It's True, What They Say About Librarians...

Submitted into Contest #91 in response to: Set your story in a library, after hours.... view prompt


Horror Crime Sad


The dark corridors seemed endless. The room itself was large, meaning even the smallest sound could carry, but in the darkness, it felt like a veritable cavern. The rows upon rows of books did something to dampen the sound a bit, but it didn’t stop the feeling of paranoia that lent itself to being somewhere they shouldn’t have been. Enveloped in near pitch-blackness, the smallest breath sounded like an exaggerated gasp. Two figures crept silently along the ceramic tiled floor on worn leather soles. Two clicking sounds of headwear being turned on were the only giveaways that anyone was there.

“Relax, for God’s sake, there’s no-one here! Remember?! The old bitch is gone for the night. It’s after hours.”

“I’d really rather not test your theories, thanks.” Swift’s voice was barely a breath, in comparison to Raven’s normal whisper. “SHH!”

“You’re worse than the fucking librarian herself – we are alone, Swift!”

The smaller black-clad figure clamped a gloved hand over Raven’s mouth. Raven pressed his lips together and exhaled slowly. Through her night-vision goggles, Swift could make out the thin line of Raven’s usually thicker lips. She knew he’d also rolled his eyes. He was too cocky for his own good, and it had almost cost them their lives once, although he was loath to admit that.

“I don’t care, I’m not letting you take that risk again. Silence, or I’ll take you out myself. You go that way, look down there.” With that, Swift started scanning the bookshelves. Her earpiece crackled into life as the proximity detector on her body noted that Raven had moved away from her. Amazing thing, proximity technology. Perhaps a little useless in the grand scheme of things, of course, but a genius invention nonetheless. Swift climbed up a short ladder to get to the top shelves, reading carefully as she rolled herself along. Neither of them made a sound as they hunted separately, but every now and again, Raven’s breathing would remind her that she wasn’t there alone. Eventually, the darkness became friendly, welcoming. She was safe. She couldn’t be seen. And if the librarian did come back, they could hide well. They’d find what they needed to…  

“70298?” Raven’s whisper nearly startled her.

“Yes. I’m coming.” Swift made her way towards her colleague, who was stood beside a book, his finger on it. “Did you do anything?”

“Boss said to pull it sharply out. From the corner, do you think?”

“It’s fifty-fifty. Get it wrong, we’re done for.”

The book wasn’t too thick, about the width of the average male finger. The cover was nondescript, battered dusty leather, perhaps green, perhaps blue. Those who went by that section looked past it because it was so plain, so old – what information could it possibly hold? Swift, for once, had no idea how to remove the book. This book was special. Very special. If the right person came along and removed this book in the right way, they’d learn the secrets it held... or something like that, anyway. Neither Swift nor Raven knew what it was they were getting – just that they’d know when they saw it.

“Alright...” Raven moved to another book and pulled it out, seeing what was natural. Each book was different, but for the smaller books like 70298, it was easier to pull from the corner – bigger books were easier to pull out horizontally. But did that mean that was the right way? “God, I don’t know.”

“What?” Swift looked at him.

“Pull it sharply out... do you trust me?” He moved back to the book and put a finger on it.

“Not even a little bit.”

“Right.” Without taking a breath, he pulled the book out from the upper corner. The book stopped, held on by something unseen. A loud click sounded, and echoed through the place. Swift had drawn her gun, ready to defend against whatever it was, Raven remained stock-still. To their left, in the wall, a small square opened, revealing a door handle. “Book people suck.”

“Yeah, well, book people are also smart,” Swift murmured. “Come on.”

“Not so quiet now, are you?” She could hear his smirk.

“We don’t have time, Raven!” Swift opened the door and pushed it, revealing a staircase that led down into a basement. “Come on.” She ignored the trickle of adrenaline into her bloodstream, which quickened her heart-rate. She ignored the dampness inside her gloves. She ignored the flaring of her nostrils as she fought to take in more oxygen. Her fight or flight was ‘shoot or be shot’ - there was no flight option possible.

Behind her, Raven felt the same trickle, only his was much, much less. He was self-assured, a keen shot, and good at what he did. If anything, he’d had more successful missions than anyone – he had it in the bag at all times. But that didn’t stop the anticipation, the anxiety, at walking into the unknown. That was something even he couldn’t hide from.

The stairs down to the basement actually led to a series of tunnels. Raven started to make small markings on the wall with some chalk, just obvious enough that they’d be able to find their way back without having to hunt. Perhaps there was light, but they’d been trained to use the darkness to their advantage.

Before him, Swift’s footsteps were almost silent, barely a shup shup on the stone floors. She didn’t speak. She was the point-man. He watched her for any signal to stop, or get down. She gave nothing for several minutes of creeping, until they met another door. Carved into the wood, like some crude placard, the number 1. Swift gestured for Raven to turn and keep watch while she listened at the door. No sounds came from within. Swift pulled out a crude lock-picking kit, and started on the lock embedded into the handle. In seconds, it sprung open.

“Cleaning equipment,” Swift whispered.

“Search it.”

“There’s nothing here, it’s literally cleaning equipment!” Regardless, Swift did a very quick search of the place, and found only solid brick wall behind the mops, brushes, cleaning solutions and buckets. “Although why this stuff is needed here is beyond me... maybe it’s an old store?” Raven reached over and picked up a bottle of cleaning solution.

“Dated this month. This is recent.”

“Right... odd... Close your eyes.” Raven did as he was told while Swift snapped a photo, eyes closed herself to avoid a blinding from the flash.

“I’ll point this time.” Raven set off down the corridor, which veered to the right. He was a little faster than Swift, unhindered by fear. Swift followed dutifully. Raven was trying to piece together what they’d find. The book’s title had been dusty, but perhaps there was something in it? Secrets in the Cellar. 70298 had been Secrets in the Cellar.

They eventually reached the end of the corridor, another door. This one had a word carved into the wood. Creche. Crudely carved, the words jagged. Unease settled into Swift and Raven’s stomachs.

“Time?” Swift asked.

“Three,” Raven replied. He looked at her, even though neither could see each other’s faces. “Ready?”

“Yes.” Raven pulled on the doorhandle, but it was locked. Both of them released breaths they didn’t know they were holding. The tension between them was thick. Apprehension would make them both stop and they couldn’t afford to stop. This was the only other room in this seedy basement – whatever they had to find was behind this door. “I’ll pick the lock.” Raven stepped aside and allowed Swift to pick the lock quickly, efficiently. It clicked open. “Ready?”

“Yes. Go.” Swift opened the door. A scream rose in her throat. Only her years of specialised training kept it from escaping her lips.

At least fifteen pairs of eyes reflected back at her from the deep, cavernous room. Fifteen pairs of innocent eyes, wide open in fear. Duct tape reflected back at them, too. It took a moment for Swift to realise what she was looking at. Her stomach lurched. Her heart stopped. Behind her, Raven felt his lungs deflate, his stomach twisting and knotting. This was unexpected for both of them. But the book title ‘Secrets in the Cellar’ made perfect, sickening, twisted sense.

“The motherfucker’s running a child trafficking ring,” Swift muttered. She pressed her finger against the small button on her internal headset, and spoke softly. “Swift. We’ve found assets.” She waited for her earpiece to crackle into life, but it never came. “Swift. This is Swift. We’ve found the assets.”

“Why aren’t they responding?” Raven asked. He was staring at the silent children. “We’ll have to get them out of here alone, Swift. Backup isn’t coming. The connection probably can’t reach. God knows how far down we are.”

“Alright. Removing assets alone.” Swift stepped into the room and hunted around for a light. She found nothing. Then, her hands met a switch, and she flicked it on, turning off her night-vision before it could blind her. She looked around the room. Raven did the same. “They could have told us this was what we were walking into…” she started to reassure the children – they were there to help.

The word creche carved into the door wasn’t technically wrong – rather a sick joke for what the children in the room were being kept in. A total of fifteen children were alert, another ten unconscious, all of them chained to the walls of the place. Some of the older ones were in stress positions, not unlike the ones Swift and Raven had been subjected to in order to pass the special forces training. But kids… kids shouldn’t have been able to withstand that. One by one, they started to remove the shackles holding the children – shackles which turned out to be no more than zip-ties – and lined them up. With ten unconscious, it’d be difficult to get them out without help.

“We’re going to get you all to safety, okay?” Raven said gently, and the kids nodded. He turned to three of the older kids. “Can any of you carry some of the unconscious ones?” It wasn’t right, expecting a victim to carry a victim, but they had no backup – therefore no choice.

“Y-yes,” one of the boys said softly, nodding.

In the corner of the room, all kinds of ropes and sacks afforded them the ability to carry three of the unconscious toddlers easier, with the older kids either carrying or dragging them to safety. The stairs would be an issue, but they’d figure that out when they got there.

“Alright, everyone, follow me, and keep quiet,” Swift said. She turned to the door, as Raven spoke into his earpiece.

“Assets secured, removal in progress.”

“Assets is a little cold for children, don’t you think?” The voice at the door made Raven and Swift freeze. “My, my, it seems we’ve some troublemakers. Don’t you know it is improper to be inside the library after hours?”

“Don’t you know it’s illegal to traffic children?!” Raven spat. “Our backup’s on the way –“

“A-ta-ta, I wouldn’t send out empty threats, my dear.” The woman was older, a stern face, a beefy body which betrayed her strength. She wore a light pink cardigan over a pale blue blouse, with an ankle-length burgundy skirt and sensible brown leather shoes. A string of pearls sat neatly at her throat, and her hair was pinned up properly. When she smiled, she looked approachable and kind, as any librarian should. But in this situation, that demeanour was nothing more than a sickening trap. “The basement is lined with reflective materials. No communication is possible down here, I’m afraid.”

“Then it’s just us,” Swift said, gesturing for the children to sit back down. “And that’s as bad as us having backup.”

“Is it, now?” the librarian stepped forward. “Well, I daresay you’d be glad to have backup when you learn that down here, it is me who provides all you need. And if I decide you don’t need water, or food, then you simply go without.” She folded her arms under her ample bosom. “I did wonder why the Ministry had chosen to send in unarmed operatives. But then, I suppose, to rescue children you can’t really have guns lying around.”

“You’re right,” Raven nodded. “Exactly right. I guess it’s true, then? What they say about librarians?”

“And what would that be, dear?”

“That they’re secretly freaks behind closed doors.”

Neither the librarian nor Swift had seen Raven pull out his gun and fire one single, silenced shot between the woman’s eyes. The look of shock on her face as her brain stuttered and stalled said it all. Swift watched as Raven stepped forward and pulled her body out of the way.

“Let’s go.”


In the early hours of this morning, special forces operatives recovered twenty missing children in the basement of Woodpark Library. The children were all from the Woodpark area, and had been declared missing by parents in the last three months. Mrs Tidbury, the local and well-loved librarian, was confirmed to be the leader of the ring, supplying neighbourhood children to paedophile and slavery rings across the county.

“The children were abducted during events held at the library, school trips or playgroups,” DI Jane Rutherford, lead investigator for the case, said. “Mrs Tidbury would then take them beneath the library and keep them in a cellar, until potential buyers could collect them after hours.”

Special forces operatives were brought in to carry out the covert operation, to avoid bringing any further danger to the children and to ensure their safe recovery. Mrs Tidbury was shot and killed during an altercation when she discovered the operatives at work. Exact details of the altercation have not been released.

The extent of the child trafficking rings here in Derbyshire remain undisclosed, but police would like to reassure the public that they’re getting to the bottom of it, and that parents shouldn’t be afraid that their children are unsafe when going to school, or to public places like the library.

“If there is any doubt of the safety of your child, or another child you see, then do alert the authority present,” DI Rutherford told us. “The safety of our children is paramount, and we can all do our bit to ensure that our children grow up in a safe and happy community.”

“Rings such as these are rare, but a little vigilance never hurt,” she continued. The general advice is to be aware of your surroundings, and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police on the reporting number given below.

The children were taken to the local children’s hospital to be assessed. The Daily Star received confirmation prior to publication that the children only suffered from minor injuries, but that the trauma from their abductions would no doubt last a long time. 

April 30, 2021 20:51

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Gip Roberts
21:35 May 05, 2021

Thank goodness this ended well! "A person can smile and still be a criminal," as the saying goes. Mrs. Tidbury made me so sick. But she was supposed to, she's the antagonist ;) You did awesome with the momentum-building here. At first, I thought it would be another one of those "Truth or Dare" kind of stories where two teenagers get dared to break into a library; then I thought it would be another story about some elaborate heist where the crooks are out to steal some valuable book the library kept locked in some display case. Which made th...


Amy Jayne Conley
07:53 May 06, 2021

AAAAaaaaaargh thanks so much Gip!!! I was proud of this one - I might end up expanding this one, I'm starting a screenwriting course in January and hopefully some of these ideas can become small scripts!! I'm also on a HUGE SAS kick right now!


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