Murder Between the
"Helen, where the hell are you?" The
creep used the intercom, so everyone heard.
"I'm in the back, stripping," she
said. Now they all heard her reply.
"I don't care what you're doing, get
out here," he said. "Now."
Helen Hawthorne quit stripping, and wished
she could start ripping.
She wanted to rip out the black heart of
Page Turner III with her bare hands. He knew
where she was. He also knew she couldn't
complain when he played his little games.
He was Page Turner, literary light and owner
of Page Turners, the book chain with his
name. Page was a multimillionaire, but not
because of the three bookstores. The real
family fortune came from mundane moneymakers
such as pancake houses and muffler shops.
Page ran the bookstores because he had the
same name as the founder. That was all Page
had in common with his book-loving grandfather.
The current Page Turner couldn't sell a book
to a boatload of bibliophiles.
Helen flung open the stockroom door, expecting
to see Page Turner. Instead, she collided
with Mr. Davies, the store's oldest inhabitant.
Mr. Davies showed up every morning at nine,
when the store opened, and stayed until it
closed at midnight . He brought two peanut
butter sandwiches, one for lunch and one
for dinner, and drank the free ice water
in the cafe. All day long, he read books.
He bought one paperback a month, when his
Social Security check arrived.
Helen liked him. He was as much a fixture
as the shelves and chairs. Mr. Davies was
a small gray squirrel of a man, with big
yellow teeth and inquisitive brown eyes.
Now those eyes were bright with disappointment.
"You're dressed," the
old man said.
"Of course I'm dressed," Helen
said. "What did you think I was doing
"I was stripping the covers off paperbacks," she
Mr. Davies was more shocked than if she'd
been stark naked.
"That's terrible, a pretty girl like
you mutilating books," he said.
"I agree, sir," Helen
Mr. Davies scurried off to his favorite
reading chair, holding his book protectively,
as if Helen might strip it, too.
Helen couldn't tell Mr. Davies why she'd
been stripping. She'd been dealing with yet
another of Page's mistakes. He'd bagged Jann
Hickory Munn, the hot fiction writer, to
sign at Page Turners on his national tour.
But Page did no advertising, so six people
came to Munn's signing. Page was stuck with
cases of books.
The unsold hardcovers were sent back. But
most publishers didn't want paperbacks returned.
The shipping would cost more than the books.
Instead, their covers were stripped and
counted like scalps. The author paid for
Page's miscalculation in lost royalties.
Someone else always paid for Page's mistakes.
Buy at Murder on the Beach
MURDER BETWEEN THE
COVERS: A Dead-End Job Mystery
by Elaine Viets. -
Signet Mystery, $5.99, 0-451-21081-6.
Reading Guide for Discussion
Murder Between the Covers.