next to the older man with Sebastian sitting across from them. “Cook is preparing a wonderful dinner. I hope you are hungry.”
Katarina smiled. “I think I could eat soon. How are you Mr. Tremain? Is your cough gone?” He had been in the perfume shop several times during his stay in Mexico City. He had a cough she had noticed.
“Oh, I am all better. Thank you child. Say, are you ready to go visit my factories?”
Katarina was astonished. “You mean, you will bring me?”
The older man smiled and laughed. “Well, if Sebastian will come along too of course. I have four factories. I have one in New York, one in France, one in Greece and another in Africa.”
Katarina was puzzled. “But, how long am I to stay? I thought you were just going to do some tests to see who I am and then send me home.”
Sebastian looked at Mr. Tremain and wondered how he would handle this. “Well, if you wish to part company with me so soon you are free to go. But, I really wanted to have time to know you child. If you are my daughter, you need to know the rich inheritance you will have. But, if you are not, I still would love to have you as my friend and I still want to spend time with you. Would that be so bad?”
Katarina’s heart melted as the older man spoke. “With all my heart I wish you could be my father” she thought. But, out loud she simply spoke “I would love to spend as much time as you will allow me. I just don’t want to be a disappointment.”
Mr. Tremain’s eyes sparkled. “Oh no child, you could never be that.” Marcel Tremain stared ahead as he spoke. He was thinking how much Katarina reminded him of his late wife. She sat up so straight and carried herself with the free spirit of honesty. “Tell me Katarina, are you still studying in that black book?”
Katarina smiled. “Oh, yes! You mean my bible. I read a portion of it each day. That is how I stay in tune with the word of God. It brings much hope and understanding in my life. Shall I read to you again as I did before when I am in your home?”
‘How Meredith would have loved this child’ Marcel thought. His late wife was a devout Christian and though Marcel himself didn’t really think much of religion, he always went to church with his Meredith. “Why, of course child. I want to know the ending of some of those stories you started to read to me.”
“You know, you could have read them yourself, Mr. Tremain. ” Katarina said with a smile.
Marcus grinned back at her. “Yes, and please call me Marcel. I do not wish for you to think I am just a businessman. Truly my dear, I wish to be your friend.” He could not remember when he had smiled so wide. Perhaps it was when his Meredith was alive. All he knew was that this delightful little creature had agreed to stay at his mansion and go on trips with him. He found himself laughing and teasing her just to see what she would do.
As the huge black limo turned into the iron gated property that contained the New York mansion, Marcus turned to see her reaction.
Sebastian also wondered what her reaction would be. They were both smiling as her eyes grew wide and she kept saying. “It is so beautiful. How can you ever leave it?”
Sebastian laughed. “Well, the inside is nice too.” Soon, he was escorting Katarina inside as a man in a suit was taking charge of her little baggage. Marcel walked alongside of them and was delighted to see that Katarina noticed every vine and flower on the way to the side entrance door. They walked into a foyer and deposited their outer garments. Katarina looked up at the ornate carvings of the molding that encircled the ceiling. Birds could be seen flying in the picturesque design. It was illuminated by a huge chandelier of crystal. The entire design of the house was French. The ancestry of Marcel was seen throughout the mansion.
Marble staircases stretched from both sides of the foyer and met in a open landing on the floor above them. The floors were black and white checkered in the foyer and met with plush white carpeting as far as the eye could see. The antique French furniture with gold design against rich tiger wood tables looked far more beautiful than anything Katarina had ever seen.
She wondered if she should just stand there or walk around. Everywhere she looked she saw the spoils of the rich heritage of Tremain Perfumes. She was ushered into the sitting room in the west wing. Light blue walls were seen with white molding and soft white cushioned chairs surrounded the rich white and gray marble fireplace. Sebastian was used to the scene of the rich, as he was raised in wealth. Yet, his keen detective eye was watchful of Katarina.
Though she spoke of its beauty, she sat with an ease of someone who had grown up with it. There were no mindless giggles or twirling around to see it all. She had developed manners Sebastian thought. Meanwhile, Marcel was oblivious to it all.
His only thought was that his little princess had come home at last. He dared not speak his thoughts for fear she would run away. Yet, he could feel his heartbeat pounding as his hands moved nervously in front of him. “Are you tired my dear? I know you had a long plane trip since six this a.m. I can call to have a bath drawn if you like.”
Katarina was breathless and quite tired. “Well, in truth I’m exhausted. I’m also so happy to see you again. Is it all right if I just sit a while and take it all in?” She sat back as if she were raised in this opulent home.
“Of course child. As you wish. Just sit, and would you like a glass of sherry?” Marcel was overjoyed that she was happy to see him.
“Well no, a cup of tea might be nice though.” Katarina would have been glad to fix it herself, if she knew where the kitchen was.
“Fine, fine then. “ Marcel spoke into an intercom and soon a silver tea set was in front of them. Tiny cookies sat next to the tea pot, nestled in a porcelain china plate. Marcel served Katarina as Sebastian poured himself a cup of tea.
They began to talk softly about the plane trips. Soon, Katarina set her tea cup on it’s saucer and sat back. She did not realize she had fallen asleep until Marcel gently shook her. “Child, are you too tired for dinner?”
Sebastian sat in the overstuffed chair and smiled at Katarina. Marcel had covered her with a blanket and tucked her feet up into the matching white love seat. Without her being aware of it, she’d slept for two hours.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I fell asleep” She sat up slowly and uncurled her legs back onto the floor. Once again, Sebastian took note of the graceful way she moved.
“No, no I wanted you to rest child. I had a nice chat with Sebastian and you had a nice rest after all. Now, if you wish to freshen up a bit I will show you to the nearest bathroom. “Katarina gathered her purse and followed Marcel. “There you are my dear. I’ll wait out here. Folks sometimes get lost in this big place.” He smiled as he leaned against the wall. Sebastian saw the love in his eyes and hoped he would not have to give him any bad news.
Marcel had met with Sebastian almost immediately after he had taken the case. They had become fast friends. Sebastian was amazed to see the depth of the father’s love in Marcel. He had never had that from his own father. He wished he’d had more time to tell him who he was. Somehow, though Sebastian felt it would not have been like this scene with Marcel and Katarina.
That night Katarina bowed her head in a moment of thanks to God for the meal. Marcel noticed it quickly and invited her to say grace. His own beloved wife had said grace at every meal and he missed it very much.
“Oh Lord, we thank you for the feast you’ve given to us tonight. I ask your blessing on the food and the conversation. Amen.”
Marcel had moist eyes as he reached for his fork. Sebastian sensed the moment and proceded to engage in conversation to distract Katrina until Marcel got his emotions under control. The meal was a delicious ham dinner with sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. The cresent rolls melted in his mouth. Soon, Katarina was laughing and joking about some of the scenes at the table when she was little and had a meal such as this for the Holidays.
Sebastian noticed that there was no bitterness in her from being an orphan. Indeed, this woman was not ashamed to speak of her past and she spoke in a positive light. Marcel listened as if he was a starving man grasping a bit of Katarina’s previous life. Somehow, in spite of his thoughts of loss; he found himself laughing with her.
It was just eight p.m. yet Katarina was unable to keep her eyes open. “Serena will show you to your room Katarina if you wish to retire.” She said her thanks and kissed Marcel’s cheek as Serena led her off to her room. Sebastian looked on and felt left out until Katarina turned to him.
“I am so sorry,” she walked to him and without thinking she bent and kissed his cheek as well. “Thank you for taking such good care of me all day. Good night Sebastian.” She then turned and left with Serena without looking back.
Sebastian sat glued to his chair unable to move. Marcel spoke to him twice before he was able to understand that the man was talking to him. “Oh, I’m sorry. What did you say?”
Marcel missed very little and could see the younger man had eyes for Katarina. “She is quite beautiful isn’t she? I doubt she even realized she kissed you Sebastian. She was so tired. It’s been a long wild ride for her so far.”
Sebastian cleared his throat but could not quite clear his head. “I think you are right my friend. She is quite charming. Please excuse me; I have to make some phone calls.” Marcel was left alone as Sebastian went to his own room and took out his cell phone. Before he opened it, he thought he heard someone talking. He sat quite still. He could barely make out Katarina’s voice from down the hall.
“Dear Lord, I’ve no idea what you are doing with me. I’m so far from anyone I know. Yet, I feel Marcel needs you and I will tell him of your love. Sebastian is very nice, but his eyes are so troubled Lord. Protect me as you always have. I truly do not know what I am doing here. Yet, I am not lost because you know where I am. Please help me Lord. I am so bewildered by all that is around me .”
Sebastian barely heard the last part of her prayer but he knew what she said. He was shocked. She had no way of knowing that she was overheard. What did she mean by saying he had troubled eyes? It was as if she saw through him sometimes. Yet, if she only really knew who he was. People called him ‘The Great Sebastian’. So, why did she sound like she felt sorry for him?
Katarina lay down on the four poster bed without pulling back the pink satin coverlet. She stared out the picture window that was ten feet from the foot of her bed. Though she was exhausted, her mind was on the events of that day. She’d awoken at four a.m. per usual to be at the perfume store at six a.m. Yet, now it was one a.m. the next day and she was miles from where her day had begun the day before. The stars still sparkled as they did in Mexico. The trees below waved in the wind as if to say ‘Welcome’.
Katarina moved slowly off of the bed and went into the adjoining room which held a full bath. She discarded the clothes in a heap and washed the cares of the day away. Soon, she was back into bed and fast asleep.
The morning sun in New York shined brightly against a clear blue sky. It glowed in Sebastian’s bedroom window and awakened him from a troubled sleep. He hurried to shower and dress. As he entered the morning room, he was surprised to see that Katarina was all ready up and sipping tea with Marcel.
“Good morning Sebastian. Did you sleep well?” Marcel asked.
“Oh, I slept well Marcel. Don’t worry the breakfast maid. I’ll just explore the buffet here. The omelets look great.” He waved away Marcel’s hand as Marcel had reached for the call button. The side table was filled with sausages, bacon, omelets and fresh fruit. Sebastian filled his plate and sat down with Marcel and Katarina.
“I am explaining the history of perfume to our girl here. Seems that she knows only how to smell it and sell it.” He laughed and Katarina smiled at him.
“It all sounds so fascinating though. Marcel has books on the history of perfume. Do you know it dates way back to the bible times? The three wise men brought gold, francinsense and myrrh to the Christ child. That was during the time of the Queen of Sheba. The Latin name for perfume is ‘through smoke’. They burned incense and aromatic herbs in religious services.”
As Sebastian sipped his coffee and ate breakfast, he was struck with how quickly Katarina caught on to Marcel’s words about perfume. He was also shocked to find out how some perfumes came from animals. “Musk, for instance is now made syntheticly but it came originally from deer. It still can be found at an expensive price, but most of the ‘Musk’ that is bought now is not made from any animal parts.”
Katarina ate her fruit and munched on a bran muffin as Marcel talked. She smiled as Marcel looked so French. He was of slim build and though his hair had some gray in it, he was still a striking man. Flashing brown eyes peeked out beneath dark brows. His hands moved constantly as he spoke. He stood about five feet nine and yet his very presence commanded a room as he entered it. He was quite animated as he spoke of his favorite subject.
“My family came from a small town on the outskirts of Paris. My great grandfather was the beginning of the dynasty. Yet, the first perfumes came from Egypt years ago. Then, the ancient Chinese, Hindus, Israelites, Arabs, Greek, Romans, Carthagians. The Egyptians invented glass and that is where the first perfume bottles came to be. They would perfume the dead too as they were entombed. Many of the ancient tombs still bore the scent of ‘Kyphi’ as they were opened a century later. It was an Arabian doctor I believe, who first distilled oil from flowers known as ‘Attar’.
Katarina asked, “Well, where did frankincense and myrrh come from?”
“Ahh, a true perfumer at heart! Those came from trees. I will show you when we are at our manufacturing plants and perhaps I can go to those actual forests while we are abroad.” Marcel’s eyes flashed with joy as Katarina grinned like a child.
Sebastian felt a bit like an outsider. “I must excuse myself for a moment. I need to make some phone calls.” He went down the hall and out to the gardens. Sebastian sighed and then flipped open his cell phone. “Charlie, I want you to try to find out more about the orphanages where Katarina stayed. Start with that lady in the Abbey, and I think you’ll be able to work your way back. Thanks”
He tapped his chin with his cell phone as he kept thinking. He would have to speak with Marcel about travel arrangements. He could easily use his own jet, but Marcel also had a private jet. Still, he would have to know all of the stops and a plan for the safety of Katarina. Marcel all ready had his own bodyguards. Just as he was getting ready to walk back into the mansion, Katarina opened the glass double doors and came out.
“I feel like I’m in some fairy land. Do you know where we are going?” She sat down and looked up at Sebastian. He suddenly felt that strange sensation of seeing someone for the first time again. Katarina’s eyes were bright and happy. His private detective eye wondered if she were planning or was she the innocent who just excited. He sat down on the stone bench next to her.
He hadn’t meant to tell her but suddenly the truth came out. “Katarina, I am the owner of a rich company myself. I own ‘Vierras [pronounced Vee aye’ dus.] detective agency. I am also quite capable to be your body guard, but I am also trying to find out who you really are.” He stared into her eyes wondering why on earth he’d told her.
Katarina nodded. “I think that makes perfect sense to have me investigated. I do not understand though. Why did you go to such trouble to be my body guard too? You have so much to do then, if you own a big company. Is it as rich as the perfume company? Do you have time to go traveling with me?”
Sebastian threw his head back and laughed. “I don’t know for sure what I expected you to say Katarina, but it was not that. You do not have to worry about me. I can take a whole year off if I wish. But, I am being paid to do this.”
Katarina wasn’t sure but she thought he was laughing at her. “I only meant that I didn’t wish to trouble you.” She said it quietly and stood up to go back inside. He realized his mistake and quickly grabbed her hand.
“Oh, Katarina I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just that no one ever before has cared if I lost money or what I did with my time. You see, I was not raised rich. My father had an affair with a woman he’d met on a plane during a trip. I was the result of that affair. I put myself through school and later worked at the detective firm of my father’s. Just as I was going to tell him who I was, he died of a heart attack. I’m a self made man really. But, I lack nothing.” He watched as Katarina’s face went through a myriad of emotions.
“No, that is not so Sebastian. Someone has been looking out for you all of your life. No child is born out of a mistake, but by the grace of God.” Katarina put her small hand on Sebastian’s cheek. Their eyes met and she spoke softly. “I pray that you will have an abundance that hard work and money can not give.” Her hand moved away and she went inside.
Sebastian felt like a butterfly had touched him. He turned and walked down the graveled road with his hand unconsciously touching his cheek where she had put her hand. When her eyes had looked deep into his, he’d felt that she knew all of his secrets. Sebastian was not a naïve boy, but a man who had experienced many women. Yet, she made him feel like he was still wet behind the ears. He shook himself and made more business calls.
Katarina was shaken as she stepped inside the mansion. She was well versed in the word of God. Yet, she knew nothing of the way of a man with a woman. Throughout her life, she had danced and dated many young men. There was fire in this Sebastian and it frightened her. She went to her room to pray. “Dear God, He does not know you and I ask you to protect my heart. I will not lie to you oh Lord, for you know me too well anyway. He is handsome and I see a man who needs you. Don’t let me get emotionally sidetracked with wanting what I can not have. I don’t want to ever be yoked with someone that does not know you. Keep me safe Lord, keep my eyes on you. I love you Lord God. You are my framework, my foundation, and my high tower. Show me the way.”
That afternoon, Sebastian sat quietly as Marcel introduced Katarina to some more facts about perfume. He opened some of his books and read from them.
Marcel read aloud, Headquartered in New York, International Tremain Perfumes is a leading creator and manufacturer of fragrance products. They are an international company with manufacturing facilities in Europe, South America, and Asia. Raw materials are purchased from all over the world, including essential oils, extracts and concentrates derived from fruits, vegetables, flowers, woods, and other botanicals, animal products and raw fruits. "Most of the Company's customers do not buy all their fragrances or flavor products from the same supplier, and some customers make their own fragrance or flavor compound with ingredients supplied by the Company or others"
Marcel stopped for a moment. “Just as a wine taster can taste the wine and almost tell you where it was made, we at Tremain Perfumes have learned to do the same as we smell the fragrances. I can smell the soil and where it is from. The price of our perfumes is determined by the beauty and demand of the scent. Synthetic does not mean cheaper, it sometimes is more expensive.”
He continued to read more history of perfumes to Katarina. “Constantine the Great brought the use of perfume to the Christian church. Oils and incense burned in the church of St John-in-Lateran. That was home to the early popes. Today the pope gives his annual blessing to the ‘Golden Rose”.
Katarina and Marcel talked for hours on end. Marcel then put the books away. He leaned toward Katarina and took her hand. “You have heard me read; now it is your turn child. Teach me what is in those bibles. Tell me what my own Meredith tried and failed to tell this stubborn old man.”
Sebastian listened as Katarina opened to the New Testament. Yet, before she read aloud she took Marcel’s hand and bowed her head. “Lord, let it not be not me who will speak now but you. For salvation comes from you alone and all that is good comes from you.”
At first Sebastian wasn’t sure if he should leave, yet in the end he decided to stay. Katarina spoke gently and for the first time in his life and perhaps Marcel’s too, the bible seemed to come alive. Katarina read in John chapter 3.
She read about the night Nicodemus went to see Jesus. Verse 3-16
“In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying “You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “And do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven- the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gae his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’
Marcel thought a moment. “What did he mean by talking about the wind blows and yet we don’t understand the spirit.”
Katarina said, “I used to wonder that one too. But, the wind is something we feel on earth and we understand it goes where it wants. We can’t see it but we know it is there. That is the earthly things. We can’t see the Holy Spirit either and yet we can know He is there.”
“Ahh, that makes sense.” Marcel set his coffee cup down on the glass settee. “Now, I must go and do some business. I will see you later my child.” He stood up and nodded towards Sebastian.
Sebastian sat as if in a trance. He was amazed that it all made sense to him. “Marcel tells you the history of perfume and you tell him the history of Jesus? You speak it so clearly.”
Katarina shook her head. “No, not really. I just read what was all ready written.”
“What do you remember from your earliest childhood Katarina? Does this mansion seem familiar? The heiress was six when she was abducted. You might have played in these exact gardens.” He looked for a flicker or a sudden spark. He found nothing.
“All I remember was being bundled up and put into a wagon. It wasn’t even a car. Perhaps a cart, but nothing mechanical. I remember the smell of horses. My earliest memories are of horses. I remembered my birthday and that I used to have a cake party before I went to the orphanage. My mother’s hands were soft and she used to comb my hair. I remember my father’s face somewhat. It seemed like he used to scowl down at me. But it is all so vague. I had no fear until the day I was bundled in a blanket and put into the wagon. Someone kept saying, “It will be all right.”
Sebastian was puzzled. The mansion had no stable, not in NY or in the other mansion grounds.
“What do you know of the Scriptures Sebastian. Did anyone ever bring you to church?” she asked.
“Hmmph! Not hardly! My mother was always working and I stayed by myself most of the time. I made friends with a guy at school and his dad was a teacher. That’s how I got started with my education. He thought I was a fast learner in math and kept me interested. I found out my father’s name when I was 17 and decided that I would learn his business and go find him some how. God had no part of my being who I am today.”
Katarina realized it had cost Sebastian a lot to tell her what he told her. “You don’t tell people this do you?”
Sebastian drew a nervous hand through his hair. “No reason to.”
The buzzer rang and a servant came to tell Katarina that Marcel wished to speak to her. “Oh, I will go right away. Excuse me Sebastian.”
Sebastian was left to confer with his detective friends by phone as Katarina went to the rear of the mansion to Marcel’s study.
The cherry wood door to Marcel’s study sported carvings of angels. The gold knocker was surrounded by gold leaf. Katarina was led in by the butler. “Oh, Katarina thank you for coming so fast.”
He waited for the butler to leave before continuing. “I want to know if I said this prayer correctly. I prayed and told Jesus that I believe in Him though I cannot see Him. Is that right?”
Katarina’s breath caught at the simplicity of this dear man. “Why, the bible says to ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” in the King James Translation. Would you like for Him to be Lord of your life? Do you wish to follow after Him, and have Him control your heart?”
Marcel remembered the words his wife had said before she died. “I know you do not understand who Christ is, but I prayed that God will send someone to show you the way.”
He found he’d lost his voice but nodded his head. Katarina went to him and prayed with him. Marcel found someone more than a daughter that day. The door to his study had always symbolized his sanctuary, but that day it became a symbol of his freedom and joy.
He hugged Katarina as she left the room. Though he didn’t tell her, he decided that no matter what the detective agency found out…she would be his daughter.
Sebastian and Marcel worked closely together as plans were made for their trip to Africa, France and Italy. Marcel chose to go to Africa first. His perfume factory there was in the South Africa yet he had some ingredients imported from Northern Africa too.
Katarina packed and was ready to board the plane by four a.m. the following week. She’d spent much time going over the books about Africa. It was exciting for Katarina to see the pictures, yet she always felt Sebastian’s eyes watching her. “Why do you always stare at me Sebastian?” She asked one day.
Sebastian had been so deep in thought that he had no answer. “I am sorry Katarina. I was off in another place.” He quickly opened his laptop and began working to find out Katarina’s family history. So far, his company had no luck in locating anything. They found that she had worked extensively with the orphanage in the care of the children and teaching as well. Katarina had only a two year college degree where she had studied the bible and cosmetology.
She had no arrests and nothing in the slightest way to make him believe she was anything but what she portrayed herself to be.
The plane that would take them to Africa was boarded. It was Marcel’s private jet and they had a breakfast and dinner menu. Katarina watched a movie as Marcel and Sebastian drank coffee and spoke of Sebastian’s progress so far.
The plane landed and was met by three jeeps. The trio was escorted to Marcel’s mansion. South Africa was outside of the jeep’s windows and Katarina tried to take it all in. The warm climate was not a surprise to her. Yet, in the distance she could see what looked like a forrest. The sounds of the city up ahead distracted her as they moved through the busy streets. Soon, the sound of cars honking and people busily traveling became quiet. They drove through a thick grove of trees to a white stone building that stood off to one side. Someone opened the door and Katarina was led inside.
Marcel’s African home was picturesque to say the least. On one side of the main hall was a six foot by 12 foot long aquarium. It hosted beautiful tropical fish of every color. The home was paneled in polished light wood and had ivory inlayed tiles on the floor mixed in with red terra cotta tiles. Where the New York mansion was decorated in French provincial, this mansion was decorated with expensive stone and had a jungle like décor. Green plants and palm trees decorated each room. The dining area was rattan and glass. Katarina half expected to see a lizard walking by.
The kitchen and cleaning staff bustled about. Marcel spoke to them and called them by first name. They in turn smiled and addressed him as ‘Mr. Tremain’.
“Come, I want to show you the birds.” He motioned for them to follow. Sebastian and Katarina both enjoyed the area as they followed Marcel. In the back of the mansion was an enclosed glass room covered in all sorts of plants. Tucked in three corners was a huge bird cage. In each cage stood a talking parrot. One was red and green, the other green and yellow and the other was blue and yellow. Their colors were brilliant and the chatter was quite funny. “Hello”, “Time for a treat”, “Oh, shut up!” Chorused all around them.
“I love to visit these guys. I call them my ‘Three stooges’. He laughed and Katarina could clearly see his eyes twinkle in merriment. He reached in and pulled out the red and green bird. “This is Mo” I named her that because no matter how many crackers she gets...She always wants ‘Mo’!” Sebastian and Katarina laughed.
Mo stood on Marcel’s arm and called out “Hello” “Time for supper” Her feathers fluttered a bit and she settled into Marcel’s arm. She turned and put her beak next to his head.
“Hey, I don’t need any cleaning Mo! “ He put her back into the cage. He then introduced them to ‘Larry’ who was green with yellow head. “He’s sort of shy” Marcel coaxed him for a while before he said “Oh Shut up!” Again, everyone laughed. “I named this other guy ‘Curly’ because the feathers on the back of his head curl up. Also he laughs funny!” Marcel reached in and ‘Curly’ perched on his finger.
“Now, show these guys the trick I taught you.” Curly lifted one claw foot and Marcel pretended to shake hands. Marcel began to laugh and that’s when Curly said ‘haha-haha’. Sebastian found it hard to believe that this billionaire giant took the time to play with parrots.
“I can’t believe it! You could take it on the road Marcel!” He said.
Marcel laughed. “Well, if the perfume business folds I have a back up eh?”
A dinner bell rang just then and they went to the upstairs veranda where a light meal of fish and lobster were laid out along with fruit and French bread. “No one cooks like my Theresa!” He smiled at the older woman leaning over him.
“No one cons me into making French pastry when its 90 degrees like my Marcel either!” Katarina was surprised at the familiarity.
“Theresa and I were raised in the same house. She was the daughter of my mother’s personal maid. She and I played together and we are best of friends still. She runs the house while I am away!”
Sebastian was pleased that he wasn’t the only one with childhood friends who worked for him.
As they dined on the veranda and looked out, they could see the sunset outside. It was a beautiful yard with a small creek that passed through it. Katarina heard the sounds of monkeys and looked up. “It’s all right, they don’t come too close. I have an electric fence. I still get to see them, but they don’t climb into the mansion. They are smart too, it’s a light voltage but enough to keep them back. Meanwhile, they have a lot of water and room to roam. I have a huge staff and they know how to protect the area from wild animals too. Now, tomorrow we will go to my factory and I will show you around.”
Sebastian was as entranced as Katarina as they looked out. The mesh wiring was just visible and yet the view was spectacular.
The following day brought them to the Tremain Perfumery. The area looked like a plantation of sorts. Huge gnarled desert trees were seen. They got out of the jeep and Marcel explained what they were. “Steam is distilled from resin produced when the bark is damaged or cut. Then we get the ‘Frankincense oil that most associate with prayer and meditation.”
Katarina couldn’t believe it came from such an ugly tree. They walked further and Marcel showed them the geraniums. “This is not like the household geraniums that one buys. The oil is subtle pale green in color and has a fresh floral scent of lemon and rose. It’s native to South Africa and other places too.”
Sebastian watched as Katarina walked carefully around the factory and smelled the air. “It’s so beautiful here.” The workers looked busy but happy. Katarina saw how the plants were distilled and the oils blended. The oils for the perfumes were kept in a dark place.
Always, Marcel was explaining the business to her and Sebastian. At the end of the day, they had walked over six miles and yet were not tired. Marcel explained that he needed to rest finally. When they returned to the mansion, Marcel retired for the afternoon.
Sebastian and Katarina went to see the parrots. Just then, Theresa came out to see them. “I have some tea and sandwiches. Marcel was so thrilled to see you Katarina that I bet he forgot to take you to lunch!”
Katarina smiled. Sebastian said thanks and Theresa set the tray down. “Young lady, you have made that man so happy. He wrote and told me all about meeting you in Mexico. I dare say, it matters little if you have a blood tie. I haven’t seen him smile or show this much enthusiasm for anything in years. I thought we’d lose him for sure when Meredith died. He’s seen so much heartache.”
Sebastian’s negative side began to surface. “If you find that you aren’t his daughter, what will you do?”
Katarina answered quietly. “I really do not think I am his daughter. But, I will always be his friend if he wants me.” Theresa’s face broke into a wide smile.
“Now, there’s the girl!” She wiped her hands off on her apron and left the two of them.
They spent two weeks in Africa. Each day found Sebastian and Katarina alone for part of the day while Marcel rested. They laughed and talked as they played chess or watched the wildlife outside. Sebastian was drawn to Katarina yet tried to remain professional.
Katarina watched as Sebastian’s long slender fingers flew over his laptop. His hair waved and didn’t stay where he combed it as he sat in the morning air. His huge shoulders filled out his silk shirt as he sat hunched over the laptop. He seemed oblivious to her presence at times.
Yet Sebastian knew each move she made. He smelled her before she came into the room. It was not the perfume so much as the essence of Katarina. He smiled when he remembered that Marcel was putting out a new perfume soon and was determined to name it after her. He too found that Katarina’s skin reacted well with his new perfume. “No two people react the same way to a perfume Sebastian. That girl has this fragrance combined with the perfume to lift up anyone’s spirit as she floats into a room.”
Sebastian loved to see the morning sun reflect off of Katarina’s light blonde hair. It looked like spun gold that rippled down her back. He was not oblivious as Katarina believed. He was cautious. He was on duty at all times. Even at the factory he spied those who looked twice at Katarina. In any moment he would defend her. With or without pay.
Katarina found herself looking forward to seeing Sebastian every morning. She prayed each night for a chance to show him of the Lord’s love. “Lord, I know you see what is happening to me. I am drawn to this man but I cannot have a life with a man who does not worship you. Guard my heart dear Lord. I find I love him very much.”
Every afternoon Marcel retired to his room and read his bible. He was in the book of Ephesians. Chapter 2 verse 4
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” Marcel remembered what Katarina had said about grace. “Undeserved favor”.
In verse 8 he read…
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Marcel thought of the number of times he had thought he had done well in his life by working with his own hands.
Yet, never had he achieved such peace as he felt now. He sat with his feet up and head bowed giving thanks to God for a relationship that he thought was impossible to have with God.
The day of departure came too soon for Katarina. She hugged a tearful Theresa as the three of them left for the jet that would fly them to their next destination. All ready Marcel was telling her of Italy and the beautiful people that lived there. Katarina became nervous and didn’t know why. It dawned on her that she was indeed with people she didn’t really know. She was going to Italy and suddenly she felt afraid. Without realizing it, she reached out and took Sebastian’s hand. He immediately noticed she was trembling slightly.
Marcel was too excited to notice this, realized. He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “It’s all right Katarina…I’ll never leave you.”
Those simple words of comfort triggered calm inside Katarina. It was the words she’d read in the bible when she was seven. “I’ll never leave you…” was what the Lord had said. She kept holding Sebastian’s hand and fell asleep.
When it was time to depart from the plane in Italy, Sebastian could tell that Katarina was indeed overwhelmed. She was a bit shaky on her legs from the long trip but her face showed even more strain. Thin lines appeared around her eyes and she kept looking from left to right while hanging onto Sebastian’s arm. Marcel observed the change in Katarina as well.
When the car pulled up to escort them to Marcel’s home, he placed himself next to Katarina and took her hand. “Child, is there something bothering you? There is no need to fear. I assure you that you will be safe.” He stared into Katarina’s eyes as she turned to face him.
‘Ah, Marcel I am so sorry. I do not wish to trouble you. I’m just so tired and my mind is going around and around.’ She settled back into her seat and continued to watch Marcel. He patted her hand and continued to hold it.
‘I think it’s best we eat light and get you to bed then. There is no rush to learn everything child. Perhaps it’s time we just spent some time at the theatre tomorrow and visit the perfume factory in a few days.’ He was surprised to look away and then look back to find Katarina asleep while still holding his hand tightly.
The car stopped at the home of Marcel and though it was quite impressive in it’s unique Italian style, Katarina saw nothing. She ate a small bowl of soup and Marcel’s maid escorted her to the room she would stay in.
The next morning Katarina awoke to the smell of amaretto coffee. A maid was setting a small silver tray on the table at the foot of the bed. She drew open the drapes and Katarina could see the sunny morning. She could hear the wav es crashing to the shore. She rose to find a peach colored satin bathrobe had been laid out along with peach colored satin slippers. Apparently she was to dine alone for breakfast. She took her time with her toilette and then took a seat near the open window and drank the coffee. The amaretto smelled wonderful as did the cherry Danish that was on the tray. She tried to remember if she was in Naples or Rome. Though she sat and thought a long time, she could not place it in her mind.
After finishing the light breakfast she showered and dressed. A light knock came to the door just as she slipped on her shoes. “Come in’ she said.
Marcel opened the door slowly and peered in. “Well, she is awake at last. How are you feeling child?’
‘I am feeling well. I can’t seem to remember what city I am in though. Is it Naples or Rome?’ she asked.
Marcel laughed softly. ‘Actually neither, my home is in Eraclea Mare, Italy. My home is on the Adriatic Riviera. It is best known for seaside resorts. I like to come here to rest before I go the factory on the outskirts of Venice. It’s not far from the Venice Airport and the Treviso Airport so it makes it a both pleasant rest stop and good location as well. It’s a gorgeous place Katarina. I thought perhaps we could rest and enjoy the sea and the beaches.’ Marcel hesitated because he wasn’t sure of Katarina’s mental state. ‘I hope you are not upset with me Katarina.’
Katarina was staring out the window at the sandy beach and the glowing blue sky. “Upset? Well, no certainly not. I’m just a bit foggy headed. I mean, we are practically strangers and I am traveling all over the world…’ Suddenly she realized that she had voiced her greatest fear. It was being a stranger that really didn’t belong anywhere.
Marcel was quick to understand Katarina. He and Sebastian had a meeting early and they both surmised that Katarina had always been the odd one in any place. He reached out and took her hand. ‘Katarina, we are friends. You belong anywhere I go.’
Katarina looked away as suddenly tears blinded her vision. ‘If only it were so’…she thought. ‘and yet, didn’t her faith in God tell her that ‘God puts the lonely in families’?’ She looked back at Marcel and smiled through glistening eyes.
Marcel pulled her close and stood holding her silently for a bit until she calmed down. ‘The Adriatic sea always relaxes me. It matters little how many friends I have or how much money. A body needs to learn to relax to enjoy it all. The peace that you have told me about in Jesus is like that, no? In order to really receive that peace we need to first quiet ourselves. Perhaps this is a place that we can do this before we go on. Eh?’
He waited to see if she would believe him. He was delighted when she threw her arms around him and hugged even tighter. ‘Yes, oh yes!’ she replied.
Sebastian was constantly on his cell phone and watching the area for any sneak photographers or problems. The group spent a week relaxing in the sun and exchanging bits of information about themselves. Sebastian was surprised to find himself included in such discussions. It seemed Marcel was quite interested in him and his family business.
The three spend an entire day learning about the ‘Mort Lagoon” It’s unusual natural formation caused by the overflowing of the Piave river in 1935 was especially interesting to Katarina. ‘I can’t believe that it is being supplied with water only by the flood tides and is so calm and uncontaminated.’ Marcel beamed as he realized how much fun Katarina was having.
One evening while Katarina was upstairs sleeping before dinner, he had a chance to speak with Sebastian on a personal matter. ‘I am not blind to the way your eyes devour Katarina. I wonder if her feelings have been made known to you.’
Sebastian took a breath. He was embarrassed that he was that transparent. ‘I’ve said nothing. ‘
Marcel nodded his head. ‘I assumed as much. Yet, I have come to realize something about this girl. Her faith is stronger than any amount of money. It is stronger than death even. I have been reading the bible, you know. I am becoming a transformed man. This Jesus has shown himself to be real to me. Yet, I find I must advise you Sebastian.’
All of a sudden Sebastian felt defensive. ‘You think I’m not good enough?’
Marcel shook his head. ‘I would never say that or mean that in any way. You see, what I have been finding out is that there is a huge difference between her belief system and yours. Can you deny that you have a motivation for living that involves climbing to the top and being in control? Your life ambition is to gain respect and wealth. Isn’t that right?’
Sebastian sat quiet and thought of the difficult time he had to get to where he was. His illigitamate birth had made him feel inferior. He’d used it as a reason to move up the ladder. ‘I’ll show them’ was his attitude. He was glad he had been the black sheep. Look at where he was today. He was a millionaire many times over. He picked and chose his assignments with the knowledge that he didn’t have to ever work again if he so chose. Yet, he never stepped on anyone or tried to hurt anyone.
‘I do not see what’s wrong with being motivated to be successful. Surely, you had motivation from your family. As far as being in control, well I had to be. It was me who saved this business. Remember, I was the bastard son and the half siblings thought they gave me a white elephant with the company. Yet, here I am and I have earned their respect and the respect of many others. What is wrong with that?’ He crossed his arms in front of his chest and stared out to sea.
Marcel said a quick prayer to be gentle. ‘Katarina would be the first to say that ‘the love of money is the root of evil, but not having money. You are not evil Sebastian, and I am not saying that. Yet, you have a strong objection to the idea that Jesus is the one who gave you the ability to be wealthy.’
Sebastian laughed, ‘Ha! I made my own wealth!’
Marcel took a sip of his drink. ‘I believe the bible is the truth. Our creator made us with the ability to gain wealth. Whether that means by family connections, good health, talents, gifts etc. It was God who created you and therefore He is the one who ultimately has the power to take it away.’
‘I don’t get what this has to do with my feelings for Katarina’ Sebastian was getting angry but he had learned how to show a soft exterior. He was a patient man.
Marcel sat forward and pulled out his pocket New Testament bible. He opened to 2 Corinthians 6:14 ‘I know that Katarina has read this and lives by it. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” Sebastian, I believe you to be a man of great integrity and strength. I trust you to watch out for Katarina. I would put my life in your hands too. But, in the end I know it is the Lord who gave you the gifts. Therefore, I trust Him more. You have told me many times over this past few months that you do not believe what the word of God says. In fact, you laugh at times. I would not be wrong in saying then that you are an ‘unbeliever’. Isn’t that right?’
‘Right! So, you think Katarina will not want me because of what that book says?’ Sebastian was confused and upset. He stood up from the lounge chair and began to pace back and forth. ‘I think she hasn’t had a chance to see the world yet. Once she sees it, she will disregard all that nonsense!’
Marcel sat back and felt the anger build within him. ‘If you hurt that girl in any way, I will break you and your family business in shreds! If I can not do it, I know who will. Tread carefully Sebastian! ‘
Sebastian had heard enough. He kicked up the sand as he walked down the beach, leaving Marcel behind.
Two hours later Sebastian returned to the villa and saw Marcel weeping in the front parlor. ‘She’s gone, I have only this note Sebastian. Someone came in like a thief and took her. They say they’ll call later for the ransom.’
As Marcel crumpled like an old man, Sebastian stood in the doorway and tried to read the note. Sweat dripped of his forehead and stained the note. His mouth became dry and his throat felt like it was closing up. He had guards posted everywhere and still someone had taken her. ‘Where is your God now eh old man?’ Sebastian knew it was cruel but he yelled anyway. ‘Where was God when they came and took that innocent woman?’
A loud crash was his only answer as Marcel threw his wine decantor across the room!
Sebastian walked out of the house and went into detective mode. ‘How on earth did this happen? He’d prided himself on having never lost anyone. His best men were in Italy before the plane landed. They had imbedded themselves on the grounds and in the house. The first thing he did was gather the six guards that he’d had stationed. No one had seen anyone go in or out in the last two hours. Sebastian then went to look at the tapes. He spent an hour going over the grounds tapes and saw nothing.
His men gathered around him and were shocked to see a disheveled and confused Sebastian. ‘We will find her Seb! The clues are here, but we haven’t found them yet.’ Sebastian raked his hand through his all ready messed up hair.
Meanwhile, Marcel rang for the maid and when she saw the broken glass and Marcel’s face…she said nothing and cleaned up the mess. Marcel sighed and apologized for the extra work for her. “I am so sorry. “ he said as he left the room. Marcel went to the study and looked out the window. The words that Sebastian had yelled at him were still ringing in his ears. ‘Where were you Lord?” he thought.
His fingers drummed on the edge of his desk and suddenly he felt the leather cover of the bible he had placed there. There was a marker in the middle of it. He opened it up to Psalm 34:19 ‘The righteous face many troubles, but the Lord rescues them from each and every one. ‘
He suddenly remembered the day his daughter had been taken those many years ago. In this very room, he had sat behind the desk and shook while his wife sat in her window seat reading her bible. In fact, it was this very bible. He looked again and saw that the verse was outlined. ‘Had she read this that horrible day?’ he wondered.
The sun was shining through the window that day and it had illuminated her pale blonde hair. He remembered thinking she looked more like an angel than a Christian woman. Either way, he wondered why she had agreed to marry him. Then he remembered, she had found Christ while she was pregnant for their daughter. ‘It must have been so hard on her that I never believed the God she loved so much.’
Marcel bowed his head and prayed. ‘What now? All I can do is put Katarina in your hands. I am as helpless now as I was back then. Well, no that isn’t true. I know you now so I guess that is a big difference. Yet still, you are God and I am just Marcel Keep her safe Lord.’
The words his wife had prayed came back to him. ‘Lord, let not one of her bones be broken. Keep her safe Lord and let her learn of your unfailing love. Though I am not there to teach her dear Lord, I know that you are a faithful God. Put Christians in her path each day of her life. I pray she is loved and feels your love. Use her for your glory dear God. Give Marcel and I strength to go on.’
His head leaned back against the leather chair as he remembered his wife’s prayers. She had once told him that although people die, their prayers do not. Suddenly he felt encouraged. ‘I want to ask the same prayer as my wife did years ago Lord. Also, teach me what to say to Sebastian.’
Sebastian was in the parlor talking to his men. With all of his strength he had pushed the emotional tie to Katarina away so that he could function as the detective that he was.
‘We do not have much time! This place is huge but we have gone over it well. What clues could we have missed?’ He glanced out the window and tried to think. The trees outside were thick and tall and quite old. ‘Old trees!’ He shot up and paced the room. ‘If there are old trees, then this place must have been cleared long before this mansion stood. What if there was another mansion or house here before it? Could it be a room is hidden beneath the mansion?” The guards shook their heads.
‘I don’t know Seb. It sounds rather fanciful to think that a part of an old home could still be around. Look at this mansion, it’s marble and looks to have been here a while.’ Stan was the first agent that Sebastian had hired and knew his work well. His tall lean frame leaned against the doorway as he sipped a cold cup of coffee. ‘You might ask Mr. Tremain though’ he said.
Sebastian stood up to his six foot 3 inch frame and drew in a breath while squaring his shoulders. He walked to the study and knocked on the door. ‘Enter’ Marcel said. Sebastian walked in and went to where Marcel was sitting with his head bowed. ‘I have a few questions.’ He spoke as he sat down opposite of Marcel.
‘How old is this mansion?’
Marcel looked up and Sebastian saw red rimmed eyes flash at him. ‘I’m not sure but I think it’s about fifty years old. Why?’
‘Well, was it the first building on this site or was it built over an existing building?’ He was hopeful when Marcel thought for a moment. Many times in Europe, people built over existing foundations.
‘I believe there was a building on the property when the original owner of this mansion had it built. I was given the plans to it. They left the old cellar in tact and I used to use it. Here, I’ll go get the plans.’
Marcel took him to his safe and drew out the old floor plans. The two men stood quietly with the guards as they poured over both plans. Finally, Sebastian sat down and mopped the sweat from his forehead with his hand. He saw that the old home had a hallway under the main hall. The cellar to the old home was accessible through the kitchen.
“I will need to interview the staff. But first, do you have anyone who worked here during the time your daughter was here?”
“Yes, the cook and the gardener are the same. But they are sweet people.’ Marcel couldn’t connect them with any wrong doing. ‘The cook is gone for a week. She left two days ago. The gardener is here though.’
As they spoke in Marcel’s study, Katarina awoke with a headache. She found she was tied to a soft leather chair in a dark room. A small light bulb hung from a chain to illuminate part of the room.
‘I think she is waking up.’ Someone said.
Katarina smelled the musty room and tried to focus her eyes. Two people stood before her. She did not know their names and only recognized one. She recognized the woman who was working in the kitchen.
‘Do you remember this room Katarina? Of course, you were Sophia back then. You never spoke back then either though you were only six. Such a brave little girl you were. Now, those huge eyes of yours are still brave. Now, do not worry. We will not take you away this time. This time your father will pay the ransom.’
Katarina looked down and saw a thin older man with gray hair squatting before her. He was untying her feet and hands. ‘There is no place to run and if you scream no one will hear you.’
The gag was still in place and she reached to pull it off. ‘Who are you and why am I here?’
The heavy set cook laughed. ‘That should be very obvious. You are our ticket to a better life. Once your father pays the ransom, we will be long gone and you will be free to go.’
The two older people left her and went to a table near a wall and sat down next to it. Katarina could see that the room had been used. There was a table, three chairs and the light bulb. Plus, there was some sort of ice box. She saw a few bunk beds set up as well.
‘This won’t be like the last time. The rich guy refused to deal with us. So, we showed him we meant business.’ The old cook smiled.
‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ Katarina said.
‘No, you don’t remember a trip on a boat? I kept telling you that you were going to a new family. We took you to Mexico. We were going to bring you back, only they put you in a different orphanage and we lost you.’ The woman stopped to sip her drink.
Katarina tried to recall anything but was coming up empty. She realized that these two were the ones that took Marcel’s little girl so long ago. Now, they wanted money.
‘You have the wrong person. I’m not the lost daughter.’ She tried to explain.
The man stood up and took Katarina’s arm. Turning it over, he showed her a scar on her inner arm. ‘Do you remember where you got this scar?’
The scar was faint but it had always been there. Katarina shook her head.
‘You tried to get away once we landed in Mexico and you fell over a fisherman’s net. You hit a rock and the cut was deep. It healed well I see. But the scar is unmistakable. Yes, you are Sophia.’
Katarina suddenly felt heavy lidded. She sat and hung her head and went to sleep. ‘There is no use trying to tell them I am not Sophia.’ She thought. She slept and dreamed she was in a storm and a young woman was running with her holding on to hand. She boarded a boat and was flung into a cabin. The door was slammed shut. She climbed on a cot and looked out the port hole.
Katarina suddenly awoke and felt the cook thrust something into her hand. ‘Here, drink this.’
Katarina drank the water and gazed at the two people.
The men in the study upstairs formed a plan and were drinking coffee. ‘We do not know for sure if she is even there!’ Stan said.
‘I know that!’ Sebastian answered. ‘But, right now we have nothing else to go on. I have sent two guys to find that cook. Plus, I can’t find the gardener either. So, I am going out on a wild hunch here. I know it sounds crazy but I just have a gut feeling. Anyway, we have to rule it out.’
Sebastian and Stan would enter the cellar through the kitchen while two other guards would go through the tunnel they found on the opposite side of the kitchen. According to the map, there was a tunnel to the other side of the cellar. The rest of the guards were still surveying the grounds. They were all armed with electronic devices in their ears so they could hear a pin drop. The men had two guns each. They had one gun in a shoulder harness and a hip gun. Knives were sheathed on their lower legs as well.
Marcel remained upstairs watching the video from his parlor with another guard. He remained praying.
Sebastian and Stan were amazed that the entrance to the cellar was so clean. They had expected cob webs. It looked as though the place were cleaned on a daily basis. The steps to the cellar were swept and polished. A dim light was hung on the wall. The men made their way to the hallway leading to the cellar in silence.
The other guards found that the tunnel on the opposite side of the kitchen was neat and clean as well. Dim lighting allowed them to see well. They met the door to the enclosed room where Katarina was held and spoke in low tones. ‘Can you hear me Seb?’
Sebastian and Stan had just come to the other doorway. The door was shut but they could hear sounds muffled. He answered Lucas in a hushed voice. ‘Yeah, I can hear. I’m at the door.’
Lucas answered. ‘We’re at door number two. Ready?’
The four men burst through the locked door without a problem with guns drawn. Cook stood over Katarina with a knife in her hand. She looked in the opposite direction from Sebastian. ‘I’ll slit her throat if you don’t back off!’
This was met with a lunge and a kick from Sebastian. The knife skittered across the floor and the two were quickly apprehended. Sebastian was on his knees in front of Katarina’s chair. She sat with wide eyes and began to shake.
‘Just breathe Katarina! I’m getting you out of here. It’s all right. It’s all over!’ Sebastian picked her up as a child would be carried and just held her for a moment. ‘It’s all right’ he said. He wasn’t sure he was assuring her or himself. Gently he put her down. ‘Can you walk up stairs or do I need to carry you?’
‘No, I’m all right.’ She said. She took his hand and was led up the stairs that entered the kitchen. Sebastian wasted no time in ushering her to Marcel. Marcel leaped to his feet when he saw her. She was still in a daze when she felt Marcel’s arms hold her close.
He began to speak in fluent French. ‘Are you all right?’ Katarina was shocked to realize she understood him.
‘Yes’ she said. She sat on the sofa with Marcel cradling his arm around her. He kept talking in French and she understood but answered nothing. Whenever Marcel was upset, he reverted to his native language without thinking. The two sat for a while and then a maid brought in some tea.
The guards and Sebastian escorted the two villains to the police. They were incarcerated and Sebastian returned to the mansion.
Katarina’s mind was in a blur. ‘How could she understand Marcel so well when she knew he was speaking in French?’ The dreams she’d had in the cellar came back to her. Yet, she was getting visions of events that made her head ache.
‘I’m so sorry Marcel. I must lie down; I have such a head ache.’ She stood for a moment and then collapsed. Sebastian carried her to her room and laid her on her bed.’
Marcel rang for the doctor to come. An hour later an older man came to the mansion and was ushered to Katarina’s bedside. ‘I am sure she was drugged to remain quiet but I need to take a blood sample to find out what it was.’ He said.
‘I need to run this to the lab. I will return as soon as possible Mr. Tremain.’ The doctor said.
Sebastian had a knee jerk reaction. ‘I am going with you. First though, could you take a DNA sample from Mr. Tremain?’
The doctor was puzzled but Marcel knew what was going on. ‘Why didn’t I think of that? Of course, go ahead!’
The doctor and Sebastian were soon at the lab. Sebastian had to wear a mask and gown to go into the lab but he didn’t mind. He wanted to make sure there was no switching of the samples.
Meanwhile, Katarina awoke and found Marcel at the bedside. She spoke without thinking.
‘Le cuisinier et cet homme ont pris une petite fille ces ans il y a. Ils ont dit que cette cicatrice sur mon bras prouve je la suis. Je suis tombé essayer de s'échapper. Je ne me souviens pas de n'importe quoi. Je suis si désolé. Ils ont dit qu'ils ont voulu l'argent de rançon de retour alors. Ils ont pris la petite fille à Mexique et allaient extraire son dos mais ils ont dit que l'orphelinat l'était déplacée’
‘'The cook and this man took your granddaughter years ago. They said that this scar on my arm proves I am her. She fell trying to escape. I do not remember any of it. I am grieved. They said that they wanted the money of ransom of return then. They took the granddaughter to Mexico and were going to extract her back but they said that orphanage moved her', was the English translation.
Marcel blinked and sat staring at Katarina. Before he could speak she went on.
‘Je suis effrayé. Je dois fractionnant le mal de tête. Ils ont dit que vous ne les traiteriez pas avant. Je suis Marcel si désolé.’
‘I am frightened. I have a splitting headache. They said you would not pay the ransom before. I am sorry Marcel’ was the English translation.
Marcel’s eyes betrayed him and tears slipped down his cheeks. He took Katarina’s hand and said. ‘Don’t be afraid child. They can’t hurt you. The doctor should be back soon.’
Katarina’s eyes were closing as she asked, ‘Le nom de votre fille était « Sophia » ?
Marcel kissed her hand and nodded. ‘Yes, my daughter was named ‘Sophia’.’ He thought.
Katarina fell asleep holding Marcel’s hand.
The doctor and Marcel returned a few hours later. ‘We won’t have the results from the DNA for a day or so. However, they drugged Katarina. I believe she will be all right by tomorrow. It wasn’t a fatal dose.’ The doctor left.
The next day found Katarina refreshed and yet still bewildered. She dressed and went downstairs to find Marcel and Sebastian.
Sebastian had gotten word from the Mexican government. He and Marcel had talked about Katarina speaking in French and understand him as well. Now, to get the result of the DNA and the evidence would be conclusive.
They had agreed to not say anything until they got the results from the DNA.
Marcel greeted Katarina with a hug and kiss on the cheek. ‘Good morning Katarina.’ The three enjoyed a quiet breakfast and then Sebastian took her for a walk in the gardens.
Marcel gave him a quick look of warning. Sebastian nodded and took Katarina’s hand. The garden behind the mansion was beautiful. They sat by a fountain and Sebastian began to talk to her.
‘I’m sorry about what happened yesterday. Thank God you were only kidnapped for a couple of hours.’
Katarina smiled and watched the water in the fountain. Sebastian grew nervous with her silence. ‘We have had some interesting times together haven’t we?’
Katarina nodded and continued to watch the fountain. It felt safe to have Sebastian near her. She could smell his aftershave and continued holding his hand.
Sebastian cleared his throat. ‘I know you haven’t gone far from Mexico in your life. I’m sure all this is quite a change of pace.’
‘This past week has been like a fairy tale. It’s a little overwhelming yet for the most part I have enjoyed it. I do like Marcel’s company.’
Sebastian stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. He could feel his heart thudding and spoke in a low raspy voice. ‘Do you like my company also?’
‘Most definitely’ she answered. She turned to look at him and found eyes an inch from her own. Sebastian took the initiative and leaned in to kiss her.
The first touch of his lips sent off fireworks in Katarina. Having no knowledge of how to kiss a man, she simply went with how she felt. Sebastian pulled her closer and folded her in his arms. When the kiss was over he looked into her eyes again and found soft glowing pools. His breath was taken away and he found he had no words.
He nestled her in his arms and just stood quietly, waiting for her to respond. When she pushed away he suddenly felt empty. Her eyes widened and she made as if to go away.
‘Wait, is there something you wish to tell me? I know you felt something just now. Don’t be afraid.’ He licked his upper lip as he always did in frustration and then swallowed.
‘I know that we can not continue this. I am spoken for.’ Katarina walked quickly away.
Sebastian couldn’t believe his ears. He had not ever asked if there was another man. No one had found anyone who remotely resembled a man in her life as they had investigated her. He felt like he’d been sucker punched. After shaking his head he took a deep breath and went to follow Katarina silently.
The next day brought the good news. The DNA proved who Katarina was. Indeed she was the abducted daughter of Marcel.
Two weeks went by as all of the documentation came into focus. Sebastian buried himself in work and made plans to leave. He spent his time in Marcel’s study so he wasn’t too near Katarina. The emptiness was heavy on his heart. At times, Marcel would walk in to find him thumbing through his bible. Marcel smiled and decided to leave it out where Sebastian could find it.
Sure enough, Sebastian found himself reading the places that Marcel had marked.
Marcel decided to throw a party to reintroduce his daughter. She had grown quiet at times. Marcel knew she was thinking of Sebastian’s soon departure. The mansion was lighted with all sorts of decorations and holiday lights. For indeed it was a precious holiday for Marcel and Katarina. She had decided to keep her name.
The news of Katarina’s identity brought hordes of family and friends to the mansion. Sebastian felt alone in the crowd. He went to the study and sat at Marcel’s desk for a while. Marcel had been watching the young man and thought it time to speak to him.
‘Dear God, give me the right words to introduce him to you.’ He left Katarina with family and several guards to meet with Sebastian.
‘I owe you a debt of gratitude Sebastian. You have helped to restore my daughter to me.’ He sat across from Sebastian.
Sebastian pulled one leg up to rest his foot on his opposite knee. ‘Well, you are welcome. I would have guessed you would consider it God who found her.’ His face was drawn and serious.
‘I have found you sifting through the pages of that bible for days now. I know you have a question or two. Before you leave, please feel free to ask. I can’t guarantee I will have all of the answers but perhaps I can help.’ Marcel reached over and grasped Sebastian’s arm. ‘You mean a lot to me.’
Sebastian’s throat began to close and he swallowed. He looked at his hands as he couldn’t look up just then.
Marcel realized the situation. ‘I know how it feels to be so alone and feeling like no one cares. I had a father who was strictly business and cared little for a sensitive son. I worked for years to learn all about the perfume business and still he was not impressed with me. ‘It’s as it should be. You are the heir’ was all the affection I ever got. Mom died when I was young. I was raised by household staff. Yet, Meredith gave me so much love.’
Sebastian remained still, so he went on. ‘Meredith lost a child before Katarina. The jolt sent her to the church. From there, she became a Christian. I would go to church and go through the motions but I never believed in the God who wanted to be a Father to me. Meredith died and then I had lost the only two people who mattered. Then, when I was running away from life, I walked into a perfume store and saw Katarina. She woke me up. She had so much gentle love and she told me she got it from Jesus.’
Marcel stopped and handed Sebastian a handkerchief. His face was wet. Marcel continued to talk. ‘I realized that the Father really did care about me. The only way I could reach him was through his son. It was humbling for me to think I wasn’t in control. Yet, I was so lonely that I wanted to believe. From wanting to believe I began to search…like I have watched you do. Would you like to have that empty place in your heart filled? Katarina could love you, but couldn’t fill it you know. Only God himself is able to be the perfect father. There are places in each of us that were made for only Him to fill. When we invite Jesus into our hearts it is a rebirth. To him, we are his adopted children. We just need to invite Jesus in and He’ll lead us to the Father. The bible says ‘no one can come to Father except by me.’
Marcel waited a while and when Sebastian did not respond he thought he should leave. He got to his feet and Sebastian reached out and took his arm. A strangled voice said…’wait’
Marcel sat back down. ‘I can’t find out how to do it.’ Sebastian said.
The study’s light went on brighter as Marcel opened up John 5:24 'I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.’
In the well lit study at Marcel’s mansion, Marcel helped lead Sebastian to Jesus Christ. He held onto Sebastian’s shoulders as the man shook out the pain and hurt of being deemed ‘not wanted’ into being ‘a adopted son of the Most High’.
An hour later Marcel returned to his party and Sebastian walked out of the mansion. He sat on the beach thinking of the illusion of Katarina. He remembered that she had said she was 'spoken for.'
‘Well, I have found someone myself’ he thought. It wasn’t a girl or a new lead for the detective agency. He’d found Jesus and a Father. He felt the missing link to Katarina as well. He’d get over it.
Marcel watched him walk down the road and quickly went in search of Katarina. He told her of Sebastian’s new found faith. Her face radiated with happiness and then settled into sadness.
‘Why this sad face? I thought that would make you happy!’ His knowing mind went into action. ‘Listen, why not take my little cart and go for a ride on the beach. Head north for a bit and then return. It’s safe, I have guards all around the beach.’
‘Why?’ She narrowed her face at her father.
‘Oh, I just thought you’d find Sebastian.’ His eyes twinkled as she ran to find his little golf cart.
Katarina had a white gown on but she hiked it up a bit and climbed into the cart. Soon she was blowing sand as she sped down the beach. Sebastian looked up when he heard the motor.
All he could hear was the thudding of his heartbeat and feel the sweat pour down his back as he watched the woman’s face illuminated by the moonlight. It was a smile of invitation that she gave to him as he stood in front of her. His face came down to meet her waiting lips.
She made a soft moan and he was ready to come apart when she said ‘wait!’ in a soft voice. He looked down to see her remove her necklace.
‘It looks great with this gown but it was digging into me.’ She explained. He teetered on the verge of a chuckle and a gasp of desire. She stood on tip toe and hooked her arms around his neck.
‘You said you were spoken for’ he questioned. She smiled up at him.
‘Sometimes the proper answer isn’t quite a truth a non Christian understands. I am truly spoken for and so are you. We are the bride of Christ.’
When they looked into each other’s eyes, all questions were gone and the answers were there. ‘ I want you to be my bride as well.’ He waited for any response. A quiet soft whisper floated to his ear. ‘Yes, Sebastian…yes, yes yes!’