Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Poodle Zapper

On Monday night, I paid my first visit to the library since my scare in the stacks. I chose a desk in a corner near a selection of books on abnormal psychology and spent two long hours listening for footsteps and pretending to study. (Two feats that are far more difficult to perform simultaneously than one might imagine.) It was nearly nine o’clock when I heard the door to the stacks swing open. Someone began walking slowly past the aisles of books, heading in my direction. I switched off my reading light and ducked under the desk, my arms hugging my knees to my chest. As usual, at the worst possible moment, I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom.

The footsteps paused every few feet, and one by one, the lights in each aisle illuminated. The floor grew brighter and brighter—a fact that didn’t give me much solace. Whoever it was, he was searching the stacks, and I had a hunch he was looking for me.

At last the naked bulb in my aisle flashed on. The footsteps stopped for a moment, then turned down the aisle and began to walk toward my hiding place. I had no intention of going without a fight. I took my only weapon—a number two pencil—and clenched it like a dagger in my fist.

“Ananka,” I heard the stranger say, and the shock nearly made me empty my bladder. Then I saw a grinning face peek under my desk. “Next time choose a bigger desk. I could see your shoes sticking out.” It was DeeDee Morlock. “Kiki said I might find you here. Are you busy?”

“Do I look busy?” I snapped at her, untangling my limbs. “Couldn’t you have let me know it was you?”

“What was I supposed to do? Shout? It’s a library. Come on. Luz has called another meeting.”

Any member of the Irregulars has the power to call an emergency meeting. Most of us reserve that right for times of crisis, but Luz Lopez has a habit of using it when she feels like having company. (Yes, we’re on to you, Luz.) Fortunately, Luz’s shop is only a few blocks away from Columbia, and unlike the other Irregulars who still live downtown, DeeDee and I didn’t have waste too much time getting there.

It was the first meeting of the Irregulars since I discovered the man living in the stacks of Butler Library. Last week, after visiting my website diary, Luz had taken over my duties investigating the electrified sidewalks. As it turned out, she had called the meeting to announce a new development in the case. The rest of us watched as Luz demonstrated a handcrafted voltage meter that had helped her identify an electrified sidewalk grate in the East Village. After staking out the grate for a little over an hour, Luz realized that while the grate was harmless to humans and most kinds of canines, it delivered a powerful jolt to any dog resembling a poodle.

Luz knew it wasn’t a coincidence. She followed a cleverly hidden set of wires to a nearby basement apartment and watched the poodle hater—an old man with three pet pit bulls—at work. Afterwards, she destroyed his trap and devised a plan to give him a dose of his own medicine. She wanted us to help her electrify his bathroom floor, but Kiki insisted we turn the sadist into the ASPCA instead.

Luz was even more annoyed when her announcement was overshadowed by my news about the man in the library. A few of the Irregulars eagerly shared similar stories they’d heard over the years. Betty remembered an older cousin once mentioning a man who lived in a janitor’s closet in the Emory University library. And Oona had heard one of her clients at the manicure shop gossiping about a little girl who had been found sleeping in Herman Melville’s trunk in the basement of the main branch of the New York City Library. Apparently, library dwellers are more common than I had expected, and most seem to be relatively harmless. What made the Irregulars’ think my discovery was worth investigating was the book the man had taken from me and its strange connection to the tunnels underneath the Columbia campus.

It was agreed that the other girls would lend a hand in my search for the stranger in the stacks. Kiki wants to start by checking out the tunnels beneath the university. Oona is making security passes, and they should be ready in a week. In the meantime, DeeDee—the only other Irregular enrolled at Columbia—will tag along with me. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have the company.


Blogger Estef said...

Hey there luv the book, i got an advanced copy. Is there going to be a movie? i think there should, it would be awesome.

A fan


12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will you please write another book pleeeeasee !

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:54 PM  

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