As soon as she calmed down, Ava grabbed her suitcase and hurried out the door and into the corridor. The elevator was still on her floor so she went in and pushed the button for the lounge repeatedly, hoping it would move faster.
Being all alone, she sighed and emptied her head of bad thoughts. It was really hard to shrug that call off but it had to be done in order to forget and live on without suspicion. Ava knew suspicious things were usually planned by people who wanted to be heard or underline something specific that either happened to them, either to someone they knew. It was complicated, especially from her view as a psychologist and she was too scared to venture into it.
The doors opened and Ava walked out the same way she came in, with the same attitude and same expressionless face. She walked past the front desk without glancing at the receptionist, knowing he’d ask her something that would make her uncomfortable.
Actually, the receptionist might as well have been the caller for all she knew. Anyone in the hotel could have been up to it, as a way to entertain themselves during boring days.
With that thought forking into other thousands thoughts, she walked out of the hotel. Looking around for a cab, she noticed a black car parked aside with an official plate number. The brunette saw the door open and quickly averted her sight but it was already too late; they saw her.
A man in his early thirties with long blond hair that was almost reaching his shoulders and deep blue eyes walked out, his destination being obviously Ava. As he was coming her way, his whole appearance and demeanor made her automatically refer to the rebellious type; in her perspective, a man who would have some kind of freedom issue and wouldn’t react well under intellectual stress.
“Mademoiselle Atkins, I’m sorry but chief Inspector can’t leave the office right now. I will accompany you to him, instead.” He explained in English.
He didn’t wait for her to agree or deny the invitation, but pulled her inside the black car. Ava complied silently, knowing she had no interest in defying the Interpol.
“I’m sorry for being late. I hope you had a good flight to Prague.” The blond continued politely.
Ava nodded instead of continuing the polite conversation. He tried to say something twice before he realized Ava was not going to speak to him about anything.
Ava was brought in an interrogation room, not handcuffed but that might come later on if the inspector thought so. She hadn’t been in such a posture in a very long time and even back then, it was horrible. The brunette psychologist was used to blank cold rooms and waited in silence, not moving once.
A while later, the doorknob turned and she looked up at the mirror wall. She could only see her reflection but she knew there were people watching her from the other side.
The man who entered was the complete opposite of the long blond hair rebel; everything was dark about him and the way his eyes trailed over her made her freeze.
“Miss. Atkins. I’m glad you could come so fast. I’m detective-”
“Why am I here?”
Her question didn’t surprise the detective, nor reached his ears since he just continued his introduction.
“- Fred Ruben. I am in charge of the Anonymous case at the moment and found something very interesting that might concern you.” He finished before he sat on the chair across hers.
“I was informed that my former colleague, Dr. Johnson was found dead in a hotel in Prague. I don’t see the relevance to Anonymous.” She said coldly, narrowing her eyes at the mention of the famous group.
“We thought so too until we found evidence that Dr. Johnson was, in fact, keeping in touch with a few members of Anonymous. Not one, Miss Atkins but a few.” He repeated underlining what was important.
From the moment Ruben walked in, Ava kept a controlled eye contact with the overworked detective. When Anonymous came in discussion, her gaze cracked to the point she might have turned to look at the wall.
“We found certain proof that Dr. Johnson knew about the explosions in Europe long before they took place. He was part of the conspiracy.”
Ava sighed and placed her hands on the metallic table. Her mind was swirling with memories and she was analyzing every piece of information that she knew.
“I can assure you that Dr. Johnson hasn’t been planning any type of rebellion for the past three years. We worked in the same firm and he recently moved to Sweden.”
Ruben nodded before he placed something thin yet very important on the table. She raised an eyebrow and looked between his face and the long rectangular piece of paper. The detective nodded encouragingly for her to read it.
Ava pulled the paper closer to her slowly and took a last long look at the inspector before her eyes fell on the evidence.
There, on the right corner, half burnt was the khrismon; it looked like a seal that made known the sender and the pride he had in himself and what he was doing.
Next, her eyes fell down on the neat handwriting.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully; even as I am fully known. - 1 Corinthians: 13.
Detective Ruben watched closely as the woman in front of him tensed. Her eyes read the piece very, very slowly as if the words became images and she was watching them roll like a movie before her eyes.
Ava’s mind was blank, unlike what the detective thought. She couldn’t think of anything but the words written by someone that was definitely not Dr. Johnson. The writing was neat and rather beautiful for a man; there were also little subtle things that were not in his nature like the twirls of the points on “i” or the way the a’s could easily be mistaken with o’s instead. It was very strange.
“It’s a passage from the Bible.” She said after inspecting every corner and every word. “It’s not suspicious. He might have been reading it when he died.”
“He was murdered by the person who wrote this.” Ruben informed, taking the paper back. “Our forensic specialist found no signs of struggle but did find a set of unknown prints all over the room. The murderer didn’t hide his presence and left this-” He said, gripping the piece of paper, “-as identification. I’m not sure if you are aware with everything the press says but it seems Anonymous likes to quote verses from the Bible.”
“It didn’t sound like that to me.” Ava interfered, the tension in her shoulders loosening. “They used Giovanni Papini’s work as reference and that was definitely not a threat but an advice.”
Ruben raised an eyebrow and leaned back, folding his arms in front of his chest. He beckoned her to continue.
“In “Peculiar Stories” there is a dialogue between a man and the Devil. They speak about humans and human nature and the Devil says the same excerpt they used. As far as I am concerned, Anonymous is a group of young people who use literature as a guide and the Bible as reasoning. They want to be heard, detective and they are doing quite a good job at it.”
Ruben and Ava remained silent for a few minutes, watching each other with more or less perceptiveness. The Inspector was interested in what she knew, if she knew, about the culprits that forced him to look for reinforcement. At the same time, her set of values seemed to vibe the same as his new recruits’.
Ava was not thinking about Anonymous at all. The excerpt she read was very familiar and not because she heard it in church but because it seemed like it was speaking to her. She remembered the call she got in the hotel and immediately felt scared. Corners of her mind were opening up, corners hidden deep in the back of her mind, which contained memories she didn’t want to remember.
“Miss Atkins, I’d like if you could spend a few more days with us. If the case has indeed no connection to Anonymous, you can return back home.” Ruben explained, getting up and knocking twice in the mirror wall.
A few pairs of steps made quite a lot of noise as they walked out of the other room. The same blond man opened the door and smiled down at her, even helping her up.
Ava noticed Ruben was almost out when she added, “What if Johnson had a connection to Anonymous? What if he was involved?”
Ruben looked at her, partially expecting that question, “Then you will have to buy a new set of clothes and call your boss to ask for time off.”
The brunette watched the inspector throw a quick sarcastic smile before closing the door behind him. Ava turned her head to the mirror wall and looked at her reflection. For a moment, she felt like the room became smaller and the oxygen rarefied.
The brunette flinched when the blond placed a shy hand on her back, his blue eyes watching her carefully. Ava thought that maybe the news were so overwhelming because she has already been through a suspicious call in the hotel and it sounded like it was one from many to come.
On the other side, the reinforcements have arrived safely to Prague and detective Ruben was less than annoyed to see the new happy faces. There were four principle detectives that have been shoved down his throat and none looked reliable. Ruben glared at each of them but none seemed to find him intimidating in the least.
“Let’s see…” He mumbled, taking the list from his second in command, a woman who was so much more intimidating than he was yet she was a few years younger than him. “Marvin Lanchester, Yoann Blanchard, Tobias Jarvi and Helena Banes…it seems your records are more than impressive and your countries bet everything on your amazing detective skills. The rate of your solved cases are completely-“He stopped and threw the list at their feet, “-irrelevant. Anonymous is not about terrorism, as we have discovered. If it was so then many people would’ve been already dead but they are not. What does that tell us? Nothing. For all we know, they could be hidden in the underground, planning a real attack in the most populated shopping centers of any country. You four have to scatter through Europe and find me something. Any type of suspicious endeavor, any type of extracurricular activity that raises a few questions, any grandmother that moved too fast for her age, any dog that munches on a suspicious toy, any blade of grass that grows differently,” Ruben took one deep breath before exhaling tiredly, “Anything.” He finished.
The four foreigners glanced at each other, a bit uncomfortable and a bit sympathetic.
“So, the rumor is true, then. The Interpol has nothing valuable about Anonymous.” Helena Banes commented, her voice incredibly husky for a woman with such a feminine face. She was very tall, compared to other women, and her business attire was pronouncing just how capable and serious she was. Maybe too serious.
Ruben rubbed his forehead, the heavy pressure he was feeling only intensifying after Helena’s comment.
“Yes, unfortunately. We only have the letters found behind every explosion.” He mumbled, looking at his second in command, who was so stiff that Ruben was curious if she wasn’t actually sleeping with her eyes open.
“Ah, about that,” Marvin raised his hand like a school boy, drawing their attention to him, “I might have found something relevant about the letters. I know it was classified information but let’s not forget one of them was found in London and I just so happen to be an asset to the Scotland Yard.” He added when he saw the Finnish Tobias Jarvi opening his mouth to intervene.
Ruben raised an eyebrow but urged for the ginger to continue.
“Yes. So, as you probably know already, they haven’t made any announcement after that first one in Italy. The letters contain quotes from the Bible, yet none is about the end of the world, at least I don’t think so.”
“They’re not.” Ruben added from the sideline, “We read all of them and none is about an apocalypse. They’re about love and wisdom, or so it seems.”
Marvin nodded eagerly, finding extreme pleasure to tell others what he knew and they didn’t, “Exactly. Let’s remember what they said in that so called threat.”
At that point, it looked like Tobias Jarvi caught onto what Marvin was trying to say, “They must be defeated with the one most powerful weapon of all: the word.” He quoted, “They want us to reply to that with words?” He asked, the idea seeming very childish.
Marvin chuckled and shook his head, “Maybe or maybe not. I think they want us to reply to these letters with letters. They use quotes from the Bible so we can use something else, something just as meaningful as the Bible.”
“Wait. They’re using the Bible and expressed their disagreement with what is the church doing at the moment, in moments of crisis. They’re definitely Christians that feel wronged. Shouldn’t we look into people who have suffered in the last year and the church turned their backs on them?” The French detective, Yoann Blanchard asked, his chocolate brown eyes sparkling with pride.
Ruben glanced at his second in command and they both nodded, “Let’s check that theory. But also, I’d like detective Lanchester to take a closer look at the letters. All of you will have a team in command and I would recommend taking good care of them and finding proof for your theories.” He said, his eyes falling on Blanchard. “Jarvi, I’d like you to talk to the officers from Finland and have them give us the last letter. Banes, call the forensic specialist and ask for more details about Nicholas Jonhson. We should find out if he had any connection to the explosions.”
Detective Banes frowned, confused who and why she had to take care of that, “Does he have a connection to Anonymous?”
“He might. Also,” He turned to his second in command and gave a knowing nod, “She might know more than she tells us.”
Marvin raised an eyebrow and looked at the Interpol detective curiously, “She who?”
Just before Ruben could answer, the culprit walked towards them, entering the hall with an euphoric air around her.
Marvin’s eyes widened. “What is Dr. Atkins doing here? Do you need a psychologist?” He asked, his eyes never leaving the face of the blunt woman.
Ruben, though, had other curiosities, “You know each other?”
Marvin nodded, a bright smile forming on his face, “She and I share a common interest for details. She’s very sharp and never gets personally involved in her sessions.” The ginger explained.
Ava listened to his characterization silently. She knew she will meet Lanchester sooner or later and for some reason, it was at an inopportune moment when her mind was shaken and she needed her antidepressants.
Ruben, as big and tall as he was, turned towards the brunette woman with the same cold attitude he showed in the interrogation room. He dismissed the blonde swiftly and urged Ava to come closer.
“What do you know about Anonymous, Dr. Atkins? It seems your sharp mind could be useful if you could share your thoughts with the rest of us.” Ruben said, his tone lowering an octave. He really wanted a proper lead as soon as possible, from anyone who had the skill to find it.
Ava found herself in a very complicated situation. She hated being there for a group that meant nothing to her and her safety and yet it seemed she was being dragged one way or another closer to it. The ginger detective raised an eyebrow, fully aware that she at least knew what he knew.
“I have to see the letters first. But from what I saw earlier, there is one detail that seems to draw the youth to Anonymous: hope for a new beginning, in a world where politicians and other such factors are removed.”
“The khrismon.” Marvin added, his eyes sparkling the same as Blanchard’s before he left.
Ava nodded, her expression being the complete opposite of Marvin’s. She wanted to go home and leave everything behind but even if Johnson was not involved, Lanchester took care to involve her.