Buried in Secrets by Denise Grover Swank

Chapter One

“Carly, you’re going to be late again.”

I glanced up from my computer screen and blinked at Carnita, the town librarian who had become my friend over the past seven months. She sat at her own desk about six feet away, perpendicular to the row of three computers for library patrons.

“Thanks.” It wasn’t uncommon for me to lose track of time, and if not for her, I’d never get to work on schedule.

“You must have found something fascinating to hold your attention that long.”

I jotted one last piece of information down in my notebook and closed out the tab. “Yeah, well…”

“You must have enough information about the history of Drum to write a book,” Carnita said, sounding excited. “Just imagine. A book to memorialize Drum!”

From what I’d learned about the history of Drum, it would be more like an exposé.

I laughed. “I’m no author, and even if I was, I’d stick to fiction. Did you happen to get those new Shannon Mayer books?” Before moving to Drum, I’d read almost exclusively e-books, but Drum, Tennessee was a rural town in the Smoky Mountains and internet access was sparse. While I could connect to the internet to download a book at the library and Max’s Tavern, my phone was a plain, pay-as-you-go model that struggled to find reception and didn’t have internet access, and I didn’t have a tablet.

She laughed. “Since you’re one of the few people around here who requests books, I was able to order three. They should be here in a few days.”

“And the new copies of the Baby-Sitters Club? I had a couple of girls at Tutoring Club ask about them.”

“They’re supposed to arrive next week, but I’ll be sure to let you know when they show up.” She smiled. “I appreciate you encouraging them to come in here and check out books.”

“Who knows,” I said, “maybe some of them will go to college one day. They need to learn librarians are their friends.”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’d been a librarian yourself,” Carnita said warmly.

“Nah,” I said. “I’ve just spent a lot of time in them.” I grabbed my oversized purse off the floor and stuffed my notebook inside. “Thanks for taking my requests, Carnita. You’re the best.”

She beamed. “Girl, if you keep encouraging people to come in and borrow books instead of DVDs, I’ll fill as many of your requests as I can!” Since most of Drum and the surrounding area didn’t have cable TV either, the library had about three times as many DVDs as they did books.

“We both know the kids in Tutoring Club need to read, period, but the adults are a harder sell. I’m trying to get enough people together to start a book club,” I said. “But they have to realize they like to read first.”

“Keep it up, and I’ll give you a permanent spot on the computer waiting list.”

I laughed. “That sounds like a deal.” I usually had to sign up for computer time a week or more in advance.

I headed out the door and down the block and a half to Max’s Tavern to start my shift. Carnita thought I was researching the history of Drum, and she wasn’t wrong. I’d just narrowed my focus to any seemingly motiveless crimes committed in the area over the last forty years. It had taken me months, but I’d come up with over two dozen. My goal was to tie them all back to Bart Drummond, the town patriarch who ruled with his wealth and his not-so-secret favor system. People came to Bart and asked for help—a multiple month extension on a late mortgage. Getting out of a DUI. Landing a job. Bart was often more than happy to play Santa, but his gifts came with a price: at some point, he would ask for a favor in return, and they would have to do it. No questions asked.

I was sure a few of those favors had ended in murder.

Part of Bart’s power came from his family history. The Drummonds had helped found the town nearly two centuries ago. It was named after them, which only seemed appropriate since they’d run it since its inception—first with their moonshine business, and later, lumber profits. But moonshine was now legal, and the lumber business had shut down. The Drummonds didn’t have the power they once had, but they hadn’t been stomped to the ground either.

But I planned to put on a pair of heavy boots and finish the job.

I walked through the back door of the tavern, changed into my T-shirt, then headed out to the dining room.