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

December 26th, 2015 (09:21 pm)
good

feeling: good

Continued from Part One



-o-

They had always been good, her little Librarians.

But now they were more than good.

Now -- now they were amazing. Skilled and confident, refined and capable. They were Librarians, plain and simple. Eve would have to tell them how proud she was of them -- again. Once they got out of this one.

Assuming they got out of this one.

They would get out of this one.

Eve could entertain no other option, and it helped that they were just so good.

Ezekiel was perturbed at not having his phone -- he could have remotely access the Library with it and made all of this a moot point -- but he was sure to let them know that he could work in magic even on the bank’s antiquated computer interface.

Cassandra took her time with the jewels, not because she had any intent on dawdling but because Eve suspected she knew no other approach. Math was a sensory overload for her, and with the way the light glimmered from those jewels, Eve could only imagine just how much her mind was working overtime.

Stone, despite his ability to show appropriate caution in high conflict situations, couldn’t help but be taken in by the power of the jewels. Not the magical power, mind you. No, Eve figured he was probably enjoying the artistic and historical value of the pieces, given how tenderly he folded each one into the briefcase provided by Ex-Gunman Number One.

Twitchy Finger monitored their progress with a foul look on his face.

Which gave Eve the chance to see exactly what Ex-Gunman Number One was all about.

He was a bank robber, sure, but it wasn’t that simple. In the past, Eve may have been content to take a criminal as a criminal, but this job afforded her a different perspective.

Legal and non-legal were no longer the ultimate distinctions. Good and evil was much more pressing.

“So,” she said, trying her best to sound conversational. It was easier to do when no one was being held at gunpoint. “You said you didn’t come here for power. You clearly didn’t come for money. So what’s it all about, then?”

The look on Ex-Gunman Number One’s face was almost nostalgic. “It’s a story that few believe.”

“Well, I work for a magical library,” she said. “You may as well give it a try.”

Ex-Gunman Number One chuckled. “The minute I figured out you were Librarians, I thought maybe our luck had changed.”

Our?” Eve asked, casting a glance toward Twitchy Finger. He’d followed Ex-Gunman Number One’s lead, albeit with notable reticence. His gun was no longer in his hand, but he kept it on him, tucked into the waistband of pants. That was progress, but Eve made a note to keep an eye on him, just in case.

“It is much bigger than me and my friend here,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. He sighed. “We are part of a coven.”

“Witches?” Eve asked.

“And wizards,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. “Many people think that witchcraft is a fantasy at worst or a religion at best, but it is more than that. For most of us, it is a heritage, not unlike the Romani people.”

“Okay,” Eve said. In her time with the Library, she’d heard crazier things. “So your coven, they do stuff like this often?”

“This? Oh, no,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. “Many of our people have dispersed and live freely among the population. Many have even forgotten the long line of their ancestors.”

“But not you?” Eve presumed.

Ex-Gunman Number One allowed himself an indulgent smile. “There are still pockets,” he said. “We form small communities and mind our own business, practicing our ways in peaceful seclusion.”

“With respect, this doesn’t seem peaceful,” Eve pointed out.

“No,” Ex-Gunman Number One replied. “Our magic, it has traditionally been used for good. We use it to bolster our communities and provide for each other. Naturally, there are outliers, and I know that witches and wizards have a mixed history, but the vast majority of us do not want power. We just want to live our lives.”

Eve watched as Ezekiel tapped a few keys, and the security camera in the office flashed a red light once. Twitchy Finger looked impressed.

“I’m still not seeing what led you to this,” Eve said.

“As you know, magic is in scarce supply,” Ex-Gunman Number One explained. “As our traditions grow weaker, so does our power. We have lost many of our youth to the outside world, leaving us severely depleted. We simply no longer have the means to support ourselves.”

Cassandra was explaining how a handful of jewels was like an ice cream vendor in the park, an analogy that Twitchy Finger did not seem to understand.

“Your magic is dying,” Eve said.

“And with it, our way of life and our community,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. “I thought if we could bring in new relics, we could channel some of that power to restore ourselves.”

Stone took another jewel from Cassandra, wrapping it meticulously before packing it next to the others.

“And you found this?” Eve asked.

“Rumors, at first,” Ex-Gunman Number One explained. “I vetted many rumors. I dismissed some as too unlikely and refused others for being too dangerous. But this? This was perfect. Powerful but without malice. I invested everything my community had into bringing it back. Our last and only hope.”

Eve believed him. She had seen that kind of weariness before, that kind of quiet desperation that steals your will to manage right and wrong the way you used to. Some terrorists were fanatics, sure. Others, though, were men with one last hope.

“Okay, got it,” Ezekiel announced, sounding very proud of himself. “All the servers have been wiped clean, and the camera footage has been erased. I can’t do anything about the hostage accounts, but I did manage to scramble the local PD enough to leave them chasing their tails. When they do get in here, they’re not going to have a shred of evidence to go on, and by the time they come up with something? We’ll be long, long gone.”

“That is remarkable, my friend!” Ex-Gunman Number One said.

“And what about you?” Twitchy Finger asked with a gruff nod toward Cassandra.

She held the largest, most impressive jewel to the light. “Cold like ice and hot like the sun. Perfect opposites, exponential power,” she said, smiling. “This is it. This is the centerpiece. This jewel is the one that sustains all the others.”

Twitchy Finger’s face lit up. “So this is what we need,” he said, reaching for it.

Stone plucked it away. “It needs to be kept impeccable,” he said. “A single mark could ruin it.”

“So you think I’m trusting it with you?” Twitchy Finger asked.

“Do you have experience handling rare artifacts?” Stone asked. “I don’t think so.”

Eve knew when it was time to intervene.

Mostly because she knew her team.

Ezekiel was ready; Cassandra had identified the critical piece; Stone had it in his hands.

Now Eve needed to get them out before their would-be bank robbers noticed the shift in power.

“All the same,” she said, louder than necessary as she got to her feet. She clapped Ex-Gunman Number One on the shoulder and walked over to nudge Twitchy Finger’s shoulder. “You don’t want to have it on you anyway, in case this thing goes south.”

Twitchy Finger glared at her. “I thought you had a foolproof plan.”

Eve laughed, watching as Stone put the wadded up cloth into the briefcase before slipping the jewel into his own pocket. “No plan is foolproof,” she said, winking at him. “Unless you had planned on finding three Librarians and a Guardian on your break in.”

Ex-Gunman Number One chuckled, coming along the other side of Twitchy Finger. “Never mind, never mind,” he said. “I think it is about time to go, isn’t it?”

Twitchy Finger eyed Eve suspiciously.

Eve shrugged in her most friendly fashion. “What do you say, team? Are we ready?”

Ezekiel nodded. Cassandra smiled. Stone inclined his head.

They understood.

They all understand.

Eve beamed at Ex-Gunman Number One. “Good,” she said. “Now let’s get going.”

-o-

It was a good plan, a perfect plan. It was flawless and seamless and so damn well executed.

Maybe that was why Eve didn’t see its inevitable failure coming.

Because it couldn’t be easy.

It could. Never. Be. Easy.

And all because Twitchy Finger didn’t just have a twitchy trigger finger. He had sticky fingers.

Eve couldn’t probably say it was an unlikely turn of events. After all, the odds of a bank robber deciding to actually rob the bank was pretty damn good. But still.

Eve hadn’t accounted for that.

“Wait,” Twitchy Finger said. He hesitated, chewing his lip as he eyed the pile of valuables on the floor. “You know, since we’re here…”

Ex-Gunman Number One shook his head. “That is not what we’re about--”

Twitchy Finger was already on his knees, opening up the briefcase that Stone had meticulously packed. “We need a backup plan,” he said. “I mean, if your little magical jewel thing doesn’t work, we’re going to have a bankrupt town and a lot of hungry, unemployed people.”

There was a certain logic to that. It was an awful lot to pin the entire hopes of a community on a magical jewel. Eve could appreciate his pragmatism.

But not his approach.

Because now he was actually robbing a bank, and Eve was about to grant him magical access for a get-out-of-jail card. She was counting on the fact that there would be no evidence of a crime here in order to make sure that all consequences were magically relegated by the principles of the Library.

“And hey,” Eve said. “We’re short on time.”

“Like, really short,” Ezekiel said. “I’ve bought you five minutes of unobstructed access. You mess that up--”

“And there’s no way of knowing if any of this has been tagged,” Cassandra said. “If you steal it--”

“The cops will be after me, yeah, yeah,” Twitchy Finger said, reaching for a handful of jewelry. His eyes glinted as he smiled up at them. “I’ll cry myself to sleep, I’m sure.”

He dumped one handful in, and Eve did her best to restrain herself. It was tempting to knock this idiot out here and now, but then she’d be dragging his unconscious ass out back to the Library, which was a prospect she did not relish.

“Please, there’s no need--” Ex-Gunman Number One began.

Twitchy Finger scooped up a selection of old coins. “We’re long past need,” he said, shoving the carefully wrapped jewels to the side. “This is a little bit of want--”

He stopped.

And Eve saw why.

The jewels were individually wrapped, including the centerpiece. But that one, while bigger than the rest, was also empty. They all knew they could let the bad guys have the jewels, now or ever, and if these things amplified power, she knew it could be unintentionally dangerous, especially in the wrong hands. Besides, if something went awry and these two escaped their custody, they needed to make sure the jewel was out of their reach.

Not that Eve didn’t intend to help them, because that option was on the table.

At least, it had been.

Until Twitchy Finger picked up the wadded cloth and frowned deeper.

“We really need to--” Eve started, her heart starting to pound. She traversed the distance, hoping to stop him, but it was too late.

He unfurled the cloth and found it empty.

Staring for a second, his face turned beet red. “It’s gone.”

“It probably just feel out when you were putting in more stuff,” Cassandra said.

“You’ve got to be more careful, mate,” Ezekiel said.

Twitchy Finger shook his head, turning a hot glare up at them. “No,” he said. “It’s gone.

“What?” Ex-Gunman Number One said, voice hitching. “It...can’t be. That’s the piece we need--”

“And it’s gone,” Twitchy Finger seethed. “They’re lying bastards.”

Ex-Gunman Number One looked at Eve, beseechingly. “I don’t understand--”

“Look, if we could just calm down,” Eve said, keeping her hands up.

Twitchy Fingers brushed past her, charging toward Stone. “You,” he said. “You handled it--”

“Whoa--” Stone said, backing up.

“We really need to go!” Ezekiel said.

“I don’t understand,” Ex-Gunman Number One pleaded.

Eve raised her voice again. “If we could just calm--”

Twitchy Finger already had Stone by the collar, shoving him hard against the wall, running his hands down his sides.

“You said you would help,” Ex-Gunman Number One was saying.

“Closing window of opportunity,” Ezekiel singsonged.

“If we could just check the case,” Cassandra said.

Then, abruptly, Twitchy Finger stopped.

Eve dared to hope for the best.

Even when she knew the worst.

Turning, Twitchy Finger held up the jewel. “You were saying?” he asked coldly.

The room fell into an eerie silence, punctuated by the glittering light as it reflected off the jewel. Next to her, Ex-Gunman Number One looked crestfallen. Ezekiel was poised, tensed to run by the door. Cassandra was staring wide eyed not far away. And Stone still had his back against the wall, fingers coiled into a fist.

Eve worked her jaw, her teeth grinding. She shook her head imperceptibly at Stone. This situation was delicate now; it needed a refined touch.

“Look,” Eve said. “There’s a reasonable explanation.”

“Yeah?” Twitchy Finger said, and before Eve could respond, he drew his gun, firing off a shot before any of them had the chance to move. “Because I don’t want to hear it.”

Cassandra yelped, and Ezekiel cursed. Ex-Gunman Number One cried out, but Eve was frozen in place.

Frozen as she watched Stone inhale sharply and blink twice. He looked down, fingers pulling at the new hole in his shirt and coming away slicked with red. He blinked again, three times, and exhaled heavily as his knees went out and he crumbled to the floor.

Her Librarians, they were good. Every last one of them.

But they were Librarians for a reason.

Just like she was a Guardian.

For just this reason.

Breathing controlled, heart rate in check, Eve primed her senses, minded her assets, noted her opponent’s weakness and attacked.

If these bank robbers wanted the worst case scenario?

Then Eve, by all means, would give it to them.

-o-

Sometimes, given the magical nature of their missions, Eve was a little out of her depth.

Other times, however, she was so perfectly in her element.

This was one of those times.

She had the means, the skills, the experience.

More importantly, she had the motivation.

Someone attacked her Librarians.

That someone was going to pay.

With a rapid attack, Eve reached out, pulling Twitchy Finger close to her by his arm before ramming her knee into his gut. When he oofed in surprise, she yanked his arm harder, bringing it down across her knee so the gun skittered away. Before he could respond in any way, she hauled off with a strong punch -- and this time, she let him spin around before crashing to the ground.

Ex-Gunman Number One yelped, moving toward her. He wasn’t armed, and she didn’t generally consider him a dangerous threat, but she wasn’t going to be taking any more risks on this mission. She intercepted him before he could do anything, ramming the palm of her hand into his nose.

Blood spurted and he stumbled. She rounded with a kick to his temple, which sent him sprawling to the ground.

It was a short fight, but it was enough for Twitchy Finger to stagger to his feet. He retreated defensively, and Eve instinctively looked for the gun. She was relieved to find it far from his grasp.

She was less relieved, however, when he snatched the jewel case to his chest, slamming it shut even as he struggled to keep himself upright.

He looked at her, hesitating for a moment.

Poised, she thought about the best way to finish him off.

Then she saw Stone.

Cassandra had gone to him, trying to stop the bleeding. But there was a lot of blood.

Eve wasn’t just a NATO officer anymore. Her priority wasn’t really to stop the bad guys.

No, her job was to bring her Librarians home safely.

With her hesitation, Twitchy Finger limped to the door. As he tried to gain speed, he crashed into Ezekiel. “Whoa--” the young thief said while Twitchy Finger pushed off him. “Easy, mate.”

Twitchy Finger didn’t listen, though.

And Eve didn’t pursue.

Instead, she crossed the distance to Cassandra, going to her knees next to Stone. He was conscious, blue eyes wide and shocked. His mouth was open, like he wanted to say something but didn’t know what, and his breathing came in small short gasps. And his skin was pale -- far, far too pale -- and the puddle of blood--

“Red,” Cassandra babbled, fingers picking uselessly at Stone’s ruined shirt. “Red is life, red is love. It pumps at a rate of--”

“Cassandra--” Eve said, trying to cut her off while she nudged the younger woman out of the way.

“Too fast, too fast,” Cassandra said, voice picking up steam as she rocked backward.

Swiftly, Even ripped Stone’s shirts open until she could see the wound. It was small, but with that caliber at this range. She winced, reaching around to feel the much larger exit wound.

“At that rate, he’ll be unconscious in approximately 62 seconds,” Cassandra reported. “And death--”

Eve grunted, shrugging out of her jacket before she pressed it -- hard -- into Stone’s side. His face contorted, eyes squeezing shut as he bucked weakly beneath her touch.

“Death in 3.2 minutes,” Cassandra said, voice falling flat. Her eyes met Eve’s, somber and clear. “Maybe 5.4, if he’s lucky.”

Stone inhaled raggedly, his body starting to shiver.

He was going into shock.

Cassandra’s calculations, they were never wrong.

“Damn it,” Eve hissed. “Jones, call for an ambulance.”

“We’ve got cops outside--” Ezekiel pointed out.

“Then go get one of them!” Eve demanded.

Breathing stuttering, Stone was looking at her now. It seemed to take all his effort, but his mouth struggled to find words. “The -- the jewel--”

Eve shook her head. “Don’t worry about it.”

Stone blinked, eyes starting to lose their focus. “Have to -- the jewel--”

“We lost it, okay?” Eve snapped. “And I don’t want to lose you, too.”

“We didn’t, though,” Ezekiel said.

“What?” Eve asked, glaring up at Ezekiel.

Ezekiel pulled something out of his pocket, holding it up above Stone. The light glistened, sending shards of brightness across Stone’s face until he smiled.

“But how?” Eve asked.

“I told you, they’re terrible thieves,” Ezekiel said. “And I’m a really good one.”

Eve shook her head. “I thought I told you to get the police--”

“It’s too late,” Cassandra murmured.

Startled, Eve looked down. Stone’s eyes were closed now, his breathing--

“No,” Eve said even as she felt his heart slow down to an irregular beat beneath her blood-slicked fingers. “No, no, no, no--”

“Give me the jewel.”

Eve craned her head, surprised to see Ex-Gunman Number One behind her. His nose was still dribbling blood and he listed to the side.

“Please,” he said. “Give me the jewel.”

“You have the audacity to ask for it now?” she demanded. “After what your friend did?”

“This is not a selfish request--”

“I don’t care about your people!” Eve exploded.

“Then care about your friend!” Ex-Gunman Number One exploded back.

Eve blinked.

Ex-Gunman Number One drew a breath. “With it, I should be able to conjure the magic necessary to heal him,” he said.

Eve hesitated. She glanced at Cassandra, whose wide eyes told her where she stood. Ezekiel’s face was hard, and he waited for Eve’s signal.

She looked at Stone.

She couldn’t lose a Librarian.

She couldn’t lose a friend.

Sighing, she shook her head. “Give it to him, Jones.”

Ezekiel hesitated, but he trusted her.

God help her, they all trusted her. Even Stone, bleeding out on the floor, trusted her.

She just hoped that trust wasn’t misplaced.

Jewel in hand, Ex-Gunman Number One staggered to his knees. He moved in closer, holding the jewel out over Stone’s inert body. He closed his eyes, humming for a moment before chanting in a language Eve didn’t recognize. The light danced, though, slipping through his fingers and widening its scope on the walls. Then, it glowed, emanating from the man’s grip. Soon, it encompassed him -- and Stone -- and Eve felt a wave of heat flow through her.

Then, the light crescendoed, so distinctively that Eve could almost hear it. Cassandra cried out and Ezekiel turned away. But Eve kept herself steady, unwilling to move her hands from Stone’s side, no matter what.

Just like that, the light exploded, and Ex-Gunman Number One toppled sideways. Eve braced herself, shrugging him off as he fumbled.

That’s when she felt it -- the air move into Stone’s chest cavity.

The steady thump of his heart.

The absence of blood.

Shocked she looked from the wound up to Stone’s face.

His eyes were open and the color was returning to his cheeks.

“You’re alive,” Eve said, voice almost choked off in her throat. “You’re--”

“Alive,” Stone agreed. He groaned as he tried to move, and Eve let go, supporting Stone on one side as he tried to sit up. “Question is, though: how?”

Eve looked from Stone up to Ex-Gunman Number One. “I don’t know for sure,” she admitted. “But I think it’s time we found out.”

-o-

Adrenaline still pulsing through her body, Eve found herself understandably on guard. Cassandra was still perched close to Stone, an arm snaked around his back as he regain his bearings. Ezekiel, though he tried not to show it, was hovering. He and Stone had a certain animosity for each other, but Eve knew they respected each other. More than that, she knew every impulse in Ezekiel’s body was to run, but here he was.

Here they all were.

Despite the fact that Ex-Gunman Number One had presumably saved Stone’s life, it couldn’t escape Eve’s notice that he was the one who had put them all in jeopardy to begin with. Accordingly, Eve wasn’t about to give any ground.


She’d already given more than she could afford to lose.

“You better start talking,” she said. “Before I turn you over to the cops right now.”

Ex-Gunman Number One sighed, visibly deflating even as he cradled the jewel in his hand. “I told you, my people rely on magic,” he said. “There was a time when it was at the heart of everything we did. It helped us grow food, make heat--”

“And heal people?” Eve asked.

Ex-Gunman Number One smiled faintly. “Yes,” he said. “When I was young, that was my particular talent. I was a doctor, and I excelled in the fine art of healing.”

“So why am I sensing a but here?” Eve asked.

“I have already told you this as well,” Ex-Gunman Number One said with a shrug. “Our magic resources were drained. Now I am unable to cure even the most common ailments among my people. I am a doctor with no medicine.”

“Well, there are actual doctors,” Ezekiel said.

“They wouldn’t have been able to save him,” Cassandra said. She knitted her brows, even more vexed as she held Stone just a little closer. “Your abilities -- they’re powerful.”

“They were, yes,” Ex-Gunman Number One said, looking at the jewel fondly. “Holding this jewel, feeling its power -- it has been decades since I felt this.”

“That’s all well and good,” Eve said sharply. “But your people robbed a bank. You shot someone.”

Ex-Gunman Number One nodded sadly. “It has not been easy for the younger generations,” he said. “They do not understand the adherence to customs that have left us bereft. Many have turned to crime to support themselves.”

“Not to sound ungrateful,” Stone said, wincing as he sat up a little more, away from Cassandra’s support. “But your friend wasn’t the only one holding a gun and robbing this bank.”

“It was a mistake now, I see that,” Ex-Gunman Number One admitted regretfully. “I thought if I accompanied him, I could keep it from getting out of control. I was...wrong.”

“You think?” Eve asked. She drew a breath, holding out her hand. “Hand it over.”

Ex-Gunman Number One almost flinched, looking down again the jewel.

Eve did not back down. “I would have helped you,” she said. “But I’m still thinking about handing you over to the police.”

“It would not be a fate I am undeserving of,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. “My friend--”

“Is probably already in police custody,” Ezekiel said. “My plan was to get us out one of the service vents. Your friend? He went out the front door. I can’t say it enough: worst bank robbers ever.

“That is probably for the best,” Ex-Gunman Number One said in resignation. He eyed the jewel fondly again. “We were so close.”

“Too close,” Stone murmured, pulling at the blood still soaking his shirt.

“We can’t risk this power being in the hands of people who would misuse it,” Cassandra said.

Eve kept her hand extended, her face firm.

Dejected, Ex-Gunman Number One finally released the jewel, letting it fall into Eve’s outstretched hand. “I will surrender to the police myself,” he said. “I will make sure my friend pays for the crimes he has committed.”

Eve closed her fingers around the jewel, squelching its light. Then, however, she hesitated.

She shared a look with Ezekiel, who shrugged. Cassandra almost invoked her puppy dog eyes. It was Stone, though, who nodded, holding her gaze until they both understood.

Ex-Gunman Number One was a criminal in a very technical sense. But he wasn’t a bad person, and he wasn’t a dangerous person. In fact, if Eve had to guess, the world would be a safer place with him out of jail.

“Your community,” Eve said. “There are others like you?”

“We are small, yes,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. “But we hold onto our heritage proudly. Without our magic, it is all we have left.”

Eve hated this. She hated this. She didn’t want to feel sorry for the bad guys; she didn’t like the ambiguity of not knowing who the bad guys even were sometimes.


“Then they probably can’t afford to lose you,” Stone said, words careful and quiet.

Ex-Gunman Number One looked surprised.

“They are going to need someone to lead them,” Cassandra said. “Help them make the transition peacefully.”

“And I would definitely discourage bank robbery in the future,” Ezekiel said. “You don’t have a talent for it.”

Ex-Gunman Number One turned his gaze from one to the each, appearing almost dumbfounded. “But...how would I get back?”

“Well, that’s the easy part,” Eve said, tucking the jewel in her pocket and getting to her feet. “You are, after all, working with Librarians.”

-o-

Getting out is the easy part.

Moving on, though -- that’s always a bit harder.

Ezekiel came through as promised. He was a braggart, but honestly, it wasn’t without cause. He was good, and though Eve had worked most of her adult life to stop criminals, she had to appreciate his success rate.

Cassandra stuck close to Stone, which Eve appreciated. The red haired woman was the most open with her emotions -- she almost had to be, given her condition -- but it wasn’t a softness like some people might expect. Instead, Eve recognized a fierceness in her. True, she was the one who had betrayed them in the beginning, but she was also the first one to lay down her own needs for the sake of others.

To the point, Stone was in good hands.

Not that Stone necessarily needed it right now. For all the blood, he showed little sign of being any worse for wear. Except, of course, for the psychological shock of almost dying and being brought back by magical forces. Eve could relate to that, a little more than she’d like.

Ex-Gunman Number One -- she would really need a better name for him -- was compliant, following directly behind her as she led them through Ezekiel’s exit. When they arrived at the back door, Eve sent Ezekiel through with Ex-Gunman Number One with Cassandra and Stone right behind them.

Pausing, she looked back one more time.

A bank robbery, she thought, shaking her head with a wry smile.

At least it wasn’t boring.

Then, she followed her team home.

-o-

Jenkins was not thrilled at the sight of blood -- it’s a mess, he protested, but Eve knew better as the Librarians scurried away to clean up -- but he was quite helpful in dealing with Ex-Gunman Number One.

“Ah, the North American Druidian variant,” he said warmly. “I wasn’t sure how many of your kind were left.”

“Not many, I’m afraid,” Ex-Gunman Number One said.

“Yeah,” Eve said. “You’re free to go back, but if we ever hear reports of any trouble, magical or otherwise--”

Ex-Gunman Number One held up his hand. “You have my word,” he said. “I will do everything I can.”

Eve forced a smile. “You better.”

With a small chuff, Ex-Gunman Number One shook his head. “I thought robbing the bank would be hard,” he said. “But I fear going home will be even harder. Telling my people that we must learn new ways--”

“Important things are rarely easy,” Eve told him. “That’s why they’re important.’

Ex-Gunman Number One nodded, bowing his head deferentially. “I do not envy your task either,” he said. “So much magic -- it is a risk.”

“Pretty sure I’m aware of that one,” Eve said.

“The Librarians are well trained,” Jenkins said primly.

“A caution, then,” Ex-Gunman Number One said. “Magic is fickle, and it is not your friend. When it turns on you--”

“We’ll be ready,” Eve said, without hesitation. She looked to Jenkins for solidarity. He tipped his head toward her, offering it freely. She smiled with certainty. “We’ll always be ready.”

-o-

She found them in the infirmary.

Which was a surprise. Even after all her mapping in the last week, she hadn’t been aware they had an infirmary. It seemed like she should have known about this before.

But then again, magical wounds needed magical cures. The chances of ace bandages and ibuprofen doing much good was pretty slim.

Cassandra had Stone sitting on an examination table, much to his obvious displeasure, and he had removed his shirt -- much to Ezekiel’s displeasure.

“I’m fine,” Stone said, for what Eve could assume wasn’t the first time.

Cassandra fretted, though, turning toward him with a handful of gauze. “You lost over half your blood volume in under five minutes!”

He closed his mouth, not sure what to say.

“You were experiencing multiple organ failure and were seconds away from irreversible respiratory and cardiac arrest!” Cassandra insisted.

“Yeah,” Stone said slowly. “Thanks for that reminder.”

“You nearly died!” Cassandra said, cheeks flushed red.

“And you’re going to fix me with gauze?” Stone asked.

Cassandra looked down, cheeks burning red now.

“Yeah,” Ezekiel said. “Am I the only one uncomfortable with a half-dressed Stone?”

“Better than a blood soaked one,” Cassandra muttered, hastily stuffing the gauze back into a pristine first aid kit.

“I’d have to agree with that,” Eve said, trying to sound casual. Still, she picked up a gown and threw it at Stone. “Even so. Get dressed.”

Stone glowered a little, but stiffly complied. “Sorry,” he said. “Next time I’m shot, I’ll try not to bleed so much.”

“Let’s try not getting shot in the first place,” Eve said. “We cut that one close.”

“Too close,” Cassandra said.

“I told you all,” Ezekiel said, tipping himself back on his heels with a familiar smugness. “Bank robberies are just not worth it.”

“Well, aside from the gunplay, this one was,” Eve said. “Another artifact, safely put away.”

“Yeah,” Stone said, face thoughtful now. “But we don’t even know where it came from. I mean, jewels like that -- they don’t appear out of nowhere. Someone had to have it all these years.”

“Maybe they didn’t know what it really was,” Cassandra suggested. “Why would anyone have a magical jewel and hide it?”

“It’d be worthless in a safety deposit box,” Ezekiel said. “They had to be protecting it.”

Those were all very good points.

Sort of annoying good points.

Here Eve was, ready to relish a job well done.

And here were her Librarians, pointing out that the job wasn’t actually done at all.

“So we have to find out who put them there,” Eve mused.

“We could easily track the name on the safety deposit box,” Cassandra said.

“And I could follow the history of the jewels as we know from archeological records,” Stone said.

“And I’m pretty sure I can figure out if it’s been stolen or not in the last fifty years,” Ezekiel said.

Eve nodded. “So we have ourselves a case.”

“A mystery,” Ezekiel agreed.

Cassandra was smiling. “An adventure.”

Stone cleared his throat. “Hopefully one that doesn’t involve getting shot this time.”

Eve grinned. Whatever this mission held, Eve was pretty sure of one, simple fact.

It certainly wouldn’t be boring.