Jessica climbed up the Abby tree in front of the library where she could keep an eye on the fire escape door down in the well. Sara cradled her shepherd’s crook like a security blanket and sat on the steps to the science building where she could face the library and back-up Jessica, if needed. All of the others were positioned inside the library, though it was closed. Mindy had a special pass to the archive room in the second basement, and Bernie the campus cop kept watch from the main door. At three in the morning, Jessica started to fear they might have to do this for several nights running when a figure appeared on the walkway.
It looked briefly at Sara, and Sara noticed because she was looking for such a figure, but she tried not to notice. She had her phone to her ear and pretended instead that she was talking to someone on the other end and paying no attention to her surroundings.
Jessica also saw the figure and wondered if she was far enough away to not be detected. She had imagined any nature spirit would prefer the grass and bushes, but now she wondered why they shouldn’t use the brick walk like anybody else. The figure stopped and lifted its head as if it sensed something. Fortunately, Sara saw, stood and walked briskly toward the library and Bernie, talking up a storm to no one.
The figure dashed into the bushes as she approached, and even Jessica lost sight of the creature for a minute, but as Sara passed by, Jessica saw the creature emerge again from the bushes, now opposite the fire door. It looked carefully up and down the library path, like someone might look when crossing the street. Jessica pulled up the infra-red binoculars she borrowed from Captain Driver’s office and took a good, long look at the thing. It stood only about four feet tall, had horns that jutted out from its forehead which looked hardly bigger than its oversized eye teeth. Its eyes were far too big and between the teeth and the eyes there was barely room for a flat nose. The creature was dressed so the body looked relatively normal, except it appeared to have a belly—a match for the small shock of gray hair on top. Of all things, Jessica found those last aspects oddly disturbing. It seemed too human, like any gray haired old man with a belly.
Jessica got on her phone and said, “One.” Then she jumped down from the tree and joined Sara and Bernie outside the main library doors.
Melissa and Maria were in the library office, presumably using the copy machine. Mindy and Amina were hidden in the archive room next to the main elevator which had the door propped open in case they needed to make a quick getaway. Melissa had covered the inside of the door with the same spell she used on the bogyman. With that, they hoped to track the creature, even if it went invisible.
Maria’s phone went off, and she took the message, “One.” Then she and Melissa listened, but heard nothing at all. Finally, they looked at each other and stepped together into the hall where they saw nothing.
Down below, Amina felt the creature as soon as it stepped out of the freight elevator shaft, even if she and Mindy could not see it. She waved to Mindy to keep her low and hidden. They heard the creature cough. It sounded like an old man who had smoked for a few too many years.
Mindy looked up. A scant three feet from where she was hiding, she saw a small, ancient carved statue of a dragon turn a quarter turn to the left and then a quarter turn to the right so it looked like it never moved. The statue appeared to move on its own since she could see no hand. Amina caught the jiggle in the fence that protected the alcove where the tile floor from that Spanish mosque climbed the wall. Then Amina felt nothing. She stood. Mindy stood. And in a short while, everyone came to the archive room, while Bernie the campus cop paced outside the library around the door in the well to be sure they were not interrupted.
Everyone stood back from the alcove while Jessica examined the floor. “When we came down for the tour I swore someone tromped around here.”
“Would you like me to activate my trail?” Melissa asked.
“That was back-up,” Jessica added. “There are easier ways to see if this is indeed the door. Sara.”
“Me?” Sara understood, but she was not sure why she should be the one to do it. She had her shepherd’s crook with her, true, but they all had weapons of some sort to defend themselves if needed. Sara took a deep breath, climbed over the short fence and tapped her crook against the tile. It just tapped against the tile. Everyone looked disappointed
“Wait a minute,” Mindy said. She stepped to the dragon statue and turned it the way she had seen it turn. “Try it now.”
Sara reached out again with her crook expecting only to tap the tile, but this time the head of the crook disappeared into the wall, and there was a bright flash of light and a massive electrical charge in return which would have killed her if the crook had been anything other than wood. Sara got lifted off her feet and driven back. She knocked down Jessica and the fence as she flew. Maria, Melissa and Amina did their best to catch her. Melissa got knocked on the head by the shepherd’s crook, but Sara was safe, eyes wide open, breathing rapidly, her hand to her heart.
“I think we found the door.” Maria spoke as soon as she saw that Sara was going to be okay.
“Another,” Jessica said as she got up and joined the others.
“Another bump,” Melissa agreed.
“Tomorrow at closing?” Sara spoke while Maria and Amina helped her to her feet.
Jessica nodded. “Not without Emily.”