“Did you see his arms?” Arya asked wide-eyed as Fezzik disappeared into the crowd. “They were huge.”
“And rhyming? That was the big answer?” Hermione said, clearly not impressed.
“Well, it’s not like your magic would do us any good here.” Binny raised her eyebrows.
“Well, what next then, on your ‘turn-back-the-clock’ agenda.” Hermione asked.
“I guess we should go to the library and do some research.” Binny said, not exactly sure of how to proceed.
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” Michel said.
“None of us are exactly detectives.” Katniss said.
“Would my sword be of any use in finding the Doldrums?” Arya asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“All you want to do is cut something – or someone, with that stupid sword of yours.” Hermione said.
“At least my sword does something.” Arya chided.
“Temporarily anyway.” Katniss added.
Binny had been walking on auto-pilot, lost in thought, when she turned to Katniss. “Wait, what did you say?”
“I was just saying, any damage she does with her sword won’t last.”
“No, before that.”
“Uh, that none of us are detectives?” Katniss said.
“Right. A detective. We need a detective.” Binny said.
“What do you think, there are detective agencies opening up shop in here?” Hermione asked.
“No. But we have the best fictional detectives ever. All we need to do is find one!” Binny exclaimed.
“Holmes.” Michel said quietly.
“Right. Sherlock Holmes. Nobody’s better than him.” Binny asked.
“I’m partial to Watson.” Katniss said.
“I’ll take Encyclopedia Brown if I could get him.” Binny joked.
“That’s the problem. We’re sitting here surrounded by some of the best detectives, how are we gonna find them?” Arya said.
“I can find him.” Hermione broke her silence.
Everyone turned to face her.
“Holmes?” Binny asked.
“No.” Hermione said.
“Try to behave please. We typically don’t bring others here.” Hermione said before she opened the door.
Binny thought to herself, Who’s we? but didn’t say anything. Binny walked through the open door.
Arya squealed with delight. Running through the large entrance hall over to the mantelpiece, she pawed the miniatures sitting there. “They’re so adorable.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Why must you touch everything?”
“What do you care?” Arya asked.
“You are my guest here. Can you just please act like it?” Hermione lectured.
Katniss watched the back and forth between Hermione and Arya, the wheels in her mind turning. “Hermione, what is this place?”
“It’s Pemberley of course.”
“It’s hard to tell every one of these perfectly manicured English countryside manors one from each other.” Katniss replied.
“Follow me please.” Hermione turned on her heel.
Katniss had more questions, but she kept them to herself for the moment.
The foursome walked through the richly appointed rooms, light streaming in through the windows. Binny traced her finger on the wood paneling as they walked. Toward the end of one side of the house they entered a large and beautiful library.
At first Binny almost didn’t notice the conundrum that was their current location.
“Now this one right here. I know it’s in the main library.” A tall thin man, with a British accent, and bronzed skin from the sun, said.
“Of course it is. They all are. I keep telling you that,” said a pretty girl, who looked to be slightly younger than the girls who had just arrived.
The thin man, took a sip from a goblet containing a thick dark red liquid. “I suppose you’re right Sally.”
A scruffy boy, his feet bare, in oversized clothes, and with one suspender holding up his pants sat on top of one of the low bookcases, drinking from a bottle. Presumably the same bottle that provided what the thin man was drinking. “I don’t know if I can take ‘nother day of you two going back‘n forth.”
Hermione cleared her throat and everyone turned to look. “Hi everyone.”
“Ah, guests! It’s been some time since we’ve had guests.”
Hermione introduced Binny, Arya, Katniss, and Michel, and then introduced the residents of Pemberley. “This is Huck.”
The barefoot boy issued a jaunty “Hullo.”
“This is Sally. Sally Kimball.”
The pretty girl said, “I’m not quite as well known so I suppose so my last name is mandatory.”
“I know exactly who you are.” Binny smiled.
“And this, is Watson.” Hermione gestured to the thin man.
“Pleased to make your acquaintances.” The thin man gave a short gracious bow, and then turning to Sally said, “And Sally, you’ll notice my last name is mandatory as well.”
“It’s not the same.” Sally complained.
“Well that’s our lot in life though isn’t it. Staying in the background?” Watson said.
“Except me ‘course. I got top billing after awhile. Stole the show I did.” Huck was filling a corncob pipe with something.
“Please don’t smoke. You know I find it positively dreadful.” Hermione lectured in Huck’s direction.
“You weren’t here Miney when I started.” Huck said.
“And you know I hate it when you call me that.” Hermione said.
Arya and Binny looked at each other and mouthed ‘Miney’ with big smiles on their faces.
“We’re not here for chitchat. We’re here to talk to John.” Hermione said.
“The doc? Whatcha want him fo’?” Huck asked.
“They want me for my powers of deduction of course.” Watson said.
“If you don’t stop drinking the only power you’ll have left is that of inebriation.” Sally remarked.
“Stop drinking my Mersault? What a positively awful suggestion.”
Watson walked over to the newcomers. “Before we delve into your mystery, answer me this question. You’ll notice that Pemberley has a library. Ironic of course given that our entire existence is in and of the largest library ever assembled. But let’s put that aside for the moment.”
“I thought that books weren’t allowed to leave the library.” Binny said.
“Ah, but what to do when you create a place form a book that has its own library? That’s a bit of a puzzle. As a result, we get our own little library right here, and never have to sully ourselves by wading through the masses. But more importantly, I have a question.”
“In some pieces of literature, books are referenced that don’t exist. They’ve never been written. Where do the characters from those fictional titles exist? Is there an inner Stacks for them? The entire concept is positively mind-bending.” Watson polished off his wine, and waved his empty glass at Huck for a refill.
“You could ask Holmes to help solve the mystery.” Binny offered helpfully.
Hermione gasped. So did Sally. Watson had a sudden look of melancholy on his face. Huck guffawed at Binny’s suggestion.
Binny knew she’d said the wrong thing but she wasn’t entirely sure why. Katniss put her hand on Binny’s shoulder to steady her.
Watson waved his hand and seemed to recover his deameanor. “No, no, everyone. Our young guest was just making the logical suggestion that everyone else would. She’s just done an excellent job reminding us of our lot in this life.” And then turning to Binny, Watson added, “And for that, we thank you.”
“But, Binny, we’ve no Holmes to aid us. It’s just us ‘second bananas’ as they say.”
Afraid as she was to open her mouth, Binny trudged forward, trying to recover, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. I suppose you could go inside one of the books where the fictional books are mentioned, and go see for yourself.”
Sally rolled her eyes at Watson. “He won’t do that.”
“Why should I when Pemberly affords me so many physical and social comforts?” Watson fell backwards onto a couch. It was clear he was very practiced at the maneuver. “Alright then, onto your mystery, how can we help?”
“He never leaves.” Sally explained to Binny and the others.
“Thank you, but what did you mean ‘second bananas’?”
An uncomfortable look passed between Sally and Hermione. Huck was focused on his pipe. And Watson had his eyes closed for what looked like an impromptu nap.
Katniss tapped Binny on the shoulder. “Don’t you know who everyone is?”
“I thought I did.” Binny answered.
Katniss took a breath. “These are Hermione’s friends.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“But do you understand why they’re friends?” Katniss asked.
“They like each other?” Binny asked.
That garnered a loud snort from the horizontal Watson, who apparently wasn’t as asleep as he appeared to be.
“They’re all sidekicks. None of them are the lead characters in their books. Supporting characters for the real heroes of the stories.”
“We’re not quite quick enough.” Sally said.
“We may be good, but we’re not the best.” Watson added.
Hermione remained tight-lipped.
“’Sept me.” Huck said.
“Yes, of course Huck. You got your own book.”
“He’s our exception and he’ll never let us forget it.” Sally said to Binny.
“I’m not even second. I’m way down the list.” Arya said.
“By the time your author finishes killing everyone, maybe you’ll be the main character.” Katniss joked.
“We’re the ones that make the hero look good. We’re the foils. The sidekicks. The best friends. The partners-in-crime.” Watson added.
“Oh.” Binny wasn’t sure what to say.
“Can we get back to the topic at hand?” Hermione said.
“Yes, incisive and insightful as always Miss Granger.” Watson said. His eyes were now open. You said there was a mystery afoot?”
Binny tentatively, and then with more confidence, explained their search. She explained how Michel had arrived in the Stacks just before the Red Queen, and how something changed between his first visit and the publication of Alice in Wonderland. Binny concluded with, “So you see, we’re looking for the Doldrums and we thought you might be able to help us.”
“Well, in truth, you thought Holmes could help you, but you don’t know how to find him. But you knew how to find me.” Watson said.
Binny nodded trying to soften the admission with a gentle smile.
“Lucky you are then. As Holmes is no doubt in the dumps for an extended period, not speaking to almost anyone, I’m still your best choice.” And then almost to himself Watson added, “How would we find the unfindable? Have any of you read the book? This Phantom Tollbooth?”
Huck and Sally shook their heads.
“Well, we all know how we access all the places we want to go – the outer wall in the grand hallway. It’s littered with endless doors leading to every place we might want to be. But for a place to be truly private, and not just lost in the jumble, it would need to be hidden. No?”
“So instead of looking where we know it could be, maybe we should look where it couldn’t be?”
“I’m confused.” Binny said.
“He always talks like that.” Sally confided.
“I’m hungry.” Huck took another swig from the bottle.
“Where it couldn’t be?” Binny asked.
“You said that these older residents of the Stacks, they have somewhere they go. Somewhere private. This seems logical as I’ve never seen anyone older than Mr. Finn here in the Stacks.”
Is there anywhere that we’re not allowed to go? Some place that would provide a suitable hiding place for your Doldrums?” Watson asked.
“I know a place.” Binny and Sally said simultaneously.
Hermione swung her gaze in Binny’s direction with a look of disappointment and surprise on her face.
“It’s down at the bottom of the library. I saw One go in there a couple of times. It’s near the fire.”
Everyone in the room shuddered.
“Did you see what was in said room?” Watson asked Binny.
“No. I didn’t.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to pursue our non-flammable leads before we put ourselves in danger.”
“It’s all that wine that makes him flammable.” Katniss whispered to Binny.
“And what was your off limits location Miss Kimball?” Watson turned to Sally.
“It wasn’t so much the location as what you said about older characters that made me think of this.” Sally responded.
“What are you referring to girl? Spit it out.” Watson sat up on the couch.
“Do you remember the wild man that visited us years ago?”
“We get a lot of secondary characters visiting us here.” Hermione explained to Arya, Binny, Katniss, and Michel.
“They’ve all become a blur I’m afraid.” Watson said.
“The dirty one. He looked almost like he had been formed of clay. He called himself Enkidu.”
“From Gilgamesh?” Michel spoke up.
“You read it?” Sally asked.
“Yeah.” Michel said.
“Me too.” Sally said.
“Gilgamesh?” Watson said, it rings a bell.
“It’s old. Way old. Way before my time.” Michel explained.
“Enkidu came by once. He didn’t stay long.” Sally said.
“I remember liking him fine ‘nuff.” Huck said.
“I remember the huge mess he made.” Hermione said.
“When he left, I followed him. I try to read all the secondary characters’ books and I wanted to find out about his. He was really fast, so I had to run to catch up with him. He almost got away from me too. But I like to run.”
“She’s good at sports. Fer a girl that is.” Huck was chewing on his pipe.
Sally ignored Huck. “He ran all the way to the top floor of the library. I asked him to show me his book. And he did. He was very nice actually. And then he kept running. I wanted to thank him, but he was too slippery.”
“He ran into a room. I ran after him, but when I got there, he was gone. He’d clearly gone into one of the books but I didn’t know which one. I searched them all but the Epic of Gilgamesh wasn’t there.”
“He entered a book that wasn’t his from inside the library?” Arya asked, her ears perked up at the possibility.
“Yeah. I looked for awhile but it was no good. I finally left.” Sally concluded.
“So we need to find this room on the top floor. Is there something special about it? A way we’ll recognize it?” Binny asked.
“Yes. There was a small sign on the door. It said ‘Rare Books Room’.”