The Accused: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff

In a quiet, peaceful town, a respected professor at the small liberal arts college walks into class one morning and is accused of murder.

Dr. Michael Kurelek has a blemish on his past.

It’s dark.

No one knows what it is.

He’s not telling.

In The Shine from a Girl in the Lake, book 6 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, Dr. Kurelek has escaped to a small college in the Texas Hill Country town.

He’s a professor of psychology.

He’s also has a private practice.

It’s a quiet town.

It’s a peaceful town.

It’s a perfect retreat for him.

Then one of his patients dies.

Is it suicide?

Or murder?

Richard Schwindt

Once in the office, I could tell right away that Shadia was upset. No banter or inane, or insightful remarks. Just her sitting very still behind the desk, eyes searching mine. Princess was nowhere in sight, probably banished to the garden.

She was not alone. A bespectacled man, fiftyish, in an old suit, stood beside her.

I came close to saying “Who died?” but my therapist skills saved me at the last minute. Best to be tentative; let someone tell me what was going on. It took a moment, but the man finally spoke.

“Dr. Kurelek?”

“Yes. And you are?”

He stepped forward and extended a hand. “I’m an investigator with the police. My name is Reece Sovern.”

I shook his hand, and asked the obvious question. “What brings you here?” I looked down at Shadia, who glanced away. “Why is my class canceled?”

“You don’t know?”

“No idea. Has something happened?”

He glanced down at his notepad. Then cleared his throat. “This morning, at approximately 7 am, Judge Peacock decided to cast for bass from the dock by his bait shop on the reservoir.” He looked up at me for some reason. I was listening.

“After taking a few casts, he was briefly blinded by a sudden glint below the dock. Looking again to that spot, he saw what appeared to be a mass in the water. On closer scrutiny, he saw it was a body in the lake. Putting down his fishing rod, he jumped off the dock and dragged the body to shore, determined that it was deceased, and called the police.”

“My God, that’s awful. Is he okay? Does he want to see me?”

Shadia glanced away again. Then looked back at me. “Michael. You need to keep listening to Mr. Sovern.”

On cue, he spoke: “Dr. Kurelek. Can you describe your movements last night and this morning?”

My adrenal system jumped into action. This was out of a television mystery, but I was present, with two sets of eyes boring a hole in mine. I detected a quaver in Shadia, but the detective was cold as ice.

I took a breath. “I think I need to know what is going on.”

“Can you start by telling me your movements?”

All kinds of emotions were triggered now; I had to stay calm and willed myself to do so. I had been investigated before. “Okay, fine. I did sessions here at the college until just after nine, then drove across town to O’Gara’s for drinks.”

“And after that?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Why not?”

“I was too drunk. Someone may have driven me home.”

Shadia looked wounded, wondering why her clinical psychologist was blackout drunk on a Monday night.

“You don’t really know exactly what you did last night, do you?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Do you know a Marianne Blye?”

I was immediately struck by a wave of nausea. I glanced for a chair, found one, and sat, saying nothing. I didn’t know what to say. Therapists don’t just blurt out their patient’s name.

The cat jumped on my lap. I guess she was still in here after all. I choked down a sob. The saddest indicator of alcohol poisoning has to be pathos of remorse and tears waiting to escape. I thought about Marianne.

“We know from your datebook that you saw Ms. Blye last night.”

“Valerie gave you my datebook! That’s confidential.” I felt stupid as soon as the words emerged. Violation of patient confidentiality is a disaster for therapists, but this was worse. “Marianne wasn’t suicidal when she left. She denied any thoughts of self-harm, and she had disclosed something personal and important. I agreed to see her later this week. I thought she wanted to talk more.”

“When was that supposed to be?”

“Thursday at eight. It’s in the datebook too.”

“I saw that.”

Then why the hell did you ask?

“Another evening session.”

“It was all I had available.” The cat had settled in my lap and, failing to read the room, started to purr. I found myself unconsciously stroking its fur.

“You’re saying it might be something other than suicide, Dr. Kurelek?”

I looked up sharply. “I don’t know what happened. You mean it isn’t suicide?”

He paused and looked through his spectacles at me. Then he turned towards Shadia, as if requiring her permission, and said, “He needs to come to the station.” He then turned back to me: “I have more questions to ask. I want to know about that personal matter she discussed with you.”

Shadia found her voice. “Go Michael. I think it may be prudent for Valerie to cancel your appointments for the rest of the day.”

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