Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Letter Law - an Origin Story. Episode 10. Maryanne M. Wells

“Are you okay?” Nick asked.

I rolled over gingerly and sat up. “No, you idiot,” I spat back. “I was hit by a flying book.”

“So was I. And you shouldn't call me an idiot; my IQ is far above the cut off level for that label.”

I found the book that had hit my back lying next to me and considered throwing it at Nick. I settled for glaring at him. “Okay, you're not an idiot. You're a twit.” I waited for a witty retort that never came. Nick was staring past me and he was deathly pale.

“What?” I demanded, starting to panic. “What is it?”

“Look,” he whispered, pointing.

I looked.

The force and effect of the bookcase had faded away, but the outlines remained. I could see another bookcase through the image of the first, like an image in a gray mirror. And...people. A man and a woman, moving around in a room that looked like the mirror image of the one Nick and I were in.

“They look like law students,” Nick whispered, crawling over to where I was sitting.

“No one I know,” I whispered back. “Wait a minute...look at their clothes. Are those bellbottoms?”

We watched as the man said something to the woman and walked over to the bookcase. The woman caught the man's arm, like she was trying to hold him back. He shook her hand off and she stepped back, hiding her head in her hands. The man grabbed a book off the bookcase.

“What is he doing? That's not the way someone holds a book when they're conducting research,” Nick said.

The man took a piece of paper out of his pocket and put it into the book.

I grinned. “He isn't taking information out. He's putting information in. I have part of that paper, Nick. It's a list of names.”

The man replaced the book in the bookcase. He looked back at the woman, who was shaking her head and gesturing frantically with her hands.

“She kind of looks like you,” Nick said. I looked at the woman more carefully, but didn't see the resemblance.

Suddenly both people froze and looked towards the entrance. The woman moved closer to the man and took his hand. He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and moved towards the entrance. As he moved he tripped over a bookbag leaning against a chair. He caught himself, but stepped on his own shoelace. He glanced down absently at his shoe then kept moving. He looked back once at the woman, said something, then disappeared.

The woman moved quickly to the bookcase and pulled out a book. She flipped through the pages and tossed the book down with a disgusted expression. She grabbed another book off the shelf.

The man ran back into the room. He snagged the strap of the bag with one hand and grabbed the woman's arm with the other, pulling her out of the room.

“I don't suppose that you were able to read their lips,” Nick said.

“No, but like I said before, I have part of the list.” I reached into my jeans pocket and pulled out the scrap of paper.

The scene before us dissolved. A great wind blew us towards the bookcase.

“What is happening,” Nick shouted.

I opened my mouth to answer and saw a book flying at my head. I ducked. “Head for the door,” I screamed.

We made it out of the room crawling and gasping.

“Unreal,” Nick said, pulling himself upright with the help of the railing.

I got to my feet and listened. “It's quiet.”

“And still. Do we...check the room?”

I did not want to check the room. “Yes,” I said.

We moved forward slowly, but we still got there. I touched the wood frame around the opening with a shaking hand. It was ice cold. We looked in the room.

“It's...perfect. Everything is back in place. It's like none of the weirdness happened,” I said, looking towards the bookcase.

“Uh...Maryanne,” Nick said, poking in my arm in a very annoying fashion.

I turned towards Nick and that's when I saw it. I mean him. It.

Whatever. Point is – we've got a ghost.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Letter Law - an Origin Story. Episode 9. Maryanne M. Wells

This is part 9 of a serial story.  The story began here.

Twenty steps up, turn right, cross the landing, twenty steps up, turn left...

Remember there's a ghost up there, spin around, turn right, run down twenty steps, skitter and trip across the landing, ricochet off the wall, catch breath, tell self that there is no such things as ghosts...

Cross the landing again, creep up twenty steps, turn left....

Come on, Maryanne. You can do this. There's no such thing as ghosts, or if there are then you're not a conduit, or if you are it's okay because how scary can a ghost really be if its so lame that it haunts a law library.

I could have waited for Nick. I should have waited for someone to go into the Pacific room with me, but I had to know if I was a conduit or ghost magnet. I couldn't wait for Naomi to find Nick.

Okay: threshold of the room. Deep breath and go.

I walked over to the bookcase and nothing happened. No icy cold breeze, no spectral hand. So anticlimactic I sighed.

Huh. The book that the hand had grasped, the one that Tanya had found the torn list in, was gone. Doubtful that anyone would have checked it out, so where was it?

No books on the table. I dropped down to my knees and looked under the armchairs. Two dust bunnies, a penny, a paperclip, and whoops...a gum wrapper. Better pick that up before the eagle-eyed Dean sees it. Ah, what the heck. Grab the penny too.

I shoved the penny in my jeans pocket and stood up.

“Maryanne,” a voice whispered.

“Nick? Where are you?”

A hand waved around the doorframe. “I'm not coming in,” Nick whispered from the hallway.

“Naomi told you about the conduit thing?”


“It's not me,” I said with a hint of smugness. “I've been in here without anything strange happening. Unless you count a missing volume of the Pacific Reporters as strange. I don't.”

Nick peered tentatively around the doorway. “No cold air?”

“No. And no ghost hand either.”

I heard Nick take a deep breath. He stepped slowly into the room, chest heaving under his immaculate tweed blazer.

Laughing a little I said, “Seriously? A tweed blazer with leather patches on the elbow? Gosh, Dad, where's your pipe?”

Nick opened his mouth and the room imploded with ice and flying books.

Pacific Reporter to the back hurts. A lot.
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Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Mutant of the Week

According to Jesse Garson, the artist responsible for Quantum Duck's Mutants of the Week, this week's Mutant makes a great pet.

All I can say is...I want one!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Black Letter Law Origin--Part 8: Naomi

I went back to the library and sat down with my head in my hands. Some first year I didn't know came up to ask to reserve a study room, and just kind of stood there for a little while until I noticed. I think he was afraid to say anything. One of the study rooms was mysteriously un-reserved. So I gave him that one and reminded him about the two hour time limit.

My brain started whirring so fast that it kind of shut down. I had a final the next morning, and I needed to study, but had to write those memos. If my GPA drops, I lose my scholarship. If I don't write either of those memos in a most excellent fashion, I lose my scholarship. I might lose my scholarship anyway, so maybe I shouldn't bother with the memos, but that would be disrespectful to the Dean and would probably land me in more trouble. I was in my second year, but I really didn't want to have to take out loans. My parents always told me loans were what sink people financially, and you should only take out a loan for a house or car, not even for an education.

When Maryanne showed up, she looked wound up but weirdly cheerful. She peeped at me from several different angles.

“You don't look so good...” she began.
“I don't feel so good,” I answered.
“What happened with the dean?”
“You don't want to know.” And I scowled.
“Actually, I really do. And I have more information you might think is interesting.”
“Ok,” I said wearily. “Who goes first?”
“You, of course.”

I couldn't tell if she was being nice or pushing me. I decided to decide she was being nice, allowing me to get it over with, and maybe she could help me.

“The dean is mad that I didn't follow library safety protocols and talked to Sandy before I talked to the police. The fact that I called and couldn't get through doesn't seem to matter. And my scholarship is on the line because of it. He wants two memos due tomorrow morning, one on library safety and the other on why I should keep my scholarship... you're better at sucking up. Can you help me?”

“Heck!” Maryanne never cursed when we were in law school. That started afterward. “I won't write it for you, but I have some ideas.”

“I figure I'll lose it one way or another. The question is which way looks the best... or the worst.”

“Come on, you can't think like that! If everyone did that, we'd all be dead.” And she stopped as if she'd just been slapped.

“You ok?” I asked. I was usually the one to have sudden thoughts and space out.
She snapped out of it real quick.

“You know Tanya Capton?” she asked, in what I considered an abrupt change of subject.

“Uh, maybe. Blonde, preppy, your quarter, too much makeup?” I ventured.

“Well, that describes about half of them, but yes.”

“What about her?”

“She was in the library last night, and she knows something.” Maryanne sounded frustrated.

“What do you mean?”

“She said Nick or I is a conduit.”

“Wha--” I began.

“Someone who can channel or direct ghosts or other... things.”

“Isn't that... something from the X-Files, or something?” I was incredulous.

“SHE seems to think they're real.”

“And she doesn't seem like the sort to make that kinda thing up. Or even believe in it.” I finished, and thought for a moment. “Nick won't believe us,” I told her.

“I'm not sure he has much choice. We need to find out what's going on, and if Nick has or is some kind of key, we need both him and me together.”

“So I'm supposed to observe, or help, or what?” I asked.

“First, you're supposed to finish those memos and study con law. Isn't Nick in that class?”

How did she know my schedule better than I did?

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Black Letter Law, Part 7: Naomi

“Miss O'Connor”, the Dean began.

“Crap”, I thought. It is never, NEVER a good sign when authority figures don't use your first name.

“We have certain rules in this place,” he continued. “And do you know why?” I honestly didn't know whether this question was rhetorical. I supposed it would become clear if the silence stretched out. But it was, in fact, rhetorical. “Because without rules, we have chaos. You are expected to follow the rules so that you appreciate them when you need them in the courtroom or have to impose them on others.”
He paused.

“Do you know why we're talking about rules?”

“No, sir.” They seem to like it when you use “sir” and “ma'am”. And I wasn't about to cop to anything he might not already know about.

“Last night I believe there was an incident with a gun. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What happened, Miss O'Connor?” Whew boy, was I in trouble. I thought I knew where this was headed.

“I found a gun. I didn't know if it was real. I tried to call campus police and couldn't get through, so I called Ms. Richardson.”

His eyes narrowed. “So you contacted the librarian before the police?”

“well, no, I mean... like I said, I couldn't get through.”

“Ms. Richardson was the first person you spoke to?”

“Well, no... I talked to Maryanne, but she was on duty with me.”

“And what is the protocol?”

“I'm sorry, I don't know, sir.”

“Very well. Two memos, due tomorrow morning at 8 am. One on law school safety protocols and the other on why you should keep your scholarship. You may go.”

I felt like i'd been punched in the gut. I TRIED to call the police. What did it matter that I talked to Sandy first? Everyone—me, Maryanne, Sandy-- knew that I tried to call the police. Why would the dean twist the events like that? I felt sick. I needed to talk to Maryanne. The safety protocol memo would be easy enough, but with finals... I felt like I was being set up to fail. And i'd have to word the scholarship memo very, VERY carefully.

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