Providence Book Club


chris_icon.gif dumortier_icon.gif kara_icon.gif sophie_icon.gif

Scene Title Providence Book Club
Synopsis Sophie and Kara put together a crew to scavenge an old library for books in order to start a casual little library resource out of the church in Providence. You never know what else you might find in long abandoned buildings…
Date July 15, 2019

Thick wheels send up a spray of mud as they jostle along forgotten roads long-since surrendered back to the earth and elements. The previous night’s rainfall has risen in the growing summer heat as a cloying, wispy blanket of fog over grasses, mud, and degraded asphalt.

“This is it! Right here!” Sophie’s little hand slaps the dashboard in front of the passenger seat and the truck comes to a heaving halt. The crumpled map is tossed into the back before the tiny woman scrambles and jumps down from the mud-splattered vehicle.

The small, single level building is nearly indistinguishable given its perpendicular arrangement to the old roadway and the overgrowth that has crowded in over what was once just a gravel parking lot. Vinyl siding has cracked and fallen away in places. Many of the windows have been boarded up, some with singular large sheets of plywood, others with a hodgepodge crisscrossing of thinner two-by-four boards.

~ 8 Miles Outside Providence

Galway Public Library

July 15th

7:00 AM

Sophie grins at the building like a pirate that’s unburied a chest of treasure. It’s clear the tiny mocha-skinned woman sees not the dilapidated exterior, but the promise of what’s inside. The sound of her tiny hands coming together is a sharp, exaggerated clap that cuts through the otherwise silent morning. She rubs her hands together briskly before moving them to the trio of belts laced this way and that about her hips, turning her dark gaze on those around her. “Piece of cake, right?”

Kara swings the driver's door shut, eyeing the building over with less enthusiasm than Sophie is. Her gaze traces the structure's breakdown, determining with a look if those boards over the window look like they're recently placed. She must find no great foul with them because she echoes back, "Piece of pie." while her head swivels back to Sophie. A small smile, barely more than a pullback of her mouth, is shot the shorter woman's way, right over the hood of the truck.

The munitions chaplain adjusts the rifle hanging off her shoulder, swinging it loose and free. With a glance down at the weapon, she clicks off the safety and then lets her gaze track back to the building.

Now she's ready to head in.

“What a dump.”

Chris calls it like he sees it, and right now he's staring over the roof of the truck at the boarded over structure like he's been told to dig through a landfill. At least this place doesn't smell like a landfill. Sighing with the weight of the entire world — it's such a chore — he ducks only to collect his rifle before making the nigh insurmountable climb out of the bed of the pickup.

He doesn't bother with hanging the weapon off his shoulder once his feet have hit the ground. The strap hangs free, the long gun cradled in a relaxed grip. He could be out hunting for game, with how casually he carries it. There's a sort of bored caution to him also. He might gripe, but he's watchful just the same.

After a cursory looky-loo, checking the outsides of the wilderness, Chris moves from behind the truck to make his approach of the old library. “Trip like this better be worth it,” he asides to… no one really. He's using his outside voice for inside conversation.

Although not nearly as excited as Sophie about the prospect of finding something here, the building still elicits a sense of interest from Rene, tucked in the truck where he won't get under the mud spray from tires. Sometimes you just don't want that.

"Everything's a dump, here."

He's not wrong. Smaller boots hit the ground just after Chris', and then Rene is skirting around the truck to get a better look at the dilapidated library before trailing after. Rather than a firearm, there's a crossbow slung around his small frame. As a just-in-case, he pauses to gather up a piece of still-green branch snapped off from a previous storm, just one bit of the overgrowth now.

“Agreed, it’s all a dump,” comes the resident animal telepath as she slips out after Rene. Being tiny means that Clara Winters didn’t have much trouble or issue with being crammed into the back corner of the truck’s extended cab. The tiny weasel, Ron, stayed curled up under her hair for the trip; her other two animals weren’t so lucky — they’re in a larger dog kennel in the back.

She nimbly climbs up into the bed of the truck, opening the cage to release the skunk and mink within. The slinky little mink pops out first, pausing briefly outside the cage to stand on her hind legs and look around; then, she’s off, boldly leaping to the ground and disappearing into the overgrowth without a sound. The skunk, on the other hand, is gently lowered to the ground, giving a little sniff at the air; he stays by the girl’s side. The smallest of the creatures gives the air a sniff, before climbing easily down Weasel’s leg and following the mink into the overgrowth.

The girl unfastens the strap that keeps the handgun at her waist locked into its holster, as well as the rather large hunting knife next to it, even as she and the little skunk falls into place near the others. “I’m sure we’ll find something.”

The Peanut Gallery’s comments fail to mar Sophie’s enthusiasm. Even Chris’s. Still grinning, she leans back into the truck and grabs several old burlap grain sacks, looping them over the slack in one of her belts. Unlike the others, she does not brandish a weapon, though several varieties of knives and blades stick out from various pockets and sheathes about her - forearm, hip, calf, lower back, thigh, and gods only know where else others are better disguised.

“Books. It’s the ‘something’ else that we might find which we need to worry about.” Sophie winks at the little skunk telepath.

With that her boots crunch over rainwashed gravel and weeds, leading the lot of them around to the front of the building. A wood ramp spongy with rain and decay leads up to two large wooden doors. Red spray paint has been used to haphazardly scrawl a warning on the left door:

If you can read this/
You’re in RANGE.

Threatening? Funny? Both?

The right doorway is cracked open. Sophie barely pauses, lured forward by the prospect of the bounty within, and pushes the door open. Inside, the small group stands in a long and narrow lobby. The overgrowth outside limits the light that passes into the low window of the one-story structure, leaving a gloominess interspersed with slits of brightness that reflect dust motes going about their wafty, lazy life. To their right branches off a small hall for clearly marked restrooms. Straight ahead, three closed doors frame the far end of the lobby. Finally, to their left a wide entryway reveals the open area that served as the library proper - shelves of books stand like silent barricades. Only a handful have been disturbed, one or two toppled and leaning precariously against the next row. Elsewhere some shelves have surrendered to decay and the weight of their charges, cracking at their middle and pouring books over the floor.

Sophie pulls up the sacks from her hip and holds them out to the others if they wish, but her dark eyes are on those shelves. “Come to mama.”

All in all, the place is in better shape than Kara had hoped for. Those heaps of books in the library proper were promising — but she doesn't move in to start digging just yet.

There had been that signage out there, after all.

"I'll clear the washrooms. Chris, let's start checking those offices." Or what she assumes must be offices, seeing as they're attached to the lobby. "We get a good eye on our surroundings before we dig in. Make sure the other guests have long-since checked out." Rifle butt to shoulder, its nose pointed down, Kara treads over the glass left behind by a shattered lamp in the lobby, heading for the restroom.

The musteloid telepath inhales as she steps in behind Sophie, taking up one of the sacks as her eyes travel around the area. She doesn’t have an animal’s sense of smell, but she does have a direct line with the creatures who do have better senses than anyone present. “Rats and squirrels in the walls,” she remarks.

The skunk at her side seems a little tense — he stays close, his side brushing against Clara’s ankle. “Smells like some kind of predator in here,” she warns. “Really strong inside. Very faint human smell, too, but I don’t think they’ve been around for a while.” She chews idly on the inside of her cheek, stepping toward one of the shelves to examine the content.

There are a few books she’s been meaning to get hold of — maybe she’ll find a few of them here. With her attention still mostly focused on her creatures, she steps toward the shelves to peruse.

"In range of what?" Rene probably says what some of them are thinking. Still, he proceeds with the same care as Kara seems to; though he takes one of Sophie's offered bags, he tucks it away in exchange for a cylindrical light. With Kara moving to check the restrooms and instructions for Chris to check out the offices, Rene lingers there in the lobby for a few more moments before approaching a window.

"Dog, maybe? Can they tell?" In the already dim light, his eyes flicker like a cat's reflecting some in the dark, fainter as he sets his stick aside and reaches up to spread a hand on the glass. The growth outside starts to break apart, flaking and turning brown, then ashen, an accelerated decay of whatever is living or already dead. With more light presumably filtering in, he stows his own and takes back his just-in-case branch.

The branch jerks in his grip, a quiver as its base flays apart into desperate, rooty pieces; leaves bud on the other end as the outside withers away.

Hearing his own thoughts echoed, Chris draws a long look at Rene and Weasel. He’s not amused. He’s not angry either. At least, there’s no emotion that can really be gleaned from the deadpan expression. It’s a weighted stare, the sort that could possibly stop questions and turn children back to their mothers.

“Good to know there isn’t an individual thought among you lot.” Not sharply spoken, impassive but pointed. Too bad there’s so few who can think for themselves, come up with their own unique observations.

He turns from the two without another word and follows Kara into the building. An unconcerned air continues to follow as he takes in the first layers of the old, abandoned? library.

With hardly a glance to acknowledge the instructions, Chris breaks off from the group as Kara lays out the plan. It’s better this way, anyway, sending him off to check things without extra bodies nearby. He doesn’t mind at all. He lets his boots crunch against the floor, scuffling papers or whatever other debris might be in the way when he pushes through the first door — what’s presumably an office space.

Though the windows of the library are old and encrusted with years of grime, the outsides festooned with streaks of bird droppings and old leaves, they’re still a fine enough measure to tell the level of ambient light outside no matter where the treasure hunters are in the building. It's how no one is surprised that it's been gradually becoming more overcast since they'd arrived. But the first, subtle pings of rain pattering on the roof give way to the idea that it may be more than just cloud-cover coming in. The previous night's rain is perhaps not fully done with these quiet woods.

With the drizzling rain comes subtle gusts of wind, though one stronger than the others gusts through the entrance just enough to disturb the side of the door that had been open, making it clatter against the wall. Loose paper on the floor rustles from the breeze, disturbed across the lobby floor like parchment tumbleweeds. But the library is as dry as it is safe.

Both measures currently inscrutable.

Kara's crunching steps grind broken glass into short, moss-like carpeting. The door marked 'Ladies' has been left ajar. It's a singular restroom, the small library having had no need for multiple stalls. With the help of a bit of light liberated by Rene's horticultural voodoo, Kara can make out a hose rigged up to a faucet and looped through an old wire hanger that's been hooked into the flakey drop ceiling. A makeshift shower. Yet, everything is dry. The 'Mens' bathroom, however, has been made to serve as a bathroom closet of sorts. Stockpiles of toilet paper and bars of soap have been neatly arranged in several beaten cardboard boxes.

At the other end of the short lobby, Chris's first door opens up into a large room some twenty-plus feet long and wide both. Posters for different library functions are bleached, split, and curling off the walls. Inside is filled entirely with debris - the skeletal remains of what was probably several desks and chairs have been dismantled and made useless, likely in the fortification of some of the windows as had been witnessed previously. And perhaps, other things… One chair leg seems half complete in being converted into a spear. A small, old fashioned toolbox - the wooden kind with a single piece of wood for a handle - sits in the corner with several tools scattered around it. A thin layer of dust has settled over everything in here.

Back around off the lobby and into the library proper, Weasel has picked her way towards a shelf with a couple of carefully following shadows - the musteloids… and Sophie. Wood gives a muffled groan of old, lazy protest as they move forward. The first stack is one where a middle shelf has let loose, but the next stands tall and full of dusty book spines ripe for the picking. Further back the shelves are blanketed in thicker darkness.

"We should make a point to find some classics. Then maybe some dystopian young adult seems appropriate, don't you think?" Sophie cracks a tilted grin in the shadow of her spring, dark locks.

“Something canine,” Clara replies with an involuntary sniff, gray eyes turning briefly up toward the ceiling as she focuses on the creatures that have followed her in; the tiny weasel remains outside, finding a nice hiding place to keep an eye (and nose) out for anything that may come their way. Minerva starts inspecting the insides a bit more, staying close to her caretaker; Pepe’s tail pops up as he sniffs about, reasonably on edge due to the strong smell of predators permeating the building.

Clara herself pauses at the shelf; first, she casts a dark look in Chris’ general direction. “Dick,” she replies, though doesn’t go further than that; she doesn’t need to justify herself to him. Then, a grin is turned on Sophie. “Sounds like a good plan. I had a few books I wanted to see if I could find, anyhow. There’s a cool shelf under the stairs in my place, and I figure I should fill it up.”

The musteloid telepath turns, looking over the first shelf with an interested expression on her face.

Kara lets out a low hmph at the combined image the repurposed restrooms create, assessing based on what she sees. Her tongue runs along the inside of her cheek before she lets out a quiet click, stepping back away from the Men's room to get a better look down the hall, staring hard and listening harder, not appreciative of the sound of the rain hitting the roof. If it picked up any more than it was, the sound would start to muffle footsteps in the quiet space.

"Found a stockpile - sanitary goods. Didn't look worn down enough to have been here long. Keep your eyes sharp." she calls out, voice low. The munitions chaplain turns back to see what's caused the change in lighting for herself, a grateful but curt nod spared to Rene. "Stick by Chris," Kara urges him, glancing into the library space to keep track of where the girls are. The best she's able, she keeps herself between both groups, the door to the outside in her periphery while she rotates position.

"Sophie," she calmly says without looking the young woman's direction. Little busy being hypervigilant. "Eyes out." As far as she's concerned, it would be up to her to look after Clara if anything were to go awry.

It speaks to something when Rene doesn't acknowledge Chris or his commentary at all; he simply focuses on clearing out some of the windows, giving Kara a return nod when she gives a silent gratitude. The branch in his hand is spun like a baton in an idle turn, held more like a bat when Rene angles off to close the open, rattling door before trailing after Chris.

Once he makes it to the more open space in the other man's wake, Rene sets to inspecting things without fanfare, pulling his light up again. The barricade is the bigger thing, though he pauses to consider the haphazard spear and the dusty tools. Small hands touch nothing, nor do small feet leave notable marks in his wake. Not even here at all.

"A lot of dust and nothing." Rene answers Kara's observations from the other room, only loud enough that she hears it past aging walls; it's not hard, since there's nothing else making noise save the rain.


Chris continues the conversation even though he's physically moved into another room. His voice carries, tone pitched with boredom. Like he's had this conversation with Weasel before — they haven't — more than once, and he just wishes she'd take the response she's given.

"I know you've got this burning desire for me, but I'm just not that into you."

He picks his way through the first of the offices as he speaks. It only adds to the long suffering, can't believe I have to say this again quality of his words. A (not) meaningful pause follows. He's not giving Weasel time to ponder his claim or reconsider her own words. He's actually looking at the tools and tool box. Those are collected, carried back to the doorway for claiming after he's explored the other rooms.

"So no matter how you ask." Chris' follow up resumes as he steps out if the first door and turns for the second. The tools and case are set just outside before he steps away to continue his searching. "The answer is still no. It's past time you accepted that and moved on."

The soft, gummy grind of something under Chris’ boot draws his attention. Faded orange and white… cigarette butts. Dozens of them, scattered around the floor. There's a crumpled pack rather unceremoniously left nearby too, not faded enough to have been there since the war. The smell of old tobacco lingers in that space, mixing with the subtle mildew stink.

Outside, the rain starts to pick up. It gently patterns against the roof, intrudes to say hello in rivulets and drops through gaps in the roof and seams of the windows. The sound of the rain is a peaceful white noise, filling the abandoned old space with a comfortable blanket of sound. Making other, smaller noises too. Subtler ones.

Kara's methodical efforts have given her the best vantage point for the entire, albeit small, library and her team. From the end of tile hall that marks the restroom territory, she can see the three doors - one of which is propped open to reveal Chris and Rene moving about inside the room with the demolished furnishings, smooshed cigarette butts, and the small toolbox. After a look, the toolbox is set beside the open door with a gentle thud, but the next door does not give under Chris's touch - it is steadfastly locked.

Back at the entrance, Rene had pushed closed the door before following after Chris, but there's a soft *CLICK* and the door cracks anew. It eeks open lazily, suggesting an askew hinge and a worn out latch.

Directly across from Kara's lookout position, Clara and Sophie have reached the shelves. "Aye-aye, captain." Sophie's energetic reply is amplified over the inherent quiet that permeates the library atmosphere - even after its been so long abandoned, it's as though the studious quiet has been ingrained in every nook of the building. The rain is a soft, steady blanket that cuts off the outside world. Lingering behind Clara's left shoulder like a proper watchdog, Sophie looks around them with a more attentive, probing, and wary gaze. She begins to comment on the Weasel-Chris exchange offhandedly, "You did bring up his dick fir-"…

The tiny, dark woman's words are cut off by a splitting cry. A whine that starts low and quickly crescendos into a sharply pitched squeal. It's not human. In fact… "CLARA!" Sophie's eyes grow wide as she pinpoints the source of the noise. Their proximity to the rotten shelf and their weight upon the spongy floor has set the precariously aged shelf dumping forward - eight feet of shelving loaded with books to hurry it along comes crashing down towards the little mink-lover.

For all the good her vantage point does her… Kara starts to bare her teeth as she sees the shelf give way, hesitating for a split second on the direction she should give. Sophie, almost certainly, would be fine. Clara didn't have the advantage of being able to turn into mist at a moment's notice, though. "Kit, run!" she barks.

If Clara’s eyes could roll back into her head any further at Chris’s remark, she’d be able to look at the back of her own skull. Instead, her eyelids flutter as she rolls them as hard as she possibly can, her nose wrinkling just a bit at the notion. “Ew,” she remarks, shaking her head. “Literally everyone else in this room has a better chance at hooking up with me than you,” she replies.

“Keep dreaming, though, if that’s what helps you with all that tens—” She’s reaching for a book on the shelf when the shelf starts to whine, stopping for just a second with wide eyes. She very nearly tries to back up into the shelf behind her, but at the last minute she pivots on her heel and launches herself toward the opening, hopefully making it out in time.

Pepe is much quicker about his escape, turning and skittering through a gap on the bottom shelf behind them and making a beeline for an open space from there, tail held high and beady little eyes wide with terror.

Still unoriginal in your thought,” Chris quips as he drags a foot through the debris on the floor. “Good thing your ability is talking to skunks because you stink at everything. Probably have a better chance with your striped hand warmer than with anyone else here. Fuck. Probably your only chance here.”

He doesn't speculate on that pairing, but he does shrug and shudder as I'd thoroughly disgusted.

Finding the door locked, Chris turns the rifle in his hand. The weapon is raised, and the butt of the stock thrust down against the handle with force meant to unseat it. He draws back to strike the knob again, but a third strike is aborted when the telltale sounds of crash and chaos beckon a look over his shoulder.

For the start of the bickering, Rene simply stares at the details of the room in a valiant effort to keep his eyeballs from rolling out of his head. "Aright, that's enough."

Whatever else he planned to commentate on gets brushed aside as quickly as it formed; watching Chris trying to force his way into the door is less interesting than the crash and clatter in their wake. That sounded delightful! Rene turns to shine his light back along the path they've made through dust, alighting briefly on the discarded cigarettes on the way. He listens rather than panics, staying in place.

"Say something if you've died out there." Helping.

Rain patters against a window in the bathroom, where no one found anything of interest. The soft sound it makes accompanies the fingers of branches scraping against glass from a too-close old tree. The gurgle of the sink goes largely unheard, what with the commotion caused by the shelf’s collapse. A gurgle like someone turned on the water, but nothing comes out. Just a gas bubble trapped in the pipes.

Overhead the sound of rain is now much harder, hammering on the roof of the building. Windblown rain buffets up against one side of the library and the front doors rattle noisily, even as the air temperature mercifully begins moving toward cooler and less humid the longer the rain goes on for.

Rene’s flashlight catches sight of something on the floor. A trampled cardboard box and a crushed syringe. The box was probably purple and yellow at some point, the logo reading Otrexup (methotrexate) barely legible. Overhead, the sound of an old tree branch clunking in the wind sometimes sounds like footsteps on the roof.

THUNK. THUNK. Crack. Chris’s makeshift hammering on the door proves somewhat successful. The thin wood around the latch plate has splintered. It’s clear another pounding or two would break open the door fully, but-…

The thunder of books hitting the floor melds with the atmosphere of the strengthening storm outside. The tomes thud one after another trailing the dodging little form of Clara and poor Pepe. At the end of the aisle, Sophie ushers the tiny telepath behind her and glares menacingly at the toppled tower of texts and shattered wood. She squints, daring it to try anything more. The leaning, broken remains groan back in one last show of disobedience before seemingly settled into the sturdier support of the shelf nextdoor.

Sophie turns back, bracing her hands on Kit’s shoulders and looking her over before sparing a quick glance down and aside to Pepe. She gives a silent, supportive nod to both parties before raising her voice. “All fingers and toes and… tail accounted for.” Pepe earns a squint as Sophie asks of Clara. “That thing loaded? I hope the safety’s on.” She gives a testing sniff.

“Light on your toes, guys.” Sophie calls out for the benefit of all and then turns around. She crouches down and reaches in to the pile of books, starting the process of sifting through and selecting a few titles for the bag.

In the back of the library proper where no light has yet dare tread, there’s a faint shuffling sound.

Once out of harm's way, Clara collapses on her rear end, turning to stare incredulously at the mountain of near-death by literature that she just narrowly escaped. “That would’ve been a shitty way to go,” she remarks quietly, frowning at the pile of books. Pepe, thankfully, didn’t stinkify any of the books — that requires aim and effort, and he was too busy trying to flee.

Then that shuffling sound happens, and suddenly the animal telepath is on her feet, gun out. “Heads up, dog back there!” She points in the direction of the sound; Pepe, shaking off his own initial terror, suddenly puts himself between Clara and the predator, tail held high and fluffed out as he defiantly stomps in the direction of the creature, his rear end aimed toward this new foe.

Meanwhile, the animal telepath has put herself between Sophie and the beast, her gun drawn and aimed at where she’s pretty sure the creature is. She hates guns, but potentially wild predators of the canine variety tend to warrant them.

The glimmer of crushed medical apparatus is too much of a draw for Dumortier, who leaves Chris' side to investigate the box it seemed to come from. He picks it up and turns it over to skim it. Libraries would definitely not have this in a first aid kit. The fine lines of his jaw tighten some as he tries to tune out the rain. At least the girls out on the floor sound alright.

Rene clutches the stick in his hand with a renewed sense of presence, pieces of hair loose from the long braid framing his face as he turns around to slink back and take a cursory look out the door they came in. Listening. The trees against the building make it more difficult.

Clara's voice is clear, though; blue eyes lift to the rest of the corridor, glancing back over shoulder to Chris.

"Don't shoot it unless it comes after you! I think there might be someone still here." Rene's voice is lifted enough to be a not-library volume, but he doesn't yell it at the top of his lungs. Animals sense the fear stuff, right?

Thank God the girl's not squashed. Now they just have to worry about her jumping the gun. Kara doesn't even have time to relax. There's a forceful but even measure to her voice as she calls out, "Keep your cool. If it doesn't charge, doesn't poke out looking fit to bite, neither do you."

She neither heard nor has seen this dog, but she trusts that the animal instincts at work are accurate, at any rate. Rene's continued conclusion that they might not be alone makes her frown, edging closer toward the opening into the library proper to start scoping out more potential hiding spots for any onlookers.

If you can read this, you're in range is a warning that is still forefront of mind for her, one that the loud pattering of the rain causes to be anxiously minded for.

Well, neither Ms. Sunshine nor the Skunk Whisperer seem to have gotten hurt, so there's that. Chris’ tips a look at René when he walks off then returns his attention to the door. Both dog and rain seem to be of little concern right now. At least to him. There's a good handful of others also aware of its presence.

He takes half a step back, adjusts his grip so his rifle is pointed up and away from anyone. Just in case. Settling his weight, Chris drops his shoulder and heaves himself into the door. Combined with his attack on the handle seconds earlier, perhaps he'll be successful this time.

The wind buffets the building again, stronger this time, enough to make the old walls groan in protest. But the gust subsides, the groaning ends, and all that is left is the hammering sound of rain coming down hard outside. The summer storm is accompanied by a few distant rumbles of thunder echoing across the Pine Barrens, and Rene is familiar enough with the way storms sound out here to suppose its further to the west. But still, the weather makes its presence known in loud report.

Still, Rene can't help but shake the feeling that there's someone in the room with him. A sense of being watched, or like walking over someone’s grave. Perhaps that's all this old building is — haunted. But then, ghosts don't have much use for dogs.

Or cigarettes.

The locked door bows under Chris’s thrust shoulder, the old wood trying to rely on any remaining strength and elasticity to preserve itself… Creeeaaaaaa-CRACK!. The well worn wood around the beaten up knob and latch let go with a splintering that sheds a few toothpick shards of wood and debris around the entry.

At the same time the rustling in the back of the library becomes a proper growl.

The room Chris has entered is particularly dark. The windows here have been boarded more securely than all others. What little light filters in from the lobby illuminates a lumpy mass on a large table in the center of the room and a darker section in the far back that looks like a dead, misshapen beast with sharp and rounded edges alike.

Back amidst the bookshelves with Sophie still crouching down and placing a few of the spilt titles into her sack - she is not leaving here empty-handed, damnit/ - the scritching sound of overgrown claws on carpet gives away the dog’s creeping position. Three aisles down an empty space on a lower shelf makes a perfect window … for a black nose, white muzzle, and brown-patch framed eyes to leer through and pull back its maw in a warning snarl.

The little skunk whisperer keeps her gun drawn, finger on the trigger just in case — but she’s not ready to shoot a dog just yet, the weapon trained on the floor. Instead, she crouches low all of a sudden, turning so that her side is facing the beast and doing her best to keep from making eye contact. She motions gently for Sophie to do the same. In turn, Pepe retreats to her side, though his rear end still remains aimed at the beast.

“It’s a dog,” Clara points out in a calm, measured tone, keeping her eyes on the dog and its position while also doing her best to avoid making eye contact. “Don’t look it in the eyes, they find that challenging. Show it your side,” she adds.

Then, Clara reaches a hand out, palm facing the ground, in case the dog decides to approach. “Hey dog,” she says in a calm, reassuring tone. “We aren’t here to bother you, we just want some of the books in here and we’ll be on our way, okay?” Despite the friendly approach, she’s still ready to shoot the beast if need be — and Pepe is ready to spray.

Rene stays in the frame of the open doorway to the corridor, listening closely past the lick of wind against the windows. His pale hair allows Chris to find him even in the dim lighting. As much as the younger man is, well, himself, Rene knows he takes things seriously. Eyes out. The crack of the door is half-expected, given the butting from moments ago.

Between the growl and the feeling of eyes on the back of his neck, Rene's grip on the flexible branch he's brought along tightens. The woody spread of desperate roots forming at the end becomes thicker, clinging to his forearm. His chin lifts along with his eyes, slanting the sharpness of them over his shoulder past the cling of damp hair.

A pause, heavy and thick with tension. The women can take care of the dog- - and given Clara, likely without the noise of a gunshot. Kara's probably a good kicker, anyway.

"What's inside?" for Chris, a query, lower in volume as Rene tiptoes to the further edges of the room, investigating with the patience of a hawk. Serpentine roots form shards of bark, hardening on his arm. The roottips snake outward away from him, twitching and tangling together.

He doesn't trust this place as much as he did coming up on it, that much is certain.

Kara hears the growl now, and the distance between her and it and the girls feels very pressing to close, suddenly. But, she can also hear the sound of them trying to calm the dog. To soothe her own nerves in the interim, she looks back to check on the progress the boys are making, one ear open to see if her presence might be needed in the stacks of shelves.

Chris makes a discernible noise for an answer. He's not sure what he's found because it's too fucking dark inside. Whoever boarded up these windows…

With a shake of his head, he crosses the floor with the confidence of ownership. Sure, it isn't his building anymore than it is anyone else's. But he and the others are the ones presently looking into things and so he stamps claim all over it. His feet take him deep into the darkened room, eyes slanting from one indistinguishable mass to the other. Eeny, meeny, miney…

Best to start where it's darkest and head off any surprises. Chris seats his rifle against his shoulder as he creeps into the depths of the shadow to investigate the first lumpiness.

Chris’ entry into the room comes with a cloying scent of musty, stale air. His shadow is stark and black and his feet, stretched out long across the ground when Rene calls back to him. But only Chris could notice that his shadow isn’t performing exactly the same movements he is, but his attention is so focused elsewhere as to not notice the silhouette at his feet is anything other than what it appears. Nor does he notice when his shadow detaches from his body on entering the far darker room, blending amid the other shadows there.

The ambulatory shadow is gone nearly as fast as it had come, disappearing sight-unseen into the room as Chris begins his survey of the lightless space. The rain outside continues to drum on the roof, and the snarling growl of the dog nearby joins that steady rhythm. It is through cracks in the drywall and gaps around wall outlets that thin wisps of smoke begin to intrude into the space closer to the aggressive canine. But the smoke moves primarily through the insulation gap between the walls, coiling around old power lines and slithering between the gaps in moldering pink fiberglass batting. It occasionally peeks out through more gaps, growing nearer and nearer to the dog’s protesting noises.

“Wait. Does that really wo-” Sophie doesn’t finish, a renewed growl cutting her short. Her chin jerks way and she lowers her gaze so that there’s a foggy white space in her periphery where the dog snout looms, snarling in the space a few aisle’s down. Crouching still, she lets the sack slip out of her fingers and rests a hand on a blade hilt sheathed in an ankle harness.

The canine reacts similarly when Kit tries to speak to it, uncaring of what tone the bipedal invader uses. There’s a jerky motion as though the dog considers lunging through the shelf, but the space is too small and the dogs dark eyes flick back and forth between Sophie and Kit both. A warning snort that sends spittle around the dogs glossy nose and mouth before its head disappears from the little book-frame window. The scratchy paces of four paws and intermittent growls suggests the dog is pacing an invisible boundary just out of sight.

Sophie begins stuffing books into the sack with a renewed fervor.

Back in the newly breached room, Chris is focused on the wrong shadow. The threatening dark mass that has lured him deeper inside doesn’t move at his approach, all weird angles and rounded mounds. Only once he’s nearly atop it, squinting even, does he recognize the shape for what it is - a large portable generator. The gauge on the front just a pointy indicator at a big angry red E.

“Not really,” is Clara’s hushed response to Sophie’s question of whether or not her attempt at friendly interaction with the dog actually works. “It’s just the only good way to test the waters with unfamiliar dogs,” she adds, “and when it doesn’t work, back the fuck away s l o w l y.”

She shifts so that her own bag is held by her gun hand, one eye staying on the dog as she snatches up a few books as well, the gun trained on the beast as she starts slowly backing away, still in a crouch; Pepe gives a few warning stomps and even a shrill little growl of his own, staying right next to Clara’s feet the entire time — his butt is aimed and ready to go, but he and Clara would prefer to avoid letting a stink bomb fly in these close quarters, as they would probably all end up needing a peroxide/baking soda/dish soap bath as a result.

She doesn’t notice the smoke just yet — or at least, not until the little mink that has been lurking about in the shadows does. Gray eyes flit from the dog to the smoke, and back again. “You aren’t doing that, are you?” She jerks her head toward a few wisps of smoke escaping from the cracks.

The skunk whisperer is getting a bad feeling about all of this.

"You know, maybe scavenging for books is going to be more complicated than we thought," is little more than code for they should think about leaving. "Sorry, Soph, we'll have to take a raincheck on this one." Kara is sidling around the stacks of shelves to get a better angle on this dog they can't see. Her gun lifts, butt set against her shoulder.

She lifts her voice then, calm and inviting. "Come here, boy," she calls out, fingers resting near the trigger. She's heard enough to anticipate what needs done if the dog doesn't simply bolt. Kara works at this point to put herself in line of sight of it while the girls bundle up what they've gathered so far. "Come here," she coos loudly at it.

There's all sorts of shadows, so of course the smoke is missed. But the generator is a find, even if the gauge tauntingly reads empty. Chris makes mental note to report that to Kara so they can haul it back when they leave. It'll be useful back at the factory, he's sure.

Turning from the one shadow to the other, he gives it a once over before making an approach. The dog is still not a concern for him, after all. It's out there, he's in here, and there's plenty of people to deal with that problem.

As he gets close to the bundled-looking dark shape on the desk, Chris reaches out with a hand. Because in some instances you do look with your hands and not just your eyes. Like when it's dark.

In the corridor, as quickly as Weasel’s companion seemed to notice it, the smoke coming out of the cracks in the wall and the gaps around the electrical outlets dissipates, as if a small fire was somehow snuffed out. Though the smoke smells more tar-like and reminiscent of cigarette smoke than an electrical fire. Outside, a distant peal of thunder rumbles, subtly vibrating the walls and windows of the old library.

Not but a moment after, Chris notices a shadow of movement out of the corner of his eye in the generator room, but when he turns his attention there it’s nothing, just an unusual shadow on the wall cast by his shoulder. The wind outside blows hard around the same time, slamming the front doors closed and sucking them back open again with a storm-driven gust.

If it weren't the way it was outside, popping open a new skylight wouldn't be a bad idea; as it is, Rene tips his chin up to consider it, backtracking after Chris and shrugging off the notion. The rattle of windows and the bang of the front door caught in the stormwind are enough to give the agrokinetic a start, the panel growing from his arm spreading out further in instinct. A shield is a shield, after all. He still curses inwardly at jumping, but treks after Chris with the gaze of his flashlight. "Sounds like we might be bailing on this first attempt,"

"Anything?" Anyone, maybe. Rene stops as he comes up on the open door to shine his lamp inside.

In the back room, Chris's hand extends out towards the lumpy, dark mass in the center of the room. Atop the large central conference table his fingers sink into something cool despite the muggy heat of the stormy atmosphere about them - wicking, slippery. It hisses under his touch. An old, sleeping bag. It's not lumpy enough to contain a body. Phew! But, there's a resisting weight to the bundle that suggests there is something inside, all the same. Simple examination at any point reveals a flashlight and a machete.

Back across the lobby and round to the library proper, Sophie looks up from her half-filled bag o' books. "Did I do wh-..?" Her little nose wrinkles at the smell of stale, chemical-soaked tobacco. Her dark eyes dart to and fro nervously, a wisp of smoke rising from her shoulders that is absent any aroma given the storm-kissed scent already lingering in the area. "Not I," she hisses at Kit.

Sophie straightens in her crouched position, looking back over her shoulder at Kara's trek, replying even as the tall blonde slips out of view between the stacks and begins calling after the mutt. "As long as I don't leave here empty ha-…" The mutter is cut off by the sound of a sharp bark.

Gloom is cut into boxes of darkness where the towering bookshelves block what little ambient light remains. It's from one of these little alcoves of pitch that the dog suddenly lunges. Kara has crossed some imaginary line, some territory that dog deems hers, and offers no clemency to the trespasser. With a piercing bark and quivering maw, the dog darts out and aims to bury its teeth in Kara's calf.

Better her than the girls. Especially since she was anticipating it.

Kara doesn't even think so much as a sorry as she pulls the trigger, focused dead center on the dog's mass. A second tap follows. She'd wanted to give it a chance, first, but the aggressive growling on top of someone else potentially being here … It tips the scales. After firing, she doesn't lower her weapon either, unsure what the loud sound will draw, if anything.

Who knows — if those slamming doors didn't startle anything else out of its hole already…

"That was Prince," she calls out, just in case Rene might be worried. Chris is likely unaffected, knowing him.

Kit’s eyes widen as the dog lunges, swinging her weapon around — only to flinch as Kara fires off two shots at the dog herself, more at the sound than the actual act of shooting the dog. The girl keeps her gun trained on the beast just in case. Pepe, the poor thing, lets out a small sound of protest and scurries to hide behind his human companion. It’s probably a good thing the dog didn’t come at them.

She’s also distracted by the smoke, and the smell — something about it is bothering her. She even goes so far as to lean over and sniff the smoke that comes off of Sophie, before pulling back with a frown, turning to stare at the crack in the wall — and the smoke that isn’t there any more. Smells like cigarettes.

“I suddenly feel like we aren’t actually alone in here, guys,” she suddenly calls out, a frown creasing its way into her face. The ‘in range’ sign, the smoke…something doesn’t feel right. “I could be wrong — I hope I’m wrong…” She trails off.

The movement, if it really was movement, is a strange thing. It makes Chris pause briefly, his eyes alone slanting in the direction he thought he saw something. He makes a sound in his throat, thoughtful dismissal. He's not jumping at shadows.

“We can claim that generator,” he eventually decides to say to Rene’s question. It's distracted, as he starts pulling equipment from the bundle — it's all his now — and likely keeping a partial eye out for whatever movement he thinks he didn't see. Probably a fucking cat skulking around like the evil shadow-dwellers they are.

His attention lifts briefly at the sound of the twin shots. But Kara’s claim of ownership prompts a shake of his head. At least it was someone he trusts with a gun popping off a couple of rounds. That's the only comforting thing Chris finds about the situation, his attention sharpens on his surroundings while he stows the flashlight in a back pocket of his jeans and slides the machete into his belt. Stupid dark room and it's stupid shadows.

Though he appreciates the tipoff, somehow Rene knows it is either Kara or Clara who shoot, the sound of the snarling preceding it. Poor dog, but it came first. Rather than call back to Kara or what he hears out of the other women, he gives the room at his back one more look before turning himself fully to Chris. And the generator.

"Bien," is all that he replies with, a smirk on his lips in the dimness. Rene moves ahead to wordlessly offer out the bag intended for books to Chris, for stowing what smaller parts he pulls free. The light in the blonde's hand remains illuminating portions of the room, a slow-moving observance.

"It have wheels, or do we need to drag it out?" He isn't ignoring the pressure from outside of the room, he is simply staying matter-of-fact while keeping his ears tuned. Rene knows that Chris prefers no preamble and no fuss. And he accommodates.

Gunshots are not a foreign affair for Sophie. But, there’s something about gunshots in the sanctuary of a library, no matter how desertered, that makes her flinch intrinsically. The thud of a book falling from her fingers, fingers twitching for the hilt of a knife in sheath at her hips, is lost under the explosion of the second shot.

A pool of dark blood starts to form at Kara’s feet and leach into the carpet before following the ridge at the edge of a bookshelf, rolling over itself in a hurry to leave the gruesome corpse behind. “Goddamnit,” Sophie mutters, bobbing her shoulders until the wisps of vapor clinging about her dissipate. She pushes to her full diminutive height and uses the back of a forearm to push green curls out of her face. A few steps carry her around the fallen bookcase and she starts towards the back towards Kara.

In the backroom, Rene’s steadily sweep of the torch reveals that the generator is indeed built only a dolly-like system of it’s own - a sturdy metal bar on the front of lift some of its lumbering weight and two wheels on the back to simply roll it away.

But the sound of footsteps at the entrance of the library is alarming to both parties in the wake of the gunshot and the deafening silence that follows. The storm still rumbles outside, but it feels so much more distant now that an animal has been killed and someone else has arrived. Rene and Chris can see the stranger through the doorway from the generator room, silhouette by the gray outside light spilling in from the open door. A curtain of rain falls at his back, and the man’s silhouette is rail thin and ragged. His hair is scraggly and wild, patchy in places, as is his beard.


Off of one shoulder he slings a backpack, letting it drop down to his spindly hand, then to the floor with a heavy thud. But the stranger does nothing else, except for exude the stink of tobacco tar like a cigarette machine that caught on fire. “She had puppies,” he says in a hoarse, gravelly voice.

A short exhale escapes Kara after the dog goes still, her gaze moving on to look up past it, to look around herself. She's still not certain the place is clear, even with the dog put down.

Her grip tightens on her weapon as she spins back around, gun centered on the old man as she hears the sound of his voice. Kara doesn't flinch, doesn't react to the heartbroken news he bears. She saw, when the dog had fallen to the ground, the telltale signs of he being she. "Hands where I can see them," the munitions chaplain directs.

"Are you the one who left the note outside?" she asks tersely.

As the dog lurches to the ground, dead from Kara’s well-placed shots, Kit frowns down at the now-dead beast. “Stupid thing,” she mumbles under her breath, shaking her head. “Nobody wanted to hurt you,” she whispers.

While Sophie skirts around the creature’s now-still body, the little skunk telepath steps forward, reaching out to place a gentle hand on the beast’s neck — even if she is already dead, it’s the respectful thing to do. She can’t talk to dogs, but her beasts are of the same family, both falling into the Caniformia suborder — so there is at least some respect there.

The man’s arrival prompts the girl to spin toward the sound of his voice, eyes wide and gun still in hand. His words prompt a bit of a clenching feeling in her gut — she had puppies. Now she feels even worse. With Kara’s eyes on the man, Kit turns, eyes searching the dark for signs of said puppies. “She attacked. It’s not like we’re going to let ourselves get mauled by a dog,” she points out to the man as she does so.

Leaving Rene to deal with the generator, Chris steps into the doorway to finally see what all the fussing is about. It's a bit of a surprise — not that anyone could really tell from his usual deadpan expression — to find another someone in the dumpy old library.

Eyes roll at Weasel’s remarks, but he addresses the old man. And Kara. In a single comment. “Fuck if it isn't another stray.” He might be joking. As he speaks, the rifle comes off his shoulder to rest in his hands. He's not pointing it at the stranger. Yet. It's just casually held, comfortably like he's about to go hiking through the alders in search of tomorrow’s supper.

Chris leans against the door frame. The new arrival is given a strong look, bored and yet it's obvious that he's sizing the guy up. “Think we should take this one back with us. He could probably use a good meal.” Pause. “And a bath.”

It's not hard to note the presence of someone new, given the reaction of his fellows; Rene grinds his teeth while Chris moves back to check it all out.

It's probably better that way.

Not that he'd say why.

One ear tuned to the outside of the generator room, the construct on Dumortier's arm shifts from the shape it held into something flatter, crooking out around the metal bar and coiling there before pressing the machine onto its wheels. Rene tows it along behind him as he turns to move out of the room, stopping amidst the debris in the adjacent space to stand behind the wall and listen in. His free hand rests at the gun on his belt, the mass of twining bark and twisting branch writhing around like an anemone.

Sliding his tongue across his teeth, the old man looks down at the bag he’d dropped at his feet, then back up to the others. His hands remain at his side, brows furrowed and attention focused in more of the middle distance of the room. “Take the pups,” he says with a look to Chris, “old dogs stop eating when they know they’re dying. Ain’t no need for food anymore.”

Whether he wrote the sign or not, whether this was his dog, none of it is answered. May never be. There’s a moment where his attention lingers on Kara, those tired and dark eyes having a piercing quality to them that conflicts with the sick old man’s wiry frame and hunched posture. “Next time you bark,” he says to Kara, half of his body starting to slough off into thick and chalky waves of roiling ash and smoke, “don’t be surprised when somebody puts you down too.”

Soon he’s just crumbled to dust like he was some kind of ancient mummy, swirling in eddies and currents of dark gray smoke that leaves flakes of ash all over the ground. The backpack, notably, is left behind as the smoke exits the library through the door, irrespective of the wants or needs of the intruders who came here. The sight of the smoke, of a smoke man, elicits memories of stories told around campfires for the last decade or so of a monster that lives in the New Jersey woods.

An old man who confronts travelers, and either leaves them questioning themselves, or dead. A modern-day fable about a monster in the woods who exists as smoke and shadow.

But the backpack is a reminder. Some monsters are real.

Around the stacks of books Kara, Sophie, and Kit can feel the tension in the thickly humid air. Kit's probing reveals that the ghostly ashen man was correct… In the back corner a nest is made from a tattered old blanket and shreds of yellowed newspaper. Four pups tumble over one another, limbs splayed out at cutely awkward angles. One of them lets out a worried whine as the scent of Kit and her musky friends invade their quiet little space.

Sophie stands equidistant between Kara and Kit, one hand at her hip, the other twitch with tendrils of smoke winding her dark fingertips. As the ominous old man turns his sites on Kara, the tiny green-haired woman dares a step forward. "Watch what you sa-…" But then he disintegrate… Her gasp sounds like a crisp rustling of papers cutting across the library and her eyes widen to saucers. He's gone.

"Let's get out of here." Finally, she's on board. She dips down to take up her half-filled sack of books, even as she eyes the abandoned bag near the exit with a wary gaze. "He's right," she comments begrudgingly. "We should take the pups. We can't leave them." She cuts a sympathetic look back to Kara.

Kara doesn't lower her weapon when the man dissipates into smoke. She wasn't going to go explaining herself, even before he dissolved, and she keeps her own counsel when only smoke and shadow dispels from where he'd been standing.

Her guess? He'd taken care of whoever posted the sign, if they were still here when he arrived. Whatever the sickly older man was doing stubbornly trying to go it on his own out here … not her business.

Kara finally turns to acknowledge Sophie, only giving her a stiff nod of her head. Her eyes are soon moving past her, not to look at the discovered puppies, but to study the shadows… and to finally look back in the direction of the door, eyes narrowed at the vehicles they'd come in. A thought preoccupies her, but it goes unspoken. Instead, when she draws in breath, she finally lowers her weapon though still holds it. "Let's get the generator and as many books as you can carry and quit this place, then." The nod is as much assent about the puppies as she'll voice.

Rene creeps along the wall only enough to get a glimpse of the voice's source dropping into a cloud of ashen smoke, silent against the frame and filing away what he saw those seconds before. It's a hard man to forget, he figures. Best to make a note.

"Don't worry about whoever the hell that was." is the short man's only addition when he steps out of the back, towing the generator behind him, size disparity aside. "He's almost dead anyway." Rene doesn't explain much past this, pushing hair away from his face and honing in on Kara's face, then Sophie's. "I'm not carrying puppies too."

Just putting that out there, even as he starts dragging the generator along on his way towards the door, the defensive spread of plants easing down and draping across his frame and 'towhook' on the way out.

“Fancy parlor tricks won't help you, old man.” It isn't a true threat, something about Chris’ tone casts the statement as an observation made. He leaves the room he'd found the generator and tools in, but he doesn't fully join back with the others. “Smoke and dust is all well and good until someone's mother gets cross over the grime that's on her great grandmother’s porcelain tea set. It was in pristine condition even after being passed down for ten generations until you wandered through. Not a chip or scratch on those lovely lavender flowers.”

As he talks, like he usually does, Chris picks his way through the debris and whatever else clutter is on the floor to find the puppies. And likely lay claim to at least one of them. Jester needs a partner in crime after all. “Then you come through as you please, all smoke and grit, but not the kind that people admire. And you leave a dirty film. Then mom gets cross, supper burns, and everyone gets a paddling because of the mess.”

Unlike Sophie, Clara isn’t even waiting for permission from Kara — in fact, she has already crossed the distance between herself and the puppies. She might not be able to talk to them, but they’re still animals, and despite her specialty, Clara is a fan of all animals — dumb dogs included.

As Sophie asks Kara, the skunk telepath blinks owlishly, one puppy under each arm as she straightens up. “Anyone who would leave these guys behind is a monster.” She scoots to one side to let Chris have a look, quite happy to let him grab one of them. She’s totally keeping one, maybe even two for the Stinky Farm — they’ll be a good visible defense for the plot, especially if she can train them.

“Sophie, maybe see if you can find some dog training books,” Kit points out, snuggling one puppy close and kissing the top of its head. She’s totally not a big softie.

Sophie offers a single, loyal nod of agreement at Kara's instruction. She stops, however, to loft a brow at Rene and then swivel and even more curious look on Chris when his ramblings pitter-patter across the library to her. A quick peek inside the bag is all it takes before the ghostly ashen man's abandoned pack is tucked up over her tiny shoulder.

The group manages to collect a couple sacks and the puppies without much further ado, certainly nothing as interesting as the strange lurking visitor, anyway. The generator is a heavy, awkward bulk, but with all hands on deck they manage to heft, grind, and wriggle the equipment into the back of the truck bed.

Thankfully, the coughing of the old truck's exhaust pouring smoke drowns out the sound of the whimpering puppies as the truck pulls away and bounces through rutted paths of fresh mud back toward Providence.

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