In the moonlight, Beneda and Marquetta now sit on a park bench. Beneda’s eyes on the entrance across the lawn, to the library; she uses her fingers examining her arrows. Eleven. After losing one, the day Turner died.
Marquetta points to her bow. “You killed people with that?”
“Only one.” Beneda thinks of Brutha. How she knew him. Didn’t like him, but knew him.
“That must been such a fight.” There’s an excited sound in Marquetta words. Beneda doesn’t remember it that way.
“It was scary and tiring.”
“Tiring?” The big girl leans back at this, the bench groans.
“We began by running.” She meets Marquetta’s surprise with a rueful half-smile. In the dimness, that smile becomes wider as Bendea remembers the scout's words, ‘many battles are won by fast running!’
“We ran so hard. Like when we were young and chased after imaginary fairies in the woods.”
Marquetta laugh falls into a new silence, then she whispers, “Do you think anyone will come tonight?”
Beneda glances up at the moon. “If it’s Cootuh... it’ll be around midnight.”
Nodding, with a frown Marquetta thinks out-loud, “It be scary how you can think like that fool.”
“I remember M’Deah saying, ‘keep all y’ enemies close.’”
“Forget y’ enemies. Why’d you send Asante away.” After a glare from Beneda, Marquetta tries again, that stubborn girl. “I know. You should grab the scrawny librarian by the neck and demand he call the scout back.”
“It what I do!”
“I know.” Beneda gives a knowing nod. She’s seen Marquetta’s courting style.
“If’n it were y’ mama.” Marquetta gives a smirk, like she an expert here on this topic. “She’d serve the librarian tea an’ say, ‘Please, sir, Mister Librarian, would you be so good as to inquire into the manner of recalling the good scout Asante, from the distant continent of Africa?’”
Casting an angry frown at her, Beneda points up at the moon. “Remember. Midnight.”
Looking around the shadowy area before the building, Marquetta decides and stands. “I’ll check on Pete. In back.”
Her friend disappears around the side of the building, Beneda, mind elsewhere, checks her bow again. Till the sound of snapping twigs moves her to notch her arrow, stand, and turn in one fluid motion. She thinks, ten in the quiver.
But, before her stands Cootuh, his empty hands raised.
Behind him, two men, one with a sword, the other carrying a club. They stand a meter back.
“Cootuh.” Her voice dripping with accusation.
“Ah, Miss Beneda. So good to see you again.”
Keeping the arrow pointing at his neck, she thinks, I could load and release twice more. Probably not quick enough.
“We won’t let you get our papers.” It’s really all she has against these three.
“Surely, they are the libraries’ papers.”
“Don’t be clever.”
“I was sorry to hear your scout friend has left.” Beneda detects no sorrow in his voice, but a slice of guile in those words does reach her.
“Bless your heart, you have something to do with that?” Accusation in her voice.
His face takes on an exaggerated look of shock. “Why I neve...”
She dismisses him, at the sound of a voice. Pete? A shout. With a last glance at Cootuh and his two thugs, she grabs her quiver and takes off running
Tearing around the corner, Beneda comes to a halt and takes in a crazy scene. What to do? Pete down on the ground, a man tying his hands—Cootuh’s man? The thin fellow works quickly, he warns Pete, “I ain’t tryin’ to hurt ‘uh, son.”
A man’s down— at Marquetta’s feet, and she’s standing, grappling with another, this one, with a club.
Taking a calming breath, Beneda carefully aims into the man’s back. Thunk! An instant later, with her arrow protruding from his shoulder he staggers away from Marquetta’s fists, a chance for her friend to reach down and grab up the club.
In one more instant another man steps out from the library. This one, in a library guard’s jacket, holding a staff. Scanning the group before him. Another instant, and Zenobia steps out, dressed for bed, hair long down her back, she looks from the arrow pointed at the men, to the men themselves.
What would Asante would do? Beneda remembers his words, 'make them come at us, one at a time.' Deciding, she shouts at Pete and Marquetta, so they know she’ there, and she steps over to Zenobia. Now there are two of them armed to defend the door and the tied up boy.
Marquetta turns her eyes to Beneda for a second, then faces Cootuh and two more goons coming around the corner, her club held high.
Cootuh! Silently Beneda curses the black turtle.
Putting a hand on Beneda’s shoulder, Zenobia pulls herself up to her full height and speaks out. “Hear me. The authorities have been called.” Beneda's liking the new, stronger Zenobia. “They will be here soon.”
It’s dim but Beneda observes Cootuh’s calculating. His eyes give him away. Steadying her aim on him is easy in the moonlight. His reptilian glances travel to each person before the library. Her hand on the bow knows when he makes his decision. She breathes out again, once he directs the two closest to him. Pointing them to the wounded fighters, he gathers his people around him. Now six wait on each side in the Library’s yard.
After a moment, making a mock bow to Zenobia and Beneda with her bow, Cootuh herds his group out of the yard and back into the darkness.
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