Saturday, March 31, 2007

Black out and excerpts 2.3 & 2.4

      The performance last night was cancelled. We had a storm blow through and take out the power in most of the town. The theater was completely black. We kept hoping the power would come back on, but no go. So we had to cancel the performance. We'll be back down there tonight.
      It's a beautiful day here. A few clouds in the washed blue sky. Cool but nice. I hope we have a large crowd tonight. I'd like the play to make some money. The community theater group sure needs the funds.
      As promised yesterday, here are the two excerpts from Murder by Dewey Decimal. The chief starts digging. We learn more about Lisa, and Bernard receives an unsettling visit.

Excerpts 2.3 & 2.4 from Murder by Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      The chief sighed. Two murders in one day. The City Council would holler to high heaven. "You know," he said to the room at large, "being a police chief is like trying to applaud with your buttocks. It's practically impossible, and it rubs you wrong."
      Lisa, Bernard, and Sims just looked at him. They were back at the police station in the chief's office. Lisa and Bernard perched on his couch, and Sims sat at a small writing desk, ready to take their statements.
The chief sighed again. "Lisa, would you go over this again so that Sims can get it down."
      Lisa nodded. "Leonard and I went to Roger's Bar and Grill last night along with some of the other pressmen at the paper. We were all down about the paper closing. We stayed until about midnight. Leonard invited me over so I went. I stayed the night. When I left this morning, I forgot my purse. It has my recorder in it so I stopped by Leonard's to pick it up after Bernard picked up his medicine. That's when I found him."
      "What time did you leave Leonard's this morning?" the chief asked, watching Bernard. He seemed to draw away from Lisa. She sat stiffly, not looking at him. Interesting, the chief thought.
      "It must have been about ten because on the way home, I saw your cars at the library."
      The chief looked at Bernard. "Mr. Worthington, would you step outside for a moment?"
      Bernard looked startled but nodded. "Is there a water fountain here?"
      "Sims, show him where it is," the chief directed. "We've also got a pop machine back there. And some coffee."
      Sims and Bernard left.
      Lisa twisted her hands, looking nervous.
      "Lisa, I wanted to ask you a few questions that I thought you might feel more comfortable about if they left," the chief began. "But first, are you okay?"
      She nodded. "It just shook me up."
"Were you and Leonard close?"
      "No." Lisa looked away. "Actually, if I hadn't been drunk, I wouldn't have gone home with him. I thought he was sleazy."
      "Did anything happen?"
      "Like what?"
      "Well, like maybe he was interested, but you weren't?"
      "And, in the struggle to preserve my virtue, I stabbed him? Is that what you getting at?" Lisa asked.
      "Not exactly, but is that what happened?" The chief leaned forward, studying her closely, watching her pale face and trembling hands.
      "No. Leonard was alive when I left. We didn't fight. In fact, I don't think we did anything. I mean, nothing."
      The chief raised his eyebrow in a silent question.
      "Look, let me be blunt. We were both drunker than skunks. Leonard's car had a flat on the way home. When he got out to change it, I passed out. I woke up in his bed with my ... shirt and bra off. He was naked and passed out. I dressed and got out. I don't think we had sex, and we certainly didn't have a fight!" Lisa finished in an angry rush.
      The chief sat there quietly, giving Lisa a few moments to calm down. "What do you think of Worthington?" he asked suddenly.
      "He's okay, I guess," she said. "I just met him today. Why do you ask? Do you think he murdered Agatha?"
      "Do you think he did?" the chief asked.
      "Why not?"
      She frowned. "I don't know. He doesn't seem the type."
      "He disliked her and he had opportunity. Why shouldn't I think he did it?"
      "Do you think he did?" she asked.
      "Off the record?"
      She nodded.
      “No, I don't. Same reason as you. But, he might surprise us. Some people hide their bents pretty deep."
      "Do you think I killed Leonard?" she asked.
      "No." The chief shook his head. "His billfold was cleaned out just like your purse. I'd say someone decided to rob him while he was in the shower and he caught them at it. But, understand me, don't you go leaving town. Besides making you seem guilty, it would look bad on me. And, you'd better be ready for what people are going to say about you."
      She smiled grimly. "They've said it before. I'm used to it."
      "Did Brewer fight with anyone last night?"
      "No, I don't think so. Although, I think the guy who helped change the tire was pretty irate. We were blocking his drive or something."
      "Do you remember where you had the flat?" the chief asked.
      "Not really. Maybe near Fourth Street," she said. "I'm not sure."
      The chief thought for a moment. "Let's see. Coming back from the bar, you probably came straight down Main."
      "I guess so."
      "So you would have came right past the library. In fact, Fourth is just before the library. Did you notice anything?"
      "I'm sorry I have to keep saying 'no' all the time, but I was totally wasted."
      The chief looked at his desk, picked up a letter opener, and turned it in his hands. "You know, many a time your father was here."
      "I know," Lisa said stiffly. "I bailed him out."
      The chief met her gaze levelly. "Then, if I were you, I’d watch the drinking."
      Lisa started to say something, then looked away.
      "Give Sims a list of the people who went to Roger's with you," he said. "He's also going to fingerprint you so we'll know whose prints are whose at Brewer's apartment. You didn't touch the knife, did you?"
      "No," she said curtly.
      "Well, I'm finished for now unless you can think of anything else."
      She shook her head and rose. "What about my purse?"
      "I'm afraid it's evidence now. If there's anything in there you just have to have--"
      "My recorder."
      "I'll see what I can do."
      She nodded and left.
      The chief settled back to think. Leonard's death was easier on his mind than Agatha's. Leonard ran with a tough crowd, and the chief was a firm believer in the old adage that if you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas. It was a shame Lisa happened to be with him. She'd worked hard to gain some respect, and a lot of people would think bad of her for going home drunk with Leonard. The chief had never been able to understand why the children of alcoholics usually drank. You'd think they'd know better.
      Agatha's death, however, seemed darker, more evil. Too many puzzling things about it. Why did the killer drag her upstairs? Why lock her office? What could have been hidden in the safe?
      He wondered if it was too early to call Dimes. He checked his watch. Four o'clock. Dimes probably wouldn't have anything yet on Agatha and certainly nothing on Leonard. At least this day was nearly over.
      The chief searched his pockets and found the number for Agatha’s brother in law, Richard Storer. He dialed it. It only rang twice before it was answered.
      "Hello?" A man's voice, deep and pleasant.
      "Is this Richard Storer?" the chief asked, steeling himself to deliver the bad news. It was never easy.
      "Yes, who is this?"
      "This is Police Chief Donaldson from Ryton. Sir, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Agatha Ryton-Storer is dead."
      "Dead?" There was silence for a few moments. And then, Storer asked, "How?"
      "No, she was murdered," the chief said.
      "Murdered?! What happened?"
      "I'd rather discuss it with you face-to-face," the chief said. "Tell me, would it be possible for you to come up here tomorrow?"
      "Yes, I can get off work. Uh, Chief Donaldson, where is she? I mean, who do I call about arrangements?"
      "Presently, she's at the County Coroner's. When you decide on a funeral home, tell them. They'll arrange transportation."
      "I'll have to get things worked out here. I should be there around noon. Where would you like to meet?"
      "I'd like to meet at her house. Do you have keys for it?"
      "Yes, I watched the house for her occasionally. Did you need anything else?"
      "No. I'd like to say how sorry I am."
      "Thank you." Storer hung up.
      Sims stuck his head in. "They're gone."
      The chief nodded. "Listen, did you get Worthington's hometown?"
      "It's Oklahoma City," Sims said.
      "Call the police up there and see if they have anything on him. I keep thinking I've heard something about a Worthington before. And have we located Jones yet?"
      "No. Hayden and Harris drove over to his place and poked around. They didn't find anything. Do you want me to put out a bulletin on him?"
      "Yeah, I think you should. I find it strange that he would come up missing right now."
      Sims left. The chief leaned back in his chair. He wondered if his peaches were ripening as they should, but thoughts of the rosy pink peaches kept reminding him of Agatha's throat and Brewer's chest spattered with dark red blood. His stomach pained him. He reached into his desk and grabbed a bottle of liquid antacid. I'm going to catch whoever did this, he thought. And they're going to be really sorry.
       "Would you like me to drive?" Bernard said.
      Lisa shook her head. He could tell she was furious.
      She started the car as he closed his door. He wanted to ask what happened in the chief’s office, but decided she would tell him if she wanted him to know. Besides, what business was it of his? He barely knew her.
      Halfway back to the library, she suddenly burst out swearing. She cursed the chief, the city, the world and everything else. The tirade lasted about a minute.
      He waited for a moment and then asked, "Feel better?"
      “Not really," she said disgustedly. "I'm so mad I could scream."
      "What about?" he asked, hoping she wouldn't think he was being nosy. "Surely the chief doesn't think you had anything to do with that man's death?"
      "No, he thinks I'm innocent. And although I think I'm not supposed to tell you this, he doesn't think you killed Agatha, either."
      "Good. But, that doesn't sound like something that would upset you."
      "It didn't."
      Bernard waited.
      She looked at him and then back at the road. "See, my father was an alcoholic." She paused.
      "You know you don't have to tell me anything," Bernard said.
      "No, it's okay." She shrugged. "I got used to it, I guess. He was one of Ryton's two town drunks."
      "I'm sorry."
      "It's no big deal," she said. "I loved him a lot, and he was a good father. A gentle, good man. He died about four years ago right after Mama did. Everyone thinks that he drank himself to death, and that was how he did it. But he died because Mama was gone, and he couldn't live without her." She ran a hand through her hair. Bernard sat silently. "Anyhow, whenever I drink a little more than I should, someone has to throw him up in my face."
      "Who brought it up?"
      "The chief."
      ”I'm sure he didn't mean to be insulting."
      "Oh, I know he didn't," she said. "I'm madder at me than him. I know better than to get drunk. I do dumb things when I'm drunk."
      "Most people do," he said. “I had some times in college that I’d rather not remember now.” He grinned.
      Lisa turned the car into the library parking lot.
      "Yeah, I know. It doesn't make me feel any better."
      She parked the car. A couple of police cars were still there, and a policeman was walking around the grounds.
      "Would you like to go to dinner with me?" he heard himself asking.
      She looked at him and frowned. "As long as you're not feeling sorry for me--"
      "No, I'm not." He smiled at her.
       She smiled back. "Okay, I'd like that. Where to?"
       "How about The Senor? I haven't been in a while, but they make good Mexican food."
       "Sounds great. Pick me up around seven-thirty. I need to call the Dispatch and file my story first." She gave him her address and left.
       He watched her drive away. Absurdly, he was feeling good. Nothing like a couple of murders to brighten a day, he thought.
       He went up the steps to the library. Inside he found the police had closed off the second floor and Agatha's office. He asked one of the officers how long the police would want the library closed. The officer shrugged.
      Bernard went into his office and looked at the pile of work on his desk. He didn't feel much like working. He stuck his hands in his pockets and felt the shipping form he had picked up outside this morning. He dropped it on his desk. I'll take care of it tomorrow, he thought. With the library closed, I should have plenty of time.
       Sherry's voice hit him like a kick in the stomach. She was standing in the office doorway.
       "Are you okay?" she asked.
       "Yes." He found it hard to breathe. "What are you doing here?"
      "I heard the news on the radio, and I know how things upset you," she said, coming on in. "I told the officer that I knew you, and he let me in." She cocked her head to the side. "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe I should drive you home?"
      "No, thank you." A terrible hope was inside him, tangling up his thoughts.
      "Do the police know what happened?" she asked.
       "No. They're working on it."
       "Do they have any suspects?" she asked.
       "I don't think so," he said, his heart pounding. The awkward silence grew.
       "Well, I just wanted to check on you," she said finally. "I hadn't seen you in a while."
       "I thought that's what you wanted," he said.
       "I'd still like us to be friends," she said.
       He shook his head. "I don't know if that's possible. I don't think it would be good for either of us."
       "Don't be silly," she said, walking over to him. "We were friends before we started dating. There's no reason we can't be friends now. Tell you what, why don't you come to dinner tonight? Mom and Dad ask about you all the time, and I know they’d love to see you.”
      "You moved back in with your parents?" he asked.
      "Yes, I didn’t like living in an apartment," she said. "They offered, and my old room sounded good to me. So are you going to have dinner with us?"
      "Thank you, but I can't tonight," he said. "I have a date."
      "Oh?" She raised an eyebrow.
      "I'm taking Lisa Trent out."
      Sherry frowned. "I don't think she's quite your type."
      "Thank you for your opinion."
      "Now, come on, Bernard, don't get snippy," she said. "I just mean she runs with a rough crowd. That's all." She paused for a moment.
       "Wasn't her father an alcoholic?"
       "I don't know," he said.
       "You know, I've heard she makes a habit of dating guys with good jobs," she said.
       “What does that mean?" He looked at her, angry and confused.
       "Nothing. No reason to get upset,” Sherry said, holding up one hand. “She just seems to take care of herself, that's all. Well, I must be going." She turned to go but looked back at him from the door. "Maybe tomorrow night?"
      "I'll have to see how my work's going," he said.
      "Yes, I imagine you have a lot to do. Daddy said you'd probably get the Head Librarian job," she said. "Daddy thinks a lot of you, you know." She left.
      Bernard stood silently, his fists clenched. How could she do this to him? He could never be just friends with her. And how dare she criticize Lisa! Maybe she was jealous? And if she was jealous, perhaps she still loved him. No, he thought. I won't do this to me again. It's over between us. I've been hurt enough.
      Even as these thoughts crossed his mind, he had already decided to call tomorrow and accept her invitation.

End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A few quick things

      My sister went through her surgery okay. She will heal for a few weeks and then start radiation and chemo. She has breast cancer. The surgeon thinks he got all of it out. And that's all we know at the moment until lab tests return. We appreciate your continued prayers and support.
      The play is going well. Below is the review.
      I will be posting a couple excerpts from Murder by Dewey Decimal on Saturday. I hope things are going well for you. And now I have to go and run yet another errand for the play. Talk to you tomorrow.

Reprinted from the March 30 issue of the Ada Evening News

By Pru Simmons
Guest columnist

ADA - The audience at the Wednesday night opening of ACT II's "The Vigil" was treated to a powerful and moving Easter drama. From the clever program to the stark, simple set to the uniformly excellent actors, "The Vigil" is an impressive production.

The cast is large with 21 roles, which made it all the more amazing that each actor shone. Several performances were outstanding and worth mentioning. Kyra Childers as the Prosecutor and Robert Shurtleff as the Counsel for the Defense keep the play moving. Their fiery battle of wits was fascinating to watch. Both actors were at the top of their form, especially in the exciting cross-examinations of Sadoc and Mary Magdalen. Chuck Perry as the Judge supplies the right atmosphere for the courtroom. I enjoyed watching how he reacted to the events enfolding before him. He was in character from the first to last.

The entire courtroom personnel helped present the illusion of an actual trial. It's hard to make small parts shine, but the court guard, the court stenographer, and the court clerk did.

As for the many witnesses, all were good, but several stood out. In particular, Thomas Cox's portrayal of the intelligent and zealous Saul of Taurus, Nancy Cheper's portrayal of the self-absorbed wife of Pilate, Mel Haworth's compassionate portrayal of Joseph of Arimathea, and Penny Johnson's hilarious portrayal of Beulah were excellent. Vicki Cowger as Mary Magdalen was touching and powerful as she walked the fine line between hysteria and faith. I also enjoyed Joan Perry as Susanna. This is Joan Perry's second role; her first was as a knife wielding witch in "Murder at the Witch's Cottage," which I reviewed. You couldn't find two roles so different, but Perry was perfect as Susanna.

I must not forget to mention Sterling Jacobs as the Gardener. His role was that of a simple, God-fearing man, and he did it well. Eric Collier as Simon Peter was refreshing and strong. And Esther the farm hand was a hoot. I don't know who the final vocalist was because the program didn't say, but her voice was wonderful.

Stephen Bagley directed the play, and I could see obvious signs of his thoughtful direction and careful diligence. The set was perfectly decorated, and the costumes fit the parts without distracting from the overall story. The actors knew their lines and spoke them clearly and loud enough to be heard.

The play itself is strong, in turns moving, funny, and powerful. It made me get out my trusty Bible and read the various accounts of the Resurrection to see how closely it followed the familiar story. I discovered that the story wasn't as familiar as I thought, and the play depicts the odd and unsettling events with precision and wit.

The only thing that marred this production was out in the audience where several people actually used their cell phones and talked during the play. I am afraid that the age of manners is long gone.

"The Vigil" runs through Sunday at the ACT II theater. It's the perfect play for the Easter season, well worth your time and money.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

For Rain

      Rain seems to be the biggest fan of Murder by Dewey Decimal. I think the excerpts have scared away most everyone else! So for Rain today, I'm posting excerpt 2.2. Lisa and Bernard go for a little drive with a terrible surprise at the end.

Excerpt 2.2 from Murder by Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      "My car or yours?" Lisa asked Bernard.
      "If you don't mind driving ..." Bernard said quietly.
      "No problem. I just hope nothing grabs you." Lisa opened the door to her faded Pinto and slid behind the wheel. "Let me clean off the seat." She grabbed the books and papers in the passenger seat and tossed them on the already large pile in her back seat. Bernard silently got in the car.
      She had convinced Bernard to telephone a pharmacy for anti-nausea medication, but he hadn't seemed in good enough shape to drive so she offered to take him. She needed some fresh air herself. So much for the reporter with nerves of steel, she thought.
      Bernard slumped in the seat. She felt sorry for him. He'd been through quite a shock today, and all in all, he was handling it fairly well, she thought.
      As she drove to the local Super Value Pharmacy, she worked on the lead paragraph of the story, stirring the facts around and deciding on their placement in the story. The chief had promised her a statement around one. She'd wait for that and then call the Dispatch and try to wrangle herself a job. She hoped John Veit remembered her.
      Thinking of the story reminded her of her recorder. She hated going back to Leonard's, but she wanted the confidence her recorder gave her. She decided to stop on the way back to the library.
      She glanced over at Bernard. "Are you okay?"
      "Yes," he said. "Thanks for taking me to the pharmacy. I guess you must think I'm a flake."
      "Getting sick like this."
      "Not really," she said. "Lots of people get sick at the sight of blood. And finding her body would rattle anyone." She turned a corner. "Her office certainly doesn't make me feel too good, but I suppose I've got used to it somewhat."
      "I've covered several car wrecks that were pretty bad," she said. "After the first one, I was shaky for days. Gradually, I stopped thinking about it. The ones after that didn't seem to affect me the same way or at least for not as long. If you can understand that."
      "Yeah, I can," Bernard said, looking out the window. "Weirdly enough, I used to be an EMT."
      "Yeah," Bernard said. "I wasn't always a librarian."
      "What happened? I mean, why did you stop being an EMT? Was it the blood?"
      "No," he said shortly. "That wasn't it. I wasn’t bothered by it. Then."
      They drove in silence for a few moments.
      "I wonder if there's going to be second murder," he said abruptly.
      Lisa glanced at him. Maybe being in the same car with him wasn't such a good idea. While her instincts said he was okay, they could be wrong. "What do you mean?"
      "I'm not sure, but it all seems so weird." Bernard shifted in his seat. "Why would someone want to kill her?"
      "Offhand, I'd guess just about anyone who met her. The murder suspects would form a double line."
      Bernard laughed. "No, seriously. Think about it. She's been a bitch for thirty years -- or so I've been told. Why would somebody decide to kill her now?"
      "Maybe they finally got fed up," Lisa stopped at a light. "Besides, robbery was probably the motive."
      "Now, that really bothers me. Theft of what?" Bernard asked. "I didn't even know the safe was there. What could be in there that was valuable enough to kill for?"
      "Money. Stocks. Bonds. Jewels."
      "I don't see how she could have much of anything."
      "I thought the library paid you pretty well."
      Bernard looked at her.
      "I remember from the story," she said.
      "Oh. Well, I guess they do. But she wasn't getting paid as much as me. The library board wanted to hire someone with a masters, and that doesn't come cheap. Actually, they wouldn't had enough to hire me except I was already planning to move here. She was always saying that if they hadn't hired me, they could have bought more books."
      "Maybe old man Ryton left her some money. He certainly seemed loaded." Lisa remembered being told that he made his money in the stock market. Or was it commodity market?
      "I don't think she would have worked at the library if she had money. She didn't like working," Bernard said.
      "All right. If it wasn't money in the safe, what was?"
      "Beats me. I'm just talking, trying to make some sense of this." He sighed. "I wonder if they've told her family yet."
      Lisa turned into the pharmacy parking lot. "I didn't know she had any."
      "I think a brother and maybe a sister. She didn't talk about them much. The brother lives in Oklahoma City. I think he has a bookstore there." He opened the door. "I'll be right back."
      She watched him enter the pharmacy. She hoped the medicine would help out. She had seen his obvious distress on the bench at the library and had immediately wanted to help, her reaction surprising her a bit. She enjoyed talking with him. He's a nice guy, she decided. And cute, too. Of course, I went to bed with Leonard Brewer, so what kind of taste could I have?
      Thinking of Leonard reminded of her purse again. She hoped he wasn't home. Just the idea of his leering grin made her feel ill. She looked in the mirror and winced at her reflection. No make-up, mussed hair, crumpled white sweatshirt, faded blue jeans, dark circles under her eyes -- Bernard probably thought she looked like she had been rode hard and put away wet. She rummaged in the glove compartment and found an old comb and a rubber band. She combed her long hair back into a pony tail and snapped the rubber band around it to hold it. A little better, but not much, she thought ruefully.
      Bernard startled her as he opened the car door.
      "That didn't take long," she said, starting the car.
      "It was ready," he said, taking a brown bottle out of a white bag and staring at the label. "Well, here goes." He drank a mouthful and made a face. "Nasty stuff."
      "Most medicine is. My dad used to say that they make it that way so people will think it's actually doing something."
      "That sounds about right," Bernard said. "Does your dad live here?"
      She paused. "He passed away five years ago."
      "I'm sorry," Bernard said.
      Lisa shook her head. "You didn't know. It's all right. My mother died of cancer a couple of years before he did. He took it hard. I've always thought he died of broken heart." No matter what other people say. "Where do your parents live?"
      "My mom lives in Edmond," Bernard said. "My dad passed away." He stared out the window. "Where are we going?"
      "I have to pick my purse up from a friend's house," Lisa said. "It won't take long."
      "Would I know her?"
      "I don't think so. And it's a him."
      They rode in silence for a few moments. Lisa began to feel uncomfortable. "He's not a good friend. I really don't know him very well," she said. Not that I owe you any explanations. "He worked in the pressroom at the Journal."
      Bernard nodded and continued to stare out the window.
      Almost desperately, she asked, "Why do you think the murder is so weird?"
      "For one thing, I wonder where the murderer was taking the body," he said. "If she was killed in her office, why drag her body to the second floor?"
      "Maybe he was going to drop her out a window?"
      "Why not take her out the side door?"
      "Maybe he stabbed her, and she ran up there before she died."
      "Then why wasn't there blood everywhere? And something else. She was lying on her back with her hands at her side. If she fell, I don't think she would be so ... arranged. I think someone dragged her up there."
      "Why?" Lisa asked.
      "I don't know. I don't know why her office was trashed, I didn't know the safe was there, and I don't know what could have been in it. And to think I used to believe that I was fairly knowledgeable." He grinned.
      He had a nice smile. Sort of goofy and kind. Steady, girl, Lisa told herself. Stay on point. "Let's say whoever killed her knew what he was looking for but didn't know where it was. She wouldn't tell him at first so he trashed the place looking for it. She finally told him it was in the safe. He had her open it, and then he killed her so there wouldn't be any witnesses. Was the library broken into?"
      "No," he said, shaking his head. "Not that I could tell. All the windows and doors were intact."
      "Maybe she knew him well enough to let him in. Or maybe he picked her up at her house and forced her to go with him."
      "That would explain what she doing there so early if someone had forced her." Bernard paused. "I think she must have known him because he knew there was something valuable in the library. Whether or not he knew about the safe, he knew something was hidden there."
      "Or knew Agatha had something valuable to hide. Or thought she had something. Or thought the library had something. That's plenty of 'or's'," Lisa said with a grimace. "Of course, the murderer could be a woman."
      "I don't think so. Agatha probably weighed two-fifty. It'd take a fairly strong person to move that. And there are more strong men than women." Bernard rubbed his eyes. "I wish I had my contact solution with me."
      "You wear contacts?"
      "Yes. I'm near-sighted." He massaged his neck. "The whole thing just doesn't make any sense."
      "Probably it will turn out to be really simple," Lisa said. "It just looks weird because we don't know what happened." She pulled into the parking lot of an apartment building. "This won't take long."
      As she walked up the steps, she noticed Leonard's car was parked in the lot. Great, she thought, the slug is here. Oh, what a wonderful day. If he says anything, I swear I'll kill him.
      She knocked on his door. No answer. He might still be sleeping off last night, she thought hopefully. When she tried the knob, the door opened. She stepped inside. If luck was with her, she could grab her purse and be out before Leonard noticed her.
      Lisa had often been teased about her purse. It was huge and always crammed full of make-up, pencils, notepads, her recorder, some tapes, a couple of screwdrivers, and just about anything else she needed or thought she would need. It functioned as her supply room and security blanket. If she hadn't been so depressed this morning, she wouldn't have forgotten it. And now it was lying on the couch with its myriad contents spilled on the floor.
      "You, jerk!" she shouted. "Going through my purse --"
      Striding across the room, she flung open the bedroom door. "Leonard, I don't know what you thought you were doing, but let me tell you --"
      He lay on his back by the unmade bed, a knife buried to the hilt in his chest.
      All Lisa could think about was that he couldn't tell anyone she had spent the night with him. She would have to do that now.

End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

All I've done

      All I've done is the play. That's it. Nothing else. We open Wednesday night. I will be both sad and happy when it's over. I've enjoyed this cast and this play. And I think I've done a good job directing it. But I will like having my nights free again.
      My sister has her surgery Wednesday afternoon. Please pray for her. If I hear anything before I go to the theater, I will try to get on here and keep you updated.
      And that's about it. Here's another excerpt from Murder by Dewey Decimal. Bernard and Lisa finally meet. At last.

Except 2.1 from Murder By Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      Bernard sat on the stone bench outside the library, watching the police search the grounds. He still felt jarred almost as if someone had struck him on the head. At least my hands have stopped shaking, he thought. Now if my stomach would settle down, I'd be okay.
      Bernard sat on the stone bench outside the library, watching the police search the grounds. He still felt jarred almost as if someone had struck him on the head. At least my hands have stopped shaking, he thought. Now if my stomach would settle down, I'd be okay.
      He was embarrassed by his reaction and even more so by Sims's concern. Treating me like I was a child, he thought disgustedly, aware that he was being unfair. Of course, I'm not acting much better than one. Although anyone would be shocked by finding a dead person, he couldn't help but feel that he was being unmanly. But the way her throat gaped open --
      The scene swam before him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. As quickly as he could, he placed his head between his knees, trying to remember if that was what you were supposed to do if you felt faint or did you do that if you felt sick? Either way, it's right, he thought. Slowly he began to feel better.
      "Are you okay?" a female voice asked.
      He didn't raise his head. "No, I may be sick."
      "Oh." Someone sat down beside him. "Do you need a doctor?"
      "No, I just need to sit still." And be left alone, he added silently.
      She was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Are you sure you don't need one?"
      He sighed and raised his head slightly. A slender woman with straight brown hair was sitting beside him, watching him expectantly. She looked vaguely familiar.
      "No, I'll be okay," Bernard said, trying to place her. “Thank you, though."
      "What's wrong? Is it the heat?"
      "No." He sighed again. "I just -- had an upsetting experience."
      "What happened?" She leaned forward.
      "Do I know you?" he asked.
      "I don't think we've met, but I'm Lisa Trent. I used to work for the Ryton Journal and News. I'm ... stringing for the Oklahoma City Dispatch now."
      "I'm Bernard Worthington," he said. "I don't know if I can talk to you. I mean, I don't know what the procedure is in cases like this."
      "Cases like what?" Lisa asked.
      "I don't think I should answer any questions until the chief says it’s okay," Bernard said, realizing that he was still leaning over. He straightened up, embarrassed.
      "Chief Donaldson?"
      "Yes, he's up there," Bernard said. "And I think I should have his permission first. I'm sorry."
      "No problem. I'll just go and talk to him and catch you later," she said, watching a policeman poking around under the shrubbery.
      Bernard expected her to leave then, but she remained, leaning back on the bench and writing in a notebook she produced from a pocket in her faded jeans.
      "What are you doing?" he asked, alarmed by the thought she might be writing about his refusal to talk to her.
      "I'm just setting the mood," she said. "I find details bring a story alive. I wish I had my recorder."
      "Where is it?"
      "I ... left it in my purse, and I left that at a friend's house." She frowned, and her mouth twisted.
      He noticed her eyes were deep brown. "The library has recorders you could check out."
      "Really? That would be great." She turned to him. "Aren't you a librarian here?"
      "Yes, I'm the assistant librarian."
      "Now, I remember. I did the story when the City Council hired you. It wasn't that long ago. I can't believe my memory sometimes. I kept thinking I had seen you somewhere."
      "Don't feel bad. I was trying to place you, too."
      He smiled at her. She smiled back. With something akin to panic, he realized he wanted the conversation to continue but could think of absolutely nothing more to say.
      "Well, I guess I better go find someone to interview," she said, closing her pad and placing her pen behind her ear.
      "Maybe you should just go ahead and interview me. But ask the chief if what I say is okay to be published."
      She looked at him.
      "You'll probably want to later since I found her body."
      "Body?" Lisa flipped her pad open. "Go ahead."
      After Bernard finished telling his story, he watched as Lisa sat in thought, her brow wrinkled.
      "How bizarre," Lisa said. "I know the old lady was a witch, but I can't see someone killing her for that. Did you like her?"
      Bernard could feel her eyes studying him. "Frankly, no. She made this job a good facsimile of Hell."
      "Yeah, I remember she wasn't too happy when they hired you."
       She paused, obviously considering a question, and Bernard thought he knew what it was.
       "No, I didn't kill her," he said.
       "I didn't ask."
       "You were thinking of asking."
       "Well, yes. After all, aren't most murders an inside job, so to speak? You know, the husband, boyfriend, and other fun folks."
       "What would be my motive?" he asked.
       "Maybe you wanted her job?"
       "Not really. I want to move away from Ryton, and I can get a better paying job elsewhere."
       "So how did you end up here in the first place?"
       The thought of Sherry intruded on Bernard's mind; as always, it hurt.
       "I made a bad choice," he said shortly. "And the sooner I'm away from here, the better."
       Lisa looked like she wanted to ask a question but didn't get the chance.
       "Bimmer," Sims called from the library door. "The chief wants you."
       "I'd better go." Bernard rose, his stomach immediately tightening again.
       "I think I'll tag along." Lisa followed Bernard. "What did he call you?"
       "Bimmer," Bernard said. "It's my nickname because I have the same initials as the car. Bernard M. Worthington. B.M.W."
       "Do you like it?"
       Surprised, Bernard looked at her. "You know, I think you're the first person who has ever asked. I guess so. At least it's better than Bernie." They walked up the library steps where Sims waited.
       "Hey, Lisa. What are you doing here?" Sims asked. "I thought the paper closed yesterday."
       Bernard glanced at the reporter. Her face reddened.
       "It did," she said. "I'm stringing for the Oklahoma City Dispatch now so you'd better be careful. You can't push me around any more." She lightly hit Sims on the arm.
       "Of course not, Your Hineyness. We will treat you with police TLC."
       "What's that? You only hit me where it doesn't show?"
       "No. It means we use the soft end of our sticks."
       Their easy banter irritated Bernard. "Isn't the chief waiting?"
       "Let's go," Sims said, opening the door.
       Sims led them to Agatha's office. A man in gray coveralls knelt before the door, working on the lock. The chief frowned at Lisa. She smiled brightly.
       "I thought the paper closed," the chief said.
       "She's working for the Oklahoma City Dispatch now," Sims said. "Pretty hot stuff."
       "Congratulations," the chief said. "I always thought you were good."
       "Thanks," Lisa said. "I don't suppose you have a statement yet."
       "No, but I will some time today," the chief promised.
       "I've got it, Chuck," the locksmith said. "And it was a bear. That lady had a good lock."
       "Thanks, Tom," the chief said. The chief stepped forward. Bernard realized he was holding his breath. The chief opened the door.
       The office had been Agatha's pride and joy. From the polished oak desk to the Burgundy leather chairs to the large portrait of Eliah Ryton to the deep pile carpet, it was hers completely. Lax about other things, she kept her office immaculate.
       Now, books and papers were strewn across the floor. The backs and the seats of the chairs were slashed open. The portrait lay on the floor, its glass broken, its frame pulled apart. The desk drawers were in a pile and the desk overturned. But, what captured everyone's attention was the east wall where a wall panel was slid aside to reveal the open door of a safe.
       Sims stepped inside and went to it. "It's empty."
       "What was in there?" the chief asked Bernard.
       "I don't know," Bernard said slowly. "I didn't even know she had a safe."
       "Chief," Sims said. "Look over there." He pointed at the floor by the desk.
      A dark red stain glistened on the floor. Splatters of the same fluid spotted the carpet in large amounts.
       "All that blood ..." Lisa said, her voice shaking.
       "She probably thrashed around a lot," Dimes said, stepping into the room and kneeling beside the blood. "I'd say this was where she was killed."
       "You going to tell me that without a lab test?" the chief asked.
       "In this case, yes," Dimes said, holding up a pair of tweezers with a bloody object in it. "There's chunk of her throat here."
       Bernard barely made it to the restroom before he threw up bile.

End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      A lot of people who read this book the first time around commented on how much Bernard threw up. You'll be pleased to learn that he doesn't throw up any more after this.
      I, however, thought his reaction was how many people react when confronting the carnage of a violent death. I know this because I threw up the first time I saw a beheaded man in the flesh so to speak. For Halloween sometime, I'll tell that story.
      This book, however, doesn't have a lot more blood in it. I was trying for a "cozy" rather than a thriller. That doesn't mean people are safe. No, far from it. You can kill people in a lot of ways that don't involve a lot of blood.
      Anyway, it's time for me to call it a night. Pleasant dreams.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Excerpt 1.4

      Because Crystal ordered me to post more of the book, here is the next excerpt from Murder by Dewey Decimal.

Excerpt 1.4 from Murder by Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      Leonard Brewer was highly pleased with himself despite the beginning of a hangover headache. As the hot water of his shower streamed down his broad, hairy back, he grinned. He'd finally got Lisa. Although his memory of the night was fuzzy -- most of what happened after he fixed the flat tire was a blank -- he knew she came home with him because her purse was in the living room. And in his experience, any woman who went to bed with him once was easier to get the second time. Teddy, one of the Journal's other pressmen, said the first time lessened Leonard's revulsion factor.
      Leonard grinned, thinking about Teddy's shock when the paper folded. Bet it's going to be hard to keep his brats in food now, Leonard gloated. Leonard wasn't particularly worried about the job loss. He figured to draw unemployment for a while. Maybe he could convince Lisa to move in -- just to share bills. It'd be nice to have a woman around. And with his and her unemployment, they could have some good times. At least until he got tired of her.
      And a man could get sick of Lisa pretty quick, he thought, remembering how she had treated him in the past. Uppity, that's what she is. Always acting like she's so much better than the rest of us when everybody in the county knows what her old man was. And her mother was just a waitress that everyone says got extra tips for being real friendly behind the diner. Still, Lisa does have nice --
      The doorbell rang. Leonard swore and decided to ignore it. He didn't have anyone that he wanted to see particularly this morning; it was probably just a salesman or some religious nut. He reached down for the bar of soap. The doorbell rang again. He soaped his arms and chest, jumping when the bell sounded again. And then again. Again.
      Swearing savagely with all his considerable skill and extensive off-color vocabulary, he stepped out of the tub, slipping on the wet floor and only saving himself from a nasty fall by catching the side of the sink, which certainly didn't improve his mood. He grabbed his towel. Whoever it is, is going to be real sorry when I finish with him, he thought angrily. As he knotted the towel around his waist, the bell rang again.
      "I'm coming," he yelled, stalking in the living room. "Ring that bell again and I'll rip your head off and spit in your neck!" He hit his shin on the coffee table and sent a couple choice words its direction. The bell rang again.
      Reaching the door, he started to jerk it open when a thought hit him: What if it was Lisa wanting her purse? It'd be just like her to lean on the bell. He decided that it wouldn't do to appear angry. Why give her a reason to miss out on a second helping of the Leonard love machine. He put on his best smile.
      He opened the door. It wasn't Lisa; it was some man. "What do you want --"
      A blur of motion. Hot pain tore through Leonard. He raised his hands and clutched the hilt of a knife protruding from his chest. He stumbled back, trying to yell, gaping at the man who lunged forward and pushed him further into the room. Leonard fell to his knees. He couldn't catch his breath. The man leaned over, grabbing at the knife. Leonard swayed and pitched forward to the floor, driving the knife deeper.
      He tried to rise, then darkness covered him and took the pain away forever.

End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      The town of Ryton is apparently a dangerous place. By the way, I mention Ryton in Darkness, Oklahoma. An inside reference for me that now you understand also.
      The play is taking all my time and energy. I hope to have a time for a brief nap this weekend!
      Hope things are going well for you. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Catchup and another excerpt

       I'm still up to my neck in busy, but I'm staying on top of it. So far. Keep your fingers crossed. A quick catch-up:
      - The play is going well. My cast is delivering all that I ask for them and more. We open one week from today. Yikes! Exciting and scary.
      - My back continues to heal slowly. It hurts most of the time, but not so much that I can't function.
      - No news on my sister other than what I've already told you. We'll know more -- I hope -- after the surgery next Wednesday. Her spirits are good, and she's a fighter through and through. We are hoping and praying for the best outcome possible. Thank you for your continued prayers.
      - I haven't wrote on Darkness, Oklahoma since Saturday. Can't find the energy or time. I hope to dive back into it this Saturday.
      - The excerpts for Murder by Dewey Decimal are in correct order and follow one after another, unlike those for Darkness, Oklahoma, which are from all over the book.
      - Yes, Murder by Dewey Decimal is done. Been done for at least 20 years. I am revising it slightly as I post it, but otherwise, it is as I wrote it all those years ago on that "letter perfect" dot matrix printer.
      - Speaking of which, here's another excerpt. We meet Chief Donaldson, who is the third voice in the book. I like the chief a lot. He's my favorite in the book.

Excerpt 1.3 from Murder by Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      Most people who knew Ryton Police Chief Charles Donaldson knew he had an ulcer. When one of his officers was being a particular pain, he would look the offender in the eye and say, "You're aggravating my ulcer. I wouldn't do that if I was you." Officers who aggravated the chief's ulcer usually ended up patrolling Roger's Bar and Grill on a Saturday night and could count on at least one knuckle-busting and body-bruising fight. Citizens who aggravated his ulcer usually ended up in jail.
      Most people also thought his ulcer had been caused by sixteen years as Ryton's police chief. They were wrong. His ulcer was caused by peaches. Or more correctly, the lack of them.
      Five years ago, the chief purchased a orchard, a "peach of a deal" as the real estate agent had put it.
      "A waste of money," Maggie said, pacing around the kitchen.
      She turned and faced the chief. "You should have taken our retirement money and burned it. At least, that way we would have gotten some heat from it!"
      "You wait. That orchard will give us a good living when I retire," he told his wife.
      Maggie had looked coldly at him, and, for the first time in their many long years of marriage, turned and walked out. The kitchen door closed decisively behind her. The chief should have realized the door was an omen, but he was relieved -- and puzzled -- because it hadn't been as bad as he thought it was going to be. She'll come around when those peaches start bringing in money, he thought, reassuring himself.
      And that might have been true -- if the orchard had cooperated. The first year, the weather warmed early and then froze again, killing the peach buds. The second year was a repeat of the first with a drought thrown in just to keep things interesting. The third year, the weather was perfect for both the peaches and bugs. Lots of bugs. The county agent said the orchard should have been sprayed early. The chief sprayed late, but to keep the bugs to some controllable level, he had to spray so much that he finally decided that it was cheaper to let the bugs have the crop that year and spray early next year. The fourth year, nothing happened. But few of the trees budded. Too much stress, the county agent said. The comment was about the trees, but the chief was under a strain, too. This year, everything looked good. The chief kept waiting for the next disaster, and the suspense was keeping his ulcer aggravated.
      And one of the most annoying things was that Maggie refused to comment on the orchard. She wouldn't talk about it good or bad. No 'I told you so's.' No 'You should have know better's.' For four years going on five, not a word about it passed her lips. It didn't exist for her.
      "The orchard looked good today," the chief would say.
      "Debbie -- you know, Edith Worney's granddaughter -- has the chicken pox," Maggie would say. "I do hope none of the rest of the kids get it. Although it's probably best they get it now when they're young. Darlene Ogden got it real bad when she was twenty-five."
      "I think we're going to have a good crop."
      "Darla had a horrible time with it," Maggie would continue. "You couldn't hardly see her face for the sores."
      And if Maggie didn't bring up Darla, it was Mrs. Henderson's cats or P.C. McGee's drinking. If the chief kept pursuing the subject, she left the room. He had done everything he could think of, but she remained silent on the orchard. The chief had made Maggie mad before -- after all, they'd been married for nearly forty years -- but she had never done this before. Usually, after giving him a good scolding, she would forgive him. He had never thought he could want a tongue-lashing, but he had discovered it was preferable to silence.
      He'd been at the orchard when this call came through. Murders didn't happen often in Ryton; the last one had been about six months ago and resulted from a domestic squabble. The wife turned herself in. Hardly any investigation was needed. In his experience, the chief had found murders were usually easy to solve. If you checked the wife, boyfriend, husband, mistress or business partner, you found the murderer. People killed other people for passion or profit. Bernard, for instance, would have something to gain by her death since he would probably become the Head Librarian. People had been killed for less.
      Yet, as the chief sat behind a desk in Bernard's office, watching Bernard answer questions, he was thinking he had never seen a more unlikely murder suspect. Something in the way Bernard held himself and the shocked look in his eyes told the chief that murder was not in Bernard's working vocabulary.
      "So what did you do after you found the body?" Lieutenant Ron Sims asked Bernard.
      "I went up front and called the police and told Millie -- Millie Sader, she's the day aide -- that Mrs. Ryton-Storer had been in an accident and that we shouldn't open the library until the police came, and then ... then I was sick." Bernard looked pale.
      "Did you see or hear anything suspicious?" Sims asked.
      "No." Bernard shook his head. "There was no one around."
      "Why didn't you leave the library and wait outside?" the chief asked.
      "Should I have?" Bernard asked earnestly. "Because I might have disturbed the evidence?"
      "Well, there's that, too," the chief said. "But, what if the murderer had been inside still?" The chief hadn't thought Bernard's face could get any whiter, but it did.
      "I never thought of that," Bernard said. "Do you think he was?"
      The chief shrugged. "Maybe. Did you notice anything missing? Did the library keep any money in the building?"
      "We have about twenty dollars that we keep for change if someone needs to pay a fine. I don't know if it's missing. I didn't look around so I don't know if anything's gone, but the library doesn't have much besides books, a couple of typewriters, and a photocopier."
      "I read where rare books could bring lots of money," the chief said.
      "Yes, but we don't have any that I know of."
      "Computers? Fax machines? TVs?"
      Bernard shook his head. "Mrs. Ryton-Storer didn't allow them."
      The chief thought for a moment. "Maybe someone was mad at her. Had she fought with anyone that you know of in the past couple of days?"
      "Well, practically everyone who came in here," Bernard said. "She wasn't very friendly, you know, but I don't think she made anyone mad enough to kill her."
      "What did she fight with them about?"
      "Mostly about the books. If they kept them too long or if she thought they were in worse shape than when they were checked out. Sometimes she would inspect the books before she'd let them be checked in, and if they were damaged, she'd try to make the person pay for them. It really made a lot of people mad. But, to be fair, she might have had a point. A lot of books are destroyed or stolen here. It's quite a problem."
      "Did she fight with the staff?" the chief asked.
      "Well, yes." Bernard seemed reluctant to continue.
      "Did she scrap with anyone in particular?" The chief leaned back, but he was watching Bernard closely.
      "Yesterday, Jay Jones, the janitor, got on her wrong side. Her office is supposed to be cleaned only on the second Monday of the month. Jay's going on vacation next week so I told him to do yesterday." Bernard grimaced. "She wasn't pleased with him or me, and she let us know about it. But, he just blew it off, and so did I. If you let everything she did annoy you, you wouldn't last long here."
      "Did you like her?" the chief asked.
      "I ... No, she resented me being here," Bernard said. "I was going to leave in a month or so. I have some job offers I'm looking into ..."
      "Who all has keys to this place?" the chief asked.
      "I do. Millie does. Jay has a set. And I think that's it." Bernard frowned. "In fact, I remember a couple of months ago, the county assessor wanted to get in here after hours, and they had to call Mrs. Ryton-Storer because City Hall didn't have a set. She was extremely careful about security."
      "Were the doors unlocked this morning?" the chief asked.
      "No. I remember unlocking the side one to let myself in and the front one to talk to Millie. The other two doors are fire exits, and if they were open, the alarms would be going off."
      "Have you ever been arrested before?"
      "Good god, no."
      "I keep thinking I've heard your name before."
"I've never even had a parking ticket here."
      The chief studied him for a moment and then turned to Sims. "Take Mr. Worthington around the library and see if anything's missing or not where it should be."
      Sims left the room with Bernard in tow. Deputy James Harris stuck his head in and asked, "Do you want to talk to the Sader girl now?"
      "What's her story?" the chief asked.
      "Basically, she doesn't have one. Worthington didn't let her in when she came to work because of the victim's 'accident.' She went to the drugstore and picked up some stuff and came back here."
      "In that case, no. Just send her on home and tell her we may need to talk to her later. What about Jay Jones? Is he out there?" the chief asked.
Harris shook his head.
      "Tell Worthington when Jones comes in, I want to see him."
      Harris left. The chief sighed and decided to see if the coroner had anything for him. He stepped out into the library and gazed around the building. He had visited the library once about four years ago and probably just a couple of times in the years before that, and he needed to set the layout in his mind again.
      A huge check-out desk dominated the small lobby, squatting squarely in the middle of the room. To the right of the front doors were Agatha's office, which was the tower room, then Bernard's much smaller room and finally the lounge. To the left were the two restrooms, a storage and workroom and the elevator. About twenty feet behind the checkout desk, wide marble stairs rose gradually, leading to the second floor. A storage closet was underneath the stairs. Going around the stairs would lead into the fiction room, which was filled with rows of shelves. Down the center of the room were reading carrels.
      The chief strode across the black and white marble floor and up the stairs and paused at the top. The layout of the upstairs where the nonfiction was kept was similar to the fiction room but smaller lengthwise, beginning where the elevator opened, allowing a two-story ceiling for the lobby below. It had no carrels, although there was room for them. The body had been found on the right side of the room, a few feet from a wall display-case that featured Civil War items. The chief remembered the display from his visit four years ago when he was trying to find some books on orchards. He also remembered that Agatha hadn't been much help in locating any -- not that she had put out much effort to do so.
      The chief walked over to where County Coroner Josh Dimes was preparing the body for shipping. As he watched Dimes, he began to get angry. The chief had never cared much for the old broad, having listened to her complaints about the money the police department received when it should be going to her precious library, but no old lady, no matter how sour she was, deserved to have her throat slit like a pig.
      Harris approached the chief. "Worthington said Jones was supposed to come in at nine. He hasn't heard from him."
      "Take Hayden with you and see if you can locate Jones," the chief said. "Ask Worthington for the address." Harris turned to leave. "And be careful, just in case Jones is our killer." Harris nodded and went down the stairs.
      Dimes finished and directed a couple of deputies to carry the body out. The chief stepped forward.
      "Well?" he asked.
      "Won't know anything for sure until I get it back to the morgue," Dimes said. "You know that. I can't think of how many times you've asked me for information before I've even had a chance to find anything out."
      "And I can't think how many times you've said that and then given me what I wanted," the chief said. "So give me what you've got."
      Their ritual completed, Dimes looked around and said, "Well, first thing, she wasn't killed here." He gestured at the floor. "Not enough blood. Of course, you've probably already figured that." At the chief's nod, he continued. "I'd guess she died around seven or eight this morning. I think the murder weapon is probably one of the those hunting knives that are serrated near the hilt because the cut is a bit ragged on the left side and a little skin is missing. I couldn't find any signs of bruising or any other wounds so unless something turns up in the autopsy, that's what killed her." Dimes paused. "That's about it."
      "Was she ..." The chief hesitated.
      "Raped?" Dimes frowned. "Don't think so. No signs, but I'll know for sure later. Do you have reason to think she was?"
"No, it's just in this day and age, you can never tell what kind of sick bastards are running around."
      "True enough," Dimes said. "Any suspects?"
      "Not really. The assistant librarian found her. He's the best so far, but I don't think so. No guts. He's been puking for the past hour."
      "I know Bernard. Met him at church," Dimes said. "Seems okay, though I've always wondered what a young man was doing as an librarian."
"I've been told librarians with a degree can make a pretty good living," the chief said.
      "So what's he doing here?" Dimes asked. "The city couldn't be paying him much."
      "It doesn't pay him. When Ryton gave this place to the city, he also left most of his money in a trust for the library. The City Council is also the Library Board, and they administer it. He probably makes more than both of us combined."
      Sims had walked up while the chief was talking and was waiting patiently. The chief motioned at him.
      "We've finished searching the place," Sims said. "All except the victim's office. It's locked, and he doesn't have a key. Otherwise, no signs of anything that shouldn't be here. No signs of a forced entry. We found nothing."
      "Were her keys on her body?" the chief asked Dimes.
      "No," Dimes answered. "In fact, she wasn't carrying anything except some tissues."
      The chief motioned to one of the other deputies. "Edwards, get a locksmith here and open that door."
      "Yes, sir." Edwards left.
      "You'd better stick around," the chief told Dimes. "She might have been killed in there." Dimes nodded and started gathering his equipment. The chief and Sims walked downstairs.
      "Anything missing?" the chief asked.
      "Not as far as Bimmer could tell," Sims replied.
      "Yeah, that's what we call Bernard because his initials are like the car ... B.M.W. And Bimmer's the car's nickname."
      The chief grunted. He had figured it was something dumb like that.
      "He's pretty shook up," Sims continued. "I sent him outside for some air."
      "You know him very well?"
      "I guess so," Sims said. "He used to play softball with me on the First Baptist team until he split up with Sherry Wyatt. I haven't seen him much lately. But, he seems like a good guy. Do you think he did it? You know, I always wondered why Sherry dumped him. Maybe she sensed --"
      "I don't think anything yet except that someone killed her and we have to find out who," the chief said, pointedly. "Get some men and look around the neighborhood. See if anyone saw or heard anything." The chief didn't hold much hope of finding any witnesses though. If Agatha had been killed in the library and at the time that Dimes thought, the businesses surrounding the library would have been closed. Still, they could get lucky.
      "Yes, sir," Sims said.
      "And tell Worthington to stay close. I'll want him here when we open her office."
      "Okay, and, Chief, City Records finally found a phone number for her next of kin," Sims said, handing the chief a piece of paper. "It was the only relative she had listed on her city health forms. It's her brother-in-law."
      The chief read the name. Richard Storer. It was an Oklahoma City phone number. "Well, I guess I'd better call him. Tell Worthington I'm going to use his office." He let the number ring several times, but no one answered. He hung up, reminding himself to try later. The chief sighed. He could already feel his ulcer churning. No suspects worth having. No clues. A big fat nothing. The City Council was going to love this.

End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      Hope things are going well for you. I miss spending time with you! Talk to you later.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Prayer request

      A member of my family has cancer and goes into surgery next Wednesday. I don't know much more than this and probably won't until after the surgery. Please pray about this. Thank you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Old friends

      Today I went through my CD collection and pulled out several CDs I hadn't listened to in years, some maybe for 10 or 15 years. I had a good time listening to those songs. Some I clearly recalled, others I barely remembered. Made me remember who I was all those years ago when I heard them for the first time.
      I guess I was prompted to listen to those dusty discs by re-reading Murder by Dewey Decimal. I started to recall that kid I was 20 years ago. Awkward and unsure, afraid of so many things, no belief in myself. I wish I could go back and tell that kid, "Hey, we turned out okay. We're not famous yet or rich, and we haven't found our true love, but otherwise, things are okay. We have family and friends who appreciate and love us, a God that loves us, food, shelter, clothing. We're still writing and still enjoying it. And we still have hope for many bright things."
      Of course, honesty would compel me to tell him that we have a few more scars now: the loss of loved ones to the grave, bad relationships that would take all our courage and will to survive, health and money problems. But through that all, we made it and are making it still.
      So I'd tell him, "Chin up, guy. Face it all bravely. Remember that no matter what happened in our past, we're worthy still. We're going to be okay. Believe."
      And then I'd tell him to buy Microsoft stock like crazy while it's cheap. Which is yet another reason I couldn't be trusted with a time machine.
      Crystal said she enjoyed yesterday's excerpt from Murder by Dewey Decimal. So this excerpt is for her. It's the next part of chapter one. We meet Lisa Trent.

Excerpt 1.2 from Murder by Dewey Decimal

      Lisa Trent closed her eyes and opened them again. And repeated the procedure. It did no good. The naked man in the bed remained Leonard Brewer. She groaned. She had actually been
drunk enough last night to go to bed with Leonard. Or had she? Steeling her courage, she glanced down. Thank God, her jeans were on. And buttoned, too. Too bad her bra was missing.
      Carefully, she eased out of bed, hampered only slightly by the jackhammer which was cutting through her brain. Leonard groaned but didn't wake up. Now, where was her bra? It was lying on a chair, next to a pair of tiger-striped men's briefs. Lisa had actually been drunk enough to go to bed with a man who wore tiger-striped shorts. She felt sick.
      She dressed as quickly and quietly as she could and made her wobbly way to his front door. What were the odds, she wondered, of Leonard being too drunk to remember she had gone home with him? Not very good. He would probably brag about his latest conquest to the rest of the boys in the backshop. And then she remembered he couldn't and why she had went to Roger's Bar and Grill with him and the boys last night; she had wanted to forget her life was
      The Ryton Journal and News was closed, finished, done. The publisher told them yesterday that he simply couldn't afford to run the paper any more. The local economy was in a slump and the paper was in debt up to its figurative neck. As news reporter/headline writer/paste-up person, Lisa was out of a job. Out of the best job she had ever had. Other jobs paid her more money, but this one had been special in what it had given her.
      She heard Leonard groan, and she quickly stepped outside. She couldn't face his leering face this morning. She looked around for her car. Leonard had been so late to pick her up that she had driven to his apartment last night to see if he had remembered their date. She was glad now that she had done so. Probably the only smart thing I did last night, she thought.
      Vaguely, she remembered parking her car near the street so she walked around the building, finally spotting her beat-up Pinto hidden by a truck parked next to it. I would have to park all the way over there, she thought, wincing at the sun.
      She got into her car but made no move to start it. She couldn't decide where to go. Home, she guessed. It felt so strange to not go to work. In the four years she had worked for the Journal, she had been absent only one day -- and that was because she had to attend a funeral. She closed her eyes, resting her head on the steering wheel. The sun was too bright, but its warmth was welcome. She felt cold and tired and beaten.
      Beaten by the loss of a job. She shook her head slightly, remembering how she had felt when she joined the Journal. She had believed her chance had finally come, that she could finally overcome her poor past. Not that she was ashamed of her mother or, for that matter, even her father despite what people had said about him. Sometimes late at night, when she was tired, she would indulge in a fantasy where they would pick up a Journal and see her byline and read her stories. Her mother would have been especially proud; she had always bragged about her daughter's grades as she poured coffee and took orders at Al's Truck Stop.
      And Lisa had made good grades in school, hoping for a scholarship to a college. And she got one, but it wasn't much. She would have still attempted to go, but then cancer seized her mother. She stayed in Ryton, working at the truck stop, driving her mother back and forth to the hospital for the year it took Abigail Trent to die. Then her dear, sweet, befuddled father had finished drinking his life away. She buried him barely six months later.
      For a year, she wandered through her life, going to work, coming home, having a few messy flings with truck drivers, drinking too much and crying alone. One rainy day in May, as she hurried down Main Street, a notice in window of the Ryton Journal and News caught her eye. Office Help Wanted, it read. In the hard rain, she stopped. Something broke free inside her, and the hard knot of grief was pushed aside. She went through the door, determined to have that job.
      Two years later, after she had pushed and nagged her way into reporting, John Towers, the editor, said he had only hired her because no one else applied for the job, but it was one of his all-time best decisions. She worked hard to become an excellent reporter, and she enjoyed how the locals responded to her. People who before wouldn't deign to notice her now smiled and said hi.
      "You've won their respect," Towers said. "Now, don't get the big head. You're a small-town reporter on a small-town paper. You're not ready for the New York Times yet."
      Now she never would be. Thinking of her prospects, she was almost tempted to climb back into bed with Leonard. He would be a little better than being alone which had been the only reason she had agreed to go out with him last night.
      Remembering his shorts, she dug her keys out of her jeans and started the car. Perhaps some coffee would help. She decided to go by the truck stop. If worse came to worse, she felt confident that she could get rehired there. And it might come to that. She simply didn't know how to get another reporting job. How could she compete with people who had college degrees in journalism? Towers had always said that experience counted more than college, but what real experience did she have? Writing obituaries and covering agricultural news hardly qualified her for the big city papers. She supposed she could always get a job with some other small-town paper and start all over again. But where would she get the money to move?
      She drove down Main, heading for the truck stop. Sunk as she was in her thoughts, she still noticed the police cars, their lights flashing, heading the other way. First, one and then two others. For a moment she resisted the impulse to follow them, but she decided that it wouldn't hurt to find out what was causing the activity. The cars turned in at the library entrance. She slowly drove past, taking in all the police cars -- at least four, which was half of Ryton's force -- and the County Coroner's van.
      Something's big happened, she thought, her pulse beginning to quicken. Maybe big enough to impress an editor in some big city newspaper. Like that editor at the Oklahoma City Dispatch. What was his name? John Veit. If she called him with a big enough story, who knows?
      She turned around and drove up the library driveway. She wasn't finished yet.

End Excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      I hope you have a great week. Talk to you later.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

An excerpt from my first novel

      Murder by Dewey Decimal was the first novel I wrote and finished. It's not particularly well-written -- the first chapter has enough exposition to choke you -- but it lit the fire in me and I have a lot of affection for it. Written 25 years ago on a Tandy 1000 computer using Wordstar, the book brings back that time for me as few things can.
      I liked Bernard M. Worthington and Abigail Trent (unseen in the following excerpt) enough that I wrote two more books about them. Since I don't have time to post lately, I thought I would share excerpts from that first long ago book. What follows is the beginning of the first chapter.

Excerpt from Murder by Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      Later, Bernard would remember he had looked around for more blood -- not that he knew how much blood there should be. It had just seemed to him that there should have been more. He would also remember how small Agatha Ryton-Storer looked in death; although her considerable poundage remained the same, without the vicious fire of her life, she seemed shrunken, tiny, even feeble. Later, he would remember those things. But, at that moment, he stood, frozen by shock, unable to think, his eyes tracing the thick red line that marked her open throat.
      Her death had crossed Bernard M. Worthington's mind before. He had often fantasized about it as a way to end her tyranny. In fact, earlier that morning, as he drove to work, he had indulged in one of his favorites -- the old crone boiling in a pot of oil surrounded by screaming natives who were preparing to sacrifice her to the deep, dark god of libraries. He smiled at the image as he turned the car onto Main, driving past the still-closed shops and businesses that lined the street. He was so lost in his thoughts he barely remembered to turn his head away as he passed Wyatt Real Estate. Seeing the name of her father's office always reminded him of Sherry and the wreck she had made of his life. Of course, he admitted wryly, trying to remember to not look also made him think of her.
      He sighed and concentrated on the drive to the Ryton Memorial Library, his mind fogged by another sleepless night. He didn't know why he was going to work early; the library wouldn't open until nine, but he needed to go somewhere. And this early in the morning, he would have the library to himself for a couple of hours before Hagatha (he liked to add the 'H') arrived.
      He never looked forward to her arrival, but on this he was dreading it. Every Tuesday afternoon, Agatha held her weekly library meeting where she would rave about the wrongs that Bernard and the library aides had committed to her domain. Bernard rated the meetings in his list of favorite things to do right below having a root canal without an anesthetic. And he expected to be fried alive in today's meeting because he was responsible for allowing Jay Jones, the library janitor, in her office yesterday while she was gone for her usual two-hour lunch.
      Her scream of rage had echoed throughout the library and brought Bernard running down the stairs. When he reached her office, he paused at the door. Her tantrum was already in full tirade. Jones stood in the middle of the room, a vacuum cleaner by his side.
      "How dare you come in here!" she snarled, stabbing a finger at the hapless Jones. "This office is private, do you hear me, private!"
      "I was going to clean --" Jones began, his face flushing with anger.
      "You are to clean my office only on the second Monday of each month," she cut in. "That is the way we've done it for years. And this is not the second Monday! This is the first Monday! Or did you forget how to count?"
      "Mrs. Ryton-Storer, I told him to do it," Bernard said, immediately regretting it as she turned on him.
      "Who do you think you are?” she shouted. “I'm the Head Librarian here! And as long as I am, this staff answers to me and me only!" Wisps of graying hair were escaping from her tight habitual bun.
      "Jay is going to take his vacation next week," Bernard said, feeling his stomach knot up. "He asked me about it while you were gone, and I told him to take care of it now."
      "You have no right to make any decisions," she snarled. "Just because he will be gone means nothing!"
      "I'm sorry --"
      "Shut up! SHUT UP! Get out! Both of you get out!"
      Bernard and Jones got. She slammed the door behind them.
      The two men looked at each other.
      "That was pleasant," Bernard said. "I'm sorry I got you into that."
      "Wasn't your fault," Jones grunted, picking up his vacuum. "She's always in a tizzy about something. Been that way the whole time I've worked here and I've been here nearly twenty years. She's not going to change." He started to walk away. "But, you know, she can't live forever." He laughed. "No, sir, she can't live forever, and no one will care when she goes." He headed for the storage closet, chuckling.
      Agatha sulked in her office and refused to talk to anyone for the rest of the day. Bernard was certain, however, she would have plenty to say at the meeting.
      He was dropping her headfirst in a vat of acid when he noticed her car was already in the parking lot. Agatha never arrived before ten, and it was only eight now. He frowned and considered going back home for a while but decided that he might as well go on in since he was already there. And the library -- even with Agatha in residence -- was better than the emptiness of his apartment.
      Bernard had attempted to like Agatha, but it was a doomed effort from the beginning. Agatha Ryton-Storer had held the library in her claw for the past thirty years, and she was not impressed by Bernard's masters degree.
      "It's nothing but a piece of paper," she snarled. "Experience is the only thing that counts."
      Unfortunately, for all her thirty years, she was a terrible librarian. Bernard had discovered so many misshelved books that he wondered if she and the aides even knew how to count, much less understand the Dewey Decimal system. And half the books in the library weren't even in the card catalog. The Library Board had recognized she was slipping when she started refusing to allow people to check out books. As she put it, "How do you expect this library to have any books at all if we allow trash off the streets to take them at will!"
      The Board had politely suggested retirement; she had politely told them to eat dirt and die. They would have fired her, but they couldn't. When Eliah Ryton, her grandfather, donated the Ryton mansion to the city to be used as the library and gave a generous endowment for the care of the same, he made one condition: Any of his direct descendants must be given the Head Librarian's job for as long as the descendant wanted it. Agatha Ryton-Storer had wanted the job for the last thirty years.
      Fresh out of college with a masters in library science, Bernard seemed perfect to modernize the Ryton Library. The City Council told him that Agatha would resent him, but she would slowly be won over. They told him his title would be Assistant Librarian, but he would have the real authority. They lied.
      "You'll change this library over my dead body," Agatha said, shaking her finger under Bernard's nose. This was in the first five minutes of their introduction. Bernard thought the relationship couldn't get worse, which was definite proof he was not a prophet. Any idea he wanted to try was treated as if he'd suggested they all strip naked and dance down Main Street singing "The Star Spangled Banner." He complained to the Councilmen who, collectively, sighed, shook their heads and changed the subject. Sherry had told him to just wait Agatha out. He stopped that thought immediately. Thinking of Sherry could only make this already dreary morning worse.
      Bernard closed his car door and walked down the sidewalk to the side entrance. After six months, he spared the library only a short glance. At first, its architectural style -- which could only be classified as Colonial Gothic -- had sent his mind spinning into conjectures about Eliah Ryton and whatever had possessed the old man to add a tower and a turreted roof to a huge house already well on its way to ugly. He did notice that the shrubs along the street badly needed to be trimmed. He made a mental note to tell Jay about it -- again. He hated to nag the janitor, but it seemed to be only way to get any work done. If I mention to him enough, Bernard thought, he'll take care of it to shut me up. That or run a mop through my body. Either way, I win.
      A piece of paper fluttering in the breeze caught his eye. He picked it up. A shipping invoice for new books. I'd better make sure this gets filed or Hagatha will hit the roof, he thought. He opened the door. He found it odd that the lights were off; Agatha was not one to stumble around in the dark, and she certainly didn't care about conserving energy.
      He flipped the light switches, and the overhead fluorescence bulbs flickered on and illuminated the rows and rows of books. He turned left, slowly walking up a narrow aisle to the front of the library, taking time to savor the quiet. Despite Agatha, the library had a fair number of patrons, and during open hours, it echoed with sound: pages turning, people whispering, footsteps as people walked across the marble floors, the occasional book falling followed invariably by the giggles of teenagers. These sounds would return when the library opened at nine. Just a few minutes before that time, Millie Sader, the librarian day aide, would rush up and unlock the doors, and the Ryton Memorial Library would be open to the public.
      He furtively glanced at the door to Agatha's office. It was shut. Good, he thought, if luck is with me, I'll be lost in the shelves before she thinks to look for me. Agatha's more than ample size was maintained by her love for sweets of all sorts and her hate of work and anything resembling it. She would rather lie in wait than hunt him down.
      Quietly he took a cart filled with books that needed to be shelved and wheeled it toward the elevator. Once it had carried him to the second floor where the nonfiction was kept, he sighed in relief. Another confrontation avoided for a while.
      As he shelved books and spot-read the shelves, he began to weigh the job offers he was considering. Any of them would be better than staying in Ryton where he ran into Sherry at least three times a week. He grimaced and tried to think of something else, but he failed this time. Sometimes he had to scratch at the wound.
      It unrolled for him again as it had so often the past few weeks. Meeting Sherry Wyatt in college and falling in love. The way her hair caught the light. The walks by Theta Pond. Her sharp wit and force of will. The way she walked. The soft hairs at the base of her neck that felt cool when he ran his lips across her neck. Her calm when he asked her to marry him. His delight when she said yes. All the laughter. And all the pain that followed.
      She was the reason Bernard was in Ryton. With his degree, Bernard could have gone almost anywhere and set his own salary, but Sherry had convinced him to come to her hometown of Ryton to live. It would be good place to raise their children, she said. Her father had pull in the town and convinced the City Council to hire him. And so here he was, in a rotten job, and Sherry, while still in Ryton, was not with him. In fact, she had made it plain that she would never be with Bernard again.
      "You just don't have it anymore," Sherry had said.
      "What does that mean?" Bernard asked. "Have what?"
      "It's just not there." Sherry turned away. And then she said the words that nearly shattered him. "I don't love you anymore. Don't you understand? I just don't love you anymore."
      Bernard gave himself a mental shake. It did not help to replay the fights which followed over the next few days. It had been two months now. Sherry was not coming back. He would leave Ryton and find a life somewhere else. He tried to push the cart forward, but it caught on something. He looked down. The cart's wheels were lodged against someone's ankle. His eyes traveled up the dark-hosed leg to the polyester plaid skirt to the crumpled sweater and to a dark line of blood that marked the slit throat of the quite-dead Agatha Ryton-Storer.
      And so later he would remember the lack of blood and how small she seemed, and he would also decide that he handled the situation well. He walked to the front of the library, called the police, hung up, met Millie at the door and told her that Mrs. Ryton-Storer had suffered an accident and was dead and that the library should remain closed until the police arrived. Millie was agog with curiosity, but he firmly told her to wait outside. He went into the restroom, splashed cold water on his ashen face and shaking hands, and then threw up until the police arrived.

End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

      Next, Bernard meets reporter Abigail Trent, and they, each for different reasons, set out to solve Agatha's murder. The bodies pile up as the two delve deeper into Ryton's secrets, and the Ryton Police may not be able to save Bernard and Abigail from being the murderer's next victims.
      I hope things are going well for you. Talk to you later.