Buried (Twisted Cedars Mysteries Book 1)

By: C. J. Carmichael

chapter one


May, 2010

back in the seventies four women were killed. Librarians.... The odd message arrived in Dougal Lachlan’s Inbox on the last Friday in May, channeled through his website into a special folder he used for fan mail. He was slouched into the sofa in his East Village apartment, going through line-edits on his latest true crime manuscript. His cat Borden, having been denied her favorite perch—the one on his lap—was curled up on the cushion beside him.

Normally Dougal pursued his writing with single-minded devotion. But since his mother’s death last year, he was often, and easily, diverted.

You don’t know me. But you should. I’ve got a story that will be the best of your career. Back in the seventies four women were killed. Librarians. No one ever solved the cases. But I know what happened. Ever hear of Elva Mae Ayer? She was the first. Check it out then let me know if you want the names of the others. I am here and willing to help.

The message was from a Hotmail account with the name “Librarianmomma.”

At thirty-four Dougal had been researching murders and serial killers—and writing about them—for about eighteen years. During that time, his website had attracted a fair amount of crackpot emails. Some messages threatening, others claiming insider information about grisly crimes that were beyond the power of his own vivid imagination. In the beginning of his career, he passed these emails to his local NYPD precinct. Over the years, though, he stopped bothering. At conferences, when he spoke with other authors of mystery, thriller, and true crime—they had similar stories to tell.

Getting letters from wing nuts came with the territory. You just ignored them and carried on doing your job.

Which is what Dougal intended to do this time. He switched screens back to his line-edits, working his way through a cup of instant coffee and twenty more pages. Normally he loved this stage of a project—the penultimate fussing with details and tweaking of words before his manuscript went in for printing.

But this last book hadn’t flowed like the others. He hadn’t felt his usual passion. The research was tedious, the writing laborious. Maybe Belinda had been right after all. He should have set the project aside for a while. Taken some time to grieve.

He’d broken off with Belinda instead. And kept writing. He didn’t think the story had suffered as a result...at least his editor seemed pleased with the final result. He wasn’t so sure himself.

The typed lines on the page began to blur and Dougal let his hands drop from the keyboard. Borden blinked, stretched, and then pounced to the hardwood floor, in search of her premium cat food, a special brand formulated for senior cats, which she sometimes deigned to eat.

Dougal needed a break, too. He switched back to email, but there were no new messages.

So he read the one from Librarianmomma again.

It was different from his usual crackpot email. Most of them expounded on the grisly details of the crime, to a nauseating degree. This one was almost clinically detached when referring to the crimes. Also notable was the element of enticement, as evidenced by the invitation to write back, the promise of more details, and the story of his career.

Also, most of his prank mail involved unsolved crimes that had received a lot of press coverage, usually infamous or very recent killings. Whereas Librarianmomma was referring to an obscure murder—or series of murders—that occurred decades ago.

Check it out, the email had said. Maybe he would. Dougal typed “Elva Mae Ayer” into a search engine. There were no exact name matches.

He should let it drop, but his instinct for story kicked in. He grabbed his phone from the table where it sat next to a pile of his unopened mail. Danny Delucy, a former cop who’d been derailed by disability into opening his own private investigation agency, sounded surprised to hear from him. “I didn’t know you were working on a new story.”

“Me either. I’m supposed to be finishing up the latest one. But something just distracted me.” He relayed the essence of the email and the name of the librarian who’d supposedly been murdered.

Two hours later Danny called back. “Wow—that took some digging.” The sound of papers shuffling carried over the line, and then Danny spoke again. “I did find a homicide case from 1972. Victim was Elva Mae Ayer—a forty-year-old librarian. Strangled in the basement of the library where she worked.”

So the woman was real. And she had been murdered.

Dougal’s eyes burned from too little sleep and too much staring at pages on a computer screen. He shut them. What would a librarian in the early 1970’s have been like? He knew the era best from old TV re-runs like The Brady Bunch and, his Mom’s favorite, the Mary Tyler Moore, where the women were portrayed as perky, pretty and morally upstanding.

Whatever the decade, however, a librarian seemed an unlikely target for murder. Dougal pictured a Mary Tyler Moore lookalike in the basement of a library, surrounded by stacks of books, file cabinets, archives. This would be before the computer and internet revolutionized libraries. There would still be cards at the back of every book. Card catalogues and basements filled with aging newsprint.

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