Monday, November 22, 2004

Chapter 30

Seamus and Cassidy moved a little way away from the ashes of The Book and cleared a space to sit on one of the tables. A few embers still glowed, and here and there a scrap of paper twitched slightly in a non-existent breeze, but nothing else in the room seemed harmed. They were hesitant to leave the room, since they had no idea what time – or even day – it was, or whether there would be anybody in the library up above them. But there was no way to tell except to just go up and find out, so after calming down a little bit, they crept out the door.

The light in the main hallway switched on when they reached it, picking up on their motion, so it seemed unlikely that anyone else was down there at the time. They found the bathroom and cleaned themselves up as best they could, washing away ashes and blood, though there wasn't much they could do about their singed and torn clothes. But they managed to get presentable enough to get past anyone who might be upstairs.

At the base of the stairs they could see light coming down from above, so it seemed that the library was open. Listening didn't do much good, since it was a library and anyone up there probably wasn't going to be making enough noise to be heard. So they decided that the best thing to do would be to simply walk up as normally as possible and try to look like they belonged there in case anyone happened to see them.

They reached the top of the stairs and didn't see anyone so they headed quickly away down the aisle, heading for the front door at the opposite end of the building. As they came out into the open area in the center of the library they were exposed to view, walking between tables now instead of bookshelves. A small voice behind them called out.


He spun around, startled. Gabriela was running up to them, smiling and waving.

"Hey, Gabriela – hi! Shhhhh… we're in the library, remember." He glanced around to see if anyone had noticed them, then sat down in a chair to be closer to her level. "What are you doing here?"

"Nothing. Why are your clothes all messed up?" She was looking at some black smudges of ash that he still had on the knees of his pants.

"Oh, I just um… fell down and got dirty. I'm going home to change clothes right now." But Gabriela had already forgotten about the clothes and was looking at Cassidy.

"Who's she?" she asked, pointing.

"This is my friend Cassidy. Cassidy, this is Gabriela."

"Pleased to meet you, Gabriela."

Gabriela didn't respond but turned back to Seamus. "Is she your wife?"

Cassidy smothered a laugh, and Seamus sighed. Gabriela hadn't grasped the concept that he could be 23 – so old! – and not married, and she was always trying to trick him into revealing who his wife was.

"No, she's not my wife. She's just a friend."

"Oh. What were you doing back there?" She looked down the aisle they had come out of and saw the stairs, then leaned in and whispered, "Were you in the secret fort?"

"No, no. Of course not."

"Good, because it's a secret, so you can't tell her about it."

"Right. Look, we really need to be going right now…."

"Are you going to Project Read? My mom is over there. We can go find her if you want. C'mon."

"No, no!" Seamus said, catching her before she could run off. "I'm not going to Project Read. I don't think it's the right day for me. Do you remember when I usually come?"

"You come on Wednesday nights! I know that! But it's Monday now."

"Ah! See? There you go. I can't go to Project Read because it's a Monday. I was actually just here to drop off some books, but I'll be in on Wednesday, okay?"

"Okay. Do you really have to go now?"

"Yes, we really do. But I'll see you soon."

"Okay. Bye!" Gabriela skipped back off to the children's section.

"Cute kid," Cassidy said. "Does she always ask so many questions?"

"Pretty much, yes. Let's see if we can get out of here without running into anybody else I know. It's bad enough having to field Gabriela's questions without having to convince an adult that there's nothing weird going on."

The plus side to running into Gabriela though was finding out that the entire weekend had passed and it was now Monday. The temp agency certainly wasn't going to be happy about Seamus disappearing without notice like that. He was going to have to call them and work that out. The thought felt strange in his brain, though. He almost wondered how it had gotten there – it was such a world away from the recent events that filled his mind.

They came out the front door of the library, and Seamus paused, trying to remember where they had left the car. Another thing that seemed an entire world away. Cassidy gave a slight tug on his arm and pointed behind them to the side wall of the library.

"Look, there something going on over there," she said, pointing.

A few policemen were there, standing around the shapeless black mass of clothes and duffel bags that had been a permanent fixture there as long as Seamus had being going to the library.

"Big Jake," he whispered, and immediately headed towards the policemen.

One officer was standing a little bit apart, making notes on a pad. The other two were carrying off the various bags one by one, occasionally making faces at the smell. Seamus went up to the one who was writing.

"What's going on? Did something happen?"

The officer looked up from his pad and grunted at them. "Just here to collect a body." He went back to filling out his form. He didn't seem to pleased about getting stuck with this job, and wasn't about to ruin his displeasure by being polite to anyone.

"A body? Whose?"

"Some homeless guy, always hung out around here. The library called, said he'd keeled over and could we come do something about him. Probably snuffed it in the night and no one noticed until now. Bloody nuisance." He filled out the last item on his form as he was talking, then turned and headed back to his car.

Seamus and Cassidy remained standing there, looking at the empty space in the world left by Big Jake. The grass of the lawn was worn away to dirt where the duffel bags had always been piled.

"That really was him, wasn't it?" Seamus said softly at last. Cassidy nodded beside him. "He managed to pull himself together for one last effort to come and save us, and it finally destroyed him. In both worlds."

They stood there in silence for a few more minutes, then finally turned away. Walking back to the car, Cassidy slipped her arm comfortingly around Seamus' waist. Almost without thinking, he put his arm around her shoulder and they fell into step. When they reached the car, Seamus put his right hand to the door latch, then pulled it back, holding it up so they could both get a better look at it.

The words were gone.


Post a Comment

<< Home