The Keeper of Secrets: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff
March 7, 2023
Caleb Pirtle III
Review: The women start gathering clues and paying attention to gossip. And then heads get whacked. Bullets are flying. And bodies are falling.
Magnolia Bluff is not unlike a lot of small towns.
It has its eccentricities.
It has its secrets.
But what’s truth?
And what’s gossip.
Who hears every sordid tale?
In Magnolia Bluff it’s one person.
Her name’s Daphne.
She owns the Head Case beauty salon.
Want to look beautiful?
Want your hair done professionally and fashionable?
Go see Daphne.
Want to share your grief?
Want to vent your anger?
Want to rant a little.
Rave a little.
Want to share your secrets?
Go see Daphne.
It’s like confessing to a priest.
She knows it all
But she keeps it to herself.
No matter how vicious the secret.
No matter how dark the secret.
It’s safe with Daphne.
In The Dog Gone Diamond Dilemma, book 10 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, it’s all about murder.
Daphne has her suspicions.
Does she know the killer?
Is the gossip safe with Daphne?
Or will she be a victim.
Can the killer afford to let her live?
Beatrice Archambeau was the last client to sit in the hairdresser’s chair at the Head Case Salon before Daphne could take a lunch break to join her friends. Right now, Daphne regretted giving her assistant the day off. She was anxious to meet Caroline and Magnolia at the Silver Spoon Café owned and operated by Lorraine Dillard, the best cook in town. Practically everyone who worked downtown gathered there at lunchtime and ate whatever was the special of the day. We need to get there early enough to grab the back table in the corner.
Daphne hoped her mundane responses to Beatrice’s non-stop chatter sounded rational. The memory of hunkering down in Esther’s basement, praying that the two men who stood outside the pantry door would not discover her and her friends haunted her thoughts.
Through the years as the town’s most successful hairdresser, Daphne had been privy to copious amounts of information – down and dirty secrets about who was cheating on whom followed by the payback the unfaithful deserved – none of which ever made the “All Around Town” column in the Magnolia Chronicle.
The gossip Daphne heard never made it to the early morning group meetings at Harry’s coffee shop. She was sure LouEllen Mueller, the owner of the lounge where most of the infidelities occurred, could verify some of what her client’s revealed, but neither she nor the owner of the nightclub ever compared notes.
Daphne never gave any weight to the derogatory comments she heard during the meetings of the Crimson Hat Society. The society’s leader was the epitome of snarky and petty, so she ignored any and everything Mary Lou Fight said.
On Sunday mornings, Daphne timed her entry into the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church. She always arrived during the call to worship and sat on a back pew next to the sound technician. At the end of the service, she was always the first congregant to shake hands with the minister. Daphne thought worship should proclaim God’s glory; thereby, she escaped any political concerns of church governance and the gossipy dissention it garnered.
Not once in all the years she stood behind a client and listened did she violate the code she claimed: hairdresser/client privilege. However, Beatrice had some intriguing gossip to impart, and the curly red-headed beautician suddenly realized the importance of her conversation. Beatrice’s following statement seared Daphne’s thought waves and went straight to her heart, charging her emotions into overdrive.
“There’s a small cottage between our land and a ranch. I don’t know who owns it. It’s been vacant for years, but recently we’ve noticed that squatters have moved into it,” Beatrice stated.
Daphne’s curiosity peaked. “I’ve grown up in Magnolia Bluff and have never heard about an isolated vacant cottage on any surrounding ranch land. Had I been aware of it during high school, I would have shared that information with my friends.” She laughed. “We were always looking for a place to spend the day instead of spending time in class.” Beatrice’s frown told Daphne she didn’t appreciate her humor, so she cleared her throat and asked, “Squatters? Have you met them?”
“I haven’t, but my husband – you’ve met Leonardo – saw lights shining from its windows one night. He rode out there on his horse to check it out. He returned home a couple of hours later with dirt and blood smeared all over his face and his shirt. His knuckles were raw. He definitely had been in a fight. I know all about fights. I grew up with six brothers. You can imagine all of the scuffles I saw in my youth.”
“Oh my, did he say what happened to him?” Daphne asked.
“Said he fell off of his horse.” Beatrice teared up. “I hope and pray that was the only lie my husband has ever told me in the twenty years we’ve been married.”
“Oh, Beatrice, don’t you think he lied to you so you wouldn’t worry about him?”
“Maybe, but when I persisted, he told me about the squatters. He said an elderly couple and their adult son were staying there. That’s all he would say. I asked him if they were illegals. He just shrugged and went into our bathroom to take a shower.
“I swear one of the squatters surely beat him up, but Leonardo stuck to his story that he accidentally fell off his horse.” Beatrice had worked herself up during her tirade, so much so that she hardly paused to breathe.
Daphne stopped working on her hair. “I’ll be right back.” She walked into the shop’s break room, took a cold bottle of water from the fridge, and gave it to her client. “Slow down and drink some water.”
“Thanks.” Beatrice took a gulp and continued. “My husband is an excellent horseman. Leo’s dad died during World War II, so Leo grew up around horses. His grandfather owned a stable in France where Leo spent every waking moment that he wasn’t working at the winery riding one of the Arabian horses his family owned.”
Daphne ignored the part about horses and zoomed into Beatrice’s description of her husband’s injuries. “Beatrice, listen to me. Leonardo needs to visit with our Chief of Police, Tommy Jager, and file a report about his assault.”
“That’s what I told him, but he is so stubborn and macho, he won’t listen to me. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen my husband back down from anyone. I think whoever gave him that beating also threatened to kill him.” Beatrice leaned forward, grabbed a tissue, wiped tears from her face, and blew her nose. “Please don’t tell anyone what I’ve said. If it got back to Leo that I shared our personal problems, he would be mad at me.”
Daphne patted Beatrice’s shoulder. “Never fear. What’s said in the beauty shop stays in the beauty shop.” She cemented Beatrice’s dark brown voluminous Texas hairdo with copious amounts of hair spray and removed the cape from her client’s shoulders, all the while trying to carry on as usual. But the knot in her stomach kept twitching a warning.
Forgive me, Lord, I just told a lie to Beatrice because, for once, I must break my vow of confidentiality. Caroline needs to know what I’ve just heard.
Please click HERE to find The Dog Gone Diamond Dilemma on Amazon.