"The Body in the Stacks" book trailer
The Body in the Stacks
by Johnny Mack Hood
Paperback: 172 pages
Publisher: AuthorHouse (April 10, 2009)
Tags: murder librarians body in the stacks
Added: 7 months ago
Mullins Memorial Library
such a quiet,
unassuming place ...
Certainly nothing that
JC Shelby, an
But when a dead body
shows up in
Special Collections ...
things get a little
Jeremiah Cuthbert Shelby (JC), an ex navy man who suffers from congenital sea sickness, goes back to college in a small town in Iowa after one enlistment tour to get his degree in criminal Justice. With a part time job in the college library he is in an ideal position to put his academic plans to premature use when the body of a young library assistant is discovered in a vault in the Special Collections stacks. Romance enters the picture when he is ably assisted in his sleuthing by Susan, a part time library employee. There turns out to be more than one murder which makes the case too much for the local Chief of Police, the professors, or the leading citizens of Avon, Iowa.
J. C. Shelby had never worked in a library before. He didn't know how libraries were supposed to smell. He wasn't sure he liked the smell of this one – not that he had much choice. The student employment office had very few jobs open. For a criminal justice major the library was probably the right place. He not only had to finish a few undergrad courses but he had a thesis to get under way. Here he could steal a few minutes of spare time to begin his research and he would learn pretty rapidly where all the bodies – uh – the books were buried. This was the obvious place. Other available student work was all of the grounds keeping variety. His stint in the Navy had included boot camp where he had his fill of "gardening" – referred to as policing the grinder, or the lawns around the chief's quarters.
At the ripe old age of twenty-four he could be considered to be the old man of the entering student body this fall. He had started prelaw studies at San Francisco State University right out of high school but had not got far. After two years, family crises had dictated he join the military and see the world – and incidentally - support himself. Sidetracked out of law by Navy service he concluded that a major in criminal justice might be more fun anyway. His last year's experience in the Navy had convinced him of that. The law was interesting but there was too much deskwork – not enough action.
From the outside the library building was imposing – four stories tall - big for this small college. He sprinted up the broad steps and passed between the two faux Greek pillars framing the main entrance and entered the lobby. He stepped up to the front desk where a very pretty young lady was deeply engrossed in what he presumed was important book business.
She finally looked up from her monitor screen, giving him a brilliant smile, "Can I help you?"
Maybe working in this building wouldn't be bad at all. "Hi, I'm new here. I'm supposed to see the head librarian," he said.
She gave him another brilliant smile, "Sure. You just looked a little old to be 'new.' The Director of Library and Information Services is Dr. Lockwood – James Lockwood. His office is on the second floor at the end of the hall – at the front of the building."
It was clear that Susan liked the looks of the new student. Not many of her acquaintances had the mature look of this one. He was well put together, deeply tanned from his Naval duties – although she didn't know any of that. He had dark hair and strikingly blue eyes. He was definitely not forgettable. She also hoped he would be around the library a lot. She would have been ecstatic if she had known he was the new student hire for the library.
Susan, that was her name according to the small plaque facing him on the reception counter, pointed to the staircase to her left that led up to the second floor that housed the suites of offices and several small meeting rooms. Next to the stairs were two elevators that JC presumed led to all the floors above. Through an opening to the right of the stairs and elevators he glimpsed a large cavernous student study and work area. It apparently housed several dozen computer stations and had open shelves of books arrayed around some of the walls. He later learned that these books were the current arrivals that were available for browsing for a month before they were shelved on floors three and four. His stay here would be distinctly pleasant – if it just weren't for the smell.
This library, the Mullins Memorial Library, was a new mordern facility, four floors, which had been built six years earlier with funds triggered by the death of the school's wealthiest alumnus. The building was just a little out of character for this small midwestern college. It was too big for one thing.
The citizens of the town of Avon were proud that their town was the home of Mullins Dairy Products, inc., the business that had built old Mr. Mullins fortune for him. This fortune had managed over the years to build a great many of the buildings on the campus as well. Avon College used to be referred to as an Agricultural and Teaching Institution. It had grown rapidly and now included a thriving business and liberal arts curriculum. It could even be termed a moderately sized university having an enrollment of just over five thousand.
As JC climbed the stairs his thoughts flashed back to the odd decision he had made to abandon the fast life of the West Coast and Hawaii. His four-year stint in the Navy had been hell in a sense. He suffered from congenital maladie de mer that became evident after a very short time at sea, and then there had been the accident. It all conspired to cause the Navy to advise he leave with a small disability allowance and go back to college, as far away from the sea as possible. Avon was about right. Besides, they had a well-respected major in his chosen field. He could finish his B. A. degree with just a few courses and do a thesis for a masters. His earlier studies in literature had served him well when his injury had placed him on temp duty in the Navy Judge Advocates office in Pearl. He was a fast reader and good at the keyboard. There, immersed in the business of the JAG office, he had a chance to shuffle a lot of interesting papers involving various scams and crimes of violence commited on the huge naval base. He was sure he had an aptitude for the investigative part of the field even though he no longer had aspirations towards a degree in law. During his extended stay in that environment he had on more than one occasion been able to call attention to discrepancies and inconsistencies in the investigative reports and briefs of a few cases - intriguing errors that no one else had caught. Nearly every branch of the criminal justice field however required extensive courses in the physical sciences. This was where he would have to concentrate while at Avon.
The glass of a large ceiling to floor neo-gothic window that looked out on the grassy central quad occupied the end of the second story hall, which was lined by the doors leading into administrative offices. JC recalled seeing the row of arched windows from outside as he had entered. The one to the left of the columns was undoubtedly the office of Dr. Lockwood. The one to the right must be that of the Provost. Somewhere he had heard that the president had declined to move his office to this grand new structure and preferred his quarters in the much smaller old admin building across the quad. That building housed most of the deans. The president liked to have them immediately at hand.
The head librarian's door at the right stood invitingly open - a hopeful sign for a future in a pleasant working environment. The cheery face of a secretary greeted him as he entered, "Good morning. You must be Jeremiah Shelby. Dr. Lockwood is expecting you."
JC smiled and said quickly, "Yes, that's me. Most people call me JC. Jeremiah scares them off."
She frowned briefly wondering why that might be. She wasn't a bible student. "Please sit down. I'll tell Dr. Lockwood you are here." She slipped quietly through the door behind her desk. Almost immediately she reemerged and, holding the door wide, said, "Please come in. Dr. Lockwood is looking forward to meeting you."
Lockwood was a congenial appearing man, probably in his sixties. He was dressed in a white shirt and tie and a brown tweed jacket - a little out of style but okay for academe. His dark trousers and moccasin style shoes finished off his somewhat bizarre tweedy college style. He was well enough dressed to meet the president's moneyed visitors and just casual enough to amuse and not set himself apart from the student body. One could not help liking him at first sight.
"Please sit down, Mr. Shelby." He motioned to a comfortable couch near the window. He took a seat in a leather overstuffed chair facing the end of the couch. "I was delighted when the employment people told me I could have such an experienced person over here at the library for twenty hours a week. We are seldom so lucky. I usually get youngsters just out of high school who, pleasant as they may be, probably have never done a lick of work or even seen a book. Somehow the schools graduate and send on people for whom books are something of a mystery." He continued, "The brief resume I saw said you had some years in the Navy and had worked in the Judge Advocate's Office."
"That's true, Dr. Lockwood. I've been out at Pearl for the last two years. I was just an office worker - temp duty because of an injury - but I got a taste of the criminal justice field. That's why I'm here. The problem is I only did one tour – four years – so I really have no means of support at present. Well, I do get a small disability, but I can't live on it and go to school too. I really need the job. I'm grateful for the chance to earn a little."
"Mr. Shelby - "
"Please, Dr. Lockwood, most people just call me JC."
Lockwood looked down at the sheet in his hand, "Hmm – Jeremiah. What's the C stand for."
JC laughed, "I'll tell you if you promise to keep the secret."
"I won't tell, JC."
"It's Cuthbert, sir. Pretty sad, eh?"
Lockwood chuckled, "Not really. A good English name probably. But we will stick with JC.
"Now, as to pay, you know it's not much – just a dollar over minimum."
"That's okay," replied JC. "I've saved a little and I think I can get through my masters program.
"By the way, I'm no expert on libraries. I can type, file, and use a computer, etc. But I wondered," JC furrowed his brow, "I always thought libraries smelled like – uh - paper – books – "
Dr. Lockwood raised an eyebrow and gave a wry grin, "I know what you mean. We're looking into it. My theory is that a rat or mouse got into the stacks and kicked the bucket. We ought to find it soon. Maintenance keeps promising to send someone over, but they're chasing their tails (no pun intended) with the beginning of the school year and all."
Lockwood leaned forward, "Now down to business. I am going to ask you to start in Special Collections. The head there is Allan Zeider. I know you will like him and get on well. Your work as an undergrad fits perfectly with what we have there. We need someone to catalog and to man the front desk from time to time. Miriam Steiner, a student will be working with you there. The collection is up on four. Allan will show you around. I take it you have a schedule for classes this morning but if you have a half hour we can do a quick walk around the library."
JC acquiesced readily. He hadn't expected the cook's tour from the boss and was flattered.
First, Lockwood led him back down stairs to the front lobby. At the desk he got the immediate attention of the young lady on duty, "Susan I want you to meet our newest employee. This is JC Shelby. He'll be working mostly in Special Collections with Allan Zeider. JC, meet Susan Beck, one of our best temporary employees."
JC was delighted to get the formal introduction. He had already briefly met Susan and had very quickly decided he wanted to see more of her, "Thanks, Dr. Lockwood. Susan and I met briefly when I came in this morning. Hi, Susan."
Susan smiled brightly. JC was encouraged.