THE TREMORS hit the Library again.
“Motherfrick,” Officer John Deaver cursed as he spilled coffee down the front of his trenchcoat — again. “I think that one was bigger. Was it bigger? I think it was bigger.”
The circular room rattled so hard this time around that Deaver felt his back teeth chatter. And he even saw the air shimmer with the force of the vibration. The twenty or so police officers and structural engineers in the room with him eyed the domed ceiling nervously.
And the sound —! The horrible sound that accompanied the shaking was somewhere between a trumpet blast and the creepy sound of wind howling through an open door.
Without warning, the shaking stopped.
“Goddammit,” Deaver muttered. New Yorkers didn’t do earthquakes. That last one in August of 2011 — the one that had cracked the friggin’ Washington Monument — had spooked him and good. But what he really hated were all the Tweets from his California friends. Haha! Wook at those widdle New Yorkers with their widdle 5.0! He hoped a meteor, a mudslide, a fire and an earthquake pounded —
“But it’s not an earthquake,” Cesar Brend said. Brend was a wiry, yappy little structural engineer. It was his scientific crap that littered the floor — his power cables snaking everywhere, computers and imaging technology. “I keep telling you that. And yes, you’re right: that one was bigger. A lot bigger.”
“So what is it?” Deaver said. “Stop telling me what it’s not and tell me what it is.”
“We — it — that is to say, we don’t know. Not yet.” Brend sagged. “The building is solid: we don’t see any cracks or anything that would be causing this.”
At that moment, a powerfully built, somewhat tan man with a close-cropped haircut entered the room at a quick stride. For some reason, Deaver thought of a turn-of-century circus strongman. All he was missing was one of those old-timey twirly moustaches.
He almost laughed.
The man stopped abruptly. He took one quick look around, and then, he aimed his snappy stride at the center of the Library, utterly ignoring everyone around him.
Deaver’s near-smile faded. The assuming manner of this man set him on tilt. “The Christ. Now what?” Deaver said. “Who’s this ass-monkey?”
Deaver crushed his empty Foamlastik cup with a timpanic-tickling squeaky noise. He came up behind the man. Deaver’s mouth opened to bark —
But the man spun suddenly and jabbed a finger at Deaver. “Listen. Clear this room. Now. Get these people out. Leave the gear behind. Do it. Do it now, before people start getting killed.”
Had this prick just told him what to do?
But the man had already dismissed him, moving onto more important matters.
Deaver shouted at his back. “Hey! Who in the frick are you?”
The man spun and held up a wait a second finger. Then, he turned again and shouted at the door. “Come on! Hurry up with that stuff! I don’t know how long we have until the next one!”
Two men entered with wheelbarrows filled with sacks.
Deaver’s head just about popped off his shoulders when he saw this. “HEY! I asked you a question!”
The man turned. He held out a hand. “Armand Ptolemy.”
“And are you with NYPD?”
“Then why are you here? Cesar! Is this guy yours?”
Cesar looked up vaguely from his iPad. “Nope.”
“What do you do?”
“You mean for a living? Online store. Antiques, mostly. Sort like eBay but for —“
“Antiques? Does this look like a frickin’ flea market to you? That’s it. Dantzler! Lamont! Get this clown out of here!” Two officers approached.
“Wait!” Ptolemy shouted as he was pulled back towards the door. “I was called in by the Mayor! He asked me to come help out.”
Deaver cocked an eyebrow. “Matello sent you?”