Amazingly, we have gotten the stolen "Men Without Women" first edition back, slightly damaged, but with a $100 tucked in the book to pay for the damage. I'm still reeling from the chain of events of the last two days.
Here is what happened;
Friday, Gloria and Lisa both had the idea that we should look on Ebay to see if anyone might be trying to sell the stolen first edition of "Men Withought Women" by Ernest Hemingway that I mention was stolen on Iliad Bookshop's opening day. Sure enough, there was a copy up at a starting bid of $1,499 with a description that almost matched our ABE (advanced book exchange) description where we had the book for sale. Only a few small words were changed. When we looked closely at the picture that accompanied the auction, we realized it was the same picture we used at ABE only cropped and brightened up, probably in Photoshop. After checking the seller (who was located in Texas), I remembered that one of the men who spent time in the rare book section where the Hemingway was located, mentioned he was from out of town and would be leaving in a day or two.
We decided to file a police report and then contact Ebay. We should have already filed a report, but that's another story. Dan was all for contacting the person on Ebay directly with a basic statement that we know the book was stolen from our store, we have a witness (which wasn't really true) and that if he didn't return the book, we'd contact the FBI. Dan also worded it so that if the book was returned there'd be no questions asked.
Both Lisa and I thought this was tipping our hand too soon, but Dan had had experiences with the police before and was not confident that they'd do anything. Lisa sent the carefully worded statement to the person on Ebay and I wrote out a statement for Dan to take to the police tomorrow.
At around 9pm this evening Dan called us at home to tell us that he had the Hemingway back in his possession. He told us that someone had called the bookstore and told him to go out to the postal box on the side of our building and look inside. The person apparently hung up before Dan could say anything else. Dan went outside and, incredibly, the "Men Without Women" copy was inside, along with a $100 bill and a short note indicating the money was to cover the cost of the damage to the dust jacket (there was a small tear on the rear cover that wasn't there before).
When Dan called us, we immediately checked the Ebay auction and it was still up for sale. However, I've just paused in writing..(there it was)...and the auction has been removed. Isn't this the strangest turn of events? Apparently, there must have been two people; one was the person with the book here in Los Angeles, and another with the Ebay auction in Texas. The Los Angeles person must have had a change of heart when he was contacted by the Texas person and decided to return the book. Ebay may have contacted him at the same time our email arrived. Dan was right: the best approach was a direct one.
I had suspected that the theft was one of opportunity. The "my God, no one is looking, I could steel this book" kind of thing that could tempt just about anyone. This person just succumbed to the temptation. They must have been carrying a load of guilt to return the book so soon after our contacting him. It's also possible that the threat implied in Dan's email may have simply scared him. I'm voting for the first explanation, since the person left a $100 bill in the book as well as returning it. All I can say is, "Thank you for returning the book. You did the right thing!"
So, now our store opening was a complete success and, incredible as it seems, we had a $4,000 book returned by the person who stole it.
Yay! Oh, Frabjus Day!