Case 02: "Bookworms"
It took Jake two days to realize that Ren was not properly prepared for this sudden change in life style. It took Ren, who Jake slowly realized was not the sharpest tool in the shed, a little over a week.
"You mean, we're not stopping at all?" Ren asked. He was - if possible - growing stubble at the tip of his chin. Jake was very happy for his electric razor - cheap, from some CVS in the east - but it seemed that Ren liked the straightedge better. "At all?"
"No. We'll be in Arizona by sun up. It would be better to drive through the night than to stop now and get a late-ass start tomorrow." Jake let a glare sweep over to Ren through the rear view mirror. Ren, whose red shirt was rather more rumpled than it should have been, sighed and slumped down even more.
"We won't be late if we stop..."
"Are you arguing with me on this?"
"No, I'm just saying-"
"Mop - " It was the only thing that Jake called the other boy. Ren guessed it was an acceptance thing and actually began responding to the name. " Last time we stopped, I had to wait for your sorry ass to get ready. It was your fault that we left three hours later than we should have. Don't tell me we won't be late."
Ren rolled his eyes. "Dude, if we're going after something like the haunting of a fucking forest, then I think, maybe, we should get some fucking sleep beforehand."
Jake ground his teeth together. His knuckles were turning white from gripping the steering wheel.
"And I'm fucking tired. And hungry. And I need to take a piss. And I-"
Fucking hell! Jake jerked the car sideways - Ren's hands going for the dashboard - and Jake almost snarled out loud. This talking dipshit was so on his last fucking nerve.
"We're getting a fucking motel." Jake's voice was calm - covering the anger. If he lost it, one of them would be dead. And it wouldn't be Jake. "We're staying the night, I'm getting up at seven, and I'm leaving. If you're not in this fucking car then I'm leaving you here."
Silence stretch for maybe another twenty minutes after that, then Ren asked. "So, um...are we sharing a room?"
The first decent motel they came across was in Ranton, New Mexico. It was a few minutes off of I-25 and just outside of Colorado. The room was small - two twins, a small ass bathroom, table and chair. Jake threw his clothe bag onto a far bed and moved into the bathroom as quickly as he could. He couldn't stand Ren any longer.
A little over 20 minutes later - until his hands got pruned and he couldn't stand being in that cramped space any more - Jake stepped out of the bathroom to find Ren's feet on his bed. Ren's blue laptop was perched open on his lap, and Ren hand a pencil in his mouth. Jake shook a hand through his hair and buttoned his pants up again.
"Didn't you want to sleep, or something?"
Ren chewed thoughtfully, clicking a few more times. "Internet."
Jake felt something bubble in his throat. The beginnings of overwhelming anger - possibly - or real frustration. Jake bit his words back, clenched his teeth, and set to cleaning his guns.
"I found something." Ren said. Jake pulled out his cleaning tools - curling onto Ren's bed. Jake kept his mouth shut.
"There's a haunting going on - in this town, actually. A library..."
Jake picked his head up. He raised his eyebrow. "A lady in brown?"
Ladies in Brown were often forgotten soles of people - mostly female - who were so attached to a certain place that they often haunt them in their death. Most Brown Lady's exist in libraries - some in schools, and sometimes in museums. Ren's eyes moved to him, eyebrows raised. "Not bad..."
Jake's eyebrows rose. "There are hundreds - maybe thousands - of residual Brown Lady supposed 'haunting' around the US."
Ren took the pencil out of his mouth and spun his laptop around on his lap. On the screen was a website - a media player open to a picture of a lobby. Streaming real time. There were racks upon racks of books - a picture of a library. From what Jake could see, there was an entire row of books on the floor. Some of the books were still settling.
"This Lady is pissed." Ren's voice was low. His eyes were serious. "She's violent and she shows herself on camera. Quite often, actually."
Jake put his gun down. "Well, you've got my attention."
It only took Jake a little over two hours and restless sleep to figure out that Ren had done it on purpose.
Jake smiled, a rueful grin, and his anger pulled back - just slightly.
Jake woke up only twice after that. Once when the TV went off around three, and once when Ren got up to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, sleeping a motel again wasn't so bad - not as bad as Jake remembered - but he still didn't like it. It was heaps better then the car, and only slightly better than a couch. He didn't like the idea of not being able to wake up and move immediately. Too many months sleeping in a car.
"So," Ren's voice was crackled and quiet. Jake rolled his eyes toward the clock. 6:45 AM. Ren sounded exhausted. "Are we moving on, or are we checking this out?"
Jake let his eyes slip closed. Let himself relax into the blankets. He had enjoyed real sleep a lot more then he should have. He knew not to indulge himself in things like this. Ren would be gone when Jake couldn't take him and he would sleep in the car again.
Jake sighed. "Yeah."
Jake could almost hear Ren's smile.
"So, how is he?"
Ren rolled his eyes and squeezed the phone between his shoulder and ear. The trunk was stuck and Ren was getting frustrated.
"Fine?" He offered. Jake moved over to him and smacked the top of the trunk - a certain place exactly - and the thing clicked open. Ren frowned at the other boy, but Jake kept moving off toward the library.
"No, really..." Shelly's voice was rough. He had bad reception. "He's standing right next to you, isn't he? That's why you’re not saying..."
Ren rolled his eyes. "No Shelly. Really, he's fine."
"He's letting you eat, right? Not starving you at all?"
"Shelly." Ren sighed, pulling his duffel full of equipment out. Jake's bag was a lot simpler - a small, dusty black back pack. Ren's duffle bag seamed huge in comparson - and Ren wondered a moment if he had too much stuff. "He's just...quiet. Gruff, agrivatingly agrivated...he's just, ya know....Jake. Same as he was in Minnesota."
Just what I expected, Ren thought, lugging the bags onto his sholders. He slamed the trunk closed and sighed. "I'm fine thought. So dont worry. I'm at a job - I’ll call you later."
Ren snapped his phone shut and tucked it into his pocket, putting Jake's keys in his back pocket.
The building was old. Ren could feel it in his bones. The kind of old that has a place in time all it's own. Ren's teath hurt. His wrists ached.
"I don’t like this place." Ren mumbled into Jakes back. Jake had paused in the doorway to survey the layout. The library was small for a building of it's kind, but it seemed cavernous. Most libraries do. Three stories - including a basement - with high windows, and racks upon racks of books. The front desk was a huge circle - stacked wiht new computers that didn't seam to fit the mood of the library. The tecknology was too out of place - unnecessary, it seemed.
Ren loved the smell of books - of words and knowlage. But this place – something chilled him.
"Jake. Jake, I don't-" Ren started. Jake's head nodded, the movement sharp.
"Just shut up and follow me." And Jake transformed.
Ren had seen it before, but never this drastic. Jake had changed when Shelly talked to him - when he paid for gass or asked for a room - when Jake needed something from someone. He became softer in the face - kinder and more open. He became fake.
The girl at the front desk turend, her hands pointing to a large book on the top of the counter. Her eyes stayed on the computer, her back to them. "Sign in please. I'll be with you in a moment."
Jake paused, his smile wavering. Jake took up the pen and jotted down a name - and one for Ren as well. Ren kept his mouth shut.
"We're writers," Jake continued anyway, a hitch of an accent i his voice, a thin one Ren hadn't noticed before. It made Ren blink for a moment. "We're traviling 'round, pulling a book together. See, it's about haunting, and I was..."
Ren ducked behind a stack of books and let his hands travil over their spines. The place was quiet - the sound of pages truing and people absorbing information loud in his ears. A homey scilence. Ren followed the line of his stack toward the back - where an clearing of tables and chares had been made. There was so much light in this place. Ren examned the windows and the way the library seamed larger the further you wnet back. Ren let his hands trail over a small carving on one of the shelves and smiled just a little softer. He looked down the stacks and was setting up a floor plan in his head when Jake stepped out of a little hallway made by the racks and waved him over.
"So, I'm going to talk to the manager and ask of we can stay the night - for obsevation, first hand. You -" Jake took his pack from Ren's sholder and sliped over one of his own. " - get to look around a bit. Heat toward the north side, where the night camera's are, and look around. Check for any moving cold spots, and see if you can find anything missing, or wrong – and ill-fitting panting, clean spots on the floor where a desk could have been - "
"-bookcases that spin around to reveil a hidden passageway when I pull a set of candalabra's? Jake, I’ve done this before."
Jake stared at the younger man with no humor in his eyes and any of the fake humor winking out. Ren felt his hands go cold. Jake turned without a word and headed toward the second story stare case.
Brilliant Ren, just brilliant. Piss him off even more, why don’t you?
Ren moved off toward the north side of the library. The video camera that cought movemnt the night before was positioned 8 feet off the ground, hanging upside down from the second story landing. Ren watched the camera for a second, than started inspecting the floor.
Jake found him an hour later. Ren was sitting on the floor, a pile of books around him. Jake didn't say anything at first. Boiling anger made it hard for him to breath. A frustration that made Jake hate the stupid, blind kid that was following him around.
"Dumbass." Jake bit, his voice a harsh wisper. Ren looked up slowely, eyebrows raised. There was a uneasy, angry smile on Jake's face. "Why the fuck are you sitting around reading books when there's a polterghist wondering around? I told you to look for shit-"
"Dude, chill." Ren stood, carefully - book in hand. He handed it, cover open, toward Jake - who didn't take it. Ren hadn't expected him to. "I did find something. I was looking for a revolving bookcase when i noticed this. All the books in this area are histroy books, and all of them have this stamp on the inside. The top one. To the right."
Jakes eyes slowly moved from Ren's face to the book. "'s just numbers."
"They're Liberian’s codes. They state the date the book was take in, the date it was processed, and who did it. All of these books have the same last three numbers. 117. They were all porcessed by the same person, who - i'm thinking - is our Lady."
Jake looked up from the book to stare at Ren for a nother minuet. Then, letting a small sigh escape, Jake relaxed a little and turend to look around him.
"Excuse me-" Said a voice behind them. Both boys jumped and turned - Jake touching the gun just inside his jacket. A smaller libriain - and certanly younger, actractive one - was smileing at them. "But if you're planing on checking any of these books out, you can't. Unles you're willing to buy them."
"Buy them?" Ren said.
She nodded carefully. "Yes, we're selling all of these books and we're expanding our children's center and fiction. The history books here are too old – no one reads them anymore. We dont have enough room in the basement to store them."
"Oh?" Jake said, smile on his face. "Well thank you for letting us know."
The Liberian nodded and moved of, contented. Jake turned back to Ren. "Well, that explains the activity. All we have to do is the exorcism…"
Ren's eyebrows furrowed. "....yeah, I guess."
"We have permission to stay the night. Seams that people do this often." Jake said, moving off toward the exit. "We can come back at 9, when they close. Lets go eat."
They ate at Denny's. Ren was laughing the whole time.
"What?" Jake snapped. Ren sipped his coke and shook his head..
"You always eat at Denny's?"
Jake didn't talk for the rest of the meal.
The Liberian from the morning's desk was waiting for them.
"I'll lock you in." She said, jacket bundled tight. The air was getting a little warmer, but not warm enough to be concidered spring. Ren was staring at the building - by night, this place made him feel horid. Jake smiled - his fake-ish look, and thanked her.
Ren kept his mouth shut. With a steady click, they were committed for the night."Well," Jake said carefully, charm falling away like a coat. "Let's do this."
To Part 2