David was riding his mother’s bicycle from the hospice to the town centre, his doctor bag in the white wicker basket at the front, his mood well below the street level. It was half past noon, and he was sweaty and increasingly hungry. His mother’s ride was an old lady bike, heavy as a transatlantic and fast as a wheelbarrow, and David had to push it up the only hill in the outskirt of the town, close to the old graveyard. At least, when he was a kid, he had a mountain bike. But all David could find in his father’s garage that morning, was that stiff Dutch bike.
Finally, David was in sight of the peak of the hill. From there he could see the old town on the other side of the river and, right below him, the renovated houses of The Ruin. David stopped his bicycle at one step from the peak, just like his father had done the day before and many other days before that, and dried his forehead with the back of his jewelled hand. He wanted to enjoy the next descent to the full, so took off his jacket, and started to roll one sleeve. It was at the moment that David saw something odd or better, he sensed it in his gut. His eyes went to the foot of the hill, and he saw a man he didn’t like at all.
David was disturbed by the sight of that man even before he could recognise him. The man had silver hair, a lean figure and a characteristic way to walk, like if the world was his catwalk. David watched him going around the house of Mrs Agramanti. First, the man tried the front door; then he moved to the back. When supposedly, no one answered, he walked back to the front, tapping on the glass of the window. David was looking at him with his arms folded when the man raised up his eyes, perhaps looking for help from the heavens, and met David’s glare. He waved at him and suddenly stopped, watching up the hill intensely, like if he had expected to see someone else and had realised his mistake too late. Regardless, David lifted his doctor bag in the air and gestured the man to wait for him.
When David arrived at the gate of Mrs Agramanti’s house, her son-in-law was sitting on the kerb with his squared chin in his hand. As soon as he saw David, the man stood up and offered his hand.
“Hello! I am Mr Lupo.”
David shook his hand and parked his bicycle against the fence.
“Hi. What happened?”
Asked David while he was grabbing his bag from the basket.
“It’s my mother-in-law: she told me to came here, and now she does not answer the door. She’s an old lady, and so I am concerned about her.”
The silver haired man, Mr Lupo, looked at the house and then inspected David, the jacket he was carrying on his shoulder, the several rings on his hand and, last, his leather bag.
“Are you the new doctor?”
“Yes, I am doctor Agnelli.”
The man seemed confused.
“But… he was the old one. I mean, I know him well.”
“How well? – smirked David – I am his son, David.”
“Now I see why I find your face rather familiar – but he didn’t look so sure – and you are a doctor as well. Ah!”
“Like father like son – David pointed the house with his bag – should we?”
The man guided David towards the house.
“How strange! I knew doctor Agnelli had been married in his past, but I didn’t know about a son!”
“Oh, but he is still married today. Isn’t intriguing how you could not know everything about a man?”
The man stopped on the first of the three steps that lead to the front door and turned towards David, who continued.
“You think you have sized someone and then they surprise you – he smiled, showing a pointy canine to the husband of his first, unrequited love – isn’t funny?”
“I don’t spend too much time on theories.”
Said the other one, ready to turn again towards the door. But David was pointing at his feet with a ring bearing index.
“Remove the tile under your left foot. Mrs Agramanti used to keep the second key there.”
The older man was baffled but moved his foot away from the tile David was indicating and lowered himself to reach it.
“Don’t worry. Etta won’t mind if someone who knows use it.”
Mr Lupo made the last two steps and opened the door, giving his back to David, but he could see that the man hears were hot red. As soon as his opened the door, he started to call for his mother-in-law. No one answered. The two men looked at each other. Than Mr. Lupo made space for David in the hallway.
“I go upstairs. You search the ground floor.”
And suddenly moved to the stairs but as before, the moment he placed his foot on the first step, David stopped him.
“There’s no need.”
He was looking through the kitchen door. The other one saw David expression and run his hands through his silver hair, coming closer to him to see by himself. Over the wide open door, he saw a single slipper laying upside down in a white powdery smudge. A few inches afar there was a broken paper sack, half empty, for the rest of the flour covered the shiny kitchen floor and the lifeless body of Mrs. Agramanti.