Stolen Identity Books  by  Michael BanisterStolen_Identity_and_Unfinished_Business.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
It was late afternoon in early February, 2014, when Dushan Sava and his American “stepbrother” Danilo Sandor returned to their hotel on the shore of Lake Bled, near Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana. The two young men had spent two days at the lake, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to explore the lake on a couple of kayaks. They chose kayaks rather than hopping in one of the many “Dragon Boats” that just took you to the island and back. This way, they were able to explore the whole lake, not just the island.

Sitting in the hotel restaurant afterwards, they were still savoring their two days on the lake. “That was definitely the way to do it, Dani. I had no interest in sitting in a dragon boat with tourists, making small talk with them while listening to the oarsman rattle on with his spiel in broken English. That just didn’t appeal to me.”

“Exactly right, Dr. Dushansky. This way we got a little exercise, which God knows you could use. You still haven’t lost all that weight you put on in prison. How long has it been since you sprung yourself—five, six months?”

Dushan ignored the comment. When Dani mentioned prison, Dushan revisited the brief twinge of unpleasantness he had felt the day before when he and Dani were in the lake boathouse investigating the various boating options. One of the boatmen helping some Italian people into a Dragon Boat had given Dushan the creeps. There was something about the man he didn’t like, something unbalanced, evil even. That feeling reminded Dushan of one of the dreams he had as a little boy, a dream in which his mom was talking to him. She seemed to be saying she was a prisoner. The dream comforted him because he had been told by his stepparents that his mom was dead. The dream told him otherwise. 

The feeling passed and the brothers decided on kayaks. They spent that day and the next on the lake. Dushan let the memory of the boatman pass for now, took a drink of water, and responded to Dani’s comment. “Well, the next time you see me, I’ll be my former wiry self.”

“Hah; you were never wiry, my brother. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. When you come visit me in Liverpool, we’ll see how wiry you are.”

Choosing to steer the conversation to something more interesting and less embarrassing than his weight, Dushan said, “So you’ve definitely decided on the University of Liverpool? That’s a far cry from junior college in San Bernardino.”

Dani grimaced at the memory of those days when the two stepbrothers ran away from Dani’s abusive father with a desperate plan to live in San Bernardino and go to the junior college there. Now he smiled as his new plan of going to college in a new country filled his thoughts. “Yep. My Grandma Margaret told me she can help me get admitted through a ‘legacy’ admission. Apparently, one of her uncles was a wealthy alum who gave a fair sum of money to the University. Plus, she all but invited me to stay in the little cottage behind her house. I think I’d like that over a dorm.”

Dushan put down his fork and said, “What about that bitch Carolyn? Did your grandma give you an update on what’s going on with her? Remember when Lieutenant Ailshie said he was going to have the Liverpool cops pay Carolyn a visit?”

Dani chuckled and said, “Apparently he did just that. Margaret told me on the phone this morning that Carolyn was arrested and charged with your kidnapping. So far, she’s enjoying the hospitality of a Liverpool jail. I guess Liverpool has jurisdiction in the case because the kidnapping took place there. There’s gonna be some kind of pretrial hearing in June or July. You and your dad might have to go to that, and for sure to the trial, if there is one.”

“You mean she might take a plea rather than risk a trial? Man, I sure hope she gets a clue and pleads guilty. I don’t relish going all the way there and sticking around waiting to testify at her trial. I’ve got better things to do; getting my real identity back, for starters.”

“I hear you, but even if there is a trial, at least you’ll be around to see me enter the freshman class at the University.”

“Sure, that would definitely be cool. But I’ve got a million things I’ve got to get settled here first. I need to get my birth certificate in Belgrade. In fact, I can’t do any more travelling on my ‘stolen identity;’ my first priority has to be to get that taken care of. I also need to enroll in some language courses, figure out the college situation. At some point I’ll take a break and visit you in Liverpool.”

Dani took a deep breath and looked Dushan in the eyes. “What kind of language courses? Slovenian? I got the impression from the conversations we had with your parents that they weren’t too happy living in Ljubljana. The economy is in the toilet, your dad said his job might go away at any moment, your sisters said they weren’t looking forward to going to high school in Ljubljana. Didn’t you get the impression they were thinking of moving?”

“Yeah, it sure seemed that way. But I don’t think they had a clear plan. Moving back to Belgrade didn’t seem to be a viable alternative. The economy is even worse in Serbia than it is in Slovenia, and my mom especially doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of moving back there. That whole period of her life where she was a prisoner of Major Goran and the Serbian army left her with a deep-seated dread of ever going back there. My dad, too, doesn’t relish the idea, even assuming he could get his old job back on the rivers.”

“Well, if I may be so bold as to offer your family advice, why not consider a move to the Isle of Man? You remember what Angus said when we were there, before we headed over to Liverpool to meet my grandma? Lots of opportunities there. Your parents loved it there, and only moved back to Ljubljana to be closer to their families.”

Dushan played with his food for a few moments before looking up at Dani. “I don’t know how they would feel about that. But I’ll definitely mention it to them.”

Dani smiled, “I have a good feeling about this idea. Angus said there are some good schools in Douglas, even a university. Your sisters could enroll in one of the high schools there and you could enroll in the university.”

Dushan chuckled as he finished the last bite of pasta. “I can see your self interest in all this. You’ll be right across the Irish Sea from us, a few hours away instead of a few days away if I was living in Slovenia or Serbia.”

Dani tried to put on a straight face. “I’m only trying to be practical. You know as well as I that nobody in your family is particularly happy living in Ljubljana.”

“Well, you’re right as far as my immediate family goes, but my grandparents and aunts and uncles on both sides are pretty well situated and seem pretty content with their lives there. And my parents probably would want to stay close to them.”

“Sure. And there’s no reason your grandparents and aunts and uncles won’t stay that way, even should your parents and the girls move away. It’s a pretty short trip there by air, and plenty of vacation opportunities.”

“Okay, okay, you’ve convinced me. I’ll bring it up with them as soon as I have a chance when we get back. But first I’m gonna call Angus and talk over this idea with him. It would help to have some concrete options for my parents in terms of jobs.” Dushan took a drink from his water glass and gave Dani a sly grin. “Now, you mentioned high schools in Douglas. How do you know anything about that? Have you been cooking up this plot on the sly?”

Dani tried not to smile. “It just so happens that Angus told me about a top-notch high school in Douglas called St. Ninians. And he said there are always job openings in the fishing and shipping industries, as well as in health care and social work. With your parents’ years of experience, they’d have no trouble finding work. It’s a great idea, my brother, you have to admit.”

“I do admit it; like I said, I’ll talk it up with them. You and I are going to do this together, as a matter of fact.” 

“Fine with me. If you do end up enrolling at the Isle of Man University, you and I can hook up during vacations. My winter break is a whole month, for God’s sake! We could even invite my old Utah buddy Claude Prejean up for a week or so during winter break. He and I have been emailing each other a lot lately. He’s now working in Trieste, Italy, and says he loves it; it’s a whole lot more interesting than Utah was, and the job sounds pretty amazing.”

Dushan pushed his plate away and raised his empty water glass to their waiter, who seemed to be studiously ignoring them. Putting the glass back down, Dushan asked Dani, “Did Claude say what he’s doing exactly?”

“He’s working with a university in Italy to preserve cliff limestone from various environmental and man-made threats. The region he’s working in stretches from Trieste, Italy, to Dubrovnik, Croatia. It’s contract work with the university, not a professorship, and he says the project is open-ended.”

Dushan yawned and slowly rose to his feet. “We can figure out our plans later. For now we’ve got an awful lot on our plates. Tomorrow we should leave early for home, Ljubljana I mean. My mom texted me a little while ago and said some relatives had just arrived and they want to meet ‘the brothers’.” 

“I have to say, Dushan, that you seem to be handling this reunion with your parents very, very well. How does it feel?”

Dushan didn’t answer right away; the waiter had finally come over to fill his water glass. Dani asked for another caffe latte. As the waiter walked away, Dushan sat back down, turned back to Dani and said, “It may look like I’m taking it all in stride, but I’m not. This is going to take a fair amount of time, my brother. Mom and dad and I are going to have to get to know each other all over again. What am I saying! I hardly know them at all, especially my mom. I was snatched from her when I was six months old. With my dad, at least I spent four or five years with him, and I have a few nice memories of that time. And now I’ve got two teenage sisters to get to know. So, to answer your question—it feels good, yet strange at the same time. But there’s a bond there, an attraction, love even. I just have to let this relationship grow and develop. I plan on spending every free moment with them. Rejoin the family. It may not be easy, but I’m pretty sure it will feel good.”

How to Order

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Chapter One: The Brothers’ Next Move

©2015-2019 Michael Banister

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