1965-08-17 - Theft of a Scroll
Summary: Halgrim interrupts a burglary in progress in the Butler Library's Rare Book and Manuscript section. Ambrose escapes with his scroll due to aid given to his unknowing assistant, but not before promises are exchanged and the future is set for clash.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim ambrose 

It's a Friday evening in summer, but you wouldn't know it by how many people are wandering around Columbia University. The approach of the fall semester has the faculty and staff in a frenzy, working overtime in that slim space between summer and fall courses to catch up on things which were left undone, and prepare themselves so they won't be so behind in the coming months. It's probably not going to help, but they dare to dream, none the less.

Halgrim is one of said dreamers. He has to be; it's hard to balance a dual existence *and* adjunct faculty duties alongside all the other things going on in his life without it. And so he finds himself walking into the Butler Library's Rare Book and Manuscript Library long after most others have been ushered out by the staff, courtesy of a set of keys from the Head Librarian and a standing request that he be allowed in. Being a fellow immigrant comes with its perks. The special collections occupy the whole sixth floor, with two slow, aged elevators and four stairwells to access them by. When Halgrim steps out of the east stairwell, he pauses to look out at the half-lit shelves and stacks, glass-covered displays, wide tables with comfortable chairs and stands for careful examination of larger books, and clean rooms. The Butler Library is a lovely place, even when it's keeping precious texts under lock and key.

It's bright within — far too bright, given his druthers, but at least it allows him to better see what fine details are on display by the gloved hands of one Renata Cohen, Head Librarian of the most carefully-guarded section of Columbia's library. It's one of the rarer scrolls, carefully preserved from a time where Babylon was on the falling and the next kingdom of the sands on the rise. He took wears gloves, but the nuance of innocent presence ends right about there.

Ambrose's brown hair falls at a length to half-hide his face, though not the line of his jaw with five o' clock shadow. He's taller than the woman gesticulating and talking softly to him at one of the stands, enough that it requires leaning in to hear her clearly. He nods once, the man in the black sweatshirt with its white drawstrings and equally dark tactical cargo pants. His boots are military-grade. This…is not a student. Nor is it faculty. Across his chest, the strap of what appears to be something long and hollow — a rigid poster sleeve in matte-black.

Renata says something that makes her laugh and the man stands up to flash her a winning grin, his teeth bright.

Something warns him that he's not alone. He looks up and the joviality drains away entirely. A chilliness suffuses it, bringing with it a practiced stillness and ice. He's sizing up this new arrival in nothing akin to social nicety. Oh no. That's considering the arrival as if he were a problem to solve.

It's not uncommon for Halgrim to find someone else in the special collections at this hour. He's certainly not the only faculty member who has access whenever he wants it and would make use of it in the press of fall preparations. It's not even unheard of for that someone to be Renata; she practically lives in these stacks. But the scroll she's looking at isn't something he'd expect her to be pulling out (even if her speciality is Etruacan and Baylonian Art), and the person with her—well, he's another question entirely.

Halgrim hesitates at the corner of the rare book reading room, surveying the two of them with curiosity plain on his features. He's torn; if something is amiss, getting involved is a bad idea for so very many reasons that have nothing to do with concern for himself. Yet he can't, in good conscience, leave Renata to this person. So he stands there, waiting to see if Renata herself spots him.

Ambrose continues to size him up for only a second longer before Renata follows his sudden shift in attention. She waves to Halgrim by lifting a hand briefly and then goes to begin rolling the scroll back up ever so carefully, centimeter by fragile centimeter. The brunet only looks away from the Professor in order to roll off one of the archival safety gloves and then place his bare hand on the Head Librarian's wrist. A winkling of a moment and she looks to him, suddenly very distracted from her task at hand. He murmurs something under his breath, his connection of gazes rather intense for a second, and then gives her a little grin. A nod of his head towards Halgrim directs her further.

The woman with the dark hair and passion for her rare documents nods and then walks away from the scroll. Even as she does, there's no missing how the other man in his dark fatigues slips back on the white glove and begins working at rolling up the scroll itself. He treats it with equal care and what appears to be an education in handling ancient treasures…but he's not the Head Librarian.

"Professor Lindqvist. Burning the midnight lamp?" asks Renata as she walks over, giving him a big and friendly smile. She pauses before him, her person blocking immediate approach towards Ambrose. He continues on blithely rolling up the scroll. Only about a third of its length left to compress into a rolled state.

Halgrim's jaw tenses when Ambrose takes Renata by the wrist, and one of his hands forms a fist. Then she simply abandons the scroll to the man without so much as a by your leave, and Halgirm just stares, blinking. He doesn't recover his composure until Renata speaks to him.

"As always, my dear," Halgrim replies, addressesing her in Danish. No need to be polite to someone who's plainly up to no good. "And who would your young assistant be?" His eyes don't leave Ambrose the whole time; they telegraph, 'you might be getting away tonight but you're going to be on the University's watchlist until the end of time' with a side of 'gods help you if I see you out in public'.

"Oh, him? No one of interest." The way she says it, with a sudden flatline of life in her expression and crisp note of rote repetition, suggests that something hinky went down. Despite also replying in Danish, her natural accent has never been that of the British Isles and Fertile Crescent both. Ambrose looks up from winding up the last inch of the scroll and then straightens slowly with it in gloved hands, insouciant in how he considers Halgrim from afar…and then curls a very smug, self-appreciative smile.

"How can I help you, Professor?" Renata then asks, having only eyes for her fellow faculty member. Beyond her, the brunet actually shifts the rigid sleeve from around his back and begins screwing off the lid with one hand, his cold eyes never leaving Halgrim.

Oh yes. That scroll…is going with him.

Halgrim takes his eyes off Ambrose only for a second, to study Renata's face with deep concern. "I'm fine, Renata, I'm just going to be going through more of that dusty old correspondence from the abbey." His gaze moves back to Ambrose. Oh, he's mad, that's for sure, and keeping a very tight lid on it. There's the sense that 'mad' for him has a whole terrible meaning all its own, and the lid belongs to a pressure cooker. "And, I'll be teaching that course with Robert, you know, so I'm going to go through a few of the illuminated texts." His words are precisely spoken, and he breathes, slowly and deliberately. He's a man trying his hardest to remain calm, because all of the alternatives end badly. "To take some notes."

Renata beams at him. "Your students, despite their complaints, have one of the most dedicated teachers that I know of. I hope you find that they show you these things, in little ways. There will always be that one little shit," she says, handwaving away aforementioned terrible student there because Mommy and Daddy are paying tuition and naught else, " - but they are well-taught regardless."

And that is definitely the scroll being slid into the museum-quality rigid container. Ambrose does it most carefully and does need to avert his eyes in order to make sure that the delicate parchment doesn't catch at a single thing around the lip of the opening. Once within, he looks back to Halgrim again, his expression now devoid of any emotion but chilly warning. The lid is screwed on by careful flicks of his gloved hand. Three spins locks it in place and he silently shifts the sleeve around his body to where it rests diagonally across his spine, never dropping the other man's gaze.

"Thank you, Renata. The students will always complain about humanities work if it's hard," Halgrim says, eyes fixed on Ambrose. "It's the humanities, the arts—it should be easy, shouldn't it?" He clears his throat. "I shouldn't keep you. I'm sure you have plenty to get done before they flood your libraries and leave everything a mess," his jaw works, "*stealing*, who knows what." He's calculating, in his mind, how quickly he can get down the stairs and out front. Or if he should, since there's the omnipresent problem of what happens when the pressure cooker's contents become too much for the container; the collateral damage could be significant. Certainly not worth an ancient scroll, no matter how valuable.

Halgrim glances between Renata and Ambrose, then addresses Ambrose, saying in English, "You could have at least brought a replica, and spared her her job."

Ambrose makes a small derisive sound, between a hiss and a scoff, at Halgrim across the distance between them. Renata continues to look at her coworker, though now with growing concern.

"Who are you speaking to, Lindqvist?" she asks, voice low and brows quirked. It's enough to make the thief smile to himself yet again, something cold and calculating.

"I doubt she'll lose her job. She didn't let me in, after all. If she does end up dismissed…well. I can remedy that easily enough." His cadence is surprisingly cultured to counter the mild lack of self-care; no doubt the accent helps. "She's knowledgeable. I was impressed. I actually learned something for the first time in over a decade." He shifts his weight almost testingly from foot to foot. "Were I you, Professor Lindqvist, I would not step between me and my means of departure." He says this even as he takes his first step to simply walk out of the glass-walled room.

"No one, Renata," Halgrim says, with definitive certainty. "Absolutely, no one."

And he keeps on speaking to No One, saying, "Forgive me if I doubt a black market leech cares one way or another what happens to the people he steals from and leaves to take the blame, and would bother doing any such thing." He doesn't try to stop Ambrose, though, because even if Renata weren't there, the chances he could prevent severe damage to the library itself are nonexistent. His rage is a tangible presence in the room, and it's everything he can do to keep it in check. A bad sign. He might even have to skip his planned work the evening entirely.

"You're forgiven," replies the other man in a cool tone. "You're also predictable, Professor. Such outrage. Such insult that I simply return what is not yours. It does not belong to you…or her…or anyone within this building," - he pauses at the glass doors to lift a gloved hand and spin a pointer finger about to include the relative surroundings, " - or this campus…much less this city or the entire continent itself. I don't expect you to understand. I expect you not to intervene. Your faculty member will be fine. She'll awaken within the next minute, so…if you'll excuse me."

He then goes to open the glass door and walk on out, giving Halgrim one last razor-thin smile.

"Return," Halgrim repeats, and some of his anger becomes curiosity. The note that Renata will wake up further gives him pause. He's still mad enough to say, "You're never going to be able to come on this campus again. And if you do, for her sake, I'm going to make sure you regret it." It has the air of a promise, though of course, how he plans to make good on it is open to debate. What powers do adjunct faculty have? But a person whose anger can fill a room may not be lacking for more exotic resources. Only time — and another attempt at the campus' contents — will tell.

Ambrose pauses halfway through the glass doors to consider the Professor still standing on the other side of the Head Librarian. He gives the man a lingering calculating look. He sucks his teeth silently with closed lips and then they flash briefly before he simply shakes his head.

"I believe you, Professor. You have the air of a man who means to follow through upon his promises. Good. Take care of her, won't you?"

With that, Renata suddenly looks confused. She places a hand to the side of her head and grabs at the nearest table, her knees appearing to have gone weak.

Halgrim gives Ambrose one last, hateful look, and for an overlong moment his eyes seem edged in yellow. Then Renata wavers, his attention snaps to her, and the approaching fury bleeds away. He guides her to a table, speaking quietly in Danish about how she shouldn't work so late and could he walk her home or at least call a cab, since he was on his way out as well. Better to get some rest than work themselves to death. Fall semester won't be a tragic failure if they both take an evening off.

His evening off is going to be in the Park, though, much to the regret of any deer or turkeys that might be inhabiting it currently.

Renata's timed release from the Suggestion placed upon her allows the master cat-burglar his escape — but not before he gives Halgrim a second look, this one several shades more leery and even a little pale. Ambrose slips out into the foyer of the library and walks at a brisk, important pace. No one challenges him on the way out simply because he looks as if he has someplace to be, which he does.

Which happens to be very far away from this campus and the Professor with the eyes edged in feral gold.

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