Chapter 16: When the silence reigns
Two days. This long I’ve been in the interrogation room. Two days without making any sounds, or touching the water and food. Not that someone had offered me food. Two days of threatening that I will receive a sentence of life. Two days when they treated me like garbage. I didn’t ask for a lawyer and I didn’t tell them my version. They’ve shown me facts, they told me that they caught the ones involved in the chip’s stealing, but that was all. I was considered a murderer, for killing Habib, because he could have had important information and I’ve taken that away from them.
Now I’m standing in the cell, waiting to be transferred to a maximum security prison, where I will remain the rest of my days after I will receive the sentence of life. That I was going to receive from what they told me. But I don’t bother to explain my innocence to them because it’s obvious that they need someone to blame and I’m a perfect choice. I wonder what happened with Raisa, Dalia, and Ted. Oh, and Dominic.
I’m waiting for my movement and my sentence, in that dark and wet place, because this is how people wronged by the faith and the state. I can’t get out of my head the image with Dylan lying on the car’s seat, without life, from my fault. The crunching of the rat from the corner doesn’t scare me as it did in the first moments spent there. I’ve got used to it.
Door creaks, and an officer I haven’t seen before walks inside and unlocks my cell.
“Come on. The time has come”, he says.
I get up and let him put me the handcuffs, without any struggle. I am taken to a van that transports prisoners, but my voice comes back to me when the door opens. I see Dalia and Ted in there.
“What the hell?” I ask huskily.
He pushes me inside, slams the door, and the car drives away.
“What are you guys doing here?”
“Why the hell didn’t you say anything? They’ve told me that you haven’t said a word!”
“Why should I tell them anything? They will do what they want anyway, and they won’t believe me.”
“Where are they taking us?” asks Ted.
“I don’t know, but I’m tired of being in that cell. Probably to the prison. Yes, I was going to let myself killed by the bastards in the name of justice, but I don’t like the prison”, says Dalia.
The van suddenly stops, and when the doors open, I see an extremely familiar thing. Dylan’s house, and Raisa waiting for us with her face between her palms.
“What’s happening?” I asked confused.
The officer takes off our cuffs.
“Wait inside”, he says.
The house is surrounded by security officers, a sign that things are not going in the right direction. It was quiet in the neighborhood, and the people weren’t on the streets, as I expected to happen. Raisa jumps into my arms and she holds me tight.
“Don’t say anything. I have so much to tell you…” she says with an innocent voice.
I don’t know what to say. What was I supposed to tell the woman whose brother died because of me?
“Let’s go inside”, she says.
When we walk into the house where I have lived so many memories, the smell reminds me of him. The walls remind me of him, the clothes from the chair, the couch, the stairs… But it’s something else. Two people at about fifty years old, both with green eyes. The traces of time are on their faces, but I notice the sadness in their eyes too. Yet, I see a strange sparkle in their eyes when they see me.
“They are my parents…” says Raisa briefly. “They’ve come for the funeral… the one which took place two days ago…”
I feel my heart breaking again, and I expect everyone to jump on me, hit me, and they were right to do so. Their father looks just like Dylan, and that makes it so hard for me to look at him. His mother comes near me, and she looks at me without saying anything for a couple of seconds. My heart starts beating fast, and I prepare for the worst. She’s a dark haired woman, with green eyes, tall and thin like Raisa. But something happens something that can’t shock me more than it does.
“You are the woman who changed my son’s life”, she says coming close to me. “Raisa told me about you. He was happy near you, and this is all that I need to know. I don’t understand a lot, but I know that if he loved you, we will love you as well and we will not judge you.”
I feel the tears on my face, and I can’t hold them back. The woman takes my hand, but Raisa comes and hugs me. Their father nods, and I know he approves what his wife had said.
“Cara, we made him a grave, but it’s empty”, says Raisa.
I remain a few seconds without blinking, trying to understand the situation.
“We have cremated him. I have a feeling that you know a place to take his ashes…”
“Yes, I know. But it’s far away. Too far away. I will tell you everything and you will take it there because I won’t be able to come, as you can see.”
“Why did they bring us here?” asks Dalia.
“They didn’t tell us anything. They just showed up here and told us that they will explain everything soon. They set me free the same night, and Dominic too. I don’t know anything about him… I told them the truth.”
“You did well. Some of us haven’t said a thing”, says Dalia looking at me.
A long black car stops in front of the house, and a woman wearing a blue suit comes down. She’s accompanied by a tall man. They enter Raisa’s house, without knocking anymore.
“Please follow us.”
“We’re not going anywhere if you don’t tell us what’s going on!” shouts Dalia.
“I assure you that the bad things are over, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. So, I ask you again to follow us.”
We all listened to them, besides Raisa’s parents, who remained to talk with the officers outside. We got into the limo, where we found champagne and cookies on a little table.
“What the hell is this?” I ask irritated.
“They’re really good!” says Ted chewing a cookie.
“I won’t eat these. Maybe they want to poison us!” says Dalia.
Ted coughs and puts aside the cookie. The road takes us in the area where we knew President Roller was living, but the car doesn’t stop, and it goes underground through an entrance.
“We’re here”, says the woman opening the door.
“But this is…”
“Yes, it is! Now hurry up!”
We followed her in an elevator, and then in a big golden room. Everything was far more luxurious than I had ever imagined. Even the air was different.
“You have clean clothes in the wardrobe. Please take off these rags, because you can’t appear in front of the President looking like this. The bathroom is behind that golden door. Please be ready in twenty minutes”, she says and closes the door.
We remain there looking shocked, while Raisa rushes to the bathroom.
“I say we leave now”, I speak.
“Why on earth would you do that? And how exactly are we supposed to do that?” asks Ted.
“How we entered the Parliament. That’s how!”
“Yes, but we don’t have the equipment we need!”
“Oh, I think I know”, continues Dalia. “They want to shut our mouths. They found out the truth or they believed us, and now they fear we cause them trouble. It would have been better and easier for them if they have left us in the prison.”
I processed the information and I realized she was right. Raisa comes out from the bathroom, and the next to go in is Ted.
“I say we listen to what they have to say”, speaks Raisa.
We agree because we had had too many problems already. Soon, we were all ready to face President Roller. I’ve chosen to wear a black dress, which fitted me perfectly. But I’m not surprised, because I was sure they knew our measures, considering the fact that there were three dresses and a costume.
The woman comes inside again, acting elegant and superior.
We follow her on a long corridor, full of security agents, and then a black and thick door opens in front of us. We see President Roller inside. A short man is near her, and two agents in her right.
“Please, leave us alone, except you, Martin”, she says to the short man.
The door closes behind them, and we remain there, blocked and shocked because you don’t meet the President face to face every day.
“I voted for you, you know!” speaks Ted, breaking the silence.
“Ted!” shouts Dalia angry.
“Why are we here?” I ask.
President Roller doesn’t look like on TV. She’s an old person, with white hair, and she has prominent wrinkles. Her brown eyes seem kind, but her face tells us otherwise.
“I’m sorry for the displeasure”, she starts the conversation.
“Your apologies won’t bring back the ones who sacrificed in the name of justice!”
“That’s right. You’re here because I want to make things right. What can still be repaired. I’ve chosen to do this personally, silently, because you’re here in my home, and not in the Parliament, as you can see. A lot had advised me to leave the things as they were, but I prefer the justice, and I couldn’t let you in jail, to pay a price so big, when you practically saved the country. You made justice and I thank you for that! I want to make things right by you.”
“Behind closed doors. You mean you want to blackmail us to keep our mouth shut”, I say irritated.
She approaches and looks surprised at me.
“Let the gentleman in”, she says.
In the next seconds, Martin walks out and he returns accompanied by Dominic. He seems as surprised as we are when he sees us. He salutes with a gesture of his head and comes near me.
“I will start with you because you came personally in here to explain the situation to me. I want to offer you my gratitude. So, I want you to tell me what is it that you want. Do you want your job back? I know that you’ve been fired by someone who doesn’t understand the situation.”
“I don’t want to work in the police ever again. All that I want is to keep living and to continue my life.”
“No one will stop you from doing that. You are a free man, and if you need anything, please ask.”
“I don’t need anything, ma’am. I just want to be far away from this wheel.”
She nods and Dominic takes a step back.
“Ted Lofer, you are the one who managed to break all our security systems, by doing something I never thought it was possible. As a reward, I want to give you a job inside my residence. I know that you worked in the system and you were fired. I want you to be the one responsible for the safety of our security system, and of our country’s safety, of course.”
“I don’t think I can refuse such a job. I don’t think I have the guts to do it, but I don’t believe there’s a chance to refuse it either. Because I know too much and I am a threat to you, isn’t that right?”
She doesn’t say anything, but her silence makes us understand that Ted is right.
“I will take the job because I don’t want any trouble and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. And because I need a job too.”
I was thinking about how easy it was for these people to solve all the problems, by indirect threats, which look like gestures of kindness.
“I want another name”, says Dalia determined. “I don’t want to be held at the border and turned back. I want to leave the country. I also want some money to start a new life because I can’t manage without.”
“This can be done”, says President Roller.
It’s only me and Raisa left, and the President considers that it’s my turn to demand what I want.
“Cara Vandis, you must be so angry with the system. I want you to know that I discovered all of them who have betrayed my trust, not only inside the Parliament during the time, but also next to me, among the people I have trusted. I assure you that they were all arrested and they will receive the life sentence, and they will also be charged with treason and terrorism. I can offer you anything you want, but I can’t offer it under your name. I hope you can understand this.”
“Do you know what I want? First of all, I want that Dylan Marshall to be honored as a national hero! He was buried, but that wasn’t enough. I want the whole country to know that he gave his life for the greater good. I want flowers to be brought to his grave and I want his name respected.”
“I can do this”, she says. “He will receive the honors as a police officer who has given his life during the operations of arresting the traitors, on his own, even if he was framed the stealing of important information.”
“This is good enough… because you killed him!”
“Cara…” says Raisa grabbing my hand.
The President comes near me, without any surprise on her face.
“You’re right. It’s our fault. But I can’t say this thing in public, I hope you’re aware of it.”
“He will receive the honors he deserves. His family will be indemnified.”
“Thank you”, says Raisa. “This was all I wanted to ask. To not let the memory of my brother fade away.”
“Is there something else I can do for you, Cara?”
“Yes. I’m telling you now that what I want is to receive my identity back, my acts, and I want to leave this country, where I would never come back again, under the name of Cara Vandis. I will not give up on who I am just because you ask me to.”
Only now I could see the astonishment on the President’s face.
“You know that what you’re asking me is a very delicate thing…”
“I know, but this is what I want. You asked me what I wanted. I told you.”
“But not impossible”, she continues. “As the video from the internet was stopped by my people, the ones who couldn’t see it in time weren’t able to see it again. If you want to leave the country, then the incident will be shortly forgotten, and you will be able to tell that it is just a name or appearance coincidence, by the case. Do you understand what I am saying? Even if it would have been better for us and for you too to change your identity, I will make this work out somehow, because I know how much I owe you.”
I realized that she was asking for discretion from me. So, she wanted me to pretend that I had no idea about that incident if someone recognized me. Shortly, to play dumb.
“There’s something else.”
“Do you want money?”
“You will not bribe me. I don’t need this state’s money. I need that the story of my parents to go public. I want them to be pulled out from this vicious circle. My father didn’t commit suicide, and my mother didn’t die giving birth to me. I don’t want people to know me as someone. I don’t want money either. About the terrorists, you can say whatever you want. Anyway, I know that you won’t tell people the truth about them. You’ve never done that. All I want is a piece of justice.”
The President opens her mouth to say something, but I continue my idea.
“I hope that no one from this room suffers some ‘accident’ on their way to the airport.”
“You have my word”, says the President.
“You did that when you promised the people sincerity and safety…” I mumble.
“Cara, enough…”, whispers Raisa still holding my hand.
“Well, these being said, tomorrow in the morning I will send my people to Raisa’s home, with the documents you requested and with Dalia’s money. I will ask for a press conference in the evening and I will expose the truths that you asked me to expose. Ted, you will start working tomorrow and you will come back here with my agents. I want to make it clear that I don’t usually talk to people like this, but I felt that this time I need to take the matter into my own and personal hands, without taking into consideration other opinions”, she continues, looking at Martin, who hadn’t said a single word all this time.
I’m pretty pleased by all that I have heard in there, so I follow the others to the way out. We are led in the underground by the same woman with a superior air, and then we get into the car which had brought us there. The way back wasn’t a long one, but it was silence among us until we arrived in front of Raisa’s house.
“You should stay at my place until tomorrow”, says Raisa to Dalia and Ted.
“Don’t worry. We will be back in the morning. We have some things to deal with”, says Dalia.
I follow Raisa inside, where we find her parents with the luggage in the lobby.
“Are you leaving so soon?”
“Yes. We’re going back to France. I hope you will come and visit us soon. We will remain now to hear what you’ve done there, and then we’re going to catch a flight”, says her father.
Raisa starts telling them what had happened with the President, and I walk away like a robot from the living room. I head to the stairs, and then to the second room from the first floor, and then I find myself in a room where the smell brings back a lot of memories. It is his room. There’s a big gray jar on the desk. I feel a hit in my chest and a shiver down the spine. I know what’s inside, but I still go a little closer. I lift it up, with care and fear not to drop it, as I was holding a baby or a porcelain gewgaw. My hands are shaking but I hold on to it tight. I open the cover and I feel goosebumps. I put it back on the desk, and I lean on the wardrobe, and then I sit on the bed.
“Damn it!” I grind my teeth while I’m struggling to hold back my tears.
The floor creaks and Raisa show up on the doorstep. She comes and takes my hand.
“I know. I miss him like hell too.”
I don’t say anything. What was I supposed to tell this gorgeous human being?
“I want you to tell me where do you want to take his ashes. “
“Thailand…” I whisper. “We had made plans… to go and live in Thailand in a trailer.”
“Then Thailand it is”, she says holding my hand tight.
“I promised him…”
“What did you promise?”
“That I will write the book. That I will write beautifully about him.”
Raisa avoids my eyes, and she sighs. She wants to tell me something, but she changes her mind the last second.
“Then keep your promise.”
“After we get to Thailand and we get away from this country, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
She gets up and takes me with her.
“Come on. Let’s take a walk.”
We arrive in the living room, where we say goodbye to her parents, and then we follow them with our eyes until the cab disappears in the horizon. The sun sets soon, so she takes my hand and we start walking on the warm and lonely road. I don’t say anything because I enjoy the silence. Our steps stop in front of the cemetery, and I just freeze. She drags me but with no use, because I can’t move my legs.
“It happened to me too when I first came here, even if I knew he isn’t under that tombstone.”
I keep it together and step on the soft grass, and I finally see a funeral stone. “Dylan Marshall- You will remain a hero to us forever.” These sincere and simple words brought shivers on my spine. I want to go back in time, to change something, even not to meet him, if that’s what would have kept him alive. But I remember his words: “Don’t you ever regret that you’ve met me.” And I realize that I can’t regret it, no matter how much I tried. I kneel on the cold stone, and I put my hand on it. Sadness takes me over soon, and I let some tears fall on the gravestone. Raisa gets emotional too and she wipes her nose with a napkin.
I get up and look at her, even if it’s hard because they look so alike.
“He is not here”, I say pointing at the stone. “He is in here”, I continue touching her chest. “And he will always remain in here, and we will be always wearing his memory imprinted in us.”
“Now I know why he fell in love with you. You’re strong, calculated, but at the same time sensitive and loving. You are all that he wanted to be and he couldn’t. He used to let the emotions take over too fast.”
“And he was all that I could never have been…”
I had talked about him using the past. For the first time since his death, I had accepted the things.
“When I saw you guys in front of the Parliament… that kiss, damn it! It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! It was so real! And I knew the first moment I saw you, just looking at each other, when you met in the house, that something would be or it already was there. It was too much tension. And the way he freaked out when the bard was on fire, how he pulled those things from the windows to get you out. And the same happened to the hospital. When he realized that you stole his key, he yelled your name and went straight to the window. He knew deep down what you were going to do. But he realized it too late… It was a madness…”
“It was the most beautiful madness from my entire life. He unpacked my heart from the box it was trapped into and he made me feel amazing things. Gorgeous. But his death broke my heart. I’m telling you… Even if I had promised him that I would write, that I will leave and live our dream when I saw myself arrested I just couldn’t see any reason to fight. That’s why I haven’t said a word in the interrogation room. But I’m determined now. I will keep my promise.”
The wind led our steps back to the empty house. The floor creaks under our feet, on our way to the kitchen. The TV is on, and an image with President Roller makes us turn the volume on.
“It is the time for you to find out the truth about the ones who truly saved this country. We assure you that there’s nothing to worry about anymore, that all the people who betrayed me are now in our custody. I wish you a beautiful evening”, she says and withdraws from the press conference.
Subsequently, we find out that she had named Dylan a national hero, because he had helped to catch the responsible ones, on his way to prove his innocence. His name was cleaned, and so did the names of my parents, when they fed the public a beautiful story about Stan, who was found guilty for their murders. They said that national security information was stolen by corrupted politicians, and they were about to be sold on the black market for a huge amount of money, but just to simple hackers. They were all brought to justice, and they said about John that he had resigned, but I was sure that he was forced to leave. Maybe even arrested, but they didn’t tell the public anything about that. Stan and Sam were finally the ones who were blamed for everything, even if I knew there were a lot more involved. I understood why the President chose to do this, because if they have come out with the truth about all the traitors, then the trust of the people would have been damaged. I had to be pleased with people hating the Bernard family.
The President has received all the honors for catching the thieves, but also Dylan, and even Paul, for their courage to try to stop these dirty political games. The story is a deeper one, but on TV they said something for the public. Anyway, the people had understood the main idea, the fact that they would never be told the entire truth, and there’s always something more than they let them believe.
We couldn’t sleep that night. Raisa and I got drunk with wine, like the old times when I used to do it with Ania. And like this, memories have a taste, and on this particular case is wine. A sweet wine, and red like my cheeks the day when Dylan had made me the first compliment, and as red as the blood from my hands on his last seconds of life. So, the memories don’t have only a taste, they have a color too.
The morning finds us with the wine glasses on the table, with napkins all over the kitchen’s floor, and we’re sitting back to back, but also leaning on the door, waiting for our guests. The bell rings louder than it’s supposed to, or it is just the wine.
Dalia and Ted step in, stunned by the mess around us.
“Are you ok?” asks Dalia.
Raisa and I throw each other a consolation look.
“We’re waiting for it to be over”, I answer.
We clean the place up, while they make themselves comfortable on the couch.
“So, what are you planning next?” asks Ted.
“I will leave this country. Maybe go to Norway”, says Dalia. “I like the blonde ones”, she adds smiling.
“I will go in Thailand. I will keep my promise to Dylan. Raisa, if you want to join me and start over there, it will be a pleasure for me to have you there.”
“I’ll come. I won’t come back here. But with one condition.”
“What is that?”
“You have to come with me in France for a couple of days. Someday. Dylan would have wanted you to visit our relaxing place.”
“What about you, Ted?” asks Raisa.
“I’ll receive a lot of money working for the President”, he smiles. “I’ll be fine.”
A loud bang hears from the door, and Raisa rushes to answer. Two officers wearing suits hand her three envelopes.
“Ted Lofer, if you are ready to join us, we are too. The President wants to talk you through the latest details”, says one of them.
“Check if the documents are ok. Dalia, you should check your account. The details are inside the envelope. One amount of money has been transferred to you. And to you too, Raisa. The money is for your family, for covering the trouble.”
I wanted to tell them that the “trouble” couldn’t have been covered by their money, but she sticks me with the elbow.
“Everything is fine. Thank you”, says Dalia.
Ted hugs us, and then he leaves accompanied by the two agents. We stay there and watch the black limo leaving until it disappears around the corner.
“I believe that here and now our paths go separate ways”, says Dalia. “Thank you for all the help that you gave me.”
“Take care of yourself”, I say hugging her.
Those arms had hugged my father’s body someday, and even if she had been his mistress when he was married to my mother, I still thought Dalia was a good person. Maybe it is an irony, but she had made me feel closer to him.
“I’m glad that I met you.”
“Just go and be happy. You are a child who grew up too fast because of the corruption and the political games which stole your happiness. Live your life. You deserve it. Do what you like. I know that this is what Cassandra and Paul would have advised you to do. I’m not the one who should tell you this, but I still do it, because I knew them. And even if I did you and them wrong, I wish you can forgive me and be happy.”
“Thank you, Dalia.”
She hugs Raisa too, whispering something in her ear. When she steps out the door, she leaves a tear fall on her cheek, and then she disappears on the sunny streets.
“It seems that it’s just the two of us now”, says Raisa melancholic. “I will miss Dalia. She’s special.”
“Yes, she is…”
“Are you ready for the adventure of your life?”
I help her pack everything she has in the house. In the evening, everything was packed beside the furniture and the vessel. Raisa decides to sell her house. She sends Dylan’s stuff to France, to their parents. She puts some of her things in the car, and the rest of them she sends to France too. She takes out from her bag a photograph with her brother, wearing a police officer suit, and she gives it to me.
“For you. I know that you don’t have any picture of him.”
I feel something climbing from my stomach to my throat, but I manage not to start crying. It’s hard to look at it because all the memories from the last months run in a flash before my eyes like a movie. I put my finger on it, touching his cheeks as I was really touching his face. I put the photo inside the purse Raisa gave me because I didn’t really have something to belong to me.
The car with the luggage for France leaves in the evening at nine o’clock, and we’re ready to leave too an hour after it. We have in Raisa’s car everything we need for our journey, so nothings is holding us back. We look at the house one more time. It has now a “for sale” sign in front of it. Raisa had employed an agent who was going to handle the selling and send her the money. She wasn’t going to come back again.
We get into the small white Audi and hit the road, in the darkness of the night and the empty streets. We know that the road is a long one, but we intend to visit a lot of things until we arrive in Thailand. We had put the jar with Dylan’s ashes on the backseat, and it soon came next to it a little Argentinian puppy.