Ilze Berzins

Chapter 13

Believe it or not there is actually something called the invisible woman syndrome. If women start to no longer be attractive as they age, they becomes less relevant—and invisible.

Vika and Irena didn’t buy the invisible women stuff. They thought of themselves  as the “Fadeaway Girls”—fading silently and smoothly into the background of ordinary life, and then slipping quietly away like the fog which vanishes without leaving a trace.

There would be no classy Louis Vuitton luggage or stylish outerwear for this journey. Vika had hastily called on Simone for simple clothing and large plastic carry-all bags.

* * *

And so it was that early one morning, arm in arm, two elderly women (one carrying a cat in a large satchel) made their way slowly on foot, arriving at the central station just minutes before the bus for Talsi was to take off.

Irena did the talking, purchasing the tickets but avoided chatting to anyone else. She had a foreigner’s accent and body language that set her apart. Vika kept her head down fixated on her satchel, cooing and babbling to her disgruntled cat who was ready to jump in her face and put an end to the nonsense. Vika rolled her eyes and sent out a silent prayer.

It was answered. The Goddess of Happy Endings looked down on mother and daughter and willed them a pleasant journey.

You will stop running. You will stop being afraid. I will not abandon you. I will show you a Latvia free of dirty dealings and intrigues. I will send you to Brivzemnieki where you will discover the wonders of this land—the majestic stork nests high up on power  masts, the  fields of wild flowers buzzing with  bees, the regal oaks,  the white Baltic birch groves, dew-filled early mornings luminous with sunlight, clear translucent ponds and exquisite water lilies, traditional saunas, brown Latvian cows, song festivals and children dancing.

And always the sea. The endless sea.

Chapter 12

It was a warm spring morning. Vika wasn’t normally up early, but important decisions had to be made. And really soon. Still in her robe and sipping on coffee, Vika sighed as a thought flitted by. Somewhere she had heard the aphorism: If you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life. Perhaps. But she herself  hadn’t stayed in London long enough to feel anything in particular. The trip had been simply to deliver a quick illicit item for her husband/crime boss Bernie Zito.

Vika  shuddered at the recollection, still not quite believing what an idiot she had been. She must have been sleepwalking throughout that whole period of her life and the tide had not turned in her favor. Now she was paying the price. And all the money in her bank account couldn’t get her out of the pickle she was in.

Riga was a different matter. As brash and spunky as Vika was, in Riga she had become a wounded and hunted animal. She was indeed tired of being afraid, both for herself and for her mother. Now on her second cup of coffee (which she enjoyed with a liberal splash of Balzams), Vika started to plan her getaway. There was just so much danger she was able to tolerate. How far out of reach did she want to get? Well, she could become an astronaut and fly to the moon, she laughingly said to herself. Pretty far-fetched science fiction but still it was high time to find some safety.

Besides, the weather was getting warmer. She could well pack up her mother, her cat and her computer and head for some fresh air and sunshine. The Midi of France? Tempting but not realistic.

The telephone ringing pulled her out of her deliberations. It was Irena reminding her of their lunch date at Osiris.

* * *

Irena had become addicted to the cappuccino served in her favorite café. And she liked the clientele—especially one client whom she had befriended. Or had he befriended her? Either way it had been mutual attraction which had developed into friendship over shared interests.

Two heads shot up as Vika came through the door. Irena waved and the gent at her table stood up. Vika arched an eyebrow. Who’s this?

She was about to find out.   

“Vika, I’d like you to meet my friend, Otto Silins.”

Vika just stood there, blinking as if disoriented.

The gent gave a head bow and waited for Vika to extend her hand. She didn’t. Vika hadn’t planned for this. Irena had never mentioned any of her friends before. But now she had serious things to discuss with her mother and wasn’t in the mood for socializing. Still she smiled politely, if not sincerely, as Otto pulled out a chair for her, across from the two of them.

“May I order you a refreshment?”

You can get the hell out of here, Vika thought as she sat down. Then, after a brief inner struggle, she said, her voice cold as ice, “My mother and I were to have lunch here. I’ll wait for the menu.”

Irena leaned forward in her chair. “What about a cocktail. You usually enjoy a drink before your meal. I mean, when we go out.” Irena babbled nervously. “They have such a good variety. I can recommend Balzams with currants. Or with cherries, if you prefer.”

“Just a glass of white wine,” Vika said to the waiter who had approached. “I’ll have Greek salad. What about you, mum?”

Sure it was borderline rude to ignore Otto but Vika had serious business to discuss. In the end, the two women ordered the same Greek salad. Now it was time for conversation.

Otto checked his watch. “Irena, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you. I just remembered an appointment,” he said softly in Latvian.

“Please telephone me later,” Irena offered, giving her friend an apologetic smile.

Vika watched as the tall, handsome, older man got up, gave her another polite head bow, and headed for the door. She rolled her eyes.

Irena rarely got angry but this time she did.

“Listen here,” she said evenly. “You were very impolite. I’m shocked at you.”

Vika nodded. “Yes. I’m sorry. But there’s so much on my mind. I’ve made a serious decision and I need to talk to you. I had no idea you wanted to include someone I don’t know.”

“Well, you don’t know anyone, do you?” Irena snapped. “You and your gangster friends. You don’t know any decent people.”

Vika bristled. “Eggy. He’s decent. You like him, don’t you.”

Irena laughed. “He’s too young for me.”


Irena ignored this. “So, what’s the serious decision?”

Vika ordered a second glass of wine. Waited for it to arrive. Looked quickly around to be sure she wouldn’t be overheard.

“We have to get out of here. Out of Riga, I mean. It’s too dangerous for both of us. Eggy tells me that even you have been threatened.”

Irena’s jaw dropped. “But I love it here. I’ve made friends and…”

Vika leaned even closer to her mother, heads together like conspirators. “Your friends won’t disappear. But we must. If we want to stay alive. Your friends won’t enjoy coming to your funeral. But right now you mustn’t tell anyone.”

Irena’s eyes widened. She was silent for a few heartbeats.

“I see…” she finally said warily. “ You know more than I do about what’s going on. I mean about the danger we’re in. It was bad enough in New York. Now…”

Vika frowned. “Yeah. New York. The less said the better.”

Still, she was relieved that her mother wasn’t going to fight this. Never mind her new gent.

“It won’t be so bad,” she continued. There are lovely parts of Latvia to discover. Summer in Riga isn’t such a treat. The place is full of tourists…” Vika caught herself. What was she?

“It’s just that I have such good friends here,” Irena offered a bit sadly.

Vika smiled coyly. “Your Mr Silins might like to visit. We’ll find a beauty spot just for us—and for trusted friends. Somewhere the goons wouldn’t think of looking. We’ll be country girls. You’ll like that.”

Irena considered. “But where? Where are we disappearing to?”

Vika sipped on her wine. She felt like ordering a third glass. And why not? She wasn’t driving. She turned towards the bar and lifted her near empty (near full?) glass as a signal. “Would you like some more, mum?”

“I certainly would, Vika. I certainly would.”

The two women’s heads were almost touching they were so close. Vika leaned back to accept her glass of wine. As did Irena. Then they were back close to each other again, almost whispering.

“Eggy has a cousin in Talsi. That’s a little village—or rather a small city in the western part of Latvia.

Irena’s face brightened. “Of course I know Talsi! It’s a beautiful place in Kurzeme. My  mother’s family had a homestead not far from the center of town.”

Vika felt as if she could finally breathe easier again. “I’m so glad you’ve agreed. Eggy is already arranging things with Mara—that’s his cousin. But the important thing is to slip out of Riga like thieves in the night. No one must know. We can’t be seen leaving Riga.”

Irena was close to tears. “I’m so glad Eggy is helping.”

“Yes, but it would be too dangerous to have Eggy escort us. The goons are watching him. No one must be able to trail us as we’re leaving. One suitcase each. Plus Whiskey of course. We’ll be just two old cat ladies taking the bus to Talsi. Nothing special.”