By Sandra Elzie
The Time is at Hand
The moon was still low in the sky, but its near-fullness bathed the new library building with a beam as if from a spotlight. Without the streetlight that normally added illumination in the front of the property, dark shadows extended out across the lawn and onto the sidewalk. “What happened to the damn streetlight?”
He was still frowning when he cruised past the front of the dark building. Detective Bonner took his foot off the gas, allowing his car to gradually slow as he neared the parking lot.
“Damn, I’m too late.” His fist slammed down hard on the steering wheel, sending a pain shooting up through his wrist to his elbow. The killer had designated her as the next victim—or at least that’s what the person wanted Désirée and the police to think, but talking to Giselle had made him late getting to the library before the crochet class ended at nine.
His heart thudded. Her car. A chill flooded his system to pool at his bladder. Every muscle in his body tensed. In the shadows, at the far end of the parking lot, sat her Civic, conveniently parked near the back entrance to the building. “No.” The word whispered out on a breath that was ripped from his lungs.
To the beat of his thumping heart, he drove closer to her car, slammed his foot down on the brake and jammed the gear into “Park” before the car came to a complete stop. The heavy vehicle rocked forward and back, but Detective Bonner didn’t wait as he leapt from behind the wheel. With his weapon drawn, he approached the vehicle in a crouched position, as his eyes darted left, and then right, before he focused on the vehicle. His eyes strained to catch any movement—any sign of life as he approached with stealth, but everything was deadly quiet.
He shuddered as that last thought ran through his mind. Deadly quiet? No, not his Désirée—please, not her.
“Désirée!” As he approached the car, he switched the gun to his left hand and grabbed the small penlight he kept clipped to his shirt pocket. His heart thundered in his chest, while adrenalin propelled him forward to close in on her car. The gun shook slightly, but he tightened his grip, steadying the weapon as he neared his objective. A few more feet—not dead, please not dead. His thoughts drummed out the mantra to the rhythm of his heartbeat as he mentally prepared himself to face whatever he found in her car.
One last step and he flipped on the small beam of light, holding his breath as he stared through the tinted windows. A quick sweep of the interior showed a candy wrapper and an empty Starbuck’s cup, but not Désirée.
He released his held breath in a whoosh as his shoulders sagged, but almost instantly he realized that if she hadn’t left in her car, then she was probably still in the building and there were no lights on inside. No time to think about his heart slamming against his ribs as he whirled and darted toward the side door. He took the three steps in one bounding step, slamming into the side of the building even as his hand was out grabbing for the doorknob. The lock rattled as he twisted it back and forth, but it was locked.
He sprinted down the steps, across the parking lot, around the side of the building and up the front steps, sliding to a halt as he reached the porch and saw the double doors standing open.
His heart sank, landing with a thud even as it bounced back to lodge in his throat. What was he going to find when he went inside? He had been attracted to her, had dreamed about her and now…was she going to be the third victim in his growing file on the Library Murders?
He stepped to the side and flipped out his radio. “Dispatch, this is Detective Bonner.”
“Requesting back-up at the library. Building unsecured and librarian possibly missing.”
He clicked off the radio and took a deep breath, allowing it to slowly release into the cool evening air before he decided there was no way he could wait for help to arrive. What if she were injured, bleeding, but not dead? He had to know.
With his eyes now accustomed to the dark, he ducked into the building, crouching low as he made his way inside. With his gun in one hand, he ran his hand along the wall beside the door, looking for the light switch. It was with a sense of relief that he flipped the switch and the room was flooded with light. After allowing his eyes a couple seconds to adjust, he started across the room, his eyes constantly darting around to watch for any movement.
The room smelled of coffee and…cookies? That seemed strange, but maybe the Hookers had brought refreshments. He continued to the far end where the body had been found earlier, relieved when he saw nothing out of place. Even as he heard the sirens growing louder as the squad cars turned onto Michigan Avenue, he noticed the books on the floor of one of the aisles. It wasn’t like Désirée to leave any books lying around.
As he drew closer, he saw the chaos. He glanced down an aisle where books were strewn on the floor. As he continued along the rows of books, the scene was repeated until he reached the last aisle, near the side door. Romance. At first glance, it appeared that nearly every book had been taken from the shelves and heaved. Books littered the floor of the aisle and out into the seating area. A few had landed on the tables and several were on the floor under chairs and tables. No neat stacks, no care of handling. This scene reeked of anger—unleashed hostility. It screamed of brutality if this anger was directed at another human. It pointed to enough anger to kill—and kill again.
His already frantically pounding chest kicked up a notch. He began to run, glancing down each aisle as police entered the building, announcing their arrival by yelling that they were the police. When he was satisfied that she wasn’t in the library, he darted back to the front and skidded to a halt near the two officers.
“The door was open when I arrived. The librarian’s car is outside, but I don’t see her in here. Recheck everything and everywhere for anything out of place—well, except all the books at the end over there,” he said, pointing, “but don’t move any books. There might be a clue in all that jumble.” He took several deep breaths before he finished. “I’m heading over to her house to see if she’s there.”
As he raced toward the front door, he slowed enough to toss one last order over his shoulder. “Call me if you find anything you think might be important.” Then he refocused and allowed the adrenalin to spur him on.
His cruiser roared to life a fraction of a second before it jetted out into the street, fishtailing slightly before the tires grabbed traction and spun, sending up black smoke as he shot forward. Sweat had popped out on his forehead and was now running down into his eyes. Drawing on the training he gained in the military, he shoved the emotions to the back of his mind and focused, even as his fingers swiped across his brow and then slid across the material of his slacks.
He rolled to a stop in front of the small bungalow where she lived. There were lights on. He heaved a sigh. Her car probably wouldn’t start and she’d gotten a ride home. A nervous chuckle slipped out at the panic he had felt and the additional officers he had called in. “She probably thought the front doors were already locked and didn’t check them,” he reasoned as he turned off the engine and opened the door of the car.
His muscles were bunched, ready to stand when his cell phone rang. He had learned that a phone rarely rang after nine o’clock at night without there being trouble.
He had a premonition that he didn’t want to answer the phone. “Yeah.”
“Sir, you said to call if we found anything.”
His stomach sank to his feet. Was she…no, he didn’t want to hear it…didn’t want to think about it.
“Sir, the books on the table at the end of the last row of books? They…the titles seem to be giving us a message.”
“What are they?”
“The Time Is At Hand, by Charles T. Russell; Until Death Do Us Part, by Sherrilyn Kenyon; and Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts. Or else we’re so spooked that we’re reading too much into this, but they’re lined up in the middle of the table.”
“Okay, thanks.” He clicked the phone closed, ending the call. “The Time Is At Hand…well, that’s easy enough to understand,” he muttered. He slid from the car and stood. When he reached the porch, he rang the doorbell, waiting impatiently and finally ringing it twice more before giving up and admitting that she wasn’t there. He tried the door, not surprised when he found it locked.
Maybe she was…Without waiting a moment longer, he used the butt of his weapon to break the glass that ran along the side of her front door, then reached in to unlock the deadbolt.
Once inside, he moved cautiously, but without wasted time through the few rooms, noting their pristine condition, but, thankfully, not finding her. He didn’t need, nor did he want another victim. “But, where is she?” He stood in the small living room and pondered what to do next. “Until Death Do Us Part.” Marriage? Death? He shook his head as he headed toward the front door. It didn’t appear she had returned home from the library, so she was still out there—somewhere. “Maybe hurt, or afraid.” He hated feeling helpless.
He reached for his phone and called dispatch. “Detective Bonner. Put an APB out on Désirée Devereaux, the librarian, and find out who belongs to the Happy Hookers, or whatever those women call themselves, and call them at home to see when they last saw Miss Devereaux.”
“And hurry.” He clicked off his phone.
He had taken only a few steps when the phone rang again. His emotions warred between irritation that whoever was calling had disturbed his concentration and praying that it would be Désirée telling him where she was and what was going on. “Yeah.”
“Bonner.” He recognized the hoarse whisper immediately.
“Where are you? And why are you whispering?”
“He’s coming, but I can’t see. It’s dark and…and…please help me. He’s crazy.”
The quietly spoken word was hissed, sending a chill down his spine. “Where are you? In a building?”
“No, I got away.”
He could hear her panting between each short sentence, but her words weren’t telling him where to find her. “Are you on a street?”
“No, I’m in a field…no,” she panted as if she were running, “I’m, I’m…shhhh, I hear him coming—I’ve got to hide—Be quiet.”
He stood, rooted to the sidewalk, unable to move as blood pulsed through his temples, shooting a sharp pain behind his eyes as his head throbbed in cadence. Hoping to pick up even the slightest background noise that would tell him where to look for her, his ears began to roar, blocking out every sound but her rapid but shallow breathing into the phone that was still connected with her—still a lifeline to the woman that he was finally willing to admit that he was falling in love with.
He held his breath, fearing another question would be overheard and put her in danger. He was at her mercy, unable to speak, unable to save her. She had the ball and would put it into play if and when she felt it was safe. Until then…
“Bonner.” The hoarse whisper was softer, but more urgent. “I need you. He’s going to kill me. I…”
“Désirée…Désirée?” The line was dead. He had been cut off.
# # #
Will Danny find Désirée before it’s too late? Who has her? Find out more tomorrow.
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