Andrew Whitehead visited the library in Pitsbury that Saturday morning. It was not that he used it often even though he was a member but this morning he had a definite purpose. He belonged to an online reading club and one of the authors whom he admired had just had a novel published. He wanted to see if the library had it yet.
He did not waste time hunting through the shelves but went straight up to the desk and asked the librarian on duty there. Her name tag said Katherine Wilson, Head Librarian.
"Good morning," he greeted her. "I came in to see whether you have a particular book in yet. It's only recently been published."
"Do you know the ISBN?"
"No, I'm afraid not but it's called 'Rescue' by Alan Winterton."
Ms Wilson applied herself to the computer. "No," she said at last. "It's not in yet. Let me see if it's on the county list yet."
There was a further pause. "No," she said at last. "Not yet. Do you know who it's published by?"
Andrew told her and she managed to find it. "Got it," she said triumphantly. "It's only just out though so it hasn't worked its way down to we poor provincials yet."
Andrew chuckled. He rather liked this woman. There was nothing special about her looks with rather forbidding schoolmistressy glasses but there was a twinkle in her eyes that she seemed to be trying to hide.
"Tell you what," she went on. "Presumably you're a member so I'll order it and email you when it comes in."
"Great!" He produced his library card and she typed his number in and the details of the book and added his email address when he gave it to her.
"Any idea when I might expect it?" he asked.
"No, I'm afraid not. Anything up to a month but you might be lucky and it might arrive in the next couple of weeks."
"Oh well! Fingers crossed."
She smiled and raised crossed fingers. Andrew smiled back.
"Thank you, Ms Wilson," he said and left.
Four weeks went by and he heard nothing until an email arrived. 'Sorry, Mr Whitehead, ' it read. 'Have sent a hastener and re-crossed fingers. Regards Katherine Wilson.'
"Oh well," thought Andrew. "That was a nice gesture." He sent her a thank you.
The book came in ten days later. For some reason Ms Wilson had been intrigued by Mr Whitehead and she read the blurb on the dust jacket. That aroused her interest and she took the book home and read it from cover to cover that evening. She was impressed but she was also intrigued. It was a romance but written from the heroine's point of view. She wondered whether Alan Winterton was a pseudonym for a woman or whether an unnamed woman had collaborated. The thoughts and emotions of the heroine were certainly very feminine and naturally so yet the action sequences were pretty macho. She also wondered whether the author's other books or stories were written in a similar manner. If so why was a man like Mr Whitehead so drawn to them?
She notified him of its arrival and he came in the following Saturday to collect it. She said nothing about having read it but did say that the dust cover made it sound like an interesting book.
"I hope so," he smiled. "As I said, he's never failed to match up to expectation in the past."
He did enjoy the book very much and emailed the author using his internet pseudonym. He added "Well done Smiling Vixen too. I imagine she had a hand in it as usual. I hope you'll share some of the royalties with her."
"You bet I will," came the reply. "As husband and wife we have a joint account."
That was an eye opener for Andrew but he did not comment further.
Almost a couple of months later he went to a concert put on by the local Baroque Society. A string quartet was performing two pieces by Mozart and one each by Vivaldi and Scarlatti. The founders of the quartet were a married couple who were members of the London Symphony Orchestra. The husband laughingly told the audience that the other couple were members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Their performance was spell-binding and Andrew joined the crowd at the reception afterwards to tell the players how impressed he was. Who should he run into but Ms Wilson?
"Hello!" he said. "What a pleasant surprise!"
She smiled friendlily at him.
"So you're a music lover as well as a bibliophile," he went on.
"Being a librarian doesn't necessarily mean that one has to be a bookworm," she retorted sternly but her dancing eyes gave her away.
"No," he acknowledged, "but weren't these guys superb?"
She nodded enthusiastically. "I've always loved that piece by Scarlatti but they did something special with it."
"Mm," he agreed nodding equally enthusiastically. "Brilliant! Do you play?"
She shook her head. "We weren't a musical family. It's only since I've left home and started to listen to Radio Three that I've become a fan of classical music. You?"
Andrew shook his head and held up a hand. "Short, stubby fingers. I even find getting my hand round the neck of a guitar quite a strain and as for those pop players who have their thumb on bottom E..." He shrugged.
"So at least you play the guitar."
"A bit but I can't sight read so I play party pieces from memory."
"More than I could dream of doing."
There was a short silence during which they moved no nearer the musicians.
"It's going to take an age to get anywhere near the players," said Andrew. "Why don't we go and find a sandwich before the gannets descend?"
She smiled. "Good thinking."
It was a good move. There were nowhere near enough eats for the size of the audience. All the same they managed to grab a couple of small triangles each and they were crisp and curling at the edges.
"Ugh!" said Andrew. "These have been sitting out here since four this afternoon. How about going and finding some pizza. There's a good place a couple of hundred yards away."
"I know it. Why not?"
So that is what they did. There was no further conversation until they had ordered and were seated.
"You obviously work somewhere else than Pitsbury," Katherine said.
Andrew raised a questioning eyebrow.
"You only come into the library on Saturdays."
He smiled. "Yes, Sherlock. I'm flattered that you noticed."
"Don't let it go to your head," she grinned. "It was just that you were after a particular book so I took a little more notice of you. Do you know the author?"
"Not in person but we have corresponded by email about his online stories."
"He's an American, isn't he?"
"Have you researched him?"
"No, just his style which was not English but I was still impressed by his un-Americanism. Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-American it's just that they use different expressions. They probably find English English pretty odd."
"Yes, they do."
She looked at him intently for a few moments. "You've been writing for this website, haven't you?"
"What do you write about? Seventeenth century composers?"
Andrew grinned. "No," he said and paused. "Um, mildly pornographic romances."
Katherine appeared completely unfazed.
"Whips and scorpions?"
"No and I don't really go any further than Jilly Cooper does. Certainly no violence.
Katherine nodded. "Go on," she said.
"Well ... I um started to ... um ... use this site after my divorce and ... um ... was particularly taken with a chap from Arkansas. His stories had a lot of ... um ... pretty graphic sex in them..."
"I enjoyed them. There were good plots and his characters really came to life."
"Well ... Katherine, you really don't want to hear all this."
"Yes, I do. I'm fascinated."
Andrew shook his head.
"I don't know. Here am I a supposedly stuffy and righteous barrister telling someone I hardly know that I write porn."
"No. Do you know? I wouldn't mind another small slice of pizza."
Andrew smiled gratefully and went off to the counter to order another for himself as well. He pondered as he did so. Actually, it was more than a ponder. His mind was racing. He had to get this conversation back onto an even keel. What did that 'No' mean?
He went back to the table and sat down with a shy smile.
"Go on, Andrew," she said.
Andrew looked down. "Well, he said that everyone had a story in them and to go on and write it,"
"I did. I thought that the website required sex so I gave it in bucket loads."
"Bags of experience!" she grinned.
He shook his head. "No, bags of wishful thinking mostly."
She did not smile but merely nodded in acknowledgement.
"So then what?"
"Well two things really. First of all I got some nice emails and none of them asked for more graphic sex. In fact most of them commented on the warmth and understanding of the story and many asked me to write some more. But, after submitting the first chapter a guy who had a lot of good stories on the site took me under his wing and gave me some really good editorial advice: shortening sentences, simplifying what I was trying to say and that really helped with the later chapters and my subsequent writing. Asking for more though spurred me on and I got into a series which was pretty well received. There was still quite a lot of graphic sex which I found pretty boring to write so that in the third and fourth story in the series I cut it right back."
"The fourth is my most popular to date. Anyway, you've clearly read 'Rescue'."
"Yes. We've been sent a second copy. By the way, yours is due for return. I don't want to have to fine you."
"Oops! I'll bring it in tomorrow. Anyway, what did you think of it?"
"Good story, good plot and well written but the thing about it was that for a man he writes with great empathy about the women."
"His wife isn't co-author as such but gives him help and advice with his female characters."
"Ah, that explains it."
There was silence after that. It was comfortable and, after a short while, Andrew went to pay.
"Thank you," she said as they walked back to their cars. "I enjoyed that, a quiet, pleasant ending to an evening of exhilarating music."
"That's a very good description of it, exhilarating. Are you sure you're not a bibliophile?"
"Quite but I do enjoy reading as well as listening to music."
He saw her to her car.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she said and wagged her finger at him. "And don't you forget Mr Whitehead."
"No, Miss Wilson."
They both grinned.
"Nice woman," thought Andrew. "Those glasses don't do much for her but they don't hide the sparkle in her eyes and she does have a pleasant sense of humour. She's thin as a rake. I wonder how well a librarian is paid, not a lot I'd have thought and she must have to pay rent as well as paying for her car. I wonder if she skimps on feeding herself. She certainly gobbled up her pizza and had seconds. Tickets for the concert weren't expensive but then they weren't all that cheap. I wonder how often she gets out. Oh well!"
Katherine was thinking about him too. "I like him, friendly and amusing. He got a bit embarrassed about his writing even though he says he's cut back drastically on the sex. He's not bad looking and obviously keeps in shape. Barrister. Hmm. I'd always thought of them as being rather pompous but he's far from that. I wonder where he works. Probably commutes to London. Rather him than me with an hour and forty minutes in each direction. I suppose he might do it weekly and have a flat up there. Still rather him than me though. Being divorced means he could easily do that all the same. I wonder whether he's got any children. He's never brought one to the library. Mind you, he's probably old enough that they're not totally dependent any more. Anyway it's none of my business.
"I'd quite like to read something of his. I must find out the address of his online book club."