Eventually they arrived in front of Queen Anne Public Library & Exhibition Centre, an imposing Gothic structure of black stone, complete with gargoyles and pointed arches. The door was still the massive oak door of the old days. They said it used to be a monastery, reconverted into a public library when it was abandoned, after the war. Of course, some people were quick to spread rumours about gruesome murders and ghosts and whatnot, and the worst was that it was pretty believable, for this building that loomed over its visitors like some towering hellbeast could give anyone the creeps. Quite a good lair for a witch like Mrs Kilpatrick, Rebecca thought as they courageously entered. The library itself was inside the great hall, which had retained the very high ceiling with ribbed vaults of its religious past, and even though the stained glass had been replaced with plain glass windows, it was always eerily dark inside, and the lamps on the reading tables were always on. The room was so high that any clatter of voice would echo, and so everyone would whisper quietly, and this quiet atmosphere was quite intimidating. Rebecca loved to read her favourite horror novels here, she found the setting just perfect! The reception desk was close to the entrance, with the librarian hidden behind a copy of The Guardian.
"Excuse me," Rebecca said hesitantly, "Mrs Kilpatrick?"
The librarian lowered the newspaper, and to the girls' startling surprise, it was not an old woman they saw, but a man. Maybe in his late twenties or early thirties, he looked tall and well-built, and was incredibly elegant in his black three-piece suit, with his red tie being his only colourful piece of clothing. He had something of a Latin air with his solid jaw, his aquiline nose and his dark eyes, and his raven hair was perfectly slicked back, like a 1960s television star. He smiled at them and suddenly Rebecca felt very hot on her face, and her heart beat so loud she was afraid somebody would hear it.
"May I help you?" he asked with a deep, soothing voice.
"Hum, well, err, yeah..." she stammered so hard she thought she would never make it, but eventually she managed to ask about Mrs Kilpatrick.
"Oh Mrs Kilpatrick is retired," he said. "She left last week. Such a charming old lady... I'm the new librarian, Mr Starkweather. And you are?"
"Let's see..." he checked on his screen. "Miss Hart... you have a book that's two weeks overdue."
"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry... here it is. I know I'll probably have a penalty for this..."
"You know what ?" he said as he took it from her. "Let's just call it the 'new librarian joker'." He typed something on his computer, she couldn't help noticing he used mostly his left hand. Then he winked at her. Her heart beat so hard she thought she was about to faint. What was going on?
"So you like Stephen King," he continued. "Have you tried The Shining?"
"No... not yet." She couldn't believe he was giving her advices on Stephen King. Old Mrs Kilpatrick would have just told her to read something smart instead of those 'horror bollocks'.
"You should definitely give it a try. You can find it in the 'Science-Fiction and Fantasy' aisle, third row, second shelf from the top, fourth book on the right." The girls remained dumbfounded for a moment. "What ?" he asked.
"Do you mean," Sally asked, "that you know the place of every book in this library? Without even looking at your screen?"
"That's my job, isn't it?" he replied with a charming smile. "Now, how about you, pretty ginger?"
The girl blushed like a tomato. "Shaileigh O'Flaherty," she said. "I finished this one, and wanted to borrow the sequel..." She gave him the book hesitantly, embarrassed by its pink cover.
"My goodness," he said, "this is so sweet I think it just gave me diabetes." She blushed even harder and looked at her feet. "Okay, you'll find the sequel in the 'Romance' aisle, second row, middle shelf, fifth book from the right."
"Okay," Rebecca intervened, suddenly feeling playful, "now what if I ask you about The Sun of September 7th, 1988..."
"Archive room 5 in the basement, third locker from the left, bottom shelf, fourth one from the bottom."
"No, this can't possibly be real..."
"I don't know," he replied with the same playful tone. "Do you want to check?"