The morning sun streamed through a series of large plate glass windows lining the library's east wall, its rays warming the room's wooden paneling and illuminating the cavernous space. Tall bookshelves stuffed with literature from across the world towered over polished oak reading tables, each furnished with a plain, green-shaded banker's lamp. On the far side, a massive painting gracing the west wall depicted the solemn face of Saint Patrick, whose protective presence could be felt watching over the library's sole visitor.
All was perfectly quiet, save for a tap, tap, tapping that echoed in the otherwise silent room. Seated at a desk near the door, glued to the screen of his laptop, Eoghan quietly tapped his pen against the notepad in his lap as his eyes scanned through the different news reports.
Another roadside bomb outside of Kandahar, three dead, all soldiers. God frowns upon careless mistakes gentlemen. You should have noticed the dead dog along the side of the road. Click.
European Union tries desperately to boost the falling value of the euro. Let the economists deal with that one. Click.
America currently rebounding from the recession. Good for them. Click.
Two Russian politicians assassinated. That's what you get for thinking liberally boys. Click.
More war. More death. Click. Drug trafficking, human smuggling, robberies, corruption, deceit, lechery. Click, click, click, click, click. Articles slid past as Eoghan glanced through each of them, assessing them in seconds, occasionally jotting something down, and moving on to the next in line. Several hours passed and he continued with his work, never moving more than necessary.
At last, finished with the news articles, Eoghan contemplated examining the video taken of the speech the chancellor of Germany had given last night. He decided against it, electing put the task off until later. He shut down his laptop and slipped both it and his scant notes into the drawer of the desk, which automatically locked as it clicked shut. Eoghan had installed similar locks throughout the house on random drawers, cupboards, and doors. Some were actually in use, protecting valuable information, while others were just there to confuse whoever might be looking for the aforementioned information. It was just an additional precaution, since all written and typed documents were heavily encoded in several layers of encryption. Besides, anything really worth going to all of the trouble of attempting to decrypt the documentsanything that valuablewould never be written down. If anyone wanted that information, they were going to have to torture him to getwhich, in retrospect, while secure, did not do any wonders for his mental health. Sadie had always teased him about being paranoid, but being someone who guarded the secrets of half of Europe, he felt entitled to a little paranoia.
Leaning back in his chair, Eoghan let out a deep sigh. This part of his day was always the same. Get up early, go for a run, take a shower, eat breakfast, go over the news reports. It was the only part of his day that never really changed. Location and time differed with each day, but not the actions. The actions were always the same. It gave a sense of order to his life, the only routine he could possibly have, the only routine his paranoia would allow him to indulge in. He had fought long and hard with his paranoia on this one. It had insisted that he have no routine at all, that he constantly remain unpredictable, but Eoghan had needed this little instance of repetition. It kept him grounded, stable. It didn't matter what happened to the rest of the world. The European stock market could crash, the leaders of the world could all be assassinated, the Catholic Church could dissolve into nihility, the world could come crashing down around him, but so long as he adhered to the routine, he would be able to stay sane and deal with whatever problems were heading in his direction.
And, although he wouldn't admit it to himself, it was also about control. He needed to know he was capable of keeping his paranoia in check, that he could prevent it from governing every minute aspect of his life. He needed to know he could control himself, because if he couldn't
Eoghan shook his head to clear away the thought. No, he couldn't think that way. He would stay in control, period. There was no other option. If he didn't
He stood up abruptly. Stop this, now! he chided himself. Stop letting the paranoia control you. He breathed deeply, in and out, clearing his mind, until he'd relaxed, loosening muscles he had not been aware of tensing. I have to get out of this library. He quickly covered the distance to the door and exited, closing the door behind him with one smooth, controlled motion.
Once Eoghan was in the hallway, he was a bit unsure of what to do next. Having spent a negligible amount of time in his own house over the years, there was not much he ever actually did there.
He wandered down the hall, debating whether or not he should drown out his paranoia with music, when he passed by an open doorway. Sunlight was streaming out of the opening, illuminating the space with a warm, golden light. Eoghan could just discern the smell of fresh paint drifting towards him. He furrowed his brow. Sadie?
He stepped into the room, and, sure enough, Sadie was there, almost entirely hidden from view by the large easel and canvas she was working on. He could see her painter's palette in her left hand, sticking out from behind the canvas, and the stool she was perched on, behind the legs of the easel.
Eoghan quietly snuck up to the canvas, trying to catch a glimpse of it. Sadie had been working on some large project for the past few weeks now while he'd been given a brief respite from the constant travelling that was intrinsic to his occupation. Every time he attempted to see it or questioned her about it, she would hide it from view or just say it was another landscape, but she had never been a competent liar. His curiosity had been piqued, and he was tenacious when it came to satisfying his curiosity.
He had gotten to within a few feet of her when she suddenly spoke up. "You stop right there Eoghan McAvery."
Eoghan froze, and a smile tugged at his lips. He straightened up slightly and said, "Very perceptive of you."
Sadie glanced up at him, trying to keep a stern face, but she couldn't keep the smile from breaking out. "Just because I have a big canvas in front of me doesn't mean I can't see you slinking over to try and get a peek at it."
Eoghan affected an offended air and said, "I do not 'slink' Miss O'Reilly."
"Not even if you've got to, to see what I'm painting?" she asked.
"Don't do that," he said.
"Do what?" she asked, puzzled.
"That." Eoghan waved his hand, as if that explained everything. "Pretending to be all rainbows and innocence. If you would just tell me what you're painting, I wouldn't need to slink around."
"Hah!" She pointed her paintbrush at him, careful not to splatter any excess paint onto her canvas. "So you admit you were slinking."
He gave her an irritated glare and said, "Am I allowed see what you're working on or not?"
She pretended to think it over for a few seconds, before shifting her paintbrush to point it at a chair next to her desk and said, "Only if you sit over there while I finish it."
Eoghan acquiesced, saying as he walked over, "Are you almost done then?" He seated himself in the wooden chair and stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankle.
Sadie ducked back down behind the canvas. "Maybe," she said, her voice muffled by the thick fabric in front of her. Eoghan sighed and stared out the windows behind her, focusing on the clouds floating by outside, only vaguely aware of what she was doing. The bright noontime sun engulfed him in warmth, making him drowsy. Soon, he could feel his eyelids drooping, and he drifted off to sleep.
When he woke up, several hours had passed. The bottom edge of the sun was just touching the horizon, filling the room with a dim orange light. Eoghan raised himself up out of the chair, grunting as his sore muscles protested the sudden movement. He gazed around the room, but Sadie was no longer there. She must have gone home for dinner, he thought. If she had, she hadn't put away her painting, which was still sitting on the easel, now covered by a white cloth.
He walked around to face the covered canvas, intending to satiate his curiosity, when he noticed a note taped to the cloth. Do not touch. This means YOU Eoghan. Eoghan laughed, but paid little attention to the note. Carefully, he lifted the front of the cloth, revealing the painting beneath.
It took a lot to surprised Eoghan, but what lay underneath the cloth did just that. The painting was a portrait of a young man who Eoghan knew very well. The man's disheveled black hair fell in front of his sparkling grey eyes, and freckles dotted the bridge of his nose and his cheekbones. One corner of his mouth twitched upwards, caught in the middle of a lopsided smile.
Eoghan's finger traced the air above the scars on the portrait's face. He marveled at the accuracy with which Sadie had captured his likeness. The eyes were the same light grey, with flecks of dark grey scattered across the iris. The hair was the same shade of black, and his portrait self had the exact same skin tone, each freckle in its proper place. And the scars
. Every scar was accounted for, even the little ones he no longer noticed when he looked in the mirror. She must have spent months on this. Why? he wondered.Why would she spend so much time on the portrait of an employer she only sees once every few weeks?
He continued to puzzle over this for a while. He couldn't very well ask her about it; any questioning would reveal that he had gone against her wishes and looked at the painting. Normally, he wouldn't care much about that, but he was fond of the girl and didn't want to upset her.
As the sun began to set behind the hills, Eoghan decided to leave the mystery for the night. He gently let the front of the cloth fall down over the portrait and repositioned the askew note. Still submerged in thought, he padded out the door, gently closing it behind him.