Nothing really happened for the next month or so. Ava hadn’t had any panic attacks after the last one but she bought another bottle of antidepressants for the office, just in case something spontaneous would happen and it would start again.
On the other hand, Charlie was right. Johnson had something he wanted to tell Ava but didn’t have the opportunity. Nothing really changed after he left the firm and no one in dark suits and dangerously smelly cologne barged inside asking for something equally disastrous.
Days were passing quietly for Ava and she was content with that.
On the morning of May 13th 2016, Ava Atkins was running late.
It was unusual but she had a nightmare and couldn’t find the courage to face the world in a bad state. She waited until she calmed down before she took a shower and prepared for another day at the office.
The traffic in London at that hour was infernal and Ava was aware she had to call Charlie and tell her to keep her patient entertained until she gets there. Ava reached for her purse and rapidly texted her secretary, completely absorbed in her business.
Once she finished, she placed the phone aside and turned on the radio. The car in front of her was moving so she quickly followed. As her eyes were surveying the street for a route that would save her from the traffic, she noticed people stopping on the sidewalk and looking ahead. Ava frowned and followed their gazes only to see a big digital advertisement turn black before music begun.
The honks and shouts of angry drivers stopped and everyone focused on what looked like the malfunction of every digital advertisement in the area. Ava opened the door and got out, just like the rest.
The advertisement was blank until it suddenly brightened and a figure walked in front of the camera. It was a man whose face was hidden by a flamboyant bird mask, the same used by doctors when the plague came. It was a bad omen back then and Ava was sure it was now as well.
“Remember, remember 13th of December. When the innocent will have been dragged to Hell. In plain sight he hides and waits. For when he rises, it begins.”
The voice said in clear diction, with no inflections in his voice and no clue of his true personality.
“Is this a joke?” Someone asked from a few feet to the left.
The screen went blank once again before the normal advertisement came back as if nothing happened.
For the rest of the way to the office, Ava couldn’t help but think about the song in the strange video. It was Beethoven’s Pathetique Part 3, she knew it very well and that fact was getting her goose bumps.
Once she entered the elevator she tidied up, getting ready for another day of work. She told her secretary to do everything in her power to make the patient comfortable but Charlie Bloom was doing her work at her desk.
“I tried but he ignored me.” Charlie defended herself as soon as she saw her boss.
Ava raised an eyebrow and opened the door to her office, ready to meet a woman as her schedule predicted. It wasn’t a woman but a man who looked bored out of his mind.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Traffic was terrible. However, I was expecting a Mrs. Crawford not a stranger.” She spoke as she placed her purse on the desk and sat down.
“I won’t take much of your time. I only need a signature.” The man mumbled, getting up and walking closer to her.
Ava watched him put a folded paper in front of her and she swiftly read it before placing it down.
“I’m sorry Mr. Lanchester but this is not the right place. I’m not going to sign this paper and then have you go to work as if nothing happened. I respect the work I do, unlike some of my colleagues.” She explained in a polite yet cold voice.
Marvin Lanchester stared at her for a few minutes before he reached out for his paper. She pulled it back and looked straight into his eyes.
“Take a seat, Mr. Lanchester.”
The way she spoke reminded Marvin of his days at the rehabilitation center. That was a very bad memory but he needed her signature so he complied.
“It says here that you have been misbehaving at work as of last month,” She begun in that polite way psychologists usually speak in during the first meeting. “Why is that? Did something happen last month?” She asked, her eyes keeping a steady emotionless gaze on him.
The man standing across her on the couch was neither an idiot nor a beginner in therapy and the likes of it. He knew he might have crossed the line and completely ignored the rules afterwards but he wasn’t a danger to anyone.
“My colleagues believe that I have a problem. It seems I can’t keep my anger in anymore.” Marvin responded, clicking his tongue when he thought just how irrelevant was the meeting and everything that’s been happening lately.
“And where does this surplus of anger come from?” She continued to ask, careful not to get too personal yet. She wanted him to warm up first and share his thoughts and issues with her willingly not dig up by herself.
Marvin chuckled and rubbed his face, “This is annoying. I’m a detective and I catch bad guys. Of course something terrible is bound to happen at some point,”
That quirked Ava’s interest and she leaned towards him, “How terrible?”
Marvin saw the glint of curiosity swirling in her eyes and felt a bit awkward. She seemed like she suddenly found him interesting enough for her to get involved unlike a normal psychologist who would just proceed calmly and objectively.
“My partner died. He got shot and I was too late to save him.” He responded as if it didn’t bother him enough to snap his sanity and degrade him to the level he had been before.
For a few minutes, Ava watched him have a very casual posture and expression; he looked well. But as the minutes were passing by, she could notice slight tremors in his arms, especially the right one, his fingers twitching every time he would feel anxious.
“Are you bothered, Mr. Lanchester? Your partner died and you couldn’t do anything. I can’t help but wonder if you haven’t somehow gotten over it too fast,” Her voice trailed as if she was trying to find the answer herself not have him respond.
Much like any lady, Ava placed one leg over the other and leaned a bit forward, her hands resting on her lap while she kept her back straight.
Marvin watched her with interest and suspicion because she did very action very slowly and steadily, like she was controlled by someone hiding under the desk.
“What are you insinuating?” He asked licking his lips under her heavy gaze.
His voice didn’t rise or pitched at the incrimination and he didn’t seem affected by it in any way.
“You get that a lot, don’t you? I’m sure the interrogation process was horrible and even if your name was cleared up, nothing was the same in here-“ She pointed at the table, “-and in here.” She finished pointing at her head.
With that established, she leaned back as if she found out the answers she had been looking for already. Marvin was leaning on his lap, hands held together in between his legs, hiding his twitching fingers. Unlike most people, this man seemed tense and ready to leave but his eyes were looking at her and lips were set on a straight thin line. It felt like he was challenging her to do her best, be it through harsh words or behavior.
Ava licked her lips and sighed, “You are an interesting man, Marvin Lanchester. It’s obvious you have been through worse therapy sessions in your life. You guard your expressions and tics well and you don’t look like you have any problems keeping your inner self hidden.” She stated before getting up and taking the paper off her desk. The psychologist signed it quickly and walked to him.
Marvin was content that he got what he came for without having to explain his situation in depth; besides, she didn’t really impose but patiently waited for him to say something that would make sense to her. Overall, he was relieved his finger randomly chose her off the infinite list of psychologists given by his boss.
The redhead grabbed the paper from her, squeezing it lightly as he passed her to get to the door. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and watched him sigh before opening the black door.
“Marvin,” She started right before he took his first step outside her office, “Inner demons don’t just disappear after treatment. They’re still there, waiting to be left out and break everything you built for yourself.” She finished, her voice cracking at the end but it was hardly noticeable.
The redhead frowned and rushed out of there, leaving Charlie staring after him in confusion.
“He’s one peculiar patient.” She mumbled under her breath.
The next patients for the day were usual depression cases in which the best treatment was actually coming from loved ones, people who mattered to the patients and who would stop trying to understand and just accept.
“You’re being a bit rude to some of the mothers, don’t you think so?” Charlie asked during her break, walking inside Ava’s office without a care.
The brunette was engrossed in paper work but heard her secretary clearly. Ava only glanced at Charlie briefly before grabbing the remote and turning on the telly.
What seems like a prank might have actually been a threat at the National Security. A few hours ago, in downtown London, we have been witnesses of a subliminal message to our citizens. Will it bring panic or has it been false? We cannot answer as we do not have all the information. What we have is the recording of a man hiding behind a bird mask, speaking in riddles. We-
Ava had enough and turned the volume down. On the other side, Charlie’s eyes were gleaming with curiosity.
“A maniac is trying to scare the ministry. I’m sure it’s nothing but a false alarm. It’s probably some kind of publicity for-“
“It wasn’t a threat.” Ava interrupted, rising her eyes to show her secretary just how much she was interfering in her work. “He didn’t speak in riddles either. It’s someone who has a vendetta and if I’m right, it’s going to end with him being hurt by what he hates the most.”
Charlie stared at her boss, puckering her lips as she thought of what Ava said.
“But what if this vendetta of his will cause a revolution?” The younger woman asked with genuine innocence.
Ava glanced at the telly, the news repeating the video for the whole country to see. It felt like she was watching a unique adaptation of the bird masked man announcing the end of the world in the video seen first by Laurence Knowlton.
In this place, at this date, the world changed forever.
“For when he rises, it begins.” Ava repeated his words having goose bumps when she remembered the music in the background.
“What do you think he meant about that?”
Charlie threw the question as random conversation but it felt strangely familiar to Ava.