Prompt: “A ragtag team of misfits end up in her library looking for clues to a cache of stolen jewels.”
Elizabeth Webber picked up a pencil and twirled it in her hands. When she fumbled and dropped it, the tap! as it hit the wooden counter of the checkout desk echoed in the silent room.
It was nine o’clock in the evening and there wasn’t a soul to be found in the Lila Quartermaine Library at Port Charles University—no one studied this late save for exam period, and that was still a month away.
Nope, she had been stuck with the deadly Spring Break death week, and endless, boring nights stretched in front of her.
She left the pencil where she found it and returned to her sketch pad, glaring at the stark white page. How would she finish her project if she couldn’t come with a single subject to draw? “Use your experience!” she muttered as she reached for her charcoal. “Draw what you know. Asshole.”
Why had she taken the drawing class? Why was she still wasting her time chasing an empty dream when she should be concentrating on her doctoral degree in art history? Her grandmother’s voice had been that horrible mixture of annoyance, irritation, and fondness. Oh, Lizzie. What shall we do with you?
“If I ever figure it out, Gram,” she murmured as she stared at the charcoal clutched in her fingers, “you’ll be the first to know.”
She started to just scribble some shadows, an outline of the window to her left starting to emerge and lost herself in the work. No one had to see the drawing—no one ever had to set eyes on it. It was just enough to put the charcoal to paper.
The slight click drew her attention several minutes later. Elizabeth blinked, raised her head. Looked around. The room remained empty—the doors to the three connecting hallways and larger collections remained closed.
She set the charcoal down, rubbing her thumb and index finger together to smooth away the black dust as she stood, moving towards the counter and her cell phone. It was Mac’s job to deal with the security, not hers. His job to keep her safe and secure. Even if she had to force him away from his Netflix marathon of Parenthood.
There was another slight click, this time louder and from above. Just as Elizabeth raised her head to look at the skylight dome, the glass shattered and dark shapes catapulted through it, dropping right on top of her.
She screamed, scrambling away from the large lump of someone that had fallen on her. She pushed and shoved until she got her foot free. As she tried to get to her feet, she was tackled again, a hand slapping over her mouth.
“What the fuck, man! You were supposed to clear the library!”
Elizabeth bit down hard on the finger cover her mouth. The guy hissed, but it didn’t move. She struggled, and he let her sit up, but kept an arm clenched around her shoulders, the other at her mouth.
The second voice had been familiar, and she scowled as she recognized the dark brown eyes beneath black ski mask. Mac Scorpio, their security guard. Damn it. And there was no sound of the alarm ringing.
“Let me go!” She twisted and struggled, but the grip was iron tight and impossible to dislodge.
“Lizzie?” Mac drew off his mask, his expression filled with dismay. “You’re supposed to be in the Bahamas!”
She hissed and bit down again. Her captor hissed again, and removed his hand. “You know her?” he demanded of the security guard, his voice deep and irritated.
“What are you gonna do to her?” a third voice asked plaintively, younger than the first two. “She knows who you are, Mac.”
“I’m not gonna hurt her,” Mac said to him, disgusted. “It’s Lizzie.”
“What are you doing?” Elizabeth demanded, struggling to her feet as soon as her captor released her. She thrust her hands up to the shattered glass dome. “And what’s with the entrance? You’re the goddamn security guard, Scorpio. You could have just walked in.”
“I slipped,” the younger man said with a sigh. “And fell through. Mac and J—” He coughed. “They got tangled up.”
Mac stood and winced at the dome. “I cut the security wires. We got about ten minutes before anyone notices. Let’s just get this over with—”
“What ‘re we gonna do with her?” the youngest asked. “She’ll call the cops man—”
Elizabeth slowly stepped away from the trio, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes as she did so. She was twenty feet from the nearest exit, but maybe—
“You’ll never make it,” her captor said dryly. He looked at Mac. “You screwed up. You fix it.”
“My name is Elizabeth,” she managed through clenched teeth. If they were going to kill her, she would be damned if she went out with that god awful name. She didn’t even look like a Lizzie. “Look, let’s not be hasty? If you leave, I won’t—”
“We’re looking for the Quartermaine diamond,” Mac said, with a sigh. He dragged a hand through his hair. “It’s here. In the library.”
“The Quartermaine—” Elizabeth blinked, her pulse racing “The six hundred carat…” She shook her head. “It’s a myth. A legend. No one’s even seen it in the last two centuries. Why would it be here?”
“I told you Elizabeth is an expert on the Quartermaine collection,” Mac told the man standing at her side. “She can help us find it—”
She narrowed her eyes. “Even if I said yes—” And everything in her screamed YES!!! “Even if I said yes,” she began again, trying to keep her voice from quivering with excitement. “It wouldn’t matter. You’d have to cut it up in order to fence it, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting you dismantle the eleventh largest diamond in the world.”
“Eleventh?” her captor repeated, his husky voice laced with amusement. “You sure about that?”
“It’s one hundred and twenty-six carats smaller than the Jonker,” Elizabeth said coolly. She glared at the man, his eyes blue behind his mask. “It was once the fifth largest in the world until the diamond mines in Africa started throwing out larger ones. It was dug out of a Brazilian mine in 1687 and bought by the Duke of Morgan for his new wife in 1700. It remained in the Quartermaine family until 1776, when it vanished from the family collection.”
“She’s a doctoral student in art history with a specialization in gemology,” Mac said with a touch of pride. “She helped me pick out a good ring for Felicia.”
“Felicia,” Elizabeth said, with some disgust, “is going to skin you alive, Mac, if you get caught. And you’re gonna get caught. How are you going to fence the Quartermaine diamond?”
“Don’t have to,” the youngest said, proudly. “We get to sell it whole—”
Elizabeth snorted. “The Quartermaines—”
“Are you in or out?” her captor asked, irritated.
“Do I have a choice?” she demanded.
He tugged off his ski mask, revealing a chiseled set of cheekbones and disheveled short blonde hair in wild spikes. Her breath hitched—because she knew that face. “We’re going to find that diamond,” Jason Quartermaine said, “because it’s my goddamn inheritance and my grandfather stole it from me.”
He was going kill Mac Scorpio. He was going to peel his skin from his bones and flay him alive. The son of a bitch had one freaking job—one!—and he couldn’t make sure that the night clerk was tucked away somewhere where they wouldn’t run into her.
Instead, the pretty brunette with the smart mouth and flashing blue eyes had been right dead center in their search zone.
“Why didn’t you tell me the night clerk was Elizabeth Webber?” he demanded of his partner as the third member of their trio drew off his own mask, shoving it into his back pocket. He hadn’t wanted to include Michael, but his nephew had threatened to follow them.
“I thought you knew where the diamond was,” the security guard replied with a furrowed brow. “What do you care?”
Elizabeth Webber, his sister’s childhood best friend. His grandmother had told him she was writing her dissertation on the Quartermaine collection, but Jason hadn’t really thought she’d be familiar with the diamond.
“I said I thought my grandfather hid it in the library,” Jason said, his teeth clenched. “I should have asked her instead of hiring you. She could have written a damn chapter about it for her paper.”
“Why did you have to break in?” Elizabeth demanded, drawing his attention back to her. “You’re Jason Quartermaine. Your family built this library. There are, like, three buildings named for you people. You make one phone call and they’d hand the library over to you.”
“I guess she hasn’t kept up with the family gossip,” Michael said with a bit of false cheer. “Grandfather hates Jason. And—”
“I’m not Jason Quartermaine anymore,” Jason muttered. “Where the hell have you been?”
Elizabeth hesitated, regret flashing in her eyes. “I moved to London for school after Emily—” She looked away. “Your grandmother just said you weren’t at home anymore.”
“If we could do the reunion and catch up later,” Mac said, “the security company is going to notice the system is offline—”
“This is a real crack plan you’ve come up with.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes and started towards the desk. She drew up short, her eyes widening with fear as Jason stepped in front of her.
“Where are you going?” he demanded. “Are you calling the police?” He had to keep her quiet. Damn it. If Mac had just told him about her—if he’d asked his grandmother more about her—
“I’m calling the security company,” Elizabeth said slowly. “To tell them that something fell through the dome, and that some thing’s wrong with the system. Mac, you should probably get back to your station to call them, too. You two—” She eyes their dark clothing. “Maybe you should change.”
Michael tossed a duffel at Jason. “We got our street clothes—”
“You can be here…consulting with me about something. You’ll figure out that before they get here.” She lightly stepped around him to reach for the phone. “You can handle that, can’t you?”
Jason hesitated, looked at her as she hit a speed dial. “Does that mean you’ll help me?”
She met his eyes as she put the receiver to her ear. “Find a diamond that no one has seen in two hundred years? A find that could make my career and finally finish my dissertation? You should have come to me first instead of breaking in.”
“Why didn’t we come to her first?” Michael asked as he followed his uncle towards the stacks where they began to swiftly change into the clothes from the bag. “Seems easier than buying off the guard.”
“I had my reasons,” Jason muttered as he dragged on his jeans. “Get rid of the gear and go find some books. You’re a student here, you can make it work.”
“She knew Aunt Emily?” Michael asked, tucking his polo shirt into his slacks. “Why didn’t she recognize your voice like she knew Mac?”
Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Because it’s been fifteen years. And…”
“Wait…” Michael frowned. “Elizabeth Webber,” he repeated. “Wasn’t she in the car—”
“Yeah.” Jason cleared his throat. “The night your aunt died, my brains got scrambled, and—”
“—my father walked out away without a scratch.”