The Keeper (pt5)

I followed the Librarian through the shelves. I didn’t watch him when we arrived at the space between two of the tallest bookshelves. I had seen it many times before. I looked at the bookshelves as the opening appeared. I felt relaxed as he gently shoved me through the opening, which disappeared behind me with the rest of the library.

I walked down the stairs, trusting in my familiarity with the space between the steps more than anything else. There were sixty seven steps, all in complete darkness. I had done this often enough I could feel the hum surrounding me.

Warning those below someone was coming.

When vision returned, I was in the chamber. The entrance was behind me, a hole within the walls of bookshelves. It looked like an extension of the library. Once, it had been.

The Keeper (pt4)

The Librarian was a mountain. I had never known a larger person in my life. With wide shoulders and arms like mountain roots, none of the books were beyond his grasp. Occasionally he stood on a small step stool to reach the very top of the shelves for dusting. The stool always creaked and everyone always stepped away from it. I didn’t worry about him falling. If the stool broke, the Librarian wouldn’t fall. He just couldn’t reach the top of the shelves.

“Did you want to see my new pocket pet?” I asked him.

He shifted and looked down at me, silent as ever. I pulled the one I had in my pocket out to show him. It rested in his palm, completely engulfed.

“I bought four of them,” I continued.

This told him everything. Things I couldn’t say out loud, that I wouldn’t say out loud. He nodded and returned it to me.

I was ready. “What do you recommend today?”

The Keeper (pt1)

I was always aware of the irony – wishing a government official was actually less well read. People always said reading helps you open the mind.

This is why she always worried her well-loved government might one day destroy her well-loved library. The days she had off she spent hours of within the walls, reading every single book she could pull off the shelves. And many more she couldn’t. She asked the Librarian to do that for her. He was as tall as a mountain. None of the books were beyond his grasp. Every single novel he handed to her made her eyes sparkle. It’s hard to imagine a woman like her is actually so stupid as to blindly follow the government.

This was why she was in the library, every single day. To read all of the books before her government destroyed it.

It’s like telling everyone your real name

She sniffed. “Question?”

“Answer,” he replied, closing the back gate.

Pointing at his car, she eventually got his attention. “Your secret number is 024, isn’t it?”

“Do you have to say it out loud?” He wasn’t particularly bothered.

“Why is it your license plate?”

They both stared at it. “Company car.”

She scoffed. “Less sense. Why would they out you?”

“Hey. Your car has the numbers 007 on it. You’re not James Bond.”

“I’m also not a spy at all,” she reminded him.

But their time was up, so they got in the car and moved on.

Not a part of a complete breakfast

Dying, in retrospect, was not the best way to start the day.

He opened up his eyes. It was like waking up for a second time. And there was one time in his life, when he had a proper job and wasn’t wanted as a murderer, that waking up early came naturally to him. That was no longer the case and therefore doing it once was hard enough.

“Oh my god, are you okay?”

There was the lucky aspect that his brother didn’t actually know how bad it had been. The unfortunate part was the fact he had been there to see it at all. “I’ll… be fine.”

Yes, pretending that he had been hurt, now that the death was over. Fantastic, he loved to act. This was all sarcasm.

His brother wasn’t an idiot, but he was a bit more practical sometimes than observant. “Okay, I’ll bring the car around, we’ll get to the hospital.”

That was the most unfortunate part. How was he supposed to say otherwise?

With a sigh, he nodded. Time to bribe a medical professional. This was annoying.

She was lying, too, just to mess with him

Everyone knew the story. No one knew the truth.

“You told him what?” He adjusted his collar. And again. It didn’t move very much.

“About what you said in your sleep!” Oh, she was unaffected by what she had done to him. Like normal. How come he could never embarrass her? It was always him!

“Wh-why would you tell him that?”

She smiled, innocently. He had no idea if she really didn’t understand what she had done or not. “We were talking and it just came up!”

“How could it just come up?” There was no way he could go into the meeting now.

“Uh…” She shrugged. “It just did! What’s wrong?”

He took a moment to pinch the bridge of his nose. The motion gave him a moment to think about what just happened. Which didn’t calm him down as much as made him freak out. “Okay, okay… it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. Just focus on the work.”

“You can do it!”

Well, she was always a good cheerleader, at least.

Next time, he would

“Did you… you didn’t get what I asked for, did you?”

Vidvan had the grace to blush. “I’m sorry. It took me so long to get to the shop that it was already shut.”

Iqbal rubbed his forehead. “Really? Oh, fine. Next time, you do what I ask first. There is little point in me helping you out if you can’t do any shopping.”

Vidvan put down his bag, clapping his hands in front of himself and lowering his head. “I’m so sorry, Iqbal. I’ll do better next time. I’m getting much more familiar with the city.”

It wasn’t immediate, but Iqbal nodded. “Yes, yes. I understand. Just do better next time.”

Vidvan couldn’t believe the amount of slack he was being given. However, with the day he had had out with Tavesh, he couldn’t bring himself to worry about it.

Didn’t lie, but it wasn’t so bad

Vidvan was settled back at his station when Iqbal came to him. He was tugging at his perfectly groomed beard, making it less perfectly groomed. Vidvan didn’t know why he bothered with it if he was going to mess it up in public.

Then Iqbal grabbed Vidvan by the ear. “Ow! I’m not a child anymore!”

“Are you not?” Iqbal hissed, dragging him from the station. He let go of Vidvan’s ear by the time they reached the hallway, but Vidvan knew better than to do anything but follow him. All the way to Iqbal’s chambers. Which was when he turned on Vidvan with the words he dreaded to hear the most. “You left?”

Vidvan felt the blood drain from his face. “I-I…”

It occurred to him that he should have lied, but now it was too late. “You know what will happen if someone finds out?”

Vidvan blinked. “Someone has found out,” he managed to say without stuttering.

Iqbal pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Stop being an idiot! It doesn’t matter that you are the Master’s favourite! He will still have you sentenced to death!”

Well, he knew that was always a consequence. “But you aren’t reporting me?” Iqbal smacked him with the palm of his hand, right into the centre of his forehead. “Ow!”

“I can’t believe you’re supposed to be so intelligent!”

Vidvan rubbed his forehead. But his panic had subsided. Funny, he wouldn’t have thought that Iqbal liked him enough to protect him. But as he had, Vidvan couldn’t doubt it. Not at all.

The question is why

“Where have you been?” Dan asked.

Bran shrugged, walking over to the couch and slumping down on it, throwing his legs up over the arm of it. “Downtown.”

He hadn’t told Dan about Rudolph. It was weird – he’d told the older man all about Daniel and hadn’t done it the other way around. If he mentioned him now though, he’d have to mention that fact. Bran didn’t feel like explaining that. Especially since he couldn’t explain his interest in the card player.

The one secret he’d kept from his best friend.

Dan grunted in response to his answer, satisfied enough with it. He tossed him over a soda. Bran caught it, making a face at the shaken can. He pointed it in Dan’s direction, miming opening it. Dan didn’t flinch and Bran didn’t follow through.

“Do you want to play cards?” Bran asked.

Dan rose an eyebrow. “Cards?”

“Yeah, come on. I want to see that brain of yours work, you giant.”

Dan was taller and broader of shoulder than him, though he was also much more book learned than Bran too. What Dan was good at and what he was terrible at surprised most people. Bran was too familiar with him to be surprised. But they hadn’t played cards since they were boys. Simple games, nothing like what Rudolph had taught him.

Maybe Dan would be good at this. Or not. Or maybe Bran wanted to do this to get a bit more practice in. Maybe he would surprise the gambler next time they saw each other.

Dan got up from his desk and moved over to the couch, shoving Bran upright as he sat down where Bran’s head just was. “Fine. What’s the game?”

“It’s called Time Stasis.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Me neither, before. I think it’s a newer one. Looked like fun though. I got the rules down.”

Bran didn’t feel guilty about keeping his acquaintanceship with Rudolph a secret from his best friend. Though his lack of keeping new things to himself should have been a sign that there was something odd about the fact he had.

The one secret.

Losing the baby

“I’m back. Did you both survive without me?”

He opened his eyes, glancing over at his wife as she reentered the house. “Yeah, we’ve been good.”

Which was when he realized that was only mostly true. He was fine. Their daughter had been fine, last he had seen her. Which had been on the couch next to him, right before he had dozed off. The fact the toddler wasn’t there now meant he had no idea of her survival rate.

Babies had a very low survival rate without supervision.

“Glad to hear it,” his wife was saying as she headed into the kitchen.

Yes, he had as long as it took her to put the groceries away to find his child. Why hadn’t he stayed awake long enough for her to come home and watch the little brat too? He left the living room to creep to each room and stare inside. One wouldn’t think that a three year old could be that stealthy. Or not leave a trail of destruction, as she occasionally was wont to do.

He found her in his study, under his desk, eating some of his candy.

He picked her up and extracted the rest from her. She pouted at him.

“Look. You don’t tell mom, I won’t tell mom.”

In this way, they bribed each other to get away with something.