The Manuscript I the Secret
I suppose he disguised himself and pulled it off. The man was luckier than the devil himself. I never discussed these details with Claudio who didn’t learn until years later about everything that went on back then. I did not agree with what Claudio did, but he was my friend—my only friend, in fact. He was more than a brother to me.”
    Francesco Martucci paused. He had been studying the ground as he spoke, but now he looked up.
    Dante asked, “Do you mean that Uncle Claudio had something to do with Mengele?”
    “Yes. Claudio thought he could make good money off of the discovery, and he went to South America to look for Mengele. Through some contacts at the Swiss consulate, he knew Mengele’s whereabouts. Mengele had returned to Europe in 1956. Surprising, isn’t it? He met up with his future wife, Martha, and his son, Rolf, in Geneva.”
    “Nothing surprises me anymore.”
    “We learned that he had not been able to enter Armenia at that point and had to return to South America. The German was by that time one of the most wanted men by the Mossad and by a Nazi hunter named Wiesenthal. Unbelievably enough, they could not track him down even though he lived in relative freedom in Argentina. When we found the chest and the documents, Claudio got in touch with a few folks in Paraguay and from there tracked Mengele to a modest home in Brazil. By that time he was one of the world’s most wanted men! But Claudio had a gift for this kind of thing. Nothing was impossible for him. On the other hand, I think it was rather convenient for the famous Mr. Wiesenthal to still have one of the Nazis most closely linked to Hitler’s regime on the run, since it fueled his cause. When Claudio found him, Mengele had just survived a cerebral embolism. The man was terribly fearful. He lived in hiding from the rest of the world. It wasn’t easy to convince him, but Claudio brought a copy of Mengele’s notes with him and finally persuaded the German to talk with him. Mengele continued his research in a laboratory in the United States where your Uncle Claudio was a partner, and it was there that Mengele channeled all his energies into perfecting the damnable formula. He experimented with Claudio, who volunteered willingly, though really he had no choice. His exposure to the chest’s contents had caused irreparable damage that only Mengele himself could slow down. Claudio was just as obsessed as Mengele was with eternal youth. One of the conditions was that he had to have a child.”
    “Which explains why I was conceived,” I murmured to myself.
    “Claudio had to have a child who would have his same blood type. That’s what he told me. Fortune smiled on him again, because you two were perfectly compatible, which means you could have shared any bodily organs.”
“It sounds like Uncle Claudio turned me into his organ donor.”
    “Don’t say such foolish things, signore mio ! He had the chance to take any of your organs he wanted, but he didn’t do it, don’t you see?”
    A lightning bolt of memories split through my brain, from times when I was just beginning to make sense of the world. Uncle Claudio, or rather, my father, liked to travel with me. Once he took me to the United States to visit a man who, he said, was an old friend. And he really was an old man, or at least he seemed so to me at the time. I have very happy memories of him. After that trip, Uncle Claudio started taking blood samples from me. Sometimes when he would come by the house, he would have a syringe and say he was worried about my health. I never minded the pricks because afterwards he always took me out for juice or ice cream. The servant who often came with him would hermetically seal up the tube of my plasma and take it away, and Uncle Claudio—even now it is difficult to think of him as my father—and I would go for our outing. The last time that happened at our house, he and my mother had a very heated discussion. Afterwards, he never came back. But I

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