Lewis jerked back like a puppet on a string. “No! Please! I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

“Start singing. What do you know about the book?” I’d known from the first that he had a little bit of a songbird in him, but hadn’t been expecting Handel’s Messiah.

“He came by here the other day, looking to pawn it. Said it’d be worth a lot of scratch to the right buyer.” Lewis stared straight ahead as he talked, like a deer in the headlights of a ’32 Cadillac. The truth always was a little blinding for his type, though the fact that he was staring down the headlight of my .32 Winchester probably helped.

“And what’d you say?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. A rube like him was happy enough to buy a heater fresh from intensive recruitment for the local undertaking parlors, but didn’t have any use for a book aside from a doorstop. Lewis would’ve torn up a Gutenberg Bible to pack the pages around a 4-cylinder that leaked more than his roof.

“I told him to hit the bricks,” Lewis said. “No money in books.” Clearly, he’d never seen the hollowed-out Tolstoy in my office full of liquor futures.

“Where was he going after you told him to get on the trolley?”

“No idea.” Lewis glanced nervously at the shooting iron in my mitt like it was going to jump on the counter and do a dance. “A…are you a detective?”

I put my hat back on and pulled my collar up. “I’m a librarian,” I said. “And Mr. Salvatori’s book is very overdue.”