“But if it’s his middle name, wouldn’t that make it his second name? I mean, if we’re counting names wouldn’t it make more sense for us to try to find out his last name? That would be his third name, right?” Elena asked.
“No. Anyway, you’re operating under a false pretense. You’re assuming that he’s only gone by his given birth name. For all we know, he could be on his fifth or sixth or even a hundredth name by now. There’s no telling how many aliases he’s gone by. There’s only one fact that we know for certain,” I responded.
“That his third name is his ‘true’ name,” she prompted, an eyebrow cocked and her lips pursed.
“Yes,” I said, hoping that she would return to the work at hand. It would go much faster with both of us sifting through the heaps of old news articles and microfiche. I had a feeling that Elena was going to continue being difficult about the conclusions I had drawn. To be fair, I had been wrong before on several occasions, but this time hours of research, some of it from papers dating back as far as the American Revolution all pointed to the fact that I was right.
“And you really believe that at some point he went by his middle name, his ‘true’ name, and he willingly gave it to people? Knowing that they could abuse it and control him with it?” She asked.
I could sense the resignation in her voice this time, however. If I showed doubt now, she would redouble her effort to convince me we should be looking for his last name that he had been born into, rather than his middle name, so I merely nodded at her. She sighed and resumed sifting through the piles of papers that cluttered her side of the long table we had claimed in the archives. Between my reading the notes on my own side, I glanced up at her. Her brow was furrowed in concentration as she moved from one book to a stack of papers, back to the book, and then on to a new leaflet. Finally, I was satisfied that her argument had been dropped and sank fully into the task myself.
I had become so absorbed in my quest to find his third name, to find a way to stop the abductions, that I didn’t even notice when Elena left. One minute she was there at the table with me, the next she was gone. I sat up from my hunched position I had assumed for research and removed my reading glasses. Wearily I rubbed my eyes and glanced at my wristwratch. The tritium dials showed a quarter to four. We had about two hours left until the librarians would return to open up for the day. We would have be gone by then.
Apart from all the breaking and entering you have to do, there’s one thing, I realized, that nobody ever tells you about fighting evil when they recruit you into it. And that’s how boring it actually is. You watch a hour long program on tv, and it’s really only about forty minutes or so once you cut out all the commercials. Approximately half of that is shown to be encounters with whatever evil your fictional heroes are fighting that week. A quarter of the time is devoted to the overarching story line for that seasons. Another eighth is setting up the heroes so they can encounter the evil, and the remaining eighth is them researching. It’s not realistic at all.
In reality most evil doesn’t have an overarching goal that stretches out to last the viewing season. And about ninety-eight percent of your time is research. The remaining two percent? Well one percent is confronting the monster and the other percent is finding your next job. I figured Elena had gone outside to have a break and smoke a cigarette. A break seemed like a good idea, so I went to find a restroom and a water fountain. When I got back to our table, Elena had returned. She looked up at me as I approached.
“You were wrong,” she said as soon as I sat down.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “wrong about what?
“We’re not looking for his middle name. We’re looking for his first name, which also happens to be his third name.” She said it as if it were a matter of fact, a smug smirk on her face.
“And how do you figure that?” I was getting annoyed. She was being exactly as coy as I normally was when I figured something out before she did.
“The diary. The one which led you to think it was his middle name. You were just operating under a false pretense- that his third name was his middle name because its the third name that you normally learn from someone. I decided to do some digging as to Ms. Sandra Benton’s origins. Turns out she had a great-great grandmother who also happened to be in contact with our target. And she wrote a fanciful tale that was briefly published as fiction.”
“And?” I prompted.
“And in it she wrote about how she had met an old Roman wizard…” she started explaining.
“We’re looking for his praenomen! A roman child is born into their nomen and cognomen, but they’re given their third name, their praenomen, on dies lustricius! Was it in the book you found?”
Elena frowned at my interrupting her brilliant find, and merely nodded. Overcome with joy, I swept her in my arms and kissed her. We finally had the weapon we needed to put him away once and for all.
Apropos of: my participation in Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week. Prompt was to get a random title from the website he linked and write a story based off it. You can find Chuck’s original post here.