The Stricken: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff

A young college student is carrying a secret, a heavy burden of guilt that threatens to wreck her life. She’s looking for help. Is it already too late?

Marianne is young.

She’s a student at a small college in Magnolia Bluff.

She’s a long way from home.

She’s carrying a secret.

She’s overwhelmed with a burden.

She is weighted down with guilt.

Where can she turn for help?

She doesn’t know.

But she finds her way to the office of Dr. Michael Kurelek, a psychotherapist teaching at the college.

In The Shine from a Girl in the Lake, book 6 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, Marianne sits with the clinician and begins the journey from darkness to light.

But how far does she have to go?

She promises to return for another session.

But can she keep that promise?


Richard Schwindt, author of The Shine from a Girl in the Lake

Marianne was 20, but looked younger. She had the mien of a pretty dork, wearing her brown hair short, along with wide glasses.

She hailed from an affluent suburb of Seattle, and her parents had made her promise to see a psychotherapist if she were to attend college at Magnolia Bluff. For such a prim and serious girl, Marianne did a strikingly funny impersonation of her upper crust parents.

“Dahling, where did you say this Magnolia Bluff was located?”

“It’s in the Texas Hill Country, mother.”

“There may be people with guns there, young lady.”

“I’m sure everyone has one, Father. Can I get one to take with me?”

I gave her points for making the decision to attend an obscure college located, by her parent’s standards, in the middle of nowhere, along with a vestigial sense of humor.

She had issues with anxiety. Of course she did. My practice was, thank God, diverse, but I had my share of students and, among them, most suffered anxiety. Sign of the times? Maybe, but I did my best.

“How was your week, Marianne?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Tell me about it.”

“My dad called.”

“How did that go?”

She twisted a little in her seat. “I don’t think he’s happy with mom.”

I let that hang, to see if she would elaborate. Students, cocky and free, craved; no – needed stability at home.

Marianne squirmed; her hands clasped together so tight her knuckles whitened. “I think he’s having an affair.”

Despite the late hour, she had brought a coffee into the office. She hadn’t drunk any, but placed it on the table in front of her.

“Why do you think that, Marianne?”

“When I was home during the summer, my computer was in the shop and I borrowed his. He had gone golfing, and I didn’t think he would mind.”


“I found pictures. They were gross. She was young: my age.”

To be a decent therapist you needed emotions; to remain human, and to understand the range of human feelings. I had emotions, to excess, and now I needed to control them. The son of a bitch. Keeping shots of him and some younger woman on his computer? Really?

These guys always got caught. Did he have any idea it would be his daughter who found the pictures? “What was that like for you?”

Her face crumpled, and, following a pathetic few seconds where she tried to control them, the tears flowed. She did manage the sobs, but her body shook with the pain.

“I can see this hurts very much, Marianne. Cry if you need to.”

Therapist’s office or not; people don’t like crying in front of strangers. They usually feel safe, but they don’t like it. As her body calmed, I took another step. “Does he know you saw them?”

She shook her head. “I just closed the computer. I never told anyone until now.”

“Have you been carrying this secret by yourself?”


I had a sudden dark thought. “Do you know who she was?”

She nodded. “It was my best friend. She was fucking my dad.”

More shaking and tears. For her, this was a big deal. It would help to express this pain in my office. This was betrayal, always shocking, and secretive, and confusing.

“Have you talked to your friend?”

She looked up at me. Her face convulsed with rage. “I’ll never talk to that cunt again. Why should I?” Her voice rose. “She keeps emailing and texting me. I don’t say a fucking thing back.”

“What about your mom?”

The tears came again. Worse this time. “I don’t know what to do, Dr. Kurelek. She needs to know, but I can’t tell her. She doesn’t know why I keep crying into the phone. She thinks I am homesick.”

This went on for the rest of the session, allowing her to express everything that had been bottled up for months. I did a quick safety check before she left. “I’d like to ask if you have had any thoughts of harming yourself during this emotional struggle.”

She shook her head. “No, I mostly feel hurt and angry.”

Valerie has my datebook during the day. When she leaves, I get it back. “Marianne; this is a lot to deal with; can you come and see me again in a few days?”

She looked up at me, with a hint of guilty malice. “Daddy’s paying, so sure.”

Now that this was out, her emotions would be on a roller coaster. I opened the datebook. Damn, the only appointment left this week was after hours. I wanted to leave her with something to hold, so I said: “Thursday at eight.” Reforming my schedule would have to start next week.

Dark had fallen outside, and thunder sounded in the distance. “You want me to walk you to your car?”

“It’s okay, Dr. Kurelek. Thanks. See you on Thursday.” She paused. “This is confidential, right?”

“Yes, absolutely. That’s a promise.”

She left.

Please click HERE to find The Shine from a Girl in the Lake on Amazon.

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