A/N - I changed the titles concerning the "parts" bit of it since I always considered the two chapters before this to be together as well as the chapter that comes after this one. One day I'll find a good title.
Please tell me if the story is dragging on because I personally feel it is.
Maria marched through the library’s shelves the same way a knight approaches the slumbering dragon threatening his home. Wenton skittered out of the kitchen behind her, dumping the red drenched handkerchief he had held to his nose in the sink as he left; his nose seemingly recovered somewhat from its bashing with the front door.
“Maria,” he shouted.
She turned and eyed with a tight-lipped accompaniment. Golden eyebrows raised as a means of an answer.
Wenton rubbed the back of his neck and looked to where Cody had casually sidled up beside him, smiling innocently. He mentally cursed the small child for the ninth time since he had met him barely a quarter of an hour before.
“The bomb,” he began, glancing down at the device on his wrist, “It’s in the library.”
“Yes, we know that,” said Maria.
Wenton started walking slowly towards her, gaze still attached to the device. “But you don’t know where it is.”
“Well, do you?”
“Yeah, what does the magic watch say?” asked Cody, popping up to peer at the device’s screen
Wenton glowered and moved his arm out of reach of the hopping boy. “It says, that it should be about nine meters that way,” he pointed vaguely into the maze of shelves. “and then about half a meter under the floor.”
“George Eliot then,” she said and walked further amongst the shelves, her coat’s mattress silhouette illuminated by the warm glow of iridescent lamps hanging like streetlights from the shelves.
“George Eliot?” Wenton hurried his pace to keep in step with her.
Maria allowed her concrete gave to graze over his bewildered expression before loosening slightly, a smile unwinding itself across her features, “I grew up in this building. I’ve taken every step, mapped every niche, there’s not a page in here I haven’t turned. So, follow your watch, or follow me, it doesn’t matter; the end result will be the same.”
“So, you’ve read everything in this place,” a gasp of awe echoed from where Cody skipped behind them, “does that make you a poet or something?”
Maria shrugged, “a poet? That would be nice. I’m not really anything, I just read books and that’s all.”
The ‘watch’ buzzed and flashed the repeated warning of their imminent danger causing Wenton to tap at it. His eyes had not moved from its screen the whole time they had walked, he had never been the best at talking. Not that he cared, even the slightest. Having people clinging to you had always felt so restraining and he liked to stretch his legs without having to wait for anyone to catch up. Listening was all he had ever needed to content himself.
The device buzzed again, and Maria glanced at it. “you seem to have a very interesting watch, Mr. Wenton, but I must express I am more interested in the person wearing it.”
Wenton clamped a hand over his wrist, covering the devices screen, and let his eyes skit about the floor for any clue of how a deadly explosive had situated itself under the faded wood. They didn’t have time for this. “My readings show that we should be standing over the explosive any moment.”
“That’s all well and good but you misunderstand,” Maria persisted, unfazed. “I’m asking you a very simple question which I am curious to what the answer is; who are you?”
These questions. When people met him, why did they always go for these sorts of questions? Who are you? Where do you come from? Why couldn’t they ever just ask about his favourite colour? Surely, they had bigger problems on their hands other than wondering who this other person who inhabited the same planet as them was.
“Is finding bombs your hobby?” asked Cody brightly, joining in on the interrogation. “Are you like an adventure or something? Maybe a spy like James Bond, and that’s why you have your high-techy watch thingamajig.”
“A dashing secret agent,” said Maria, her voice taking on a fanciful trill, “defusing bombs and battling devious supervillains at every turn. Living the life of adventure with a young maiden or youth on each arm.”
Wenton stopped and turned to laden the two with a stare that pulled silence other them like a cloak. “Don’t worry yourselves thinking about who I am,” he said dryly, “it doesn’t matter.”
Maria grimaced and twirled past him as elegantly as she could in her mattress coat. “You’re the one who claims he can disarm the bomb, I think I should know something about this hero who is saying he can save my library.”
“Yeah, Mr. Grumpy grump,” said Cody, skipping past him, “and if you are a spy, we won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
Wenton shook his head and felt a tolling sense of exasperation begin to pound inside his skull. His pace quickened, his mouth felt dry. Their voices clouded about him, attacking his mind, blinding his sight as he tried to navigate through the twisted corners and curves of this bloody library. This was wrong. He had been in this situation a hundred times before, but it had never been like this.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Couldn’t they hear it? They’d always heard it in the past, never the sound exactly, but the change in the air. That specific shift that put an animal’s fright in control.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
That deadly beat that your heart grew in sync with.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
“How are you both not panicking?” He stopped in the middle of the aisle, his eyes flashing over them. Someone had to set the tone of this right.
“We’re hunting a bomb, an explosive, something that gives a big kaboom and blows everything to bits. You should be a shivering heap on the floor, not asking who the hell I am.” The device on Wenton’s wrist chose that moment to give a buzzing beep. He almost smiled at this coincidental sound that added emphasis to his argument, falling in love with this invention of his all over again. “Should I remind you what we’re trying to do, or would you prefer the giant inferno that could engulf us at any minute to do that itself?”
“It won’t be any minute,” said Maria, commanding a tone like a school principal explaining the perfectly logical reason for why you weren’t allowed to tread on the school’s lawns. “It’s not his style.”
Walking up to a shelf, she took down a book and began paging through it. Turning to lean against the chocolate wood of the bookshelf as she awaited Wenton’s reply.
“Style?” Wenton exploded, “Since when did maniacs have style?”
She looked up and studied him in surprise, “Well, he does tend to blow things up at midnight most often. I’ve always suspected it’s because he thinks it’s more dramatic.”
“It sounds like you know the guy is.”
Wenton swung his head in great unsteady arcs. She was crazy. Madder than this maniac. They were probably friends considering it all.
No; that was wrong, it had to be. She wasn’t, couldn’t be crazy.
This world was wrong.
A thought struck him and dragged him attention again to tapping away frantically at the screen of the device on his wrist. Snapping the book closed, Maria pushed off from the bookcase she’d been leaning against and moved step by step slowly towards him as his attention became immersed in the data projected by his ‘watch’.
“If I may reiterate my question from before,” she said, her expression lost as if she was walking through the dark instead of the soft luminescence of the library, “who are you?”
“I move about a lot,” said Wenton, “so it gets hard trying to remember what’s going on everywhere else all the time.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“It wasn’t meant to.”
Maria shoved the book she had been holding into his hands, dislodging his attention from the devices screen. “You can at least do what you said you’d do.”