“You had a month, Mr. Banned.” Courtney Wheeler sat in my little office, proper in a black dress too nice for this town. Her blue black hair was down, hiding one side of her face and contrasting with the snow white skin and red lips that smile with malice.
I held up three fingers. “Three weeks. Still, I can’t give you what you want.”
“It makes no difference if you can. You will. What’s hidden in this building is not yours.”
“If there was anything hidden in this library, ‘if’ being the right word, it is hidden for a very particular reason.” I wondered how much she knows before I continued. “It could be dangerous to release.”
She laughed then. “So melodramatic. You should write movies.”
“I have someone in mind for a femme fatale.”
“You have a mind for how fatal I can be. Did you like my presents? See anything interesting early in the morning? I hear you also had to call an exterminator?”
“You didn’t have to hurt those kids.”
“I have no idea what you mean.”
“Mrs. Wheeler, I know you’ve got some power. And yeah, it scares the hell out of me. But you don’t hold a candle to what’s under this library. Not even a flicker. Please, leave this alone.”
She hardened and stood. She placed her hands on the desk and leaned forward. I got a view as her dress shifted to expose her cleavage, but I hold on her eyes. Courtney Wheeler was a beautiful woman with a black heart that scared the hell out of me. And she knew it.
“Mr. Banned. Evan. I get what I want. You can’t pretend to sit there and say you have a hold on this place other than your family name on the door. You are a lucky bastard to have survived this long. Give over the control willingly or I will take it.”
Realization dawned on me. The simple truth was there. If she could take it, kill me and walk down into the basement and dig for the boxes, she would have. My name on the door, my family protecting this place. I have to let her.
She stood and straightened her dress. Her face was a storm cloud rising, dark and twisting. At last she controlled herself and smiled. “You can’t stay in this library forever.”
I stand, looking down the six inches of height that divide us. “I’m sorry to cut this meeting short,” I said, “but I have a board meeting to attend.”
Another twist of those red lips. “Oh, I know.”
I left my office and she followed. We crossed the library, her two bodyguards trailing me. I see Handlebar holding a book in his hand. Raylan: A Novel by Elmore Leonard. It has our library call numbers on the side and a check out receipt sticking out. At least I got a reader out of this mess.
The board members are waiting when I arrive. Each has a stack of papers and a plate greasy with pizza at their seats around the meeting room table. A chair was empty; Mrs. Jacobs is absent. Ashley sat next to an empty chair waiting for me, a notebook on the table. I welcomed them and apologized for my lateness. Each of the faces, community leaders in one way or another, ignored me and turned to Courtney Wheeler and her goons.
They welcomed her and gave her Mrs. Jacobs seat at the table. Usually guests sit to the side at the chairs along the wall, either to watch the proceeding or wait their turn to speak. Mr. Fletcher holds out a chair for her, and Handlebar and Buzz flank her.
Mrs. Baker, the head of the board, smiled at Courtney. “Would you like some food before we begin, dear?”
Courtney said no, but I saw Buzz eying the open boxes of pizza on a table in the corner of the room.
“I think we can wait on the budget, Mr. Banned, for more pressing business,” Mrs. Baker said to me. She continued without waiting for my reply. “As you all know, Elma Jacobs passed last week. Age comes to us all, but we move on, and a spot on our board is empty. Courtney Wheeler has come to us from Chicago where she leads the foremost recycling business in the country and plans on opening a plant right here in our community. She has made interests in being a part of our town and I can think of no better way to start than being a part of our library board of directors.”
I sat stunned. Ashley looked at me, her hand writing with mechanic shorthand everything being said.
Mrs. Baker continued, “I nominate Courtney Wheeler to fill the chair on the Banned Library Board of Directors.”
“Seconded,” Mr. Fletcher said, his fingers steepled and a smile directed at me.
“All in favor?”
Every hand went up but mine.