Arianie had only one thing on her mind as they pulled up behind the abandoned house and that was books; what condition would they be in? Could any be saved? Even good enough to sell?
Her boyfriend, Lex, turned the van’s engine off, satisfied they were hidden from view. Lex and his three friends; Tyler, Evan and Rhys got out and scouted around making sure no one else was about.
Opening the car door to let some cold air in, Arianie listened to the birds chirping, distant traffic and footsteps in the overgrown garden. She looked at the house which from the back looked fine at first glance. Closer though, masses of cobwebs could be seen in the windows, the net curtains were colored by age and dirt, just like the windows and was the back door slightly ajar?
Bored of waiting, Arianie got out, tightened the pony tail she had twisted her dark brown hair into and walked across the long, damp grass in her borrowed safety working boots. Not sure and not caring where the boys had gone, Arianie walked up onto a decking area which was tumbling away from the house.
Someone had smashed a pane of glass in the back door and used it to break in.
Putting on black gloves, from the pocket of an old winter coat that was so last season, Arianie pulled open the door and cringed at the piercing shrike the rusted hinges let out. Her eyes shut as she yanked the door all the way open then she peered inside.
‘Arianie!’ Lex’s voice called.
‘I just want to get it over with!’ she snapped back.
‘You know the rules.’
She muttered something under her breath as Lex joined her on the decking. He nudged his way passed and stepped into the house, shouting, ‘Hello! Anyone here?’
Arianie followed him into a small room that was like a back porch area. There were mud encrusted boots on bristled mats, worn coats on hooks, bits and pieces on the shelves and a stopped clock on the wall. There was also a smell, that was hard to identity but it was a mix of dust, mold, rotting things and wet dog.
Wrinkling her nose and pressing the sleeve of her coat to her face, Arianie walked on and into a kitchen. Ignoring this room, she stepped through an open door and into a hallway.
Lex’s voice was echoing through the rooms and from behind her Arianie could hear the others coming in.
She walked through a dining room, a living room, and a front room, noticing things the men might take. The house was full of stuff and a thick layer of dust and cobwebs covered everything.
As she walked and looked for books, Arianie recalled what Rhys had said about the place. It had belong to a poet, though she had never heard the name before, he had died ten years ago and nobody had come forward for his body or estate. That was why the house was perfect target for them; lots of items to steal.
Lex came downstairs, shouting the coast was clear.
Arianie went into the hall to meet him, feeling like her allergies were starting up though she had double dosed antihistamine.
‘There’s a room upstairs just for you,’ Lex said in a low sexy voice.
Arianie pulled a face but couldn’t hide her building excitement.
Letting Lex take her upstairs and into a back bedroom converted into a study-library, Arianie found her slice of heaven.
There were floor to ceiling bookcases on all the walls which were only broken up by the door and window. Books, untouched for years crowded the shelves. There was a desk by the window, with a high leather chair and in the opposite left corner a matching arm chair that had a small table beside it.
‘Get to work,’ Lex spoke, giving Arianie’s bum a pat as he left.
Any other time she would have told him off for that but words at the moment failed her.
Slowly, walking into the room, Arianie began with the books not on the shelves; those that were on the tables or floor. Strangely, she had always been a big reader but today it was values that drew her more. Her granddad had been a rare book dealer and he had filled her head with knowledge Arianie had always deemed useless. That was until she had met Lex and got in on his ‘second hand business’.
There was never enough time on these kind of jobs, so she hurried through as much as she could. By the open door, Arianie stacked books she thought could be sellable and left others where she dropped them.
From time to time, Lex or one of the others would come and take the books away. Arianie could hear them going through the rooms, opening things and scattering everything. The poet might not have been rich but like everyone else he had things other people would pay for.
Arianie knew she would never make it through all the books in the room. So, once she had figured out if and what the system was in place to order them by, she moved quickly through the subjects.
The poet had liked classics, mythology, legends, history, old fashioned romance and poetry.
Taking down a volume of Shakespeare and seeing it in good condition, Arianie pulled out everything by the playwright and stacked it in the doorway.
‘Shakespeare always sells,’ Arianie muttered, echoing her granddad’s words to her once.
There were other people who sold well too and she was quick to find and pull out those names too.
‘No more now,’ Lex said from the doorway.
Arianie turned to him with books of War poetry in her hands.
‘Shame,’ she replied.
Checking she had all the War poetry books, Arianie quickly scanned the rest of the shelves just in case a hidden gem stuck out. It had a few abandoned places back, when she had found an first edition and signed Peter Rabbit book.
Nothing at first but then next to the desk was a section of books that seemed different. Arianie pulled them out and saw they were the poet’s published works. Maybe, no one would buy them but it was worth a shot. She added them to the pile in her hand then left them balanced on the desk whilst she looked through the draws.
Lex and his friends would never forgive her if something was missed. She might specialize in books but she also had a duty to find anything of value.
The desk was empty, just old letters, papers, stationary that weren’t worthy. Collecting the books, she went downstairs and outside into the cold air. It was growing dark which meant the raid was coming to an end.
Arianie walked to the van and saw the back double doors open. Inside were stacked a few small tables and chairs, a tall lamp, cardboard and plastic boxes which contained more breakable things and all the books she had selected.
A cold blow of air made shivers run up her spine despite the protection of her coat. Arianie walked around and opened the passenger door of the van. She put the books into the foot well then climbed in. She closed the door and was glad that there was a separation between the back seats and the loading section of the van.
Picking up one of the poet’s own books, she sat reading, whilst the men finished the job then shut the van doors. Rhys, Tyler and Evan got into the back seats and Lex climbed into the front. Someone passed the beer cans around and they sat drinking and chilling.
‘What you got there?’ Lex asked Arianie.
‘Just one of the poet’s books,’ she answered and give a small shrug.
‘He any good?’ Rhys laughed from the back.
‘Maybe. We’ll see how much we get for him,’ Arianie responded, ‘can we go now?’
‘Sure,’ Lex said.
He started the van up, gulped down the rest of his beer and threw the can out of the window.
They drove out of the hiding place and back onto the road, mixing in with the traffic as if they were normal people heading for home.