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Adventure Suspense Fantasy


“Are you sure about this?”


“Yesss,” he replied.


“It really doesn’t look like much of a…”


He stopped and turned, “It isn’t much. I told you that.” It was the size of two city blocks, no more. They were headed toward a slight mound of earth at the far end of the park.


“But I thought it was a fort.”


“It was not a fort.”


“But…”


“It was never a fort. Ever.”


“Then why did they…”


“I don’t know, Cage. I wasn’t here.”


A man clearing his throat disrupted their bickering. “Is that you, Cathy?”


Norman turned to look at her but couldn’t see her face blushing in the darkness—but he heard her sheepish reply. “Yeah, it’s me. I thought we agreed to use my stage name…”


“Ah yes, I’d forgotten about that. Well, since I’ve revealed your real identity, I suggest we eschew our private little fantasies and stick to using our real names. I think we owe it to Mr. Manchester. Don’t you think that’s reasonable, Norman?”


Norman nodded, but knew not to whom he was nodding. The disembodied voice came from somewhere up the hill. He took the paved walkways with steps to the top of the mound, Cathy, formerly ‘Cage’, followed him. What they saw in the dim light of a distant streetlight was a five-foot-deep coquina foundation, with various rectangular interior walls, and smaller recessed pits or bins. The disembodied voice returned with an affable lilt, “Not much to look at, I know, kind of the ugly duckling of historic structures. But that should help us in our search.”


A police officer came ambling up, nodded to Cage and Norman, removed a toothpick from his mouth and said, “You there, in the pit, come on out.”


The man who belonged to the disembodied voice stood up, revealing his upper half in the street light. In an instant he had clambered out of the hole and onto the structure’s solid coquina foundation. He dusted himself off and offered to shake the officer’s hand. The policeman ignored it. “You all know the park closes at six?” They all shook their heads. “And it’s going on midnight.”


They looked at one another and shuffled their feet. The man who had climbed from the pit addressed the officer in a velvet-smooth voice. “You’re not on duty, are you officer?”


“No sir, I’m not.”


“So you were just doing your civic duty by coming over here.”


“Yes sir, pretty much. To be honest, I was a little curious, this little fort is not that interesting in broad daylight, so to see three adults wandering around in the middle of the night. Well, you know how it looks.”


“No. How does it look?” His voice oozed with exaggerated innocence.


The off-duty officer squinted at the three of them in turn, then looked off into the distance, a touch of annoyance in his voice. “You could be vagrants, you could be loitering, you could be casing a couple of yachts in the marina over there…”


The man held up his hand, “Officer please, say no more. I see your point. I was wholly unaware of the kinds of mischief we could’ve been up to. Let me start over. My name is Morely. I’m a visiting professor from St. Leo’s over on the west coast.” He held out his hand again, and the officer reluctantly shook it. “These are my interns, Cathy, here, and that human sunflower over there is my main man, Norman,” he looked over the officer’s shoulder at Norman, “Manchester, right?”


“Right.” Norman agreed. His amazement was completely missed by the off-duty cop.


“Let me show you some identification,” Morely said as he extracted a billfold from his coat and handed it to the officer, along with two 100-dollar bills. The officer stiffened at the sight of the money and tried to give it back.


“No, no.” Morely stepped back and held his hands up. “You weren’t planning on arresting us, were you?”


The officer was still shaking his head. “Of course not. Then you can’t consider that a bribe, as I don’t believe we’re in any trouble. If you check with City Hall,” he pointed at the building right across the street, “and I’m sure you will, you’ll find that we have a permit for non-invasive pre-industrial excavation.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?” The cop looked confused, irritated.


“It means…” Morely bent over and read the officers name tag. “It means, Officer Blake, that we can only examine or take things that are loose.” The officer still seemed alarmed.


“Officer Blake, we would only take tiny pieces.” He pulled a small specimen bag out of one pocket and held it up. “We’re not a demolition team, I mean really.” He pulled his jacket pockets inside out, “We don’t even have hammers. I’m beginning to think I should pro-test.”


The officer relaxed, chuckling at his own stupidity. Then surprised them all by asking, “But why would you want to be looking for it at night?”


“What makes you think we want to look for anything at night, sir?”


“Well, the blatant darkness for one,” the cop pointed out, “and the two-hundred bucks, that wasn’t for nothin.”


With a disarmingly stern expression on his face, Morely pointed to the officer and said, “You sir, are going to be a lieutenant some day.”


Officer Blake folded the two one-hundred-dollar bills in half and slipped them into his top pocket. “St Leo’s eh?” He started to walk away and stopped. “I’m gonna stop by the station before I go home and let everyone know that for two hundred bucks, they can come by and watch you three work.”


Morely, who had almost forgotten the cop, jerked around, “Oh, I do hope you won’t do that.”


“You don’t carry that much money around?” The cop asked.


“Oh no, it’s not that, I have plenty of money Officer, eh, Blake. It’s the interruptions. I can’t stand the interruptions.”


They stood there staring at each other for a moment. Just as the officer turned to leave, Morely stated, very loudly for that time of night, “But for you, Officer Blake. You’re welcome to come round any time you like.”


“Yes sir. I’m sure that won’t happen. You folks have a good night.” The echoes of his wingtip shoes faded quickly.

Chapter 3: The Secret Library.




Norman directed his attention toward Professor Morley, “Before you say another word I want to know who you really are, and what the fuck we’re supposed to be doing here?” With a subtle glance he included Cathy in the discussion. In the short silence that ensued, he added, “I just want the truth.” He looked at Cathy again, but she was looking at her left shoe and didn’t notice.


Morley said, “Good.” He dusted himself off again as if he had bits of off-duty cop on his clothing. “I need you, Norman, plain and simple. I need you,” he held his hands above his face and twisted them as if wringing water from a towel, “I need you to find things Norman. That’s what you do.”


“I do?”


“Yeah you do. Did you ever find something for your Mom?”


“Car keys.”


“What about your Dad?”


“Coffee.”


“Your Dad would lose his coffee?”


“Every morning.”


“And you’d find it.”


Norman nodded. “Piece of cake.” then looked askance at the Professor, who noticed the look.


“Now see here, Norman, I have my own ways of determining people’s skills. I certainly didn’t follow you around for forty years taking notes.” He shook his head and added. “You’re a finder. It’s difficult to define, but I know it when I see it. Now look…”


He looked at his watch as Norman nodded toward Cathy and said, “What about her? What’s she?”


By the expression on her face, she was thinking that herself.


Professor Morely looked pained, he really did, he compressed his lips, shook his head and wagged his finger at Norman. “See that. That’s the finder in you. You’re like a goddamned metal detector, and there’s old ‘Clang’ standing there,” he pointed his thumb at Cathy.


“It’s Cage,” she reminded him.


“Cathy, Clang, Cage, whatever.” He focused back on Norman. “You couldn’t help but go off and start pinging and beeping with her standing right there.” He sighed. “I’m just glad you didn’t do it when the cop was standing here.”


“Wait a minute, what did I do? And you didn’t answer my question, ‘what is she?”


“Cathy’s a magnet. Okay?” He allowed their clever remarks to be said without reacting, and then continued. “No really. She’s a magnet. Quite powerful, maybe influential is a better word. She has a field that extends well beyond her reach. She can affect other people in a room before they’ve even seen her.”


Norman looked dubious, so Morely continued, “It’s not pheromones, or perfume. She can repel people just as well, and not just other magnets, depends on what pole she presents.


He turned his full attention on the woman. “Now get out there and start repelling people Cathy, if you don’t mind. And it’s time you got down to finding something Norman.”


“What am I looking for? You don’t think there’s going to be a manuscript lying in the shadows down there, do you?”


The professor hesitated. “I don’t know that I should tell you.”


“You don’t think it would help if I knew what I was looking for?”


“No. Not really. No.”


“Oh, come on. This is unbelievable.”


“Are you serious?” That was Cathy, adding her clang to the conjugation.


Morley pointed at her. “You’re being attractive, I don’t need that right now.” And to Norman he said, “You’re being inquisitive. Curiosity doesn’t find things, except on rare occasions when it also gets itself killed. Don’t be inquisitive. Just find.”


“You gotta give me something, Professor.”


“It’s a library, Norman. You’re looking for a library.” That was Cathy again, pulling on things with her personality.


“Goddammit, Cathy. If I see another cop come along, even a drunken cop…”


“Yeah? What are ya gonna do, professor, horsewhip me again?”


Suddenly the crickets fell silent, the cicadas ceased cicada-ing, the wind became calm, flags stopped flapping, even the nearby traffic light refused to change. As if the whole world were suddenly hanging on their every word. Or so it seemed to Norman.


“He’s, I mean I’m kidding, Norman. He didn’t really horsewhip me.”


“Norman please,” Morely said, “the library. It must be here.”


In the manner of finders since the beginning of man-find, Norman turned his time off. He at once felt the crumbling stone under his hands and inhaled the sweetened scent of dew-laden moss growing in huge patches all around them. He heard the tolling of several bells, a mournful sound, and the shriek of a gull somewhere in the fog. Norman’s eyes snapped open as his senses tracked the sound. And he pointed. “There. The library is right there.”


Morely said, “That’s a boat, Norman.”


“That—is your library.”


It was right across the street. In the city marina, dead center in the middle of town.


Six minutes later they were standing on the wharf, leaning into a stiff wind coming off the water. The wind caused the boats lines to slap against the masts, most of them were hollow and will ring like a bell. This boat had no mast. It was a large twin-engine live aboard. Shaped like a sportfisherman but with no outriggers. No gear, just some seats and a plastic picnic table on the aft deck. Lights were burning in the main galley, as they should be, but nothing of the interior could be seen through the curtained windows and doors.


The three of them stood there, staring at the boat. She was named, ‘It Takes Me Out of the Story II.’


The professor hesitated. “I think you should board the vessel as well, Cathy.”


“I would much rather have you call me Cage, Professor.”


She had enough metal on her to make a cage, but he said, “Cathy’s a nicer name.”


“I don’t care about nice.”


“It’s a prettier name.”


“I don’t care about pretty.”


He tried to usher her onto the boat but she stepped aside and said, “After you.”


By the time she finally got on the boat, he mostly wished she hadn’t. Because Norman had already entered the ship’s cabin and hadn’t come out yet. Cathy was already affecting their plans.

Morely entered the cabin’s main parlor just a few moments after Norman, but the parlor was already empty. A hatch and ladder led down to what should have been the engine room, but appeared to be another lower deck, in the middle of that was another hatch and ladder, to another lower deck. The secret library, and Norman had gone down there. A thick black binder was lying on the chart table and he picked it up. It was heavy, dense and zippered shut. This wasn’t what he came for, but something was radically wrong here and he didn’t want to be involved. All he had to do now, was get out of there. He turned toward the ladder and there stood Cathy. “Where’s Norman?” She said.


Morely waved her towards the second hatchway, let her see for herself.


“He went down there?”


Morely nodded.


Cathy walked over to the hatchway, looked down, and was instantly overcome with nausea and dizziness. It pissed her off so much that she screamed out his name, and commanded him to return at once. Her demeanor was so imperious, it was almost funny. Except it wasn’t funny, as the seconds ticked away . At the moment that it seemed most frightening, who should come tottering up the ladder but Norman Manchester, blanched face, stiff-legged, carrying a batch of papers in one hand that looked like it might be a manuscript. He almost didn’t make the last few steps, cut lip, swollen eye, soaking wet.


She grabbed him under one arm guiding him toward the rear of the cabin. “Christ almighty. Are you all right?”


“Barely.” He said, but he smiled. “It was crazy. Every book ever written is in there, and it feels real. Your eyes water, your skin feels itchy, and the smells…”


Cathy and the Professor looked into each other’s eyes and began pushing and pulling Norman out the cabin door, off the boat and away from the docks as quick and soundlessly as possible. Norman was a bit breathless, but trying to say something.


Neither of them wanted to hear what he had to say until they were well clear of the marina. They shushed him and pushed him. It was instinctual, he thought, there was no real danger of anything coming up and out of that boat.


Finally, he shook off their grappling arms and sprang free. “Stop! Stop it, now.” Professor Morley’s face was lined with genuine fear, Cathy’s face was pale, sickly, but could not hide her concern, presumably for his health. “I’m fine,” he added, patting himself unconsciously. “And wet?” He took another look at both of their faces and said, “It was just a library, people.”


It was the first and only time that Professor Morley groaned.

May 25, 2024 02:08

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8 comments

Hazel Ide
19:06 May 25, 2024

I like the speculative elements starting to creep up in these chapters. “You’re being attractive, I don’t need that right now.” “You’re being inquisitive. Don’t be inquisitive.” Those parts made me laugh. I’ll keep reading.

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Ken Cartisano
01:33 May 26, 2024

I hope you're not too disappointed. This is not the kind of quality writing that you're posting right now. This is really sloppy stuff. I left out a lot of critical details in my rush to make the deadline. I don't know what I was thinking, trying to write four stories in five days. I like these characters though and the blended world they inhabit. Cleaned up and with stronger links, this could be a nice little quartet, or quintet of stories. But they definitely need work.

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Hazel Ide
14:27 May 26, 2024

Not in the least, I enjoyed it. Admittedly I hadn’t finished the fourth chapter, you lost me a bit there but I I thought it was a strong start. Definitely ambitious, four stories that fast! Could be tightened up and some comma errors but I think an interesting story carries more weight than that!

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Maya Mason
16:41 Jun 01, 2024

I thought it was interesting that you wrote chapters for such a short story. I liked the premise. I would have liked a bit more descriptors in the beginning. The dialogue overall was amusing.

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Ken Cartisano
15:05 Jun 02, 2024

Thanks for your feedback, Maya. I think you've accurately assessed the problem with trying to span a story over four prompts. To be more precise, you've focused on the aspect of this story and others in this group of stories that I failed to elucidate. It's difficult (for me) to enjoy a story that starts with dialogue when I don't know who is speaking, (or why they're speaking or what they're speaking about.) I would be happy to consider this a demonstration of my ambition being overwhelmed by my inexperience. Your comments are similar to ...

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Mary Bendickson
18:54 May 26, 2024

Ditto...

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Jim LaFleur
10:55 May 25, 2024

Intriguing Adventure! Your story impressed me with its harmonious blend of suspense and fantasy. The characters are compelling, and the secret library is a fascinating element that adds depth to the tale. Great work!

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Ken Cartisano
00:47 May 26, 2024

Thanks Jim.

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