THE BOOKWORM / By Monika Molloholli

THE BOOKWORM
 
 
By Monika Molloholli
 
 
It was raining on and off all that afternoon and as she had nothing much to do Daisy wandered into the low-price bookshop in the arcade.
She loved looking at books and often found some wonderful bargains there. Daisy preferred non-fiction books, travel, plays but also liked to discover an author of detective stories she had never heard of before.
Soon Daisy had a huge pile of books she wanted to buy and tried to calculate how much they would all cost.
“That’s nearly four pounds for the medical book, plus three for the American book on Sociology, two cookery books at 99p each, two pounds ninety for the travel book on South America and seven for an encyclopedia of world criminals with photos of them. “If I buy this book on natural cures as well, I’ll be spending just under twenty-three pounds”.
Daisy counted what she had in her purse.
She never used her credit card to buy clothes or books as she was afraid she wouldn’t have enough for emergencies.
Luckily Daisy found that she had more than forty pounds with her.
By now she couldn’t carry all these heavy books around the shop and decided to ask the indifferent young man at the pay desk, who was studying his football coupon, if she could leave the books there because she hadn’t finished looking around yet.
“If you like,” replied the indifferent young man without even looking up at Daisy.
Daisy climbed down the spiral staircase to the children’s section and second-hand books but she couldn’t find anything interesting there. She climbed up the stairs again and proceeded to the back of the shop where the section on scientific matters, astrology, esoteric reading and war could be found.
Daisy had to crouch down to see the titles on the bottom shelf.
“Mm, can’t see much here to interest me,” she thought, moving to the left each time she finished reading the titles of that particular section of the bookcase.
The inlaid carpeting was pretty old and very dusty.
Probably no one ever cleaned the shop. Daisy hated to see bookshops which were not cared for. So many bookshops had gone this way and shut down never to be reopened again.
At the end of the bookcase were the big illustrated war books with famous faces on them.
“Oh, that might be interesting,” Daisy said to herself seeing a book written by an ex-SAS soldier.
Daisy spied a fold-up chair in the corner, opened it up and sat down on it to look at the book.
As she read through descriptions of desperate journeys in pitiful conditions, Daisy suddenly became aware of muffled voices.
She looked around but there was nobody near her in the shop so she went back to her reading.
Now she heard a woman shouting and a man replying in an aggressive tone.
“Somebody’s got their television turned up rather high next door,” she thought.
Then there was silence.
And then again the man’s voice bellowed out ugly sounds, but still Daisy wasn’t able to distinguish the words.
Daisy’s intuition popped up again.
“That isn’t the television at all. That’s something that’s really happening. If only I could hear what they’re saying!
“Could it be there’s a grille here in the wall hidden by the wallpaper?”
Daisy realised that the sounds were coming from behind her legs and climbed down onto her knees.
“I’ll try to pull that wallpaper away from the wall,” she said to herself.
She pulled at the edge of the wallpaper where it met the floor and the horrible inlaid carpeting.
It came unstuck easily and there it was – an air passage grille.
Now Daisy could hear exactly what they were saying.
“Let me go, let me go!” a woman’s voice shrieked.
“Give me all the money and your rings and no more shouting, otherwise I’ll slit your throat,” threatened the rough voice.
“It must be that antique shop next door,” thought Daisy. “A woman is being attacked and robbed by some thug.”
Daisy realised she had no time to lose and although she felt frightened she knew she couldn’t leave the woman to her fate.
She rushed towards the youth still working out his X, 1 or 2’s and shouted, “Call the police immediately because they are robbing next door.”
The young man simply stared at Daisy, so she pushed him to get at the phone and called them herself.
“This is Daisy Hamilton speaking. I’m at the Find All Bookshop in the arcade in the High Street.
“There is a robbery taking place in the antiques shop next door.
“I’m going in there now. Please hurry.”
Then Daisy turned to the young man, “Have you got anything on antiques?” Still speechless the youth pointed over to the right.
Daisy seized an illustrated book on nineteenth century antiques and rushed out of the shop.
Daisy walked into the shop next door as calmly as possible, apparently with her head in her antiques book.
Nobody was there but she heard muffled movements which came from an inner room and called out, “Excuse me, anyone there?”
A pale elderly women came through the door with a thuggish-looking young man close behind her.
The lady’s voice trembled and said,”Good afternoon, can I help you?”
Daisy pretended not to have even seen the man and improvised,
“I’ve been reading this book and I saw just the right sort of writing desk I’ve been looking for.
“Have you got something like this? I think it’s Georgian.”
Daisy showed the lady a picture not of a writing desk but of a chair, and held it in a way so that the man couldn’t see it.
The lady was bewildered to see the photo of a chair instead of a writing desk.
The man had his hand in his pocket as though holding a weapon but made an effort to appear casual and sat down. As he did this, Daisy winked at the shop-owner who replied, “No, I’m sorry, I haven’t got anything in this style.”
Daisy insisted, “If something comes your way could you let me know?
“I’ll write down my address and telephone number.”
Daisy wrote: “Please don’t be frightened. The police are on their way. I won’t leave you alone.”
The lady read the message and looked up at Daisy in a knowing way.
“But I’ve got something else which might suit your purpose.
“Would you like to see it? It’s there, in the shop window.”
In this way the two women got nearer to the shop entrance.
The thug was still sitting in the chair with his hand in his pocket, but studying both of them intensely.
The fingers on his right hand were twitching nervously.
Daisy then noticed there was a massive wardrobe parked in the middle of the shop and awaited the right moment.
The shop-keeper continued the conversation about antique furniture and Daisy pretended to be interested in what she said.
Suddenly two policemen burst into the shop and Daisy pulled the shop-owner with her behind the wardrobe.
She peeped round the left side of it to see what was happening.
The thug jumped up and threatened the police with a nasty-looking knife.
Everybody stood completely still for a few seconds, then Daisy threw the antiques book towards a stool, six feet to the right of the thief. He was momentarily distracted and looked to where the noise had come from, which gave the two policemen the opportunity to leap on him.
One policeman knocked the knife from the man’s hand and the other handcuffed him immediately.
It was all over in a couple of minutes.
Daisy picked up the antiques book and suggested having a hot cup of tea in the baker’s a few doors down the arcade.
The two women sat down still shaking a little from their experiences.
The elderly lady shook Daisy’s hand warmly.
“Thank you, thank you my dear young lady. Oh my goodness, I was really terrified. But how did you realise I was in trouble?”
Daisy explained how she had heard her voice next door in the bookshop.
“Let me introduce myself, my dear. My name is Lena Fields. Just call me Lena – and may I know your name please?”
Daisy found Lena a very charming woman.
She had the style of a world which didn’t exist any more, and a distinct accent which showed she had been born far away.
When Daisy told Mrs. Fields she was a private eye they both started giggling. They didn’t know why, but it was good to relieve the tension.
When they had both recovered Daisy grew more serious,
“Lena, I’d like to give you some advice. You have no alarm in your shop. “Don’t you think you should look into the matter and have one fitted?”
“Yes I will, it mustn’t happen again. Nothing had ever happened to me in this country and I felt safe.
“By the way, Daisy, are you really interested in a writing desk or did you make that up on the spur of the moment?”
“Yes, I did,” Daisy smiled.
“If that is the case I would like to see your hands, if I may.”
Mrs. Fields pulled a ruby ring off her finger and slipped it on Daisy’s little finger.
“Do you like it?”
Daisy was astonished. “Of course I do but…”
“No, don’t protest. I have no children and you saved me today from a horrible experience.
“Besides, it looks nice on your hand. That’s the end of the matter.”
Daisy felt quite overcome with the generosity of this lady.
“Well Lena, I don’t know what to say. Thank you very much.
“Anyway I’ll be popping in to see how you are and we can have a pot of tea together.”
Then Daisy remembered she hadn’t returned the antiques book to the bookshop.
The same young man was rearranging books in the computer section of the shop.
He hardly looked up.
“Excuse me, I’ve brought your antiques book back… and what about my books I left here with you?”
“Ah, I thought you weren’t interested in them any more and I put them back!”
Daisy realised that any words on her part were useless with such a person and proceeded to hunt for her books once again.
Suddenly her eye caught sight of the magnificent ring on her finger and she remembered how lucky she was.
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