Chapter the Tenth: A visit by two men that need to talk with their inner child
“Pway! Pway!” Said the little boy, his speech punctuated by youth and a lack of front teeth. In his tiny arms, he held a volleyball.
“Okay!” said Trent. “Let’s play!” He held out his arms
The little boy, with mirth on his face, suddenly threw the ball strait into Trent’s nose. Trent let out a surprised “Bawh!” and did an admirable job of keeping his smile. “Hey, what are we playing anyway?”
Instead of answering, the boy grabbed the ball ran to join the other youth which were running about the aged gym. Trent smiled to himself. Crazy or not, his recent experiences paled in comparison to what was truly important. Children, laughter, vitality, this was the real world; surely everything else was vain illusion.
Trent’s smile melted when he spotted the cops. Two mustachioed men, showing badges to Mary, the middle-aged woman that more or less ran the youth center. With a look of concern, Mary led the men to Trent. “Honey, these officers are here to talk with you.”
“Thank you,” said the taller cop in an officious, bored tone. Mary realized that the two men no longer wanted her here and so she took her exit. After she was gone, the man said, “My name’s Morose, this is Mcguilicuty. We’re from the Atlanta PD.”
“You’re Trent, right.” said Mcguilicuty in a gravely voice, to confirm the information.
“Uh, yeah, how can I help you guys?”
“You, uh, you work with the children here often?” asked Morose.
“Yeah. I do. I like kids.”
“That a fact.” McGuilicuty narrowed his eyes.
“Yeah, I kinda hope to help children in the third world someday. Um, what are--”
“Have you adopted one?” McGuilicuty interjected.
“You know, like on TV, adopt a child. One of those poor suckers that’s too tired to wave the damn flies out of their eyes.”
“Um, no, I‘m not sure about those programs really. Please keep the swearing to a minimum around the kids, by the way, if you could.” Trent pointed.
McGuilicuty and Morose turned to see a young girl looking up at them, eyes wide through coke-bottle lenses, mouth agape. Morose made a shooing motion, which she didn’t seem to recognize.
“Listen, Trent, we got a few questions.”
Morose jumped in. “We’re wondering why you disappeared from the hospital the other night. We’re wondering what you were doing when doctor Furter was attacked. We’re wondering why you left without telling anyone.”
“Uh, listen. I think you’re looking for someone else.”
“Nah, we’re looking for you. Hospital records say you came in with a nasty gunshot wound.” McGuilicuty was staring with an intensity that made Trent more annoyed than nervous.
Yet, how could he even begin to explain what had happened. “Listen, if I was shot, why am walking around right now?” challenged Trent. “More to the point, where was I shot?”
Morose flipped out a notebook and consulted it quickly. “You were shot in the right side…”
Trent flipped up his shirt. “Do you see any bullet wounds?” The little girl started to laugh shyly at the exposed flesh. “Be quiet, you!” Trent playfully chided. “Now then, if you guys have anything else?”
Morose, seemingly unphased, flipped his notebook shut. “We’ll be in touch.” He began to walk away.
McGuilicuty leaned into Trent’s space. “This aint over, smartass.” There was a gasp from the little girl. McGuilicuty looked down quickly then back up. “Pardon my French.” Keeping eye contact as long as possible, the detective slowly walked away.
“Who was that man?” asked the little girl.
“Just a crazy person.”
“He was mean.”
Trent smiled. “Yeah. Common, let’s join the others. Enjoy your youth; the real world is no fun.”
One moment, helping Mary close up the youth center, looking forward to the next day and putting the mess behind him, and the next… what he had though was the start of his walk to the car somehow became a walk through ancient halls. Ancient tapestries graced the masonry about him, and faint light came from torches that burned at intermittent locations. At some point so fluid that he barely noticed nor felt concern about it, he switched to his other persona; the one that inhabited his now-familiar dream body.
He was going to see what had happened to Michelangelo. This was his first time in Rome, and the city was exciting, if a bit overwhelming. The buildings were so large and elaborately decorated, inspiring within him curiosity, elation, exaltation, and no small amount of apprehension. But this was what he wanted, was it not? Sophistication, art, and the true humanity which Michelangelo claimed to have discovered, would become salient if he was just diligent.
What secrets did Rome hold in store? What secrets might be whispered to him by the angels that seemed to populate this city at a rate as if to confirm that heaven existed on earth, and transcendence was indeed possible here, if one was able to decipher the cryptographic clues found in scripture, illuminated text, or ancient stele; if one studied the work of Donatello or Bernini or the original Michelangelo (who was someone completely different yet nearly as brilliant as his own master of the same name); if one prayed ardently enough here, in the city of God, where one may find special favor with deity.
“Good evening to you.” Trent jumped at this sudden greeting from the darkness. He strained his eyes to see where it came from.
“Who would be there?” Trent asked in a voice full of as much bravado as he could muster while still sounding polite.
A figure emerged from the shadows, seemingly melting into existence. Trent passed this off as a trick of the smoke from a torch, or tiredness. In any case, being in Rome was so overwhelming that he was starting to feel a distinct sense of unreality. This is a dream, right? Trent thought, his real world personality asserting itself upon the illusion for just an instant. Then he flowed back into his dream consciousness seamlessly, as one tends to do under the spell of somnolence.
The figure was a man, eloquently dressed in the garbs of an affluent noble or cleric (Trent was too ignorant at this point to really know the difference, but he suspected that this was a layperson). A genuine and warm smile graced his features. “Forgive the intrusion. I am Augustus. I’ve been hoping to meet you.”
“Me?” Trent asked incredulously. How could this rich man know of him, let alone want anything to do with him. Perhaps it was due to his being part of Michelangelo’s entourage. Michelangelo was a thing of curiosity in the city; the artist petitioning the pope to be pardoned for murder.
“Of course. I recognized you instantly from the painting; they tell me it’s a self-portrait. My, what a fascinating work it is! No wonder Peter and his cohorts desire to assimilate you. Your talent is truly worth saving.”
Trent felt he should try to correct the strange man’s mistake, but this Augustus’ words were so oddly compelling, that just hearing them what practically believing them. “My talent?”
“Oh yes, this technique of yours, the heavy contrast of light and dark, it’s simply brilliant. It is enlightened, scientific, and yet deeply humanistic at the same time. You’re obviously of superior stock.”
“Well, I am training my mind and brush to exceed normal limits.” This much was quite true.
Augustus smiled warmly. “Ah, I do love a youth with ambition. Come, let us go to a small party I am holding at a local place. I want to show you such wonders… but first libations and revelry. This city is far too boring since the old empire declined, and I should know; I founded this gaudy city. Well, shall we go?”
“Um…” Trent hesitated, would Michelangelo be cross with him for going off with this stranger? There seemed to be something dangerous, powerful and all together otherworldly about this man. But as much as this caused apprehension, it also sparked intrigue within his heart. This Augustus was just so… interesting for reasons he didn’t understand.
“Come come, I have found that over the years my patience, rather than growing, instead turns out to have actually shortened. Are you with me? I offer you more than you yet glimpse.”
“Will we be gone long?”
“Worry not; I’m inviting you to a party, nothing more. You’ll be back in your own bed by dawn.”
“Very well, let’s go.”
“Excellent!” Augustus turned on his heal with preternatural speed. “Let us be off! The celebrations have already begun; I stepped out just to invite you. Some things are so important that one has to do them in person.”