Outside again, lunch over and the bright sunshine coming down and warming the little town. I walked with Amy on one side of me in her blue dress and yellow wrap, Brenda on my other side commenting on the shop windows. We walked easy, Amy seeming more relaxed that her business was oen.
She said, "So what brought you to our little town, Mr. Harker?"
"The position," I said.
"Brenda says you've been in libraries all over." Amy had a cool way about her, her questions asked as if she was picking flowers rather than interest.
I weighed what to say. "I grew up a little ways east of here, went to college in Hattiesburg. Worked there, took a position in Louisiana and up in Montana for a bit." I left out the years of wandering, the restaurant jobs in resorts and the girl with the ever changing hair. Nobody needed to know what woke me up at night.
"I've never been to Montana," Amy said.
"It's nice. Cold."
"Oh, they put out the Christmas tree already," Brenda said, pointing to the window of Shepherd's grocery. "Amy and I helped decorate it one year."
We stopped. The glare of the autumn sun washed out all but the twinkling lights on the tree in the dark grocery store. Amy took off her wrap and twisted her hair up, exposing her bare shoulders. On her left shoulder blade I saw a small tattoo of flowers surrounding a white rabbit.
"Momma had to replace all the ornaments you broke," Amy said and her voice had another quality to it. Wistful, maybe, with her accent sliding in and setting like rainwater on hot desert sand. For a moment I heard the girl she had been. But the tattoo reminded me of other matters.
"I have to go back, ladies. Thank you for lunch. I'll send a note to the board about your offer and you can also present at the January meeting. It was nice to meet you," I said.
"I guess I should to go," Brenda said.
I told her to take her time, my words hollow as I turned away. There was a body to deal with.
Back at the library, I fielded several questions from concerned patrons. Small fire, nothing to be worried about. Just a little thing, an accident. Aren't library's exciting? I told them all gentle lies and hoped I came off calmer than I felt.
Freddy the page had the circulation desk. I told him that Brenda would be back. He smiled and said he had it. I asked if had seen Chris or Kiera.
"Kiera's off setting up for outreach. I think Chris is upstairs still," Freddy said.
I climbed the stairs two at a time. No one was at the reference desk. I fumbled with my keys and opened the genealogy room door, the well oiled hinges opening in silence. The body was gone.
"I took care of it," Chris said. I jumped and turned. His salt and pepper hair was mussed, his shirt sleeves rolled up. "Didn't mean to scare you."
"What did you do?" I said.
"Rolled him up in that plastic we use to cover the stacks for tornadoes. To cover the books near the windows. Went down the fire stairs and got him in the van. Can't find the keys, though."
"Kiera has them for outreach," I said.
"Shit," he said.
To be continued...