The Chicago Library is not an impressive building, really, it looks more a prison. A squat rectangular stone structure surrounded by a fence in poor condition. It’s probably seen better days but it’s still operating and employs people. Like Ian Owenshire, who happens to have pulled the closing shift today.
It’s getting late in the day, the sun is starting to dip below the horizon and shadows reach out over the street and up those stone walls. It’s into this building that a tall, blonde woman, enters. She’s relatively well dressed and carries herself with confidence but she looks … slightly out of place in such a setting.
She pauses, somewhere near the front desk, head swiveling this way and that like she’s looking for someone. There’s a few patrons left in the library, but none of the ones she can see seem to be who she is looking for.
That Ian is stuck with the closing shift is really nothing new. He didn’t particularly mind, either, which is why when most of the staff were fighting for vacation rights for the week, Ian was more or less counted on to be available after Christmas.
He’d gotten back a little earlier, if only due to the slight delay because of events that had happened up in Bridgeport, but now back in familiar territory, he’s more or less esconced himself at his desk, or he would have if it hadn’t been nearly transformed into a book fortress for the piles that had somehow grown between when he’d come in this morning and now.
Getting books put back into the system had taken up much of his time once he’d come back, and he half regrets not getting coffee after all, but he’s gotten through half of the pile and sorted things, and it’s from putting a smaller pile of those back on the shelves that he returns to the front desk, another book in hand that he’d found haphazardly set in the wrong place. Pet peeves.
He looks up as he notices the woman who’s entered, brow arching as he takes his place behind the desk and sets the offending book aside for the moment. “May I help you?” he asks in acceptable library volume, smiling politely.
A couple of seconds behind the blonde a man in his late 30’s dressed in a sharp looking business suit enters the library. “Miss Krell.” He says quietly.
Well, you know, it is a library after all. “I thought I might find you here. Have you had time to consider our latest request?”
He doesn’t look like the kind of person who regularly has library business unless he’s from the City. But hey, it takes all types. Everyone reads… right?
“Oh, you must be Mister Owenshire. I’m Abigail Krell.” That’s a name Ian has heard even if he’s not met the woman before. She’s one of the other librarians here, working alternate shifts to Ian so their paths never really cross. She’s not been here long either. “I … ” she clears her throat but before she continues the man walks in and addresses her.
Ian gets an apologetic look, but he might liken it to more like a rabbit caught in headlights, as she turns “Mister Vincenti. I said I would be in touch… ” she starts “… but uh, no, no I haven’t. There’s a lot to consider and …” another look to Ian that looks anything but comfortable.
The name does ring a bell and it shows on his face, a very subtle change from library patron mode to book colleague measured in degrees. “Miss Krell,” he says, although his own voice is overlapped by another’s then. Ian looks past her towards the man who’s entered, but not before he catches the look on her face, the briefest flicker of inquiry coloring his own expression.
The man, Mister Vincenti, is neither someone he’s familiar by appearance nor name, but he has a good look at him while he maintains professional politeness. The look that Abigail gives him as she stammers over a response sends off warnings in his head.
“-ah, I’m sorry if I’m interrupting? But I was told to expect someone to help with some last minute things, and we are very near to closing, sir.” He inclines his head towards the stacks of books yet occupying a side of the desk. “Things do pile up this time of the year. Miss Krell, if you would?”
“Oh of course.” The man says, glancing toward the stacks. “I’ll just make my selections, then, shall I? I’ll be back in a few moments, Miss Krell.” And with that the suited man wanders into the stacks. He seems like the type who will indeed be back in a few moments but the two librarians have some time now.
Krell seems to relax a bit as Ian speaks. “You aren’t interrupting Mister Owenshire. I hadn’t expected to see Mister Vincenti, here.” she murmurs watching the suited man walk away.
“He ahhhh…” she says quietly, moving to start stacking some of the books behind the counter, making herself look busy. “Has … an offer that he wants to me consider.” she casts a glance towards the suited man. “… and I’ve been rather remiss in responding to him because I don’t think I can do all that he’s asking. I actually came in to speak to you about it… ”
Nodding at Vincenti, Ian looks back towards the woman once the other’s gone off. He starts to take some of the books from the pile as Krell starts to speak up again, glancing at her with the arch of a brow then.
“Me? But…why would you want to speak to me about it when we’ve just met?” he asks, stealing a quick look over his shoulder just to make sure that Vincenti is still out of sight. “What’s this offer about?” he asks, keeping his tone hushed between them as he reaches for another handful of books.
“It’s simple really…” Krell answers, looking back to where Vincenti is. “… it’s a mobile library to cover some of the less safer areas. He wants me to pack up boxes of books that I think would suit a particular age group, he’ll collect them and then return them a week later, when the next package is ready to go.”
It sounds legit, if strange. But then, the library has a number of benefactors who do similar things – just in more affluent areas.
“My problem is that I’m not always here for the collection and I need someone else to work with.” She looks up at Vincenti, who’s not too far away “Did you find what you were looking for, Sir?”
“Ah… there we go.” All too soon… he’s back. He’s got two books. Crime and Punishment and War and Peace. Clearly he’s a fan of Russian classics. Which makes him a terrible, depressing man, really.
“So, about those donations. We they’re very important to our VP and he really wants to scale up the program.” VP. Ah. Corporate. They’re always looking for ways to improve their image.
He sets the books slowly into place as he processes that. With everything going on, it’s difficult not to think that there are too many coincidences with that sort of set up. And if it might be related, well, it’s quite the idea set up, which makes his stomach turn. Instead, Ian nods thoughtfully as he straightens to move the next small stack of books.
“That’s a good idea. If people are unable to come to the library, the library can come to them, right? When are the collection times? It’s…almost a guarantee that I can be around, really,” he admits, shrugging as he chuckles almost sheepishly.
He looks over as Vincenti returns, setting the books he’d had into place before stepping over to the counter. “Classics,” he says, smiling briefly as he nods at the selections. “Your card, sir?” He waits to be handed both card and books so he can go through the check-out process while Vincenti goes on.
“We’ll be happy to help as we can. It’s the end of the year and we’ve already begun to sort through books that might need to be retired from the shelves as we usually do.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Krell says, smiling faintly at Ian as they work. “Good choices, Mister Vincenti. Many hours of good reading there. I was just explaining to Mister Owenshire what you were proposing.”
Still stacking the books as Vincenti hands over his card. “Collection times will be Tuesday evenings every other week and Saturday mornings on the alternate ones.”
Guilermo Vincenti. That’s the name on the card. “Ah. I’m so glad to hear it.” The man literally beams at Ian, turning on the charm so to speak. “My VP will be so pleased. Now, did Miss Krell tell you we want to store them here and rotate them on a weekly basis? Keep stocks fresh and all that.”
Committing the name to memory, Ian casually scans in the card and after returning it, scans the books in. He can always pull up the information attached to the card on the computer afterwards, at least.
“Tuesdays and Saturdays, alternating,” he says with a nod as he demagnetizes the books and sets them back on the counter for Vincenti to take. “She hadn’t gotten to that part, but if you’d be so kind as to explain anything more specific as to storage and rotation, then I’ll try to make sure we have that properly done.”
There might be footage of Vincenti on the Library surveillance system as well, if Ian wanted to do some digging.
“Of course. We’re still working out the rotation ourselves.” The man smiles again. It might be a little … oily. “But we’ve several neighborhoods to cover so, we’d like you to have one box ready on the Saturday morning. When that’s picked up, our person will return one to swap. That box, the one that is returned is to go to the Tuesday group. So you see, you’ll only ever have to prepare one box at a time. As to what goes in them, I’m happy to leave that to you and Miss Krell. There’s a broad assortment out there in the Sprawl and all of them deserve a chance to read, don’t you think?”
At least lingering late after hours wouldn’t be anything terribly unusual for one Ian Owenshire…
“Ah, I see,” he replies pleasantly enough, a believable smile to go with it, the sort drilled into you after having to work in direct customer service of some kind or another for so long. Which, if recognized, further underlines that all a person wants to do is their job, get it done and go home for the day. But sometimes people do love their jobs too, and Ian likes to believe he’s somewhere in the middle. “Oh, but I completely agree. Not enough people read these days, if you ask me,” he says, chuckling. Ian does like his realm of books.
“So you don’t want us to inventory the boxes received for return?” he asks, gesturing loosely with his hands as he speaks. “Check counts, damages, that sort of thing?”
“I thought you might agree.” Vincenti chuckles, tucking his library card away. “It was a singular pleasure of mine as a child and I’m glad to be able to share it with others.” He’s smooth, even if his smile looks like you fry fish for a week.
“No, no. We appreciate the work involved in getting one box together and wouldn’t importune you further. In fact…” he looks to Krell, the smile sharpening “… we’re offering a bonus for assisting with the work.”
The library is the last place Ian would have thought to encounter someone like this. Vincenti would be a dangerous door-to-door salesman…or an insurance broker.
Ian nods, keeping up his smile, close-mouthed and patiently polite. “Very well. Less for us to worry about, at least,” he says, his lips quirking slightly. Both brows lift at that not-quite aside and the smile that’s become increasingly distrustful. Ian counters with the oblivious card. “You’re all too kind. I’ll assume that this program’s already been approved by the higher-ups and such?”
“Oh, of course!” Vincenti just keeps on smile. It’s like he’s got his foot stuck in the door. “All approved and above board and all that. As I said, my VP is very keen to expand our program.” Krell pipes up then “Oh, yes. If you speak to Missus Renfrew, you’ll find it’s been approved for months.”
Renfrew is the middle management. Would they give him a direct lie or has the woman approved it? Ian can find out, can’t he?
“Well then, if there’s nothing else, I’ll take my books and return home to read them.” Vincenti holds out a hand to Ian and when that’s done he collects his books and heads out the door. Not another word for Krell, who looks at the stack of books Ian has “Let me help you put those away.”
With his paranoia at an all-time high, Ian doesn’t know who he can trust in the library anymore. For all he knows, Krell might be setting him up. Still, it’s a name that he files away in his mental catalog with a nod. He’ll have to check Renfrew’s involvement somehow.
“Oh yes, of course,” Ian replies as he reaches over to shake the man’s hand before he goes. “Please, enjoy,” he says, watching as Vincenti exits before he turns to Krell. “Ah, thank you. You don’t have to.”
A fellow librarian, a greasy businessman and an innocent enough proposition. Considering recent revelations, Ian treads carefully.
December 28, 2050
Chicago Public Library - Ashburn Branch, Far Southwest Side
Abigail Krell, Guilermo Vincenti