ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2015
issue/numero: # 07



Whatever Happened to Juliana Klein?


Author | Autor: Marcos Peres


Translated by Zoë Alexandra Perry

1. How Irineu became what he is

2011

All roads lead to Curitiba, sooner or later. Every journey demands a

homecoming, the return to a place where we’ve been expected, because

it’s from there we departed. Curitiba is a river, on this Curitiba I

travel, I travel and return to a familiar spot, to the place that makes me

what I am, what I truly am, he thought, confused, as echoes of Juliana Klein told

him about choices and fate, about love for what lies ahead and about conformity.

As soon as the plane landed at Afonso Pena Airport in Curitiba, a police cruiser

was waiting for him. It was embarrassing, for all fourteen of Curitiba’s police

districts, that they needed a detective all the way from Maringa to solve yet another

battle in that war – known as Klein versus Koch in the academic world, and

on true crime shows and in the popular vernacular as “The Curse of the Germans”.

On top of that, it was Irineu de Freitas, the troubled detective, wrapped up with

Klein and Koch, and who was facing charges in various judicial proceedings for

the illegal investigation he led back in 2008. For these reasons, the detectives

in Curitiba had signed a letter advising against his deployment on this particular

case. The document was sent to the state police commissioner of Paraná, who had

denied the request. The break in jurisdiction might have seemed like an affront

to the Curitiba authorities, but an outside effort could put a welcome end to the

antics of those gringo philosophers, who consistently made the headlines in the

Gazeta and on local TV news. Klein & Koch had become a statewide public safety

issue. In other words, this was a series of murders of bourgeois academics, children

of European immigrants, whose motives were unclear and their modus operandi,

bizarre – something the TV news and news sites liked to point out, linking them to

the incompetent police and justice system.

A young, pimply-faced cop waited for the detective at the airport. They had

never met, but he didn’t want to hold a sign with the arrival’s name. He trusted

the description he’d been given and confirmed it upon seeing the man in a white

Armani shirt. He must have been between 35 and 40 years old, and had a few grey

hairs mixed through his wavy curls. He was tall – 6’2”, maybe 6’3”–, and his eyes

were hidden behind a pair of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses. His beard – also sporting

some grey hairs – was bushy and his skin, pale. He wasn’t fat, but no longer had the

athletic build he’d boasted until he was 27 or 28, and which had been instrumental

in several cases, back when he was a starry-eyed rookie, trying to incorporate the

idealisms of his detective novels into his profession. But, as he’d found out, Maringa

wasn’t London and the Polícia Civil was no Scotland Yard. And reading Doyle

and Poe wasn’t going to make him detective or bring him the stability on which

his colleagues prided themselves. He’d married and divorced within a year, and

around the bar, invariably drunk, he would justify himself on the grounds his wife

couldn’t stand a husband who fought crime for a living, which was a half-truth. The

other side of the story was that, off-duty, he refused to put any work into his marriage.

It was not, therefore, a consequence, but an unrelated fact, and one which

would come to light if the title of detective were replaced by any other. Altering

the underlying cause of the facts was an innocent way to contend that he wasn’t

fit for sharing the company of a mate, that he preferred to be alone with his own

quirks and sex without strings, either with professionals or any of the many women

who crossed his path with a “fetish for men in uniform.” He maintained, if not the

athleticism of days gone by, at least the charm of an experienced man, stemming

from his white hair, dark circles from sleepless nights, teeth yellowed by caffeine,

the full beard – the product of his tangled family tree, Portuguese and Moorish. His

angular, oval face, the Ray-Ban aviators and his resolute stride lent him the air of

a retired model. He was a handsome man, thought the young, pimply-faced cop,

who had been told about all about Irineu de Freitas, except that he had come to

Curitiba in a bad mood.

They stood face to face, and the young officer extended his hand. The police

chief took off his glasses and, from that simple act, the young cop corroborated

that the man before him was indeed the famed Irineu de Freitas. He was able to

confirm his identity not because he knew Irineu always took off his sunglasses in

front of a stranger, his way of showing respect, in the manner of those who remove

their hats at the table. But he had been told that above the left eye of the man he

was to pick up was a visible gash. A reddish scar that began at the eyebrow, went

down the eyelid and ended on the apple of his left cheek. A cut, as legendary as

its owner, the subject of controversy: some claimed it to be the result of torture at

the hands of a drug dealer; others that it had been made by a 12-year-old girl who

had just lost her mother.

“Are you hungry?” asked the cop, without taking his eyes off the scar. “There’s

a diner not far from here that serves cops on the house...”

“Thanks. I’d rather go to the Klein house.”

“Sure? It’s going be a long day. I guarantee you’ll...”

“Thank you,” the deputy snapped. “I want to see the girl. And my stomach’s

churning.”

Soon they were in the car, heading toward Batel. They took Comendador

Franco Avenue, and Irineu closed his eyes. How was little Gabriela Klein Scaciotto?

Three years had passed since their fateful last encounter. He remembered Gabi at

nine and at 12, he recalled the expectation that the girl would grow into a beautiful

young woman, and her bright blue eyes, so much like her mother’s. His thoughts

swirled and again he saw the daughter, a miniature copy of Juliana Klein.

When the cruiser turned left onto Sergio Venci street, Freitas snapped back

from his thoughts. The officer must have noticed and began to talk about the grey

Curitiba weather, the sudden change in temperature, the hooliganism following

the last match between rivals Atletico and Coritiba. Irineu grunted in reply, looking

out at the road. What can I say to Gabriela? Once again, he would have to justify

himself, embodying the incompetent justice system. Once again, he would have

to look deep into the girl’s blue eyes, an unforgettable and unjustifiable victim.

Inevitably, one’s thoughts turn to archetypes, of the victim, belated justice, troubled

parents, obscure villains... And if thinking in patterns was imperious, then it

was inevitable to think of Juliana laughing, strangely laughing, as she said that

that porcelain teacup with gold accents on the table, the teacup that would cost

months’ worth of his detective’s salary, that teacup was nothing more than a form

of a celestial, immemorial Cup, in which archetypal Gods drank archetypal Teas,

while they (Irineu and Juliana) just imitated them, imperfect copies, Curitiba is a

River, Irineu and Juliana go by boat.

“I changed my mind. I want to grab a paper and a cup of coffee.”

“You mean breakfast?”

“No, just a black coffee. I need to wake up.”

They stopped at a gas station. Inside the convenience store Irineu flipped

through the newspaper as he drank his coffee. Atlético Paranaense had hired

coach Antônio Lopes again, it said in big letters across the sports page. Alongside

it, a history of the coach’s life. According to the article, Lopes had had a short-lived

career as a soccer player. After that failed attempt, he took a shot at two distinct

career paths: soccer coach and detective. He became a cop, studied law to get

promoted to detective. At the time, his life seemed headed in one direction, with

no turning back. With a law degree, he became inspector general. And, at that

point, one event changed everything: a classmate from his days as a physical education

student, now a team trainer for Vasco da Gama, asked the inspector to help

him apprehend a vehicle belonging to the team’s goalie. There was an opening for

a trainer, and Lopes was hired.

Irineu smiled. Things very nearly took a completely different turn. If Antônio

Lopes had worked as a detective in Curitiba, maybe the police force wouldn’t

have been short-staffed in 2005. And if, six years later, the Klein vs. Koch case

hadn’t sparked so much criticism among the general public, perhaps the authorities

wouldn’t need, today, a detective from the countryside. And if he hadn’t been

called in, Irineu would have never met Gabriela, wouldn’t have spent those sleepless

nights over Juliana Klein. The series of events, from another angle, looking

back, all seemed unlikely.

Opposite the article, it stated that Antônio Lopes was hired for the fifth time

as head coach of Atlético Paranaense. On four previous occasions, someone had

decided Lopes wasn’t suitable for the job and given him his walking papers. Then,

whoever was coach at the time would get sacked and once again Lopes was

named. And, at his press conference, the newly-named once-former coach would

again state the love he felt for the team, his desire and determination to win new

titles, new glories, and every other known sports cliché. It was all written, not in the

stars, not by some improbable and metaphysical dervish, not in a kabbalistic study,

but in the very newspapers, from years past, already yellowed, whose sports headlines

read: “Antônio Lopes hired for fourth time by Atlético.” Or: “For the third time,

Lopes at helm of Atlético” or even “Lopes reaffirms love he feels for team”, etc.

Seeing the future in the past is something else ripped from the sports pages,

thought Irineu, trying to imagine what Juliana would think of that thought. His coffee

had already started to get cold and the pimply-faced cop was beginning to showing

signs of impatience, when the chief reached the crime section. There, in black and

white, was an enormous photo of Mirna. Below it, the details of her murder.

Mirna Klein had just arrived home from the Mercadorama supermarket with

Gabriela. “She only had a few bags,” said the cashier in an interview who had

served the woman, minutes before her death. “She was happy, she was playing

with the girl.” They had bought Nutella, a container of ice cream, waffles, a two-liter

bottle of Coca-Cola. It wasn’t much, Mirna could have gone to the store alone.

She didn’t need help, she must have taken the girl along for fun, they were buying

treats. They must have been planning a night in with chocolates and sappy romance

movies. A man wearing a black, hooded overcoat entered the house with

them. He went for the girl and grabbed her, but Gabriela knows the fate and the

name she bears, and was able to escape. Then the old woman planted herself in

the man’s way and took a gunshot to the face. And two more gunshots, one by her

heart, the other in her stomach. Oddly, before fleeing, the murderer left the weapon,

an H&K semiautomatic, at the scene.

Irineu sighed sadly and closed the newspaper.





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