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Mabel Penn perched huge glasses on her nose to look at the computer screen, not that she really needed them. The oversized beige cardigan she wore caught on the arm of her chair and pulled a thread. Mabel quietly swore under her breath, then looking over her glasses, she quickly scanned the library to make sure no-one had overheard her. It was important for her to keep her unassuming, calm but firm reputation at work. Everything covered by her peripheral vision seemed fine, so she continued to stare and ponder at the screen, hoping that if she stilled her mind enough, she would remember her recent password change. Mabel tapped at the keyboard slowly and deliberately, this was her third attempt. She pressed the return key, held her breath and closed her eyes briefly. The screen came to life. Her relief came with a sigh and a slight lift at one corner of her mouth. Giving the room another cursory glance, this time for other staff members, Mabel continued reading a news article on the latest in a recent spate of burglaries, involving fine art.

From the scant details given, Mabel ruled out the usual suspects and narrowed her own list of perpetrators down to three, but she would need to double check Wren’s exact release date to be sure. Mabel was more engrossed in this story than she realised. She did not hear the approach of the middle-aged gentleman at the reception desk, until he cleared his throat to attract her attention.    

“Excuse me…”

Mabel broke her gaze from the screen, turned to address the suited visitor and nodded.

“Can I help you?”

Whilst gesturing to the book in his hand he said,

“I have to say, reading this book the second time around I really enjoyed it.”

The man had an easy smile but kept a fixed look on Mabel. Mabel often heard this comment when visitors returned their books, especially regarding classic texts they previously studied.  She tried to guess which book it might be before she saw it. The man continued talking.  

“You see, this time I took more interest in the characterisation of Miss Havisham.”

Mabel’s entire demeanour changed at the sound of this unexpected coded call to action. In response, Mabel removed her cardigan and smoothed a stray strand of greying hair from her face. She rose slowly and using the premise of straightening her skirt dried her hands, to mask her nervous excitement. At last she thought, they need me.


    1. She’s a character from Dickens’s ‘Great Expectations’. Now that I’ve corrected the spelling of her name it might make more sense! I hadn’t thought about extending the introduction any further…maybe I’ll see how the week goes.

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