9:30 AM January 1, 1931

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Bitterness consumed Frank Cunningham.

He moved to Cross about a year ago, taking a position at Miskatonic as an assistant professor of early magic in the Balkans. Part of his credentials, he told me, was a practical understanding of Eastern European magic.

While we weren’t friends, we were fair acquaintances. I was not averse to having a beer or two with him in the tavern. We would exchange stories of our travels, and while he listened to mine, I don’t think he believed them.

And that was fine with me. It suits my purposes fine if certain people believe I’m little more than a man with an active imagination.

As for myself, I believed everything Frank said, and the folks at Miskatonic should have as well.

Less than a month ago, I saw Frank in the tavern. He had whiskey instead of beer, and he was drinking hard.

When I asked if he was well, he shook his head.

“They’ve stolen my books, Duncan,” he told me.

I took a seat beside him. “Who has?”

“The members of the board authorized the librarian and his ilk to seize them,” Frank stated.

I considered his situation for a moment and then asked, “Do you want help getting them back?”

Frank shook his head. “No. I had every intention of leaving the books to the school when I died. They’ll have to pay, though, for taking them instead of waiting.”

I motioned for a beer, and the barman brought me one. To Frank, I asked, “Will you demand money?”

“No.” He took out a tall, slim book and showed me a list of names and a blank space to sign. Frank set the book on the bar, took out a fountain pen and smiled. “Will you hold this for me after I sign it?”

I nodded, my stomach queasy from the raw magic pulsating from the book.

“Thank you.”

Frank leaned forward, and with a flourish, signed his name. He lifted his whiskey, finished it, and vanished.

I’m not sure where he went, only that he didn’t go alone. The librarian and his three assistants vanished, as did the two board members who had approved of the theft.

When I wonder where they are, I think of the Balkans and their monsters.

The book, I’m pleased to say, is locked away.

I don’t need anything crawling out.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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