Today's Reading

These windows would be easy to reach, if you stood on the toilet seat. Anyone climbing in would probably have trod there as well. I peered at the plastic lid, trying to make out any footprints, but the position of the strip lights put it in shadow. I stepped forward for a closer look, and the door swung shut behind me with a bang that made my heart lurch.

"Sandra?" I heard June call. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm OK, no problems!" I reached for the handle, stopped myself, and pulled at the top of the door, hoping that the intruder hadn't followed the same thought process.

The door had stuck. I remembered then that we'd had trouble with this particular door before. Last winter an old lady had been stuck in here for twenty minutes before someone heard her banging. They'd supposedly fixed the problem—but not completely, it seemed. I heaved on it and it came free suddenly; I nearly fell back onto the toilet seat but managed to hold myself upright on the door. I regained my balance and scampered out, nearly running into June.

"I told you to stay by the door!" she said sharply.

"Yes, sorry, I was just, er, checking for any damage. I didn't touch any handles, though."

She shook her head. "My CSI colleagues tell me that they rarely get anything useful from handles anyway. Too small, too well used. What did you touch?"

So much for detective novels. "Just the top of the door."

I pointed, and she ran a professional eye over the relevant area. "I'll mention that to CSI. You'd better come through and have a look in the main library. We haven't found anyone, but there's a bit of a mess, and some locked doors we'd like you to check."

I followed on, abashed.

The lights in the main room weren't on sensors as they were in the newer areas. The coppers had been using their torches, but with a nod from June, I switched everything on, and saw what June had called "a bit of a mess".

The main reception desk had been trashed. Every drawer was out, contents emptied over the floor, the files pulled out of the cupboards behind and tossed around, computer screens smashed and hanging from their leads.

June gave me a moment to take it in, and gently restrained me from stepping too close. "There might be footwear marks on the paper," she explained. "Was there anything of value kept here?"

I shook my head. "No, not really. Just paperwork, records, forms—junk, a lot of it. Some of those files are decades old! Pre-computerization—we've never got round to archiving everything."

"Do you have any cash on the premises?"

"A bit. Payment for events, and so on... Oh! I just remembered! The art club charge their members to display in the exhibition—just a small amount, but some paid in cash. Might have been a hundred pounds in notes or coins. And the library has a petty cash tin as well. But that's all kept in a safe in my office."

"We'd better check that."

I led the way through the aisles to the Children's Section—the only two-storey part of the building. A door labelled "Staff Only" led up to an office and a staff room. It was securely locked and apparently undamaged. Nevertheless, June inspected it carefully before I unlocked it, and she led the way upstairs.

"All clear," she called back down to Mike. No damage, no one lurking in the shadows, safe untouched.

"Just one more area to check, then."

We went back down the stairs and across to the other side of the library.

At one time there had been a little alcove here, which had been kept free of books to provide space for readings, workshops, and exhibitions. Now there was a rather grand set of sliding doors where the wall had been: pale wood, nicely grained and polished, surmounted by a neat brass plaque announcing it to be "The Laney Grey Memorial Wing". Very fitting—our famous local poet had been a regular user of the alcove before her tragic death. She would have loved the new room, though she'd have poked fun at the idea of a
"memorial wing".

"Just finished last month. This art exhibition is the first major event we've had here," I said.

"I know. I was at the opening," June reminded me.

"Oh yes, of course you were. Sorry, it was such a hectic day."

June nodded, and moved closer to the door. "Was this here before, Sandra?" She pointed to a small mark just above the handle.

I looked at it and frowned. On closer inspection, the mark was a rounded indentation in the wood. "I don't think so. I don't remember seeing it before. Of course, it's all still quite new..."

This excerpt ends on page 18 of the paperback edition.

What our readers think...

Contact Us Anytime!

Facebook | Twitter