Home > Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1)

Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1)
Author: Jim C. Hines

Chapter 1

SOME PEOPLE WOULD SAY it's a bad idea to bring a fire-spider into a public library. Those people would probably be right, but it was better than leaving him alone in the house for nine hours straight. The one time I tried, Smudge had expressed his displeasure by burning through the screen that covered his tank, burrowing into my laundry basket, and setting two weeks' worth of clothes ablaze.

The fire department had arrived in time to keep the whole place from burning. I remembered digging through the drenched, dripping mess my bedroom had become until I found Smudge huddled in a corner. With steam rising from his body, he had raced onto my shoulder and clung there as if terrified I was going to abandon him again. And then he bit my ear.

The four-inch spider was a memento of what I had left behind, one last piece of that other life. If magic were alcohol, Smudge would be both sobriety medallion and the one whiskey bottle I kept around as a reminder.

While at work, he stayed in a steel birdcage behind my desk, safely out of reach of small children. More importantly, it kept the small children safely out of Smudge's reach.

According to a series of tests I had run with an infrared thermometer, Smudge's flames could reach temperatures in excess of thirteen hundred degrees, roughly the same as your average Bunsen burner. I suspected he could get hotter, but since he only burst into flame when scared or threatened, it seemed cruel to pursue that particular research project.

Not to mention the fact that I was officially forbidden from doing magical research. My duties these days were much more straightforward.

I sighed and picked up the old bar code scanner. Age had yellowed the plastic grip, and the cord protruding from the handle was heavily reinforced with electrical tape. For the third time that afternoon, I played the red beam over the back of the latest Charlaine Harris novel.

The scanner's LED flashed green, and the computer emitted a cheerful beep as the screen populated with what should have been the details of Harris' fantasy mystery, a book our system insisted was actually The Joy of Pickling II, by Charlotte F. Pennyworth.

I tossed the useless scanner aside, cleared the record, and began manually entering the book's information into the Copper River Library database. Without the scanner, it took me a half hour to input the rest of the new books into the system.

When I finished the stack, I glanced around the library. Mrs. Trembath was two-finger typing at one of the public computer terminals, probably forwarding more inspirational cat photos to her grandchildren. Karen Beauchamp was huddled in a beanbag chair in the children's section, reading The Color Purple.

Karen's parents would be ticked to know she was reading books they hadn't personally approved. I made a mental note to save a nice, innocuous dust jacket Karen could wrap around the cover.

Aside from them, the library was empty. Traffic had been slow all afternoon, as people took advantage of the June sunshine.

I removed a fire opal pendant and set the orange stone on the center of the keyboard. The screen flickered, and a new window popped up on the screen. A simple circular logo showed an open book etched onto a medieval shield above the letters DZP.

This database had nothing to do with the Copper River Library. Having cataloged the new books for one library, it was time to do it all over again. I began with a book called Heart of Stone, a paranormal romance about a half-gorgon detective who got involved with a sexy mafia hit man. The story was nothing unusual, but the hit man wore enchanted sunglasses that allowed him to see magic and protected him from the detective's gaze. Those could be useful in the field. I entered the description and page numbers. The author also hinted that the half-gorgon's tears had aphrodisiac properties, and were potentially addictive. Something to watch for when the sequels came out.

One by one, I worked my way through the rest of the books. Copper River was a small town, but we had the best science fiction and fantasy collection in the entire U.P. Not that Michigan's Upper Peninsula was the most populous place, but I'd match our catalog against any library in the state. I had read every one of the three thousand titles that strained the aging wooden shelves of our SF/F section.

Most of those books had been purchased through a grant from the Johannes Porter Institute for Literacy, one of the cover corporations for Die Zwelf Portenære. That grant paid most of my salary and kept the town well-stocked in speculative fiction. All I had to do to keep it was keep cataloging new books for the Porters.

Rather, that was all I was permitted to do.

"Hey, Mister V." Karen had lowered her book. "Is something wrong with Smudge?"

I turned around just as a piece of the pea-sized obsidian gravel that lined the bottom of Smudge's cage dropped to the tile floor. Smudge was pacing quick circles, and tendrils of smoke had begun to rise from his back.

I jumped to my feet and grabbed my worn canvas backpack from beneath the desk. Doing my best to hide the cage with my body, I pulled out a bag of Jelly Bellies and dropped one in beside the ceramic water dish nested in the gravel. "What's the matter, partner?"

Smudge ignored me and the candy both. Not good.

Mrs. Trembath sniffed the air. "Is something burning?"

I searched the library, trying to figure out who or what was making Smudge nervous. Neither Karen nor Mrs. Trembath struck me as dangerous, but I trusted Smudge's judgment over my own. His warnings had saved my life three times. Four if you counted that mess with the rabid jackalope. "Furnace trouble. I'm sorry, but I'll need to close the library until I can get someone in here to check it out."

Karen was leaning halfway over the desk, searching for the source of the smoke. I grabbed a paperback and gently swatted her back. "That means you, too."

"I wish my parents would let me have a tarantula," she grumbled as I escorted her toward the door. "If you ever need someone to watch him for you-"

"You'll be the first person I call." I thought back to the last time Karen's family had been here and quickly added, "if you promise not to use him to terrorize your little brother."

"I wouldn't," she said, eyes full of twelve-year-old mischief. "But if Smudge happened to escape into the bathroom while Bryan was brushing his teeth . . ."

"Out." I gave her one final, playful thwap with the book. Unfortunately, while I was shooing Karen out the door, Mrs. Trembath had limped over to the desk.

She pointed her aluminum cane at Smudge's cage. "Isaac, your poor spider's on fire!"

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Nothing But Trouble (Malibu University #1)
» Kill Switch (Devil's Night #3)
» Hold Me Today (Put A Ring On It #1)
» Spinning Silver
» Birthday Girl
» A Nordic King (Royal Romance #3)
» The Wild Heir (Royal Romance #2)
» The Swedish Prince (Royal Romance #1)
» Nothing Personal (Karina Halle)
» My Life in Shambles
» The Warrior Queen (The Hundredth Queen #4)
» The Rogue Queen (The Hundredth Queen #3)