Journey of Betrayals

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Prologue

Boca Catalina, Aruba, Dutch West Indies

 

 

Wizened and deeply tanned from years of exposure to the elements, Hans stood toward the back of the multimillion dollar catamaran. He scanned the water, keeping a vigilant eye on his “cares”. The tourists, each of whom had gladly parted with $50 in order to sail the miserable 15 minutes up the coast of Aruba and drink the cheap liquor provided by the company. “All of this in the name of having fun”, he thought. He was anchored no more than a few hundred yards from the old wreck of the Antilla, the scuttled German World War II freighter. He watched as they snorkeled and drifted over the rusting remains of the old sunken ship that lay on her side.

 

In their minds, each was probably thinking of some romantic or dramatic scene, he surmised. In reality, he was sick of visiting the wreck site. The events and history of this ship had reached him in real life in ways he preferred to forget. Looking out over the still and turquoise waters of the Caribbean, he wondered if things could have worked out differently. It was over 25 years since he had experienced his lover’s deceit that was so deep it had totally derailed him and destroyed his well established and privileged life. Unable to accept the rejection and loss, he had made reckless and irreversible changes. Gone was the lifestyle of carefree living without any consequences.

 

Gone was the Porsche. Gone was the beautiful home in Munich, which he had inherited and was decorated with antiques and priceless art. Gone too were his ties to his family and siblings. Gone too was his beautiful Greetje, a woman of incredible beauty and wit. All that mattered to him after that was his escape to the Caribbean in order to erase and forget this tragedy. Since abandoning all of his friends, interests and passions, and after moving to Aruba, his life had further spiraled downward. He had rented a cheap unit in a rundown working class apartment building, infested with bugs and fortified against crime by welded steel bars on his doors and windows. Hans had hit bottom and hit it very hard indeed, assisted by his addiction to the rum that he drank neat. 4 As Captain of the tourist catamaran, he was able to float into a surreal world for several hours each day and maintain some self esteem. The tourists looked up to him as a source of history, knowledge and as a part of the rough and tumble life of a Caribbean sailor. He reveled in this. His stories were pure lies and fabrications, yet who was to know the truth. If they only knew the truth, he thought. He had gambled, lost or drunk his way through whatever little money he had left after arriving from Germany. Each morning, regardless of rain or oppressive heat from the blistering sun, he walked to his work on the catamaran, a knapsack on his back containing all his personal items.

At age 50, he was fighting the ageing process and competing with the young 20- something year olds who also worked the boat. To maintain his self esteem and to prove his prowess to the younger crew, he was constantly prowling each assortment of tourists for the young girl who he estimated would be charmed by his “old mariner” yarns. More often than not, he scored a win. This would generally mean a good night of sex, a meal and drinks and then a good night sleep at one of the ritzy resort hotels, where the young and gullible victim was staying. On the odd occasion, after spinning the yarn of his sad life, his stories would resonate and he would be given some cash by the sympathetic girl. They never learned. Still, this was only a distraction. He considered his situation and what it could and should have been. On his arrival in Aruba, he had been introduced to Isaac Klassen Jr., a major power and financial player in resort and tourist businesses. Isaac had talked of building up a major water sport, real estate and entertainment empire and had asked Hans to be a part of it. Thinking back over the years, Hans’ mind flooded with scenes and emotions. Scenes of past relationships. Scenes of lost opportunities.

Scenes of what could have been. Hans looked over to the shore and clearly saw what would have been his future. His former potential partner was sitting with his beautiful, wealthy wife and family on the silky white sand beach. Hans sighed and sounded the klaxon to summon the tourists back onboard for their return trip. A trip that was complete with the loose women and free booze. Hans vowed to spend yet another night in a luxury suite. He preened and smiled a gracious smile and exuded a dominant presence to the young ladies climbing back on board after their snorkeling adventure. The early afternoon heat seared down on Hans as he stood at the helm and started the short cruise back to the High Rise Hotels of Palm Beach. He looked back at the white sand covered beach where Isaac Klassen Junior sat with his young wife and family. Hans did not understand why he felt some bond to Isaac. He never would. 5


Chapter 1

Lancaster Pennsylvania, April 1889

 

Lancaster Pennsylvania, April 1889 The bitterly cold winds of late spring howled across the still frozen fields. In the small graveyard they stood huddled against the biting wind. The Mennonite farmers and their wives looked on sadly as the two small coffins, hewn from rough pine boards, were lowered into the freshly, but awkwardly dug graves in the frozen earth. Prayers were said for the twin boys who had been unable to survive the dreaded cholera outbreak that had ravaged the small farming community the past bitter winter. Isaac looked around at the gathered brethren.

 

Desperation and sadness was reflected in their faces. He moved closer to Inge, his wife until their bodies touched and provided her with some shelter from the incessant wind. Inge turned and looked up at Isaac, tears streaming down her face. This was not the first time they had to attend such a funeral. Isaac attempted a small comforting smile and reached his hands out and took hers in a firm grasp. She continued to weep silently. The pain at the loss or her loved children dug deep into her heart and soul. They had brought so much joy and laughter into her and Isaac’s home in the 4 short years of their life.

 

Issac stepped forward and scooped a handful of loose dirt from the ground in front of him. He scattered the dirt onto the small coffins in the graves and started to pray out loud and was soon joined by the others. After the prayers he turned and escorted Inge on the short walk back to their buggy, consoling her with kind words. He helped Inge up into the small front seat and reached in and covered her legs and lap with a hand woven coach blanket. As he started to climb up into the buggy, he turned to see several of the men standing and watching them. Unsure of the reason, Isaac climbed back down and walked over to them.

 

With solemn looks on their faces they greeted Isaac. It was Johannes Schmidt, Isaac’s neighboring farmer friend who spoke first. “Isaac, we must find a way. Too many are sick. We do not have enough crops. We cannot survive if this is to continue” 6 Isaac looked at them. All were nodding in agreement with Johannes. Johannes continued, “We are going to prepare a meeting of our community and with the elders. We will try to find a way to improve our lives. We are asking if you will join us and maybe speak of some of the ideas you have mentioned to me.” Isaac had spoken with Johannes at length when they had worked the fields in the fall, harvesting their crops. He had described his dreams of a peaceful life of farming in a hospitable land and living with a happy family. “My friend, Johannes.

When will there be such a meeting? I cannot attend now as we are in a period of mourning for our dear children. I will of course be happy to assist and speak if the brethren wish to have me.” “Isaac, we respect you and understand” Johannes replied. “You must come to my farm when the mourning is over and we will plan” Isaac nodded and turned and walked back to his buggy and waiting Inge. They drove the buggy back the short 3 miles from the small Mennonite church to their simple farmstead that had been a source of warmth and joy to them when the boys were alive. Now it seemed a cold and inhospitable place with no meaning. Isaac and Inge entered and removed their coats and boots. They went into the drafty kitchen and sat. “Isaac, what are we to do?” asked Inge. My heart is dead and I no longer wish to stay in this hard place. Our God has not been kind to our community and for that there must be a reason. This is no improvement from the horrible conditions we fled in Europe.” Isaac looked at the sad expression on her face. He had never seen her natural beauty so removed. “Inge, the men are calling a meeting to discuss what can be done. They are asking me to attend and possibly speak of my ideas and thoughts for a better life and land.

I will of course do this as soon as the mourning period is over.” The days passed by and a week later, Isaac walked to Johannes farmhouse. Isaac had sought permission from the elders to shorten the normal mourning period due to the seriousness of the situation. 7 Isaac knocked at the door to the wooden farmhouse. Johannes opened the door and welcomed Isaac in. After removing Isaac’s coat, he was ushered into the kitchen. They engaged in small talk but eventually the talk drifted around to the more serious issues the community faced. After hours of discussion, Johannes agreed that he would have the word of the meeting spread amongst the members of the community. It was agreed that the meeting would need to be held in a large and warm place.

 

Finally, the communal farmers’ barn was suggested by Johannes. They agreed on this. Johannes had prepared some wurst and asked Isaac to join him in a simple but filling lunch. They continued talking and swapping ideas over the lunch. Finally, Isaac stood and dressed into his thin winter coat for the walk back to his home and Inge. Isaac felt a surge of satisfaction now that there was a plan to try and resolve the many issues facing him and his fellow Mennonites. He entered back into his home and embraced Inge. He held her for a long while and then told her of the planned meeting. After they spoke for some time, he noticed that she now seemed calmer than in the previous months. 8



Author John H Gray
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