Saturday, November 13, 2004

Chapter 18

Seamus and Cassidy went down the stairs, both carrying their journals and pens. Cassidy got temporarily sidetracked by the array of blinking lights in the front entry way, where all the flashiest of Matt's electrical projects were on display. Seamus was heading out the door when he realized she was still behind, trying to read a message on one of them that was scrolling by, one letter at a time.

"I can save you the trouble," he said. "That one just says 'om mani padme hum' over and over. Sort of an automated mantra."

Cassidy laughed at that. She had an easy, comfortable laugh that made Seamus want to think of other ways to trigger it. No time for that now, though. They went outside to Seamus' car.

"The door handle on that side is busted, so let me get in first and open it for you."


It was only about a five minute drive to the library, and they got there at about 7:00. The parking lot was inconsistently lit, and Seamus parked in a dark area under a large tree. As they got out, a tall, dark figure emerged from the shadows.

"So, you're both here now, eh?" There was a hoarse chuckle, and Seamus recognized the voice of Big Jake. Seamus had never actually seen him standing up before, and he loomed menacingly tall over them. Seamus glanced over towards the library and could see the pile of bags and junk still resting in the usual place against the wall, waiting for their owner to come back, then back at the figure in the shadows, easily 6 foot 4, with that focused glint in the eyes that had come and gone during their last encounter.

"Yes, we're both here," Seamus said, trying to sound casual. He came around to Cassidy's side of the car and started steering her towards the library. Big Jake followed them.

"Think it'll take two of you, huh?" he continued. Cassidy was now looking quizzically from Seamus to Jake and back again. "Never know what you might find down there." Another hoarse chuckle, ending in a cough.

"We're just going to the library," Seamus said.

"Righ', righ'. Of course. Good thing you got them books with you," Big Jake glanced down at the journals Seamus and Cassidy each had clutched in their hands. "The books know where to go… the library… the books know… down… find it… me, Big Jake, I was jus' out for a walk…."

He was starting to ramble again, sounding more like the Big Jake who always tried to chat nonsensically with passersby. They were almost at the front door to the library now, and Big Jake turned aside to head back to his usual station. As he did, a small piece of paper came free from one of his many pockets, all stuffed with scraps and rags and odds and ends, and blew across the path. Cassidy darted forward to pick it up but Big Jake took no notice and was already facing the other way and pulling out his recorder.

Cassidy looked at the paper and then handed it to Seamus. It was only two or three inches square, ragged at the edges, old and worn. A single icon was printed on it, in what looked like it had once been gold ink, now faded to brown. It showed the outline of an open book, with a hand reaching out of it from between the pages, the fingers open and straining as though to grasp something.

"Have you met this guy before?" She asked him.

"Yes," Seamus replied, and told her about finding the key and running into Big Jake afterwards, and being a bit spooked by it.

"Interesting. I think this is going to be important," she said, taking the paper back from him. She opened her journal and slid the paper inside. Closing it, she stopped to look at the cover, moving closer to the light outside the library door.

"Look at this," she said. "I could swear this wasn't there before."

Seamus looked, and in the upper right corner of the cover, embossed lightly in the leather, was the same image of the book and the hand.

"I think I'll revise that statement," she said. "This is definitely something important."

A few people came out of the library, a mother holding her young daughter's hand, and the father pushing a smaller child in a stroller. The girl looked curiously at Seamus and Cassidy huddled together inspecting a book under the outside light.

"The light's probably better inside, you know," the man joked, "not to mention that it's certainly warmer," he added, noting the puff of breath visible in front of his face.

"Ha ha, yeah," Seamus gave a nervous laugh and they went inside.

They casually browsed around the video section for a few minutes, which was close to the basement stairs. When it seemed fairly clear, they snuck down, and Seamus gave Cassidy the combination of the lock as they went through. He didn't know if she would ever need it, but it seemed like a good idea, just in case. They found the room and Seamus unlocked it with his key, closing the door most of the way behind them, though not latching it.

"Well, this is it," he said shrugging and looking around. "If you're looking for piles of old books, this is the place to be."

"Wow," breathed Cassidy, slightly in awe. Her Computer Science major notwithstanding, she loved books as much as Seamus, and the room looked like a treasure trove of them.

"The question, though," Seamus went on, "is if there's something in here, where do we start looking for it?"

Cassidy focused again. "Well, like I said, I couldn't get my book to be very specific about anything…" She started to open it up and look at her notes, but then stopped. The new embossed icon on the cover was glowing a very faint gold.

"…but it looks like we might be getting something now," she finished.

"It wasn't glowing outside, was it?" Seamus asked. "So that probably means we're in the right place."

Cassidy glanced out the window in the door to make sure the coast was clear, then stepped out into the hallway. The glow faded away, leaving only the dull, embossed leather. She came back into the room and the faint glow came back.

"Okay, so now maybe we can start getting somewhere."

She walked a small circle around the only clear floor space near the door, holding the journal in an outstretched arm in front of her. The glow remained steady until she was next to the right hand wall, when it flared up slightly.

"It's over this way," she said. "Let's see if we can get back there."

Seamus helped her move a few boxes and shift a table, and they started squeezing through, following the bookshelves along the right wall. The glow on the journal cover continued to intensify as they headed towards one of the darker corners, away from the single dim light bulb.

They were almost to the corner when there was a sudden weakening in the glow. It flickered and nearly disappeared, then came back, fainter than before. Cassidy stopped, and swung her arm around her in a slow circle. Off to the left, the glow re-intensified. There were a couple of bookcases there, so they backed up a bit to go down the other side of them. The glowing symbol started growing stronger again.

When they reached the wall, they were faced with another bookcase. The symbol was pulsing now, though they still couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Cassidy held the journal in front of each shelf in turn, looking for any change or reaction. In front of a shelf at about chest height, the pulsing quickened noticeably.

They looked at the books on the shelf, a bunch of trashy romance novels, then looked at one another with raised eyebrows.

"It seems your journal is into bodice-rippers," Seamus remarked. "I wouldn't have guessed it." He pulled a few from the shelf and flipped through the pages, but nothing seemed unusual about them, so he dropped them onto another stack nearby. Cassidy took a few more and did the same. Seamus was reaching into the shelf again when he heard a small clatter, as though something had been jostled by the books being removed. He reached back with his hand and felt something.

"There's a ring back here," he said, "attached to the wall. It feels like a drawer handle or something. Help me pull out the rest of these books."

They cleared the shelf and there was indeed a ring in the center of the wall behind them. Seamus gave it a tug and heard a creak from it, but it felt stuck. He jiggled it around a bit and tugged some more until something gave and he pulled the drawer out in front of them.

Inside was a single large book, square in shape, at least a foot and a half long on each side. It was bound in leather like their journals, but the entire cover was taken up with the embossed image of a hand reaching out of a book. It glowed gold.


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