THE INTERPRETER

  

By William Burton McCormick

 

 

 

 

Two items of interest in the June 8th, 2015 edition of the Baltic Beacon newspaper:

1.

Wire Report

 

DEATH MARS PADEGAS WEDDING

The wedding of famed industrialist Markuss Padegas to Ilona Bramane was marred by a death during their 2 million Euro reception at Rundāle Palace near the Latvian/Lithuanian border Sunday evening. Bridesmaid Annija Cīrule, found unconscious and without a pulse in the palace gardens about 8:20 P.M., was flown by helicopter to Rīga Hospital No. 1, but did not respond to resuscitation attempts and was pronounced dead at 11:09, the cause of death pending autopsy reports. An actress known in Latvian cinema for roles in Trīnes Grēki and Pifa Piedzīvozumi, Cīrule, 31, had just returned from Sardinia where she was filming the Italian thriller L’uomo Con La Valigia Che Brucia her first foreign language production. Infamous for a life of substance abuse, Cīrule was characterized by Rundāle staff as intoxicated and only semi-coherent shortly before entering the expansive gardens about seven P.M. Reports of a verbal altercation with another guest have not been substantiated. Police had no comment at this time. (Santa Ezeriņa / Folio Rīga)

 

2.

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* * *

 

Our scene opens on a rooftop restaurant in a mid-June evening, the view breathtaking, the spires of the ancient churches of Rīga’s Old Town visible in every direction. At a private table on the roof’s corner, Douglas Woodley, a well-tailored and not unhandsome man in his late fifties sits with his date, Elina Matelsone, a fashionable beauty just into her twenties. With them is their romance interpreter, a woman maybe five years older than Elina, whose physical gifts might almost match hers, but, perhaps in an effort to not accidentally attract the client’s attention, wears no makeup, no jewelry, and professional but exceedingly plain clothes. The contrast, for the unobservant, is significant.

Doug and Elina drink champagne, the interpreter sips from a mojito. He makes toasts, Elina returns them. The interpreter’s glass remains on the table.

 

DOUG

It has been a wonderful two weeks

 

INTERPRETER

(in Latvian)

He says it has been the finest two weeks of his life.

 

ELINA

Mine as well. It was the hand of Fate when he contacted me.

 

INTERPRETER

(in English)

She believes it was destiny

 

DOUG

It may be so. And if I may be so forward, tell Elina that
            when she and I made love last night the heavens shook.

 

INTERPRETER

(laughs)

The “heavens shook”? Really?

 

DOUG

Just tell her

 

INTERPRETER

                                    (still laughing)

Okay

 

DOUG

I didn’t pay 5000 Euros for a wooing critique.

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        He says he’s sorry the sex yesterday was brief.

 

                                                ELINA

                                    (blushing)

Oh…oh, well tell Doug not to worry. Thirty seconds is enough for me.

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        Thirty seconds with him would be enough for anyone.

 

                                                ELINA

                        I don’t understand…?

                                               

                                                INTERPRETER

You’re not the brightest bulb in the box, are you Elina? If you stay with him such interludes are your future.


 

                        ELINA


Well, what do you expect? He’s an old man.

                                               

DOUG

                                    (leaning forward)

                        Tell me what Elina is saying?

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        She believes your passion is timeless.

                       

                        DOUG

I knew it! Well, if we…

            (His cell phone rings)

 

Hello?  Oh, hi Baiba. No, no the interpreter was not late. She was waiting for us. All is okay. I’ll call you after the dinner. Ciao.

 

The interpreter stirs her drink.

 

                                                DOUG

                                    (hangs up the phone)

                        Tell Elina I have a surprise for her.

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        He has a surprise.

                                               

                                                ELINA

                        Oh? What?

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        What?

           

                         DOUG

I don’t have a ring – she and I can choose it together –
            but I want to ask Elina to marry me.

 

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        You are certain you want me to ask?

 

                                                DOUG

                                    (frowns)

Yes, of course. This is a marriage agency isn’t it?


 

                        INTERPRETER

It’s your funeral.

 

                        DOUG

What does that mean?

 

                        INTERPRETER

            (scooting her chair towards Elina)

He wants you to marry him.

 

                        ELINA

Oh, by the stars I…

 

                        INTERPRETER

But! He must know about the tragedy at the Padegas wedding first.

 

ELINA

The death?

 

                        INTERPRETER

Yes. If you are to be his wife, if Doug is to take you to that tropical paradise that is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he must know if you had any part in Annija Cīrule’s demise.

 

DOUG

What is her hesitation?

 

                                                INTERPRETER

We are talking about the ring, Doug. It is not good that you forgot it.

 

ELINA

I can’t…

 

                        INTERPRETER

You can trust me, Elina. I’ve been Doug’s employee for nine years. I travel with him regularly as his interpreter around the world. Surely, you’ve seen the Facebook pictures?

                                               

DOUG

                        We can buy the ring tonight, Elina!

 

ELINA

I didn’t know you were Doug’s personal interpreter. I thought you worked for the romance tour company?


 

                        INTERPRETER


Hadn’t you wondered why we’ve never met? Why you always had other interpreters with him? Doug summoned me tonight only to ask for your hand in marriage. He would trust no one else with such a message.

 

Elina smiles.

 
                                                INTERPRETER

And he also trusts no one else to ask about Annija’s death. If you are guilty, Doug will still love you. But we must know, so he can protect you. He would never let the police come take his wife.


 

                        DOUG

A 10,000 Euro ring. Tonight, Elina!

 

                        INTERPRETER

Higher Doug! She’s no pauper! She was in Latvian Playboy for God’s sake.

 

            (taking Elina’s hand)

Well, Elina, what do you say?

 

                                                ELINA

                        I shouldn’t…

 

                                                INTERPRETER


Do you want to be lounging in the Wisconsin sun this time next year or not?

 

                        ELINA

            (sighs)

Oh…fiddlesticks…

           

(sighs again)

At the wedding I saw Annija. She was so gorgeous. I knew Doug had been with her on a previous tour. Their photos are on the Baltic Romance website…Doug was with me now, but it was still uncertain. I didn’t want to give Annija another chance…

 

                        DOUG


20,000 Euros. That’s  my final offer. There are women in Milwaukee who would kill for that!


 

                        INTERPRETER

And perhaps in Rīga, Doug! Go on, Elina.

 

                        ELINA

Where to start? It came to a head, I guess, when I was asked to help out the bride, Ilona, at the reception.  They had released doves from a cage - as a symbol of the couple's romance - and one, well, it got caught in this elaborate hair bun Ilona wore. The poor bird was struggling, Ilona was screaming, and by the time they pulled the dove out, her hair was a complete wreck


 

                        INTERPRETER

            (laughing)

Yes, I saw it on Youtube.

 

                        DOUG

Why are you laughing?

 

INTERPRETER

Girl talk, Doug. Continue, Elina.

 

                        ELINA

So, Ilona asked me to help her restore her hairdo - I've worked as a stylist at times - but Annija insisted on coming. I left Doug with the interpreter and we went to a private room on the second floor of the palace. 

 

            (grimaces)

As we were climbing the steps, Annija asked if I was with Doug. I told her “yes,” to which she said "Not for long."


                       

                        INTERPRETER


Terrible. Terrible woman. I always hated her films...

 

                                                ELINA

                                    (nodding)

I worked on Ilona's hair only for a few minutes. Annija butted in and soon was doing everything. She was damaging the extensions, tugging at the roots until Ilona was crying.  I thought this angry, selfish woman was ruining Ilona's wedding day – and trying to take Doug from me. I just wanted to calm her down some way, make her more docile, controllable. 

 

INTERPRETER

And?

 

ELINA


I had sleeping powder packets in my purse prescribed for my insomnia. While Annija worked, I offered to get her and Ilona champagne, which they agreed. I emptied the content of a packet into one glass but...

 

                        INTERPRETER


Only one packet?


 

                        ELINA


Well, that was my intent. I didn't know which glass Annija would take, of course, so I emptied a packet into each. A little relaxant for them both. Ilona could use it after the dove ordeal. But to my horror Annija drank both glasses. The one I offered her, and Ilona's after she didn’t like the taste. Annija emptied both in not a minute’s time.

 

                        INTERPRETER

            (pausing thoughtfully)

But that wouldn’t be enough to kill her?

 

                        ELINA


It couldn't have been. I take those packets every night. Sometimes two or three.  I took them even before I made love to Doug last night.

           

                        INTERPRETER


Well, who could blame you. I’d have downed a whole box.

 

They look at Doug.

                        ELINA

            (eyes swelling with tears)


Annija was a larger woman than me, the dosage couldn't possibly be enough to kill. I swear.  Tell Doug, I knew she'd be okay. I didn't think anything of it when she went into the gardens a few minutes later. I didn't know it would be the last time anyone would see her alive.

 

                        INTERPERETER

            (patting Elina’s hand)

It’s not your fault, Elina, you couldn’t have known...

 

                        DOUG

Tell me what is she saying? She’s so emotional.

 

                        INTERPRETER

            (letting go of Elina and turning to face him)

We are discussing if she should marry you.

           

                                                DOUG

                        Elina doesn’t love me?

 

INTERPRETER

She does. But she is uncertain about what happened at the Padegas wedding. The death…

 

                                                DOUG

                        Well, I had nothing to do with that.

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                                    (taking a sip of her mojito)

Elina believes you killed Annija Cīrule because she was carrying your baby.

 

                                                DOUG

                                    (shocked)

No, no, no. I never touched her. And Annija was never pregnant. I only…

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        Only what?

 

                                                DOUG

                        Nothing.

 

                                                INTERPRETER

                        I am Elina’s cousin, Doug. You can trust me.

                                               

                                                DOUG

                        You are cousins? She never mentioned…

 

                                                INTERPRETER

Yes, cousins. And as close as sisters. Elina will be your wife 
            and we’ll keep it all-in-the family. If you will tell…

 

                        DOUG

I don’t know…

 

                        INTERPRETER

            (scooting closer to him)

Look at her, Doug. Her face, her body. She’s a Playmate. When will you get a chance like this again? At your age?

 

                        DOUG


It’s not so easy…

                       

INTERPRETER


You can be with Elina or be alone, a simple choice.

 

                        DOUG


It will be “all-in the-family” then?

 

                        INTERPRETER


All-in-the-family

 

                        DOUG

            (rubs his face with his hands)


What to say? Throughout the limo ride from the wedding to the palace Annija had been giving me the eye. You know she was a competitive girl and I think Annija was quite angry I didn't propose at the end of our own tour. And, though I never caught the Latvian dialect, she seemed hostile towards Elina.

 

INTERPRETER

Why?

 

DOUG


Isn’t it obvious? Because Elina was with me, because she was younger and prettier than Annija, because she had been in magazines recently, whatever.

 

            (shrugs)

So, when Elina went into the palace to help the bride fix her hair...you must have heard about it, some ceremonial dove got caught in that ridiculous bouffant do Ilona Bramane had piled atop her head. 

 

                        INTERPRETER

Yes.

 

                        DOUG


I don’t see what's so romantic about doves, anyway. They’re just a white breed of pigeon.

 

INTERPRETER


Focus, Doug, please.

 

                        DOUG


Anyway, Elina had been gone awhile, then I saw Annija walking into the garden alone. I ditched my interpreter as Annija spoke perfect English and caught up with her behind some high hedges about a hundred yards from the palace. I tried to make chit chat, all with the idea of getting her to lay off Elina.

 

                        INTERPRETER


How did Annija look to you then?

 

                        DOUG


Tired and drunk, bags under red eyes, unsteady, and clutching parts of Ilona’s hair weave in one hand. I’m not sure she knew where she was. And Annija was friendly, like drunk girls get, even kissed me, wanted more...

 

(looks at Elina)

Keep that private.

 

INTERPRETER

I will.

 

DOUG


After five minutes of my fending off her groping, Annija said she was exhausted. begged me for some “spark” like amphetamines. I didn't have any. But I did have a few “no-gos,” you know benzos or tammies, unlabeled ones. So I told her they were uppers.

 

                        INTERPRETER


When they are the exact opposite.

 

                        DOUG


I didn’t want Annija to harass Elina.  And I thought that might get her to chill. So, I gave her the “no-gos” and left her on a garden bench. Figured she might fall asleep and leave us alone.

 

            (looking at Elina)

It was only to protect Elina. I’ve seen Annija tear other women apart. I saw their altercation on the palace stairs, it would only get worse as Annija got drunker.

 

                        INTERPRETER


“Altercation?”

 

                        DOUG


Yeah, a big row on the landing when she and Annija went to help the bride. Elina didn’t mention it to her “cousin”?

 

                        INTERPRETER

            (frowns)


She somewhat glossed it over. So that’s why you sedated Annija further?

 

                        DOUG


It was chivalry damn it. I didn't know they'd find Annija dead on that bench less than an hour later.

 

INTERPRETER

I see.

 

                        DOUG


Annija loved pills of any sort, loved ‘em more then she loved men. That’s one of the reasons I had ditched her after our tour. Addicts get old real fast.

 

                        INTERPRETER


In my experience addicts seldom get old, Doug.

 

                        DOUG


Two pills were nothing to Annija. It couldn’t have made any difference. She was a tough girl.

 

            (frowns)

Now tell Elina all that. And tell her I want her to marry me, we’ll get the ring tonight.

 

The interpreter drums her fingers on the table, then finishes her moijto before gazing at Elina.

 

                        ELINA

            (returning her stare)

What did he say?

 

                        INTERPRETER

I’m sorry, Elina. He withdraws the marriage offer. He can’t have a wife who is a murderer, accidental or not.

 

                        ELINA

            (eyes welling with tears)


But he said…you said…

 

                        INTERPRETER


The reality of your words, of your cruel deeds, have hardened his heart.

 

                        ELINA

Doug, please…

 

                        INTERPRETER


Don’t appeal to him, Elina. A man must have a wife he can trust. If you’d kill Annija, why not him? He could never sleep at night with you by his side.

 

                                                ELINA

                                    (crying)

                        No…it’s not true…

 

Elina rushes from the table and down the stairs out of the restaurant.

 

                                                DOUG

                                    (standing)

                        Elina!

 (to the interpreter)

What has happened? What did you tell her?

 

                        INTERPRETER

Elina refuses to marry a murderer. If you follow her she promises to call the police.

 

                        DOUG

I…

                        INTERPRETER

I suggest you take the next flight back to America before she changes her mind and calls them anyway.

 

Doug stares at her in disbelief.

 

                                                INTERPRETER

And if Elina doesn’t, I will. We don’t harbor murderers in my country.

 

                        DOUG


You wouldn’t…

 

                        INTERPRETER


Try me.

 

Doug stands silently for several moments, then lifts his dinner jacket from the back of the chair.

 

DOUG

                                    (putting on his jacket)

You are cold, cold people.

 

INTERPRETER

Be sure to leave enough for the bill.

 

Doug throws a wad of Euro bills on the table, then leaves.

 

* * *

 

After Doug is gone, the interpreter pockets the money, orders a coffee, then pulls her laptop from its bag, and begins to type:

 

CONFESSIONS OF THE WEDDING MURDERERS

by Santa Ezeriņa

A quadruple dose of sedatives and several glasses of champagne were enough to kill actress Annija Cīrule at the Padegas wedding reception last week as told to this reporter by the murderers who poisoned her themselves in an exclusive for…

 

A plump middle-aged woman appears at the table.

                                                WOMAN

Excuse me

                       

SANTA

(stops typing)

Yeah?

WOMAN

Have you seen an American man and a young Latvian woman here? By the name of Douglas and Elina? The waiter says you were talking to two people who matched their descriptions.

 

                        SANTA

They left.

                        WOMAN

            (frowns)

Oh…I don’t understand. Do you think they’ll be coming back? I got a call and was sent to the wrong restaurant somehow, you see. All the way across town…

 

                        SANTA


Crossed signals, I suppose.


 

                        WOMAN


They really should have waited. I work for Baltic Romance Tours. I’m their interpreter. They’ll be just lost without me.

 

                                    SANTA

                                    (resumes typing)

I’m sorry, my dear. You missed your chance. That romance is dead.


 

WOMAN

Dead?


 

SANTA


As dead as Annija Cīrule.



 


William Burton McCormick's fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery MagazineEllery Queen Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and others. A three-time Derringer Award finalist, he is a graduate of the writing program at the University of Manchester and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association.  He is author of Blue Amber and the historical novel, Lenin's Harem, which became the first work of fiction ever added to the permanent library at the Latvian War Museum in Rīga.

A native of Nevada, William has lived in seven countries including Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Ukraine for the purpose of writing. He was elected a Hawthornden Writing Fellow in Scotland in 2013.

You can learn more about his work here.

FYI: The main character of "The Interpreter" appeared in the "You-Solve-It" mystery "Agoraphobic Alibi" (May, 2014.)


Copyright © 2016 William Burton McCormick. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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