ASSOCIATES (2022, March, v. 28, no. 3)

Fiction

The hidden library revealed and danger is lurking close by…? – A Kelly Bourne story

by Jim Jackson

The previous chapter in this exciting story can be found at Associates: The Electronic Library Support Staff Journal » Fiction – Jim Jackson (ucr.edu)

Kelly Bourne stood in the library office, her hands were shaking and her mind was trying to understand what she had just seen. Yes, she had just been within a minute of losing her life and yes, she had been saved by someone who had shot her former boss. This last bit was what she was having most difficulty with! Kelly had never felt so helpless in her life, and was not sure if she should feel frightened or thankful. She turned to look at Professor Edwardo who was smiling at her and seemed completely relaxed. Are you ok, he said, I know this is all a bit upsetting but there is nothing for you to worry about. Nothing, whispered Kelly, do I know the real you, have you done this sort of thing before and why do you carry a gun. Before either of them could say anything more footsteps could be heard running down the corridor outside and then people were shouting what’s happened, is anyone hurt. James Fairburn, Kelly’s senior boss was standing in the doorway and seemed to realise what happened and said to someone behind him, go and call the police and ask for an ambulance, and no one is to come near here at all. He looked at Professor Edwardo and at Kelly, and said I think there needs to be a lot of explaining to be done when they get here, how did this happen. Kelly was in a daze, as no one seemed to be worried that Claire Grey, her former boss, was lying on the floor, with blood coming from a head wound and clearly dead.

Professor Edwardo said I had to save Kelly’s life and did the only thing I could to save her. I’ll just go and grab my coat as I am sure the police will want a long explanation. With that he walked out of the office and down the corridor, while James Fairburn looked at Kelly and said shall we get a chair for you and sit outside while we wait. Perhaps you can start to explain what’s happened? Kelly nodded and shakily walked across the room and leaned on the wall outside, while a chair was bought for her.

A short time later the police arrived, and so did the paramedics, and they swiftly got into action. A tall man, in a dark suit, showed Kelly some ID and said his name was Inspector Jack. Can you explain what happened here and your involvement in it and was anyone else involved? Kelly said I was sitting in the office, having been at the event the library was holding, it was all a bit much for me and I needed some space to try and process everything and then Claire Gray came into the room and pointed a gun at me and said she was going to kill me. Professor Edwardo arrived at that moment and shot her, then everyone else arrived. Inspector Jack immediately said, where is this other person? He went to get his coat, and thought you would want him to go with you, but that seems ages ago now. James Fairburn said that the professor had been invited to attend the event at the library to celebrate the new display. The paramedics had finished doing what they could and asked if they could move the body, but the Inspector said, we will need a full CSI unit here first. By now Kelly was shaking all over her body and one of the paramedics came and looked at her and said I think your suffering from delayed shock and really should go home and rest provided there is someone who can stay with you, if not then an overnight stay at the hospital would be a good idea just so they can keep you under supervision until your more stable. I’m sure we can find someone to take her home said James Fairburn and that she would be more comfortable there. It was agreed that Kelly could return home for the night provided that someone stayed with her. So, her friend Jazz, from the Medical Library offered to do that, and Kelly would give a full statement the following day. As Kelly was attending an official University event James Fairburn agreed that the University lawyers would act on Kelly’s behalf and for the University.

The following day Kelly and Jazz were contacted by one of the lawyers employed by the University and they arranged to meet up at the police station so she could give her full statement to both the lawyer and the police. At the end of which Robin Sharp, the university lawyer, said that’s an amazing series of events leading up to last night. I think it’s clear you had nothing to do with her murder and you were lucky to escape with your life. Do you know how we can contact Professor Edwardo? He seems to be key to all this, if he admits to shooting her. No, I don’t said Kelly, the University organised the whole event, I was just invited. This is going to be difficult for you and the University as he seems to have disappeared. There followed a meeting with Inspector Jack who accepted Kelly’s statement and said there would be ongoing investigations and they may have to interview her again, but in the meantime she was free to leave.

Later that day Kelly had another meeting with James Fairburn and Robin Sharp. Kelly was surprised how quickly the Vice Chancellor and the university Executive committee had met and discussed events and formed a plan to deal with the publicity and ongoing investigation. Kelly was to be on ‘administrative leave’ which meant she was basically given paid leave to be away from work while the whole episode was investigated. Kelly was not happy, she wanted to get back to work, but was told as the library was the centre for the investigation it would not be right that she was still working there. You can return to your post once this is all over. When Kelly asked what her post was, was she now the head of the library or not. That’s not something we can discuss now, said James Fairburn, you are to remain in contact with Mr Sharp who will be responsible for all replies to the police, unless they require you to attend for further police interviews. Of course, he added you will not discuss this at all with anyone but the legal team and me.

Later that evening while sitting at home, thinking about all the events that had taken place, Kelly felt sure that the answers she needed were to be found in Rome. What the questions were was another thing, and could she get there, was it even safe to think about it?

Some distance away another meeting was taking place. The topics of conversation where the library events, as well as, the mysterious Professor Edwardo. This could just be the break we need, said a very tall man with a bald head, while another said I wonder if we can use Ms. Bourne and her skills with some support from us? I think, said the bald man, the best way of dealing with this is to allow her to travel to Rome and try to investigate what happened to the rest of the hidden library. We can keep a close eye on events and hopefully intervene if she is successful. How can we manage that said another member of the group? I think we let the newspaper reporter Kelly met in Milan, access to some information and let him contact her and we encourage her to see him. If he is successful, he can claim the credit, and if it all fails then there will be no damage to us, as there is no direct connection. Agreed, said the bald man, arrange it and keep me informed.

While even further away Professor Edwardo was sitting in a comfortable leather-bound chair facing his own group of people. This is all very unfortunate, said one, while another said your actions have brought a lot of attention to us. It was the only option, said the professor. Miss Bourne is very clever and resourceful and seems to have a lot of contacts, and these will be useful to us. If we can find the rest of this library which was amassed during the last war then there will be a huge market for it, which will be very profitable for us. You’re walking on very thin ice here. If this all fails not only, will we be compromised then so would some of our best customers. They will not take kindly to that and may take matters into their own hands, so be warned, said the leader of the group.

Kelly Bourne was sitting in her house idly wondering what to do, she had spoken to the police who said she was free to travel if she wanted to, provided that she kept in contact with them. The University had formally put her on paid leave but was not allowed to do any work despite her offering to work from home. She said she had a ton of work to do but was firmly told, all that would be managed for her and once the police investigation was over, she could hopefully return to work. Kelly was concerned as no mention was made of which role that might be.

Kelly tried reading, drawing and house cleaning, but her mind was racing with thoughts and ideas about what happened in the library, and what was behind it all. She sat down and started writing in a notebook, a clear sign she was stressed, everything she could remember about the last few months. It all came back to Professor Edwardo and the hidden library she had accidentally found and all the publicity it had generated. While her mind was still trying to make some sense of this her cell phone started to ring. Without really looking at the call display she answered and said hello. Hi Kelly, it’s Peter Greaves from Roma Publishing, I gather you have had further adventures in that library of yours! It took her a moment to gather her thoughts and then Kelly said how could I forget you, how did you know about what happened? Ahhhh said Peter, a good journalist, never reveals his source, but I have heard and read all about it. How are you, have you recovered, is there anything I can do to help you? Kelly replied if you can tell me why I was almost shot, why my boss was shot dead and who the hell is this Professor Edwardo? Well, that’s some list there, but I might be able to help. If you’re willing to help me, he added. How and why said Kelly? Well let’s just say that your discovery a few months back was big news here in Italy and I think there is much more to it. How would you feel about coming out here to try and find the rest of that hidden library, and that in turn might answer your questions? If you sign up with me for the story I can fly you out here, but not business class as I haven’t sold the story yet and get you some decent accommodation and we can try and crack this story together. Let me think, said Kelly and I will let you know, I have to check with various people before I say yes.

She phoned Inspector Jack, who said investigations were continuing and provided she kept in touch he had no objections. Robin Sharp said if the police were happy then so was he, but that the University would not provide travel insurance for her. Kelly phoned Peter Greaves back and said it seems that no cares what I do, so why not. When can I leave for Rome? That’s great, said Peter, how about the day after tomorrow, I have already booked you a flight on one of the budget carriers, called Fly Away. Have you got travel insurance? Yes replied Kelly, it’s a yearly policy so I am covered for multiple trips and most things, apart from shootings she added with a nervous laugh.

Kelly arrived in Rome at 3.30pm and was met by Peter Greaves. He seemed to be hugely excited and in a rush to get exploring. Kelly asked where she was staying and was taken to a small but comfortable hotel in the back streets of central Rome. Sitting in the hotel bar, Kelly said to Peter so what is so important you arrange to fly me out here and what has it got to do with Claire Grey and whatever murky world she was mixed up in? It’s a long story, said Peter but the best way I can describe it is this: there is a group of people who, for the right price, will get whatever artefact you want from anywhere in the world. Local police don’t know them, and they will use both highly skilled crooks and local thieves, it’s all organised via ‘the dark web’ so tracing them is very difficult. Police forces around the world cooperate in a similar way, there are groups of people who are not really police as such, more like secret intelligence operators. They employ people to retrieve stolen goods and return them to the previous owners, often national bodies like research institutions and galleries. They get a cut of reward monies and fund their activities, while Governments help with visas, and occasional clean up operations. This sounds very far fetched and almost like a crime novel rather than real life. Yes, said Peter, in some ways it is, and both parties are happy with this, as it detracts from their real activities. I have been given a tip off that the collection you discovered in Milan station was only part of what was taken from the Villa St Mark. I suspect that your mystery man, Professor Edwardo, is part of the organisation that arranges the thefts. These clean up sessions you talked about, what you really mean is that people are killed or vanish if they cause a problem. Yes, I know it’s not without its risks, but it would make a great story. You would be helping to stop trafficking in stolen artefacts, as well ensuring your own safety, as you would be cleared of any further connections with art theft. Am I in danger, asked Kelly, because if I am, I’m going straight to the police. What would you tell them, said Peter?

I need to think about this, said Kelly, what artefact am I supposed to be looking for and do I really have a choice? We are looking for what is believed to be the personal journal of the Queen of Sheba, stolen from the great Library at Alexandria, taken to Rome as a gift for Caesar Anthony. Oh my, said Kelly in a hushed whisper. Now I really need to go for a walk. She got up and walked out of the hotel with no clear plan about where she was going but knowing she needed to organise things in her brain. Past gift shops, clothes shops and museums she walked, until she found herself in a small courtyard. It was clearly old and in need of repair, with peeling paint, but at the same time beautiful. The last few years of her life had been of adventure and huge excitement and a certain amount of danger. Was this the adventure she craved for, or a huge mistake she would not live to regret?

Kelly suddenly was aware of man in a grubby white suit who was looking directly at her, and she felt afraid. After they had stared at each other for several minutes he walked over and said whatever you’re looking for is not here. How do you know I’m looking for something she said, looking around for some sort of weapon to defend herself. People rarely come here unless they want to think, so you might want to decide and move on. With that he turned and vanished down the street.

A few minutes later a flustered and out of breath Kelly was back at the hotel, Peter had left, so her pent-up anger multiplied and when she was safely in her room, with the door locked, she fumbled with her cell phone and called Peter. He answered on the second ring, I’ll do this and when it’s over I will watch you delete my number from your cell phone and you will never call me again, is that clear! Peter smiled, and said yes of course, I will call you tomorrow and we can start exploring. On ending the call, he took another cell phone out of his pocket, and called another number, and said she’s in but not happy so we will have to be careful.

Father Angelo was proud of his little church in the southern area of Rome, it was not a rich area, but the people were good and honest workers. He knew all his parishioners by name and had baptised many in his church who had in turn grew into adults with their own families. The church had few items of any great monetary worth, but they were beautiful to him and beyond a price. Disturbing news had reached him about several thefts recently from local churches, items which were not known about to those outside the areas. At least that is what was thought. These were very targeted thefts, with other items being left behind. Why would anyone want to steal old church records, his church, St Mary’s, was hundreds of years old and they still kept their written records dating back all those years. What could they contain he wondered apart from births, marriages and deaths, and the occasional mention of outstanding gifts to the church?

Kelly was up early the next morning determined to try and find out what she was supposed to find and more importantly to try and find Professor Edwardo and ask him a few questions. Well actually she thought of a whole lot of questions. Her breakfast although it was fresh coffee and bread seemed stale, her mind in a turmoil of memories and questions. Peter arrived as she was halfway through her breakfast and sat down next to her. Good morning, he said, can I share your coffee pot? Kelly replied, what’s it going to cost me? We are on the same side, said Peter, remember. I thought I knew you, said Kelly but clearly there is more of a journalist in you than a human being. Oh, harsh said Peter. Kelly said how do you know that this journal exists? If it’s that old it might have fallen apart with age, been burnt or just lost in the mists of time? Peter said, there are records in the Vatican library which talk about this journal being brought to Rome and given to the church. The Pope was keen to have it as a relic that could be venerated and support the church, as well as increase the number of pilgrims coming to Rome, and donations to the church. I suggest we go there today and have a look around and see what we can find. With your research skills and my connections it could be productive and I have tickets so don’t worry.

Access to the Vatican library was always something that Kelly had wanted but had never had the chance before. Once admitted to the library Kelly started work going through records and indexes trying to find mention of the Queen of Sheba, her journal or anything linked to her. Peter seemed keen to stay with her and helped by ordering up various books from the stores for Kelly. After a few hours Kelly was deeply into her research, and Peter became bored. Do you want to go for coffee he said or something to eat? What, err no said Kelly distractedly. Left alone now, Kelly was deep into the history of the Pope who had accepted the supposed gift. Pope Stephen was not hugely known and seemed to have done little for the church at that time, apart from amass a huge library and a considerable fortune from pilgrims. During such times as local wars, illness and famine succeeding Popes had used the library as a source of knowledge but also as source of revenue. Selling off items when times were hard or used to gain favours from people. There seemed to be a steady flow of items to local churches but no record of what happened to them once they were transferred there. Kelly made a list of churches listed as having received items, none of which seemed to relate to what she was looking for, but it was a start at least. Now to discover if these places still exist, but how? She thanked library staff for their help and said she might be back again to try and track down other possible locations. They wished her well, but doubted many of the churches still existed, had she thought how many places had been destroyed over the years? On her way out Kelly passed through the obligatory gift shop and noted the books on local history. Including one book called ‘Famous Lost Churches’. This might help thought Kelly and was pleased to see it had an English version, as her grasp of the Italian language was very limited! What to do with all her research was her next problem and who could she trust?

To be continued . . . . .

Copyright Jim Jackson 2022. All persons and events are fictitious as this is a work of fiction.

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