The look of Mr. Smith darkened a bit.


“I was married for a while… My wife is no longer with us… I found her shot dead in the house. The murderer has still not been found.”


“Oh, I am sorry...”


“I had the guts only once in my career to start an investigation for a company suspected of massive fraud. I succeeded in finding information that proved that the company had connections with the criminal underworld. I then immediately received in the office a threatening letter. But, I, as a thoughtless man, gave no importance to it. I was thinking only about how great the article will be. What a stupid mistake I made! And only after the death of my wife did I discover another route, a lot less risky, whereby I could get out the essential information about the case… Oh, those were terrible days … I was extremely affected. And I understood it is not worth risking so much in my life. It was then when I switched to scientific reporting.”


“A wise decision,” said, James. “It seems that, in our guild, the better you are, the more vulnerable you might become.”


“The passion makes us get over the eventual risks. I came here ready to absorb everything, to document everything and to write something that might stir the minds of our readers.”


“It’s normal. I want to do almost the same thing.”


The time passed imperceptibly. It was already one o’clock and the two decided that they had stayed enough on the terrace of the restaurant. The manager of the hotel was still welcoming the new arrivals that were supposed to gather the next day in the conference room.


*


Martin could not stop his tears while he, propped against the wall next to the door of the Robert’s room, was listening to his son who was taking to his mother. Sophie noticed him when he got out from his pocket a paper napkin that he used to wipe away his tears.


She was astonished. It was the first time that she was had seen her husband crying while at home. Categorically she was not used to seeing Martin in such a state. It seemed not fit for a strong man, with clear principles and strength of character to shed tears during what was supposed to be a family reunion.


Anyway, Sophie understood him.


“Enter, please,” she said. “Robert would like to talk with us.”


“Of course, of course,” said Martin struggling to come back to a calm attitude, of a self-possessed person. “I was listening at the door, which is not too nice, but it is a good thing that we can talk about a problem that hurts us all.”


Martin entered and sat on a little chair that he drew from under Robert’s writing desk. Sophie realized the importance of the moment and became more serious, not daring to be herself the one who started talking.


But Robert looked somehow amused, wishing to dispel the said atmosphere that fell among the three persons in that room.


“If you wanted to find out what was happening to me, I made your wish come true. But the world does not end with me. And believe me, I am very resistant, even if am addicted to the white powder.”


“It is only an illusion that power you think you have,” said Martin. “If you want to give up your medical studies, tell us. We will help you to recover. You must get rid of this awful disease. We want to have our son complete and alive. We love you immensely, Robert. We do not want to lose you. Please, if you say you do not want us to suffer, listen to us and keep your life.”


“To give up my studies, In the middle of the university years? My career in medicine is also your dream.”


“In order to be able to practice medicine, you will first need to be a man who is alive, not a dead person,” replied Martin.


“So, will you hospitalize me in a rehabilitation clinic?”


“Your father knows what to do for the best,” said Sophie.


“Think, Robert,” said Martin. “We will give up our wish for you to attend medical studies. You can choose whatever career you want. But now, please listen to us. Later on, you will thank to us. This is our only wish.”


“Did you ever think what it would be like for me to be admitted into a clinic?”


“But do not worry about it,” said Martin. “Nobody will know anything. I will arrange everything. You will get rid of that dreadful drug habit and you will have a normal life. The life you want, to do as you choose. You can go to whatever university you want, we won’t have any objection. We just want to know you are healthy.”


“So, you would give up your dream for me…”


“We wouldn’t,” said Martin quickly. “But now we understand clearly that we are going to lose you. Yes, we give up our dream. It is infinitely more important to know you are next to us.”


“Yeah… I ought to take a decision now. I see that there is no other solution than my hospitalization. And when will this happen?


His two parents began cheering up.


“Everything can begin even from today,” said Martin happily.


“Ok. Let’s do it tomorrow. Today I need to arrange some older problems. But I will be ready tomorrow. It will be all right, do not keep worrying now. Come on, straighten those faces! Tomorrow morning I will be ready, with my luggage prepared. Believe me!”


“Very good, Robert,” said Martin, satisfied. “We will go to bed now. You will see that you have taken the wisest decision.”


Martin took Sophie by the arm and they both left to the living room, visibly satisfied.


Behind them Robert was deep in thought on the extensible armchair. He had not considered the discussion with his parents, nor the possibility of hospitalization. Now the second drugs delivery of the week was due to arrive. And his friends relied on him. He could not miss the delivery because he would have caused them big trouble. He was aware that the suppliers were merciless and would not have forgiven them.


Robert saw with inquietude that the hour when he had to leave the house was getting closer and he did not know yet what he should do. Should he deal with this transport, too? Should he keep his promise to his parents?


*


Indecision is the source of people’s unhappiness. It comes from the laziness to think and is liable for what the man is. The lack of decision means that you do not fully know your soul, and thus, you will look outside for the answers to your problems, at other men: parents, friends, colleagues. Indecision gives man a state of helplessness where he will be only a spectator of what happens to him in his life, without being able to interfere in order to change for better the unfolding of events.


- Excerpt from the Big Book of the Soul –


*


After the conversation on the terrace of the hotel, James left Smith Dean, who was just going out for a short tour of the city of Basel.


James remained to have lunch at the restaurant. As a sign of respect for the other guests, he was asked politely not to smoke and to switch off the mobile phone during the lunch. James politely agreed, as if he was already accustomed with this request.


When he finished eating, he went to his room. He lay on the bed, switched on the TV and searched for a channel in English.


He found just one; it was showing an artistic movie. He watched it till the end, even though he did not really like the subject.


The movie was about a 9 year old boy who, having sensed the tense relationship between his parents decides to prepare a plan by which he would help them to get along better than they could have ever done by themselves. James was thinking that this idea was more than a little stupid. A child of 9 years, in his view, does not yet have the judgment to help him understand what happens in the minds of grown-ups, never mind being able to interfere in the conflicts between them. A child of nine years old is a child and that’s it.


Anyway, the movie helped him to pass the time that separated him from the beginning of the conference. After he had dinner at the restaurant he returned quickly to his room and had another scroll through the file given by Lloyd.


He went to bed as soon as he felt that he was falling asleep.


*


The alarm on his mobile phone announced James that it was time to wake up and get ready to exercise his profession.


He shaved himself carefully and got dressed, then wearing the same suit as the previous day he made his way down to the restaurant in order to have breakfast. Smith, who was already at a table, saw him and waved his hand, smiling friendly.


James returned the smile and set down next to his new acquaintance.


“Good morning,” said James. “How was your walk in the city yesterday?”


“Everything went better than expected. You should know that from this hotel you can very easily explore all the regions around. And it is also very easy to use the public transport in order to reach the city from the hotel.”


“Indeed, the brochures do not exaggerate. I should order the breakfast, too… The conference starts at 9 o’clock, doesn’t it?”


“Exactly. At 9am, in the Belle Époque room. Did you go yesterday to see it?”


“I did not,” admitted James. “Maybe with all the luxury that surrounded me in this hotel I must have missed it. Anyway, we still have a few days at our disposal to be impressed about what we see around here.”


“Well, that’s for sure. I really did not make a mistake when I oriented myself to the scientific field. Warm and safe, isn’t it?”


“And maybe more exciting,” said James.


The waiter brought him his breakfast. There was little time left and the conference was about to begin.


*


As soon as he entered the Belle Époque room, James had to make an effort in order to hide his visible reaction of admiration.


The entire hall was practically immersed in a pleasant natural light. The strings of the candelabra were hanging from the ceiling and were outstanding in their beauty and their wonderful glimmering presence.


The climate control was perfect. When needed, the hall could be darkened completely. Of course, it was endowed also with the latest generation audio and video equipment, which was essential for events of this type.


James was looking at everything carefully, but did not want to give the impression to the ones around him that he was a beginner in frequenting such elitist locations.


All the persons who started to occupy the tables of the hall were emanating calmness and seemed careless about the glamour around them, as if this was their most familiar place where they spent their daily existence.


There were already little groups forming, of two or three persons, where a few amicable, calm conversations occurred, probably about a scientific subject or about the trip by plane.


But James felt at his ease as a journalist. From time to time he was examining the voice recorder, as if he wanted to reassure himself that everything was ready.


Then it was the time for the conference to begin. All the participants (about 300) were already seated.


At the podium, endowed with many microphones and sound devices, appeared a man of average height, about 40, grey haired, wearing glasses, dressed in an elegant black suit.


The man tapped the microphone a bit with his index finger in order to be sure that it was working, and then he started:


“Welcome to you, dear ladies, and dear sirs, to the International Conference of Pranotherapy! My name is Forgas Carpenter, researcher at the American Science Academy. In this splendid place, which we must agree is breathtaking, we are going to rediscover together the astonishing phenomena of the mind that we will now only begin to understand. Pranotherapy is still a novelty in the science world. With our contribution, of the scientific researchers, but also of everyone present here, we are going to spread to the masses a revolutionary concept of gaining back or keeping our health. And we are going to discuss not only pranotherapy, but also the scientific discoveries that support this field. But, what is pranotherapy?”


A video projector immediately started operating. Turning to the screen where color photos were running, the speaker continued: