"No," Adric yelled sadly, twirling one of his bow ties. "One of the local kids was burying a cat out in the garden - don't ask - and he found a big wedge of Mayan gold. At first we thought it was a hoax by some of the older boys – ” he gestured towards a row of computers where a line of older teenage boys sat in silence checking their social networking sites and hatching plots.
“– they need to get jobs like – but the council was interested enough by the prospect of money to get some professor down here to check it out... The kid was pretty annoyed, as it turns out it's real, authentic and very very old."
"Mayan gold, though," Bracken said, incredulous and slow. "As in the ancient civilisation in south America?"
"That's the one." Adric confirmed squeakily, putting up some shelves as he did so.
"But how did it get here? Under a library in Edinburgh? It doesn't make any sense."
"Oh Bracken," Adric said paternally, placing an assortment of library related knick knacks on the aforementioned shelves, "you said it yourself. The Mayans were an ancient civilisation. This building has only been here since the mid seventies. I know that seems ages to a young snip of a girl like you, with your flighty fancies and frippery doodads. But it's really not that long in the grand scheme of things. You'll start to see that as you get older."
"No," she said patiently, "I mean physically how did this gold get from South America to Scotland? Who went to all the trouble of removing what was probably a cursed treasure - they usually are, at any rate - sailing back here, and burying it in the Scottish countryside, never for them to lay eyes on again?"
"I would have thought that was pretty obvious," Adric said, "it must have been pirates. They love nicking shiny stuff and burying it."
"That's a myth propagated by Treasure Island," Bracken informed him wearily, "you might just as well say a dragon did it."
"Don't be silly," Adric said dismissively, "you don't get dragons this far north. They hail from Wales. Must’ve been pirates. With big hats, and peg legs, and hooks for eyes. No, wait. Hands. That’s right, isn’t it? Like in Peter Piper. I mean Pan."
"So what will happen to your jobs then," Esmerelda asked, when the flow of nonsense seemed to have come to a natural end, "what with the economic climate how it is? The Edinburgh Evening News says the council are firing people at a rate of lots."
"Knots," Aloysius corrected automatically.
"The phrase is at a rate of knots," he said, "it's a seafaring term."
“I know,” Esmeralda pouted, irritated at her amateurish mistake, “I was just making a joke. God, Al. Way to make me sound like an idiot.”
"We'll probably be offered the chance to go to different branches," Adric explained, blissfully unaware of the tension in the room. Bracken noticed it though, and a flicker of hope twangled in her tummy like a rowdy gerbil.
"Or if we refuse, a minuscule pay out. I'll probably go to another branch, myself. Maybe in the Maldives, haha. Only kidding. The council doesn’t run any libraries in the Maldives. Not any that are legal and above board, at least."
"Actually, I was wondering about volunteering in a Romanian orphanage," said Aloysius, to the evident surprise and chagrin of his alleged girlfriend.
Bracken noticed that their body language was very distant as well. Could it be that Esmeralda had lied to her that night at the hospital?
"Where did that come from, all of a sudden," Esmeralda was asking through gritted teeth.
"I just think that maybe it's time to do something different," he said, "something to help other people rather than worrying about myself all of the time."
Esmeralda looked genuinely blank. This was a concept that was alien to her. Because she was secretly mean.
"And anyway," he continued, shooting a sneaky look at Bracken under his lovely (in a butch way) eyelashes, "there's not really anything for me here."
"Ally-poos," came the tinkling voice of Nigella in full slap, "how can you say that? After last night?"
She emerged from the staff room brandishing two cups of tea, and gave one to Al with a lingering look.
"What happened last night?" asked Bracken and Esmeralda in unison.
"It's always the quiet ones," remarked Adric, pulling a custard cream out of his shirt pocket and munching cheerfully.
"Nothing happened last night," Aloysius said quickly. "I just walked her home, that's all."
Knowing how honest he was, Esmeralda was inclined to believe him.
Knowing what a fantasist Nige was, Bracken tended to agree. And yet there was something not quite right about his demeanour, or her snake eyed look of triumph.
"Well, that was pretty much the most boring revelation ever," Adric said, scanning through a bunch of graphic novels for comic book guy and stamping eight of them due back on the 41st of April 2026 before realising it had been tampered with.
"You know me," said comic book guy, "I'll have them back within the week anyway!". He laughed, implying that this had been a joke of some kind.
Adric, who had never seen comic book guy in his life, was confused.
He overcompensated by laughing uproariously and shouting, "yep, that sounds like you."
"Maybe it's not such a bad thing we have to close," he said sadly after comic book guy hooded up and dashed out into the rain, "I don't know the customers anymore anyway."
"You know me," Bracken pointed out.
"Yeah, but this is the first time you've been here in weeks. Where have you been? We've got a book in that you reserved, actually. That one about the woman who turns everything she touches into marine creatures."
"That the one with the moustachioed porpoise on the front?" Al asked, going to retrieve it.
"The very same."
"I don't have my card," she admitted regretfully, "sorry guys."
"That's alright," Al said, "we put your card number on the book when it comes in."
"Not just yours," Adric qualified, taking the book from him and typing her borrower number into the database. "It's standard procedure."
"Gosh," Esmeralda said sarcastically, "how fascinating. Nobody should live at this speed."
"Thanks," Bracken said quietly, examining the cover.
The moustachioed porpoise gazed back at her with the calm of the sea.
“Maroona Fusible was an ordinary, strikingly beautiful girl… Until the clock struck 12 on her eighteenth birthday,” began the blurb on the back in flowing silver calligraphy. “But then her family’s secret curse was unlocked, and strange things began to happen to the people she loved. Whenever she touched someone with whom she had a connection, they turned into citizens of the sea.”
“I think it’s meant to be some sort of strangled metaphor,” Bracken muttered, “wonder if it explains what for or whether I’ll have to try and work it out from context and the author’s background.”
“Well guys,” Nigella trilled, interrupting her train of though, “I’d better be going. People to do, places to see. Oh, what am I like.”
Bracken rolled her eyes.
“See you soon, Al,” Nige added sweetly, clopping away in her tallest pulling shoes.
“Break a leg,” Bracken wanted to shout after her, but she didn’t.
“I should go too actually,” she remembered, “the kids’ll be finishing soon.”
“No they won’t,” Adric asserted, “they’ve got an in-service day. Nobody in the school at all.”
“Oh,” Bracken said, “that’s why they’re all running about in here making a racket. I’m so used to them now I just tune them out, I thought it was quiet in here.”
“ADRIC,” shouted a chubby boy with mud all over his face, “WHEN AM AH GETTING MA GOLD BACK?”
“You’re not getting it,” Adric explained, evidently not for the first time. “It’s been taken away to go in a museum.”
“Should I not get a reward for finding it or suhin?” persisted the boy, picking his nose and wiping it disinterestedly on the counter.
“Well, in a perfect world maybe,” Adric admitted, “but nobody knew it was missing, so there isn’t really a reward going as such. You got your picture in the paper, though. That’s good, isn’t it?”
“NUT,” expostulated the boy, “ah’ve been in the paper like, about, a HUNDRED times. Like for ma golf and when we did that thing for Robbie Burns night and when my sister got married…”
“Ooooh,” Bracken said, recognizing the kid at last, “you’re Kelly’s wee brother aren’t you.”
“Aye,” he said.
“I was in school wi her.”
Adric shrugged apologetically.
“Well can I book on the playstation 3?” Enquired the boy.
“That depends,” Adric responded, “have you got your library card?”
“Ew nut,” the boy shrieked, “that’s pure geeky!”
He saw the look on Adric’s face.
“Eh, I mean, I lost it.”
Adric folded his arms.
“Dog ate it.”
A shake of the head.
“Ma wee sister accidentally on purpose flushed it down the toilet.”
“Your wee sister, aye,” Bracken interjected doubtfully.
“Ma wee brother.”
“You don’t have a wee sister or a wee brother,” Adric and Bracken chorused. Such was the benefit of living in a tiny community where everyone knew everyone. Through very different channels, both of them knew that Dillon Mackay (for this was his name) was the youngest of nine children.
“Just find someone who does have a card and play with them,” another kid suggested from the sidelines.
“I think I might go,” Bracken concluded, having glanced outside and noticed that the rain had stopped; “now that I’ve realized they’re here I’m going to end up shouting at them. They’re wee toe rags when they’re in here.”
“What, are they mild mannered and delightful when they’re outside?”
“No. You know what I mean. Youse’re good wi them, but I couldnae stand it.”
“You’d be surprised,” Al disagreed, reappearing from a Super Mario Brothers tournament in which he had been pwned by an eight year old girl. She was now doing a victory dance on the craft table as some other kids cheered her on.
“Well,” Adric told her, “don’t be a stranger, OK? We’re all rooting for you and hoping things work out with Nicky and the wee one.”
Bracken was genuinely touched by this unexpected display of kindness. Because her aunt and Nige and Jeremy Kyle had been so vocally against her, she hadn’t thought that anyone was on her side.
“Thanks,” she nodded, the lump in her throat threatening to swell up to kitten size. “I’ll see you when I bring this back –” she waved the porpoise book – “if not before.”
“You take care,” he smiled.
Which was ironic really, because as soon as she stepped outside, she was grabbed from behind, a gloved hand went over her mouth, and she was bundled into the back of a car by a man (or a female bodybuilder like on Louis Theroux) in a balaclava.
“What the-” was all she got out before everything went black.