A Number, Not a Name: Part Nine

Chapter 9: The Broken Pieces of My Heart


5 years earlier:

Liana quickly peeked through the blue curtains that separated backstage from the audience. She browsed over the people gathered in the auditorium who had come to show their support for Erik Davtyan’s candidacy to be a member of parliament. From the front row all the way to the back every seat was filled. Liana heard the sound of footsteps and conversing behind her. She turned around and saw Erik walking towards her with his aide. “And here’s your last set of notes for you Mr. Davtyan” the aide handed them to him.

He chuckled “Where on earth we’re these. I looked everywhere for them.”

Ms. Harkins laughed “You left them in the dressing room sir, on the makeup vanity.”

“Thank you so much for finding them. You’re a lifesaver.”

“Of course. Good luck with your speech!” she said as she walked away.

“Thanks, I’ll need it.”

Erik looked forward and saw Liana waiting for him by the curtain, twirling back and forth flirtatiously.

An expression of utter surprise crossed his face. “What are you doing here?” he asked as he opened his arms wide.

Liana threw herself in his arms. They embraced for a few seconds before pulling away. Liana stepped back and playfully hit his arm.

“I came to see you, what else?”

He laughed “And I’m so glad you did. You look so beautiful tonight. That dress is stunning on you.”

Liana blushed “I know how much you love this dress so I thought I’d wear it tonight.” She twirled the locket on her neck “Along with the locket you gave me of course.”   

He gave her an adoring look “And I’m so touched you decided to wear them, but are you sure you should be here. If your father found out

“It’s totally fine” she shushed him. “My father couldn’t care less about me or what I do. Besides, I couldn’t go without attending my boyfriend’s final campaign rally, now could I?“

“No, I suppose you couldn’t” he responded just as playfully as she. They each leaned in and shared a kiss.

Liana then pointed behind her “Did you see the number of people here. I’m not even the one speaking and I’m nervous.”

“Yeah it’s um” he swallowed, “something all right.”

Liana noticed the shift in his demeanor “Erik are you alright?”

“Yeah it’s just that…I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing. Compared to everyone else running for this position I’m just a kid. A young up-start. At least that’s what they call me in the papers. Who knows perhaps I should have waited a few years to run.”

She placed her hands on his chest and looked into his gentle hazel eyes.

“Listen, this is your dream. All you’ve ever wanted since you were fourteen was to be a politician. Your voice is important and needs to be heard. You love this country and its people. As long as corrupt men like my father run the country or hold the reigns of power things will never change for the better. You are the answer.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I know what a good heart you have. I’ve heard your ideas for reforms in education, legislation, and social justice. They’re brilliant.”

“I suppose you have more confidence in me than I have in myself.”

“Trust your instincts. Trust your heart. All my life that’s what I’ve relied upon and everything has turned out all right.”

“Hmm,” he smirked, “including your love life.”

She laughed, “especially my love life.”

They locked eyes and he brought his hand to her cheek. They leaned in for another kiss and gently broke apart.

“Well, I better go find a seat.”

“Okay.”

“Good Luck Babe.”

“Thank you, Sweetheart.”

She gave him a final peck on the lips and then made her way from backstage to the auditorium. She chose a seat in the front row that gave her a clear view of the speaker’s platform. Within a few minutes Erik appeared on stage and the audience erupted in applause. Once the audience had finished their applause and taken a seat, Erik began to speak.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen. It’s so wonderful to see you all here tonight. We’re now only a week from election night. A night that will be a monumental one for this country. On that day we all will decide what future we want for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. We have to be willing to ask ourselves the question – will we stand for the truth. For years this country’s fate has been in the hands of members of parliament who regard politics not as a way to help their people, but as a means to further their own ambition and power. We need men and women in office whose goal is to lift their fellow brothers and sisters up and rise together as one. We either all get there or none of us will. This is what I believe. This is what I stand for. And I will continue to fight for you. To fight for all of Krudia. Growing up I’ve seen firsthand the suffering in this country, the heartache, the pain. I want those burdens to be lifted. I believe in a brighter day for our country, but I also recognize that to get there it will be a long, arduous road. There will be challenges and setbacks along the way. But as long as we face those obstacles united as a people. Men and women. Rich and poor. Young and old. We will overcome them.”

He paused for a second “For many of you I know you’ve heard these words before. So have I. Promises are easily made and they are easily broken. I won’t pretend that they aren’t. This isn’t a promise. This is a pledge. My pledge to you is that no matter what I’ll never stop advocating and fighting for the people of Krudia, No matter what it costs.”

Cheers erupted from the audience.

“I’ll always campaign for the rights of those who have too long been ignored and tread upon. I’ll never stop fighting to topple the corruption that exists in our streets and government. I’ll never stop until we see a brighter day. I may fail. I may stumble. But I’ll never give up.”

The sound of applause rose even higher from the crowd. Erik paused for a moment and gave a small smile, unable to hide how touched he was by the cheering crowd before him. He continued “For the rest of this evening I plan to discuss the legislation and reforms that I will advocate for if I am elected. The first thing I’d address is economic reforms. As of today nearly 70 percent of all Krudians liv

At that moment a barrage of bullets rang out. Utter terror filled the building as the entire crowd, except for security and Liana, scrambled to take cover. For Liana time seemed to stand still. Shrieks and voices were drowned out in the background. The horror stricken faces of men and women in the audience were only blurs. The security officers running to and fro were merely posing statues. And there was Erik, her Erik collapsing to the floor before her very eyes.

“Erik! ERIK!!!” Liana shouted as she darted up the stairs of the stage. She knelt by his side and cradled his head in her lap as two security guards arrived. “No Erik please, stay with me” she cried. She leaned her head on his chest to see if he was still breathing. She discovered he was still breathing, however to Liana’s horror it was becoming shallower and shallower as time passed. She raised her head and screamed “He’s still breathing! Someone get a doctor!”

One of the security officers squatted down next to Liana “Ms. Ohanyan, a doctor and an ambulance are on their way. They’ll both be here in a few minutes.”

“We don’t have a few minutes,” Liana sobbed.

“Daniel, stay here with Mr. Davtyan and Ms. Ohanyan. I’ll see if there’s a doctor here” he said as he stood up.

“Of course,” Daniel replied.

Liana took Erik’s hand and it held it close to her heart. Everything and everyone faded into the background and in that moment it was just the two of them. “Please…” she cried. “I love you so much.” She closed her eyes, tears streaming down her face. Liana slowly opened her eyes as she heard Erik struggling to speak.

“Ar-are….”

She leaned in closer to him “Yes? Yes Erik? I’m here.”

“Are…you….o-okay?”

Liana nodded her head. 

“Y-yes” she choked up.

“W-what…a-about….everyone…else?”

“I-I think so” she replied, her voice shaky.

“That’s good.” 

“And you’ll…you’ll be okay too. We’ll get you to a hospital and you’ll be light as rain.”

“I love you..Ana” he gave a weak smile. Liana smiled back, her grip on his hand tightening. 

“Daniel! Where’s the doctor?!” she screamed.

“I’ll try to find Ruben!” he shouted as he flew down the stage.

“Erik, Erik!” Liana wept as she tried to somehow make him hold on. “You have so much to do-we have so much to do. We have our whole life ahead of us…please…don’t go” she sobbed. 

“The paramedics are here!” Ruben announced as he led the EMTS up the stage. One EMT crouched down next to Erik and placed his stethoscope on his chest. While the other placed the ALS bag on the ground and opened it. The EMT listened to the stethoscope for what seemed like an eternity to Liana. He then removed his ears from the stethoscope and placed two of his fingers against his neck and counted the seconds. He shook his head “Nothing.” He placed his hands on top of Erik’s chest and began performing CPR for several minutes, checking every thirty seconds for a pulse. “Still nothing. Miriam hand me the defibrillator.”

“Sure.” Miriam passed Mark the defibrillator from the ALS bag. Mark placed the defibrillator on Erik’s chest and charged it. He shocked Erik but still there was no pulse. Mark recharged the defibrillator and shocked Erik again, still there was nothing. Liana, overwhelmed by the unfolding scene, brought her hand to her mouth, trying to hold back her sobs. Mark and Miriam tried several more times but Erik’s heart refused to beat. Miriam took out a pen light and shined the light into Erik’s eyes. His iris didn’t tighten in response, instead his eyes remained fixed and dilated. Miriam and Mark looked at each other knowing it was hopeless and sighed. 

Mark glanced at Liana and said “I’m sorry. There’s nothing more we can do.” Liana sat there in shock, frozen for a moment. When she saw Erik lying on the stage, in a pool of blood, deep down she knew he was dying yet she despareting tried to believe he would survive. She glanced over the emptying auditorium, at Eric, and then at her yellow dress. She shuddered as she saw it covered with Eric’s blood. She quickly shut her eyes praying this was all just a nightmare. She slowly opened them but found the same unbearable sight in front of her. This wasn’t a nightmare, this was real.

…..

Two months earlier:

Milena looked over the statements and reports on her father’s death that were spread on the desk in her father’s office. She meticulously analyzed every line trying to find anything the police might have missed. For almost the past month Milena had spent nearly every waking hour investigating her father’s death. As of then the police had no suspects and from all appearances that wasn’t changing any time soon. Milena glanced upward from the collection of files as she heard a knock on the office door. She saw Lorenzo standing in the entryway.

“Hello Loren,” she said somberly as she turned back to the files in front of her.

“Hi Lena.” He walked in the room and made his way to her side. Milena walked away from the desk to a table in the corner of the room and picked up the stack of files placed on it. She made her way back to the desk and placed the papers on it, purposely avoiding eye contact with Lorenzo. A few moments passed in silence before Milena spoke “I was able to acquire some records of homicides in the last fifteen years that took place either on a highway or involved an automobile of some kind. I thought if I looked through them maybe I could find a common denominator that could possibly help me find my Dad’s killer.” She placed her hand on the top file to grab it but before she could Lorenzo placed his hand on top of hers.

“Lena…look at me.” Milena looked up directly at Lorenzo, concern was etched all over his face. “You’ve been searching these files nearly non-stop for the past month. I’m worried about you. You’re not eating. You’re not sleeping. Look at yourself, you’re completely exhausted. ”

“I just want to know the truth about what happened to my father Loren. That’s all I want.” He brought his hand up to her cheek.

“I know, you do. Believe me I do. I want that for you but you have to be prepared in case you never learn the truth.”

“Lorenzo, I’m fine, ” she tried to protest.

“No, you’re not fine Lena. You and I both know that’s not true. I know this isn’t what you want to hear. But what happens if you never do find out who killed your father.Your father was one of the most famous men in Krudia. The authorities have spent a great deal of time and resources investigating his death, and still they have no answers. You have to be prepared to accept that you won’t ever know and move on with your life. To move on with our life.”

Milena stepped back from Lorenzo and faced the desk again, placing both her hands on its top.

“Lorenzo…If I don’t learn the truth I will never be able to move on. My father was my rock, my anchor and then he was stolen out of my life. Every night I see the image of his lifeless body lying in the morgue. No matter how hard I try to forget it, I can’t. I’ll never be able to have peace until those responsible are brought to justice.” She lowered her head.

“Lena—” he tried to reach out and touch her shoulder.

“Please leave.”

“Milena I—”

She turned to face him. Lorenzo saw something he had never seen before in Milena’s eyes when she looked at him, utter rage.

“Go! Leave! Leave me alone! GET OUT!!!” she screamed pointing at the door, tears welling in her eyes.

Lorenzo slowly turned and walked out the room. After he was gone Milena broke down sobbing. She turned back to the oak desk and glanced toward the photo of her and her father that was placed in the corner. It was a photograph of them playing chess on the balcony of a New York City hotel. They’d gone there together, just the two of them, on a father-daughter trip or as she liked to call it a father-daughter adventure. Those had been the best of times. Now all she could think about was what she’d be willing to give up just to have one more minute with him. I shouldn’t have to think about what I’d give up to have him in my life. He should be here with me. “He should be HERE WITH ME!!!!” Milena swiped the files and documents across the desk, sending them flying to the ground. She collapsed to the floor and buried her face in her knees. She shut her eyes tightly, wishing that the pain would somehow go away, she wondered if it ever would at all.

…..

Present day:

Dalmar paced back and forth on the wooden deck of his home, holding a phone to his ear. 

“So far the excavations here have proven unsuccessful. I was forced to remove Professor Zilmer and his wife from the project. I’ve brought in a new professor to handle the research.” 

“A small setback I’m sure. Why we’ve all from time to time have had to do a little ‘housecleaning’” 

After a few seconds passed Dalmar responded. “Frankly, Dr. Blackgaard I must confess that my patience is wearing thin. I’ve invested a substantial amount of resources in your research and yet here we are months later with nothing to show for it.

“The mineral does indeed exist. In fact, I’ve recently become aware of a site here in Bolivia that by all appearances has a very significant chance of the mineral being found there.”

“‘Significant’ or ‘absolute?’ If I recall you assured me as well that there was a ‘significant chance the mineral would be found in Krudia and so far all efforts have proven futile. I wouldn’t want to waste my money on a foolish endeavor.”

“Success is certain now more than ever as we have two sites to excavate instead of one. I assure you sir this endeavor is anything but foolish.”

“It would be wise of you to remember who is the one in charge, Doctor. Tell me who could that ever be?” he hissed. “That’s right, me. I’m the one funding your research, Dr. Blackgaard, without me you’d probably be destitute and reduced to begging on the street. So when it comes to what is considered a ‘foolish’ endeavor, I am the one who decides that. Understood?”

The line stayed silent for a moment before Blackgaard finally spoke “Understood.” Dalmar ended the call and quickly walked back inside his house.

On the other end of the call, Blackgaard sat back farther in his armchair. “Fool” he muttered under his breath as he slammed the phone on a side table. Sasha strolled between Blackgaard’s legs and rubbed against them. “There, there, Sasha come to Daddy. Blackgaard bent over and picked up Sasha. Once in his lap, he began stroking her neck and back causing her to loudly purr. “That’s a good kitty, yes.”  The cat meowed. “Oh, Sasha isn’t it wonderful when everything’s going according to plan?” Sasha purred louder. “I’m so glad you agree.” He glanced at the map laid out on the side table. “Isn’t it ironic Sasha? Twenty years ago I derided my cousin for being stuck in some God-forsaken place, and now here I am, about to accomplish all I’ve dreamt of in some backwoods town.”  Sasha meowed. Blackgaard chuckled to himself “It’s a shame Dalmar won’t be there to see it.” Sasha hissed. Blackgaard picked up Sasha and stood. “Come on Sasha, how about we have some dinner?” The two of them made their way out of the room. After they left a strong breeze came in through the window behind the side table, blowing the map across the room. Near the center of the map a name of a town was circled in red, Odyssey.

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