Chapter 21 — The Archivist

Chapter 21

Smoke choked the corridors on the first floor of the Archive. Lennie held Nickie’s hand while they followed the others to the exit. Son of a bitch! There’s never been a fire here. What the hell is going on? A large man barreled into them and Nickie lost her footing. With a grunt, Lennie pulled her up and closer to the wall. “The exit is close. You all right?”

A wracking cough answered her. “Hard to breathe.”

Light mixed with the smoke and sirens filled the air. Outside the building, Lennie spotted Brant and made her way to him. “Any idea what happened?” She watched Nickie sink to the ground, head hanging.

Serena and Shannon hurried over. “We have a problem.” Serena motioned for them to move closer. “Eight security guards are dead and Ryan Jones is gone.”

“Damn. You think the fire was set to distract us?” Lennie knelt beside Nickie, placing an arm around her.

“Yes. When the alarm went off, the lower levels automatically locked down, so the documents and artifacts in storage are safe. I believe more than one fire was started, so it will be a while before we can get back inside and assess the damage.”

“Aunt Serena, what about the security cameras? They should show who entered and exited the building.”

“The security room was shot up and the equipment destroyed. That’s where four of the security guards were killed.” She rubbed her face with her hand.

A grin spread across Shannon’s face. “You forget, we also have off-site storage for the security footage. The one James set up two months ago.”

Serena hugged her niece. “What would I do without you? Where is your husband?”

“At a site. Working with Andy McKinley.”

Serena pulled out her phone. “I’ll call Andrew and have him send James back here. Let’s move to the private yard.”

Nickie climbed to her feet with Lennie’s help. “What’s the private yard?” Another fit of coughing shook her.

“It’s behind the building. A walled off area where Serena likes to unwind. She had it built when she became Head Archivist.” She supported her as they walked. “Maybe I should take you to the Clinic and have you examined by Dr. Mays. You’ve been through a lot in the last several hours.”

“I’ll be fine, really.”

Seated around a table, Serena placed another call. “Ben Langstin is one his way. He’s head of security.”

“With Ryan on the loose, I’m not sure how safe Nickie is. Serena, I’m going to start carrying again.”

“Good idea. I’ll also request a new security system installed in your new apartment. We could also hire a couple of bodyguards.”

Nickie shook her head. “No bodyguards. Lennie can keep me safe.”

#

Ryan paced the small room. I’m in trouble now. I bet Mr. Aston found out about the latest bets I placed. The rattle of the doorknob froze him in place.

The door swung open and Reginald entered lips in a hard line. “If you give me one excuse, I will give you to Ralaax and the others.” He sat at the table, fingers drummed.

“Sir, I have a gambling problem and I don’t know how to stop.” He stood before the table, head bowed.

“There’s a way to end the problem, Ryan and you will still be of use to the Council. You already carry the taint of the Shadows. All you need to do is accept union with one. Outwardly you will be unchanged; inward you will gain new knowledge and an ability to find others with the taint. Then you will bring them to us by whatever means necessary.” Reginald studied the man. “You must make your choice before I leave this room.”

“If I don’t accept?”

“You know what awaits if you refuse.”

Ryan took a deep breath and released it. “I accept, Mr. Aston.”

“Good. I thought you might and have made arrangements for everything from your apartment to be moved to a new apartment in a building I own. He stood. “Once the union is complete, Gillian will take you there.”

Reginald opened the door and Stan Myers entered. Take Ryan to the Sanctum. Ralaax is already there waiting.”

“Yes, sir.”

#

Nickie sipped a glass of water as she and the others watched the security footage. A gasp escaped when one man entered the view. “That’s one of the men at the building I was taken to. I remember the scar on his face.” She pointed at the screen.

James froze the footage and zoomed in. Two clicks later and the printer whirred. “Serena, you need to pull some strings so we can run these people through the federal databases.”

“I already put in the request. Waiting to hear back from them.”

A yawn escaped Lennie. “Any word when we can get back into the building?”

“Tomorrow morning at the earliest. The police are combing the place for clues and the fire department arson squad is there.”

“Damn. I wanted to grab mine and Nickie’s stuff from the office.”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you? Brant took care of that. He should be here soon.”

Exhaustion swept over her and Nickie’s eyes closed. The voices of the others faded into the background as sleep took over.

#

Lennie emerged from the bathroom, hair damp from the shower. She found Nickie sprawled on the sofa, eyes closed. “You asleep?”

“No. Just resting my eyes. The eye flush irritated them.” She made room. “Are we going to work on the journals?”

“How’s the cough?” Lennie sat beside her.

“The stuff Dr. Mays prescribed helped a lot. I’m annoyed you took away my cigarettes until tomorrow.”

“Inhaling more smoke is the last thing you need, Nickie. As you can see, I’m not smoking either. We can be miserable together.”

“Do you think Ryan was rescued so they could kill him?”

“No. He knows too much about the Archive and the people that work there. They will want that information.”

“What is the Council of the Crimson Moon?”

“There are only rumors, but the Council appeared shortly after the comet passed. About a week later. Some say that Reginald Aston is the one who founded it. He’s been asked in interviews, but he denies all knowledge. With a name like the Crimson Moon, I doubt it’s anything good. You hungry?”

In the kitchen area, Lennie grabbed two bottles and reheated leftover pizza. “You didn’t eat much dinner at the diner.” She handed a plate to Nickie.

“Was still on edge after what happened.”

“Serena will increase the security protocols for the Archive and she’s formed an Inner Circle to deal with what’s going on.” She took a bite of pizza, chewed and swallowed. “Shannon, Brent, James, you, Ben and myself are in on this.”

“Is that what you discussed after I nodded off?”

“Among other things. From now on, when new people are brought into the Archive, Serena wants you to check the for the outline.”

“Understood.” She sipped her pop.

About Anna Dobritt

Anna Dobritt is an independent eBook author and an indie publisher of RPG PDFs and fantasy maps through Cartography Unlimited for RPGs. She loves to read and write, and lives in Michigan. Anna enjoys watching Dr. Who, both the classic episodes from the 1960s-1980s and the current episodes. Anna has three trilogies in the queue: Ravynwyng Chronicles Universe – Volume 1: The Beginning has been released, and Volume 2: Discovery, is going through the editing and revision process, with plans to self-publish in 2016. Volume 3: Truth is currently being written. Two other trilogies are The Archivist — Lenara Lenquil Adventures, and the Guardian Blades Trilogy. Anna has self-published Volume 1 of the Ravynwyng Chronicles Universe titled The Beginning; three short stories: The Hunter, First Raven, Raven Voice; a novelette titled Raven Flight, and a collection of short fiction titled Whispers from Within. Where the imagination soars on glowing wings! May the words ever flow!
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