The Night Shift
Ian Booth yawned for the second time that evening. He sat at the desk facing the Allen Lobby of the Suzzallo-Allen Library of the University of Washington. Ian worked the night shift. Although the campus's main library had had a reputation for closing obscenely early, as of last semester it had expanded its hours past the normal eight and night p.m. to its now normal closing hours of 2:30. With the change came the need for an extra shift of librarians. His somewhat-recent friend, Professor Zahn had found him the job and had made sure he had gotten it; although not currently enrolled, Ian was an English major senior and the task was no harder than an internship. It simply paid much better. Getting the graveyard shift came with a small, but appreciated bonus.
"Hey Ian. I'm a bit late, but I was held up a bit." The clock read seven minutes after eight. "No problem, Jenn. I think all the professors are in a break betwen research papers, so it's been pretty light." Jennifer "Jenn" Parks nodded. At twenty-three, she was the same age as Ian, working on her master's in library science. With octagonal-framed glasses and neck-length brown hair, she fit, at least visually, the stereotype of the typical librarian. However, in terms of personality, her occasional flirtatious comments were mixed with more-direct "I can and will kick your ass" style of comments, when it suited her, providing the contrast with the expected. She worked as the only librarian at the main desk during the night, so she walked past the Allen Lobby to her post.
It was not until shortly after ten when Ian was met with any further signs of human life. "Hey Booth! Long time no see!" Ian examined the aptly-named dynamic trio that approached him. "Dominic, J, Thaddon. Hi." The three, all several years younger, had been some of Ian's best friends, and normally hung out together. Dominic continued talking while Thaddon checked his watch. "Haven't seen you in a while, man." J, as if on cue to his role as the group's rumor-monger, added, "Yeah. Heard you dropped out." Ian rotated his hand shakingly. "Not really. I kinda got sidetracked due to stuff beyond my control, but it's been ironed out." Dom nodded. "Glad to hear it." Thaddon held out his hand. "Welcome back, Ian." The two shook and Thaddon blinked a few times. "Your hands are kinda cold." Ian shrugged. "It's cold in here." "Guess that's true. Well, We've got to get going. Are you enrolled this semester?" "Nah. I've saving up money to finish my degree this spring." J added a "Good luck" as the trio went towards the main desk and exit.
At thirty past eleven, Ian, who had been reading a paperback somewhat casually, rummaged through the desk's top drawer until he came across the laminated clock sign. "You up for the Express tonight, Ian?" Jenn had walked up from the rather low-lighting conditions that typified the shift. "Sure. Just a sec." He set the clock for twenty minutes and got up to enjoy his break.
Ian sat at an empty table at the Suzzallo Express, the library's adjoining coffee shop. Actually, all the tables were empty. Jenn and Ian, along with the requisite guy behind the counter were the only ones in the establishment. Jenn tilted her head a few times at the menu, allowing her hair to touch her neck momentarily in each case. She ended up getting an expresso, setting it down on a table before she started eyeing the mending machines.
Jenn looked in the glass's reflection and adjusted a lock of hair. "Ian, can I get you anything?" Ian had already stood up and was behind her. "Sure. Do they have any V-8's?" Jenn jumped before turning around. "Sorry. Didn't see you behind me. Well, you're here, I guess, so I'll drink my coffee. And maybe go back to the counter for a sandwich." Ian took out his wallet and purchased four cans of the mixed-vegetable drink. Jenn blinked from her table, eating the olive from her sandwich, as Ian quickly chugged the first three before slowly enjoying the final V-8. "Didn't know that you went for that sort of thing. Aren't those kinda salty?" "Yes, but they are pretty good. Filling, too." Jenn couldn't quite picture the drinks making a light meal, but eventually conceeded the point as she and Ian went back to their posts.
The rest of Ian's shift was rather uneventful, if one were to exclude the several hundred pages knocked off from his paperback novel. It was not until ten minutes until closing that something of note happened. Ian noticed a man rather overdressed for the early September Seattle weather, with a large scarf covering his facial features even though it had been warm and hadn't rained all day. What was more disturbing was that Ian noticed the man's hands stood clutched around a rather tattered book. One Ian recognized as having been featured in an article on the special collections area. It had been kept in a locked section, and was not available for checkout...ever. Then the power went off, leaving the interior of the library pitch black. The man broke into a sprint towards the doors.
Even in the near-total darkness, Ian could see the thief clearly. He focused his already-adjusted vision on his target as he jumped over the desk and began running after the man. By the time Ian made it out the front doors, he had lost track of the scarfed man. He turned his head and found the figure still running, still running, two hundred yards ahead. Ian briefly checked to make sure there were no onlookers, and took off, running instinctively as fast he could. He closed on the thief in just six seconds. He slowed slightly and prepared to tackle the man. It was unnecessary, since the man tripped moments later. Or rather, the man had been tripped. Ian came to an abrupt stop and found himself looking at Professor Leif Zahn, who had apparently been talking to one of the campus police officers. Leif retracted his leg. "Good evening, Mr. Booth. What seems to be problem?" "He was stealing a rare book." The flame with streaks of grey-haired professor bent down and retrieved the tome. "I remember this. This shouldn't even be outside its section." "That's the point, professor." Leif turned towards the policeman. "Officer McMillan, would you mind watching the suspect?"
"So, Ian, how are you adjusting to things? I really haven't had a chance to talk to you since you started." "I've been fine. Just had to watch the weather a bit carefully, that's all." The young teacher nodded as the two walked back towards the library, the book still in Leif's grasp. Except for the streaks of grey in his hair, glasses, and somewhat-formal manner of dress, Leif would look hardly in his mid-twenties. He was much older. "Understandable. I heard Miss Yamane saying she was going to drop by your apartment. Did that ever happen?" Ian nodded. "Yeah. Hiroko stopped by this past weekend." Jenn was waiting at the front steps. "The power just came back on. What happened?" Leif bowed his head slightly in greeting. "It's been taken care of, Miss Parks." Jenn blinked, not quite expecting to be formally addressed by a teacher she had seen but never met. "What has? I was getting ready to close down." Leif held up the book. "You just might want to reshelve this first."
Shortly after Jenn had left, Leif reached into his pocket and retrieved an oval locket on a long, thin silver chain. "I believed I promised you this." Ian reluctantly touched it before accepting it. "That's your phylactery; don't lose it, please. They're rather hard to make, you probably don't need to lose blood for another one, and I only have so many Giddeons' bibles lying around the house that I can cut up." Ian placed the amulet over his shirt and inhaled. He felt better somehow. "So, how'd you make this thing? I assume it has something to do with specific bible verses, right?" Leif nodded. "Yes, but it's my secret. One of the few I tell to no one. Well, I must be going. If you have any problems or questions, just give me a call or e-mail me. I'm usually awake." Ian thanked the man before he returned to his apartment.
Ian took his time with a shower, noticing the empty bottle of brown hair color on the counter, and mentally adding it to his list of things to pick up. He took out his colored contact lenses, and put the phylactery back on. He compared the image in his small, antique hand mirror with that in the large wall mirror. His almost-red eyes shined in each. Satisfied, he changed into a sleeping shirt and a pair of shorts. Ian grabbed his pillow, beating it a few times to straighten it. He opened the blinds, peered on the silent street below, before tightly closing them again. He laid down, yawning for the seventh time that evening, before he closed the lid on his coffin and went to sleep.