Sarah sighed. All the new books were gone already. She’d known Jack was going to make her late. The Blackpool Library was a small, very busy library, and if you didn’t get there early on Tuesday when the new books came out, you were out of luck. She glanced over into the reading area, where Mrs. Jakes was chuckling over the new Evanovich, her blond head bouncing; then wandered into the mystery section. Maybe there was something she’d missed.
“Well, hello Sarah,” Mrs. Bigley looked up from her cart and smiled. As usual, the librarian’s gilt hair was sliding from her long braid and she reached up to tuck it behind an ear. “You’re running a bit late today, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Sarah grumped. “I had to get Jake to work, and that boy just can’t be anywhere on time. Anything good left?”
“Weeel, I think most of the new ones are taken. Did you have your name on the list for anything?”
“No, I thought I’d just wait and see what I was in the mood for.”
“I’d say Jake is lucky to have you for a big sister,” Mrs. Bigley said commiseratingly. “He certainly has grown into a fine young man, hasn’t he? Just like your father.”
“Hmmm,” Sarah muttered noncommittally. “I guess I’ll go into mystery and see if I see anything good. Put me down for #17 when Mrs. Jakes finishes it, please. I know how fast she reads.”
Failing to find anything good in the Mystery section, Sarah moved further back into the library. She also struck out in Romance, where sometimes she could find a good thriller that wasn’t too mushy. Ignoring Sci-Fi, she decided to try Fiction—maybe there was a Joseph Finder or Greg Iles she’d missed. Pushing back her own long hair, Sarah scanned the shelves.
Sadly, Sarah found that she had read all her favorite authors—the downside of living in a small town with a small library. Some of her friends read books on their laptops, but Sarah loved the feel, the smell, the look of books. She loved older books, with their individual typeset and unique cover art. So many of the new books copied the “look” of the art of other books in their genre. She supposed that attracted people to the type of books they liked, but Sarah thought to herself that it was just a marketing cop-out.
Sarah continued to search the alphabet, looking for anything interesting. She lingered in the Bourne series before deciding to move on. In the ‘W’s, she saw a small book that looked like it had lived on the shelf forever. She looked at the burgundy cloth spine more closely: Winter Kill, by Wendall White.
She reached out her hand to pick the slender book up, then stopped as a chill traced down her back. Sarah looked around, searching for a draft. She realized that this far back in the stacks, it was almost as if she was alone in the library. Looking around a corner, she could barely see Mrs. Bigley’s plump form as she shelved her cart. Shaking off her feeling, Sarah took the book off the shelf. Her anticipation swiftly fled as she realized it was, indeed, a book about winter kill. Specifically, a particularly rough winter in a small town in Alaska, and the fate of its populace, according to the description on the inner cover. Sarah tried to put the book back, but it was a tight fit. Finally, she got it shoved back in.
Disappointed, she turned to go back up front. Reluctantly thinking that maybe she should get some books online, she heard a soft “snick”. Turning around, she was amazed to see a door open in the gap between the two bookshelves on the back wall. Stepping forward to peer in the dark space, she saw a light switch. Reaching in to flip it, she saw a long line of old-fashioned hanging light bulbs illuminate a long hallway. They were swaying slightly in the draft created by the door opening. The hall slanted downward, and she was unable to see anything at the end. Curiosity took hold of her and, unable to resist, she stepped in the hall. As she took her first step past the doorway, the door swung shut behind her. Sarah spun as she inhaled sharply. She faced a blank door. Searching the walls, she could find no lever to open the door.