When we next met, there were bags under Sarah's eyes. I obligingly failed to notice them.
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"Have you brought everything?"
"Yes, of course."
"Good. We're going to Pruiss Hall tonight. I've managed to get you clearance for a camera unit in the library. The only stipulation being that everything needs to be out by 5. What do you think?"
"That's great! I wish I'd brought more gear, though. Maybe I should filtch something from the photography department..."
"Let's wait on that."
A thick white mist hung heavy over the campus that night. Buildings and trees rose like wrecked ships from its' top. Was I a little more nervous than usual? Yes, I believe I was.
We reached Pruiss, and I rapped hard on the front door. Randy shambled up, looking- as always- like a small bear wearing a too-tight policeman's outfit, and opened it.
"Help you?" he said.
"We've here to photograph the library," Sarah said.
"Oh, you're the ones, eh?" Randy loved to act. "Well, c'mon in, you can set up in there..."
We stepped inside.
I LIKE the library in Pruiss Hall. It's a little bit like stepping into a time-warp. There are no radios, no televisions, nothing that's been invented after 1900- or at least, nothing that looks like it should've been. I remember it being very peaceful.
Sarah strolled among the shelves, taking picture after picture, while I sat down in an insanely comfortable high-backed chair and tried not to doze off. Eventually, she returned.
"I've got all the preliminaries."
"What are your plans now?"
"Hmm...try to set something up to take some pictures. I think I can program this thing for one per minute. I'll set it up behind the window where you said the ghost was seen."
"That's all very well, I suppose. Don't forget, you need to get gone by 5."
"Yes, yes. I know. We'll take a walk or something, while it goes. Come back in a couple of hours."
"Mm. Alright, then." With great reluctance, I pried myself out of the chair.
"I've been meaning to talk to you."
"Oh?" Alarm bells? Not yet.
"You haven't been completely truthful with me, have you?"
Brrrrriiiing! "How do you mean?"
"I'm not sure exactly what it is...but you're not who you say you are. Well, it's more like you are who you are and you've just been telling tiny little slices of the truth to ward me off."
"That's an odd thing to say."
"It's an odd thing to do."
I had to hand it to her. The girl was more precocious than I gave her credit for. I decided to tell some of the truth for a change.
"Well, you're right- more right than I think you imagine. But I can't tell you about it just yet, so bear with me. Let's finish up on the library shoot, make of it what we can, then talk about this after. When doing anything of any redeeming value it's best to have one's goal in the forefront of one's mind, above all other things."
She snorted. "You sound like a textbook."
"I've been called worse." I snapped my fingers. "Damn! I need to pick up a couple books from that library.
"Hmm. I guess we can start back. I don't want to burn too much film on one place."
"Let's get gone, then, before the parties let out."
We stood in the library, next to a bookshelf full of outdated Encyclopedias. I stood in the exact spot the camera had been set up in. Sarah had come to rest about three feet to my left. In front of us the remains of a camera lay on the library rug like a dead thing.
It was dead, too, in a sense. The camera would never be workable again, nor the tripod, if my eye was any judge. Both had been attacked by something very nasty, then dropped on the library floor to greet us on our return. The camera was smashed inward, as if hit by the world's smallest wrecking ball. The lens was a crater, mangled and slightly melted-looking, like I always imagined ground zero- for anything, really- would look. Bad, bad, bad. The attacker had not been satisfied, however, with destroying the camera, and had opted to grasp the tripod between what I imagined to be two gigantic fists, and twist it around itself- you know, like what Superman would do to guns and solid lead pipes when he got the chance.
"Check the film," I said. "It may still be good, though I rather doubt it. I'm going to see about the watchman."
I was unsurprised to find Randy in the TV room, half-dozing and completely unaware that anything at all had taken place. I played my visit off, saying that the camera had fallen and had he let anyone in to use the library?
"Nope," he said. "But weird stuff happens here sometimes. They say it's haunted, you know."
"Really?" I said. "Huh. Amazing what some people will believe, eh?"
He looked a bit sheepish, and I wondered if I'd gone too far. "Well, you never know. This place gives me the heebie jeebies sometimes."
I shrugged. "Keep your eyes open, then, eh?"
Upon returning, I was greeted by the smell of cooked plastics. Sarah was holding the film. It was still attached to the camera. It did, in fact, appear to be permanently glued to the back of machine.
"That," I said, "Is ugly."
"Our man in the lounge doesn't know anything. About the disturbance, I mean."
I tilted my head. "Sarah?"
"...are you all right?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes. I was just thinking."
I waited. She fiddled with the camera.
She looked up. "What about what?"
I rolled my eyes. "Not important. What do you intend to do now?"
She straightened, wiping a few errant specks of glass off her jeans. "Sleep. Then meet tomorrow. I'll call you when I'm ready. This IS actually your phone number, isn't it?"
"Good." She picked up the remains of her equipment. "Then we're done for tonight, I guess."
I came home to find a new message from Gideon on the machine, this time only curious as to how my work was going and what about this Sarah Walden girl?
I called his office to leave a return message, and got him instead.
"Gideon," I said, "What the hell are you doing in your office at this hour?"
"Catching up on some business. How's the Walden girl coming along?"
"Better than I'd expected. She's bright, Gideon, very bright."
"Leave it to you to find the dangerous ones."
"I wouldn't want it any other way."
I could almost hear him smirk. "That's our Blake. Always walking the line between exciting and dead."
"Believe it," I said. "Any news for me?"
"Sort of. Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary- you know what I mean- in town lately?"
"Hmm. Now that you mention it, there was something tonight..."
"We were taking some photos- on remote- of the Pruiss Hall library, and things turned violent?"
"Shit! Anyone hurt?"
"One camera. Mangled beyond repair." I considered this. "Very odd behavior for Locke, wouldn't you say?"
"I wouldn't, but yes, it is. Anything else?"
"Hmm...this is an odd one, Gideon. Jeremiah's skull resurfaced."
"Last night, when I was examining the Ruins near Pruiss. Sarah found it."
"I managed to get it home without her suspecting, but there will be questions later, I can tell."
"What did you do with the skull?"
"Smashed it and buried it, why?"
"What's this all about, Gid?"
There was a long silence.
"Blake, I want you to take extra care in the coming months, all right? Something very strange is going down, and I have no idea what or why. If my sources are right, then whatever it is, it's bad. Keep your eyes open, eh?"
Didn't I say that earlier? "Will do. Anything else?"
"Yeah. Speed up work with the Walden girl, if you can. I want your full attention, when it all comes down."
"I'll do my best."
"Yeah. I know. Take care, Blake."
"Tha-" There was a click, then the hum of an empty line.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.