It was a perfect day for reading, at least, that is what Erika thought. Looking out of her used bookstore window at the gray drizzle that cloaked the morning, she thought it gave the old main street a forlorn Dickensian look. On a day like today, she could see herself curled up in her armchair with a Kay Hooper mystery and a glass of wine. Too bad nobody else this morning felt that same way. The drizzle seemed to keep everyone inside.
Erika was not what one would picture as a book dealer. Most pictured her as a quiet, librarian type with her hair up in a bun and an ugly pair of 1950's glasses. No, Erika could have been a model if she had so wished. At six-foot, her lithe figure was as sleek as a giraffe and her long, ash-blonde hair and blue eyes helped finish her Valkerian good looks. Erika did wear glasses, but they were much more stylish and they were for reading only.
The bookseller always tried to dress smartly and today was no exception to her inner fashion model. She wore a tight ivory-colored blouse and grey suit jacket with a matching skirt that stopped just above her knees. Erika also felt a bit sexy today so instead of her normal pantyhose, she decided upon a pair of smoke-colored stockings and garter belt with a pair of black lace panties. There were days like today she liked to flaunt her womanhood and tonight she would make sure her husband would benefit from it.
The book-dealer's chore for the day was going through the three boxes of books she had won at an estate auction. For the most part, they were turn-of-the-century volumes by Kipling, Twain and Stephenson. They had that wonderful old book smell to them and were in superb condition with only a little sun-fading to mar their gilded spines. There were several she hadn't recognized the titles of, so she set them in a stack to research a bit later. She had also taken a few intriguing books home to read after her husband would call it a night. Like her, her husband had long hours in the field and was comfortably worn out by ten o'clock. Erika, on the other hand, couldn't shut her eyes until at least midnight so those became her reading hours.
Erika was fully engrossed in grading a series of English history books when the bell chimed above the door. Coming in was an attractive couple both dressed in dark suits that screamed 'professional'. The man was tall, carried a large satchel briefcase and filled his suit quite nicely. His head was bald and he sported a graying mustache and goatee. His companion was shorter brunette with alluring green eyes and a no nonsense look about her.
"May I help you?" Erika asked, stepping out from behind the counter.
"I certainly hope so," the woman spoke with a slight English accent, "You purchased just recently a portion of the McQuade estate's library?"
Red flags went up in Erika's head.
"Yes," the blonde answered cautiously.
The woman glanced at her partner before turning back to Erika, "Very good. There has been a mistake made when the estate was disposed of, mainly, several books that Mr. McQuade had borrowed from our client and had not returned to him before Mr. McQuade had passed."
"I see," Erika said, "And do you have a list of titles? I can set the volumes aside as I sort through and give you a call back if any are in my purchase."
"Actually, there is only one title we have not tracked down yet, 'The Care And Treatment Of Particularly Fair Women' by Dr. Geoffrey Brand. Our client is eager to get that particular book back into his collection."
Erika recalled immediately the book the woman was asking about. It was one that she had selected to take home and peruse. The title bemused her and she wanted to see what Dr. Brand had to say.
"Well, I will see what I can do but I have yet to go through these boxes. If you would like to leave a phone number I would gladly..."
"Quite frankly, we don't have time," the woman interrupted, "We are only here for a day or two before heading back to England. So if you would kindly go through these boxes now, we will wait and take the book when you get to it."
Erika was starting to get a bit impatient with these two and her impatience was slowly starting to turn to anger.
"First of all, Ms. Ah..."
"Roberts," the woman said.
"I really don't have proof that that book is your clients. You will have to provide some way of showing that it is his," Erika continued, "Second, I bought these books in good faith so if the volume you want is in here, I will gladly sell it to you for a fair price but not before I am ready to do so."
The couple both looked a bit disturbed by this.
"I see," the woman said as the man started towards the front door, "I am afraid we cannot provide any of the evidence of ownership you are looking for..."
Erika noticed the man turning the lock shut and flipping the open sign to closed.
" ... and as for compensation for your purchase of the book, well, again, my client is very adamant about not having to purchase the book twice, since it cost him dearly the first time."
Erika tried to keep her cool and slowly started to back towards the counter and the phone. She had no silent alarm and the alarm system she did have would require her to punch in several numbers and she didn't think she would have time to do that before the couple was upon her. The phone at this point was her best option.
"Please see it from our client's point of view," the brunette continued, "It is his property and he has a right to get it back."
"Is his name plate inside the book?" Erika asked, stalling as she continued to slowly back up.
The woman matched her step for step and the man was making his way towards her as well.
"My client didn't say," Miss Roberts said.
Erika turned and ran but the woman was prepared for just that and grabbed a hold of the bookstore owner. Erika turned and tried to pry the woman off when the man grabbed her as well, pinning her arms to her sides.
The blonde began to scream but the brunette produced a dark rag from her coat pocket and stuffed it quickly into her mouth as Erika kicked and struggled futilely. The pair then wrestled the blonde to the floor and pinned her there; taking her wrists and pinning them to her back.
The brunette, Miss Roberts, opened up the leather satchel that the man had brought in and brought out a pair of glinting handcuffs. In a wink, they had her wrists tightly locked behind her back. The same fate befell her ankles before they turned her over.
"We are sorry to have to do this, but we really do need that book," the woman said, knelling down and brushing the stray blonde hairs out of Erika's face.
The man went over and turned off the lights then whispered to the woman who nodded and went behind the counter and pulled out a pad of paper and a marker.
'They had prepared for just this, ' Erika thought as she squirmed a bit on the floor trying to force her way out of the handcuffs.
The man knelt down beside the bound woman and pulled from the satchel a small coil of rope. Erika watched with morbid fascination as the man quickly tied her knees together, cinching them tight but not so much as to cut off her circulation. He rolled her over and quickly did the same to her elbows, making them almost meet in back of her.
Erika then felt him unlock her cuffs, but her freedom was brief as he tied more rope around her fluttering hands. Again, he did the same with her ankles then forced her feet back and cinched them to her wrists in a tight hogtie. Lastly, the man tied a small rope over her mouth, forcing the rag to stay crammed in her mouth.
The brunette returned with the sign she had written. It looked close enough to Erika's handwriting that it was scary:
"Closed due to an emergency. Will open tomorrow."
Quickly the couple began to search the store. The brunette began with the box of books from the estate she hadn't gone through yet and the man disappeared down one of the aisles, presumably to find the title if it had already been placed on the shelves. While they ignored her, Erika writhed on the floor, trying to find some kind of slack in her bonds. The man had done his job well, however, and Erika began to get sore from the effort.
"Enjoying yourself, dear?" the brunette asked, looking down at her captive.
Erika shook her head no and mewled into her gag.
"That is really too bad, really. You know, you look absolutely scrumptious lying there all bundled up. I would pay more attention to you, dear, but we have our client to consider."
'What did that mean!' the thought screamed through Erika's head.
The man came back to the woman, "It is not on the shelves."
The man's voice was the kind of deep, gravely voices one associated with mobsters save for the English accent.
The pair went to look at the boxes again not-too-carefully, throwing the books in a pile as they check the titles. Again, Erika struggled, causing her skirt to ride up her leg and revealing the top of her stocking. It was her modesty that stopped her from struggling more and enticing the pair to do more than robbing the store.
After whispering a bit, the man left out the back door and Ms. Roberts squatted down beside her captive.
"Erika, may I call you Erika? That is the name on your business listing."
The bound woman just stared back at the brunette with her lagoon blue eyes, not moving.
.... There is more of this story ...