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Chapter 6: Echoes of the Past
Twenty years earlier:
The pendulum of the old grandfather clock swung back and forth, its hands moving clockwise marking the continual passing of time. The “tick-tock” escaping from the timepiece was the only discernible sound within the room. The two gentlemen seated in the wide tufted wingback chairs in the center of the room preferring to pass the time in silence, only occasionally taking a swig of whiskey from their glasses.
The younger gentlemen glanced upon the portrait which hung on the wall to his right and broke the silence, “Judging from the portrait Milena and Liana have grown a great deal since I was last here.”
The older man gave a curt nod. “Yes, they have.”
“I must say, Milena certainly takes after you. She has your eyes.”
“Milena does remind me a lot of myself. She never ceases to amaze me or make me proud. Everything she does she excels at it. Whether it’s academics or martial arts.” Norvan glanced down towards the drink in his hand.
“And what of Liana?”
Norvan’s gaze rose from his drink and met the gentleman’s eyes seated across from him. Their eyes locked for a few moments, no reply escaping from Norvan’s lips.
“Liana is well,” Norvan finally answered, a blank expression on his face. He brought the tumbler glass to his lips and took another sip.
The younger gentleman cleared his throat. “I must say Norvan your reputation precedes you. As soon as I arrived here I heard mention of you.”
Norvan sat farther back in his chair, “Yes, that is the case when you have been as successful as I have been. In everything I have done in my life that has always been my objective – for it to be a success. I won’t settle for anything less. I suppose I take after my father that way.” he paused for a moment and continued “And what of you cousin? Are you still biding your time with that old professor of yours?”
“Yes. Professor M and I are still enthralled with our research. Ever since he showed me a glimpse of what the world could be like it is the only thing that seems of consequence – The one thing that remains is to find what we seek.”
“Hmmm,” Norvan nodded his head in thought, “and what particular type of research are you enthralled with?”
The younger man chuckled dryly “Same old Norvan, you were always one to ask questions.”
“And you were always one to be elusive in answers, just as you are in life.” Norvan countered.
“What can I say, I go as the wind goes.”
“Or where opportunity lies.”
“I however prefer to put down roots rather than spend my life wandering aimlessly to find my fortune or in your case a fantasy.”
The younger man placed his glass down on the mahogany table between them and grasped the armrest of his chair. His eyes darkened and his jaw clenched hearing Norvan’s slight.
Norvan took notice of the change in his cousin’s demeanor yet continued. “Though that must come naturally to you seeing as you’ve been running nearly all your life.”
“I prefer the term ‘starting over.’”
“‘Starting over,’ ‘Running from something,’ It’s all the same. I for one never shrink back from a challenge no matter what obstacles may be in the way. Unlike your father. He showed his true colors in the war when he deserted.”
“My father fought valiantly!” The younger man nearly shouted at Norvan as he rose from his chair. Norvan followed suit and stood up as well.
“Until he realized the war was a lost cause. Then he ran like a cat with its tail between its legs. Just like you!” Norvan scoffed as he pointed at his cousin.
Overcome with unspeakable rage the younger man slammed his hand down on the table.
“At least I’m not stuck in some God-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere! Here you are acting like you own the world. Like you’ve accomplished something meaningful. You haven’t!” he spat.
Norvan’s cousin began making his way across the room towards the door.
“Says the man whose only accomplishment in life is being a protege to a lunatic professor! You’re nothing Regis!” Norvan shouted after him.
Regis stopped and stood there, completely still for a moment. He then turned and calmly replied to his older cousin.
“Of course you’d see Professor M that way with that ignorant mind of yours. You will never understand or even begin to imagine the great importance of our work. How it will change the world. But then again neither will the rest of the world.”
“You truly believe that this ‘research’ of yours will give you a place in the world. That you’ll be someone remembered and praised by humanity. You lost your place in the world when you willing chose to remain a Blackgaard and reject the Blagueur name.”
“In my experience, I have found that it is not the name that makes the man but the course in life he chooses to embark upon.”
“I for one, have always continued on what course I have set upon, in spite of what may result or transpire.”
“It seems that we are each determined to see our desires through to the end no matter what. Perhaps you and I are not so different after all.”
Regis looked down reflectively and spoke. “Goodbye, Norvan”
It was late at night, nearly two o’clock. In the darkened sky hung a shimmering full moon. Along a dimly lit alleyway, a woman quickly made her way to her apartment. Her coat was all done up and her hands tucked in her pockets in an effort to keep somewhat warm from the chilly night breeze. She reached the gates of her apartment complex and walked through them towards her flat “105.” She pulled out her key and began to unlock the door. She heard a familiar voice behind her and turned to greet her landlord.
“Ms.Vardyan, you’re getting in late.”
“Hello, Mrs. Agassi. How come you’re up at this hour?”
“Oh you know, a landlord’s work is never done.” she gave a slight laugh “I was just going over my books and finances. I saw you pass by my bedroom window and thought I’d say hi. Speaking of finances, you still owe me last month’s rent.”
“I know. I know. I promise you’ll have it by Wednesday.”
“Okay, that will be fine. Just make sure you aren’t late again.” Mrs. Agassi quipped as she began to head back to her apartment.
“Don’t worry. I will” Ms. Vardyan called after her. She finished unlocking the door and entered her home. It had been a long day and she was completely exhausted. All she wanted to do was sleep though she doubted she would be able to, at least not well and for very long, with all the haunted memories of her past constantly weighing on her mind. Whenever she could drift off she savored every moment of it. It was the only time she could escape the unending pain and emptiness she felt every moment she spent awake. She reached her bedroom and collapsed on the bed. She stared at the ceiling and sighed. Her hand made its way to the golden locket she always wore around her neck. She held it up so that it was illuminated by the moonlight streaming in from her bedroom window. She opened the locket and glanced at the photo, which was an image of her and the man she loved more than anything.
She closed the locket and brought it to her heart, tears streaming down her face. She closed her eyes, sobs racking her entire body. She pictured the day that image was taken. She could still recall every detail of that day even though now it seemed like an eternity ago. She was a different person then. In fact, that was a completely different life. She and Erik had spent the day at the lake. The two of them had shared a picnic by the water’s edge, playfully splashed each other, and tried to see who could fly their kite the highest. The air had been filled with sounds of endless laughter and joy. She recalled how she was filled with indescribable happiness every time she was in his arms, both that day and all the other times they shared together. They had been happy and so in love, excitedly looking forward to their future together. But now he was gone and their future had been snatched from them. When she lost him she didn’t know how she would survive. Every part of her had been filled with unspeakable grief, pain, and anger. Her heart had been ripped into a million pieces. Now all she felt was emptiness, sadness, and a sense of loneliness that overwhelmed her whole being.
Since that fateful day when Erik had been so cruelly taken from her she had sworn to make those who had horrifically murdered him pay for what they had done. It had been her sole focus for almost the past five years. The only thing that mattered to her. She had almost accomplished her goal but one person still stood in her way and she was determined to cross his name off her list.
Three months earlier:
Milena and Lorenzo sat together around a patio table on an upper porch. Around them and on the table were placed candles and arrays of red roses. Above them stars brightly twinkled in the night sky. While they were surrounded by the view of the wooded mountainside, the trees seemingly aglow with fireflies. The two of them sat there content, completely enveloped in each other’s presence.
“I must say Lena you look stunning tonight. That dress brings out the color of your eyes” Lorenzo adoring complimented Milena.
Milena’s smile widened “And you look very handsome.”
“Thank you mio caro. It feels so wonderful to be here with you especially since we haven’t had much time to be together recently.”
“I know and feel terrible about that. My father and I have just been very busy acquiring new plots for drilling. Securing various business deals—”
Lorenzo took Milena’s hand “No need to apologize. I’ve always found myself captivated by your ingenuity and determination. It’s one of the reasons why I love you so much.”
“And your understanding and patience is one of the reasons why I love you so much.”
They stared intently at one another, lost in each other’s eyes. At that moment a voice came from behind them.
Milena looked up in her housekeeper’s direction. “Jemma I requested that Lorenzo and I not be interrupted.”
“I know ma’am and I’m sorry for disturbing you but the caller said it was urgent that he speak to you” Jemma held out the phone to Milena.
Milena sighed “Will you excuse me for a moment.”
Milena scooted her chair back and rose from her seat. “I’ll be right back” she gently touched Lorenzo’s arm as she walked past him towards the sliding door. Milena reached Jenna and took the phone from her. She walked a few feet inside the house in order to have some privacy and held the phone up to her ear.
“Hello” she answered.
The person on the other end responded “Hello. Am I speaking to Milena Blagueur-Ohanyan?”
“Yes, this is she.”
“I’m Officer Adam Kassabian with the Bulin police department. I’m sorry to inform you but your father has passed away.”
The blood drained from Milena’s face as she heard the officer’s words. She took a deep breath as she struggled to keep her composure. “Um…are you ah,” she stammered “sure that he’s…gone?”
“Unfortunately yes. We located the burning wreckage of his car at the bottom of a cliff about twenty minutes outside of Bulin.”
Milena’s head was spinning as she tried to comprehend that her father was dead. “Is there um…” she took a breath, willing herself once more to hold it together, “any idea how it happened?”
“We’re still in the early stages of the investigation Ms. Ohanyan.”
Milena could tell from Officer Kassabian’s voice that there was something he was holding back from her.
“Please,” she paused “whatever you know tell me…I want to know.”
Officer Kassabian sighed “We’ve found what appears to be the remains of a disk grenade. The car was also riddled with bullet holes and your father was shot. Unfortunately, it appears as though this wasn’t an accident.”
Milena’s heart felt sick and she was filed with unspeakable sadness and anger. Her fingers loosened their grip on the phone and it dropped to the floor. She stood there unable to move, paralyzed with grief. Lorenzo hearing the clatter of the phone hitting the tile walked to the entrance of the sliding glass door to check on Milena. He saw her there frozen in that spot and shaking uncontrollably. Her eyes red and brimming with tears.
“Lena what’s wrong?” he stepped closer in her direction.
Milena swallowed hard willing herself to speak. “My father…he’s gone Lorenzo…he was killed.”
“Oh Lena, I’m so sorry.” he gently spoke, trying to offer her as much comfort and support as he could. “I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now.”
“I just saw him yesterday. We were together chatting and laughing like always.” Milena cried, lost in a daze as she remembered the events of the previous day. “I never imagined that would be the last time I’d see him.”
Milena shook her head and brought her hand to her mouth. She collapsed to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Lorenzo walked over to Milena and wrapped his arms around her. She wailed as she buried her tear streaked face in his shirt. They sat there together on the floor. Neither of them saying anything. To Milena this was just another reminder of how cruel life had been to her. She had lost her mother when she was just a toddler. Her sister had turned her back on their family. And now, just when she was finally enjoying a period of happiness in her life, her father’s life was mercilessly taken.