The Saints Are Coming... (Tulane University, New Orleans)

Catbite tried to appear disinterested in her surroundings…but the ploy wasn’t working. The straight backed chair permitted no attempt to slouch. Likewise, the stony silence of the librarian. Ms. Mar stood at her desk, glasses perched upon her nose as she examined the returned items from the Markham collection. With latex gloves, she leafed the yellowed pages of each notebook, her study intense. “No signs of damage,” the librarian observed.

“Ms. Mar, I….”

“Stop.” The punk was silenced immediately as the woman checked off the inventory. With reverential care, Ms. Mar deposited each notebook into a protective envelope. After repeating the procedure with the cassette tapes, she gently placed each into the burnished wood of the collection’s storage box. As the older woman worked, Kat’s eye was drawn to the framed photographs on the librarian’s credenza.

The first was a portrait shot. The woman was Asian, possibly mid thirties, if Kat was any judge. She was pretty, with bright eyes and a smile that was as natural as it was friendly in appearance. The second photograph showed the same woman, dancing with Ms. Mar at her side. They both held decorated parisols, and the thick adornments of Mardi Gras beads hanging from their necks left no doubt they’d gotten themselves into a “second line” processional.

The third shot was the most telling. Both women were dressed in simple white dresses, flowers woven through their hair. The Asian woman appeared to be speaking as she slipped a gold band onto Ms. Mar’s finger. It was obvious that both were crying tears of joy as a thin, slightly built man smiled in the background. Funny, Kat thought to herself. I never knew Ms. Mar was…

“The collection appears to be unharmed,” the librarian closed the box. “Katherine,” her eyes lifted, “I thought we had trust. Tell me why…why did you do this…do not lie.”

“I don’t need to,” the punkette responded. “That old guy…Owen Walker? I took ‘em to him. We studied them.”

Ms. Mar’s eyes widened. “The guy who nearly made me call security? Why would you do that?” she demanded.

“He’s looking for his son.”

“Jaiden Walker never saw the Martkham collection,” the librarian flatly responded. “He checked out three books from the stacks…”

Catbite shook her head. “He needed to see it. Jaiden found shit…stuff, sorry…and it’s scary. His notes in those books,” the student continued, “point right at Markham. We think he’s tied up in this now.”

Ms. Mar fixed her with a dubious expression. “We. Mr. Walker and yourself?”

“Yes.”

The librarian closed her eyes, removing her glasses to rub the bridge of her nose. “Katherine, there’s a reason that the Markham collection is locked up in our ‘Restricted’ room. That information is toxic. If you knew how many deaths…”

“Deaths? How many?”

“Too many,” Ms. Mar grabbed the storage box. “Dr. Markham himself…three of his children, and some grad students in the eighties. You’ve been around New Orleans enough to know that there are people out there who aren’t…” she shook her head. “They’re not playing by our rules. Katherine, if you really want to help Jaiden Walker, the best thing to do is let the police handle it.”

That would’ve caused a slouch. As it was, all Catbite could do was cross her arms. “Oh sure, right! African American male in the Southern US, gone missing? I’m sure they’ll go fuck all nuts searching…”

“You’re on thin ice!” The librarian jabbed an index finger at the girl. “One more C of C violation on your transcript and…”

“And what?” She was on her feet now. “Gonna haul me up before the Dean? Send me home til my dad drops another donation?”

“We’re done here!” Ms. Mar shot back as she turned briskly. “Leave your key card with security…”

“Azanath!”

Ms. Mar had gone still, the box in her arms. Her voice was barely above a whisper. “What did you say?”

“Azanath.” Kat watched the physical reaction taking place in the librarian’s stance. For the first time, a fear began to line the pit of her stomach. “You know what he is….don’t you?”

“Do you?” Mar gently placed the box onto her credenza, pushing one of the photographs out of order. As she took her seat, the fact that the woman’s natural Hispanic coloring had gone a sort of pale grey. “Why Azanath? What do you know?”

Catbite was bolt upright in her chair once more. “Not…a lot? Jaiden had notes scribbled in books…things his mom told him. And this mark.” She hastily drew the five clawed mark on the librarian’s desk blotter. The moment she finished, Ms. Mar tore the paper into shreds. “What is going on?” the punk demanded.

“Where did you find that? That mark?”

“Jaiden made a note. Listed 5 different locations at his parents’ house…”

“FIVE?” the diminutive woman was on her feet. “You’re sure it was five?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you see them?” Ms. Mar’s eyes were boring into her own.

Kat swallowed, attempting to moisten a mouth gone dry. “Just one,” she nearly stammered. “In the attic, over his parents’ bedroom. Like it was clawed into the ceiling boards…”

The librarian whipped out her phone. “I’m sending you a contact,” she said as her thumb scrolled hastily down. “The house needs cleaning…you’ve got to remove those marks…but it takes someone…who knows.”

Her iPhone suddenly pinged. “Antoine Fourchette? Who the fuck is that?”

Ms. Mar hastened toward the door. “He can help. Go see him. Tell him what you know.”

Kat’s eyes narrowed. “What do you know?”

“Enough,” Ms. Mar whispered, “to tell you to get away from Owen Walker. Don’t go back to that house!” And then, she was gone, vanished into the library’s back storage.

Now abandoned, Katherine Bight studied the new contact in her phone, before saving it. Then, she dialed.

“Owen Walker.”

“It’s Kat. You been reading?”

“Who can stop?”

“I need you to meet me,” she said. “One o’clock. Corner of Mandeville and Dauphine.”

“What are we doing there?” Jaiden’s father asked.

“You’re buying me lunch,” Kat answered. “Then, we’re meeting someone.”

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