The Keeper of Secrets: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff
July 5, 2022
Her files might contain a few lies, a few opinions, a little gossip that no one can prove, but they do have all the facts that might solve the murders.
Caroline McCluskey is the librarian in Magnolia Bluff.
She knows most everyone in town.
She knows their secrets.
She knows the town’s secrets.
She lives in the present.
She prefers the past.
Somewhere deep in her files in the basement of the library, she possesses the clues that can unlock almost every mystery in the hill country town.
In Eulogy in Black and White, Book 2 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, those files hold the answer to a string of murders.
But do they hide the killer’s name?
As far as I know, only one person in town can help me.
She archives history.
She has all of the old newspapers on file.
They might contain a few lies, a few opinions, a little gossip that no one can prove, but they do have all the facts, at least more of the facts than I know now. I doubt if Reece Sovern will let me see his police file. I wonder if Reece Sovern even remembers where he ditched his file, or does he have nine files scattered among various letters of the alphabet.
Let’s see now.
Are they under D for death?
M for murder?
K for killings?
U for unsolved?
Or S for shit if I know?
Or have they been filed under the victim’s first name?
The librarian is my only hope, and here she is, Caroline McCluskey, coming down the sidewalk on emerald green high heels, a giant leather purse dangling on her shoulder, her arms filled with books. I check the clock above the library’s front door. In two minutes, it will be nine o’clock. Caroline McCluskey is always prompt. She’s never late. She arrives wearing tan slacks, a green-and-purple striped shirt, and her blonde hair has been pulled back into a ponytail. It bounces on her shoulder as she walks. Her smile is warm enough to melt a block of ice or a bronc buster’s heart.
She loses the smile as soon as she sees me.
Her dark eyes turn molten.
“I know,” I say standing as she walks up to the bench.
“You’re sorry about Mister Holland.”
Her face reddens.
Her chuckle is unexpected.
“I guess you’ve been hearing that a lot,” she says.
I nod. “It’s been mentioned.”
“It’s still a frightening day.”
She hands me an armload of books and fumbles through her purse for a ring with enough keys to unlock every door in fourteen counties. She finds the right key – which looks as if it belongs to a treasure chest – and unlocks the door.
Inside, the musty aroma of old books, old paper, dried ink take me back to my childhood. My view of the world, near and far, came from books such as these. I learned as many truths from fiction as I did nonfiction. The words of writers long since dead opened up a secret door that led me beyond a forbidden veil into the dark space, dark towers, and dark alleys of fantasy and mystery and sin, cleverly disguised as romance.
I place Caroline’s armful of books on the counter as she flips on the light switch behind a photograph of George Washington Crossing the Brazos River. I guess it was a gift from some local artist who failed to realize that Valley Forge was not a forge in a Blacksmith’s Shop.
“How can I help you?” she asks.
“I understand you have copies of old newspapers,” I tell her.
“Since August second, nineteen thirty-four.”
“Long before our time.”
She smiles. “Not before my time.”
“You’re not that old.”
“No,” Caroline says, “but I’ve lived every year of Magnolia Bluff since August second, nineteen thirty-four through the pages of those newspapers. I’ve celebrated weddings and births, grieved at funerals, cheered when the bad guys went to jail, held my breath during every election, and prayed the price of feed would go down and the price of beef would go up. Every year I turn the page, I begin to get those feelings all over again.” She pauses a moment and a dark frown shadows her face. “I guess you think I’m a little crazy, don’t you?”
“No,” I answer, “I think you’re a librarian. You’re as comfortable living in the past as you are the present.”
“There’s a difference,” Caroline says jauntily as she leads me down a narrow flight of stairs to the basement.
“In the past, I know what happens. Don’t always like it. But I know what it is.”
“And in the now?”
“I don’t. If I did, some bastard, as I believed you called him on the front page of the Chronicle, would be behind bars this morning.” Caroline stops beside the library’s microfilm reader and begins to wipe away dust sprinkled on the lens.
Please click HERE to find Eulogy in Black and White on Amazon.