Welcome to Bannville, MS, home of the Banned Library and set right in the middle of the dark piney woods where drugs, violence and dark forces are as abundant as the humidity. Our narrator on this journey is Evan Banned, one time director and current owner of the library now trying to bring it back after it burned to the ground and then, right after it reopened, was closed due to funding. Will Evan get the library back on its feet? Will Evan and his cousin Ilene "Imp" Banned escape the madman Carter as he continues his vengeance against Evan? And what did Evan do to Carter, anyway?
In the dream I wake up next to a bathtub filled in ice, just as I had ten years ago. Carter is in this tub and his head lolled back and his eyes open to look at me. In his hand he clutches the plastic blue and red action figure.
“Go,” he said, “Everybody’s dead. Go kill the fucks.”
I stood and I ran. I did not kill anybody, though. I stood and ran and did not stop until I got to Mississippi. In the dream I run to the next room and find a shotgun.
I woke up from the dream this morning still sitting by the stream and freezing. I am holding the shotgun just as I had in the dream and the barrel is clogged with dirt. I find a stick and clean it out, using my shirt to wipe it down.
My dad would be pissed.
I walked back through the woods to the trailer where I had left Imp.
“Shit,” I said. The bookmobile was gone.
I looked around to see if another car, if the Volvo Carter was driving is nearby. It’s not. Means Imp left on her own, without me. But where would she go?
I started walking toward town, the shotgun over my shoulder.
A half hour later a chicken farmer picked me up. No room in the cab of the truck, I held on to the wire mesh as the truck drove into town. The chickens stared at me and pecked at my fingers as I rode on top of their cage.
The farmer dropped me off at the library. The bookmobile was around back. So was the Volvo.
I walked in the front door. Carter sat behind the circulation desk, Imp next to him. Black streaks ran down her face, red streaks down his. She had fought him and lost.
“Ev!” Carter said, sitting up, “Took you long enough. Let’s finish-”
I leveled the shotgun and fired a round of the buckshot into his chest. He fell back, a spray of red following him. Imp screamed as a shot from the pistol in his hand went wild.
I ran around the desk, but Imp pulled the gun from his hand. His shirt was torn open to reveal a vest underneath. Blood still pooled from his mouth.
I fished the blue and red action figure from my pocket Carter’s eyes lit up as I put it in his front pocket, “How’d you find me, Carter?”
He smiled and blood stained his teeth, “Googled ya.”
“Crazy son of a bitch,” I said, “Imp, you call the cops yet?”
“She didn’t have to. Ten people saw you jump off a chicken truck looking beat to shit and walk in the library with a shotgun,” I heard Detective Gerald Parker say. He walked around the circulation desk, gun drawn, and looked at us. Imp handed him the pistol, “It’s his,” she said, kicking Carter.
“Jesus, Banned,” Parker said, “Can’t we go one damn week without a shootout in this goddamn library? Everybody up and to the station. Officer Albrecht will show you the way.”
The blonde cop that helped interrogate me about Bob Simmons walked in the library. Imp waved at him and he waved back. Two EMTs followed him, a stretcher behind them.
“I took the liberty of making a few calls when I heard the shots,” Parker said. He had my shotgun and Carter’s pistol on the circulation desk. He took out a pair of handcuffs and connected Carter to the stretcher. One of the emergency techs almost protested but stopped.
“Don’t worry, I’ll ride with you,” Parker said, then turned to me, “Who is he?”
“Evil fucker named Carter.”
“Long time ago.”
Parker’s eyes narrowed, “From Florida. I saw the name Carter before. First or last?”
I shook my head, “Never found out. Just called him Carter.”
“You two fuck around together?”
I said, “I don’t know what you mean. We ran around a lot in Florida. Long time ago.”
Parker stared at me, expecting me to say more. I kept silent. He motioned to the door where Imp stood with the officer. I followed them out the door and Parker left with the ambulance.
The afternoon and night was full of questions. Who was he? How did I know him? Why didn't I report the car burning? Over and over, the same questions. I gave sentence-long answers and at the start of the fourth round I asked for a lawyer. I suspected that by then if Carter was going to start telling secrets he would have.
Then my lawyer, Trent Darby, came in and told me Carter had escaped. Five broken ribs, multiple internal hemorrhages and he walked out of the hospital. Nobody could believe it.
“They’re going over the whole place,” Darby said, “They just don’t know. More bad news.
“They arrested Ilene.”
“Why’d they get Imp?” I said.
“Seems she has outstanding warrants in multiple counties, including one very active count of manslaughter from six months ago in Texas and she’s wanted in a missing persons case of a Ben Tobias.”
“You’re shitting me.”
He shook his head, “She’s leaving in the morning for Texas. They rushed the paperwork to extradite.”
“Can I talk to her?”
“No way I can get bail for you until the morning. I’m sorry, Evan, but I think they are trying to get you on aiding a fugitive.”
“You’re shitting me,” I said again.
Trent left and I went back to holding. Talked to a patron I had helped with his GED once. He wanted to know if we would still have those databases with the job searches when we reopened. I told him maybe, asked what the cops had him for. Stealing from his job, he said.
He asked me why I was there.
“Shooting the guy that set my car on fire,” I said.
“Man, they’ll lock up anybody for anything,” he said and we went back to staring at the walls.