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The Dark Figure

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Mr. Murphy turned the corner, and walked into the building. It really was a majestic church, the stories had been correct. The walls were covered with beautiful paintings. Many had said that some undiscovered artist had painted them many years ago. Now it was the year of 1824, and Vienna was a more beautiful city than it ever had been before. The “City of Music” was bustling with sound and color, and the church was just one thing to show for it.

Aster Murphy had always wanted to visit the city, but he had never before gotten around to it. Finally he was here, and was ready to continue with his life’s dream, to be a detective in the center of the musical city. A few months ago, just after leaving school, Aster received a letter from a friend of his, also a detective, who lived in Vienna. The letter delivered the sad news that Aster’s friend, Mr. Stephenson was passing away. The fateful letter, though, also carried the news that Mr. Stephenson wanted Aster to come and take over his detective agency, blandly named “Vienna Detective Service”. Aster was saddened by the soon-to-be loss of his good friend, but was honored that he had been asked to take over the agency.

Now it was three months later, and Aster had finally moved in. He was living in a small apartment room by the riverside, a ten minute walk to work. The agency building had turned out to be a beautiful one-roomed office. Beautiful, in the sense that it was everything that Aster had ever dreamed of. On one side of the building was the residence of Mr. Stephenson. Aster’s ill friend was growing sicker by the day, but he was a happy old gentleman, for he had achieved his life goals. Now he was quietly leaving this world. Just a few paces down, on the other side of the building, though, was truly the most spectacular place that Aster had ever laid eyes on. It was the glorious St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Sitting in the first pew, by himself, Aster pondered the series of events that had brought him to Vienna. He could not have asked for more. He slowly rose, and majestically walked to the back of the church. He then exited through large wooden doors, as if a king, and was immediately immersed in the everyday life of Vienna. The square was bustling with people. Everyone seemed to be nice, but were all in a hurry to reach their destinations. Amused, Aster decided to do the same, so he straightened his collar, and began a sophisticated walk back to the agency.

Just as he was nearing the building, Aster noticed a mysterious man pull open the door and enter. His heart jumped. It was his first client! What fun it would be! As he touched his hand to the doorknob, Aster allowed himself to take a good look at his client through the window. The middle-aged man seemed to be educated, but also quite nervous. He kept glancing back and forth, as if waiting for something to happen. Feeling bad to keep him waiting, Aster opened the door and stepped inside.

“Are you Mr. Stephenson?” the man asked with confusion.

“No. My name is Aster Murphy. I am taking over the detective agency in Mr. Stephenson’s passing,” Aster replied.

“Oh...my mistake sir. Can you help me...or...are you too busy?” It was obvious that the man was timid.

“Please, you can address me as Aster, no need for sir. And yes, I can help you. I am not busy at all.”

“Thank you sir..ur...Aster. There is something horrible going on right now...” The curious man’s words drifted off.

“Please, go on,” Aster provoked.

“Yes...something terrible... There is a man who has been following me around, everywhere I go.” There were beads of sweat rolling down the man’s neck.

“Can you describe him?”

“Well, he always wears all black. Other than that, though, I don’t know anything...When I ever try to turn around...he disappears.”

“That is quite terrifying indeed. You don’t need to be afraid, though. We will get to the bottom of this,” Aster tried to sooth his client.

“Thank you. You don’t know how much...how much this means to me.” The man was trying to smile.

“It is my pleasure. Now, one more question: What is your name? I believe that we forgot to establish that.” Quite embarrassed, Aster looked to his client for an answer.

“Oh, I am terribly sorry...I forgot to tell you when I came in. My name is Mr. Gates...Sam Gates.”

“Ok then Sam, I will ask you to return here tomorrow at this same time. By then, I should have this all worked out,” Aster tried to reassure Sam.

“Thank you so much Mr. Murphy.”

“Don’t worry, you are welcome.”

Aster watched his client clumsily stumble out of the door. He watched him walk down the street, but could not see anyone following him. Quite peculiar, Aster thought. Being trained as a detective, he could thoroughly analyze someone from just knowing them for a few minutes. He could tell that this Sam Gates did not go around in public very often, judging by his pale skin, and that he was frightened of the sun, by the way that he looked up at the sky and kept to the darkest area of the street.

First things first, Aster ventured to the library, to find any information on fugitives of the city. When he got there, though, he could not find any information relating to his client or the antagonist. This gave him even more assurance that Mr. Gates did not have much of a public life. Slightly let down from not finding anything at the library, Aster slowly walked back to the agency. Beautiful music poured through his ears on his journey back, and he began to cheer up.

As he walked, Aster noticed how others around him were going about their day. He began to study how each of them walked. Some people let their arms dangle, and others shook them by their sides. Everyone seemed to have different stride lengths, and the variety of shoes with....yes! That was it! It suddenly all came to Aster. He now knew for certain who was following Sam around. Aster laughed, and continued to walk back to the agency. Now he smiled. It had all been so simple, and made perfect sense. Sam Gates would be afraid of it, if he barely ever ventured out. He feared it just like a dog does. Pride ran through Aster’s body. This had been a good first case.

The next day, Sam arrived early. He had drooping bags under his eyes, and could barely walk without his back hunching. He anxiously looked over at Aster, waiting for him to say the first word.

“Hello Sam! I have indeed solved your little mystery.” Aster let that sink in.

Sam let out a long sigh of relief. “Thank you! Who is it?”

“Well, I would not say that who is the right question. It is more of: What is it?” Aster humorously replied.

“Wait, what are you talking about. Have you solved my case? Who has been follow...”

“Your shadow.”





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