The LocketNice of you to come along in my squad car as we cruise through my town of Endurance and check out what’s happening on my way to work. Pardon my sneezing, however. I seem to have caught a cold, and this miserable, wet weather is not helping it one bit. November in the Midwest. Ya gotta love it.

Actually, you can see Endurance is preparing for Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas holiday season. The Penny Saved Shoe Store over there has children’s pictures of turkeys plastered on their windows for a coloring contest, and over on your side of the car is Maloney’s Law Offices and the Senior Center. Mildred’s Boutique has a tableau of dummies in the window reenacting one of the Norman Rockwell’s paintings about Thanksgiving. The business district loves to decorate.

My friend and former teacher, Grace Kimball, would tell you it’s a nice town, but Grace is notoriously naïve, and I’ve had to help her out of some tough situations, like the time last summer when she found herself stalked by a killer who was setting fires in town. Grace is sometimes too smart and too curious for her own good. But, you know, she’s my friend, and we’ve got each other’s backs.

Grace mentored me through college. You see, in high school I figured I’d just slouch my way through, keep my nose clean, and grab some Cs. Well, and some ZZZs.

Then I ran into Grace Kimball.

She put me in her English Honors class, and even though I worked hard not to cooperate, she was always a step ahead. She went to my house and talked to Mama Sweeney. I was in huge trouble then. You see, my dad split when my brother and I were young. It wasn’t easy being a Caucasian guy married to an African- American woman and hearing those comments under the breaths of your fellow workers at the garage. I’ll never forgive him for deserting us, but my mother did long ago. I admire Mama because it wasn’t easy for a woman to raise two kids in such a tough time. She is formidable.

Grace and Mama joined forces. Believe me, no one could fight that.

High school was tough back then for someone like me growing up in a mostly white town as a mixed-race teenager. I was smart, beautiful, and not going to take any crap from anyone, least of all the guys. Take my latest guy who works construction and has amazing abs. He just told me he loved me, and that doesn’t do it for me. I’ll miss his gorgeous muscles. Yeah, you heard me sigh. If only life were spent exclusively in the bedroom … but he didn’t know of Eudora Welty or Richard Wright or Bessie Smith or Miles Davis or Fibonacci numbers or “A Clean Well-lighted Place.”

Well, that’s all water under the bridge. Back to my friendship with Grace.

She, of course, believed in me and sent me off to college where I thought I’d major in English. Instead, I fell in love with law enforcement and came back here to Endurance. Smashed the police exam with the highest score in history, and they had to put me on the force. Me, a biracial female. Then I moved up to detective. I’d never had a murder case till last summer, and hope I never do again.

Oh, excuse me. That’s the station calling my cell.

“Yeah, Myers.”

“TJ. Just got a call in from a crew putting in the foundation for that new dog park out on the highway west of here.”


“Sounds like they’ve dug up some bones.”

“Don’t tell me—dog park, dog bones? Right. Ha, ha.”

“Nope. The Homestretch Funeral Home is on the way out there with a canopy to put over the site, and it could be human bones. Don’t know yet, but you’d better get out there.”

“I’m on it, Myers. Call Doc Martinez and get him out there with his coroner’s bag, and then call the crime scene investigators from Woodbury.”

Sorry for the short ride, but I’m going to have to drop you off at the station. Myers, the desk clerk, is great company, and he’ll tell you all about the town. Just don’t ask him about his latest ailment.

The Lockett: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney is an Endurance novella, published by Prairie Lights Publishing, April 2016.

The Big Band Era–Dancing on the Rooftop–Romance in the Air–and Murder in the Shadows

“… the dispatcher called to tell her it was time to move the bones.”

After solving a double homicide in the hot Midwest summer, Endurance police detective TJ Sweeney isn’t given long to rest. A construction crew has found human bones while digging a building foundation on the outskirts of town.

Sweeney’s investigation soon concludes this is a murder victim, but from many decades earlier. Trying to identify the remains and put a name on the killer takes the detective through a maze of dead ends and openings, twists and turns.

And then it becomes personal. . .

# # # # # # # # # # #

Meet the author
Susan Van Kirk grew up in Galesburg, Illinois, and was educated at Knox College and the University of Illinois. She Susan Kirktaught high school English for thirty-four years in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois. She taught an additional ten years at Monmouth College. Her short story, “War and Remembrance,” was published by Teacher Magazine and became one of the chapters in her creative nonfiction memoir, The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks).

Her first mystery novel about the town of Endurance, Three May Keep a Secret, was published in 2014 by Five Star Publishing/Cengage. She published an Endurance novella as an e-book titled The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney in April, 2016. Marry in Haste, her second Endurance mystery novel, comes out November, 2016, also from Five Star Publishing/Cengage.

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All comments are welcomed.

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