“When a disturbed loner blackmails a bookish young librarian, their relationship devolves into a dangerous partnership, as he exacts vengeance on the community that shunned him.”
Contains Extreme Violence and Adult Themes. Not advisable reading for under 18s.
Heathstead-on-sea, England 1973
Seated at his desk deep in the recesses of an archaic library and book store nestled into a leafy-green hillside on the brim of an affluent English town, 34-year-old Rupert Howard was an awkward, unattractive and estranged clerical officer. He had a lifelong passion for reading crime novels and detective stories, but every hour of every day Rupert’s thoughts inevitably returned to his one and only love, a classic English rose called Caelestis. The bookish but sultry 22 year old librarian had lived her entire life in Heathstead where her milky-white skin and delicate features caught the eye of every young man in town.
Using as much gentlemanly grace as he could muster, Rupert pursued the girl endlessly with a view to marrying her and starting a family. Caelestis displayed no interest in him at all. She appeared to find him mildly amusing and occasionally annoying. A young intern, the vibrant and popular teenager Adrielle, was the daughter of the town’s Methodist clergyman. She openly mocked Rupert. In her innocence, he supposed, she never understood just how much he was hurting inside. His determination to marry Caelestis tortured him almost to madness but he kept the heartache at bay by spending hundreds of hours meticulously organizing and cataloguing the library’s ever-expanding collection of Detective stories, Mysteries and Crime novels.
One evening after his brother’s birthday party at the pub he returned to the library having forgotten his Raymond Chandler novel. He noticed a light had been left on in the back office where the director managed the book store from. Rupert chose to investigate and made his way quietly down the hall. The office door had been jimmied open. Inside, Caelestis and Adrielle were going through the safe. He confronted them.
Put down the cash.
Back away from the safe.
Both girls were clearly scared and ashamed. They did as he said. He marched them outside to the public telephone and forced them to call their parents.
We were with Mr. Rupert Howard this evening.
We’ll be home soon.
Had the girls refused to obey him he made sure they understood he would have gone directly to the police. He told them he’d go back upstairs and straighten things up. They were to confess their crime to no one. Alone in the director’s office, Rupert took a moment to mull things over. At last the universe had thrown him and Caelestis together. But why? He knew why. Her crime had to be a catalyst for the unleashing of a project he’d fantasized about for years. Payback, proper payback, would finally take place. He took the cash and stashed it downstairs in a space where it would be safe until the appropriate moment arrived and he could retrieve it.
Back in the office he called the police and waited for them. Two detectives arrived and the words flowed from his lips as smoothly as a dollop of treacle. He was picking up his book when a young man leaving the building noticed him pulling into the carpark and fled. He couldn’t be certain of recognizing him if he saw him again, but he had noticed the young man was unkempt and couldn’t have been more than 21 in a dark brown overcoat. The youth had a slight limp which became exaggerated when he ran. It’s a description Rupert had read about in the local papers, in connection with a spate of burglaries throughout the town—hot gossip in a conservative community like Heathstead-on-sea. The police thanked him and asked him to come to the station in the morning.
The following day, all library staff were questioned and cleared. In the evening the town held a church ceremony honoring a group of citizens for a lifetime of service to the local community. Caelestis and Adrielle were in the audience alongside their families. Rupert noticed the two girl being unusually passive, but at one point they exchanged a glance that said they were very worried indeed. Their fathers were among those being recognized and a scandal would have destroyed them. As the event wound up and the guests filed out, Rupert returned to his car across the street and watched on. That mob of fine upstanding citizens had spent years laughing at him, ignoring him or ridiculing him. He knew what he had to do.
He started by inviting Caelestis to a quiet pub where he questioned her about robbing the library. She bluntly refused to explain her actions, saying only that she needed the money for Adrielle. Rupert laid it out for her. He’d given her an alibi and he could take it away. In that conservative and judgmental English community, he was in a position to ruin both her and Adrielle. The first people he’d contact would be the police, after which he’d pay a visit to both girls’ fathers. Summer holidays were commencing, the library would be closed and he needed a couple of weeks of Caelestis’ time. He had things for Adrielle to do too. Rupert forced Caelestis to contact Adrielle and clarify the position they were in, and what he required from them both.
As he walked her to her car, Caelestis appeared to be in a daze and thinking only of her duty to maintain her family’s image. Rupert knew, aside from her revered father (a war veteran and onetime candidate for mayor) she had her sickly mother to care for and running away wasn’t remotely possible. She had to accept the reality that he was now her keeper.
On a Monday morning in July, Caelestis and Adrielle did as they’d instructed to do. They bid their families farewell having told them they’d be spending a couple of weeks on the continent. As instructed they joined Rupert at an isolated country house in the neighboring county. The two girls spent a day perfecting their disguises and then they got to work. In the town pub, Caelestis stole the purse of a staff member who’d taken an unhealthy chunk of the library’s annual budget to fill the shelves with silly Romances. Rupert had Adrielle shoplifting specifically from an old adversary who’d built up a respectable reputation as a successful store owner. They burgled an apartment owned by a stuffy old friend of Rupert’s mother.
Caelestis proved to be a natural at the crime game and Adrielle appeared to be in complete awe of her. It dawned on Rupert that to maintain their respect he’d have to take a more active role in their ventures, and he did. Their most daring mission took place at a secluded farmhouse where Caelestis relieved a terrified couple of their jewelry as Rupert loomed in the shadows, with carving knife in hand. The target of his revenge was a lady who he never forgot as his first unrequited love. For their troubles, Rupert and Caelestis acquired nothing more than a pair of matching silver wedding rings, but the couple were left traumatized, much to Rupert’s delight. For Adrielle the threat of violence was a step too far and Rupert allowed her to sit that one out.
At the train station, Adrielle almost got herself in trouble picking the pocket of his former greedy landlord. She never had the mettle and Caelestis convinced Rupert to leave her out of it. He couldn’t shape the friendship between the two girls but reveled in his partnership with Caelestis as Adrielle faded into the background. What they’d achieved thus far was small potatoes. He told Caelestis to get ready for some real action. Adrielle’s father was a bit of a pheasant poacher in his youth and still had his rifle. Rupert waited for the moment when he knew her father would be conducting the service in church and stole the weapon, then used it to rob a candy store on the south side of town. Two streets away Caelestis waited for him behind the wheel of their car. In that sleepy corner of England no-one was expecting such a brazen and yet somehow ludicrous hold-up and they got away with nearly two-hundred pounds. With Caelestis by his side, Rupert Howard felt invincible.
They planned and executed two burglaries and a home invasion as he built up towards the two big jobs he’d been aspiring to pull off all along.
Rupert and Caelestis robbed the offices of a hotel where his late father was laid off from work. The community were baffled by the crimewave as no one could predict where the audacious bandits would strike next, but detectives were closing in and Rupert could feel it. With two days before the girls were due back from holiday he told Caelestis the time had arrived for them to pull that one last job and then he’d flee underground. It was a three man job and they’d need Adrielle.
From midnight until 7am, a late night liquor store hosted an illegal cards and strippers night upstairs on every second Friday. Several of the town’s stalwarts of morality were known to attend, much to Rupert’s disgust. At 06:30 the bandits were due to strike but neither Caelestis nor Adrielle showed up. The hell with them–Rupert decided to do it himself. The job went terribly wrong. When one of the strippers recognized him, Rupert coldly gunned her down. A desk clerk and two customers are also killed in the hold-up leaving Rupert shaken up but he made a clean getaway with a score in excess of forty thousand pounds.
Back at the country house, Rupert no sooner walked in the front door than he was hit on the head and everything turned black. When he woke up he was surrounded by officers from the Armed Response unit. After treatment they took him to an interview room. Rupert saw himself as the lead character in one of the Heist Novels he adores. He relished the interview and the opportunity it provided for him to educate detectives from Homicide and Armed Robbery. He freely admitted to committing the hold-ups and even laid out the details of some crimes that were unreported, but all the while he refused to implicate the girls, insisting he did it all alone.
The officers didn’t buy that, but they didn’t have to. Caelestis and Adrielle had been to the police. They claimed to have been left terrified by the crime spree and made full confessions to everything except the original library safe job. Rupert committed that on his own and he convinced them he could frame them for it. After that they did what he said. Both would testify against him in return for leniency. Rupert talked himself into a lengthy prison sentence and was taken away to the Remand Center where he expected to receive a hero’s welcome. At trial, none of the stolen money could be recovered. He was imprisoned for the remainder of his natural life as Caelestis’ family pulled every string imaginable and saw to it that she escaped with a nine month sentence in the Women’s detention center, of which she served five. Adrielle was placed on a good behavior bond. In the courtroom, one of the detectives eyed both girls with intrigue. He wasn’t finished with them by a damn sight.
Five months later Caelestis and Adrielle were re-united. Their family’s reputations would never be the same and the girls were ready to move on. They strolled out of a tiny deserted shack in the forest, having retrieved the loot from the robberies. Over 50 thousand pounds, all up. Behind them was a boy who’d come down from London. About 21 with a definite limp. The artful catburglar was Adrielle’s secret boyfriend but in reality he belonged to Caelestis as did Adrielle. When Caelestis needed money, they stole it for her. When Rupert did his final big job, the three of them were waiting for him to return with the loot. They knocked him out, grabbed the cash and then tipped off the police. The original library job was to finance the three of them and their escape to a wild life in London. Caelestis enjoyed her time with Rupert and went along with his juvenile little acts of revenge but eventually he turned to be way too reckless and frankly a little boring. Hempstead-on-sea was so stuffy and lame. It was the wild life they wanted.
And Caelestis, with her two lovers, got it.