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The Librarians fic: ...And the the Worst Bank Robbery Ever (1/2)

December 26th, 2015 (09:20 pm)
pleased

feeling: pleased

Title: ...And the Worst Bank Robbery Ever

Disclaimer: I do not own the Librarians.


A/N: Set in early S2. Beta provided by sendintheklowns. This serves as my fill for caught in robbery for hc_bingo.

Summary: Not only are we stuck in a bank robbery, but we’re stuck in the worst bank robbery ever.



-o-

“Maybe it’s a magical bank?” Cassandra asked.

Stone tilted his head. “Nothing special about the architecture,” he noted. “Unremarkable, late 20th century.”

“And a really bad security system,” Ezekiel said, sounding truly annoyed. “I mean, honestly. It’s like they’re not even trying.”

Eve nodded, listening to each of them. She chewed her lip. This wasn’t exactly what she’d been hoping for. After Flynn had left in search of the lost artifacts, Eve had hunkered down with Jenkins to catalog the rest of the Library. This had been a necessary task, and she’d been more than willing to help out.

And it wasn’t that it was boring, necessarily.

It was just that it was...boring.

Eve was a NATO operative. She lived for the field. Chasing magical cases had been weird and challenging and really, just so much fun.

So when the Library had thrown a new case their way?

Eve had jumped at the opportunity this time around. If she didn’t, she was pretty sure she was going to go crazy.

It would have been helpful, of course, if this case actually proved to be worthwhile. At the moment, Eve was having her doubts. Jenkins had got them a back door in town -- a small town in the middle of nowhere. The street was quiet and quaint, and the bank was as unimpressive as Stone and Ezekiel said it was.

All in all, Eve was starting to feel disappointed. She wanted to get out of the Library, not take a detour to nowhere. “Are we sure the clipping book sent us here?

Cassandra shrugged. “They’re offering a new CD option,” she said. “Really good rates, apparently.”

“Like supernaturally good?” Stone asked.

“Well, not good enough that I’m setting up an account,” Cassandra said.

“They probably don’t even have enough in circulation to make this place worthwhile to case,” Ezekiel said. He pushed his hands into his pockets. “Let’s face it, this one is a dud.”

“Uh uh,” Eve said. “The Library would never give us a dud.”

“Even magical libraries can have an off day,” Ezekiel said.

“Statistically, it seems likely--”

Stone gave her an apologetic look. “I mean, it’s possible.

Narrowing her eyes, Eve shook her head. “The last time the Library sent us on a string of unrelated cases, they saved my life and brought back the Library,” she said. “I’m not going to ignore it now.”

They all looked at the bank again. It was generic and unimposing from the outside. Shaded glass windows and a brick facade. First National Bank. Even the name was unimpressive.

“So, what do you want to do?” Stone finally asked.

Eve gave a short, decided nod. “I want to go inside,” she said, adjusting her shirt just so. “And see what adventure the Library has in store for us this time.”

-o-

It was big talk -- and Eve was getting better at that sort of thing -- but that was the thing. It was just talk. She could blame it on Flynn, with the way he talked crazy and still somehow got everything right. He was frustrating like that. Eccentric and brilliant and so damn inspiring.

She could also blame it on the Library itself. Libraries held books, right? Books told stories. And now Eve was used to living those stories, sometimes in a very literal sense. It had the tendency to make one poetic. Or, at the very least, cryptic and sometimes (oftentimes) hyperbolic.

Or, really, she could just blame magic.

She went from a NATO task force to a magical guardian. No matter how hard she tried to keep both feet on the ground, it was impossible not to get a little swept up.

Anyway, her big talk? Usually paid off.

Today, not so much.

Inside the bank was...a bank.

There were two tellers and three bankers in cubicles by the wall. A woman with a little boy sat in one of the chairs, waiting, and there were two men talking to either teller with a little old lady and a teenage boy chewing gum loudly in line behind them.

It was really, truly a bank.

“I don’t know,” Stone said. “Maybe the land is enchanted?”

“Or maybe a person?” Cassandra offered.

“Maybe the Library just wants us to get paid for once,” Ezekiel suggested, sound far too happy about the notion.

But Eve shook her head.

She was missing something here, something obvious. Something she knew.

Something she knew better than magic or clipping books or libraries.

Something…

She looked again, at the woman and her son. The bankers on the side.

The little old lady in line.

The tellers behind the desk.

One looked at the other; the other wiped her hand nervously on her skirt.

They were...scared?

Eve stopped, moving her eyeline just enough. The tellers were scared and the two men at the counter were each wearing hooded jackets. One had a briefcase, the other had a bag.

Bulky jackets.

Not quite bulky enough.

“Or maybe,” she said, lowering her voice and leaning closer to the librarians. Instinctively, she glanced back to the exit, taking note of the security cameras and the unguarded entrance. “It wants us to stop a robbery.”

-o-

They handled the news about as well as Eve expected them to.

That is to say, not well at all.

“But all there are people here!” she said, sounding distressed.

“Two of them, four of us,” Stone said. “I think we could take them.”

“Um, no, we can’t,” Ezekiel said. “Noted thief in a bank robbery? And you think anyone will believe he’s the hero?”

“We can’t just leave them,” Cassandra insisted.

“No, but we can leave with them,” Ezekiel suggested.

Stone shook his head, vehement. “No way,” he said. “The Library wants us here to do something, not turn tail and run.”

“A bank robbery isn’t supernatural,” Ezekiel hissed, rocking on his feet anxiously.

“But it still wanted us here,” Stone argued.

“So fine,” Ezekiel said. “We can talk about that. Outside.

They all had ideas, sure.

But none of them were actually watching.

That was the problem, Eve knew, of working with an oil worker turned art scholar, a mathematician with a brain tumor and a brilliant thief: they weren’t tactically trained for combat situations. And okay, so a run of the mill small town bank robbery wasn’t exactly hunting down terrorists, but the same ideas applied.

Eve knew how to scope out a situation, to assess threats and manage assets.

And this one?

Was just weird.

The two guys at the counter were definitely in on it together, but there was a total lack of urgency about it. They had made demands from the tellers, but there was no indication that the tellers were actually doing anything.

She shook her head. “Something’s wrong here,” she murmured.

“Uh, yeah,” Ezekiel said. “We’re in a bank robbery.”

“No,” Eve said. She nodded as discreetly as she could to the counter. “Look.

On command, they looked.

Then, and only then, did they see.

No one was loading money. No one was emptying out the tills. When the manager finally came over, one of the tellers whispered to her. The manager looked between them men and paled before disappearing to the back office.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Ezekiel said. “Bank robberies are usually fast jobs. If you’re going to be unsophisticated enough to pull a simple stick up, you want to get in and out as fast as possible.”

“And these guys -- they’ve been up there how long?” Eve asked.

Stone glanced at a clock. “Five minutes, at least,” he said. “Line wasn’t moving when we came in.”

“And they have cases,” Cassandra noted. “The volume wouldn’t be big enough to empty any kind of vault, so why wouldn’t they just empty the tills?”

“And why the hell aren’t they in a hurry?” Stone asked, glancing anxiously around them.

“Great,” Ezekiel muttered. “Not only are we stuck in a bank robbery, but we’re stuck in the worst bank robbery ever.”

Eve shook her head, glancing between the men and the tellers again. She looked back to the office where the manager disappeared and the tendrils of an idea took shape in her mind. “Or,” she ventured. “They’re not after money.”

It was a toss up to see who would ask the next, most necessary question. But before any of them could venture a guess, there were sirens outside.

Not passing by.

Stopping.

Right
outside.

Which meant that someone had tripped the silent alarm.

Before she could figure out who, there were three gunshots. Instinctively, Eve put herself in front of the Librarians, even as the rest of the room screamed and scattered. The tellers ducked in dismay, and the other patrons hit the ground as plaster from the bullets hitting the ceiling drifted down.

“Okay, everyone!” the robber with the briefcase said as he turned around, brandishing his gun. “On the ground!”

The second one came around, pointing his gun menacingly toward the now hovering crowd. “No sudden movements,” he ordered, a small, sadistic glint in his eyes. “This is a robbery.”

“Not a very good one,” Ezekiel said.

“Hey!” the first gunman said, moving toward them. He was about Eve’s age, and generally unmemorable. Plain face, close cropped dark hair under his hoodie. He held a gun like he knew how to use it, though. “You heard us! On the ground.”

“Oh, yeah,” Eve said, starting to get to her knees. “Right.”

Hesitantly, Stone and Cassandra rolled. Ezekiel rolled his eyes.

The robber narrowed his eyes at them, a certain coldness to his calculation. “Who are you four anyway? You’re not cops are you?”

“What? Us?” Eve asked.

“That would be a no,” Ezekiel said.

“No, no, no,” Stone said with a laugh.

“Not even close,” Cassandra said.

Somehow, their effusive denials were not overly helpful. Eve would need to add basic lying to their growing list of training activities.

The man jabbed the gun toward them. “Then who the hell are you? You’re not locals.”

“No,” Stone said. He looked at Eve, then shrugged. He almost looked apologetic up at the robber again, hands in the air. “We’re the Librarians.”

The man made a face. “The librarians?”

“No time for chitchat,” the second man said, coming up closer. This one was younger, and he had a nasty face that he wore with a snarl. His hair had a reddish tint and his nose was freckled. He didn’t hold his gun with quite as much precision, but he looked more likely to pull the trigger if he needed to. Need, of course, being a subjective word. “Round them up with the others. Let’s get this done with.”

“Right, then,” the first said. He jerked the gun toward the sitting area. “Over here.”

Eve looked, even though she had already seen, and she contemplated the order. She thought about the risk of following and not following it, and how likely it was that she could disarm both of these men without anyone else getting hurt.

Possible, but not necessarily probable.

Not now, she decided in an instant.

She cocked her head, putting on her best vexed look. Hanging out with Librarians, this wasn’t actually that hard.

She gestured down at herself, poised on her knees. “Oh, but we’re--”

Stone shrugged, picking up her cues perfectly. “Already on our knees--”

“We could crawl,” Cassandra suggested, and with her, it was tough to tell if her helpfulness was feigned or not.

“Oh, for goodness sakes,” Ezekiel moaned. No doubt about Ezekiel: he wasn’t putting on any show right now.

“Just go!” the man said, voice rising. He sounded duly annoyed.

“All right, all right,” Eve said, starting to crawl before the guy with the itchy trigger finger decided to give his itch a scratch. “We’re going.

The others followed her, Stone first and Cassandra second. Ezekiel, with a long suffering sigh, came up last. It said a lot about how far they’d come in the last year that she didn’t have to look back to know they were following. That was at least one thing she didn’t have to worry about. It was enough to be stuck in a bank robbery turned hostage situation with unknown magical elements involved.

This sort of thing was never going to get old, at least.

She did sort of hope it got easier, but she suspected it wouldn’t.

“Told you,” Ezekiel said beneath his breath, just loud enough for them to hear. “Worst bank robbers ever.

For once, Eve was starting to think Ezekiel might just be right.

-o-

Once they were appropriately corralled, Eve took stock of the latest developments of the situation. With the first robber minding the captives, Twitchy Finger went about securing the building. He seemed to know what he was doing -- he closed the blinds before the police could get set up outside, and he locked the front door -- and he had a certain efficiency that made Eve suspect he wasn’t a first time criminal. If anything, he seemed to be enjoying himself.

The first man, however, looked less thrilled about what they were doing, but he was no less committed to the cause. With all the hostages in the sitting area, he manned them dutifully, barely sparing looks at his partner in crime.

This suggested that he wasn’t particularly nervous, or, at the very least, that he trusted his partner. This could be both good and bad, in Eve’s experience. A united duo made them less likely to get unnecessarily destructive, but it was always easier to divide and conquer in these sorts of situations.

As for the hostages, they were handling themselves in varying degrees of misery and panic. The mother with the little boy was a mess, and she held him tight even as he wiggled in frustration at the coddling he didn’t totally understand. The little old lady looked exhausted by the ordeal -- getting to the floor had been a feat for her -- and Eve half thought that she might fall asleep if they were stuck here for any length of time. The teenage boy was handling this soberly, though he was sweating -- a lot.

If anything, it was the four bankers who appeared to be most distressed by this turn of events. The two tellers were huddled close, as if to share in each other’s misery, and one of the bankers was actually sniffling intermittently. The other kept asking if he could make a phone call.

“No!” Twitchy Finger said, storming over after he checked the door lock one last time. “No phones. Everyone, no phones!”

“But I need to call the babysitter--” the banker started.

Twitchy Finger lashed out, jabbing his gun dangerously close to the man’s face. “You call, then,” he said. “And the last thing your babysitter will hear is the sound of your brains being splattered on the floor.”

The banker blinked, paling.

“No phones,” Twitchy Finger said again, more dangerously this time. “In fact, all phones, on the floor, right now.”

The banker was the first to comply and the others slowly followed. Cassandra and Stone looked at her, waiting for her lead. After a long moment, Eve pulled her own phone out, putting it on the pile before the others followed. Ezekiel was last, looking even more miserable than before as Twitchy Finger stomped the phones to pieces before kicking them out of sight, the pieces scattered far out of reach beyond the first gunman’s feet.

“Not only are we hostages, but we’re going to be bored hostages,” Ezekiel said. “Great.”

“Would you rather be dead?” the first gunman sneered.

Ezekiel made a face. “You really don’t appreciate sarcasm, do you?”

Eve reached out, kicking the young librarian.

Ezekiel squawked but fell silent, but not before pinning Eve with a glare.

Eve made a face back and shook her head.

Melodramatically, Ezekiel shrugged, throwing his hands up.

Stone dropped his head into his hands and rubbed his forehead.

Just then, the phone rang.

At first, Eve thought it was one of the cellphones, but the ringer -- it was too old fashioned.

It was an actual ring.

The first gunman stiffened, glancing toward the front desk.

Twitchy Finger shook his head, locking eyes with the first gunman. “No phones,” he said. “That means you, too.”

The first gunman didn’t look happy, but he didn’t move as the phone kept ringing. Twitchy Finger crossed toward it and hesitated.

Then he promptly ripped the cord out of the wall. He did this with every phone in the place until there wasn’t a single one left. Crossing his way back, he smirked. “Now no one will interrupt us.”

The first gunman locked his jaw, watching as Twitchy Finger slipped behind the counter to the back office. From here, Eve didn’t have a clear view, but the obstructed view still gave her a better vantage point than before. It wasn’t just an office.

It was the vault.

And it was currently wide open.

Grinning, Twitchy Finger shoved the bank manager into a chair and crossed into the vault. But, to Eve’s surprise, he didn’t go after the money.

Twitchy Finger shoved the woman into a chair before crossing into the vault. But, to Eve’s surprise, he didn’t start loading money.

No, he was opening safety deposit boxes.

Curious, Eve leaned closer to the Librarians. “So what kind of robbers open the vault and don’t steal the money?”

“Um, like I said,” Ezekiel said. “The worst robbers ever.

Stone shook his head. “Or they’re going after something more valuable than money.”

“Safety deposit boxes,” Cassandra said. “They hold personal items, things the bank wouldn’t even necessarily keep those items documented because they’re private items.”

“Private items,” Stone said. “Magical items?”

Eve was already one step ahead of them. Getting to her feet, she murmured back at them. “Only one way to find out.”

-o-

During her time traveling with Flynn, she had complained often about Flynn’s lack of planning. Flynn had extraordinary sight, but he lacked all foresight, and that sort of balance was almost impossible for someone like Eve to tolerate on a full time basis. She often thought it was because Librarians had to possess the most bizarre type of fatalism in the world, in which they were so convinced of their own ultimate fallibility that they lived in utter infallibility until that point.

To be more accurate, though, it wasn’t necessarily Flynn’s lack of plans. It was his inability to follow a common sense course of action. She accepted that he thought differently -- sort of loved it, honestly -- but she didn’t appreciate when he used differently as an excuse for rash and without context.

They had to be a team, after all. Eve wasn’t some generic bodyguard, who ran after him and just hoped to jump in front of bullets. No, Eve was a guardian, which meant that while she was willing to jump in front of bullets, she’d rather work with Flynn to come up with an approach that didn’t involve so many flying bullets in the first place.

Flynn, in the simplest terms, didn’t know how to follow her lead. Basically, ever. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect her or that he doubted her intellect. He just didn’t know how to slow down; he didn’t know how to stop and think that maybe -- just maybe -- she might have a point that didn’t interfere with his cosmically important plans.

That had been the hard part between them.

And it was the thing she loved most about her little LITs.

True, they weren’t LITs anymore, but they were something better.

They were a team.

That was why it had been so surprising to her that they had parted ways after their first mission without her. Because she knew what they were capable of together.

What they all were capable of together.

So getting to her feet, it was a risk in this situation.

But she trusted, without a doubt, that they’d follow her lead.

Assuming, of course, she didn’t get herself killed immediately.

The first gunman lifted his gun, pointing it at Eve as she approached. “Sit down,” he snarled, trying to sound more angry than scared.

He was almost successful.

Just enough leeway there for Eve to work with.

She smiled calmly. “We need to talk.”

“No,” the man said, glancing anxiously back at the vault room. “You need to sit down.”

Eve gave him a condescending look. It wasn’t that he was necessarily in over his head; it was just that she was way better at this than he could ever possibly know. Hostage situations weren’t her specialty, per se, but they had come up from time to time, and she’d negotiated more than her share to a successful close.

She’d also blasted a few to smithereens, but she would rather not go that route for now.

“A few hostages, I understand,” she said. “But this many? You’re asking for trouble.”

The gunman looked at the others, and by his face, she knew that he agreed.

“You need leverage,” she said. “Not liabilities.”

He looked at Eve again, lifting the gun so it was even with her chest. “And I suppose you’d like to be the one we let go.”

“Me?” she asked. “Oh, no. I’ll stay. And so will my friends.”

Cassandra, impossibly chipper, actually waved. Stone managed a tortured smile. Ezekiel groaned and dropped his head into his knees.

“Four hostages is a nice number,” she said. “The others, though? I mean, the little kid is going to start to cry. And the little old lady? Do too much and she’ll have a heart attack. Is that what you want? Crying kids and heart attacks?”

The gunman looked toward the vault again. He wasn’t the ringleader of this mess, then. Either they were a serious partnership or the other guy was calling the shots. He worked his jaw, looking at Eve again. “What’s in this for you? You’re...librarians.”

He had the presence of mind to suspect her motives. Good on him.

Eve smiled coolly. “No, we’re the Librarians,” she said. “So let them go, and you’ll find out.”

-o-

She actually hadn’t expected it to work.

At least, not right away.

Hostage situations took finesse, they took time. They required you to talk a robber out of something they had their mind set on and into a compromise that would ultimately work against them. It wasn’t supposed to be easy.

Gunman number one, however, didn’t require any convincing. Within five minutes, Eve had talked him into letting the majority of the hostages go, leaving just her and the Librarians being forced by gunpoint to the back room.

This was good news -- mostly.

Good that it worked, but bad that now her Librarians were more directly in harm’s way. That was what they did, of course, but they didn’t exactly look thrilled about it. And the last thing she wanted was to explain to Jenkins why she was coming home short a Librarian or three.

At the back, the manager was crying, sitting stiffly in the chair while Twitchy Finger was in the vault. The gunman glared at her before shoving Eve and the Librarians into the vault. “Here,” he said to Twitchy Finger. “Watch them for a second.”

Twitchy Finger barely looked up. “Where are the others?”

“I let them go,” he said.

Surprisingly, Twitchy Finger didn’t even look up from where he was rummaging. “I told you, hostages are good for the plan.”

“We didn’t need that many,” Gunman Number One argued.

“So you didn’t kill them?” Twitchy Finger asked nonchalant.

Cassandra flinched at his callousness, and Stone glared daggers at everyone and nowhere all at once. Ezekiel seemed to have finally accepted that this was his fate, for better or worse.

“That’s not what this is about,” Gunman Number One hissed. He cast a nervous glance at Eve, rocking back on his heels to make sure the manager was still out there. “We need to keep focused.”

“So why you’d bring them back here?” Twitchy Finger asked.

“Because,” Gunman Number One said. “They’re Librarians.

“So?” Twitchy Finger shrugged. “Boring bookworms--”

Librarians,” Gunman Number One said again, with an inflection that made a tingle travel down Eve’s spine. Not just librarians, but Librarians.

Twitchy Finger looked up, the smirk fading from his face for a moment. Then, he all but grinned. “Well, okay, then,” he said. “This just got interesting.”

-o-

Eve was good at what she did, and she wasn’t afraid to admit that. She also would admit, when the rare occasion presented itself, when she had made a mistake.

She was pretty sure this was one of those times.

Usually people just thought it was a little weird that librarians were showing up. They didn’t usually pick up on what they really did.

All things considered, Eve may have made a tactical error in this one.

In her defense, how many people off the street would actually know that when she said librarians she meant magical defenders of justice and safety for all mankind?

In short, no one.

No one off the street.

That meant that these bank robbers weren’t your typical bank robbers.

“So, uh,” Stone said. “Was that what you wanted to have happen?”

Eve chewed her lip, watching as Gunman Number One led the bank manager to the front of the bank. Twitchy Finger was tapping his foot anxiously by the door, glancing back at them intermittently. “Well, it could have been worse.”

“I really don’t think we should be using that as our measuring stick,” Ezekiel said. “Considering the things we’ve seen, worse could mean the destruction of the world.”

“I think it’s an apt perspective,” Eve said.

“Doesn’t really help us much, though,” Stone murmured.

“Eve has a point,” Cassandra said. “This isn’t out of control yet.”

“We’re being held by gunpoint in the middle of a robbery,” Ezekiel countered. “I’m not sure how this isn’t out of control.”

“Well, at least they’re so preoccupied with the fact that you’re a Librarian that they don’t care you’re a thief,” Eve offered.

Ezekiel was not amused.

Eve sighed, rolling her eyes. “Whatever their angle is, at least we have a point of contact now,” she said. “It can open up negotiations.”

“Yeah, but what do we have to negotiate with?” Stone asked.

Eve turned on her brightest smile. “You three.”

-o-

It was probably fortunate that Gunman Number One came back right then, because Eve was pretty sure she was about to face a mutiny from the very people she was charged with protecting. Not that they were without cause, but not that she was without cause either. Eve knew how important it was to have leverage, and she also knew that leverage came in all shapes and sizes.

She looked at her three Librarians and reminded herself of that. A historian, a mathematician and a thief. She could only imagine what Flynn would do if he were here.

“So,” Eve said, refusing to give the robbers the ability to dictate the tone of this situation. “Now that we’ve taken care of that, why don’t you tell me what you really want here?”

Her voice was calm and steady; her words were bold and certain. As if she wasn’t the one being held hostage at gunpoint. That was the trick, though. Power was sometimes a state of mind.

Gunman Number One eyed her wearily. “We’ll let you know,” he said, shifting his gun from one hand to another.

Eve shook her head. “Nope,” she said. “Not how this is going to work.”

“And you get to say?” Twitchy Finger said, moving back toward the vault. “We’ve got the guns.”

He was trying to intimidate her, but Eve was not easily intimidated. She inclined her head. “And I’ve got the Librarians.”

This wasn’t the answer that Twitchy Finger wanted. He closed his mouth, giving a terse look at Gunman Number One. For his part, Gunman Number One takes a measured breath, staring hard between Eve and the others.

It said something for the power of her dynamic with the other Librarians that they didn’t say anything. By now, Flynn would have tried something ridiculous, leaving Eve scrambling to cover his tracks. The others, they were just staring daggers at her back.

“Look,” Eve said, sounding impossibly diplomatic. As if she was doing them a favor. “We don’t have to be enemies here. Tell us what you’re really after, and we can work together.”

It was a good, reasonable offer.

Even if it wasn’t exactly true.

She was pushing her luck with that much, offering something that surely seemed too good to be true. But Eve was playing her intuition here. Twitchy Finger was impulsive, sure, but Gunman Number One seemed to almost hate the entire process of robbing the bank. He didn’t want to be here, and she knew after working for the Library this past year that sometimes the law didn’t completely apply to supernatural elements.

Not that she was condoning robbing a bank. But she wasn’t going to overtly assume that these two were bad people. Sometimes, when magic was involved, people had their reasons. Eve didn’t know if their reasons were good or bad yet, but she needed to find out.

The only way to do that, in their current predicament, was to get them to trust her.

Unfortunately, Twitchy Finger stepped forward, shaking his head adamantly. “We don’t have time for this.”

“They could be right,” Gunman Number One said, putting a hand on Twitchy Finger’s arm.

Twitchy Finger jerked away. “Or they could be trying to trick us,” he said. “You’re the one who said this had to be done.”

“Not like this,” Gunman Number One hissed.

“And did you have a better way?” Twitchy Finger asked pointedly.

At this, Gunman Number One had no reply.

Taking the silence as acquiescence, Twitchy Finger turned back to them. “No more talking,” he said. “You sit there, and you shut up.”

“Why would you want Librarians here if you don’t want their help?” Eve asked.

“We can help you crack the security system,” Ezekiel said. “Keep the cops away.”

Eve glanced back at him, surprised.

Ezekiel shrugged. “Better than sitting here doing nothing,” he said. “If I’m going to be implicated in a robbery, I might as well make it worthwhile.”

“And you’re unlocking the boxes,” Cassandra said. “I can analyze the combinations.”

“And I know a thing or two about artifacts,” Stone said. “If you’re looking for something, I can help you find it.”

Eve wanted to smile. There they were: her team. Trained and smart and perfectly in sync when it counted. This was when they were invincible.

Twitchy Finger, though, he raised his eyebrows.

And laughed.

“That’s cute, really,” he said. “But I don’t need to worry about the cops. And I don’t need help cracking the boxes. And I certainly don’t need help figuring out what I’m looking for.”

Eve frowned. “Then what do you need?”

“An exit,” Twitchy Finger said, gesturing widely with his gun. “You’re our new exit.”

Usually Eve was good at predicting what was coming next.

Today, though?

Not so much.

And there wasn’t even any magic yet.

“I don’t see--” she started.

“Librarians,” Twitchy Finger said, jabbing the gun in her general direction. “You have access to the Library.

Gunman Number One sighed. “We know about the Library,” he said. “We know that it has the power to take Librarians anywhere. It’s probably how you got here in the first place, isn’t it?”

Eve paused. “Sure, but--”

“But nothing,” Twitchy Finger interrupted. “That means when we’re done here, you can get us out of this bank, out of this town.”

“Without ever being seen,” Gunman Number One concluded.

It wasn’t exactly that simple, but they weren’t far off. Eve didn’t see the advantage of telling them that their door was down the street -- not when it would make them less valuable.

No, if this was her leverage, then she had to play that.

“You think we let in people off the street?” Eve asked.

“You won’t even be able to find the entrance,” Stone said.

“It’s too much of a risk,” Cassandra said.

“We don’t want anything in the Library,” Gunman Number One promised. “When we get there, you can send us wherever you like. In fact, we’ll just go out the front door, if you prefer. We just need a way out of here.”

“What was your first exit?” Ezekiel asked, sounding genuinely curious.

Gunman Number One exchanged a telling look with Twitchy Finger. “It was under debate,” Gunman Number One said.

“So you want an exit,” Eve interjected. “But what’s in it for us? Why should we help you?”

“Because,” Twitchy Finger said, lifting the gun in his hand and aiming it, right as Cassandra’s head. “If you don’t, we’ll start killing Librarians.”

Cassandra tensed, wide eyes darting between the gun and Eve. Stone inched closer to her instinctively.

“We certainly don’t need all four of you,” Twitchy Finger said, the sneer returning to his face, more malicious than before. “Do I?”

-o-

Eve probably could have kept pushing, but she couldn’t identify any tactical advantage to doing so.

Besides, she needed a moment to confer with her team.

Team.

That was a novel idea.

She liked that.

Team.

“So, what do you think?” she asked, keeping her voice low as she turned back to the Librarians. Twitchy Finger was currently in the vault while Gunman Number One manned the threshold between the two rooms. He seemed just as concerned about their hostages as he did Twitchy Finger himself. That afforded them some semblance of privacy with her team.

Who were all currently less than thrilled with her.

“Are you going to tell us it could have been worse again?” Ezekiel asked.

“They pointed a gun at Cassie’s head,” Stone seethed.

“And statistically speaking, our odds are going down,” Cassandra said. “Fast.”

Eve resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “That’s why we need to start thinking this through,” she said. “What do we know so far?”

“Besides the fact that that his the worst bank robbery ever?” Ezekiel asked.

Stone sighed heavily. “They know about Librarians,” he interjected.

“So they must be magical,” Cassandra said.

“If they’re magical, then why are they using guns and stuff for a bank robbery?” Ezekiel pointed out.

Eve nodded. “So maybe they’re not magical,” she said. “Maybe they want magic.”

“They’re going after a magical artifact,” Stone concluded for her.

“Their magic could be latent, just like most of the ley lines,” Cassandra said.

“And now they want a way to get back in the game,” Stone continued.

“That would explain why they’re literally leaving every valuable thing on the floor,” Ezekiel said, nodding toward the growing pile of abandoned loot. Money, jewelry, antiques, bonds: it was an enticing pile to be overlooked. “It just feels so wrong.

“But we don’t know it is,” Cassandra said.

“Has to be powerful, we know that much,” Stone said.

“So, I ask again,” Ezekiel said, matter of fact. “Why did the Library send us here to stop a robbery?”

Eve shook her head, the pieces falling into place. They had the smarts, but she had the strategy. “No,” she said slowly, looking at the discarded items and Gunman Number One again. “I think it sent us here to commit a robbery.”

-o-

When Flynn or Jenkins made these kind of dramatic statements, it always sounded so good.

Eve forgot, however, that it wasn’t easy being on the other side of such proclamations.

At least, she could assume as much, given the looks her Librarians were giving her now.

“We’re guardians of magic!” Cassandra said, sounding truly dismayed.

“The clippings book has sent us to do some crazy things, but a felony?” Stone asked.

“And such an unworthwhile one at that,” Ezekiel said.

“Whatever powerful element is here, we can’t let them have it,” Eve said.

“And we can’t leave it here, either,” Stone realized.

“The security system is crap,” Ezekiel said.

“Which means someone worse could get it,” Cassandra said.

“So,” Eve said. “We have to steal it.”

“But how do you suppose we do that?” Stone asked. “Seeing as we’re hostages and all.”

“Four of us, two of them,” Cassandra said. “You don’t need to be a math genius to like those odds.”

“Plus, they’re horrible robbers,” Ezekiel said. “My bet is that they’re not great fighters either.”

Before they could come up with something concrete, though, Eve realized they were probably out of time.

From inside the vault, Twitchy Finger let out a cackle. “I found it!” he exclaimed. “I found it!”

Gunman Number One nearly tripped over the pile of unwanted loot, moving forward to see as Twitchy Finger came out of the vault, a safety deposit box clutched to his chest.

An open safety deposit box.

An open safety deposit box filled with glittering jewels.

Cassandra inhaled sharply, eyes going wide. “The light,” she said, tilting her head. “Perfect refraction and flawless color. Clarity, density: flawless. The mathematical calculations -- they’re hot -- to cut it -- it burns--”

“Those things are worth a fortune,” Ezekiel gasped.

“More than that, they’re ancient,” Stone said. “Cassie’s right about the cut -- they look hand carved. My bet, every one of them were chiseled by hand.”

Cassandra drew a staggering breath. “Sunlight, summer days. The angle of each surface is perfectly coordinated to maximize the refraction.”

They watched while Gunman Number One lifted one of the jewels out, holding it up to the light.

Stone huffed in disbelief. “That’s the...the crown jewels of King John?”

“Who?” Eve asked.

“English monarch in the 13th century,” he said. “Had one of the most exquisite collections of jewels in the whole of history.”

“So what happened to them?” Eve asked, watching anxiously while Twitchy Fingers giddily ran his fingers through the smaller jewels in the box.

“They were lost, swept out to sea in a suitcase,” Stone explained. “It was a disaster for his line.”

“I’ll bet that didn’t go well for him,” Eve murmured.

“Maybe, but it didn’t matter,” Stone said. “He died of dysentery not long after. Losing the jewels was a turning point for him, in the worst possible way.”

“The feeling of grass between my toes,” Cassandra continued. “Hot, hot pavement rough beneath my feet.”

Eve glanced at the two robbers. Cassandra’s antics had taken time to get used to; time they didn’t have for two robbers.

“It is the sun, it is life itself,” she said, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment. “Ugh. The jewels, they’re not just well cut, they’re perfect. The refraction isn’t about the sparkle, it’s about energy, So much energy. Sunbeams on the water, hot, hot, hot. It’s a conduit. It’s a conduit for energy.”

“Oh,” Eve said. “So. Basically. Magic jewels.”

Stone leaned against Cassandra grimly. “What could they do with them?”

“Beside be rich?” Ezekiel said.

Cassandra was shaken, but coming back to herself. “If it challenges magical energy, then it could do anything. Any spell could be enhanced, but more than that, it would amplify your lifeflow. Sort of like a….good luck charm.”

“So, like, what?” Eve asked.

“Longer lives, instant likeability,” Cassandra suggested. “Good luck.”

“Perfect for royal dynasties,” Stone said. “The power was never in the bloodline, it was always in the jewels. They would win wars, produce heirs, reap taxes.”

“And why the dynasties would fall if the jewels were stolen,” Eve said. “King John’s dysentery.”

“So the key to rebellion was never in chopping of the head of a king,” Stone said.

“You just had to steal the crown,” Eve said. “Literally.”

The two robbers were poring over the jewels now, as if taking account of each one.

“So how did they end up here?” Eve asked. “In some crappy vault in the middle of nowhere?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Ezekiel said. “I mean, think about it. If you have a high security vault with all the latest gadgets, everyone knows you have something worth stealing. If you put something in a backwater vault, no one will look twice.”

“Unless they know what they’re looking for,” Eve said.

Stone cleared his throat, still close to Cassandra. “So we can assume our friends here have magical backgrounds?”

“And very bad intentions,” Cassandra said.

“World domination,” Ezekiel said, sounding bored. “Same old, same old.”

“So, we need to stop them,” Eve said. She frowned, biting her lip. “But how…”

“About that,” Ezekiel said. “Heads up.”

Eve startled, looking up to see Gunman Number One come over to them. “So,” he said, unable to stop himself from smiling. “About that exit.”

Eve looked at the Librarians. Stone shrugged, and Cassandra made an apologetic face. Ezekiel looked at her like she should have seen this coming.

Which, she did.

She just hadn’t come up with a solution for it.

“Yeah,” she started. “About that…”

-o-

“Let me get this straight,” Gunman Number One said, pressing two fingers between his eyebrows in a vain attempt to lessen the pressure. “Your magical doorway back to the Library -- our perfect exit -- is outside the bank.”

Eve nodded. “Pretty much, yeah.”


Gunman Number One looked at her pleadingly. “And why didn’t you tell us this before?”

“To be fair, you made the assumption,” Ezekiel said.

“We just said we were Librarians,” Cassandra agreed.

“So we still have to get outside the bank?” Gunman Number One asked.

“I thought you already had an exit plan,” Stone pointed out.

Gunman Number One snorted. “We did….”

Twitchy Finger grunted in reply. “But the old man here didn’t have the balls for it,” he said. “I thought a hostage at gunpoint would do us just fine. Come to think of it, it still can.”

Twitchy Finger crossed, looking menacingly down at the Librarians. Eve forced herself to stay steady, but she leaned herself closer to her three charges. Not that they hadn’t proven themselves capable in the field, but she was a Guardian. These sorts of impulses came with the territory.

“One of you is all we’d need to get out the front door,” he said, that annoying little sneer starting to pull up on his upper lip. “And then you can take us to your backdoor before the cops have a chance to catch up with us.”

Gunman Number One gave a weary sigh. “Four hostages would be tricky to negotiate.”

Twitchy Finger shrugged crassly. “So?” he said, tweaking his gun. “We cut back on that number.”

“And by doing so, you would absolutely lose your leverage,” Eve said decidedly, using her most authoritative voice to command their attention again.

Twitchy Finger glared at her; Gunman Number One looked like he was so ready to be done.

“I told you before,” Eve said. “We don’t have to be enemies.”

“The Library doesn’t let magic out into the world,” Gunman Number One said. “What reason would you have to help us?”

“There’s magic already in the world, you can’t stop that,” Cassandra said.

“We just make sure it’s safe,” Stone said.

“And not being used for general terror,” Ezekiel added. “Blah, blah, blah.”

Gunman Number One thought about this -- hard. “And you would trust us? After this?”

Eve shrugged. “It’d help if you put the guns away,” she said. She wet her lips, watching his small, unconscious cues. “And if you let us help you. We can go back to the Library, talk this through.”

Gunman Number One was wavering.

Twitchy Finger groaned. “It’s a trick.”

“And you think you have a better idea?” Gunman Number One demanded.

“Uh, yeah,” Twitchy Finger said, holding up his gun.

“No,” Gunman Number One growled, grabbing the younger robbers arm and forcing it down. “We never came here for power.”

He stopped, eyeing Eve and the Librarians once again. Finally, he put his gun down, letting out a long, tired breath.

“Maybe they can help us in more ways than we realize,” he said, reaching his hand out to Eve. “If you don’t mind, that is.”

It was better than Eve might have expected. Twitchy Finger’s agitation aside, Gunman Number One was, in fact, no longer Gunman Number One at all. This was good; this was really good.

Reaching out, she took his hand and let him help her to her feet. The Librarians followed suit behind her, until they were all standing. Eve smiled.

“So,” she said. “How about we get out of here?”

-o-

The good news was that they now had the trust of at least half of the robbery party. That wasn’t everything, but it was certainly enough to work with.

The bad news was that they hadn’t had any time to plan, well, anything. She could only trust that the team was well and truly back together after their time in Oklahoma. They’d always had potential to be an efficient and effective unit, but she would have rather had time to assess that on her own before throwing them into the deep end with a hostage situation and bank robbery.

Sink or swim.

Eve had worked with worse odds.

Besides, they had already laid out a basic plan of attack, back when this started. It had been good then; it would be good now.

“Like we said earlier,” Eve said. “We have a diverse set of skills to get us all out of this.”

“You’ll need to pack those jewels for transport,” Cassandra said. “I can tell you which ones are powerful, and which ones aren’t.”

“And you’re going to need to pack them carefully,” Stone pointed out. “I have a lot of experience with ancient items.”

“And getting out of here without the cops noticing doesn’t require force,” Ezekiel said with a growing smirk. “Give me back my phone, and I can clear an exit and delete all trace that we were ever here in the first place.”

Ex-Gunman Number One looked hopefully at Twitchy Finger. Twitchy Finger growled and shrugged. Ex-Gunman Number One turned to Eve. “Are you sure? You can do this for us?”

“Oh, I’m sure,” she said. She smiled, nodding at her team. “They are Librarians, after all.”

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