The doctors were scrubbing for the operating room. The nurses moved quickly to make way for the stretcher which carried the French prime minister. The leader had been eating dinner when he gripped his chest and fell forward. Life Flight aired him to the London Cardiac Surgical Center, and the top medical teams were recruited from all parts of Europe. Though his vital signs had been stabilized, the angiography revealed a blocked aorta. His central heart artery might rupture at any moment. The cardiac specialists were taking no chances. An arterial line was prepped, and the anesthesiologist held up the oxygen mask as quick hands placed Jacques Cabot gingerly onto the surgery table.
Prime Minister Jacques Cabot had been in the French military in Algeria before his election. His many bloody sieges and major mismanagement of the Algerian conquests were omitted in his military reports and dossiers sent back to France. The French people thought him a hero. The rural town’s people of Nigei, Algeria knew he was a monster. After capturing a province, he encouraged his bored soldiers to torture children as he would stand by laughing cynically. Any man who would try to protect his children would be shot. However, Algeria is far from France, and nothing was recorded as out of ordinary in the French military dispatches.
Jacques sat with his top officers. Bottles of Johnny Walker and special cigars were passed around the table. As the French commander turned to the side to fill his whisky glass, his profile stood out. A nose with a sharp eagle beak, his two black eyes curtained with a thick unborn, a huge scar from his ear to jaw area. The side “gills” of his jaw muscle flexed into tightly constriction. His eyes were always cold and ruthless.
Marka had been six at the time of Algerian sieges. But he would never forget Jacques Cabot. The young child hid in fear and horror as he watched the soldiers murder his father who was protecting his sister. After this, his mother would sit for hours starring at the wall of her bedroom. Marka would make all the beans for his sister and their dinner.
As he grew Marka showed that he had a quick mind. He loved science and math and studied diligently at the schoolhouse with the other children. One day the missionaries came to evaluate young men for the priesthood. Marka was very happy to be chosen to further his education. Though it saddened him to leave his dissolute mother and little sister, he seized the opportunity to go live in the monastery and to read more books. The senior monks observed Marko’s brilliance and manual dexterity. He could draw and sculpt a perfect copy of any Holy statue for the sacred days. He was kind and particularly enjoyed caring for the older, infirm brothers. He knew instinctually which herbs and poultices would ease their pain and increase their joint mobility.
The monks all said Marka had the face of a king. He had the one horizontal, straight line across his forehead, a line they say which marked the face of an emperor. His deep blue eyes had a radiant gaze which calmed others who were in turmoil. A round hairline, high placed large ears and long earlobes. His teeth were small, and his mouth was wide and easy to smile. His facial features were those of love and nobility.
When the bishop came to evaluate the monastery, the older monks took him aside to point out Marka’s talents and how these might be wasted as a country priest. After many interviews, tests, and a personal meeting with the Pope, Marka was selected to train at the French Medical Academy in Paris. Though he was humble, his ability to sculpt in surgery became legendary in all of Europe. His hands were delicate with long fingers. Perfect for a surgeon. His mentors encouraged him to specialize in Cardiology, an internship that was just gaining recognition.
And so it happened that when the call went through the medical community for Prime Minister Cabot’s heart surgery, Dr. Marka was called to consult on the case. The older French statesman would never remember the young boy who hid behind the tree away from the soldiers. The French leader, in pain and vulnerable, had no awareness that his murderous deeds were being called into account as he was transferred onto the surgical table.
So, here they were in the same room - an unconscious heart patient, full of evil deeds and a young, vibrant cardiologist who was to save his life.
“And for what?” Marka reflected bitterly. “A man whose hidden deeds reached out far and wide.” It was only fair that Cabot should ‘accidentally’ die on the table. Just as his father had ‘accidentally’ died or so the Algerian dispatches reported.
Twenty news reporters leaned over the glass encased balcony which separated from them from the operating room below. Three nurses prepped the patient, laid out delicate instruments, and counted the sponges. Marka knew exactly where to open Cabot’s chest. He had assessed the man’s height and weight to a millimeter. One cut a fourth of an inch off, and the aorta would rupture. The prime minister would then bleed out on the table – too quick for surgeons to cauterize the open artery. A life threatening surgery. Who could tell which way it would go? An ‘accident’ could be very quick and look completely innocent to the whole surgical team. No one would doubt.
Marksa’s hand was steady but his heart was conflicted. Rage poured over his emotions in vicious floods. It had been years since he had tasted the acid, bitter taste of watching his father murdered by Cabot’s men. The acid rose too quickly on his tongue. He felt his body throbbing with a deep desire for revenge.
He stood still and waited. Slowly and evenly, his breathing returned to his body. He remembered the Oath he took as a physician “to do no harm.” Through his mind washed the images of the hundreds of patients he had surgically changed – cleft palates in children, pacemakers in fragile older men, physical hearts he had mended so that they might beat again – strong and true. His spiritual essence, despite all his childhood trauma, was rising now in his consciousness, calming his heart pounding.
The surgical suite was completely quiet as all waited for Dr. Marka’ first incision. Both he and world renown Cardiologist, Dr. Philip Robbins, had worked on many cases together. They were surgical partners and beyond that, they were friends. Either could lead in an operation.
“Phil,” Marka exhaled deeply, “I want you to open this surgery. I will be your second, back-up surgeon this time.”
And with a nod, Phil nodded moved into position to open and repair Cabot’s heart.
(c) Copyright, October, 2011. Barbara Roberts. All rights reserved.