The smell of coffee, strong and sweet, flowed into the room overpowering the musty scent of the aged books La Ponte held in his book shop.
The shelves were packed with second-hand editions, some novels, some manuscripts, some first editions and some worthless fifth editions, but all held a historic sense and a deep knowledge lost throughout ages. The main thing they had in common though, was that they had been previously read and re-read until the spines had weakened considerably, or the paper had creased under fingers but
now lay dormant, relatively untouched and especially unread, waiting for that special someone to walk into their lives through the capable hunting hands of Lucas Corso.
La Ponte, in his usual scruffiness, was wearing a navy wool jumper and torn khaki shorts, waiting impatiently for his morning coffee. He would have made it himself, but Corso insisted on doing the deed, stalling La Ponte so he would not ask why the book hunter had made such a random surprise visit.
The bookseller stared hard at nothing in particular, but if you were looking at him you would have noticed his eyes seemed to be fixed upon a first edition print of 'The Horse and His Boy', which is, of course, a famed fantasy story by C.S.Lewis, in his 'Chronicles of Narnia'. The book had rested on the shelf for two years at least, as nobody had much of an interest in fantasy novels at the present time, which La Ponte did not understand, as he thought nothing better that being lost in a world of faeries, dwarves and talking lions and the like. But really, sticking to the point, he wasn't looking at anything, he was tapping his fingers on his counter wondering why his 'dear friend' had dropped by and when he
would be getting his coffee.
"Corso, you nearly finished?" Shouted the seller.
Corso furrowed his brow in the back room, which was little more than a shoe box with a kettle, two cups, a sink and a silver spoon contained in it, and of course the jar of coffee, which Corso detested, opting for the tastier choice of freshly ground rather than instant. He hated being rushed, so deliberately took his time, in making the coffee and answering.
"Like the drinking of a fine wine, or the reading - or indeed writing - of a best-selling novel, or other things that come to mind..." He paused and wondered what the other things could be. "Making coffee, should take a long time in order to appreciate the final result."
This phrase sounded a lot better in his head, but coming out of his mouth, he felt as though it was a stupid comment that merely emphasised that he did not have even the smallest clue of what he was talking about.
"That is to say, if this was freshly ground coffee, it would be worth the wait, but instant, to me, in my opinion I mean, isn't even worth making." Corso added. He was suited with the way he had continued his speech, as it seemed to add an air of superiority to him, which La Ponte did not see.
"Well we can't all be making big bucks like you." Said the voice in the other room.
"Exactly, but you are earning more than me my friend, much more in fact." It was true, Corso wasn't getting paid gross amounts for his hard book searching and wasn't known much in the big book dealers ears, therefore his pockets were never heavy.
He finished stirring the milk into the cups and entered the shop floor, setting down the cup in front of his friend.
"But that is no excuse for drinking poor coffee." Corso gave a half smile and pulled a chair to the desk.
Corso was a regular fixation in the book shop, like the old engravings on the outer wall, he was always and would always be there. He would pop in at all times of the day, either for a book search, a good read, to direct customers to recommendations or to just have a general talk to his friend
before the bar opened.
This still didn't mask the fact La Ponte was always surprised to see him, but Corso always seemed to have something sinister to talk about, or he always wanted something, like a miserable seagull.
His first visit was early in the morning when he would saunter through the door like a school boy, clutching a cup of coffee with stars in his eyes.
Corso got his caffeine boost from a quaint cafe two blocks away a french man owned. He loved the coffee there, but loved the company especially, as the owner's daughter was the current object of affection.
She was young, too young. He was in his late thirties and she was in her early twenties, so it was a big difference, but mentally her age matched his, or his matched hers. She had pale skin, but not too pale, she had a glow. Her eyes were large and green and her hair silky and blonde down to the small of her back and she always wore it down, letting each wave catch the light. She was around 5'8", with pouty red lips and immensely intelligent. She read whatever she lay her hands on, painted, loved culture and her singing voice was amazing. Corso had piles of her poems which were deep enough to drown in. Just about anything you could be good at, she was, but she kept her talents hidden.
He especially liked the fact her father liked him so much, but thought his daughter deserved better, which made her untouchable therefore increasing the thrill of the chase. Despite this, she would come into the book shop and buy whatever she could afford, often getting reductions from Corso, which La Ponte did not like as it was 'taking the clothes off his back'. Yet despite all of this it didn't stop the casual conversation and flirtatious glances the two shared.
He had decided to make coffee this morning in the book store for two reasons: 1, he never brought La Ponte a cup in the morning and 2, he wanted something.
But all of this didn't matter, as there was a more pressing issue at hand. He snapped out of his daydream and looked at his friend, who had his eyes wide open waiting for the important business.
After a few minutes of silence, Corso muttered "I've got a problem." La Ponte rolled his eyes and motioned for Corso to continue. "A couple of days ago..." He clenched his hands into fists before biting a loose nail on his thumb.
"Yes..." La Ponte had dipped his head as if straining to hear a reply from his friend and urged him to go on, he hated waiting.
"A couple of days ago." He put his hands back into his lap and, again, clenched them into fists. "A couple of days ago I went into my house and the door had been left open."
"You're always forgetful." La Ponte offered, hoping this wouldn't be another paranoid fantasy. Just last week Corso had convinced himself someone was trying to kill him and a while before he told La Ponte the story of how the window kept opening itself and the doors on his cupboards would fly across the room.
"That's just the thing I could distinctly remember locking it, I know I did because I dropped my keys as I was doing it." He widened his eyes to emphasise the shocking news, which made the book seller stifle a laugh. "Anyway..." He continued through gritted teeth. "I thought the cat must have jumped up on the handle again, or something like that."
"There you go. It probably was him." Rationalised La Ponte again.
"Let me finish, please?" He furrowed his brow. "It wasn't Sid, I know this because he's gone missing! Not that I really care, but he was a good cat." He quickly tried to make himself look tougher.
"You never mentioned it." Said La Ponte.
"I didn't want you to make a big deal out of it." Answered Corso. "But everything was neat and tidy, nothing had moved. But then, I went to my bookshelf and the pile of poems Ella had given me, and a first edition Sherlock Holmes." He fidgeted around in his seat and took a gulp of coffee. His voice dropped as he continued, into a sincere whisper. "Then the freakiest thing happened, just yesterday, I was in the shower and I heard this big clash, like a plane crash. So, I threw on my robe and ran out and there, on the floor, was the bookshelf, everything tipped off, but the door remained locked!"
"That's all?" Asked La Ponte, wondering if he could try to make a scientific explanation for it all.
"No." Said Corso, deadpan. "That's not all. It would have been, but I heard someone walking around in my bedroom. I ran in, but nobody was there. It was almost like, it was a ghost."
"There's no such thing as ghosts." Smiled La Ponte, lying. He was a firm believer in ghosts as many unexplainable things had happened in his house and in his shop, even when Corso was standing there, but he liked to appear cool and calm in all situations.
"But the air was tight and ice cold!" Reasoned Corso. This wasn't like his normal ways, but he liked to surprise people.
And boy was he in for a surprise.