I sputtered a bit and Kiera kept smiling at me. The children’s librarian moved in close, looking around the empty yard of the compound. Again, I thought I saw movement in the shadows of one building, but lost my thoughts when Kiera spoke.
She said," New director, back after years of being away, has a dead body on his hands. Well, well."
Her hand kept on the body wrapped in plastic in the back of the library van. She patted it again, making soft tapping sounds from her fingernails. They were long and red. Her smile was off center, kind in a way that knows secrets.
"I can explain," I said.
"Don't want to hear it. Everybody's got secrets."
"What the hell does that mean?"
She kept her hand on the plastic and moved in close. Her teeth were white and the hippie air of "everything's all okay" fell away. Something was not okay with the children's librarian. She said low, "You want help with it or not?"
"What do you want?"
"To help these kids. To lead story time and raise the summer reading completion rate by ten percent. To keep things going well in this little shithole town. So let's go get rid of this body and go back to work." She lifted her hand and stepped away. I had to step back while she closed the doors to the van and spun the keys around her fingers.
The drive took us away from town. Right out of the compound instead of left. The trees closed around us. We left civilization, the parts of the world I knew when I was young and entered into older parts of the county and the forest. Telephone poles drifted away and the houses grew further apart. The trees closed in tight as the roads narrowed with every turn. Branches scraped against the van. We went on for half an hour, twisting and turning until we came to an old building.
The Bates Motel in Psycho was more welcoming. The building stood in a hollow. The path to it was overgrown. White paint clung to the sides out of habit. Kiera parked and got out. We walked to the back of the van and lifted the body out. Kiera, thin and lythe, took the legs, and I hefted the shoulders. The plastic made it slick. I wondered if Christ had used a book cart moving the body in the library.
Around the side of the building, through an old iron gate and black iron fence covered with vines stood a small graveyard. The stones marking the dead were lopsided and broken. Moss grew on everything. One large live oak stood in the middle, the trunk bigger around than the van. The roots had knocked over a few moments to the dead.
"Over there," Kiera said. Her voice still maintained that low breathless quality I had never heard.
We walked with care to the back of the tree. A small grave had been dug, about three feet deep. The fresh earth lay on the side, a shovel sticking out. We dropped the body in the hole.
"Where are we? An old church?" I said.
"Can't you feel it?" Kiera said. "This is the lost branch of the library."
To be continued...