The Professor: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff
September 12, 2022
The professor is a man of mystery. What’s his secret? Will his past follow him to Magnolia bluff. And how deadly is it?
Dr. Michael Kurelek doesn’t belong in Texas.
And he knows it.
He’s an outsider.
He’s a Yankee.
He’s from Michigan.
But in The Shine from a Girl in the Lake, Book 6 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, he showed up one day when no one was looking, and he’s taken a job on the small campus of Burnet College to teach courses in psychology.
And, on the side, he has opened up a clinical practice in the town of Magnolia Bluff.
He’s an outdoorsman.
He’s an archer.
He’s a hunter.
He’s a man of mystery.
Why did he leave Michigan?
Why did he come to a little college in a little town in Texas?
What’s his secret?
Will his past follow him to Magnolia bluff.
And how deadly is it?
I stole a discrete glance at the clock on my bookshelf. This session would need to end on time if I was to eat a sandwich before my class.
Teaching Introduction to Addictions wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I was still the new guy on the faculty, and would take whatever was handed to me.
The problem wasn’t that it was boring, but that it was too popular with curious binge-prone undergrads, many of whom wanted to stare at the hot professor who actually maintained a clinical practice.
That meant lots of papers to grade, office hours for students, and many silly questions.
When David Hallows first approached me to announce he was passing on that particular torch, he hadn’t been able to control his glee.
“You are going to love this, Mike – the bright keen faces doting on your every word.”
“So, what are you getting instead, David?”
“Research design. Boring. Not mandatory. No one takes it. Hardly anything to do.”
I laughed at the time. David was a good guy. He had been influential in my original hire, adding me to a small department, and soliciting permission for me to carry an onsite clinical practice.
He was a bit older than me: smooth, probably ambitious. He dressed well for a professor in a small Texas town, and was likely deft with the ladies.
“We’re researchers here, Mike; the kind who avoid the blood and snot of real life. Now we can say someone on the team knows how to talk to people. Who knows when that might come in handy?”
Teaching research design would have bored me to tears. I kept my own publications to the minimum necessary to maintain my job, heretical for a professor, and not the path to success.
No, I was clinician, first and always, which made me a novelty on a research-oriented staff, and, knowing academic politics, no threat to anyone.
As soon as he was out the side door to the parking lot, I called department receptionist, Valerie Rheinhart, to ask for an update, exercising customary caution and restraint. Like most university receptionists, she held power and influence far beyond the license of her position. And she knew how to use it.
As a Northerner who did not fit her vision of an academic psychologist, the sixtyish spinster (her self-description,) reciprocated the caution and restraint.
“Dr. Kurelek, you have a class at one, Dr. Jafari wants a word at your convenience, and Marianne Blye changed her appointment to seven this evening.”
“I don’t suppose you can…”
“I’m sorry, Dr. Kurelek, my Yoga class is tonight.”
I signed off, sighed, and leaned back in my chair. Valerie knew I did not like to see young women at night when the college was nearly vacant. But she scheduled them in anyway. On purpose? I had no idea. Every now and again she was able to stay in the evening for a cut of my take, but most often something else was scheduled.
A small fridge containing my chicken sandwich and a bottle of spring water, sat in the corner of my office. After extricating lunch, I took a moment to compose my thoughts and look round.
The facilities here were lovely; my office was spacious, filled with comfortable furniture, red oak flooring, ivory-colored walls, and bookshelves decorated with indigenous artwork. Best of all, it contained a surreptitious doorway for patients, leading through a rarely used garden, to the side parking lot.
Patients could come and go without being seen by others at the college. My view included a tangled garden; a far prettier sight than the needle strewn alley four stories below my office window in Flint.
When I thought of the broom closets I had been assigned at the University of Michigan as a young psychologist, I again felt gratitude for my lot in life. But everything’s bigger in Texas, right?
Please click HERE to find The Shine from the Girl in the Lake on Amazon.