When Ava returned to the Airbnb they rented for the night, she didn’t expect to find the apartment empty. Iwan returned approximately half an hour after she arrived, which gave her time to overthink the consequences of her words as a young psychologist.
“What if I told you that Lauren was right?” She asked, her brown eyes focusing on Iwan’s tired face. She stood on the side of her bed with a pillow held tightly in her arms looking a lot younger than normally.
“What do you mean?” He asked although he wasn’t exactly interested.
“There was an exercise that I’d use from time to time with my patients. They had to look in the mirror and tell me what they see beyond skin and bones. One of them, his name was Daniel, said that he saw the Golem.”
“Leo told me tonight that there was a power cut in Limehouse before that cut during the mayor’s speech.” She informed him even though Iwan has been living in Florence for longer than he lived in the UK.
“And?” He asked, his interest dropping with every new information.
“The Limehouse Golem. It must be relevant to Anonymous which makes me believe Daniel is one of them. I think it was a public way of announcing their stand. Besides, he was one of the mayor’s supporters.”
At the mention of their childhood tormenter, Iwan flinched but he shrugged it off quickly. It wasn’t his problem, after all.
“That doesn’t mean it was Anonymous.” He answered as he searched for a change of clothes. He really didn’t bring much with him but he did bring his vaper. “I’m gonna take a long bath. Please, don’t disturb me even if a zeppelin is going to fall over this apartment.”
Ava rolled her eyes and fell on her side still holding the pillow close to her chest. She watched him entering the bathroom and sighed.
Iwan was a man with quirks: he couldn’t just enter the tub and have water drip on his legs nor did he like the sound of it. He made sure to have the tub filled with medium hot water enough to reach just below his chest and he needed his clothes to be neatly folded on the toilet lid. Once seated comfortably he took a long smoke from his vaper before he closed his eyes and leaned his head backwards.
Although it was silent in the whole apartment, Iwan could still hear the song they played for him. Remembering the words, he inhaled much deeper the next smoke, filling his lungs with the calming drug.
“How did you know where to search for me?” Lanchester asked his superior as soon as they were alone.
“Oslo is a nice, quiet city at night, hm? Or at least nowadays, you never know when something will fall from the sky.” Ruben started, leading the subject towards the point he wanted to make.
“How ironic,” Lanchester mumbled looking up at the sky.
It looked like a dark blue ocean above the earth, ever serene and fair. Norway had a clearer sky than London and yet if he were to think about it, realistically speaking it was the same for everyone, the difference was only felt by those on the ground.
“Birds are so lucky,” Lanchester mumbled seeing one fly just above their heads.
Ruben rolled his eyes and opened his mouth. Words and sounds were being thrown at Lanchester but his mind was elsewhere...
“What are you looking at?” Marvin was surprised to have another breathing person come and sit next to him. Moreover, it was a girl.
“Nothing.” He said quietly. He didn’t know how to handle women after all the years in rehabilitation centers. The only females he ever conversed with were either patients or nurses.
“It looks like something to me, though.” She said looking at him with big brown eyes. Her bold attitude was a bit frightening.
“There are no stars, the moon is barely visible because of the clouds. There is really nothing to look at.” He mumbled trying to shake her positive energy off him.
“The sky. It’s so wide, so beautiful. Just think about it like this: somebody from the other corner of the world is looking up at the same sky as us. It may not have so many clouds and it may actually be during the day, but it’s the same one.”
“What’s your point?” Marvin asked this positive girl with twinkling brown eyes.
“Doesn’t it make you feel less lonely?” She asked.
Marvin stared at her in shock. He wasn’t sure if she saw through him or if she just spoke generally but he was mesmerized.
“-so I’m not here just for you.” He heard Ruben’s voice, at last.
Ruben kept his composure even if he wanted to hit the ginger.
“I have reasons to believe that Anonymous will do something soon. Here, in Oslo. We checked the news and there was a grotesque case regarding a minor who was kidnapped and seized in a cottage somewhere near forest...um, I can’t even spell the name. Anyway, that’s not important. The person who did this was an important member of society, he did not have a high rank but he was very well seen by members of his community. That plus all the Anonymous messages led to the climax of our problem. People began to gather immediately after hearing about this case and rebelled against the rules of society and especially the people who are paid to enforce the rules, ie the authorities. It is one of the most shocking cases for Norwegians, something like this has not happened for some time and although five months have passed since the individual was caught and imprisoned for life, the memory still haunts the citizens.” Ruben took a deep breath before he continued, “They want the authorities to listen to Anonymous.”
“We are,” Marvin answered sure of himself.
“Really? Because in the last days they haven’t really said anything. I feel like I am waiting for something that already happened.”
“They aren’t violent.” Lanchester said, his tone growing impertinent.
“But people are. People who have waited for this opportunity to rise and provoke chaos.”
“That’s not the message.”
“I thought you already understood how this works, Lanchester. The message is what each and every individual wants it to be. Nothing less and nothing more.”
Marvin sighed and rubbed his head. Ruben had a pessimistic view over humanity, he had seen horrible cases that happened to people who didn’t deserve to suffer and he probably saw criminals get away just because they had skilled lawyers. The world was messed up and one little group was not going to have an impact on the long run. In a year or two, people will forget about them and about their intentions. So much work, so much devotement and for what...?
“Do we even deserve to be saved?” He asked himself, his sight rising to the sky.
Nothing really happened that night. Lanchester was forced to find a cheap hotel to spend the night in, something he didn’t plan for. He couldn’t help but feel anxious. His phone vibrated and he saw the same twinkling eyes from his memory. His wife was the brightest star, the one guiding him home every time he got lost. In her arms was their baby daughter, who looked so much like him.
Iwan was asleep with his back towards Ava. She was watching him, having so many conflicting thoughts running through her head. The apartment had two bedrooms but they couldn’t sleep by themselves in a dark, unknown place.
Leo was in his own room, still surprised that he shared a bit of his private life with Ava. Everyone had problems, everyone had a past they needed to carry everywhere. He wanted to make her feel better and he ended up remembering details that he buried in the back of his mind.
It was back when he was in the orphanage. There were so many children and there so many days he wished he was elsewhere but at the end of the day, it was the safest place for him. It was run by a catholic church so it was very strict from every point of view.
That night Leo had to clean the bathrooms with his dorm mates. They were almost done when the lights were cut. He looked up frightened but nobody noticed. The boys ran out in search for a nun but Leo didn’t. He froze as he remembered what happened to one of his foster families.
“Sometimes it happens, sometimes it happens,” he whispered to himself.
During one of his stays with a family in northern Italy, there was a bad storm that cut the power to everyone in the neighborhood. Back then he wasn’t scared of the dark. He went around the house searching for his foster parents. He found nobody so he went in his room and got in bed. It was probably later that night when the sheets were pushed off him and he felt a hand slip in. He kept his eyes closed and hoped it will be over, whatever that was. The hand slipped under his shirt, up to his chest, then down in his pants. He didn’t wake up, he preferred to act as if he was asleep. He never opened his eyes in fear that the sight will break his fragile view over family but he didn’t know how to react to it either. It happened that night, and the next, and every night when his foster father was coming home late from work.
One thing he remembers clearly. He went to his foster mother right after it happened the first time and her answer baffled him.
Now an adult, Leo sighed and shuddered at the memory. It happened such a long time ago but from time to time he could see his foster mother’s face as she said those words. How could someone be so nice and evil at the same time was above his understanding of human beings.
Trying to shake that memory off he returned to one of his favorite books: The Limehouse Golem.
It was a bright day considering it was late October. When Iwan woke up, he noticed that Ava’s bed was already made and she already left. With nobody to interrupt him, the professor took his time in the bathroom and even spent extra minutes staring at his tired blue eyes. He leaned on the sink in order to get a closer look at his face and remembered the exercise Ava spoke about last night.
“There was an exercise that I’d use from time to time with my patients. They had to look in the mirror and tell me what they see beyond skin and bones.”
He first focused on how thin were his lips and how if he smiled, he looked like he was in a bad mood rather than happy. His cheeks were thin and his forehead was wide. He needed to style his hair differently because he wasn’t indifferent to how people perceived him and right now he looked untrustworthy. It was always a surprise how his students never mocked or fought him, but then again, Iwan was good at his job.
And then he focused on his blue eyes. He let out a shaky breathe and gripped the sink as he scraped his mask off and saw the real Iwan. He was still a child, still not accustomed to expressing himself and still craving for attention from the people he loved. He had a nanny who took care of his legal matters, and sometimes food and accommodation, he had his students who for some unknown reason respected him and he was living in Florence, the city that gave him joy. But all these choices were made in order to escape the image that he was seeing in the mirror: a helpless, unloved boy who, if given the opportunity, will repeat his past mistakes.
Iwan washed his face, water bringing the pieces of his mask back together. He went in the kitchen and saw that Ava did prepare breakfast for him but she probably didn’t eat hers. Since he already took the rest of the week off, he searched for interesting art exhibition in Oslo. His eyebrow rose when he came by one. Hieronymus Bosch: The Vision of a Genius, last days at the Ramfjord Galleries.
Since they needed a headquarter, Ruben decided to monopolize the central police station in Oslo. However it wasn’t as silent as he expected.
“Why are there people gathering outside?” Ava asked seeing how more and more individuals were coming with boards.
Ava was more or less forced to be there. It wasn’t her expertise as a psychologist that was needed, she was just informed that she had to come and do nothing. Ruben glanced at the therapist knowingly. It all seemed to connect to her somehow but he didn’t have enough evidence to prove it.
“It’s the Anonymous fanatics. They’ve been riled up after the case of the pedophile. Haven’t you watched the news?”
Ava and Leo turned to the officer right away with frowns.
“Larch kidnapped and raped a minor five months ago. It was crazy, he wasn’t apologetic either and it felt like a horror story. I still shudder at the memory. His trial was recorded and it looks like a psycho gloating in pride.” The officer in charge of their little group explained.
“It was all over the news. We don’t have cases like that often in Norway and Edvard Larch was a really nice guy. He used to donate to hospitals and art museums. Who would have imagined he’d end up being crazy...”
Ava crossed her arms in front of her chest and watched these men and women that were supposed to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.
“Whenever someone thinks of a murderer or an abuser, they always imagine them as well built, with tattoos and poorly dressed. That is how much of a hypocrite society is. Psychopaths and sociopaths are usually people who never draw attention to themselves. They use their wealth and charm in order to manipulate how the others think of them. Maybe there is a psychopath right here, in this room, and nobody would be able to recognize him. That’s reality.” Ava commented loud enough for every officer in the room to hear.
Ruben rolled his eyes and felt immense pressure adding to the already insane amount he had on his shoulders.
“Lanchester is not the worst, after all,” he mumbled away from Ava.
But the ginger heard him and couldn’t help chuckle to himself.
“But aren’t psychopaths just sick people?” Leo asked genuinely curious.
“Antisocial personality disorder, that would be the correct diagnosis. There is a low percentage of people who exhibit psychopathic tendencies and most of them to a lesser degree than what you see in movies. Being a heartless child abuser doesn’t necessarily mean he is a psychopath. Some abusers have been abused themselves when they were young, physically or verbally, and some have witnessed someone else being abused. The mind is a tricky little labyrinth.” She explained pointing at her head, “The closer you get to its center, the more you get to know somebody. They hide their traumatic events in a chest and hide it as far as possible from others and especially from themselves. When those memories surface, the core of everything you built breaks. You find yourself standing on a beach, barefoot, with nothing but the ocean around you and there is nowhere to go. Any way you choose leads you to drowning. ”
Leo stared at the brunette with wide eyes. She spoke so calmly and yet he could feel the pain behind every word. He had the overwhelming need to wrap his arms around her and tell her that everything was going to be alright but he was frozen. The way she expressed the inability to move and choose when bad memories were taking control reached deep into his heart.
He was ready to speak when she suddenly frowned and looked up.
“What’s wrong?” He asked not understanding what she was doing.
Ava opened the window and the sound became clearer. Even the officers got up and made a little crowd behind her. People were screaming downstairs but they too became silent when the music got louder. Ava’s eyes widened and she ran out of there. Ruben and Leo looked at each other before both of them turned to Lanchester. The ginger was staring out the window, his expression hard to decipher.
“You’re being awfully silent, detective,” Ruben said approaching the ginger.
“You were right. Something’s happening.”
“And you are here and doctor Atkins is here...this is not a coincidence.” Ruben admitted knowing Lanchester was smart enough to have figured how suspicious his place in the Anonymous team became.
“And you’re here too because I told you where I’m going.”
Ruben couldn’t help but smirk at how cunning the detective was. But Marvin was right.
Ava ran down the stairs and out the front door before she stopped and looked up. She turned and turned, searching for the speakers, but she couldn’t locate them. The music seemed as if it was coming from everywhere and it was so loud.
Song for the Unification of Europe by Zbigniew Preisner. That was the haunting melody that made Ava overreact. Her heart was beating so fast and she was searching for an answer. The words of the song were in Greek but they were a version of St. Paul’s Corinthians. She knew because she searched it after seeing Kieślowski's movie.
There was a message between those lyrics, maybe more. The meaning was for people to use love as their greatest asset. It is an anthem for love and unity.
People were still screaming, the song did not end yet and Ava was confused. She walked closer to the crowd and noticed a man moving at the same pace as her through the mess of languages. She stopped breathing for a moment when she realized she was looking at Daniel, her former patient. He smiled and waved which got Ava ready to dive in the sea of norwegians just to get to him.
"What are you doing?"
Unfortunately Leo caught her wrist and kept her in place. One glance away was enough for Daniel to vanish.
"I'm an adult woman, I can take care of myself." She snapped at the blond but Leo didn't let her wrist go.
"These people could be dangerous."
"But they are not."
Leo stared at her, not believing how she could be so angry when he only wanted to protect her. Ava glanced back at the crowd and sighed, still pissed off that some outsider interfered in what was her only chance to get some answers.
On the other side, while the central police building had noise enough for a whole week, the Ramfjord Galleries was extremely silent. Iwan spent a few minutes in front of every painting and even looked at some sculptures before he stopped on the last beautiful piece, which was also taking the largest amount of space. He placed his hands in his pockets and stood there, watching the painting as if every odd form was going to move and come to him.
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