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Mystery Book 3
It seemed like a routine summer term at the state university until the threat.
There was the usual process of settling into one of the just-off-campus apartments they keep for visiting professors. There was the matter of checking at the bookstore to be sure the textbooks I’d prescribed were on hand. And there was the usual difficulty that the department chairman was away from his office.
“I’m Preston Barclay,” I told the bearded student who’d been left to man the telephone. “I’m teaching one summer term. Can you tell me which office I’ll be using?”
He looked up from his book, eyed the briefcase in my hand, and blinked a couple of times. “Uh ... I think it’s right next door, Professor Barclay. But they don’t let me give out keys. Can you come back between three and four?”
I nodded and straightened my trifocals. “That used to be the department chairman’s office.”
“Yeah, it used to be. But Dr. Elam said he couldn’t work there because of what happened.” The student tugged at his beard, perhaps reassuring himself that he’d actually grown one. “The last chairman blew his brains out in that office. About a month ago. I still get the creeps just thinking about it.”
“But it’s fine for visiting professors.”
The student looked away. “Dr. Elam said it wouldn’t worry the temporaries because they wouldn’t know about it.”
“Thanks for keeping me from worrying.”
Recognition dawned in his eyes. “Say, aren’t you the guy ... uh ... the professor ... that solved them two murders in Overton City?”
“Those two murders,” I said, looking for a way to change the subject. “My colleague Professor Mara Thorn actually solved them. I just teach history.”
“I’ve heard about her,” he said. “They say she’s a real h...” I think he was going to say hottie, but he gulped and said, “I’ve heard she was ... well ... what your generation would call ‘a real knockout.’”
“Touch her elbow, and you’ll see who gets knocked out,” I said. After her ill-fated teenage marriage, Mara abhorred being touched. I’d found that out the hard way, though she’d made a few exceptions after we became friends. But I wasn’t going to talk about her with a student.
“I’ll come back later,” I said.
In the hallway outside my office-to-be, I paused and breathed the decades-old odors of waxed floors and oiled hardwood. They brought pleasant memories of other summer terms, but those were now marred with sadness. For my friend Jordan Collier, the former chairman who’d brought me here several times as a visiting professor, was no longer here. One month before, without warning, he’d committed suicide in that office. I not only missed him as a friend, but I could already feel the difference in the department.
As if on cue, the orchestra in my head augmented my solemn mood with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Yes, I did say “the orchestra in my head.” This internal music came to me three years ago after the death of my wife, Faith, a brilliant concert pianist. It’s not just a tune here and there, but an incessant torrent that floods every moment of my life with imagined sound. The clinical name is “musical hallucinations.” It feels like I’m living in a movie mismatched with the music score from another.
Outside the building, I surveyed the familiar campus, deserted and peaceful these two days before classes would begin. I did not linger but, music and all, drove twelve blocks from the campus for an overdue visit with Grace Collier, Jordan Collier’s widow. As I started up the brief walkway to the front door, a large man emerged from it. He was at least four inches taller than my five foot ten, and he must have weighed at least two hundred fifty. He was clean-shaven, and his gray hair was neatly trimmed. I instantly categorized him as former military.
He greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake. “Professor Barclay? I’m Greg LaFont—teach advanced geography at the university—friend of the Colliers. Grace is expecting you.” He shook his head. “Lovely woman. But be careful. She’s still pretty fragile.”
“Of course,” I said and began stepping around him toward the door.
He stopped me by seizing my arm. Gently, but effectively. “Be careful at the university, too. With the new management in history, I doubt that you’ll be particularly welcome.”
“Thanks for the warning.” I extracted my arm from his grip and proceeded up the walk to the door.
Grace Collier answered the first doorbell ring. She was a statuesque brunette in her mid-forties, with a few strands of gray showing in her dark-brown hair.
“Hello, Grace,” I said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t come earlier.”
She showed a sad smile. “I understood, Press. You couldn’t visit when you had the flu, but your phone calls helped. Now come in and have some coffee.” She led me through the tiny entry hall into the living room and waved me toward the couch.
She made a wry face. “It’s the maid’s day off, so I’ll be just a minute with the coffee.”
I acknowledged her irony with a smile. She was too energetic to need a maid and too much the perfectionist to tolerate one. But odd details always bother me. It seemed odd that she apparently hadn’t had coffee with Greg LaFont. But maybe he’d just dropped something by rather than paying a real visit.
A few minutes later, Grace set her tray on the coffee table in front of the couch and poured me a cup. She remembered that I drink it black.
“These aren’t happy times,” she said. “It’s like watching an eclipse of the sun. That dark oval starts pushing in between you and your light. Then the darkness pushes in farther, and you wonder if you’ll be left with any light at all.”
My internal orchestra continued with Barber’s Adagio.
Grace dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “I don’t have to tell you how it is. You went through it with Faith. Does it ever stop?”
“It doesn’t stop,” I said, “but you never reach total eclipse. The dark spot stays there, sometimes larger and sometimes not so much. But you learn to look past it and work in whatever light is left. For me, that light is teaching history. For you, it will be your children. How are they, by the way?”
“They’re fine, all things considered,” she said. “Larry just turned sixteen, and he’s into everything. Amy is in junior high and quite good at piano. They’ll be sorry they missed you, but they’re both out on activities.”
“It’s good they’re staying busy.”
Her eyes twinkled. “You’ve been pretty busy yourself, solving two murders in two semesters. And it’s rumored you have a thing going with that blonde Wiccan professor.”
“Former Wiccan,” I said. “Mara is a good friend.”
Grace made a show of rolling her eyes. Maybe she’d been reading romance novels, and one of the clichés rubbed off.
I was congratulating myself for finessing her out of the doldrums when she plunged back in.
“I still can’t believe Jordan committed suicide.” Her eyes searched mine, seeking approval.
A great investigation takes place as the mystery is unraveled on the pages of this spectacular book.
Brilliantly written by
I Loved It!"
--- Aviar Savijon
Preston Barclay Mystery Series - Book 3
2017 © Donn Taylor
Official verdict: Suicide.
But why would that vigorous department chairman commit suicide? To avoid disgrace? Those rumored activities on the dark side? Some other secret life? Visiting professor Preston Barclay wonders. But his questions bring no answers, only threats. Press has enough problems already, proving himself on a strange campus while radical faculty do all they can to undermine him. Worse yet, that sexy siren assigned as his student assistant complicates his courtship of the beautiful Mara Thorn.
While Press keeps asking questions, Mara’s research reveals a cancer of criminal activity that permeates the community and even the campus itself. The more Press questions, the more dangerous the threats against him become, and the more determined he grows to clear his friend’s name.
But can Press and Mara’s stumbling efforts prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, the campus radicals, and an unseen but powerful criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger . . . ?
an imprint of
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Softcover - 301 pages
October 16, 2017
Excerpt from Murder in Disguise
"Donn Taylor has done it again.
In Murder in Disguise he has created a riveting mystery filled with intrigue, erudition, and just the right amount of humor necessary to make this book a recipe for success. An excellent and worthwhile addition to your fiction library."
--- MaryAnn Diorio,
"In Donn Taylor’s Murder in Disguise, you’ll meet Professor Preston Barclay, whose mild manners belie his background in military special ops.
Barclay’s witty word play will have you chuckling one moment, and the next moment his stepping into danger sill start your heart pumping faster.
If you like a mystery that keeps you guessing right to the finale, this is the book for you!"
--- Rick Barry
The Methuselah Project
"In circumstances closer to reality than we want to believe, Donn Taylor has crafted a tight, mesmerizing mystery. Once you start reading it, you won’t want to stop."
--- James R. Callan
Award-Winning Author of
A Silver Medallion
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