Logan sprawled on the bench, his long legs stretched out blocking half the sidewalk. Most of the people passing by simply stepped around him and went on without comment. They knew him. A few stepped over, muttering as they went on their way. Not Brin. The diminutive brunette aimed a kick at his knee, forcing him to move his legs. She stood glaring, arms akimbo, her eyes barely above his even though she was standing. “Where are Colt and Audrey?” she demanded. “You are supposed to be with them.”
Logan smiled, showing even white teeth and jerked his head toward The Second Story, the book shop a few feet further down the block. “In there,” he grunted. “With Kate and Juli.”
Brin waited, folding her arms across her chest, but he didn’t continue. Getting him to say six words was actually an accomplishment. Her foot tapped on the concrete. “You are supposed to be with them. She glanced up at the building behind Logan. He had chosen his place well; the security camera had panned out to the intersection and frozen, no longer covering the whole corner. She slid onto the bench beside her friend, “So why did you let them go off without you?”
Logan shrugged, “They said they were okay. Only a couple of people were in the shop and they didn’t look dangerous to me.”
“What about those two people in the trench coats. The woman looked nice, but he seemed sort of sketchy. Scruffy.”
Logan leaned down and whispered, “I’m not supposed to know, but I think those two were putting new things on the shelf. I looked through a section once and then came back later after the woman had been in that area. The second time, I found this.” He held up a volume that appeared to be a romance tale.
“And?” Brin asked, one eyebrow raised. She snatched the book and opened it, keeping it close to her body in case anyone was watching. Her eyes flew open. The pages of the poetry book had been hollowed out. Nestled inside where it fit snugly enough that it wouldn’t shake around was a smaller book. She gasped when the saw the title, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. She snapped the cover shut and clutched the book to her chest. “Gold!” she exclaimed.
Logan grinned, “I know, right? I’ve been wanting to read this forever.” He looked down at his friend, “If you are nice, I’ll give it to you when I finish.”
“How about if we read it at the same time?” Brin pleaded.
Logan didn’t answer. Just as he was opening his mouth to respond, he heard rapid footsteps and looked up to see Kortney sprinting down the sidewalk. Her eyes were wild and her long brown hair flew out behind her. She passed Brin and Logan, followed closely by another friend, Irene. Kortney motioned for them to follow, then ducked around the corner. They caught up with her in the park two blocks away.
Logan, not even breathing hard, winked at Brin as she sprinted up, “What took you so long?” he taunted.
Brin glared, barely puffing from the run, “Oh shut up, Stretch. I have to take three steps for every one of yours.” She bent over with her hands on her knees as the other two girls came over.
“They took them!” Kortney gasped. “They took them!”
“Who took who?” Logan demanded.
“They did. I don’t know. Them. Someone.” She was having trouble getting the words out.
Irene broke in, “Colt and Juli. A couple of big, ugly guys grabbed them and Kate. Audrey got away, I think.”
“We have to go,” Brin stated with a stamp of her foot. “We have to find them.”
“Whoa, just a minute, there Tiger. We could get hurt,” Logan protested.
Brin didn’t respond. She stood with her arms folded until her tall friend turned away. He hung his head and Brin stated, “Yeah, we might get hurt, but they are sure to get hurt, and you were supposed to be watching them.” Logan looked chagrined, but didn’t speak. His ears turned red.
Irene stepped between them, dark eyes flashing, she flipped her black braid over her shoulder and straightened her glasses, “Stop it, you two. We don’t have time to fight with each other.” She pointed down the street, “Here comes Audrey, we can ask her what happened.”
Audrey, tall and strong, brown hair tied into a knot on top of her head, slid to a halt in the middle of the group. She sank to the ground panting while the others surrounded her. “I saw them,” she gasped. “I saw them.” She pushed her glasses up on her nose and looked forlorn.
Brin sank down beside her and put an arm around her shoulders. “We’ll find them, Audrey. We’ll get them back.” She glared at Logan who was surrounded by the other girls. He looked resigned. Brin turned back to Audrey, “What did they look like. Tell us everything.”
Audrey inhaled, “There were four of them. Right after the two in coats left, they came in through the back door and grabbed us. Two men, two women. They were all in blue with long coats and heavy boots. We fought, but they were really strong. One of them had Colt by the arm, but he hit the one holding me and told me to run. I didn’t even think. I ran. I had to get help.” She burst into tears.
Brin pulled Logan a few steps away and looked up at his face. His lips were compressed, his eyes narrow. Irene joined then as she asked, “Okay, what are we going to do?”
“It was Librarians. It had to be,” said Irene.
Logan held up a hand, silencing her. “Yeah, it had to be Librarians, and we know why. What we don’ t know is where they took our friends. We can’t exactly walk into The Library and demand that they release them.”
Brin snapped her fingers, “The two who were putting books on the shelf. They might know how to help.” She grinned, her face full of plotting and revenge. “Besides, they were sort of old. They might have more ideas.”
Irene nodded in agreement. “But how do we find them? The woman looked a little familiar, but I can’t remember where I saw her.”
Logan looked around the park, then back at his friends, “Hey, we need to go somewhere out of sight. I don’t feel good about discussing all this in public.” He called the group together and they all left the park, headed for Logan’s house a few blocks away.
Juli strained against her bonds, veins popping out on her neck from the effort. Colt sat slumped in another chair, leather restraints securing his ankles and wrists. He was gagged as well, but his eyes spat fire as he tracked their captors around the dim room. Juli could not tell where they were. No window adorned the walls and they had worn smelly bags over their heads from the time they were captured until they found themselves in the room. She struggled for another moment then slumped, her head down. Despair was slowly replacing shock and anger.
Two men stood with arms crossed near the door of the room, intently watching. One looked bored, but Juli did not like the gleam in the other one’s eyes. Both had massive arms that strained the short sleeves of their shirts. Dark blue. Gold trim around the collar and cuffs. A small patch over the breast pocket that read ED. Enforcement Division. Juli shook all the way to her toes. Every kids knew the tales. Mothers used threats of ED to frighten children into good behavior. Now she was in their clutches. Worse, her friends were here.
Kate roused and spat in the face of one of the women. Her head rocked back from the force of the slap that followed. She groaned, but remained conscious. Juli felt tears leaking. Why? Why did the ED goons have to hurt her friend? Would she be next?
“Babs, not her face. You know better than that. We can’t mark them,” one of the women said hotly, fists clenched.
The taller of the women, a large, solid woman in her forties, dropped her hand and spun on her partner, face red. “Shut it, Annie Lou, or I’ll start on you next.” She turned back to the helpless girl in the chair.
“Anne. My name is Anne,” the shorter woman shrieked as she shoved the larger one. “You know the rules. Leave their faces alone so the big shots upstairs can show their pictures.”
Edna advanced on Anne, fists still doubled up, but the dark haired man stepped in between the two. “Ah, c’mon, Babs, leave off or you’ll get us all in trouble.” He grinned, “Hey, it’s almost time to knock off for the day. How about a beer?”
“Damn bleeding heart. Richard, you just don’t know how to have fun like Clarence and I do.” Babs jerked a thumb at the red haired man who had the gleam in his eyes. “Now there is a man who really enjoys his work.” Clarence grinned wolfishly, but Richard didn’t budge.
Juli held her breath. Maybe they would start fighting amongst themselves and forget about Kate.
The tableau held for several heartbeats, then Babs finally shrugged and turned away. She checked the clock on the small communication console. It rested on a small battered desk, the only other furnishing in the room besides the restraint chairs. She grunted, then motioned to the others. They filed out of the room after turning the thermostat down a few more chilly degrees. Juli could hear their boot steps echo in the hallway outside as Anne stuck her head back in the door. “Pleasant dreams. We’ll be back. Sooner or later.” She laughed as the solid steel door clanged shut and the bolt slid home with a clang of finality.