Niles Gule loved opera. Live performances had been the main entertainment available to a young, inquisitive vampire growing up in the 1800’s. On that November evening as he stood in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, Niles would have enjoyed catching the evening’s performance of Rigoletto, but he was on a mission. Niles was fleeing the country.
Not that he didn’t adore the US. He did. He just couldn’t stand the place during the annual insanity that started every November.
All across the country family and friends were eating themselves sick on roast turkey and watching football games. Everyone except Niles. Because Niles, being a vampire, had no family and few friends. He knew he could have accepted the gracious invitation from Sun Lo, his boss’s wife, to join the Chinese-American family in some Asian infused turkey, but Niles didn’t eat poultry. Or potatoes. Or much else for that matter. Niles ate steak. Raw.
Nor did he like being reminded that he was essentially alone. His co-workers bolted from Baltimore to reunite with their families, Williams to New York, Cooksey to Pennsylvania, Krewelski to Florida. Niles’ partner Cruz invited him to her Mexican style turkey fiesta but he couldn’t stomach turkey tacos and he refused to eat like a vampire in front of her family.
So he was fleeing to Canada.
The Haskell was an anomaly, a library and opera house deliberately built across an international boundary. The opera stage stood in Canada, the seats in the United States, making the Haskell the only opera house in the US without a stage. The line painted on the floor ran straight through the library’s reading room. Patrons were expected to leave via the door through which they had come. And most probably did. Niles, being a vampire, didn’t have a passport or any other form of government ID so he needed to sneak into Canada. Thus his trip to the Haskell.
In his search for the Canadian entrance, Niles had wandered into the reading room. He was standing near the information desk when an elderly woman approached looking desperate.
“Can you help me?” she asked in a tremulous voice.
Niles, ever the gentleman, gave her a polite smile. “I will if I can.”
“I’m looking for the Google book.”
Niles puckered his brow. “The Google book?”
She nodded. “I need to find a pharmacy. I think it’s on Elm Street but I’m not sure. My niece said I could find a map in the Google book. I’ve looked all over the library but I can’t find it.”
Niles’ lips twitched as he fought the urge to smile. Instead, he graciously led the woman to one of the computer stations. His long, elegant fingers flicked over the keys as he queried Google for pharmacies in Derby Line.
He pointed at the screen. “Right there. It’s on Maple, not Elm. Just up the street from here.”
As the woman gushed her thanks, Niles noticed a young man in dark clothing carrying a black tote slip into the reading room almost as if he didn’t want to be seen. Niles watched him disappear out the back in the direction of Canada. He decided to follow.
The youth was a shadow in the darkened hallway. Niles studied his furtive behavior and felt the hairs stand on the back of his neck. The youth was up to no good. Niles increased his strides.
The foul aroma of thermite stopped the vampire in his tracks. Niles’ eyes widened as he realized his sensitive nose detected incendiaries coming from the tote. Startled, he yelled. The young man shot a frantic look over his shoulder, saw Niles taking long, rapid strides in his direction, and bolted. Niles raced after him.
The teen skittered through a crowd entering the opera house on the Canadian side, garnering protests from the smartly dressed patrons. He didn’t care. He was through the door and gone.
A hulking man in evening clothes grabbed Niles as he tried to bully his way through the crowd.
“Hey!” the man demanded. “What’s going on?”
Niles kept moving. “That young man has a bomb!”
The crowd shrieked. People shrank from Niles like he had the plague, leaving his way clear. He raced through the door. He saw his quarry disappear into some woods. Niles gave chase, the opera patron at his side.
“What’s going on?” the man growled.
Niles pointed at the shadow ahead. “That kid has thermite in his bag.”
They charged into a small wood that edged a stream. They crashed through the underbrush, following the sounds of the youth. Niles heard a cry then a splash as the youth landed in the stream. In two strides, his pursuers caught up with him. Niles and his companion didn’t hesitate jumping into the stream and wading after their quarry. They each caught the youth and hauled him back to the bank.
Wordlessly, they marched to the road where street lights revealed what they’d caught. While Niles held the youth, the man searched his tote and found enough thermite to torch the Haskell. A crowd from the opera house gathered around, gasping as the man dropped the incendiaries onto the grass.
“Thank you,” he said to Niles. “You may have just saved the opera house.”
Niles shrugged. When his companion flashed a badge, Niles realized he was a member of the RCMP. Niles decided it was best if he said as little as possible. After all, he was an American vampire trying to sneak into Canada.
The youth refused to answer questions. Using a woman’s scarf his captor bound his hands. The officer’s temper was on display when he turned his attention to Niles.
“And who exactly are you?”
As Niles considered various lies, the silver haired old woman he’d helped came forward.
“He’s with the library, Harold.” She beamed brightly at Niles. “This lovely young man helped me find the Google book.”
Harold at first frowned then chuckled. “Yeah, okay, Mrs. O’Hanranhan. You run along now. You’re out awfully late.”
Mrs. O’Hanranhan patted Niles on the arm and tottered off.
Harold motioned Niles could go. “Thank you again,” he said as he asked his wife to call the station for assistance. “I’ll need a statement tomorrow. Will you be at the library?”
Much as Niles hated to lie to the police, he nodded. Then, finding himself ignored, Niles faded into the darkness. He rubbed his brow in relief as he started down the street. Unbeknownst to everyone, the real illegal alien strolled unhindered into Canada.
© 2016 Newmin
Niles Comments: The Haskell Free Library and Opera is a cultural treasure I recommend visiting. Catch a tour of this remarkable testament to the peaceful alliance of two great nations, enjoy a read then stay for a live performance. The schedule can be found at http://haskellopera.com/events/
Have a happy Thanksgiving eating all that nasty turkey. I’ll pass.