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Chapter 9

Leonard Abelli is a 25 years old man with a love for fiction novels and movies. The main reason he became a police officer in Italy was his admiration for the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. The way he’d know everything about a person using only his deduction skills, the atmosphere he’d bring with him into a room and the admiration he’d get from his loyal friend Watson were enough to transcend him into another world.

Of course, real life was completely different from the book written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Real life police was far busier in the diverse section than he imagined and it didn’t look like he’ll have the chance to assist his superiors in important cases.

“Abelli! Stop day dreaming and come see this!” One of his co-workers, Alfio- or Alfie how his friends would call him- begrudged his colleague to take a look at the newest announcement.

Grumpily, grabbing a hand through his short light brown hair, Leo walked to his same-age friend and looked at the piece of paper Alfie was pointing at. There, in rather small letters, the announcement didn’t seem like it contained anything of great importance; it was merely information about the latest complaints regarding the broken semaphore.

It wasn’t that. Right there, in bold letters said: The Interpol requires brave and smart officers. Applicants will be evaluated according to their records and activity.

“They must be very short on officers if they accept almost anyone.” Alfie mumbled, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Well, anyway, it’s too much of a bother to-“

Leo’s blue eyes were reading and re-reading the announcement, flashes of enthusiasm enlightening his eyes every time he’d catch the title.

“Do you think chief will let me send an application?” Leo asked, turning towards his less excited partner.

Alfie raised an eyebrow and slowly spun around, walking towards his desk. He looked down at the files piled up in the corner and saw more than ten cases for the diverse division.

“I’m not so sure. We do have work too, you know,” Alfie mumbled, knowing that would put Leo in a sour mood for the rest of the week.

“Like what? Going around, running after the lost lamb? Or going out of the city because there’s an official that can’t get himself a whore?”

At the mention of the official, Alfie’s eyes widened so much that he looked like his orbs were going to jump out of the sockets. He zipped his mouth shut and sat down at his desk, looking like he was deeply consumed by work.

Leo rolled his eyes and grabbed an application, filling it faster than reading the newspaper. Afterwards, he signed it and went straight to his boss, rehearsing his speech in his head.

He had to wait in line because he wasn’t the only one interested to transfer to the Interpol. Officers from all over Italy came to Rome to apply and even though most of them looked more prepared and active than Leo, he had faith.

Three hours passed and Leo was still waiting with a group of five officers, men and women, from Sicily. Leo was confused why they came all the way to Rome instead of applying from there but remembered there were very few places to apply to through Europe.

“Do you know? They have already called five officers from UK, Iceland, Russia and France. I’m curious what they found out that forced them to require more people.” One officer from Sicily asked her comrades.

One tall and fit girl crossed one leg over the other and leaned on her elbow before responding.

“It’s Anonymous. A friend from Naples told me that they found a letter while searching for clues. They say it’s a quote from the bible.” She whispered, intending to make Leo curious but not enough to enter the conversation.

They hummed and continued to whisper about Anonymous for the whole ten minutes until the door opened and the familiar hairy face of Chief Largoni called the next officer in. Leo took one last breath before entering the office.

“Of course. Always keen to prove yourself, aren’t you Abelli?” Largoni barked, those hairy eyebrows furrowing together.

“Yes, sir.” The young officer admitted, feeling a fiery sensation crawl up his neck.

“Come, come. Your activity is not very good but you have the excitement needed for a case like this. One more young eye wouldn’t hurt.” Largoni mumbled, beckoning his officer closer.

Leo placed his application on the desk and straightened up in front of his boss. Largoni looked at Leo intensely before rubbing his bushy mustache fondly.

“Tell me, Abelli, why do you think the Interpol wants reinforcements for?”

Leo could tell from the taunting tone of his boss that he was waiting for some kind of impressive response.

“I don’t know.” Leo admitted. “But I want to know. I’m ready to do anything if it helps with the case.”

“Even buying coffee for your superiors?” Largoni asked, a light chuckle coming from deep within his chest. “Boy, running after lost lambs is not the same as running after a smart murderer.”

“I know, sir. I know there are better and stronger candidates but I believe I can be of some help. Even if that help comes from buying coffee for my superiors. At least I’ll have an insight of the matter.”

It was probably too late to take it back now that he barked it out to the chief. He used a tone that knew displeased Largoni but Leo had to get out of there and show that he could be so much more than just your ordinary police officer.

Largoni didn’t say anything and pointed at the door, waiting patiently for Leo to get out of his sight. Chief Inspector Vincenzo Largoni was not an idiot even if he was a bit harsh on his officers. He knew from the moment he hired him that Leo was not fit to work in the police because he had firm beliefs of his own. He was too innocent minded for the big bad world and working in the Interpol might just show him how bad it really is.

The rest of the day passed just like usual for Officer Leonard Abelli. He had to go out a few times, to help with an accident involving one interlope and an old man who wanted money in exchange for not writing a complaint again him. The interlope wasn’t pleased and almost hit Leo while he was trying to defend the old man. On the other side, as old as he was, the victim had a very big mouth.

By the time Leo finished his working day, he felt like he might have signed up for nothing. Largoni wasn’t acting any different from yesterday and gave them paper work to finish before discharging them at midnight.

Walking into his apartment, Leo took a shower and fell face first on his bed. Drips of water were falling from his light brown hair on the sheets but Leo was too tired to dry it. He fell asleep in that position, having no energy left to move a finger.

The week passed with no news and Leo was more than sure he didn’t get selected for a higher purpose. His life wasn’t going to take a sudden turn nor he was going to move up in his career. In the end, Leo was nothing but your usual officer, spending more time in the office, helping old people with their complaints against loud music next door or suspicion of murderers everywhere.

“I swear, he was eavesdropping at the lift.” The fifty something woman repeated, her eyes wide as if she couldn’t believe what she said. “A man with a cloak, hiding his face was standing at the lift. Isn’t that suspicious?”

Leo sighed and rubbed his forehead, “What if he was just waiting for the lift? Are you sure you haven’t seen him around the block?”

The elder leaned back thoughtfully, “Well, I did see a boy in a cloak before but it wasn’t even raining on that day!”

The officer was mentally done with such complaints but he couldn’t just pass her to someone else; that wasn’t ethical for him.

Largoni walked into the room with a concerned expression, his eyes avoiding Leo’s face until he got in front of his office door.

“Alfio, take the woman. Leo, come with me.” He ordered calmly.

Leo and Alfie looked at each other before they exchanged seats. Leo’s heart was beating really fast in anticipation and he couldn’t help but skip towards the office. The door was cracked open and he invited himself in with what he hoped was a poker face.

Largoni invited him to take a seat before throwing a file at him. Leo opened it slowly, finding notes and camera images from what was a very ambiguous case.

“Take only your necessities. The plane is leaving in one hour. Your new boss is waiting for you in Prague.” Largoni mumbled grumpily.

Leo’s blue eyes widened but contained his joy, “Thank you, sir. This is-“

“Just leave.” Largoni barked, looking at his officer with tired eyes. “And be sure to come back alive, Abelli.” The chief added once Leo closed the door behind him.

While a very happy Italian officer was hurrying home to make his luggage, the plane from London, UK just arrived in Prague. Ava Atkins took very few clothes with her unlike other ladies. She wasn’t intending to stay for more than three days maximum and wanted to return as soon as possible to her comfort zone.

The ride to Hotel Galileo took less than she expected –maybe 10 minutes- and the driver didn’t speak for the whole ride. She knew she had a professional flair all around her that was coming off as intimidating for most people and she was glad she didn’t meet any impediments on the way. It was eight o’clock sharp when she stepped out of the cab and looked up at the hotel.

Walking inside, Ava couldn’t help but remember the first day she entered her workplace. It was still in renovation and Henry was a lot younger and far more modest than now but once she stepped in, she knew she had to be careful. In public places, it was better to be wary than worried.

“How can I help you?” The receptionist asked in English.

“I have a meeting here. My name is Ava Atkins.”

Once she said her name, the receptionist shifted through some papers before finally giving one to her.

“Take the lift to the second floor. The second room on the left.” The receptionist said with a bright smile before waving as she walked away.

Ava didn’t look at the paper until she got in the elevator. The music was awkward and the whole situation looked suspicious. As soon as she got on the second floor, she hurried to the second room on the left, number 66. Ava raised an eyebrow at the number but knocked anyway. The room opened widely but no one greeted her. She walked in slowly and checked for any intruders or bugs. No one was inside and she searched thoroughly before sitting on the bed. Reading the paper once again, she didn’t see anything about the meeting; only three words: Welcome to Prague.

The phone rang out of nowhere, surprising her more than it should. She was accustomed to strange situations and sudden sounds and movements but that ringing really came out of nowhere.

“Yes?” She responded her voice calm and collected. There was a heavy sigh before she heard noise yet no voice. “Who’s this?” She asked, in the same collected manner.

Showing fear when strange things occurred was only giving joy to the one inflicting the weird.

“I am because someone dreams me; a man who sleeps and dreams and sees me acting, living and moving- and who is dreaming at this moment as I am speaking to you. When he dreams, I awake to life; when he awakes, my existence vanishes. I am a whim of his inspiration, a creation of his mind, a visitor in his nightly fantasies.” The stranger quoted Giovanni Papini.

But that wasn’t the reason Ava was so shocked. No, the reason wasn’t the one who quoted but the quote itself.

“I want you to think of yourselves as both writers and characters. You are the ones that create the story but you’re also the ones who will live through it. You went through severe pains and traumas that changed you as individuals. It changed me as well. At the moment I speak to you, the character awakes and moves and speaks and acts and dreams a dream that my consciousness creates. My mind creates me, the character but I am the one who defines my mind, the author.” A younger Ava told a group of people, her eyes expressing the sincerity of her words.

Remembering those words that came out of her mouth, she hung up and grabbed her purse harshly.

“Where are they? Where-Ah!”

She found the bottle of antidepressants and hurried into the bathroom. She gulped down two pills with water from the sink and leaned against the wall, looking at her reflection.

The shadows were finally reaching out to her.

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