“Mark, it can’t be the fae,” I argued, despite myself. “We’d have seen more. It would have been obvious earlier.”
Mark just shrugged. “Rach, half the bookshelf is missing and there aren’t that many creatures that are that sneaky.”
“Not that sneaky?” I asked, “Have you read Witchcraft and Brooms? Hobgoblins and Gnomes? Creatures of Smoke?”
“Gnomes and Hobgoblins are still fae, Rachael. In fact, every book on the fae is missing.”
I sighed. If he was right, then we were in trouble. The fae were tricky things and their goals were rarely obvious. If he was wrong… Then the book was probably missing off the shelf already, and I’d forgotten what it contained.
“Where is Amber now?” I demanded. Mark pointed out of the room.
“She was hiding in the bathroom last I checked. She may have been persuaded to come out by now, but you scared her pretty badly.”
“I am not evil,” I grumbled, “Come on, we need to go talk to her.”
“And ask what? ‘Hey Amber, are you under a glamour?’”
“Well, we need to ask her something!” I said, striding between the rows. “We need to get those books back and it’s not happening staring around at the empty shelves.”
“Maybe we should get Kelcie then,” Mark said. He was struggling to keep up with my long legs, but I didn’t bother to slow down for him. “She is the expert on glamours.”
“Kelcie has been out all month with a broken arm,” I said. Not that I couldn’t still call her in. If Mark was right about all this I’d probably need to. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that though.
Mark bit his lip. “Could that be relevant? Maybe the fae specifically went out to disable our glamour specialist before they-”
“She was walking the dog,” I cut in. “Come on, we can’t afford to go assuming every coincidence is a plot.”
“If we’re dealing with the fae,” Mark said, “we can’t afford not to.”
I gave him a dirty look before pushing open the bathroom door.
Amber jumped to her feet as soon as I walked in, wiping at her face with a scrap of kleenex. “Hi Rachael, Mark,” she stammered.
“Amber, I need to ask you some quick questions,” I said, a little too forcefully. Mark punched me lightly in the arm but Amber just nodded.
“Question one. What is this book?”
I held up the red leather book that I hadn’t even bothered to reshelve. Amber licked her lips nervously as she looked at it.
“It’s one of the books in the section 11. It’s on loan from the Falconer family and should not be lent out,” she recited. I recognized my own words from earlier in the day. Had I really scared her that much?
“Well, good,” I muttered. “Question two. What did you think it was when you lent it out?”
Amber mumbled something under her breath.
“What was that?” I asked. Amber didn’t speak up any louder the second time. I sighed loudly only to get punched even harder by Mark. “What?” I snapped.
“No wonder everyone is claiming you’re salty these days,” Mark said. I glowered at him but leaned back into the wall.
“Fine, your turn then.” He put out his hand for the book and I passed it over, crossing my arms.
“Amber, we aren’t angry with you,” Mark began. Amber gave me a hesitant glance out of the corner of her eye and Mark sighed in frustration. “Rachael isn’t mad-”
“Yes she is,” I interjected, netting myself a dirty look from Mark.
“-Rachael isn’t mad, she’s just worried,” he continued, still meeting my eyes. “And taking it out on you, I might add.”
I frowned, breaking the gaze first.
Mark continued on. “She just needs to hear what you thought this books was when you lent it out.”
Amber’s lower lip quivered slightly as she spoke, making her words wobble in the middle. “I thought it was a book of fairy tales.”
“But why would you think that?” I blurted out. “We just went through the training! How did they even get the book out of the restricted section?”
Amber burst out into tears again as Mark glowered at me. I looked away, trying to burn a hole in the corner of the bathroom.
“She does raise some valid points though, Amber,” Mark said diplomatically. “Your initiation training was two days before you checked this out. Did you not recognize the book? How did you even check it out?”
Amber’s voice wavered. “I don’t know. I remember someone asking me for one of the books in the back and he pointed through the gate and described it. And I remember thinking how odd it was that we had childrens’ books back there. So I went back and grabbed it.”
“How did you check it out?” Mark pushed. Amber shook her head.
“I don’t remember.”
“Do you remember what the person looked like?” He asked. Amber just shook her head again. “Was he wearing anything distinctive? Interesting piece of jewelry, a funny t-shirt? A suit?”
Amber almost shook her head again, then paused. “He had a brooch in the shape of a stylized leaf.”
“Could you draw it?” Mark asked. When Amber nodded he grabbed a paper towel off the wall, passing it towards her with a pen. Amber quickly doodled the shape onto the towels. I leaned over to look at it as she drew. It was a oak leaf, I was pretty sure, despite her shaky hand. It wasn’t the most artistic leaf I had ever seen, but it was obvious enough. Over it she crossed it with a sketchily drawn feather. I didn’t recognize the symbol off hand, but I was sure it had been in one of the books. That book was now likely missing. Mark’s paranoia was already wearing off on me.
It’s only paranoia if he’s wrong. I reminded myself, seeing the image Amber had drawn. Mark’s lips pursed as he inspected the paper towel that she handed him.
“This is all you remember?” he asked. Amber nodded. Mark passed the paper towel to me and I folded it carefully. “Do you at least remember how you checked it out?”
“No,” she said, rubbing her eyes and nose with her cuff. “I didn’t even remember I’d done it until it came back in. And I didn’t remember why it was a big deal until Rachael yelled at me.”
“I didn’t yell,” I muttered, looking at the paper towel so I wouldn’t have to see Mark’s disapproval. I could still feel it in my peripheral vision though.
“And then what happened?” Mark asked, still glowering.
“I finally looked at the book and realized what it was,” Amber said. “I did listen in the training, Rachael.”
I hurrumphed at the girl, neither approving nor disapproving.
“Sort of like you were purposefully ignoring it before and it suddenly came into focus?” Mark asked.
“Yeah,” she replied.
Mark sighed. “We need to call in Kelcie, Rachael.”
I nodded in agreement.
“One last question, Amber,” I said. She looked at me expectantly. “Were there any other books missing when you grabbed this one.”
Amber’s hand flew to her mouth. “Yes… Plenty.”
I sighed, thrusting the paper towel into my pocket. “Stop looking at me like that, Mark. You know I hate when you’re right.”