‘Who is taking the books?’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

Mary couldn’t decide if she was going to continue reading her book or if she’d just spend her time listening to the rhythmic jazzy tunes that filled the club’s atmosphere  …along with the smog coming from the cigarettes, and the spicy notes of Cajun food coming from the kitchen, located just a few meters away.

Being there was a little bit like being in New Orleans, she thought. But in fact, she was right there, in the same city that had driven her crazy minutes ago, when she had had to fight with the other drivers just to get the right exit, before getting into the high-speed lane.

That’s why Mary liked to relax in places like this any time she had the chance, and Mexico City gave her plenty of choices to do that. That also suited her perfectly as she was a lifestyle reporter for a local magazine.

That evening, it was the opening of the jazz club and the ambience turned lively when the band started playing all those classic songs that became popular during the Louis Armstrong era.

Mary soon got into a cheerful mood and started to enjoy the evening, while typing some ideas on her smartphone, for her to remember the highlights of the event and to complete her article later on.

The time passed fast, and while she was enjoying a tasty plate of jambalaya, a young man approached her.

“Are you alone?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m covering the opening for a magazine, so I’m actually working.” She answered with a friendly tone.

“Oh! So, would it bother you if I sit here, with you?” The man said.

“Not at all.” She replied, showing him the seat next to her.

After typing a few more words, Mary put her phone back into her handbag and asked him where he was from.

“I’m from Nigeria, miss. I arrived to the city this morning. I’m on a business trip and I was supposed to have a meeting this afternoon, but my colleagues’ flight was cancelled due to the bad weather, so I’m alone here. I’m staying at a hotel close by and they recommended me this place, when I asked them where I could have dinner.’

“Aw!” Mary said. “So, you haven’t actually had the chance to visit the city, have you?”

“No,” he replied, feeling a bit ashamed. “I don’t really know if I’ll have the time to do some sightseeing, as I’m on a tight schedule. May be after I finish all the meetings I’ll have some time to go around. Any place in particular that you recommend?”

“Well, if you don’t have much free time, I definitely recommend you one of the bus tours that are offered in the city, they’re quite good, and the price is right.” She answered.

“Great! Thanks!” He said, smiling at her. “By the way, my name is Adewale.”

“I’m Mary. Quite nice to meet you, Adewale.” She said.

“So, you’re a reporter?” He asked.

“Yes, I write reviews about new restaurants, clubs and any other place where food and entertainment combine. It’s really interesting and I have the chance to enjoy myself while working.”

“That sounds fantastic!” He said, smiling back at her. “My job requires endless hours in the office. In fact, this is the first time I’ve been assigned on a business trip. I’m really thrill about it. I’m sure you never get bored.”

“Almost never. Sometimes we have to wait for a long time before the events start. That’s why I’m always carrying a book. Besides…” She leaned towards him, getting closer to his left ear. “Can I tell you something…”

Adewale also leaned towards her and nodded.

“For some weeks now, I’ve been working on a story of my own. If everything goes as I plan, I’ll have a cover story and I’ll get a much better position.” She said to him.

“And, what’s the story about?” He asked.

“Well, I first heard of it from a friend of mine. Then, I started to do some research and I discovered that books are actually disappearing!”

“Indeed?” He said, sounding surprised.

“Yes! In the magazine we have a huge collection of books. It’s so big that it seems infinite. This is because the family of the owner has been collecting books for many generations. But when I started asking questions, their inventories didn’t match. Someone has been stealing the books!”

A waiter bringing some beignets interrupted their conversation.

After two plates of the sweet pastries were placed on the table, Mary continued.

“But it’s not only that. My friend, who first gave me the tip, told me that his personal library was stolen the other day. The strangest thing is that nothing else was taken from his house. The same has happened to some other friends of mine, and if you may know, I’m missing a book right now!”

“Seriously?” Adewale said.

“Seriously! What I have been able to confirmed so far is that books are been stolen, but I haven’t found any reason for that. Any theories?” She asked.

The young man placed his right hand on his head, and scratched it softly. “Who would like to steal all those books?” He said aloud, not really asking her.

“May be they want to used them as construction materials…” He offered. “You know, if they’re recycled, they might be of some used. Or may be, someone doesn’t want people to read any more.”

“I’ve also thought of that, I mean the second option. But I can’t imagine who.” Mary answered, while checking on her phone, which had just rang.

Seconds later she left the table, whispering Adewale that she’d be back.

It didn’t take long for her silhouette to disappeared among the people that were occupying all the tables in the place.

While waiting for her, he also received a phone call.

Covering his left ear with his hand, as a way to listen better, he nodded a couple of times, and then smiled. “Yes, I’ve spoken to her…” He said, just before Mary came back to the table.

The same waiter that had brought the beignets came back to the table, offering them some coffee this time.

They both accepted the coffee and tasted the beignets, laughing at each other when they saw the confectioner´s sugar covering their mouths.

“So, how do you like Cajun food so far, Adewale?” Mary asked.

“Oh! I find it very tasty. Is it common here in Mexico?” He said, placing his phone back in his pocket.

“I wouldn’t say it’s so common, but we do like spicy and tasty food, we use many similar ingredients. And here in La Condesa people are used to having many different restaurants that offer international food. This neighbourhood is an attraction for tourists and locals.”

“Very interesting.” He answered. “But I have to say that now I’m really intrigued about your research. Do you have any other leads?”

“No really”. Mary said, taking another sip of her coffee. “As I only work on this during my free time, I’m advancing at a slow pace. On the other hand, I’m just doing it to satisfy my own curiosity, so I’m not really in a hurry. I have no deadlines on this, so it’s okay. However, I am in a hurry with this story…”

“Aw!” Adewale said, sounding a bit disappointed.

“It was my editor, the one on the phone.” She explained. “He wants me to email him the review of the club right away, as they’ve just closed a deal with the owner to have some adds in the next edition, so they want the story to be published right away.”

“That means you have to go?” He asked.

“Yes! I’m really sorry we have to cut our chat short, but you know what it’s like when duty calls.” Mary said, while picking her things up.

She took one last sip of her coffee, and kissed Adewale goodbye on his right cheek.

“Nice meeting you!” She shouted from the door, right before she left the place.

The young man continued staring at the door for some time, then one of the waiters talked to him.

“Excuse me sir.” The waiter said. “Has the young lady left? I ask you this because I think this book belongs to her. Someone left it outside the kitchen, where we collect the garbage. It has no name, but I remember seeing her carrying a book like this when she arrived. When we went through it, we also noticed that is has some sort of chip on it. It might be something important. If you happen to see her again, could you let her know that we have it, please?”

Adewale reached for the book, but the waiter left before he could take it.

What would he do now? He wondered.

(To be continued next Wednesday on Obinna Udenwe’s Blog: )

croosover artwork OK
* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

Licencia Creative Commons

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Author: The Traveling Book Club by Nora Vasconcelos

I'm a born writer and a journalist who loves books so much that can't live without them.

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