"Well, that's not good, I said. Brenda's stomps down the stairs echoed through the building
"You think she saw?" Chris said. He wiped the knife free of his father's blood and stowed it away in his waistband.
"Stay here," I said.
Libraries are communal spaces. Years back, they were places of learning, of study. Quiet, cool places to spend a spring afternoon or warm inviting places to come on an autumn day like today when the wind is bitter and the leaves are piling up waiting for the snow. That sense of quiet has retreated, replaced by group discussions and programs about local cheese making. The Tuesday night class on casting a cannonball-size hunk of Edam was interesting and messy, what with all the hot wax.
As I walked down to the first floor, the noise washed over me. The firemen were allowing people back in. I saw the usual elderly and transients as well as those flocking to the excitement. Drawn to firetrucks like moths or bulls, lights and fire bringing them in. Each mumbled and rushed, attempting to get back to the computers or find someone who could tell them just what is going on. Library as a gossip center. Some things about libraries never change. I spotted Brenda with several firefighters and a woman I had never seen.
Brenda and the woman stood side by side, one of Brenda's arms around the woman's waist. They were a study in opposites. For Brenda's curly brown perm, the woman had red flowing locks. To Brenda's comfortable ensemble of a cardigan over a baggy sweater and jeans, the red-head wore a navy blue summer dress with a pale yellow wrap around her shoulders. The woman stood inches over Brenda so that the circulation library's arm had to reach up a little to circle the other's waist.
Brenda gave another shout and said, "Elliot, come over here. Meet my sister Amy. Amy, this is the acting library director, Elliot. She just came in and surprised me. Imagine that."
I took Amy's offered hand, a firm grip and a tight smile. "Hello," she said.
"Hi. I wondered what all the fuss was about," I said.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was coming up to tell you the fireboys were all clear when Amy popped up. Not supposed to be here until tomorrow."
Amy said, "I decided to drive what with the weather."
I smiled and went over my problems. Chris and a dead body upstairs, firemen and police still milling around, people just let loose because it's a public library. "Shit," I said.
"Excuse me?" Amy's forehead wrinkled.
"I uh, ummm, sorry. Brenda, I'm still cleaning up. The ash. Can you keep everyone downstairs for a big?"
"We were gonna go to lunch. You should join us," Brenda said with both storm and sunshine in her voice.
"Okay, sure. Two minutes. TEll them two minutes," I said and marched up the stairs.
Chris met me at the top. "Okay?"
"Clean up the ashes. I'm going to lock the genealogy room. It's closed. Then I have to go to lunch."
"What was the screaming?"
As we cleaned the ashes, I told him about Brenda's sister. He smiled. "Oh, I know Amy."
"Whatever. Nobody goes in the genealogy room, yeah? We'll take care of it tonight after closing, I guess. Think of some places where he might be found."
Chris said, "Found?"
"Or disappear to. Weather said rain and maybe snow tonight, so we need a place to go."
I locked the genealogy door, just catching a glimpse of the dead man's shoe through the frosted glass. I taped a "Closed" sign and hoped it would hide the view.
"I'll be back from lunch after an hour or so," I said.
"I was thinking maybe I could go home for today. Take sick. I mean, I did kill my daddy," Chris said.
I glared at him and went to have lunch with Brenda and her sister.