I opened the door and stepped in. I waited a moment while my eyes adjusted to the light or lack of light. The store is a cliché of the old, dark, dusty bookstores that you read about in a novel. Bookshelves line the walls and aisles. Thompson’s is small so it doesn’t hold a large inventory, but the books are rare and expensive. Mostly first editions or books that are out of print. I love coming in and looking around, but I seldom buy anything because most of the books are out of my price range.
If the store, itself, is an old cliché, then Daniel Thompson fits right in. He is a grumpy old man. He hates parting with his books and has even refused to sell to certain people. It is a good thing he has enough personal money that the store is just a hobby for him. Daniel works every day, Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. He refuses to open on Saturdays and has no employees. He has had several offers for the space but will not sell. I think he just needs something to do, some reason to get out of bed each day.
Daniel and I have an odd relationship. He really doesn’t like anyone, but he tolerates me. We have an understanding. I can browse his books, even read some of them in the store as long as I don’t talk to him. Which, of course, I take as a challenge. I love the old man. His bad temper doesn’t faze me, and I enjoy getting him to open up.
A few months after I opened Scents and Sensibility, I discovered Daniel’s secret vice. One day I had come in the bookstore to look around and found Daniel behind the counter savoring a pastry. It was a cream cheese empanada sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. He absolutely loves them. His wife had just passed away, and the one I saw him eating was one of the last she had made. It took me a couple of months to get that out of him, but once I did, I made a vow to myself to bring him some at least once a month. Daniel won’t shop in any of the stores so he never goes into Nora’s Bakery, but I do.
“What do you want?” Daniel asked me now. I smiled slightly at his gruff tone and headed over to him. As usual, he was sitting behind the counter with a book in front of him.
“Hello, Daniel. How are you?” I asked him.
“Fine, fine,” he replied looking at the bag in my hand. I didn’t say anything, just sat the bag on the counter and looked around. It didn’t take long. I heard the rustle of the bag as he opened it. I walked to the nearest shelf and scanned the books hiding my smile. When I turned back to him, half of the empanada was already gone, and Daniel had a contented look on his face.
“I heard the police showed you a picture of a man who fit the description of the one who was arguing with Isabel,” I said nonchalantly as I walked to another shelf and pulled down a book.
“Wasn’t him,” he answered around a mouthful of pastry.
I carefully put the book back and looked at Daniel. “The man in the picture wasn’t the man you saw?”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Of course, I’m sure! I’m not blind. That man, that Peter Simms, he wasn’t the one I saw with Isabel.”
“They didn’t show you any other pictures or ask you about anyone else?”
“Nope,” he replied as he stuffed the last of the pastry in his mouth. “You gonna buy anything?”
“Nope,” I replied with a grin. “Have a good day, Daniel.”
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