Today's Reading

It was a very long ten minutes. We waited in silence, June carefully scanning all the other windows visible and listening intently. But the silence was unbroken except by the buzz from one of the fluorescent tubes and the occasional message coming over June's radio. I had to restrain myself from jumping every time I heard it crackle.

A good thing Graham hadn't come, I decided. This was definitely tense, and I could imagine how he'd fret if he was sitting in the car waiting for me. Not doctor's orders at all.

My phone pinged, another pluck on my overstretched nerves. I fumbled for it, my chain of thought leading me to expect Graham, checking up on me.

"Message?" asked June. "From the alarm company?"

I located the phone, deep in the most inaccessible pocket, unzipped several layers, and finally managed to pull it out.

"No. Just my Daily Eloquence."

"Daily what?"

"It's an app I've got. It sends me an Eloquent Word for the Day every morning. Usually something obscure. The game is that I've then got to use it in conversation sometime that day, and post it online. There's a sort of points system for the best use of the word, and you get a prize if you come out top over the month—a dictionary, usually!"

"That sounds like..." June obviously didn't want to say what she thought, but couldn't quite bring herself to say something polite and meaningless.

"Sounds weird, I know! Don't worry, Graham tells me that every day. I tell him, 'No, it sounds eldritch!'"

I gave her a hopeful look, but June just raised an eyebrow. Someday, that's going to get a laugh.

"Never mind. I'm a word-nerd, that's all."

"OK. So what's today's word?"

I glanced at the screen again. "Lollygagging."

"Lolly-gagging? Choking on a lollipop?"

"No. It's an American word, I think. It means, 'to spend time aimlessly, to dawdle or be idle, to procrastinate or avoid work'."

"As in lying around, doing nothing? I can think of a few people I could apply that to! But not this morning, I hope... that sounds like Sara arriving."

"November Charlie three-six, State 6 at the library."

A few moments later, PC Newbold appeared. With firm instructions for me to stay there until told otherwise, the two officers pulled on disposable gloves and went inside.

The silly conversation over words had relieved some of the tension, but standing round on my own brought it back. I always had suffered from an excess of imagination, and my mind, running in neutral, quickly began to offer increasingly bizarre scenarios for what they might find. When I reached "terrorist incident" I decided that enough was enough. I had to do something before I progressed to "alien wormholes". And I'd been wondering about that open window. I knew it was the ladies' loo, but which part did it actually open into?

I crept forward, ready to turn and run if anyone not the fuzz came out of the main library. The ladies and gents had both been checked by the coppers on their way in, I'd seen them do that, so at least I knew that no one was hiding in there. Therefore it was safe to proceed that far, at least—or so I told myself.

There were three doors along the corridor, all on the right: cleaner's store nearest the exit, then the ladies, then the gents. The store was locked, as it should be. I progressed a few more steps, and eased open the door to the ladies.

The lights flickered on automatically as I stepped in, showing the sinks directly in front of me, a row of cubicles running off to the left. The windows over the sinks were firmly closed, which didn't surprise me. With taps, basins, and soap dispensers in the way, they were awkward to get at and probably hadn't been opened since they were installed.

I went to the first cubicle and—remembering just in time that this was a crime scene—pushed it open with my elbow. I had read enough detective novels in my time to know not to leave my fingerprints on the door handles.

Sure enough, the window above the toilet was wide open....

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