Meanwhile, Donnie had left the library already, and was waiting for her dad's chauffeur to show up and drive her home. She saw a group of boys look at her as they passed by. She tried not to smile at them, to keep her attitude, but she felt flattered. She was very proud of her appearance, of the way she made all the boys want her, and all the girls want to be her. And she could get extremely frustrated when a boy didn't show any sign of interest in her. Like Mr Hot Librarian...
A man in a dark brown duster and fedora was walking in her direction and looking at her. She froze and stared at him anxiously. It was still daytime, but with those Jack the Ripper stories around, she was cautious. He looked to be in his late fifties or something, and he was pretty tall and sturdy. Even though he was a bit overweight, like most men of his age, his frame, and the way he walked, suggested there were big strong muscles underneath the fat.
“Excuse me, young lady,” he addressed her with a deep, manly voice, in which she detected a French accent. “I see you are a schoolgirl, do you go to school here in Richmond?”
“You're after a schoolgirl?” she asked defiantly. “What are you, a pervert or something?” As an answer, he smiled and unbuttoned the top of his duster, to reveal his clerical collar. “Oh my God,” the young girl stammered, her eyes growing wide with embarrassment. “I'm sorry, I didn't know, sir... or should I call you father or something?”
“It's not necessary, my child,” he said, still smiling, his tone playful and comforting. “And in these days, with sin everywhere, you cannot be blamed for being wary of... old men talking to young girls.”
“I guess so... and, what can I help you with, father?”
“Actually, I'm looking for an item of particular importance... a Celtic cross, about twenty centimetres long, made of silver. This treasure belonged to my abbey until we... lost it, so to say. Would you happen to have it, by any chance?”
“I'm sorry, father, I don't know what you're talking about. What makes you think I have it?”
“I heard it was found by a red-haired girl with a Richmond school uniform.”
“Oh, I'm not the only redhead around here, you know... know what, why don't you ask that girl, Sally O'Flaherty? She's got red hair too, and she's kind of the religious nutter around here... I mean, no offence.”
“None taken. And where can I find this Miss O'Flaherty?”
“I just saw her get into the library, over there. Maybe she's still there.”
“Well, thank you my child, you have no idea how helpful you were. May the Lord bless you.”
“Oh, err, you're welcome,” she mumbled, blushing. Her chauffeur arrived shortly after he left her.
Inside the library, Mr Starkweather suddenly lifted his eyes from his newspaper to look at the two girls, his eyebrows flexed with perplexity.
“Occultism?” he asked, repeating their request to make sure he had understood well.
“Well, yeah,” Rebecca said, playing with her hands in anxiety. “You know, books about supernatural stuff, or miracles, or...”
“Okay, and may I inquire why a couple of fourteen-year-old grow a sudden interest in that particular field? You're not turning Goths, are you?”
“No, no, it's just... a school assignment.”
“We could pick whatever subject we wanted.”
He sighed. “School assignment sure have changed since my days... anyway, I'm glad you're not turning Goths, I've known some when I was younger, and they're quite a pain, with all their pins and make-up and 'my daddy hates me' attitude. Come with me.”
He stood up and led them amidst the maze of book rows. He was carrying an elegant walking stick in his left hand, made of polished ebony, with a golden pommel. Of course he had no difficulty walking, and the stick was just a dandy quirk that added to his gentlemanly charm. They stopped in front of a shelf containing several volumes with esoteric titles, and he recommended them a few of those before going back to his desk.
“I don't like this,” Sally said nervously as they sat down in a recess. “I was always told not to read that kind of stuff...”
“Don't worry, it's not like we're gonna play oui-ja or something, we're just looking for an explanation about what happened.”
They had barely started searching when they noticed a broad-shouldered, middle-aged man walking towards them, looking at them eagerly. Worried, they closed their books and stiffened.