Chapter 11: Bound to the Dark
A week earlier:
Milena walked quickly on the cobbled pavement, her eyes scanning every direction to make note of the people gathered in the alleyway. Her right hand was placed directly over her gun, ready to draw it at a moment’s notice. Around her tall dark buildings cast their darkened shadows on the ground, illuminated by the nearly full moon that hung in the night sky.
Milena stopped outside of an old bar, her eyes focusing on the sign fastened above the door. Almost all of the letters had gone out, leaving only the “k” and “o” of “Zakázáno” illuminated. Her father had once told her the meaning of the word. If she recalled correctly “Zakázáno” meant “Forbidden” in Czech yet the passage of time had clouded her memory. She walked into the establishment and up to the wooden bar at the back of the room. The bartender placed the glass she was drying behind the counter and turned her attention to Milena.
“Hello. What can I get you? We just got a new shipment of rum in, all the way from Cuba. Though of course, it’ll cost you extra.” The woman grabbed another wet glass and started drying it off.
“No thanks. I’m not here for a drink. I was hoping to see Emin. Is he around?”
“Yeah, he’s around. But he’s busy going over the books.”
“It’s rather urgent that I see him. I have some important business to discuss.”
The woman placed the glass she was holding on the counter and sighed. “Fine. I’ll take you to see him. But he better not fire me for this.” She walked from behind the counter and motioned for Milena to follow her. “This way.”
The two of them walked through a swing door marked “Employees Only” and down a winding hall. At the end of the hallway was a door marked “Private” which Dalita knocked on.
A few seconds passed and an answer came through the door “Yes?”
Dalita opened the door. “Sorry to interrupt Emin. But this woman here said she had some urgent business with you.”
Emin started collecting and stacking the papers and bills spread across his desk. “Fine. Send her in.”
She turned back toward Milena “He’ll see you.”
Milena entered the office. Dalita closed the wood door behind her and started making her way back to the bar. Milena sat down in the seat across from Emin. He folded his hands together on the desk. “Judging by how anxious you were to see me I assume you’re here for my ‘other’ services.”
Milena slightly smirked. “You could say that.”
Dalita reached the bar counter and picked up the still-wet glass she had left there minutes earlier. She looked up as she heard the creaky door to the bar open and saw a familiar face walk towards her. The blond-haired woman had become one of her most regular customers as she had frequented the bar many nights over the last few months. From the consuming look of pain that from time to time shone in her eyes, Dalita suspected the woman had suffered a significant amount of suffering in her life, pain which she tried as much as possible to drown out and forget.
“The usual?” Dalita asked as the woman reached the counter.
“Yeah,” she softly replied.
Dalita poured the woman a shot of vodka and pushed the glass across the counter to her. The woman picked the glass up and quickly downed its contents. The woman placed the glass back down on the counter and reached into her pocket to grab some cash. She placed the money down on the bar and walked silently away from the counter. Dalita’s gaze followed the woman for a few moments before she turned her attention to the other customers making their way to the bar.
The blond-haired woman walked to the right side of the bar and then quickly glanced around the room to make sure no one was watching her. She went through the swing doors and quietly stepped closer and closer to Emin’s office. She came to the wooden office door and could make out the voices coming from behind it. She reached into her pocket, careful not to make a sound, and pulled out a listening device. She as quietly as possible knelt down to the floor and slid the device under the door. She stood up and made her way back down the hall, Milena and Emin’s words clearly transmitting in her earpiece.
Emin sat back in his leather chair and wryly chucked, taken aback by Milena’s request. “Look, I’m in the business of making new deals. Setting up deals. Enforcing deals. Do you see a pattern here? I stay in my lane, my ‘clients’ stay in theirs. And so far it’s been working out pretty well for me.” He leaned closer to Milena. “That last thing I’m doing is giving out some info on one of my biggest customers.” Emin took a cigar and lighter out from one of his desk drawers. He lit the cigar, placed it in his mouth, and tossed the lighter back in the drawer. The gentleman took a few puffs and continued speaking. “Now if we’re talking gin or an M14 that I can always provide.”
Milena remained silent and stared directly at Emin. She reached into her pocket and threw a large brown envelope on the desk. Emin placed his cigar down on an ashtray and reached forward and dragged the envelope closer to himself. He eyed it almost suspiciously and then opened it.
“This amount should be sufficient to change your tune,” Milena remarked.
Emin scanned the money and smirked. “I’m flattered. I thought only high-ranking officials could be bribed with such an amount.”
“Consider it a very generous contribution to your business.”
He began sliding the envelope back towards Milena “One which I’ll have to refuse.”
“Really?” she asked, a hint of anger in her voice.
“Yes. Now unless there’s anything else. I really am busy here” he firmly replied.
Milena picked up the envelope and shook her head slightly as she stared down at it in her hand. She chuckled and looked up at Emin, her eyes deathly cold. “If I were in your shoes I wouldn’t even consider saying no.” She stood from her seat. “It would be a shame for something to happen to that lovely little girl of yours. Eva right?”
Emin quickly shot up from his seat. Milena drew her gun and pointed it at his chest.“Here’s what we’re gonna do. You’re going to sit back in that chair and behave like a good little boy. Got it?” she snapped.
“You really expect me to believe this charade. To just let you just come in here and make these baseless threats.”
“You’d better be careful what you say next. You see when it comes to such matters like this I’m much more level-headed than my partner. One more insult from you and who knows what he’d do. Also as for this whole threat being ‘baseless,’ I think Eva may have something to say about that.”
Emin’s eyes focused on Milena’s left hand as she took her phone from her pocket and turned up its volume. From the speaker came the voice of a little girl, crying. “Where’s my Daddy? I want my Daddy.” Emin felt the blood drain from his face as heard the sound of his little girl fill the room.
Another voice, that of an older man, came through the speaker “Now sit still and be good. You’re Daddy’s coming soon I’m sure.” Emin reluctantly sat back in his chair, glaring at Milena. All he wanted was to be able to wipe that smirk off her face, but as long as his daughter’s life hung in the balance that wasn’t an option.
Melina turned off the phone and placed it back in her pocket. “Now what deal did Tarek Matthins make with you?” She kept the gun steadily aimed at Emin.
Emin sighed. “Matthins arranged for Dalmar to meet with two renowned arms dealers next Thursday. Edward Delucas and Melinda Tylerson. They’re two of the best in business. It was clear Matthins and I weren’t meant to say much but from what he said I got the impression that the proposed deal is rather large. One of the largest I’ve ever arranged in fact. That— that’s all I have.” Emin hoped against hope that the woman standing in front of him would believe his words. He knew that if faced with the choice of keeping his daughter safe or not revealing the true nature of his work, he would choose his daughter every time. He prayed it would not come to that.
Melina pulled out a small black device. She slammed it on the oak desk in front of Emin. He scanned it for a moment. His eyes widened as he realized what the device was; a voice-activated recorder. Milena pressed a small button on the recorder’s side and Erik heard the sound of his voice fill his office. “The deal with Matthins is set for next Thursday. 2362 and 1131 will make contact with him at Zimmerman’s Toy Shop in Bulin. His code sign will be Zeta Delta Gamma 7104.”
The voice of a woman sounded in response through the speaker. “Excellent 4925. Headman will be pleased to hear of your report. You’ll be contacted when necessary.”
“Understood.” The recording ended leaving Emin and Milena in silence.
Milena once again sat down in front of Emin and pulled back the safety of her gun. “What about now?”
Tasha and Jason made their way up the marble steps of the Bulin Meeting Hall. All around they were surrounded by throngs of men and women who pressed and crowded together through the arching doorway, eager to hear Dalmar’s words. The night air was filled with lively discussion and passionate chants of “No longer silenced, freedom for Krudia.” The fiery impassioned political rally was unlike anything Tasha and Jason had ever seen and an uneasy reminder of the power Dalmar had grasped in Krudia. After a significant amount of time had elapsed they were finally able to make their way inside the hall. The two of them had barely taken a seat when Dalmar was announced onstage. As he came into view thunderous applause and cheers erupted from the boisterous crowd. Some in the audience whistled, others hollered, and even a few wiped away tears from their eyes. He wore a dark blue houndstooth tweed three-piece suit, tailored to fit him perfectly, and his gray thinning hair was slicked back. Dalmar reached the podium and gave a crooked smile and wave to his mass of loyal supporters. Cameras flashed as the crowd tried to capture this moment of acknowledgment. Tasha opened her purse and pulled out her pen. She snapped several shots of Dalmar, followed by others of the large crowd. Once finished she placed the pen back into her purse. The audience continued their deafening applause until Dalmar held up his hand to signal them to come to a stop. He cleared his throat and spoke into the microphone. “To my fellow citizens of Krudia, it is with profound gratitude and great humility that I stand before you here tonight and accept your unwavering support. We stand on the eve of election day. A day we will decide what future we want for this country…”
Jason leaned over to Tasha and whispered in her ear. “I’ll give him this. He sure has great fashion sense.”
“I’ll be sure to ask for the name of his designer.”
“Would you? Thanks. I was thinking a five-piece, black…herringbone pattern would be nice.”
“Sure. I’ll send you the suit…along with the bill.” She smirked.
“You know on second thought, it’s really not my style” he shrugged.
“Mmm-hmm right.” She playfully responded.
“You mind passing me your bag?” he asked quickly, attempting to change the subject.
“Here you are.” She held her brown handbag out to him.
“Thanks,” Jason said as he took the purse from her. He opened it and pulled out the black pen. “Like you said you can never have enough evidence.”
“Glad to see you’re taking my advice to heart” she coyly smiled.
“Just don’t let it go to your head.” Jason teasingly responded as he started taking more photos of the event.
Dalmar leaned forward, his hand resting on the podium. “We must demand our rights. We must demand reform. We must demand change.” He paused and stopped for a brief moment. The audience barely made a sound as they wanted to ensure they heard Dalmar’s every word. “We can no longer be silent, we deserve our freedom.” Cheers and applause once again erupted from the crowd along with the chant of “No longer silenced, freedom for Krudia.”
Near the back of the audience, a blond-haired woman quietly sat. Her full attention was on the sight in front of her. Her eyes weren’t focused on Dalmar but rather on the auburn-haired woman and brown-haired man who sat merely a few rows in front of her. For her, they were the key.
A few miles away from the meeting hall an Aston Martin pulled up in front of an abandoned warehouse. Except for a few street lights that dotted the landscape Bulin’s infamous Warehouse District was left in a shroud of darkness and shadows. Milena glanced out the driver’s window and saw three darkened shadows waiting for her by the rusted metal door of the warehouse. At least they’re punctual. Milena opened the car door and stepped into the street. Once she reached the men, one of them stepped closer to her. “Ms. Blagueur-Ohanyan, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance” he mockingly bowed.
Milena kept a blank expression on her face. Another man, it appeared to Milena the oldest of the three, spat some tobacco juice on the ground and spoke. “So what can we do for you, Your Majesty” he sneered.
Milena pulled out a brown envelope from her black overcoat and threw it on the ground. “What do you think? I need your services” she snarkily snapped.
The other man, the youngest of the three, bent down and picked up the envelope. He handed it to the oldest gentleman. He opened the package and scanned its contents. The man closed the envelope and tucked it in his jacket. “You must really hate this person. But hey I’m not complaining.”
“Now I need them alive.”
The man gave a fake laugh. “Alive huh? Well, that’s gonna cost you extra.”
“Fine.” Milena reached back into her pocket and handed the gentlemen another sealed envelope.
The man quickly took the envelope and also placed it in his jacket.“So who are the lucky people?”
Milena pulled out a picture and handed them to the gentleman. The hitmen all scanned the photograph. It was of a man and a woman who each appeared to be in their early twenties. The man had brown hair and striking blue eyes, while the woman had auburn hair and her eyes were a deep green. The man placed the images in his other pocket. “Time and place?” The oldest man asked.
“Tomorrow night. The Chardell.”