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Chapter 18

“So, I have done some research on this friend of yours and it seems he’s had a rough time.” Lanchester started.

They were on an airplane, private at that, with the destination Florence. It was rather interesting how the detective convinced the Interpol to lend them a private jet. Or maybe to lend was not exactly the best verb to use in the context because, really, he lied through his teeth.

“What did you tell chief inspector Ruben that we’ll do in Florence?”

“Recuperate.” Lanchester answered as if it was obvious. “You suffered a lot in the last few days thus the mere help the Interpol could grant you is helping you escape. For a while at least.” He added, sensing her heavy gaze.

“It is true, I suppose,” she mumbled, turning her attention on the trap window.

Lanchester looked at the brunette with wonder, seeing her eyes look so empty even when they were on the way to meet her friend. Besides, she seemed so formal all the time, so defensive as if the thought of opening up to anyone was going to destroy her. It reminded Lanchester a lot of his mother...

“Mom, can I go with the boys to play football?” A very hurried Marvin asked his mother as soon as he barged inside the kitchen.

The sight was not exactly new but he would have prefered if it was different. Mrs. Lanchester was at the table, balancing her chin on her hand on the table while looking out the window. Her blue eyes were the exact copy of her son and so was the red hair; she was a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman even with her cheek swollen and a thick scar that went from the end of her eyebrow down to her earlobe. Still, she was an elegant woman with a neck that could rival a swan. She looked younger than she was and yet she went through so much in her life.

Rose Lanchester was like a caged nightingale. She was so beaten up that she lost her voice and her wings have been harshly cut apart.

Even as a young boy, Marvin could see how much his mother wanted to flee. And yet when she turned her head to her son, her eyes twinkled and she smiled softly. There was love in her orbs, but only when they fell upon her boy.

“Sure, honey. Just be back before your father arrives. You know he wants us all to take dinner together.”

Young Marvin groaned and swayed his shoulders in a very bratty manner.

“But mom...” he started, although he knew what would happen if he wouldn’t comply. One look from the woman and Marvin pouted but nodded nonetheless.

However, when Mr. Lanchester arrived home from work, Marvin was not in.

“I’m sure he’s on his way. He’s a good boy,” she was shut up by a loud slap that echoed throughout the whole house.

Five minutes he was late and those five minutes did not cost him anything but it did cost his mother quite a lot.

Lanchester awakened from his reverie as if he had risen out of water. His subject of interest was silently reading until her brown eyes looked into his.

“You mumble in your sleep.” She informed but she didn’t continue on that idea. Truthfully, the detective was thankful that she didn’t start a therapy session.

Florence is a magical city, surrounded by art and history. There is no corner of this beautiful place that doesn’t have a story.

From the Amerigo Vespucci Airport they took a car, after many discussions about old age. Lanchester couldn’t believe how stubborn she was yet in the end she did compromise.

Ava was glad she could experience the city’s beauty at a crossroad in her life. The brunette woman closed her eyes and breathed in the smell of culture before breathing out slowly. She opened her eyes and for the first time since they met, Lanchester saw her eyes sparkle with happiness.

“Where does your friend work?”

“He’s a professor at the University of Florence.” she didn’t give much details about him nor if he was there at the moment.

University of Florence is situated in Plazza di San Marco, the center of Florence and one of the most beautiful places in the city. The University of Florence can trace its origins to the Studium Generale, which was established in 1321.

When they arrived there, Ava got out without the slightest bit of pride and let the man behind, with the intention of not using a pound in this journey. Lanchester, more or less admitted defeat and paid their lengthy ride, feeling like what he was doing at the moment was an investment for the greater good.

“Where is he? Is he even here?” Marvin asked after he caught up with the woman. “This place is gigantic,”

In his whole life, Lanchester had never seen so much life into a university. It was as if history was whispering to him.

“Should we ask someone where he is?” Lanchester asked, already thinking how to translate into Italian with the help of his smart phone.

“We don’t have to,” she replied, leading him towards the stairs, “I know exactly where he is.”

Lanchester followed the psychologist up the stairs, not stopping at the lower levels but at the upper levels, where she led him towards an office. It was in the very back of the building where not much light enters through the windows. Ava stopped in front of a door and the detective felt like they were in front of a cell rather than an office. Once she opened the door that feeling intensified. It was not a cell, of course, it was far larger than expected with two doors on each side of a very large window across the front entrance. In front of the window was a desk, messy yet squeaky clean. Shelves of books were all around, making it impossible to see the pattern of the wallpaper.

While Lanchester was spinning around, careful not to let one corner unnoticed, Ava walked to the desk and noticed there was a huge untouched pile of tests. She looked up at the window before she looked to the side, at the door that was opened widely on the left side.

Lanchester saw where her eyes fell upon and he decided to be the first to discover what was in the other room. He stopped in the doorframe and checked if she was behind him, which she was. That was enough for the detective to enter and see a sight he hasn’t seen ever since he used to be an officer.

“Are you smoking marijuana in a university?” Lanchester couldn’t help but voice his wonder.

Iwan was a man younger than Marvin but older than Leo. He looked miserable, for a short introduction. He was tall and very skinny. He looked more like a corpse barely living off snacks and coke rather than a university professor. Besides, the room reeked of alcohol and weed; there was an enormous pile of clothing in the very back and a made up bed on the floor next to a mini fridge.

“Oh, couldn’t have heard you since I had these on,” Iwan said lazily as he took out his earphones. “Sorry, what were you saying?” He asked taking a long puff from his joint.

Ava walked forward and Iwan’s face brightened up although that was still far from looking like a cheerful face. But it did seem like he was making an effort because he got up from the improvised bed and approached them.

“What do I owe this unexpected visit?” he asked, patting the psychologist on her shoulder with a loose smile.

“There’s a group of people who call themselves Anonymous. They are being a bit of a burden for the Interpol.” Lanchester replied, watching the man warily.

“Ah, yes I heard they gave quite an interesting speech on the telly. Papini if I recall. Anyway, what connection does it have to this visit?” asked Iwan as he moved past the detective and went to his desk.

Light was falling over his form in a very ironic way, making him glow and look like a pure human being although his eyes were red and he was sullen.

“A present was given to Dr. Atkins. A photograph was inside, one in which you appear too.” explained Lanchester.

Iwan rolled his eyes, finding it irrelevant. Until Ava opened her mouth and spoke.

“They know him.” The way she emphasized on the pronoun at the end made Iwan put aside his joint. “They know who he is and what is his status. Somehow, they found out what happened back then.”

“And? Do they want to blackmail you? They may as well bluff or use you for different reasons. They’re smart enough to do anything,” the way Iwan underlined that statement received a suspicious glance from the ginger detective, “But what do I know? I’m a mere art history professor.” he added once he felt the tension rising in the room.

Ava grabbed something from her long brown coat and put it hastily on his desk. Iwan raised an eyebrow as he took it and stared at it for a few minutes.

“Is this why you came to me? You’re afraid they will punish him? That’s what we want, isn’t it, Ava? We want him and many like him to be punished.”

Ava looked down before she looked into his tired blue eyes.

“They’re not God. They have no hand in the fate of humanity yet they believe they can open the eyes of those who have been hurt. The world is not a good place but it’s not all bad either. It’s just as it has always been.” She explained although she had gone through incredible and traumatizing events.

“Tell that to Lauren. She’s in that mental hospital and she doesn’t want to leave. She doesn’t want to get better because she’s afraid.” hissed the professor, leaning in.

“And I am too. But I chose to confront the world.” said Ava, her temper slipping out through her calm mask.

“Wait, what are you talking about? What exactly does that mean?” He asked pointing at the piece of paper Ava put on the desk.

“It’s Ava’s requiem...every time that song played, we knew it was to cover her cries and pleads. Nobody ever heard us back then and nobody will now either.” Iwan hissed, annoyed that a detective was in his office when he hated police in general.

“We’ll be around. If Anonymous reach out to you, you should-”

“Gladly accept aiding them, what else. After all, I know what it’s like to cry out and end up all alone, miserable, with nightmares you cannot begin to imagine.” replied the professor, his tone rising and his eyes narrowing at the ginger.

“That’s why he is allowed to smoke marijuana. Without it, he cannot sleep.” Ava explained meekly.

“Is that why you took antidepressants too? You almost died.” Lanchester said harshly.

“Do you think she is any better than me?” Iwan started, grabbing his joint and taking a long smoke, “She may look normal but under this professional mask she is just as miserable as I am. Are we overreacting or are we holding up quite well? I’ll leave that to your own judgement.”

“It’s alright. We’ll leave now.” Ava interfered, touching Lanchester’s hand softly as a sign to give in.

Iwan glared at the ginger man for his whole way from the desk to the door. He sat down and hid his face behind the pile of tests. He took another smoke and glanced at the paper left behind by Ava. He could literally hear the song even though the room was silent.

“Thank God for medicinal herbs,” he whispered, the memories of his childhood safely hidden in the subconscious.

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