Emery would later say he lost track of time. He was engrossed in the book he was reading; the research he was doing in semi-magic and off-magic. It didn’t actually matter how he’d managed to stay in the library after hours. All that mattered was that when he finally became aware that he was the only person in the building, it was dark as pitch outside and the doors were all locked.

He packed up his papers and books and headed for the doors anyway. They were locked, as he had known they would be. There was no way for him to leave. With a heavy sigh, Emery returned to the reading room he’d been in.

He expected that he would be spending the night. No one knew where he was so no one would come to the library looking for him. Thus it was, a sound that wasn’t the building settling or cause by him startled him. He set his book bag aside and peered into the corridor. There was a solid thump, followed by creaking footsteps. Then hushed voices reached his ears.

“This is the only library that has any books on semi-magic,” one said.

“Some of the books we need are owned by private citizens but this is easier than dealing with them. There would be more questions if we broke into a house. Here, no one will know we’ve been until were gone,” came a reply.

Emery looked around the shelves of the reading room. The burglars were researching the same topic as he was. They would be at this room any time now. He grabbed his bag and fled down the corridor, praying he could find a phone, or maybe an open exit.

He skidded around a corner just ahead of the speakers. He walked down the next corridor as quietly as he could manage, trying every door on his way by hoping for an office or other room with a phone. He finally found a room with a phone and darted inside. He winced as the hinges squeaked.

Hoping that the intruders in the library didn’t hear the door, Emery darted behind the desk that faced the door, taking the phone with him on the way. He picked up the earset and held it to his ear. “Operator,” he hissed into the mouthpiece. “Operator.”

“You’ll have to speak up, dearie. I can barely hear you,” she said.

Emery swallowed heavily and pitched his voice slightly higher. “I’m at the Metropolitan Library. There’s been a break in. I need you to get me the wardens.”

“Right away,” she said tensely. Moments later, the phone was ringing.

“Wardens Metro East, Corporal Franklin speaking. Is this in an emergency?” a familiar voice said over the line.

“Franklin, it’s me, Emery.” He heard a flurry of activity on the other end of the line but continued despite the interruption. “I’m locked in the Metro Library and people have broken in. I need back up. Crap… I hear someone out in the hall.”

“Don’t talk and keep still,” Franklin said. “Dispatch will send some officers out there. Hassett’s going too.”

“Hang in there, Em,” Hassett’s voice said. He’d obviously been listening on another line.

Emery sat tensely, hardly breathing as the door opened and the light from a lantern filled the small office. He closed his eyes, praying that the intruder didn’t find him.

There was a sudden crash of doors and the intruder’s lantern spun away. There were cries of, “Wardens!” and more crashing sounds. Emery sighed softly and peered around the edge of the desk. The intruder seemed to have fled. Then he remembered the phone still in his hand.

“The Wardens are here, Franklin. Thanks so much,” he said into the mouthpiece. He heard both Franklin and the operator breath sighs of relief and chuckled softly.

“Who’s there?” A firm voice said. “Come out with your hands up.”

Emery stood slowly and blinked at a stern-looking warden. “Emery Ballard, deputy investigator, Wardens Metro East,” he said. “I… um, called you.”

“Right, come along then. Did you see how many intruders there were?” the man said.

Emery shook his head and smiled sheepishly. He was glad now that he hadn’t changed out of his uniform, relying on the hooded overcoat he favored to hide his badge when he was off duty. “I heard two. I didn’t actually see any of them.”

“Well, come with me. Lieutenant Hassett is on his way,” the man said. Emery quietly followed the man to the front lobby of the library. As promised, Hassett was waiting when he arrived.

“Well, that’s enough excitement for one day,” the older man said. “Let me drive you home.” Emery nodded and bowed a thank you at the warden who’d escorted him. It was far past dark by this time and well past time that he should have been home.

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