Chapter 5

He found a phone booth at the next crossroads and dialed the number with the four digits 9-1-5-6 at the end.

"You needed a lot of time, didn't you?" asked Pozzi without waiting for an answer.

"Go south from where you are. About two miles away you will see some storage buildings. In the middle of them you will find my next letter – perhaps you'll find it in time. The boy will tell you why you should hurry up."

"Please, Sir, don't let him hurt me!" came Enrico's small voice through the phone.

Ed went south as fast as he could – which wasn't very fast.

After a seemingly endless time Ed finally spotted four storage buildings, originally of the same company. The place looked deserted. This time, he didn't have to look for Pozzi's letter: It was placed above one of the big doors of the largest building, quite visible to everybody. It was nailed safely. One would have to climb up there to get it down. Only problem: Ed couldn't climb with the cast on his wrist and his injured back. By now he was completely exhausted and barely able to stand. Enrico was in trouble though, that was the only thing that counted. Ed decided not to think about impossibilities, but to just do what he had to do. Later he wouldn't be able to remember how he got up to that letter. In order to pick it up he had to reach up as high as possible with his right hand, the good one. He managed to catch the letter, but in the meantime he had to hold himself with only his left hand, the one with the cast. There was not enough strength in this wrist to hold his weight. Ed lost his footing and fell heavily to the ground.

Sometime later, a tall, athletic truck driver found the prone body and knelt down by his side. By the looks of him he wondered if that man was a drunk or a drug-addict. Then he saw the clean-shaven, sympathetic face. The jacket was torn, but not dirty. And then there were the cast and those crutches, and strangely enough an envelope in his right hand... But what was this young man doing here, where nobody ever went to on foot? He did not know what to think of it all. He retrieved his water bottle out of the truck. With his handkerchief he washed the ashen face. Slowly, Ed came to.

"Hi, I'm Ben. What's happened to you?" the driver asked.

Ed could not answer yet.

"Shall I call an ambulance or take you to a hospital?" Ben was getting worried now.

"N-no," Ed managed, and a little while later he could tell Ben Lena's address.

"No problem, I've just finished my shift. Just let me park this truck where it belongs and get my own car. Stay put."

Ed had no intention of going anywhere on his own right now. He managed to stuff the envelope into one of his pockets.

Soon afterwards Ben came back.

"Are you sure you don't want to go to a hospital or at least see a doctor? You don't look too good."

Ed didn't feel too good, either. But he had to know if Lena had any news about Enrico.

So he shook his head.

"What do you have those crutches for? I don't want to hurt you by mistake."

"B-back".

Very gently, Ben helped Ed get into his car. Thankfully, it was quite large and comfortable, since Ben was a tall man himself.

By car, it didn't take long to get back all the way Ed had walked since this morning.

Ben helped him up to Lena's apartment, again carrying most of Ed's weight.

Lena was appalled at the change in her new helper's condition since he had left her.

She was alert enough though to ask for Ben's full name and address. She would thank him later, she said... a nice, uncomplicated, helpful fellow who at the right time had been at the right place.

"Goodbye, take good care of him, Lady!" said Ben cheerfully as he left.

Lena helped Ed to take off his torn jacket and lie down.

He looked sick and beaten and as if he couldn't think clearly anymore.

Lena didn't ask any questions. She sensed that Ed wasn't able to explain anything right now. Nevertheless she was worried to death: In the first place for Enrico, and now for Ed, too.

"S-sorry," he said.

"Don't talk. Just rest. Please forgive me for having dragged you into all this."

For some time Ed had to fight against being sick. But then he got aware of the fear in Lena's eyes. There was still some work to do...

The last envelope was still in the pocket of his jacket. He told Lena so and she took it out and opened it.

It said: "This is one for you Lena, for your know-it-all boyfriend does not know my books."

A row of numbers followed:

5/3/7, 8/2/3 and so on – in triples from two to eight.

"Do you know what to make out of this?" asked Lena.

And this time, Ed knew.

"He refers to a book. So I probably know this code. It looks like the French Queen Marie-Antoinette's: She used a book to codify her texts. The code indicated where to find a certain word: Page, line, word. For instance 16/4/3 meant: page 16/ 4th line/3rd word."

"What book did he use?"

"It must be one you know – but it's possible that he has it with him now. We have to look through all the books in his place and if it's not one of those we must find out which one is missing. Then we'll have to find the same book in a library or a bookstore."

Lena was well aware that just talking alone exhausted him.

"Ed – you can't do that. You've been pushing yourself too hard. I'm scared..."

Ed wanted to object, but reluctantly he had to admit that she was right. Physically he wasn't able to go on.

"I'm very sorry." His voice was strained. He had to give up, there was no other way. It was one of the toughest things he'd ever had to do. What would happen to Enrico now?

"Lena, we have to call Chief Ironside for help."

Lena nodded. She could not ask more from this dedicated man. They had to take that risk.