Johnny Smith's wet shoes squeaked over the white tiles of the Bangor Public Library, and he slowed to a tiptoe, conscious of the sound. Then he realized low conversation buzzed around the building, and no one was shushing him for making noise. Maybe libraries had changed while he'd been in a coma, or maybe he was just remembering them incorrectly. He thought they'd insisted on total silence.
To be on the safe side, he continued to sneak through – a dark shadow in the bright, pristine interior. He attracted some stares, but he was used to that. It might have been his black clothes or the fame that clung to him as close as those rain-soaked clothes plastered to his body. Thunder rumbled, and he flicked a glance up at the glass dome above his head that separated him from the elements.
Johnny briefly pursed his lips before forcing a pleasantly open expression and braced himself to meet a fan or reporter or some other stranger. When he turned, he saw the pretty young woman who'd addressed him, approaching timidly, arms wrapped around a stack of books. He squinted at the somewhat familiar face and tried in vain to place it. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I have the feeling I should know you and I can't remember where from."
The girl laughed it off with a shrug and a shake of her pony-tailed head. "I'm surprised you remember me at all. I looked very different when we met. It was ninth grade Bio, and I usually sat in the back…"
"Annie!" Johnny said, snapping his fingers as the name popped into his head.
"Yep. Only without the braces and the acne." She smiled to show off her straight white teeth, and John laughed.
"Give yourself some credit. Of course I remember you. Not only did you get straight A's, but all my tests came back fully illustrated."
Annie blushed. "Science was never my thing, so those doodles helped me keep everything straight."
"Well, they did the trick. What are you doing with yourself these days?"
"Nice. The books treat you well?"
"Can't complain," she said and added, "When I can find them, that is. Not that it's their fault. They don't run away by themselves."
"No, it's the poltergeist that hangs out in the stacks," he deadpanned. Then he saw her frown and circle slowly, he regretted saying anything. "Kidding. I don't see ghosts."
"I just thought, being psychic…"
"Sorry, but I don't think we can blame it on ghosts. Just library patrons who don't know Dewey."
"It wouldn't matter if they did. We use Library of Congress classification around here."
"Maybe that's the problem, then."
"Maybe. Oh, I should probably go, but I'm glad I saw you again, Mr. Smith." She released one of her arms from the books and held out a hand to them. Then she remembered who she was dealing with, hesitated, and started to lower her hand.
He attempted to relieve her awkwardness by taking the hand. "You, too. By the way… Mansfield Park?"
"It's tucked behind some kids' books on bugs."
"No way. Show me." She marched to the juvenile nonfiction, and John shrugged and pointed out the shelf where he'd just had a vision of the book she'd been searching for. "Thank you so much! You're brilliant! I really needed this book."
John reached for it automatically and as soon as he touched it, he saw Annie sitting in half-darkness, squinting to read the tiny print. Then her body jerked up and fell face-first onto the ground, blood staining the back of her sweater. The book fell from her open hand and lay beside her still body. "Annie, I don't know how to say this…"
"Did you just have a vision?"
"Yes, and it's very hard…"
"Was it of me dying?"
"How'd you know?"
Annie widened her eyes innocently and reported, "Oh, I think you saw tomorrow."