4:50 AM January 1, 1931


He considered himself an artist.

I never got the bookbinder’s name, and I never cared to.

He came to Cross shortly after the war of the rebellion, and he set up shop close to Von Epp’s Books. Several times, I saw him in the bookstore and overheard him inquiring as to damaged books. He was, from what I could gather, seeking to purchase them from either the store or from nearby residents.

He was entirely too keen on gathering them.

Margaret von Epp, who was helping to run the store at the time, asked him why, and he responded that he was a bookbinder by trade and an artist by design. His attempts to flirt with the young woman fell miserably flat, and he left the store with anger on his face.

Later that night, word came to me that Margaret was missing, and I was asked to help search for her.

I remembered the bookbinder’s awkwardness around her and the anger with which he left the bookstore. Rather than go into the woods to seek Margaret out, I went to where the stranger had set up his shop, and I was glad I did.

The tools of his trade were out for anyone to see, but he was not with them. I could hear him arguing with someone, and so, following the sound of his voice, I arrived at a back room.

He was arguing with Margaret von Epp, who was bound to a chair, her dress and undergarments cut away to reveal the bare flesh. She was gagged, her eyes full of fury as she glared at him. In his hand, he held a grease pencil as he squatted down in front of her, debating the merits of her inner thighs and wondering, aloud, which one would serve better as a binding for his collection of love poems.

His musings stopped when I put the barrel of a Colt against the base of his neck and cocked the hammer. In silence, he freed Margaret, who got to her feet.

“The book’s on the table,” she told me, her voice low with rage. “Can you bind it?”

“Aye,” I answered.

She nodded, and modesty be damned, she left the house.

The bookbinder didn’t.

I bound the book in his skin and gave it to her as a gift.

The book sits now on a shelf reserved for those bound in human skin, a pleasant reminder of Margaret von Epp.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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