Book Four

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          Carnival! It was Giacomo Girolamo Casanova’s favorite time of year. He dreamed of all the women, waiting to be unmasked at the redoutes—or masked balls—being held all over Vienna. Beautiful women. Rich women. Vulnerable women. The masquerade balls were hosted by the uppermost echelons of society—for their friends in the aristocracy. Casanova was not noble by birth. Both his parents were actors, and he was considered something of a dandy. However, he was educated in medicine and law and had a quick wit. He also possessed a fair amount of charm and had ingratiated himself to a rich patron, who introduced Casanova to society. Now, the young man was dressed in the garb of a fanciful knight, complete with armor and a full-face mask. The costume provided a great deal of anonymity, and it would give Casanova the opportunity he needed to win a wager. A nobleman had bet Casanova that he could not abscond with a particular book, which the nobleman had seen in their host’s possession. He had given Casanova explicit details about where the book was located. All the errant knight had to do, was borrow the precious tome for a little while.
          Casanova stealthily made his way to the second story of the palazzo and into the library chamber, where he found the book prominently displayed on a richly carved, ornate podium that was burnished with gold leaf. He grabbed the folio and hid it under his cloak, as he quietly made his way out of the chamber. He had prepared a place where the book would remain secure, until he won his bet and the wager was paid. Then he would happily return the precious tome to his host, for it was not the treasure, but the gamble, that held the most pleasure for him.
          His escapade, however, was not fated to proceed as planned for he had failed to anticipate that his host might leave the ball. Casanova panicked when he unexpectedly encountered the owner of the palazzo approaching the library to discuss business with an associate.
          “You there, what business have you in my library?”
          Casanova took off in the opposite direction, heading for the servant’s staircase. He hurtled down the steep steps, clutching the book beneath his cape, and ducked around the wait staff and food preparers who were rushing about below. He careened into a servant who lost his grip on a tray of raw fish, and the lovely, silver creatures flew in all directions. One of them landed right in Casanova’s path. When his heel made contact with the slippery fish, Casanova yelped, as he lost his footing and plunged toward the back door. He threw the volume outside, so he could grab onto the doorframe to break his fall, but the raised door saddle tripped him up and he fell on the now open book—and disappeared.

          The palazzo owner scooped up the book and quickly closed it. He had borrowed it from the Library of Illumination, and knew it was enchanted. The thief seemed to have vanished into thin air, but having the book back is what mattered the most.

Chapter One

Early-morning birdsong crept through Jackson’s bedroom window, waking him. He had no trouble shaking off the drowsy stupor he usually felt in the mornings. It was a brilliant October day, with plenty of sunshine and a clear blue sky—but better than that, it was Jackson’s birthday. He toyed with the idea of skipping school and going straight to the Library of Illumination to see Johanna. However, on second thought, doing that might make him look like an overexcited child, and he wanted to impress her with his maturity now that he’d turned seventeen.
          Instead of throwing on a tee shirt and jeans, Jackson took a sartorial risk and put on a collared shirt and khakis. He wanted to look more adult, just like the guy he saw Johanna having dinner with at Le Chat.
          The day dragged. His physics lab had been pretty interesting, and he was a wiz at English, but his economics class was the epitome of boring. He couldn’t care less about somebody’s “marginal propensity to consume,”
unless it was about him consuming fries at McDonald’s. Thank God he had lunch next period.
          Finally, his last class ended. Jackson jumped on his bike and headed to the library. The school day could not have ended soon enough for him, even though his friends
had acknowledged his birthday by presenting him with a giant cupcake with a candle on it. Still, all he really wanted was to be with Johanna.
         He found her standing behind the circulation desk, going through mail and package deliveries. “Hey,” he greeted her.
          “Hey, birthday boy.”
          He smiled as he watched her crumple up a piece of junk mail and toss it into the wastebasket at the other end of the long desk. She never missed, and it intrigued Jackson that her throw always hit the mark. He wondered if he could succeed in luring her out to the park to shoot hoops.

After sorting the letters, Johanna started going through packages. Most of them contained single volumes of unenchanted books that she had requested for borrowers who were not on her “approved” list. Two cartons remained. She grabbed one and ripped it open. “Oh my God, I can’t believe they’re already here!”
          “What?” Jackson asked.
          “I bought a couple of iPads for the library. I thought it would be a lot easier to search for books using these, rather than always running back to the main computer. And now that you’re almost done setting up our new database with all the card-catalog information, we can save it to the cloud and use these to keep track of everything.”
          She put the iPads in a drawer behind the circulation desk.
          Jackson did a double take. “Why are you putting them away? Aren’t we going to fire them up?”
          “That can wait.” She grabbed the last carton and ripped off the cover. The package contained a multitude of
Styrofoam packing peanuts cradling a smaller box. Johanna lifted it out of the carton, spilling Styrofoam everywhere.
          “I hate this stuff,” Jackson complained, trying to corral the loose bits.
          “Whatever this is, it’s really well packed.” Johanna ripped paper away from a wooden box and felt something inside subtly shift. The sender had paid extra postage to mail the contents in a wooden container. That meant it was probably special. She removed the top of the box and found a letter from a collector who had previously used the library for repairs. The note rested on top of a large, calfskin-covered book.
          Her eyes widened while she read the missive. She grabbed the book and studied the cover as she let out a small gasp.
          “What is it?”
          She made eye contact with Jackson and held his gaze, as if to signal the importance of the book in her hands. After a moment, she reverently whispered, “
Shakespeare’s First Folio.”

“That book sure beats a bunch of fairy stories,” Jackson said, pointing to the 1890 edition of
English Fairy Tales that held a place of honor in the library’s glass display case.
          “Fairy tales have a long tradition of entertaining children while teaching them all things are possible—if they’re resourceful,” Johanna reasoned.
          She shook her head as she lifted the cover of the folio. The spine pulled away from the interior. “Look. It’s not even attached.” She removed the text block and laid it on the circulation desk. “That’s not the only problem,” she said, picking at a loose cord. “These quires need to be re-stitched.” She pulled over an old library lamp, with its green glass shade, to get a better look. “I’m pretty sure that I have the right size cord in stock,” she said, more to herself than to Jackson. She placed everything back inside the box and carried it to the antechamber that served as the library’s bindery and repair room.
          “Are we going to work on that now?”
          “I’d rather wait till morning. There’s more natural light, and besides, I want to start fresh.”
          “What do we need to do tonight?”
          “All of those used books from Bebe’s Bibliothèque are in the basement storage room taking up space. Now that we don’t need them anymore, I think it’s time to get rid of them.”
          “Do you just want me to throw them in the dumpster?”
          “I’d like to think you meant to say ‘recycle them.’ And we may end up going that route, but first, I’d like to try to sell them back to Bebe’s.”
          “Good luck with that,” Jackson replied. “I was in there the other night, and the shelves are filled with books that are in better condition than the ones we have here.”
          “There’s no harm in trying. The most she could say is ‘no.’ Besides, maybe the idea of buying all those books back at only
half the price will appeal to her.”
          “You give it your best shot.” His tone was cynical.
          “C’mon. I need your help with something. Upstairs.”
          Jackson followed her up the spiral staircase and watched curiously as she pushed a crystal lever at the end of one of the stacks. The bookshelf
whooshed open, and Jackson followed Johanna into a part of the library that he’d never been in.
          They stumbled through one room in the dark before Johanna flipped a light switch.
          Jackson stared at a bunch of people crammed inside Johanna’s kitchen: his mother; his sister, Ava; his brother, Chris, and some girl;
and his best friend, Logan, who was with Cassie, the girl who had baked Jackson’s birthday cupcake. Half-filled bowls of corn chips and pretzels as well as open soft drink cans littered the table. Platters of sandwiches and salads, wrapped in colorful cellophane, lined the kitchen counter. A large cake claimed a sizable amount of space in the corner.
          “Hey, bro, bet you never expected to see me here.” Chris punched his brother in the arm.
          Jackson nodded at the girl standing at Chris’s side. “And who’s this?”
          Chris put his hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Brittany, I’d like you to meet my brother, Jackson.”
          Brittany smiled and her cheeks dimpled. “Hi, Jackson. Happy birthday.”
          “Brittany.” He looked from her to his brother, who winked at him.

Johanna got busy setting out plates and napkins, while Jackson made his way around the room greeting friends and family.
          His mother put her arms around him and gave him a hug. “Wasn’t it nice of Johanna to do this for you? I was stunned when she stopped by and suggested it. I know you don’t like surprises, but this is such a sweet thing for her to want to do that I just couldn’t say no.”
          “Yeah.” The last thing he could tell his mother was how he would much rather have Johanna all to himself on his birthday. He had to admit that he was impressed by all the trouble she went through just for him. He would have to give her a special thank-you kiss, later.
She can’t refuse—it’s my birthday!
          His sister passed him the chips. “There’s cheese dip on the table. I made it just for you. It’s your favorite kind.”
          Jackson kissed the top of Ava’s head. “Thanks.”
          “We meet again, Jax.” Logan grinned. “We would never have beaten you here if your mom hadn’t called the school and asked if I could be let out early to help with a surprise party for you. I told Old Man Benson that Cassie was part of the surprise and dragged her out with me. Your mom picked us up, and we’ve been here for the past hour, eating chips and decorating.”
          Jackson looked up and saw streamers crisscrossing the ceiling and small bunches of balloons in each of the corners. “How nice for me.”
          Johanna handed him a soda. “Time to eat. You get to go first, since it’s your birthday.”
          He grabbed a plate and filled it with food while Chris helped Johanna carry in extra chairs. Once they were all settled, the conversation revolved around how everyone managed to keep the party a secret from Jackson for more than a week.
          He recognized the irony of the situation. The entire time he had been planning to make a move on Johanna in celebration of his seventeenth birthday, everyone else was organizing a party—that would keep him from reaching that goal. He mentally slapped himself for not catching wind of it, but he had been much too involved in fantasizing about seducing the library curator. His delightful daydream was now destined to die. He surely couldn’t hope for anything more than a chaste birthday kiss with his family crowded around him, and once his birthday ended, his argument that he deserved a kiss because it
was his birthday would no longer be valid.
          He looked at his brother. Chris’s arm had migrated around Brittany Chelvie’s shoulders, pulling the pretty, young girl up against him. His younger brother was apparently better at the art of seduction than he was.
Where did I go wrong?

There were only crumbs of food left by the time the party ended. Johanna had ordered double the amount of sandwiches and salads normally recommended for the number of people she had invited, and she had baked a huge cake. She thought she would be swimming in leftovers, but teenage boys—like human vacuum cleaners—had sucked up every bit of food she had.
What is it about red velvet cake that everybody loves so much? The party lasted longer than expected, mostly because Cassie suggested a game of charades and Brittany seconded the choice. It turned out to be so much fun that the evening flew by. The females trounced the males, game after game, although the guys boasted that they let the girls win.
          Finally, Mrs. Roth could no longer stifle her yawns and stood up. “Thank you, Johanna, for throwing this wonderful party for Jackson.”
          Clearly, the festivities were over.

Jackson volunteered to stay behind and help Johanna straighten up, but Chris said it wouldn’t be fair, considering it was his birthday. Instead, the girls cleaned up while Chris and Logan put away chairs, leaving Jackson with no excuse to stay and be alone with the object of his affection.
What do they care? They’ve each got a girl to walk home. What do I have, my mother and my little sister? Some birthday.
          Even after he got home, random thoughts of what might have been kept him awake for hours.

Johanna also found it difficult to fall right to sleep. She had anticipated spending a little more quality time with Jackson on his birthday. Instead, she had been too busy to kiss him goodnight. She tried to console herself. It would have been awkward with his family and friends around; after all, she was technically his boss and was older than him. Still, memories of the previous summer held a special place in her heart. Jackson had shamelessly pursued her, even while they dealt with the sudden appearance of the blue orb. She remembered how vulnerable she felt after the FBI had virtually taken over the library, and fondly recalled how Jackson had stuck by her, so she didn’t have to face the craziness alone. She had stupidly distanced herself from him after that incident, afraid that she had allowed him to get too close, but now she missed the special bond they had shared.
          Growing up, Johanna had surrounded herself with an imaginary wall to protect herself from being hurt. Over the years, it had become practically insurmountable. She
had dated a few guys she met outside of the library, but they rarely cared about the same things that interested her. So while she had gone out on quite a few first dates, she had refused the prospects of any second ones. She rationalized those decisions by convincing herself that she did not mind being alone. But she was lonely. Now Jackson had breached her defenses, and she did not seem to mind at all.

The grandfather clock in the main reading room struck the quarter hour. Jackson usually arrived at the library before ten on a Saturday morning, but it was well past noon and he still hadn’t walked in. She completed all the chores she normally would have given him before starting repair work on
Shakespeare’s First Folio.
          She heard the crash of metal hitting the pavement behind the library. Jackson burst into the main reading room a few seconds later.
          “You must have had quite an after-party last night,” she commented.
          “I wish. I went straight to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep. I was so exhausted this morning I didn’t hear my alarm go off. Everyone else was gone by then. Chris had a track meet, and Mom and Ava went to cheer him on.”
          “I already did all your work.”
          “Does that mean you don’t want me to stay?” he asked, confused.
          “That means you get another lesson in bookbinding.”

Jackson smiled.
Happy birthday to me. He thought of how they would be huddled together in close quarters as they worked on the book. “Lead the way.”

The interior of
Shakespeare’s First Folio had yellowed with age. Johanna slowly removed the threads that held the sections together. “Once I remove these,” she said, picking away another thread, “we’ll re-sew the quires and then reattach the cover.”
          “We will?”
          “Yes. I’ll show you how.”
          “What if I make a mistake?”
          “You won’t, because I’ll be right here to stop you if you make a wrong move. You’re my apprentice now, just like I was Mal’s apprentice.”
          He liked the sound of that. “Okay.”
          Johanna leaned over to inspect the original holes that had been made to bind the folio. She studied them so intently her nose practically touched the paper.
          Jackson picked up a loose quire. “Did Shakespeare have a lisp?”
          His question made her sit back and stare at him. “Should I even ask?”
          “Look. It says, ‘The moft excellent Hiftorie of the Merchant of Venice.’
Now tell me that Shakespeare didn’t have a speech impediment.”
          “That’s the way they wrote the letter
S back then.”
          “Ahhh ...” He opened the
Merchant of Venice to a random page. A handsome young man wearing something that a medieval knight might wear suddenly appeared.
          “Jackson,” Johanna barked.
          The teen closed the pages and pushed the quire away. The knight, however, remained.

Johanna stared at their unexpected visitor. He had long, dark-blond hair and the most beautiful gray eyes she had ever seen. She looked from him to the folio pages he had sprung from, and her brow wrinkled.
What is he still doing here? “Can I help you?” She didn’t know what else to say.
          He gave her a dazzling smile. “Buongiorno, signorina. Sono Giacomo Casanova.” He stared at her for a moment. “Non riconosco il tuo stile del vestire. Sono a Venezia?”
I do not recognize your style of dress. Am I in Venice?
          Johanna nudged Jackson. “Do you speak Italian?”
          “Buongiorno is ‘good morning.’ That much I know. And he said something about Venice, so maybe that’s where he’s from.” Johanna turned toward the knight. She tapped herself a couple of times and said, “Johanna.” It had worked for Johnny Weissmuller in
Tarzan of the Apes, so why shouldn’t it work for her?
          The knight gave her another dazzling smile. “Si, si, Johanna.” Then he tapped his own chest. “Casanova.”
          Jackson narrowed his eyes. “Casanova, like the lover?”
          “It can’t be. Shakespeare didn’t write about Casanova.”
          “Shakespeare.” Casanova said the bard’s name with an Italian accent as he shook his head. He saw the folio and pointed to it. “Non Shakespeare.” He tapped himself again. “Casanova.” He looked around and held out his hands. “Dove mi trovo?”
Where am I?
          Johanna didn’t know what to say, because she didn’t understand Italian.
          Casanova tapped the section of the folio that he had sprouted from. He pointed to it. “Questa è Venezia. Venezia.”
This is Venice. He looked around the room, then tapped the worktable and shook his head. “Non Venezia.”
          Johanna shook her head as well. “No Venezia. Library of Illumination.”
          “Library? Ahhh. Biblioteca di Illuminazione.” He nodded and smiled. “Grazie.