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Chapter 22

Ava was at home for a few hours already and she was confused. Everything happened so fast -too fast for her liking- and there were so many questions and theories and they all united into one terrible headache. Moreover, she had to call in and explain to her boss why she suddenly disappeared with the police. But that was done quickly and neatly so that nobody could make up stories behind her back.
Her apartment was dark and dusty; it looked rather lonely and cold but once she drew the curtains and let fresh air in, it suddenly looked alive.
She searched on her phone for a song that would fit her mood and once she found it, she started preparing coffee. Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in A Minor filled the apartment as the water boiled in the red kettle. As it slowly shifted from Allegro into Largo, Ava turned off the stove, poured herself a cup of cafe latte and looked out the window as she took a sip. So many things have happened and yet the most touching of it all was her visit to Bedlam. She frowned as she remembered Lauren's words and the way her eyes glinted while delivering her message. Besides, a boy died as a part of a bigger, more dangerous plan. And yet, was it really because of her? Why would that be, she is a nobody.
Placing her cup on the counter she turned towards her bedroom and froze. Right there, standing in front of the door was a child of ten year old with halos under her eyes, so thick that it looked like she drew them on purposefully.
"Why are you afraid?" The child asked in a sorrowful voice. She was dressed in clothes two sizes bigger and her hair was falling heavily on her shoulders.
"Shouldn't I be? The world is a messed up place."
"You are not afraid of the world. You're afraid of admitting that Lauren was right. It's your fault."
Ava did not seem surprised by the answer. She looked down at her feet and waited for the child to continue. "It's your fault, Ava. You should take responsibility." She said and turned to look at the bedroom.
The door opened as if inviting the adult in. Ava looked at the child before she walked past her and went straight to her bedside table. She opened the first drawer and met the sight of an object she had almost forgotten she bought. A gun. She had a gun near the bed, just for alarming cases. She stared at it for a few minutes but ultimately closed the drawer. She turned to the child but she was not there anymore.
"I should take a break," she mumbled lying down on the bed.
Back in Paris, the sun was rising beautifully on the clear sky. The colours were mesmerizing and seeing it from under the Eiffel Tower was in itself quite the experience. Leo smiled to himself as he couldn't help but remember Muse's Ouverture and just how fitting it was for this moment.
"You're enjoying yourself, I see," Ruben said as he approached the young officer.
"Anonymous does know what they are protecting. The world is such a treasure." Leo commented feeling nostalgic.
"They shouldn't threaten it then. Not with Hell."
Leo sighed and rubbed his head nervously. He could understand now why Lanchester was so interested in this case. These people and their values were so well defined, unlike how most people are. They live their lives based on a moral code and they offer just as much as they gain so then...what were they gaining from this? Attention? Pride? Fame? Whatever it was, it must mean the world because they were literally ready to destroy it.
"Sir, what do you think drove Anonymous into action?" Leo asked his superior.
"What do you mean?"
"Something must have happened to set the plan in motion, right? It is so well managed and every detail connects to another perfectly. What started this? Why now?"
Ruben stared at Leo with a frown. The easily persuaded Italian officer was smarter than he looked and he was right. The chief inspector grabbed his phone immediately and called the HQ.
"Find out everything that has happened around the time of the first explosion. I want to know everything, if a dog shat on the wrong lawn or if a driver was caught speeding! Anonymous are all about details." He ordered as he signed for Leo to follow him to the car.

Ava was in the elevator, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Another lady entered on the 6th floor and another one with a child on the 4th. Ava smiled at the child although it looked very sad. The child, a girl with shimmering brown eyes and curly hair looked at Ava, acknowledged her presence but ignored her afterwards. The therapist almost chuckled loudly at how this girl reminded her of Lauren when she was young.

Everyone got out on the ground floor except Ava who had to go one level lower. She walked into the silent parking lot with only the thought of work. It was such a silent time, it was divine for someone who preferred to be alone. Ava took her keys out of her beige backpack and unlocked her car which was parked just around the corner from the entrance. All she wanted to do was to get immersed into other people's problems and forget hers.

She was ready to get in when suddenly some unknown person wrapped one hand around her waist and one around her face, covering her nose and mouth with a handkerchief. Her eyes widened when she realized she was being assaulted so close to home. She tried to stop breathing altogether but that didn't work in her favour, inhaling even more chloroform when she had no air left in her lungs. In the end, she fell unconscious.

When she woke up, Ava didn't look as scared as she should have. She has gone through more traumatic events in her life, the way she was registering danger was rather deformed now. Besides, she watched enough movies to know that calm decisions were the best to survive.

But there didn't seem to be a reason to panic. She was placed on a chair but her feet and hands were not tied. She sighed and grabbed a hand through her hair before she prepared herself for whatever was about to happen. The door was right in front if her, a single stain if bright red in a room painted white. And yet nobody walked through. She only heard the faint sound of music, a tune she did not recognize.

Ava let herself go with the melody as she followed it slowly into the darkness of what seemed to be a very long corridor. She was sure she entered another room where the speaker were because the music was more poignant.As the sound became louder, she realized she was probably getting closer to her kidnapper as well. Only, she came to find a wall full of screens. Each was a representation of what humans were doing to their planet and to their society. It seemed there was a pattern and a chronology to the videos on display. There were images in black and white from the early 1900's, events from the 1st World War, 2nd World War, natural disasters that occurred and the overall instability that the world was going through. Having so much pain and so much cruelty on display in front of her, she couldn't help but feel like someone was purposefully messing with her mental state. And then, on a screen in the middle of these disasters was his face. Once she stopped in front of it, the music became only a quiet murmur in the background.


Ava's eyes widened and immediately teared up as she heard her 10 year old voice.

"Please, save us. Please."

She couldn't move. All she could do was watch the man that destroyed her childhood as she heard herself plead for help. He seemed so happy, those evil eyes were glistening as he looked at his daughter.

"We have been kidnapped. Please, somebody, please save us."

Tears fell down her cheeks as she remembered the day they ran away. That phone call was just the beginning of a very nasty day but it was also the nudge they needed to claim their freedom back. They were still haunted by those days and there he was on the screen laughing next to his wife and children. His daughter grabbed his hand and Ava felt like she was about to throw up.

"Why are you doing this to me?" She asked feeling like she was being tortured.

A shadowy figure approached her. He had a mask on,one that seemed to mock everything on the screens and most importantly, Ava herself. It looked like a jester mask, not as well made but good enough. His eyes were the only thing she could actually see of him and they were such a bright blue colour.

"Don't cry, beautiful Charlotte."

She did not expect this apparently young man to sound so sad and mature. He had a British accent but it was so clean, so BBC-like that it was hard to know if he was indeed from the UK or not.

"What?" She asked,her voice so soft that it sounded more like a whisper.

"The world is too cruel for you, isn't it? But don't shed tears for it, Ava. They do not deserve your pain." He said walking closer to her.

"Why are you showing this to me? What is it that you want to see me doing?" She asked, feeling so tired already.

"It is not about what I want but about what you want. Sometimes the world disappoints us and we have to rearrange it so that it works correctly once more. I cannot just stand and watch anymore, not when humans are ready to bring doom upon us." He said, his voice low and intelligent.

"What do you want from me?"

"Nothing. I'm not asking anything of you, Ava. On the contrary, I am the only one who can help you." He said and turned his sight on the man that destroyed three children. "Am I not the same being who once enjoyed an excess of happiness, who at every step saw paradise open before him, and whose heart was ever expanded towards the whole world? And this heart is now dead; no sentiment can revive it. My eyes are dry; and my senses, no more refreshed by the influence of soft tears, wither and consume my brain. I suffer much, for I have lost the only charm of life: that active, sacred power which created worlds around me,—it is no more..." as he finished he turned to look at her and noticed how his words cut deep in her heart. They both knew he was referring to her and to her trauma rather than a general meaning.

"I believed you to be a fan of Dante and yet you quote me from Goethe." Ava said gaining a bit of courage.

"Both gave their lives for one woman who was never theirs."

Ava frowned and she wrapped her hands around her as a shield.

"That doesn't have any relevance to whatever you're doing." She wanted to believe that, she said it out loud especially to be able to believe it. "Does it?" But doubt was strong.

"Do you think that my Anonymous made this whole plot of transforming Europe into The Map of Hell because of one woman?" He asked but did not sound sarcastic.

"Empires fell because of one woman." Was her educated answer. But now that she said it, it actually made her understand how small she was compared to Hellen of Troy or Cleopatra. She was just a regular woman from London.

"Do you know why details are so important to us? Because they make the difference between life and death. One blink and a whole nation can vanish. Of course, that's not what Anonymous wants. Once down in Inferno, there is no other way but to rise into Purgatory and eventually, Paradise. Only when humans hit the bottom of their existence can they truly save themselves." He explained placing one hand carefully on a screen. "But that's not why I brought you here."

"How do you know so much about me?"

"Research. Or maybe you know me. Maybe we talked while waiting for coffee or maybe you swore at me in traffic. The world is not as big as we make it seem. What goes around comes around."

"What have I done to you?" She asked still very calm although the answer scared her. "Was I your therapist? Did I offend you?"

He tilted his head to the side and watched her for a while in silence. She didn't seem to mind, she looked like she was thinking about a lot of things.

"Have you ever read or watched Egmont?"

"What?" She frowned.

"It will have a representation this Friday evening in Oslo. Go and watch and especially listen to it, to every word. Take that amusing detective along if you want." He said before the music came back louder than ever. He retreated into the shadows leaving Ava by herself. The screens stopped too and she was in pitch darkness.

She found the exit quicker than she imagined. It had a large red sign right above it making it hard to miss. There was a cab waiting outside. As suspicious as it looked, Ava approached it warily and found her backpack on the backseat.

"Ar ya gonna enter or wha?" The driver asked but didn't sound as rude as she expected. "Been waitin' fo ya fo 15 minutes but the guy said ya were comin' soon."

She checked if she had everything first and to her relief nothing was missing. Actually, she found two tickets for the tragedy Egmont by Goethe. Friday, 8 o'clock at the National Theater in Oslo, Norway.

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