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Chapter twenty three

After Ruiz shot Noah, everything seemed such a blur. Yet I clearly remember as my father carefully guided me up the cellar stairs, a single spider caused me to stop.

“What is it?” my dad asked.

I ignored the question. My dad would not understand.

Certainly I wasn’t alone in the cellar when the library shelves moved to catch Noah’s hand or when that sticky white filament filled the air as Noah pinned me to the ground about to rape me. Those spiders, a manifestation of the dead paupers buried beneath the library so long ago, weaved my defense. All along this paranormal battle was prophesized in the shadows of the dead on the cellar windows. I shuddered when I thought about my brief, mysterious captivity in the spider web. Then it felt surreal; now I understood that was the moment the dead first showed me their power. I had been troubled by Mere’s visits to the cellar but obviously she interceded with the dead for me.

I owed the paupers buried beneath the library a lot. “My people,” Horatio called them, and they were Mere’s people too. She had worked so long and hard for the poor on the breadline,

She chose Horatio as a protector of the Bible and my own subway guardian angel. I needed help since I made such a grave mistake.

I lay awake all night wondering how I could have been so brainless and not ever suspected that Noah was the killer. For weeks I knew he was a liar. Why didn’t I run away from this dangerous killer? His body and sex appeal drew me to him. Beyond that Noah’s façade-that easy laid back style seduced me, a rebel child of type A parents. Early on Ruiz told me that Noah’s last name Jay stood for Jablonski, a wealthy established family who made millions in manufacturing in the 1940’s. Then there was the contrast between his classical training and his current performance level. . From my grandmother’s apartment , I heard that Chopin composition.

When I asked him if he played piano, what was his response, “Oh just a little. I started on piano.” Why would he hide a talent like that? He played me, a teen age girl with an untrained ear and a soft spot for trendy music with romantic lyrics.

Our conversations centered around him. His music, his gigs, more importantly his need to know about my grandmother’s books and computer. I gave him everything he wanted. Well, almost everything he wanted. . I was lucky in the way things turned out. I could have ended up like Percy in the trash.

Oh my God, what about Percy? I was determined to search the dumpster and find the cat’s remains.

Noah’s cruelty was clear yet I was blinded by the fact that Noah was a real live musician. M y fantasy ignited through the guise of a killer. I craved a hook up with a musician. Obviously, having sex with him couldn’t make me the songwriter /musician I dreamed of becoming. If that dream was ever to become true, I would have to earn it myself.

How could I, the insightful song writer be so near sighted? Then I replayed in my mind the club scene. That dance at the club- his body grinding, moving over me like a seductive shadow. The power of his kisses the strength of his hands on my body. Noah’s refrain that I wanted it from the start replayed constantly in my brain. Did I?

Suddenly the reality that I had been caressed, fondled, and kissed and by the same hands that murdered Mere hit me. I started to scream. My dad came running into the room. He held me and rocked me in the dark for the first time as far back as I can remember. I cried uncontrollably.

When the tears stopped around five in the morning, I talked on the phone to my Mom for almost an hour. I left out a lot of the details like the terror that gripped me when I felt certain Noah would rape me or how the gun felt when Noah pressed it to the side of my head with his twitching finger on the trigger. My mother listened intently and kept asking “Are you sure you are all right?”

I lied and said, “Yes.” But I told the truth when I said, “Dad’s sitting here next to me on the couch now. He said he will stay here with me until I feel safe.”

I tried to hold back more tears. My Mom ended our conversation with, “Thank God it’s over and you weren’t killed. Very soon you will be home with me in Boston. I just can’t wait to hug you.”

The next morning Ruiz called and told us to meet him at the Forty Second Street Library. I had been constantly critical of Ruiz, now I could barely look at him. I had endangered his life with my romantic stupidity. In return, he saved my life. Madeline, the missing piece of the puzzle smirked as we entered her office.

As usual this morning Ruiz was focused on the moment. Madeline was seated behind her desk. She said, “Ah, so Detective, you are so slow witted. You really don’t deserve the title of Detective. I have been sitting here all along right under your nose and only now you are finally close to the truth.”

“What is that truth, Ms. Webber? Were you in cahoots with Ms. Donovan to steal the Gutenberg?” Ruiz asked.

“Oh Please! Gwen was a lovely lady but far beneath me in intellectual prowess. I, not Gwendolyn, am the brains behind the original plan to steal The Gutenberg. The news media are referring to her as the book martyr. How absurd! She just died foolishly over, what is the news now saying? Some computer software? I do have to give her credit. She removed the Gutenberg before I could get to it. That was quite a feat.”

Ruiz interrupted. “So let me get this straight. What you are saying is that you originally intended to steal the Gutenberg. When Gwendolyn Donovan discovered your intentions to steal the book, she, in order to protect it, removed it.”

Madeline nodded yes. Ruiz asked, “Why would a book lover like you want to steal the Gutenberg?” Madeline eyes fired up as she answered, “Because people love it. Why do you think we have it on display? Crowds continually are amazed by it. It is a favorite with visitors to the library. One day when the visitors were crowded around the Gutenberg, the idea struck me. I could see how they longed to touch the book locked behind the glass case. The history of that book could never be scanned. I thought maybe the public does not care about the death of a civilization’s library, but they will be heartbroken if this one beloved book is lost. Then they will understand what they are throwing away when they get rid of books.”

“Let’s cut to the chase.” Ruiz said abruptly, “How did you plan on stealing the Gutenberg?”

“The security is extremely tight on the Gutenberg. However no human system is infallible. The key is in waiting and watching. For over a year I tracked the movements of the guards, the cameras, the locks involved. I did find more than one instance where I could just walk out with it.”

“Ms. Webber, did you share the details of the plan with Gwendolyn Donovan.?”

“No, of course not, but since we worked closely on a daily basis I guess she just put two and two together and realized that I was about to remove the Gutenberg.”

“Well you owe Ms. Donovan a great debt that she stopped you from a jail sentence and a tarnished legacy.” Madeline sat silent without revealing a trace of emotion.

Just then quietly from the hallway outside Madeline’s office, the head of Human Resources at the library stepped into the room. “Ms. Webber, based on what I have just heard, you are being removed from your position immediately so we can review the events that have unfolded due to your irrational behavior.”

As we walked down the stairs, Ruiz, turned to me and said, “That is one weird librarian. What do you make of her?”

I said, “A book lover turned fanatic.”

“Well she was a red flag from the start. She didn’t fool anybody. Then Ruiz touched my shoulder and said, “Hey, did I ever tell you how you fooled me?”

“No.” I was curious to know.

“Well, when I first met you, I thought you were a good looking, dependent Daddy’s little girl. I figured you would be out of this ugly, painful murder as soon as you could. But I had you wrong. Except for that good looking part.”

I looked up at Ruiz and said, “Emilio, I have been so stupid. You tried to tell me about Noah, but I refused to listen. So, then I almost ended up just like my grandmother - murdered in the cellar. Except last night you were there to save my life. I could never find the words to thank you.

For once, he was absolutely quiet. After a minute or two, he added,

“Zoe, I know you are grateful. I am too.”

I bit my lip and nodded. This time we agreed.

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