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A bare room. A table, two chairs. A fake mirror. The suspect and the policeman. A diary. The last interrogation, the decisive one. The suspect is only a boy, but the crime he is accused of is terrible. Three victims: his parents and his best friend. It seem obvious that was him, even though there is not enough evidence to sue him. Yet ... There is a new fact: the diary. A girl wrote it and tells in detail how the murders took place. It also indicates the murderer, and it’s not the boy. Unfortunately it’s not reliable, because the girl, the one who wrote the diary, doesn’t exist, and consequently can’t have seen the facts that are written in there. As for the killer... even worse. He can’t have done those crimes in any way. There is only one possibility, the only one. The boy has to read it, provide his version, validate it or not. Beyond logic and reason. Because the policeman is determined: that night, one way or another, the case will be closed. It's all there, in those few pages, in that volume that begins with a phrase so harmless and terrible: Dear Libby.
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Illusion Novella # 1
Original title: Cara Libby
Translated by Alfio Loreti
© 2018 Illusion
© 2017 Stefano Pastor
Graphics: Angela M.
All rights reserved
The boy was seated at the table, with a steely gaze. But he just pretended to be cool. He was aware of the seriousness of his situation. If they had summoned him at such an hour, they must had found new elements. They were about to sue him.
He knew that interrogation room well. It wasn’t the first time he was there. It was utilitarian: a table and two chairs. In addition to the mirror, of course, the fake mirror couldn’t be missing.
He doubted that there was someone watching him, perhaps Officer Delfi was there. That was the reason why he was late, he was studying his behavior. Any reaction. He would not have given that satisfaction to him. If the boat was about to sink, he would no longer shout for help.
He felt ready, but he wasn’t. He was only sixteen; a life destroyed, a decimated family, an uncertain future. And they wanted to blame him, just because they couldn’t find another suspect. He wouldn’t have facilitated them.
It wasn’t easy to remain motionless, but he succeeded. Another five minutes, until his nemesis came. Five endless minutes where he studied every possible scenario. There would be a process, after all they had only clues, he could still get out from that situation. Then it would have been worse, much worse than a condemnation.
Gianfranco Delfi was new to that city, just like him. Suddenly transferred, a promotion or a punishment. He didn’t understand him well. He was kind, even too much, one of those who stink of fake a mile away. Stubborn, keen, he was able to ask the same questions for hours and hours, with him he had tried to do so.
He had no file in his hand, only a book. This surprised him, because he expected a more formal meeting. In his fiftys, very distinct, he cared for his mustache in a maniacal way, perhaps his idol was Poirot. In fact, he trusted more the deductions than the scientific evidence, and this sometimes led him to the wrong path, as in his case.
He used his usual familiar tone, which in theory should have made him comfortable, but in practice, he remarked his inferiority. “Are you alone? Didn’t anyone come with you?”
“They accompanied me”, he replied. “I let them go. I said you would have brought me home.”
The question was between the lines: would he leave the police station?
Delfi didn’t seem to react. “Your lawyer?”
“Do I need him?”
“You always need a lawyer. Even though I would gladly do without.”
“I made it easier, then. I don’t need any lawyer, I can defend myself.”
Like a good father, he looked up. “Blessed youth.”
He didn’t want to sit, even this was studied. He wanted to make him feel small, more helpless than he was.
The boy waited, he wanted him to start. In the war of silence he wasn’t skilled. He admitted defeat after two minutes. “What do you want now?”
“What I might want, tell me.”
“Why should I arrest you? Do you want to confess?”
“Don’t tease me. Something happened. What?”
“To interrogate you, you say? No, this is not an interrogation. Sorry for the room, but it was the only one available.”
He was lying shamelessly and didn’t care to hide it. The police station was almost deserted, the offices are all free. It was almost midnight.
“What do you want then?”
“Help. An advice. Your memory, in short. Does it work well? Do you remember things? Do you consider it trustworthy?”
“You don’t think so.”
“We can do another attempt, maybe this time you can convince me.”
“I’ve told you everything. I told you and repeated it. You can continue indefinitely, I will not change my version.”
“Bravo! That’s how it is said. Television teaches.”
The boy sighed, it was getting harder to keep up. “Can I know what you want now?”
“Let’s say new evidence emerged. Just to use the language you like so much.”
“This is still to be decided.”
He approached the table without sitting. He laid the book in the center, facing him. “This.”
The boy was certain he had never seen that. He had a thick, blue backdrop of other times. Carefully handled, cream-colored paper, gold trim. There was no title.
“Tell me. Do you know this?”
“Never seen it before.”
Delfi chuckled, surprisingly. “Clearly! Of course you couldn’t have read it. It wasn’t supposed to be read by you, considering that you are the main topic. The only one I would say.”
He had been able to confuse him. “Me?”
A grimace escaped him. “My name isn’t Justin.”
“A lot of people call you that. You’re Justin. She calls you Justin too. Why Justin? Where did this name come from?”
He knew it very well, he was just trying to embarrass him. With this tricks he would never have succeeded. “It’s the name of a singer. They say I look like him.”
“For the hair?”
“For… so many things. They don’t tell me.”
“Who are they?”
“Yeah, girls! You’re good with the girls, right Justin? Did Giò tell you so?”
The battle started, the boy called up the forces and didn’t move a muscle. “Yes, him too.”
“He wasn’t a girl, though.” He waited a few moments, then flew over. “But she was one. Yes she was.”
He pointed at the book.
It had to be a trap somehow, he shouldn’t have looked too curious. But even ignoring it could have a negative impression.
“Tell me, Justin. You can take it. Read it, I brought it for that reason.”
“Do I have to read a book? Now? Everything?”
“Don’t worry, it’s not a book. There is not much to read. And yes you will have to do it. I want your opinion. Imagine being in school, this is your lesson.” Then he feigned to remember it suddenly. “But you’re not going to school anymore! You retired, right?”
“I don’t go anymore. It doesn’t mean I retired, it’s different.”
“I understand. All those journalists who didn’t leave you in peace. It must have not been easy for you.”
The boy took the book, just to stop that unpleasant conversation. Holding it in his hand made a strange effect. The binding was soft, almost velvety. It opened itself and the pages were white. Most of them. Only the first were written.
“A diary”, he murmured.
He didn’t want to read. Not someone’s diary. Someone of his knowledge, maybe. Could it be Giò’s diary? He didn’t even know if he had one. He was convinced that some things were out of fashion, but Giò had never followed fashion anyway.
He closed it. “I can’t.”
“I insist. You just have to read it. Don’t you want to know what happened to your parents?”
He always tried not to meet his gaze, but this time he forgot. It didn’t look like the devil, and what he had in his hand might not have stolen his soul.
He slid a few pages, reading a few words here and there. “It’s a girl.”
“Why do you think so?”
“From what she writes. From her calligraphy, the doodles. From the ink. Who else would use a purple ink?”
“Why do you think it’s a girl, though?”
He gives voice to his fears. “It’s not Giò, he wouldn’t do certain things.”
“It’s not Giò”, Delfi granted. “And indeed she is a girl. At least that’s what it looks like. Go ahead.”
“Do I have to read it? Does it talk about me? Why do you want me to read it?”
“What do you think? You have to read it just because it’s about you. So you can tell me who wrote it.”
“Don’t you know that? How do you have it, then?”
“I will tell you, but not now. I’m curious to know what do you think about it.”
The boy started from the beginning, browsing empty pages until he found the first writing. “There is no name”, he noted.
“If there was everything was easier, don’t you think?”
He read the first two words aloud. “Dear Libby.” He stopped. “Who is Libby?”
“Her cat. Few pages ahead she says it. You can’t stop at every word, we’ll spend the whole night here.”
“She writes to her cat?”
“Please! Stop messing around. What you will read is going to be very helpful, you won’t regret it.”
The boy suddenly realized it, with astonishment. “You don’t want to arrest me! You didn’t call me here to arrest me!”
The cop sighed. “That’s what you thought? This night I will solve the case. I will finally find out who killed your parents.”
“And also Giò.”
“Yes, and also Giò.”
Finally I have a diary!
I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it.
Some things should never be written, how many times have I heard it! I should have learned it by now.
But it never happened before, I never fell in love.
I said it! In love!
In fact, no, I wrote it! To you, who will never read it.
You don’t understand, but you are always next to me, protecting me. Stroking your hair makes me feel joy. It gives me peace. But that’s not enough, you have to understand, there is not only that.
It happened! We knew that could happen, and it happened! I fell in love!
He is wonderful, wonderful. The nicest guy I’ve ever seen. Those eyes…and that hair! And the smile! I feel like I’m crazy!
He didn’t see me, it’s obvious, but it doesn’t matter. I was there when he arrived. They were moving, he and his family. There was a moving truck and a car full of boxes.
There was also a dog, but I discovered it later. So I didn’t come close. You don’t like them, do you, Libby?
He went back and forth, carrying boxes full of books. It’s still so hot, even though it’s September, and after a while he also pulled off the shirt.
Damn! I didn’t miss one moment! I couldn’t close my eyes!
He’s my age, who knows what school he will go to? I didn’t see much of his parents, they just went inside. He was left on his own to empty the car.
They bought Antoni’s house. At least I think they bought it. It’s cute, I liked it too. An American style house with a nice lawn around. They will need it for the dog.
Don’t you think that love exists at first glance? I didn’t believe it either. Until I saw him at least.
I LOVE HIM! I LOVE HIM! I LOVE HIM! I want to scream it at the whole world. I want to know him, talk to him. I want to stand by his side.
I want him to notice me.
The boy closed the diary.
“I don’t want to go any further.”
Delfi smiled. “Are you embarrassed?”
“Yes, I’m embarrassed. As you say.”
“Yet you should be used to it. You’re very successful with the girls, I hear. Who knows how many have written the same things?”
“I don’t care.”
“Aren’t you interested in girls or what they think?”
“Do you have a girlfriend, Justin?”
“You know I don’t have one.”
“Why? For your mother? Now your mother is gone.”
The boy answered in a tone. “Now I have you.”
“Do I obsess you like your mother did? Do I drive you crazy?”
“Stop it”, he repeated.
Delfi made the move to resume the diary, but changed his mind. “They didn’t even help, they let you empty the car on your own. Why, Justin?”
Maybe they had already talked about that, but he wasn’t sure. “My mother didn’t feel well, she wanted to rest.”
“Yes, I see. Moving must have been a trauma for her. In her state she should have avoided those problems.”
“Don’t talk about her as if she was sick!”
“But she was! A psyche disease, not the body.”
“She was the reason why we moved.”
“I know. Five times in three years. And each time you changed school. New friends. And the girls? I understand that you are afraid to fall in love, considering how precarious your life was.”
“Are you having fun?”
“I try to understand. Understand how you feel about your parents. They never consulted you, did they? You have always faced the accomplished fact.”
“I didn’t care.”
“Yes, of course it mattered to you. You got used to it, yes, but you’re getting sick of it as well. Who wouldn’t have been hurt? I would be opposed, I would argue, but you didn’t.”
“I realized she needed it.”
“Going away? Why? Every time your life settled, you made friends, your father found a new job, and she would decide to leave again. Why?”
“You know it well.”
“Refresh my memory.”
“She was paranoid! She couldn’t do anything about that, that was it. You talked with her psychiatrist, with the doctors in charge, they all confirmed it. She was obsessed. It didn’t take much, someone would look at her for a few moments and she would click. She would enter into a self-destructive spiral, she was afraid of everything. She wanted to flee.”
“It must have being difficult to grow up with a mother like that.”
“You’re wrong. As a mother, she was perfect, she really loved us. And we loved her back. Everybody else couldn’t accept her. The outside world.” Always the same questions, and even the answers did not vary. “You didn’t ask me to come here for this, I hope.”
“Right. Let’s talk about something else then. She saw you, she kept looking at you as you unloaded the car. She did not take her eyes off you. Have you seen her?”
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