“A burglar? Of a sort,” the man whispered. His voice was as worn as Marinas, but rougher. “My name is Martin. I’m here to kill you and eat your books.”
“My books?” she asked. “You’re going to eat my books?” At that, she stepped forward, flicked on the lights, and took a good look at the man, in case she should need to describe him to the police.
He was tall and spare; both his cheeks were scarred and hollow, as if his babyfat had been cut away with a dull knife and patched back together with a soldering iron directly onto live flesh. His fingers were like divining rods, long, wide-spread, and jerking toward the floor at odd moments, making the light flash (laboriously) from the rusty chef’s knife as he talked.
“I am a book-eater,” he said. “I steal into houses and kill the owners; then I take the books I want and steal them away to eat them. Of note: they must be rare books. Forgotten books. Because when I eat a book, it stays eaten, unless it is a common book. I have been passionately fascinated with Pride and Prejudice, but its taste is hollow, overstretched.
“A certain book dealer tells me which houses I want…he often has the pick of everything I’m forced to leave behind.”
“Samson,” Marina lisped under her breath.
The man nodded.
But a plan had already formed in her mind. “Follow me,” she said, and led him toward the guest room, and the Chandler.