“This picture is Bruegel’s Icarus. Enlarged, you can see details that connects it to the words.” Iwan explained, looking at the phone with interest. “The poem is Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts, a cry for those who had and will forever suffer because the world is made in such way.” He added with a tinge of irony.
“How do you know the poem? I haven’t heard about Auden before.” The ginger detective said looking a Iwan with a dose of respect.
“I read.” Was his simple answer. Lanchester seemed to ponder on that answer before he shrugged it off completely.
“Icarus, the God that flew too close to the sun? But what does it mean?” Lanchester said changing the subject completely.
“I believe you do not read carefully, detective. The answer has always been right in front of you, quite explicit if I may add.”
Lanchester took the phone and read the message again and again but nothing seemed to make sense.
“Are they comparing me to Icarus?”
“No, I think they compare themselves to Icarus. They are currently flying too close to the sun and they know they will fall that’s why they have no regrets. They are the martyres this world needs and they will gladly give their souls to Hell in order to awaken the ones deep asleep.”
“Young adults between 18 and 35. They’re talking to students, to those that graduated and remained unemployed, to those that want to form families but cannot sustain such a life, to those that can change the future by rising and fighting against corruption.” Ava explained sorrowfully.
“We don’t know that yet.” Lanchester said warily.
“Why don’t we look around Florence then? I’ll go to Boboli Gardens and you stay in Piazza di San Marco. Let’s then see who has been marked.”
“Have fun!” Iwan exclaimed absent mindlessly as he returned to his own affairs.
There were several reasons why Ava chose to visit the Boboli Gardens by herself and none seemed to have anything to do with Anonymous. Although she told the detective to ask around and search for clues, she was not planning on doing so.
The beauty that she faced cleared up her mind. Florence was her Eden, the place she’d like to die in, right there on the grounds of the Pitti Palace. It wasn’t far from the gardens and it looked so inviting. But not today; she wanted to cuddle under the sun in the vicinity of such an artistic place.
Buying a ticket, she couldn’t help but glance at every face passing the booth. Their hands were important and to her joy, none had a tattoo. As she entered the gardens, she went straight for the Spiders Lane, or on its rightful name, Ragnaie. It was sunny outside but the branches were just like a spider’s web, covering the path as if to leave it for a later snack.
Ava loved it there and not just because she felt protected from the outside world but because she felt like no matter what will happen, such a beautiful place will stay the same. People were so complicated, always changing their minds and attitudes with no sense of responsibility but art will always be art, Beauty is truth and truth is beauty, as Keats said. It will always be there to sooth her soul and remind her that there is true beauty and understanding in the world and it can speak to her in a way not many could hear.
“Nature is beautiful isn’t it? But it needs to be maintained to be so.”
At first Ava believed those words came from a member of Anonymous but looking over her shoulder, she saw a woman in her late thirties with already white hair and dressed in green and brown clothes. Ava smiled and waited for the woman to reach her before she spoke.
“You still work here.” She started feeling calm now that she knew who interfered in her state. “I thought you wanted to move to America. Isn’t that what you said last time I was here?” Ava continued in a familiar tone.
“Life is odd like that. I got an offer at a museum but being a curator can be boring.”
“And working as a curator here is not?” She asked bemusedly.
“It’s Florence. It’s Europe. There is no better place to maintain history in than Italy.”
“And it’s not because of Iwan, right?” Ava asked sarcastically, “He’s an adult, Margaret.”
Margaret sighed and looked up at the sunlight that was glazing through the few gaps in the web of branches. She was there with one purpose and it didn’t seem like she could give it up.
“I’ve been taking care of him for so long that I never troubled myself with the idea that I may have to stop one day. He’s still in pain and no drug in the world will take it away. I want to be sure that-”
“We both know it could have been worse. I have watched you.”
That last sentence emphasized a subtle threat that Ava had thrown several times before at the older woman. But Margaret turned a blind eye and changed the subject completely.
“I saw you on television, talking about this group named Anonymous. So? Did they hear you?” The woman asked, folding her arms in front of her chest.
Ava watched her every move with carefulness, especially when she shifted into such a closed posture under a subject that did not involve her directly.
“Are there many students around the gardens these days?” Ava asked making her suspicion audible in her voice.
“The usual amount, why?”
“Have you seen students with tattoos on their hands? Khrismons, to be precise.” Ava continued, her brown eyes rising to Margaret’s blue orbs. There were many secrets hidden behind her poker face but none seemed to be about subjects that did not have a direct approach to her pupil.
“No. I didn’t really look but I will from today onward and I’ll call you if I find anything strange.” She answered but her posture did not change, not even when she turned around and walked back to the Palace.
Ava turned her attention to the lane, a feeling of promiscuity crawling up her back. She had reasons to, after all her senses noted the danger before her mind. It was right there, at the end of the lane, so far that she could barely see if it was a boy or a girl but it was there and it was watching.
Detective Lanchester was renown in the Scotland Yard for his attentive and calculated stake outs, especially the way he would prepare beforehand for any type of situation, including hunger and boredom. He was the type to think in advance about how he should handle the aftermath in case a stake out would end wrong and they’d have to struggle their way out of a life and death matter.
But that was in the past. That Marvin, who was always ready and keen to risk his life was now a father, a husband and a madman. His carefulness vanished in one night that still haunted him and would for many more years to come. Maybe that was the reason he was so anxious walking around the Piazza, his eyes raising from time to time to the sky as he gave out an exasperated sigh.
He wondered if Ava had the same anticipation for Anonymous to come out of their hiding place and talk directly to them. That was, of course, not an easy task for either part but he wished something would happen already and he could invest his mind and soul into something that had nothing to do with his personal problems.
He wandered around the Piazza for a while until he stopped, his attention drawn by a couple of Chinese travelers and their children. They seemed to enjoy everything although the children were too young to understand where they were. A few feet from them were some students, talking loudly in Italian while pointing at each other. They might have been fighting, Lanchester thought about that hypothesis, but none seemed to be violent towards the other. All around were strangers talking in different languages, with different ways of emphasizing what they want to express; it was quite a pleasure to see so much diversity.
And then Marvin remembered Ava’s story from the other day. He never imagined she had gone through such a traumatizing event based on how she reacted to Anonymous. His eyes lowered on the ground as flashes from his past came back to him.
“Marvin, stop! Stop it!” cried a woman as she wrapped her hands around his back and pulled him towards her. “Please, stop it! It’s enough! Marvin!”
Blinking away his mother’s cries, the ginger detective needed a moment to re-focus on his present mission. What was in the past shall remain there.
“Nature does not deceive us, we deceive ourselves. Just like J.J Rousseau said once, such a long time ago, in a time of enlightenment when humans were chained by society. Isn’t that funny, detective? Isn’t it funny how nothing changed?”
Lanchester looked up from the ground but not enough to reveal his expression. He kept his mouth shut and mind clear so he could receive all that this person behind him wanted to offer. He was afraid that if he would turn and look into the eyes of this stranger, his mind would only register pieces of his words instead of all of it so he kept his eyes on the sight ahead.
“You don’t have to look at me, but you should look around you. The archetypes are everywhere, repeating to no end. It’s summer, detective. It’s summer,” said the woman, because it was clearly the voice of a girl between 20 and 40 years old.
“People are going to suffer if you continue acting so recklessly,” Lanchester replied finally.
“People are suffering already every single day. It’s summer, detective, the best time for Anonymous.” she added.
Lanchester frowned, completely confused by all these coded answers. He peeked at her legs but caught sight of a hand, stretched towards him. His eyes first noticed the tattoo on her french manicured hand, which confused the detective even more. If her hand was so elegant, with fresh manicure and a watch that looked quite expensive, then it wasn’t a group based on one particular type of people. In her hand she held tightly onto a note folded in two. He took it and found that for once, he understood it without a professor of art or a psychologist that reads excessively.
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
He had read that before in school so he knew it was a romantic poet he used to detest because of his grey vision of the world. But his wife loved romantic poets so he ended up knowing that one by heart, especially because it begun and ended with the same stanza.
“What does this mean?” he asked softly, hoping the voice will answer but it didn’t. He was by himself once again with not much of a real conversation or a helpful discovery.
Iwan was bored of grading papers and frankly, he was sick of having to go through the same routine for nearly a decade. He was tired and sore and wanted nothing else but to close his eyes, puff and eventually dream a beautiful dream where he was happy. That was the plan for the afternoon and he was halfway there, rolling a joint of medicinal weed when his phone rung. It was an unknown number which annoyed him further.
“Yes?” He started but there was no answer, only a song. It started softly and then evolved as if a whole orchestra was playing in his ear. Iwan narrowed his eyes and repeated, “Who’s this? How did you get my number?”
But again there was no answer. He could hear the song and he could hear people talking to themselves but that was all.
A more distinctive voice screamed and Iwan recognized it as an arts teacher that was always pissing him off. That could only mean it was somewhere close. Iwan hurried to the door and opened it and he could faintly hear music. He walked slowly with the phone still in hand, still at his ear. He went downstairs with a ghostly expression and stopped in the entrance hall. It was loud but not enough to reach other faculties.
It was Shubert’s Symphony No 1. There wasn’t exactly a bad memory connected to it but it sounded like the reception of a sumptuous ball.
“What’s going on here?” Iwan stopped and asked a student from his class.
“Professor! I’m not sure, we heard the music and came out here. Isn’t this odd? I’ve never heard this song before but it sounds like the beginning of a series.” she said before she went on to her friends.
He still had the phone in his hand when he heard a voice breathe into it. Iwan moved the phone near his ear with slow cautious moves before he asked.
“If this is Anonymous, why are you calling me?” he asked, his usual calm self falling back into the innocent, anxious little boy from the past.
“Professor, up there!” screamed the same student he stopped several moment ago. She pointed at the ceiling and more and more students raised their heads.
Iwan looked up and gasped at the projection. It was Boticeli’s Mappa del Inferno. Students started to talk to each other rather loudly, comparing theories of what it meant and if it was connected to Anonymous or not.
Absent mindlessly, Iwan hung up to the unknown caller and called the first person he could think of.
“Ava, you should come back. I think they left you a message here. It’s rather eye catching and cliche for my taste but it’s perfect for you.” he said and hung up right after, turning around and walking to his haven. “I don’t need this in my life,” he muttered to himself, his pace quickening as a chill went down his back.