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As suspected none of the libraries in New York City had had any books on the Romanian language just sitting around on their shelves gathering dust, but it was fairly surprising-to say the least-that they had somehow managed to get a small handful of different primers and a Romanian-to-English dictionary shipped in from somewhere out of state in only a little over a day’s time.
Bypassing the stone lions and heading into the building’s front door Alaric approached the front desk with a smile and waited for one of the librarians to notice him.
“Oh, are you the one who’s supposed to be picking up the language books?”
He nodded. “Yes, the ones that came in from out of state; the dictionary and the primers.”
“Here you go.” It was rather comical to watch the waif-like girl behind the desk heave the stack of hardcover books out from under the counter. “I hope you’re not planning on reading all five of these; there’s really not all that much of a difference between them. Not to mention that they’re all pretty thick.”
“I plan on sorting through them for the best one to help me with a little project of mine. The rest will be returned in a timely fashion.” After handing over his card, Alaric gathered the teetering pile together and headed back out to his car. If this keeps up I’m going to have to go back to carrying around a school bag just so I don’t drop anything.
Driving to a nearby cafe a few blocks from the New York Public Library, he transferred the books from his car to a table in the corner and ordered a coffee for the sake of blending in before setting to work.
The first order of business would be selecting the best out of the five primers; setting aside the dictionary, he picked up the first one and critically evaluated the table of contents before thumbing through the pages. This process was repeated with the other four until he felt he’d succeeded in weeding out the competition and was left with the text that would allow for the quickest and most concise read through: the sooner he could get a grasp on the basics of the language the sooner the two of them could get down to translating the documents that had been sent to them from London which would hopefully at least set them on the right path to discovering what was really going on.
The book was plucked from his grasp just as he was about to open it by the figure that had crept up silently behind him.
“Romanian for Beginners?” Kharon’s cold grey eyes locked with his surprised blue ones as he tipped the book down just enough to allow himself to peer down his nose at him. “Might I ask about your interest in this particular language?”
“L-Lord Kharon!” Of all the things that could have possibly gone wrong it had to be the worst case scenario: that the leader of the Slayer’s Guild, who he knew from what Kennina and the others on the London team had told him was a Dhampir himself, would just happen to walk into the same coffee shop and notice him sitting there. Forcing down the terror that threatened to overwhelm him, Alaric forced his body to straighten into a more dignified position. “Well, you see Sir, I’m a bit of a fan of literary classics: recently I’ve finished Bram Stoker’s famous novel Dracula and have developed a bit of an interest in viewing the historical documents he used as the basis of his story.”
A thin black eyebrow arched upwards, pale scared face contorting slightly at the answer that was far from to his satisfaction. “Do they not have such documents in an English version? To my knowledge, Stoker didn’t speak Romanian either.”
“They do I’m sure, but things are lost and distorted in translation.”
Kharon nodded slowly after another moment, dropping the book back onto the table with a quiet thump. “If I’m recalling things correctly, your records state that you’re already fluent in four languages so why bother with another? It seems rather time consuming.”
The cold dangerous edge his tone was beginning to take wasn’t lost on the younger man, who was progressively beginning to lose more and more ground to his own panic. It would have to be carefully that he’d chose his words to avoid any possibility of Kharon catching on to what he was really doing. “It is time consuming, but of late time is all I’ve found myself with given that you’ve placed the two of us on leave for the time being. It’s been two months since you suspended Etain and I from active duty...and where it’s only been around four days since...we thought for sure we’d have been assigned a new team by now.” Hesitating for another moment Alaric added “Sir, if I might ask, are we being retired from service?”
“Would it amount to a problem for either of you if you were to be?”
“Problem? No, problem isn’t...quite the word that I would use to describe it. To say the least, it would be less than ideal for a number of reasons.” Doing his best to remain as outwardly calm as would be expected of someone who had been jumped by their superior unexpectedly in a public setting, he reached for his now cold cup of coffee. “Everyone who joins that Slayer’s Guild does so for a reason; we’ve all lost something, or more likely someone, to the Malformed. I’m sure I’m not alone in joining for the sake of fighting, for avenging my personal losses had at their hands both as a child and since then, but I also joined to stand on the front lines. To fight so that others wouldn’t have to. The second reason being...well, Etain was the only member of our team who bothered with a job outside of the Guild; a bit of a heads up would be appreciated if we are to be retired so that I can start looking for some other line of work.”
“We’ve already lost the #1 graduate from your class, and throwing aside #s 2 and 3 while they’re both still mentally and physically sound enough to continue serving would hardly be a help to our efforts. With your intelligence, I’m quite sure that you understand that.”
“The Hornet will be assigned another team as leader, as we’re definitely in need of her combat expertise out on the streets. But you,” the grin that spread across his scarred face was savage, revealing overly-sharp teeth, “I think you may well be in line for a promotion. I’ll get in contact with you on the matter within the next few days.” Cup of coffee in hand, the Guild Leader turned and walked out of the door vanishing around the corner as quickly as he’d appeared.
Alaric collapsed back against the chair the moment that he was gone, lowering the coffee cup back onto the table so that it wouldn’t slip out of his shaking hands. What had just happened? Was that meant to be some sort of threat? Had they already been discovered, after only just three days or was it merely a coincidence?
Casting a cautious glance over one shoulder before picking up the stack of books for a third time he rushed back out to his car, throwing them carelessly into the back seat without regard for where they fell or how. Forcing the keys into the ignition with one hand and pulling out his cellphone with the other, he speed-dialed three as he pulled out of the lot. As expected, given that she was at work at the moment and more than likely had her hands full with customers, her voicemail picked up for her.
“Listen to me: I just ran into Kharon at the coffee store down the block from the library and I’m not sure if what he said was meant to be a threat but either way we have a problem. When you next get the chance go out and buy two drop phones, one for each of us; make sure you’re not being followed and then leave one in my mailbox. From now on, any communication concerning our little under the table investigation has to be untraceable.”
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