The Honky Tonk Queen: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff

LouEllen learned a long time ago that if you sell fifty cents worth of liquor for seven dollars, you stand a better than average chance of breaking even.

The lovely LouEllen Mueller owns and runs the lounge just outside of Magnolia Bluff with an iron fist.

She’s the queen of the Hill Country Honky Tonks.

Striking.

Classy.

Dangerous.

And probably deadly.

She looks a little like Dolly Parton with her blonde hair piled on top of her head.

And in Eulogy in Black and White, Book 3 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, LouEllen Mueller has a secret.

There’s one problem.

She doesn’t know she has a secret, one that may unlock the mystery surrounding a string of murders that date back for nine years.

*

Caleb Pirtle III

The lounge has two front doors, one fashioned from weathered barn wood and one gilded with gold painted wrought iron. LouEllen knows how to drag in paying customers from both sides of town, both sides of the tracks. I come through the door that, by late on Saturday night, smells like sweat, beer, and cattle dung scraped from the bottom of boots. On the far side, you can find a genuine, first-class, high-dollar, and respectable bar where waiters in white shirts and ties will bring you Martinis, dry or otherwise, fifty-dollar-a-bottle wines, and Long Island Iced Tea. Ladies are always dressed for Sunday church or better, and men wear jackets, Hawaiian shirts, and spit-shined leather shoes. I never go to that side. Don’t like wine. Don’t like cocktails mixed with assorted flavors of ice cream. Don’t like the aroma of perfume that costs more than the wine. Don’t like Champagne music. Don’t like Lawrence Welk.

The country lounge opens promptly at two o’clock in the afternoon in case you want to get a head start on the night. Inside, it’s cool and dark, and the lights have not yet begun glittering like stars on a giant mirrored ball hanging above the dance floor.

Other than the lovely and striking LouEllen Mueller, I’m the only one else around. She’s sitting at a back table, squinting in the dim light, reading through a stack of papers, no doubt her daily financial reports. From what I hear, she has the best financial statements in six counties. She learned a long time ago that if you sell fifty cents worth of liquor for seven dollars, you stand a better than average chance of breaking even.

Her dress is artwork of stitchery and sequins, a pale turquoise trimmed with white lace. She has a strong face but with delicate features. Blonde curls are piled high on her head. She has a beauty mark beneath her left eye. It may change before the week is out. Her lipstick is a little too red, but it works fine in the dimly lit room. And her eyes are not unlike melted hot chocolate. She wears a squash blossom necklace of white turquoise around her neck. It rests gently on a bosom large enough to make her cleavage look similar to the Continental Divide.

She raises her head as I make my way to her table. “Looking for something?” she asks.

“You,” I answer.

“Well, you’ve found me. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

Her eyes twinkle.

LouEllen’s a widow.

A wealthy widow.

She can have any man she wants at any time she wants him.

But she likes to make every man audition.

That’s what Harry Thurgood told me.

He auditioned.

He got a call back.

“I’m Graham Huston. I work at the Chronicle now.”

Her smile is broad and genuine. “I thought I recognized you,” she says. “You’re the man who tries to use the fewest words possible to tell the biggest story in town.”

“Guilty.”

“Sit down.” She pauses a moment, then says, “You know this is a bar.”

“I do.”

“I don’t talk to anyone who isn’t drinking.”

“I’ll take bourbon.”

“What brand?”

“As long as it’s brown, it’ll do fine,” I tell her.

She snaps her fingers twice, and the bartender splashes bourbon into a glass of ice and brings it to the table.

I fish around in my pocket, find a ten-dollar bill, and lay it on the table.

“The bourbon’s on the house,” LouEllen says. “But Andy appreciates the tip.”

The ten dollars vanish.

Please click HERE to find Eulogy in Black and White on Amazon.

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