Chapter 14 (in the bookstore)
It’s been over a week since I wrote my last entry and today I’m struggling to concentrate. My head hurts and I keep finding bits of dried blood in my hair. Gram is in the bathroom gargling warm salt water. His mouth won’t stop bleeding. The past week has been awful. I feel lucky to be alive. I will start from the beginning.
(a week ago)
I followed the storekeeper down dark narrow hallways, past shelves so crowded with books that they leaned over you ominously. Rooms fed into one another like a maze. Walls had been constructed out of salvaged plywood and sectioned off the store like a shantytown. I cut my elbow on the sharp edge of a Coca-Cola sign that was bent in half, with one side was nailed to a bookshelf and the other to a moldy wall. The floor was covered with overlapping Persian rugs, worn so thin you could see the white thread showing through. Eventually I could feel the cold hard lumps of fresh soil under my feet and realized we were no longer in the main building, but in the empty lot next door.
A heavy oak door with a bronze knocker shaped like the head of an Incan warrior blocked the entrance to the storekeeper’s office. He fumbled through his wad of keys until he found the one he was looking for. Before he opened the door, he told me I must wait outside. When I protested, he reached into his pocket and handed me a piece of candy that was melting out of its rapper. Once he went inside I threw the candy on the floor and lit a cigarette.
When we caught up with the Captain an hour later I was too embarrassed to tell him that I had let the journal out of my sight. He and I spent the rest of the day rummaging through boxes of books, magazines, periodicals, letters and old photographs.
That evening we were eating kebab sandwiches with Iseri when I noticed that my notes from the British Museum were missing. When I told Gram what happened he was furious.
The next morning we confronted to storekeeper about the missing pages. He said didn’t know what we were talking about and suggested that Iseri took them. The Captain’s questions became more aggressive. The storekeeper smiled and offered us some apple tea. He asked if we wouldn’t mind waiting while he went back to his office. Perhaps he had taken the pages without realizing it he explained.
“You had better come back with those missing notes,” said the Captain.
I was smoking a cigarette in the courtyard when soldiers stormed into the atrium. One of them saw me and signaled the others. They plowed through a group of chairs as they charged in my direction. I dropped my cigarette and ran back into the store. Gram was standing by a bookshelf reading. I grabbed him by the shoulder and told him to run. One of the soldiers fired his gun and it hit the shelf just above the Captain’s head. We sprinted through a series of rooms to the back of the store trying to find an exit. We came to a dead end, so we doubled back and went through another series of rooms. When that led nowhere, Gram took a step back and kicked in the plywood wall to the right of him. We stumbled over the broken wall into the next room.
We found ourselves in the storekeeper’s office. He was sitting at his desk talking on the phone. In front of him was a pile of papers including my missing journal pages.
“You son of a bitch,” said the Captain as he grabbed the papers and handed them to me. I stuffed them in my journal.
Gram kicked in another wall that led to a hallway with an exit door. We ran down an alley to the back of the building where we were met by another group of soldiers. They handcuffed us and threw us in the back of a truck.