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Silberman's Books
The West End, Freedom City, New Jersey
Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
11:16 AM
 
GM

 

 

Inside
 
With the holiday season in full swing, Silberman's Books was looking at an upturn in their clientele.  The morning had been so busy that Lynn hadn't had a moment to get off her feet with the curious flow of customers.  There was one oddity though.

 

A town car had parked directly in front of the store during opening hours according to Kiki.  The passengers of said vehicle had not left the vehicle.  But, there was the occasional noticeable stare in the storefront's direction.  If the vehicle wasn't the sort the rich and priveledge would rent out for travel, one could reasonably surmise they might have been casing the store for a robbery.  As it were, they were just creepy.

 

Lynn noticed a Porsche, pull up behind the town car before her view was obscured by a lanky teenage boy with unkempt hair and poorly folded clothes.  Shuffling his feet, the boy would open his mouth to ask her a question.  "What sort of horror books do you have?"
 
 

Edited by HG Morrison
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Outside

 

Erick Sloane was sitting in his very expensive Porsche with his best friend Alaina Zelichonok.  Alaina furiously looking through a binder of paperwork, began to shake her head.  "Rick, I really don't have time for a shopping expedition.  We don't all get to laze about all day.  Especially as the one handling your mess of a portfolio, would it kill you to save a single receipt?"

 

"This place has a 1555 Second Edition of the Fabrica in stock."  Erick calmly replied.  Paying no heed to the finanial advice of his friend.  He wasn't hurting for money, and he knew the complaint wasn't really over his finances.  Over the past few months Erick had been spending substantially less time in the city proper.  Giving his roommate little to no notice every time he went gallivanting around.  To put it simply she missed her friend.  

 

 

Especially now that her boyfriend had asked her to move in with him.  Well, he hadn't asked yet.  But, a certain prescient blonde may have looked into the matter ahead of time.  "Are you serious?"  Alaina almost jumped back in her seat startled.  The binder of paperwork falling to the ground.

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Just over the front entrance to the building at the corner of Pratt and Frederick was a small sculpted head, added by the new owner; it looked to be carved out marble, but was actually conjured forth out of glamour, which allowed her to peer out of it onto the street every ten seconds to look at the strange car-

 

Lynn snapped back to attention when Kiki casually elbowed her as she walked by the bar, where her boss was leaning while scrying. "Horror books?" she repeated with a nod towards the young man.

 

"Horror books? I'm sorry, yes, we have lots! And they're all twenty-five percent off during our After Halloween sale!" She gestured for the youth to follow her as she led him to the appropriate section. "Here we go, all alphabetical by author; also King, Lovecraft and Poe each have their own section, clearly marked, though there are probably a few Poe over in the Mystery section as well."

 

It made Lynn happy to see the store busy, even though she never planned to make a huge profit running the place; it was more about continuing a family legacy and creating a sense of community. Watching Kiki chat and grin as she closed a sale, or Gretchen roll her eyes as she explained the difference between cyberpunk and steampunk to a customer while pulling shots behind the bar, she realized that was starting to come true.

 

These goofballs are like my second family.

Edited by Heritage

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Erick exited the car and made his way to the door.  Opening it up just long enough to lead Alaina inside.  He stopped to look at the town car for a moment before writing it off as nothing.  Closing the door behind them, the pair would immediately begin walking through the aisles of the book store.  Pretty large for some place that isn't a franchise.

 

Alaina for her part wasted no time in running off.  Looking for a health section.  Figuring it would be the best first stop before asking anyone about their rare book selection.  Leaving Erick to wander about the store.

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GM

 

The youth whom had questioned Lynn about the horror novels followed her to the aforementioned section.  After the explanation of the wide variety he then gave her a look of puzzlement.  "I just want a couple that are scary."  His knowledge of the genre was seriously lacking.  Not that he was the first customer to ever enter a book store looking for something new to get into.

 

Elsewhere the familiar bell jingle of another customer entering the store echoed throughout.  Normally this wouldn't be worth considering.  After all, not just thirty seconds ago a Blonde haired man and brunette woman had entered.  The store had been filled with constant traffic so the presence of yet another set of customers shouldn't be worth mentioning.  

 

But Lynn's watchful statue had alerted her to one very important detail.  Her latest customers had come from the town car.  Two men in grey pin stripe suits.  One was a large statuesque man towering over most people at something over six feet tall.  The other man was a decidedly short, broad shouldered gentleman clutching on to a briefcase.

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Lynn frowned as she tried to change tactics with the young man. "Uh, okay, well...what are some of your favorite scary movies? That might help us narrow it down a bit." The potential sale would be going a lot better if she wasn't so distracted by the damn town car!

 

But then it appeared that her crimefighter's paranoia might not have been misdirected, because its passengers were now in the store, and they looked just a little sketchy. She looked over to the register and met Kiki's gaze, indicated the pair with a slight jerk of her head and mouthed 'town car'; it took the assistant manager a few seconds to figure out what she meant, but once she did she nodded and gave a small thumbs up.

 

"What does that mean?"

 

Kiki turned to face Gretchen, who'd apparently witnessed the interaction from behind the bar. "What does what mean?"

 

The FreeSA grad jerked her jaw slightly towards Lynn. "You two are always flashing gang signs at each other."

 

The older girl chuckled mirthlessly as she stepped closer to the barista and spoke under her breath, her eyes partly shielded by the jaunty fedora she wore. "Lynn doesn't like the look of the two guys who just came in, so she was letting me know."

 

Gretchen raised her eyebrows. "Wow, she really is paranoid, isn't she?" Then she snuck a quick glance their way, the seemingly disinterested glance of the retail veteran, and nodded to herself as she turned her focus back to the bar. "Except maybe this time she's right; got it."

Edited by Heritage

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GM

 

"Slashers!  Like with that one guy who kept going and going.  They hit him with the jeep and he got back up.  And then rat-tat tat tat.  You know the one I'm talking about.  The boy rattled on enthusiastically.  Assuming his string of words.

 

Alaina had wandered in front of the register.  "Whoa, she has a nice body."  Alaina stated without thinking in reference to the dancer's physique.  "I mean, nicer than you would expect from a book-.  You know what?  Let me start over.  Not saying the first thing that pops into my mind.  Um, my friend told me you hav-"

 

At this point the young brunette woman was shoved aside by the larger thuggish man.  Sneering down at her he spoke in a deep voice.  "Go."  His accent spoke of a Mediterranean history.  Possibly Greek.

Edited by HG Morrison

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Lynn resisted the urge to wince as she tried switching gears. "Maybe something in the True Crime section, then? Lots of serial killers in there..." That was just a few bookshelves over.

 

Meanwhile at the register, Kiki's eyes went a bit wide and her eyebrows went up at Alaina's comment; for her part, Gretchen cocked her head to one side as she nodded and appraised her coworker as well. "Y'know she's right; how much do you work out?" However both bookstore employees scowled as the newcomer rudely pushed aside the odd girl. Kiki looked slightly down her nose as she pointedly asked, "May I help you, sir?"

 

Across the store, the changeling noted the slight tension in her friend's voice, and turned her head a bit to better hear the conversation; she was not happy to see one of the two sketchies was involved.

Edited by Heritage

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GM

 

The large man was about to sneer at Kiki when he was lightly elbowed in the ribs.  Looking around he had expected some outside assailant.  What he clearly didn't expect was his companion of far shorter stature to be at the other of this assault.  Slightly jostled his dirty look was instantly transferred over.  Clearly, the pair did not get along all that well.

 

"Sorry about the big lug.  I swear he's house trained.  Look, my employer knows that the owner keeps some very special items for herself.  My employer wants in on the take.  And he's willing to pay top dollar.  I'm not talking all these silly books.  A real parchment of real value.  Something called the scroll of Renark."

 

Lynn did know the scroll in question.  It was one of the leftover artifacts in her collection.  This one was tattered and ragged looking with some undecipherable markings.  If one was to look at it with the right amount of combination of willpower and focus the markings rearrange themselves into characters legible only to the reader.  The consequences of using the dark magics contained inside the scroll aren't as known a quality.  But, that does nothing to quell the idea that this is probably not something that should just be given away.

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Lynn turned to the young man and offered him polite smile. "Would you excuse me a moment? I need to help my assistant manager with another customer; please have a look at our True Crime section."

 

The changeling quickly crossed the sales floor and addressed the shorter man, polite yet firm. "Good morning, sir; I know the item you speak of, but it is not currently for sale, nor do I think it will be anytime soon. Is there something else I can help you find?"

 

Kiki smiled and primly nodded, while Gretchen wore a priceless look of disbelief as she gestured in the direction her boss had approached from. "Oh, come on! How the hell did you even hear that?"

Edited by Heritage

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"Personally, I think he should find his way to an apology."  At this point Erick had arrived on the scene.  Moving to assist his very agitated friend in standing.  While the blond gymnast was without question muscular.  The tall behemoth of a man towering over him made him look positively petite.  "Or he can find my knee in his-"

 

In response to the pair that had unwisely chosen not to bite their tongues the man growled softly.  Clenching a single fist as he glared them down.  Stopped from any further reprisal by his companion who stuck his arm out warning.  "Tempers are flaring and I get it,  my friend lacks manner.  But, he can also bend you like a pretzel."

 

A smile appeared on the short man's face as he turned to Lynn.  "Ah, lovely you do have it then.  See, everyone has a price.  And we can make the price something you wish to pay.  Or we can make it something you don't.  But , it would behoove you to engage in good business and just sell the product to my employer.  Otherwise...we might have to be a bit more ahem aggressive in our approach."

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Crap! She really shouldn't have let them know she had the scroll; now that the dogs had the scent, it would be much harder to get rid of them. Lynn felt the tips of her claws digging into her crossed arms as she resisted the temptation to rip these two a pair of new ones, but of course she couldn't; there were way too many innocent customers in the shop to suddenly put them all at risk. Noting Erick's presence and implied offer of violent assistance, she gave him a quick glance and a friendly smile.

 

"Oh I agree, sir, but somehow I don't see that happening; at this point, I'd be willing to settle for them getting the hell out of my store and never coming back." She took a single step forward, her dark eyes leveled at the shorter man, her low growl dripping daggers of ice; never had a woman all of five foot three looked so menacing. "Don't you dare threaten me or my staff again. Turn around and take yourself and your trained ape out of my shop while you both can still walk."

 

During this whole exchange, Kiki's expression flickered from terrified to hopeful to just a little bit thrilled; for her part, Gretchen was equally freaked out and completely in awe of her employer, whom she never in a million years expected to say stuff like that. She was so tiny!

Edited by Heritage

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GM

 

The short thug snapped his fingers and the large one raised his arm bringing it down violently on the cash register.  Clicking his tongue the shorter man shook his head as he walked away.  The large man uttered a single word, "Regret."  Choosing to follow after his partner in crime immediately after.

 

They slammed the door behind them with enough force to draw the immediate attention of the rest of the store.  Some of which took the opportunity to leave all their own.  While this was happening Erick had a premonition of a teenage boy making his way towards the door of which he could assume was only a private office in the store.  A wholly mundane use of the gift of Foresight if ever the precognitive hero knew of.

 

Outside, the town car wasted no time in starting up.  However, they did not immediately drive off.  The tinted windows made it hard to see what was going on inside.  But, it didn't take much foresight to contemplate that the situation was being relayed back to their employer.

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Erick wasn't sure how to bring up 'I think someone's trying to break into one of your rooms' in casual conversation.  Especially with the simmering tension after the store owner chased of the two thugs.  "Not to shoot down your oh so threatening ultimatum.  But, they did back down rather easily.  Maybe, give things  look around to see that they don't have someone else inside?"

 

"I still think I should have kneed the big one in the crotch."  Alaina added clearly still upset.  "I just want to get the second edition of the Fabrica and lie down at home now."  She then looked at the cash register for a moment before pointing at Erick.  "He'll pay to replace that.  And, if you're willing to talk about bringing new investors in.  He'll even pay for the installation of new security things people love when filing a police report like cameras."

 

"Turn it off."  Erick whispered as his friend slipped from 'friend mode' to 'professional assistant' at the drop of a hat.

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When the giant thug brought his fist crashing down on the vintage cash register, Lynn reacted like she'd just been punched in the gut; she just stood there staring at the ruined machine like her puppy had died. Once the goons were outside, Kiki cleared her throat and offered to ring up anyone paying with a credit card.

 

Soon the rest of the customers quietly cleared out, except for two whom Lynn finally realized were talking to her. "We have cameras." She mutely pointed at the small units discreetly tucked into several corners of the store, they looked surprisingly high-end for a small privately-owned bookstore. The store owner approached the poor mangled register, eyes moist with tears as she tried to assess the damage; even the normally stoic Gretchen looked almost as devastated as Lynn. "It's no use; she's gone."

 

At last Erick's odd warning sank in. "Oh, right." She sent her eyes and ears shifting through all the glamoured objects throughout the store, even upstairs and outside, especially the front of the store; to an outside observer, the young woman just appeared to be staring off into space.

Edited by Heritage

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GM

 

Just as Foreshadow had foreseen, Lynn was treated to the sight of the youth she was helping.  Crouching down in front of the door to her office he was holding a magnetic lockpick set.  Hard at work his hands were fumbling about.  Clearly intent on breaking into the office.  Drawing absolutely no attention to himself with his silent movements.  It was clear that this wasn't his first rodeo when it came to breaking and entering.

 

At the same time Lynn was getting odd looks from the store patrons whom hadn't chosen to leave after the commotion.  The sight of her staring out into space after seeing the register get smashed was odd to say the least.  So odd that some more patrons chose to quietly leave the store on their own accord.  Further spurred by the fact that they likely couldn't be checked out at the moment. By the time she stopped focusing on her glamor Erick's fingers were directly in front of her face. 

 

Snapping his fingers to get her attention.  "Are you alright?"

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Seeing that her friend was not responding to Erick's finger-snapping, Kiki reached over the counter to poke Lynn in the arm with the business end of a mechanical pencil; that brought her back! "Ow! What the hell was that for?" Rubbing her arm, she turned back to the helpful blond man, though she was clearly still distracted by something.

 

"Yes, hi! Uh, y'know what, I think I'm gonna take your advice and look around some." And with that, she made a beeline straight to the door Erick had seen in his vision. Using all her stealth and agility, she silently crept up right behind the furtive youth and stood there with her hands behind her back, fighting back the urge to giggle.

 

Suddenly she announced her presence. "Is there something else I can help you find?" She smiled sweetly.

 

"Yeah, she's definitely getting weirder," Gretchen concluded as she began trying to remove the cash drawer from the remains of the vintage register. Kiki addressed Alaina, an amused smile on her face. "You were looking for an early edition of a rare book?"

Edited by Heritage

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"Yes.  It's the 1555 edition of the Fabrica.  That is the De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem.  A set of seven books that are basically the precursor to everything modern medicine knows.  The real old ones are bound in human skin.  Because prior to the 18th cent-"  Before Alaina's run on explanation could pick up steam she was cut off by Erick.

 

"She gets the point.  Old book before Gray's Anatomy was the new hotness in human anatomy."  Erick explained as a summary.  "Let's keep the amount of human skin to a minimum though.  Because scientifically sound and humoring though it may be.  That's still pretty gross."  On average he tended to find that leather was a much more preferable binding to skin.

 

But maybe Erick was just funny like that.

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GM

 

The boy looked up nervously as the store owner.  "Um...about those horror books?"  He sheepishly responded.  Tucking his lockpick into his sleeve with no attempt to hide the act he rose.  "Well, this is a bummer."

 

Silence.

 

There were a lot of things he could have done.  He could have tried and attacked Lynn, not that it would have ended well.  He could have tried to run, that would've ended just as badly.  He might've even been expected to act like an immature teenager and unleash a string of profanities.

 

But, instead the youth seemed content to give up the moment he was caught.  Showing no signs of resistance.  Shuffling his feat on the ground he began to speak once more.  "So, like you're not gonna call the cops or anything?  My mom will ground me forever if this gets back to her."

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Lynn felt conflicted; on the one hand, she'd been this kid, shoplifting and grifting when she was about his age, but on the other, she was now a responsible store owner with inventory to protect. And she did not want this kid to end up in the fast lane to prison. She folded her arms and considered him for a few seconds. "Alright, here's what we're gonna do; you're gonna take out your wallet and produce some ID. I will then make a copy of said ID and keep it in my safe. I'm not gonna call the cops today, but if I EVER catch you trying to pinch something in my store, I will turn it over to the cops. Are we clear?"

 

Meanwhile Kiki was doing a search in the store's inventory database. "Okay, here we have it! De Humani Corporis Fabrica, second printing. And it's-" She made a face. "Bound in human skin; delightful. We're selling it for...wow." The dancer's eyes went wide.

 

Intrigued, Gretchen stopped working on the register and leaned over to see for herself. "What, how much? A hundred and fifty thousand?!"

 

"Shhh!" Kiki slapped her arm before lowering her voice. "Yes, that's the price we have listed for the item."

Edited by Heritage

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GM

 

The youth reached into his wallet and pulled out an ID.  It wasn't a state ID.  He might not have even owned one at his age.  Freedom City had plenty of alternate transportation for those not wanting to drive to boot.  It was, however, a recreation id for a local parks and rec service.  Similar to a YMCA identification which meant at least the illusion of a vetting process must have gone through when getting membership.

 

Giving Lynn a number to call if the need ever arose in the future.  "Yes, Ma'am."  The youth nodded enthusiastically at the exchange.  His face showed genuine sorrow.  But, he could've been a talented enough liar to simply appear as if he were playing the part.

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Erick pulled out his debit card without question.  "Would a check be better?  All things considered."  His eyes moving towards the ruined register as he stated this.  The price sounded as if there was an extra zero to him.  Most examples of anthropodermic bibliopegy had a five digit price tag.  But having period style pigskin, or in this case human skin, being in prime condition and having the original leaf overlays could account for the price.

 

"This is why buying the modern reprintings is always better Lainey."  Erick joked to his friend.

 

"One of the most important works in the history of medicine.  Your car collection cost more than this.  I don't think you have the upper ground on frugal spending Rick.  Especially, when you'll make it back in investments."  Alaina rebutted with a tongue sticking out.

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The shopkeeper took the ID and peered at it. "'Will Freeman', eh? Well that seems oddly appropriate!" Lynn fished out her keys and unlocked the office door. "Hey, whaddya know? You got the door open!" She motioned for the young man to enter, then followed close behind.

 

The office was not too large, only nine by fifteen, with a pressed tin ceiling and no windows. All four walls were lined with dark wooden bookshelves, though a massive old desk and leather swivel chair were the most notable features. Ventilation was provided by a ceiling fan and an open transom over the door. The shelves were crowded not just with books, but all manner of chotchkies and bric-a-brac Lynn had picked up in her odd career: globes, vintage magic tricks, action figures, movie memorabilia. Behind and over the desk were a pair of unusual firearms, a revolver and a rifle, mounted and framed.

 

She indicated Will should sit in one of two leather guest chairs as she placed the ID on the glass of a small desktop copier/scanner next to her computer and a green-shaded banker's lamp. "This'll just take a sec; help yourself to the candy bowl."

 

- - - -

 

Back on the sales floor, Kiki gratefully accepted Erick's card. "It's no problem, I can just type the number in; I'm pretty fast." Resting the card on the flatscreen monitor, she quickly began to enter the card number and expiration date.

 

Just then Gretchen, who up to this point had been offering a super-fake smile, was struck by a thought, which prompted her to sidle up to the assistant manager and mumble, "Dude, you just made fifteen grand."

 

"What?"

 

"You just made fifteen thousand dollars; ten percent on every sale over twenty bucks."

 

Somehow this hadn't hit Kiki until now, and her face took on an odd expression, half embarrassed, half thrilled; it took her the briefest moment to compose herself. "Would...you like that item gift-wrapped, Mr. Sloane?"

Edited by Heritage

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"No need.  A smile on that beautiful face is all the extra service we'd need before going."  Erick replied patiently waiting for someone to retrieve the book.  In the background Alaina was busy miming a finger gun to her head.  Of course she knew he was aware of the motions going on behind him, yet didn't show any hesitation in doing so.   At this point they were the only two patrons, not counting the would be thief, left inside the store so a bit of candor seemed necessary.

 

"Remember to file a police report.  We don't like to let anyone push around small businesses, so if your boss changes her mind about getting investors our number is listed."  Alaina responded ever the saleswoman, dragging Erick away from the counter by the back of her shirt.  

 

"Whoa there Lainey, you'd half think we were here for me not you at this rate."  Erick managed to crack the joke before easing his way free from her shirt grip effortlessly. 

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GM

 

The boy did not seem amused by Lynn's joke.  Walking into the office warily he did begin to look around.  Slinking into a chair and reaching for the candy bowl and waiting for Lynn to do her thing.  He didn't seem to be scanning the room as he sat there.  Instead staring solely at the door.  Seemingly resigned to keep to the agreement.

 

Frankly, the boy still looked as if he could just as easily make a run or it.  Of course that would have meant leaving his captor with a picture id to locate him.  So it wasn't the smart option.  But, no one ever said youths were smart.  Despite his flighty appearance, he just stayed quietly in the chair.  Not saying another word. 

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