The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr)

Read The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr) for Free Online

Book: Read The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr) for Free Online
Authors: Lawrence Block
my store? You can find any book in ten minutes without leaving your desk. If it’s an eBook, you can buy it for pocket change and get it delivered electronically in minutes. If it’s long out of print, you don’t have to rummage through a dozen antiquarian bookshops, as if there were that many of us left in the business. You just go on line, and you do a title search at abebooks.com, and next thing you know there’s a guy in Moline, Illinois, with an ex-library copy you can buy for a buck ninety-eight plus postage.”
    “Can he make money that way?”
    “Who, the guy in Moline? I suppose so, if he does enough volume. He’s probably working out of his house, so he hasn’t got any rent to pay.”
    “Neither do you, Bern.”
    Not since a venture to the other side of the law had enabled me to buy the building. “I don’t,” I agreed, “and it’s a good thing, because if I had to pay rent my receipts these days wouldn’t cover it. I can’t sell books anymore, and I can’t buy them, either. A good customer of mine died recently.”
    “I’m sorry to hear that, Bern.”
    “A nice fellow, a retired Classics professor at NYU. He’d been dropping by for years, and even when he couldn’t find anything to buy we’d have a nice chat. You know, the kind of conversation you can have in an old-fashioned bookshop. And then I didn’t see him for a while, and one afternoon his wife called to tell me he’d passed away.”
    “That’s a shame.”
    “Well, evidently he’d been quite ill for some time, and when the end finally came it was a mercy. But she was calling because he’d told her that I was the person to turn to when the time came to sell his books. He’d assured her that I was a decent and knowledgeable dealer who’d give her a fair price.”
    “That must have made you feel good.”
    “It did, and the prospect of acquiring the man’s library was appealing. He’d bought a lot of good books from me, and I could imagine what he’d acquired from other sources over all those years. My store stock’s pretty thin these days, and you can’t sell what you haven’t got, so I was looking forward to adding his books to my shelves.”
    “What happened?”
    “I made an appointment,” I said, “and I showed up with a blank check in my wallet, and she was all apologies. Her grandson had come up with the brilliant idea of selling grandpa’s books individually on eBay. He’d list all the titles, and she could help him pack the books to ship to the successful bidders, and he’d schlep them to the post office. And they’d split the money.”
    “And she thought this was a good idea?”
    “I asked if I could see the books,” I said, “and she could hardly say no, and the library was what I’d hoped it would be. I told her it wouldn’t take me more than two hours to come up with a number, and that if she accepted my offer I’d write out a check on the spot and remove all of the books from the premises within a matter of days. And I pointed out that, while her grandson’s enterprise was admirable, it would take months if not years to sell the books online, with many of them remaining unsold forever.”
    “And the shipping costs, Bern. And the bookkeeping, and the aggravation of customers returning books, and—”
    “And all the rest of it. I told her all that.”
    “And she didn’t believe you?”
    “Oh, she believed me. But how could she change her mind now and disappoint her grandson?”
    “Oh.”
    “And what did she care about money, anyway? How important was it, compared to the pleasure of having her grandson come over every day after school?”
    “The two of them working side by side, slipping books into padded mailers.”
    “And attaching the wrong labels, so that they could have even more fun sorting it all out when the customers complained.”
    She frowned. “Bern, this grandson’s a high school kid?”
    “I think she said he was a junior at Stuyvesant.”
    “How long do you figure

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