Riley had thought she had been done for, falling into some hidden stairwell. The room had been dark enough, so it was hard to tell what was in there. Though if you thought about it, the stairwell wouldn’t have been hidden all that much, and she would find herself with a broken neck at the bottom. Whoever is behind the nightmare police would find her and wonder who the heck was this kid we found at the bottom of the stairs.
One kid would be, “Who’s this?” And the other would be “I don’t know. Looks like some idiot fell down the stairs,” and they’d be right, because here she was falling and now had grown certain that there were stairs there.
Though that would happen once she fell down the stairs, which hadn’t happened yet. She thought it should have happened already. She’d heard her crutches clatter to the ground, but she never hit. Everything was so dark, she couldn’t see what happened to them. Then she realized she was squeezing her eyes shut, scared of the impact.
She opened them and saw herself looking down at the floor of a broom closet where her crutches were. She knew it was a broom closet because there were multiple brooms as well as other cleaning supplies, but mainly just a lot of brooms. Nothing to see here, no hidden bases. There wasn’t even anywhere to hide an entrance to a base. Just a lot of brooms, I mean, come on, why did the place have to have over ten brooms and most of them were those crappy wicker ones. They had that straw like stuff that always made him think of the scarecrow from Batman.
But she wasn’t falling. Then she noticed the pulling sensation on her back, and the tightness around her chest. She hadn’t noticed it as she had been holding her breath afraid of the impact. Now with a large exhale of air, she felt herself being pulled back.
“Could you grab her crutches?” Riley heard the voice from behind her, and turned to see that it was the old guy telling Suzy to grab her crutches. He must be crazy strong as he was pulling Riley back with one hand and preparing to grab her around the torso with the other. He had in a blink of an eye, much faster than Riley had been, grabbed Riley by the back of the clothes and kept her from falling. Now he was effortlessly pulling her back. Who was this guy?
Suzy quickly responded by grabbing Riley’s crutches. Suzy looked just as shocked as she was and it showed with how she moved quickly without saying anything. Riley couldn’t remember the last time she had ever gone without making some quip.
Suzy handed them to Riley who then used them to get her balance. The old man let them go and Riley worked her way to face him.
“You’re welcome,” he said. The man had a strange accent that Riley thought was British but wasn’t sure. She had never actually met anyone who was from England so her only experience was with fake accents through television shows and from watching Doctor Who. “Now, could you explain to me why you were about to enter our closet or would you rather I just call the police have you explain it to them?”
“I was looking for the bathroom.” Riley said quickly not wanting to get the police involved. That would be a great cap to the day. Aunt Alice would be thrilled. Hospital one day, police station the next. Riley wouldn’t be allowed out of her house until she was eighteen if that was the case.
“Really?” The man studied them both, then reached past them to close the door. “So, if you can’t read, what are you doing in a book store.”
The man was nodding towards the sign, and Riley felt her face flush. She looked over to Suzy hoping she had some idea, but she was standing still, her eyes wide and the color drained from her face. The guy was intimidating, that was for sure. He was so stiff, but he didn’t dress like some upscale British dude like Riley would expect from the accent. He was in jeans and a polo shirt that was tucked in which seemed natural for his extreme skinniness, but weren’t British guys supposed to be, well, wearing suits and those funny looking hats?
Though as Riley thought about it, and her experience with British people, it was limited to fiction, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. The fiction was all old stuff that she found at the library, which she loved reading old stories of Sherlock Holmes, but of course that wouldn’t have a modern description. Then there was Harry Potter, and Doctor Who and neither of them depicted England as just having dudes walking around wearing top hats and suit coats, though as she thought about it, that would have made for an interesting Doctor Who episode. Maybe she’d have to write some fan fiction for that later as that would be really creepy, perfect for Who.
“Well?” The man asked, bringing Riley out of her head. She looked to the closet and then back to the man, guessing that the man worked there, and if he did, then he must know Bruce.
“We were looking for someone.” Riley said, frustrated.
“In the closet?”
“No, we just thought it would be a place to start looking.” The man continued to look down at them, and his eyes seemed to pierce all the way into Riley’s soul, making Riley squirm. “And well, yeah, I don’t know, we thought there would be, like, stairs leading down somewhere.”
“So you were going to break into the basement? What, expecting to find some rare books down there that you might be able to sell?”
The man reached out and grabbed the back of Riley’s shirt again, this time holding her fiercely so Riley couldn’t get away. Suzy reached out and tried to pull him off, but it was no use. The guy’s grip was strong and because Riley was on crutches, she couldn’t fight as hard as she’d want to as it might send Riley off balance.
“We weren’t trying to steal anything.” Suzy said through gritted teeth, struggling to break Riley free.
“We were here to talk to Bruce.” Riley said.
The old man shook his head and called back over his shoulder. Riley and Suzy couldn’t see who he was talking to.
“Call the police,” he said, probably to whoever was still working the front counter.
That was when Riley was able to somehow shift her weight and bring one of the crutch legs down on the man’s foot. He immediately let go of her, and Riley didn’t miss the opportunity. As soon as the hand released her, she dashed, well as fast a a kid on crutches could move, into the next aisle.