Malcolm’s skin tingled. He felt like he had just swallowed a bowling ball.
“Malcolm, did you hear me?”
Malcolm snapped out of the shock of TK’s news long enough to answer, “Yes, TK.” Malcolm paused. “Are you sure? Why?”
“Malcolm, it’s not you. It’s me. I need some space.”
“I hear you, but . . . why do you need to break up with me to have some space?”
“That’s what breaking up is.”
“Well, if you need space, maybe I could, you know, be supportive. I don’t know.”
“I can’t explain it, Malcolm. I just need to be alone for a while.”
Malcolm paused, bit his lower lip, and struggled to look her in the eyes. “Who is he?” he said.
“Malcolm! How dare you!”
“TK, everytime I’ve heard the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line, someone’s skirting the truth.”
“Are you calling me a liar?” TK’s face turned red and she flared her nostrils.
“No, but I want you to tell me the truth.”
“I . . . forget it, Malcolm.”
Tatiana Karenina stormed out of Raphael’s Coffeeshop and out onto Elm Street. Malcolm swilled the rest of his espresso in his demitasse cup and then swallowed the remainder.
“Hey boss, you want something stronger?” Raphael said.
“No, Raffe, I’m fine. I need to get to work.” Malcolm unclasped his pocketwatch from his waistcoat and looked at the time. “I’m late,” he said to himself.
Malcolm placed the demitasse cup and saucer into the dirty dish bin, careful not to clang them on the dishes already occupying the bin. He straightened his tie, secured his pocketwatch, and walked across the street to Inglethorpe & Cavendish, the law firm where he worked. He scanned an empty Elm Street for TK, but he knew that she was already way gone.
Malcolm entered the lobby of the three story, historic Younts-DeBoe building and ascended in the elevator to the third floor. The elevator pealed and he saw Mr. Cavendish standing in the lobby with his arms folded. The last time Mr. Cavendish had this look was when he had Malcolm serve a subpoena on a resident of a crack house—that made for an interesting afternoon, one he never wanted to repeat.
“Good morning, Mr. Cavendish.”
“Malcolm, I have an errand for you.”
“I need to—”
“Whatever it is, it can wait, I need, absolutely NEED, the caselaw update for this trust code provision.”
“Mr. Cavendish, did you check the pocketpart insert?”
“I know what a pocketpart is.”
“Yes sir. Was the update you needed in the pocketpart?”
“I don’t know, I cancelled our paper service. Hence, no pocket parts! I need you to run over to the Drake Law library and find the update. Please get a photocopy of it for me. Thank you. I will bill my client for the time.” As Cavendish spoke, his double chin jostled and looked almost pelican-like, as if a fish were stuck in his gullet and he was about to swallow the fish whole.
Cavendish walked out of the lobby, into his office, and slammed his door.
Drake Law was a quarter mile away. Malcolm needed the fresh air, anyway.
Malcolm made his way to the sidewalk and began hoofing it to Drake. Petrified wads of chewing gum dotted the pavement. As he connected the dots of old gum in his imagination, his phone rang.
“This is Malcolm,” he said.
“D? Hey, man. What’s up?” Malcolm knew that whenever his brother, Maximilian Davis Sharpe called, he would be asking money.
“I was wondering if there’s any way you could spot me three bills?”
“Dang, not even gonna play?”
“C’mon man, I’ll pay you back.”
“No you won’t.”
“How do you know?”
“Because you’ve never paid me back.”
“I’ll pay you back everything I owe you if you can loan me $300.”
Malcolm snorted, laughed, and gagged all at once.
“What’s so funny?” D said.
“Bro, I love you, but there’s no way you could come up with $20,000 after borrowing $300.”
“$20,000? Where did you get that number?”
“I keep a ledger. Every transacton with you is recorded in permanent ink. You eclipsed the $20K mark a few weeks ago with that last ask.”
“C’mon, help a brother out!”
“I love you, man, but you only know how to do one thing—consume, take & eat.”
“That’s three things.”
Malcolm paused. “Forget it, D.” Malcolm hung up on his brother.
When he arrived at Drake Law, Malcolm noted how empty it looked.
“Is the door locked?” he said out loud. He pulled on the door and it opened.
“Is anyone in here?” he said. On the video marquee, Malcolm saw the answer to his question. HAVE A GREAT SUMMER! it said. Of course, he thought. Law schools are ghost towns come mid-May.
He walked forward and toward the law library. When he opened the large glass door to the library, he saw that it was darker than usual. Only light from the skylights shone down. Malcolm saw dust dance in the sunlight, but also took note of the shadows.
The casebooks were down a level. He took the spiral staircase to the sub level and scanned the stacks for the right reporter. The South Eastern Reporter was two aisles up on the left.
“Awesome,” Malcolm said to himself.
“Shh” a voice said from the shadows.
“Hello? Who’s there?”
Malcolm hunched over and cowered. “Sorry,” he whispered. “Who’s there?”
An asian woman fluttered across the floor from the shadows. “My name is Lola. I am the librarian.”
Malcolm stood tall and spoke in a full voice. “Nice to meet you, L—”
“Sorry. Nice to meet you, Lola,” Malcolm whispered. “I’m looking for South Eastern Reporter 841, the pocket part.”
“Shh.” Lola floated away. Malcolm did a double take. Rather than a law librarian's usual business casual attire, Lola wore an uncharacteristic kimono and tabi socks. She seemed to barely touch the ground. She moved like a butterfly.
Malcolm located the aisle with the 800 series reporters. He scanned and found 841 quickly. He opened it and grabbed the pocket part in the rear of the volume. He found the case he needed. He pulled out his phone, scanned the single page, and returned the reporter to the shelf. He emailed the scanned case to Cavendish’s assistant with instructions to deliver to Mr. Cavendish. He returned volume 841 to the shelf.
Above volume 841, Malcolm saw a curious volume 759 1/2. He pulled down volume 759 1/2 from the stacks. It weighed twice as much as the other volumes.
“Be careful with that book, Malcolm,” Lola said.
“When did they make a half volume? I’ve never seen a half volume before.”
“What is this, then?”
“Shh,” Lola said softly. She floated away again.
Malcolm held the book squarely in front of him. He opened it. A rush of light, wind, heat, and force over came him, but he felt like he could escape its grasp if he closed the book in in time. With just milliseconds to spare, he slammed the book shut and threw it to the floor.
Malcolm ran up the spiral stairs, through the front door of the library, and out of the front door of Drake Law. He stood bent over with his hands on his knees, panting.
“What the . . .” Malcolm said out loud to himself. He looked at his watch. It was almost 10 am. He needed to get back to work. He took two steps toward Inglethorpe & Cavendish and stopped. Did he imagine this? What was in that half-volume?
Malcolm walked back into the Drake library and down the spiral staircase. He saw volume 759 1/2 there on the floor where he left it. He picked it up and braced himself as he opened it. It was full of empty pages. Nothing happened. He closed the book and set it back on the shelf.
“What did you hope to see?” Lola said.
“There was this light that pulled me in. Did you see it?”
“What would you like to see?”
“I was hoping that I’d see the light again.”
“Why don’t you try again?”
Malcolm pulled the book down from the shelf again. “Did you see it?” Malcolm said as he opened the book. This time, the light appeared. A rush of wind, heat, and force pulled him and Lola into the book. The book slamed shut and fell to the floor.