Jeremy spent what remained of his evening planning his route to the thesaurus. He wondered what would happen when the angry gentleman saw that his oppressor had returned to pry the book from his rebellious hands. He didn’t fancy his chances of getting the book back.
"Hello, Mr. Smith. I’ve come for the book." He practised his introduction. "Hello, Mr. Smith. I’m Jeremy from the Library. I’ve come for the thesaurus. Hmmm. Please hand over the thesaurus. Hey, you got a lota moxy keepin our thesaurus like dis, so I’ma break your knee caps, outa respect. Probably shouldn’t threaten him."
He lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep. The events of the evening were running through his head over and over. Jeremy couldn’t believe how strong Carol must be to take down two men like that. She looked almost twice his age. He supposed that that explained her stature. He was also worrying about meeting Mr. Smith tomorrow. Chatting with friends was hard enough, but confronting someone who was likely to try to cause him problems left him feeling paralysed. He really wished Fiona could take his place. He felt like such a coward. If Carol could take on assailants, he was sure he should be able to manage an old man too weak to carry a book.
The night seemed to drag endlessly, as Jeremy tried and failed to get some sleep. He wondered how Carol slept. With one eye open, perhaps? Had this sort of thing happened before? Is that why Carol was a martial arts expert? Maybe she’d always been a fan. Fiona seemed to take it in her stride, but that was Fiona’s way. Nothing seemed to phase her. It was a little uncanny at times. Sometimes Jeremy wasn’t sure if Fiona was entirely aware of the real world. Or maybe it was that she couldn’t tell what was real from what was imaginary. It made her a great story teller, though. He loved to listen to her reading to the kids, or recounting tales of her own imaginings.
Jeremy awoke to the shriek of his alarm. He must have fallen alseep. He had no idea how long for, but it was better than nothing. The thought that he might have had a good night’s sleep excited him so much he was up and out of bed before he remembered that he had to visit a library patron. Well, he supposed, no going back now. He made his way to the kitchen for the start of his morning routine.
After getting dressed, he sat on the sofa and went through the route to the customer’s house. He didn’t have long until he had to leave. The amount of traffic between here and his destination would be terrible at this time of day. It didn’t help that his windscreen would be frosted over again. He faffed about the flat, procrastinating, until the fear of being late overpowered the fear of confronting the man.
Once in the car and ready to go, he put some music on to calm his nerves. As every moment passed he became increasingly more anxious. This did not help his driving demeanour. Even the smallest inconvenience set his temper off.
"Deep breaths," he told himself. "Everyone makes mistakes, just let it go." It didn’t help.
Once on the open road he started to calm down. Fewer cars and fewer pedestrians meant there was less to clutter his mind and distract him from driving safely. Despite the cold, it was a bright day outside. Jeremy felt the sunshine on his face cheer him up a bit. His CD ran out, so he drove on in silence for the rest of the journey.
Pulling up at his destination Jeremy sat for a few minutes and calmed himself. He was a little early, which was good. It gave him time to compose himself before the confrontation, although it also gave him time to psyche himself out, dwelling on the feeling of how wrong it could go. He looked at the house. It was in the middle of nowhere, essentially. On a main road between two towns. He wondered how the old man coped being so isolated. "I guess I’ll find out in a minute." He said to himself. He left his car and walked up the path to the front door. He knocked and waited.
The door opened and a woman appeared. "Hello," she said.
"Hi, I’m Jeremy from the library. I think Mr. Smith is expecting me? I’m here to collect a copy of Roget’s thesaurus he has on loan from us."
"Oh," she looked at him blankly. "I’ll see if he’s about." She closed the door, leaving Jeremy out in the cold.
A few minutes passed. Jeremy started jumping up and down on the spot, trying to keep the cold out. He started to get suspicious that noöne was coming back. He considered knocking again. He put his ear to the door to see if he could hear anything happening. He waited a few minutes more. It felt an eternity in the cold. Just as he raised his hand to knock, the latch went and the man from yesterday was stood before him.
"Oh," his voice less than pleased. "She sent you. Well, it can’t be helped. Sorry to keep you waiting." He handed the book over to Jeremy and closed the door.
Jeremy stood at the door, not entirely sure what to make of the whole thing. He thought about knocking again, to try and get the money for the fine, but thought it would just cause him to get hypothermia. One pound twenty wasn’t worth it. He made his way back down the path to his car.
He sat in the driver’s seat and switched the engine on, and then the heaters, to warm himself up so he could drive to the library.
"Wait a minute," he said aloud. "He handed me the book. I thought he couldn’t carry the thing."
To be sure, the tome was a hefty volume, but it wouldn’t prevent you from carrying it to the library. As he weighed it in his hands, trying to understand the motivations of the crotchety old man, something fell out of the book.
"Great," he thought. "Now I’ll have to go back into the cold."
He picked up the piece of paper to find it was an envelope. He turned it over so he could see the name on the front. It was addressed to Carol.
"This just gets weirder," he said to himself.
He put the envelope back into the thesaurus and drove off towards the library.
It was early afternoon by the time he got there. The building was bustling with visitors, combing the shelves for a good read.
"Hello, Jer!" said a happy Fiona. "Glad to see you’ve made it. He wasn’t too moody, I hope?"
"Nah. He barely said two words to me. I got the book, though." He smiled at her. "Is Carol in her office?"
"Yeah, as always."
Jeremy walked to Carol’s office, carrying the book. He knocked on the door.
"Come in," Carol’s voice came from within.
"Hi," said Jeremy on entering. "The old man put this envelope inside the book, in some sort of half-arsed, clandestine manner. I don’t know how you’d have found it if it hadn’t fallen out." He held out the envelope.
Carol took it. "How peculiar," she smiled at Jeremy. "Thanks for your help. As I said, you can take the rest of the day off."
"Thanks, I’ll see you tomorrow."
On his way through the carpark Jeremy saw the two ruffians from the night before.
"Hey! You two!" He shouted at them. "You looking for another arse kicking? Clear off."
He suddenly realised how much of a bad idea this could be. He should have just left well alone. The thugs turned to look at Jeremy. He froze to the spot. They started to walk towards him. He noted how well dressed they were. It seemed odd for vandals to be dressed in suits. Maybe they just wanted a chat. Perhaps they were reasonable people. But then, reasonable people don’t try to break into libraries. Jeremy was starting to panic.
"Were you talking to us?" The taller of the two thugs addressed him. His accent sounded like it had just stepped out of Canary Wharf.
"Y- You’re the two that were here last night. I recognise you."
"I think you have us mistaken for two other people. We’re just waiting for our families."
The fear made doubts cloud Jeremy’s mind. Thugs don’t dress like this. Thugs don’t speak like this.
"I- I- I’m sorry. You’re right, you just look incredibly similar."
The thugs smiled and walked back to where they were. Jeremy continued to his car. His anxiety slowly subsided as he put the key in the lock. How silly, his imagination must be playing tricks on him after all the weirdness of the last two nights. He felt a sharp pain just before blacking out.