3:53 AM January 1, 1931


He had tried to steal a book.

Charles Bruce of New York City had heard of some of my books. He had dipped into dark places and conversed with creatures best left unmentioned, and he had come away with a desire for books, not his.

I don’t think whoever he spoke with cared for the conversation. Or for Charles, for that matter. If they had, they wouldn’t have sent him towards me.

I had finished the rough shelving for the expansion of the hidden library, and I was sitting in the chair, enjoying a bit of brandy and the warmth of the fire. There was no need for a lamp. The ghosts hadn’t found their way down to the library yet, and even if they had, none of them were a match for me.

It was well after midnight when I heard the whisper of a shoe on the stairs and then caught sight of Charles in the dim light thrown by the dying fire. The look of avarice on his face was unmistakable, and his hands trembled with excitement as he peered at the shelves. Several times, he reached out, then snatched his hand back. He shook his head and focused on the titles, refusing to touch the bindings. Not from a fear of the books themselves but of his desire to own them.

He was so intent upon the books, so focused, that he never saw me sitting in the chair. He never heard the knife glide out of the scabbard.

Charles came to a stop a short distance away, his back to me as he leaned forward to read the titles. I heard him inhale sharply and saw his body stiffen.

He’d found a book he was interested in.

I waited to see what he would do next, to see what, in turn, I would have to do next.

He reached for the bookshelf, paused, and then took hold of one of the volumes. He eased it down with a lover’s care and opened the book.

It was then the book whispered, and Charles turned around, snapping the book closed and staring at me in surprise.

The surprise transformed into shock as I drove my Bowie knife deep into his belly. He tried to pull away, but I took hold of his shirt and pulled him closer.

“Why?” he whispered.

“I was about to ask you the same,” I answered, and I twisted the knife.

He shouldn’t have touched my books.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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