Written from the Prompt: “Stumble upon an unexpected item in a library book”
The narrow slip of paper lay between page two-twenty-four and two-twenty-five of the tattered green hardcover he’d opened. Studying the yellow tint of the paper, Jacob Descanti wondered how long it had been there.
He’d visited the public library on a whim, spotting the name Diadem Collection stenciled in gold upon the green hardcover high upon the shelf in the back section of adult fiction. Carefully, he picked up the slip and moved to a nearby window for better light.
“To whoever has found this, contact Dorchester Partnership at 555-4564. Please check out this book and present this slip at time of appointment.”
Jacob smiled as he wondered what advertising guru had thought up this method of getting customers. Plant a mysterious note, get some goof-ball to call and then pitch whatever it was that they wanted to sell him.
Something made him pause as he put the slip back and closed the book. What the heck, he figured he could use the laugh at finding out what this gimmick was. Slipping the book beneath his arm, he made his way to the checkout, already thinking about his afternoon plans.
Days turned into weeks before he again came across the tattered green hardcover lying on the floor where he’d dropped it. Not the best of house keepers, he’d completely forgotten about the mysterious paper that lay inside.
Leafing through until he found it again, he picked up the phone and began to dial.
* * *
The office complex at two-hundred
The guards directed him to a bank of elevators once inside.
As the large doors closed, Jacob began having second thoughts.
Why was he here? Some lame piece of paper in some old book?
His hand poised to press the lobby button; he felt the car begin to ascend on its own. So much for backing out now he realized.
Two men and a woman met him at the door, dressed in matching pinstriped gray suits and neatly coifed hair.
“Jacob Descanti?” The woman asked pleasantly.
“Public Library?” inquired the taller of the two men asked with a frown.
“Diadem Collection.” added the other man with a tight smile.
“Yes, but how…” Jacob started, confusion filling him as the three stood to one side revealing a long hallway and a large set of closed double doors.
“He’s waiting.” The woman said with a pleased look.
Jacob wasn’t sure what to do next, so he simply did as they directed and walked down the hallway.
The carpet was plush, making little sound as he walked past oil paintings of men and women in formal poses.
“They’re open.” The taller man said evenly as Jacob neared the closed doors.
The office had a spectacular view of the downtown, spoiled only by a large desk and two high-back chairs against the middle window. Icy blue eyes of the thin gray haired man behind the desk looked up and studied Jacob. “Well, come in then.” His whispered voice commanded. “Took you long enough to contact us. May I see the slip of paper, please?”
Reaching into his shirt pocket, Jacob pulled out the slip and handed it over.
The old man smiled.
“You are the last to find this.” He said evenly, opening a drawer to pull out a sheet of paper which he slid across the desk.
Jacob looked from the man to the paper as he realized it was a legal document of some sort.
“Once you sign this, we will give you the account number and how to access the money.”
“My client hired this firm to disperse his funds in ways only those who search for old books in libraries would find them.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He collected old books that were rare. Upon his death he had the entire collection dispersed to the libraries across town, each with a slip of paper inside. The longer it took for someone to find each slip, the more the value of the slip increased.”
Jacob looked at the man with a raised brow and said nothing.
“Once you sign that document, you will have access to your slip account to use at your whim.”
Jacob laughed. “I get it; this is some kind of joke. Once I sign this, the hidden cameras show themselves and the prank is revealed.”
The old man’s thin lips curled at the edges. “This is no joke, please sign the paper.” He pushed a pen toward Jacob.
Shaking his head, Jacob picked up the pen and swiftly wrote his signature before pushing the paper back.
He heard the doors open behind him; the woman and the two men from the elevator circled around to examine the paper before adding their own signatures. Once completed, the old man pulled another sheet out and gently slid it across the desk to Jacob as the men and woman retreated to leave them alone once again.
Looking at the paper, Jacob realized it was a bank statement.
His breath caught as he read the amount.
“Is this the joke? It says twelve million.”
“Please take the elevator on your way out. Our task has been completed and I can now retire with clean accounts.”
Jacob didn’t see much of his surroundings as he walked down the hall and into the elevator. Standing at the curb, he finally roused himself from shock.
Public libraries with old tattered books and slips of paper stashed inside for anyone to find.
His slip must have sat hidden for decades before he found it.
He decided to walk over and tender his resignation and then start searching for new digs; perhaps something with room for a library.
Whistling, he walked up the sidewalk and into his new life.
All because of a slip from a book in a library.
* * *