Raphael’s POV written by Nova Artino:
The sky was darkening when I left my apartment. I adjusted my badge, pinning it so it was clearly visible on my dark shirt and so it flashed gold in the last traces of the sun that lingered on the horizon. It was fake but finely crafted. Anyone who might be in the library when I completed my mission wouldn’t see a difference. It was the shiny things that would catch their attention in the dark, and not my scarred face. Either way, they wouldn’t live for long. My mission was to kill my target, grab the book, and eliminate any witnesses.
I was almost to the library when I heard rushing footsteps behind me. I threw myself to the side, but not fast enough. A stinging pain erupted across the side of my neck. I clasped a hand to it and drew my gun. With a bang, my attacker fell to the ground. Another hired assassin. Any common criminal couldn’t have snuck up on me like that. This guy got lucky since I was so preoccupied I didn’t hear him approaching. I peeled my hand away from my neck, wincing. He had nicked me. I pressed my lips together, frustrated. This was going to complicate my mission if I didn’t take care of it. I tore a piece of my attacker’s shirt off and pressed it to my neck, grumbling as I found my way to the library.
The Epitome Bibliotheca was a privately owned library for the wealthy Upper Pines community. Most rich people didn’t actually go to the library outside of school projects or book clubs, so the giant black stone and glass building served mainly as a reminder to everyone else that wealthy people had more than them and could afford this monstrosity of a library.
It was surrounded by a tall black fence, with a gate that could only be opened with a key card that all Upper Pines residents carried with them. Or a laser. I pulled the latter out of my bag, having tried and failed to obtain a key card. Some of the residents wore it as a necklace, showing off their membership to such an elite community. Some weren’t as extreme, but everyone I could find kept it closely guarded. I would have preferred to leave as little evidence of my mission today as possible, but sometimes it couldn’t be helped.
The laser disabled the key card machine, and I opened the gate. I shut it behind me, locking it tightly with a padlock. If things went south and the police showed up, I sure wasn’t going to leave the gate open so they could stroll right into the library and arrest me.
There were a couple ways into the library. One was a creaky, rotted ladder leading up to an open window. I dismissed that immediately. The only reason they’d leave a ladder by the window as if that ladder wasn’t suitable for climbing. I spotted the large doors, but I wasn’t about to disable their key card machine again. They’d probably notice if two went out ten minutes apart. That left the window sills. I hoisted myself up to one, grimacing as my wound throbbed. I swung myself up until I reached the open window, and let myself in.
The library was pristine. I honestly doubted most of these books had been touched since they first were put on the shelves. What was the point of a multi-level library if all you use are a couple books for book reports? I shook my head and concentrated on the task at hand, heading towards the part of the library where the rare books were kept. I shone my flashlight around the shelves, looking for anything unusual. The classics section glowed faintly in the moonlight, and that is where I found the case. On a pedestal sits a brown-leather bound book, inscribed with the gold title. It’s in Latin, but I know this is the book I’m looking for. I reach for it but then remember my mission. This book will serve well as bait, and I can always get it later. I take a deep breath and start wandering the stacks.
I hear a thud from outside, and I glance out a window to see a boy, all dressed in black, land on the ground. He probably climbed over.
I don’t need some teenage prankster bothering me tonight, of all nights. I rolled my eyes, but then a thought occurred to me. I brushed it away, but the possibility that Raphael was a teenager instead of a grown man lingers in the back of my mind. The age doesn’t matter, I tell myself. I will get this mission completed no matter what.
I hear the boy trying to go up the ladder, and I’m glad I didn’t take that way when I hear it snap. To my surprise, he grabs a hold of the ledge and swings himself in. He’s determined. Too determined for a prankster. I continue prowling around the shelves, playing my part as a guard even though my heart sinks. It’s getting clear to me now that the teenager is Raphael.
I hear a floorboard creak softly, and I pinpoint his location. He’s heading for the book. I watch him sneak over to the case, and then I walk over and put my hand on his shoulder. He jumps.
“What are you doing here?” I ask him, praying that this isn’t the person I think it is. I prefer not to kill kids, but my assignment was very clear. Once I know for a fact, I’ll complete my mission.
“Uh- thought I would check out a book. Midnight studying, am I right?” He spins around- away from the case- and grabs Moby Dick. “Here it is!” He said weakly.
“Uh-huh.” I nodded skeptically. “Sure. And you didn’t question why the gate and front doors were closed?”
“Look-” He paused. “You want the truth?”
He took a deep breath, steadying himself. “I’m here to take back what has always been mine.”
I tense up. So this kid is Raphael.
“I almost forgot to ask,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“Uh- what?” He’s confused. This is taking too long. I need confirmation so I can get this over with. His eyes look at my nametag, bewildered at my unusual name. Gryff. I get angrier that he’s not answering me.
“What. Is. Your. Name.” I hissed.
“Raphael. It’s...er… nice to meet you? Um, sir?” He stuttered.
That’s it. I reached for my gun, but he sprinted for the case, grabbed the book, and dashed out of the classics section. I ran after him, cursing my luck for not securing him when I had the chance.
I finally cornered him against the wall, and I pointed my gun at him. I really wish I could spare this kid, but my job always comes first.
“Tell me who you are before I shoot you right here and now,” I growled.
Raphael’s eyes traced my scars. I realized there was a window behind him, and moonlight shone in to illuminate my face.
“You aren’t a guard here, are you?” He asked, hesitantly.
“No,” I say. “I am not.”
Raphael shifted in place, still grasping the book and eyeing the door a couple feet away that I was blocking. I continued.
“I was sent here to retrieve a book of spells which was only passed down from generation to generation. When I found out that it was in this library, I knew I could get my hands on it. But I wasn’t just sent here to retrieve the book.” I looked at him, my mind set. A flash of fear crossed his face as he processed my words.
“What do you mean?” He asked shakily.
“I was sent here to kill you.”
I raise my gun and shoot as he bolts for the door. The bullet catches him right in the side, a definitely fatal shot, and he falls to the floor, book in hand.
I walk over to him, ready to grab the book and finish the mission, but something stops me in my tracks.
The rise and fall of his chest.
How is he alive?