“How?” Carol Anne Kinney said, “How is it going to be all right, Mr. Banned? One of your staff was murdered in the library, her child was bitten by a snake let loose during one of your programs, there are reports of strange things concerning the circus in the library late at night, one of your librarians quit, another has major health issues, and the Little Banned Library is still missing. Again, how is it going to be all right?”
I sat down in one of the padded chairs of the library conference room. I had been waiting over an hour while the board met in an emergency session, pacing around the library and ignoring the now shiny space on the floor where I had found Ava Devillis not three days ago.
The library had become a crime scene the minute I called the police on Friday night. We have closed down all operations since then. Ava's funeral was a quick affair, wake and cremation. I did not go. I refused to answer any questions from the local and state reporters that flooded the phones and doors until I talked to the board of directors. Now here I was.
I looked around at the various board members, all of them staring at me. I shook my head.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Well, we all agree as to one obvious course of action,” Carol Anne said, “You are no longer fit to run this institution. Effective immediately you are to step down as your position as director of the Banned Library.”
The news took moments to hit. A slow burn started in my chest that made its way up to my eyes. Stinging, burning. Not like this, I thought, this was not supposed to be the way this happened.
I took a breath and gathered myself. I looked around the room. The elderly faces stared back at me, expecting something. I did not know what they wanted. So I asked.
“What happens next?”
“We have decided that until a suitable replacement can be found we will appoint an interm director as you are obviously unable to perform your current job,” Carol Anne said.
Several of the board members were nodding. The ones that were not were looking at the table, at the floor, anywhere but toward me.
“Okay, I’ll gather my things,” I said, standing.
“Not just yet,” Carol Anne said, “We... Against our better judgement, the board feels that until suitable staff is replaced that we ask you to stay on to perform computer and reference duties. You are the only person left that knows the system and the collection. Because of the added duties, you will retain your present salary. Is that satisfactory?”
It made some kind of twisted sense, even for this bunch. If there was one problem, if Betty got sick again or the computers went down I was the only person with a prayer of fixing the problem.
“And when we are up to staff again?” I asked.
“By then we hope to have a director that can make that decision for us. You showed promise as a reference librarian early in your career and we feel you could do so again. Which leads us to another favor the board wishes you to do.”
“The interm director... we want you to ask your mother to come back for a while. At her previous salary, of course.”
I laughed out loud. Then I realized they were serious. I sat back down. I thought furiously. Of course they were keeping me. I was the only one in the room that could handle my mother. I laughed again.
“You want my mother back?”
“Yes, besides yourself, Louise is the only qualified candidate that we can get on such short notice that knows both the library and the community.”
I nodded, “Sure, I can ask her, but if I get her here I need to ask you a favor.”
Carol Anne pierced her lips, “And what is that, Mr. Banned?”
“Darling McCraw, our aide. He recently applied for the children’s librarian position and is more than qualified. With Betty still sick, me on reference and computers and hopefully my mother being refreshed noone is going to have time to fill that position.”
Even the members of the board that sided with Carol Anne were nodding their heads. A library needs a children’s librarian, after all, even if the position is seemingly cursed.
“All in favor?”
Everyone’s hands rose.
Not a single hand.
I stood and walked out the door without waiting to be dismissed. Darling was standing at the circulation desk sorting through a cart of books.
“How was it, boss?” he asked.
“About as good as could be expected. And I’m not your boss anymore. If I can convince my mother to come out of retirement, you get children’s and I’m on reference and computers.”
“I'm halfway between sucks for you and yay for me,” he said.
“Yay for you,” I said, “Don't answer the phone until tomorrow and even then, no reporters. I'll have an answer about who they can talk to tomorrow. Until then, get those carts as empty as you can. I think we should open up tomorrow. Hate for you to be late on your first day.”
“You can’t boss me around anymore,” he said.
I smiled, “Yeah, but you’re going to wish I could.”
Then I walked out the front door to see if I could get my mother to come back to the library.