Darling McCraw only said one word, “Library.”
Then we settled into a quiet on the five minute drive from the Patton Murder House on the high hill in the Streets to downtown and the library.
I thought about asking him what he wanted, but feared I would only get that horrid laughter. I thought about just punching him in the head and pushing him out of the car at high speed, but who knew if he had someone that was helping him. I thought about just driving right up the front steps and into the main building like in Leathal Weapon, but did not want to risk running over Natalie.
I wanted to ask him about Natalie. Had he hurt her? Did he have anything planned for her?
What the hell was his plan? There seemed to be a reason behind it all. Strange symbols carved into Ava’s chest and in that book about old Norse. What were they called? Runes? Was Darling some kinda pagan?
“Why’d you kill Ava and Betty?” I asked, turning onto Front Street. We were less than a block from the library.
He sighed, “I did not kill Betty. I found her much like you did. But the whore? She was evil. Hurt people. Everyone is better without her scheming. Everyone will be better when he comes. You will see.”
“Yes, Mr. Banned?”
“Don’t ever call another one of my patrons or staff any type of name or I’ll tie you behind this truck and drag you off a cliff by your balls.”
“”Yes, sir?’ What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you here? This does not make any sense.”
“It will all make sense soon, sir. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about all this. If there had been any other way... If your grandfather hadn’t broken things so badly...”
“My grandfather? What’s he have to do with this?”
“What your grandfather started over a century ago is what this is all about. He thought he was clever, so clever that he never told anyone how he did it. But we figured it out. We know what needs to happen. Now, just pull in here and go inside and all will be revealed.”
I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the SUV. We were not alone, it seemed. A familiar white pickup truck was parked near the entrance to the library. This is interesting, I thought.
I picked up the chef’s knife from the console. Darling flinched when I did. I am not a violent man. I dislike to see other, weaker creatures afraid, but that was so fun I did it again. I slashed wildly in the air and Darling jumped out of the car. I let a laugh escape my throat and got out, too.
I pushed Darling along up the steps to the library. The town was silent, so quiet I did not bother to hide our entrance. Anyone within a hundred miles could hear us.
Darling stopped dragging his feet and ran up the steps. To my surprise, he threw open the door. I looked at the door on my way in, but saw no signs of force. Whomever was in here had a key.
My breath stopped when I walked into the entranceway. Natalie lay spread eagle in the center of the room. A chalk circle was around her, filled with runes. I had flashes of Ava, finding her in the same position Natalie was in. I sighed seeing instead of a knife the gentle rise and fall of her breast.
The blow came from behind. I fell forward, down down to the hard wood. Strong hands grabbed my shoulders and I felt them drag me toward the circle. Toward Natalie. I heard Darling laugh and jump up and down from across the room, cackle as he scuffed the floors I had petitioned the board so hard to get waxed.
From the shadows seven robed individuals stepped out. The two that had dragged me joined the rest. I tried to get up, to say anything, but when I did everything swam.
One of the shadows stepped forward. He or she stooped and lifted an object from the floor that I had not noticed. It... It was the Little Banned Library, an art project that had been stolen nearly a year ago back when... Back when everything started to go wrong.
Carol Anne Kinney lifted the hood from her face and hefted the miniature building.
“The Board of Directors would like to discuss your termination, Mr. Banned,” she said.