Sunday, December 9, 2018

Holiday Tales Part 2

Years ago there was a young family that moved in next door to us. Ken and Jenny were the parents with Katelyn and Kyle, who were about seven and five respectively. There was a lot of excitement and energy around the house. Ken was determined to decorate every square inch outside, in one form or another.

One evening I stopped by to speak with Ken. Both kids raced to answer the door. Kyle was holding his nose, with a couple of drops of blood leaking out. Katelyn tried her best to look innocent.

“What’s going on?” I asked as Ken appeared behind them. 

“He punched me,” Kate said, folding her arms across her chest.

“She kicked me right in the nose!”

Ken was shaking his head in dismay. I looked at the kids. “Don’t you guys know it’s almost Christmas?  Santa is watching everyone!”

That drew silence and wide eyes.  I pulled my phone out. “Want me to call him? I got his number on speed dial.”

The kids jumped back and begged me not to call him. I made them promise to be good and sent them on their way.  Ken and I talked for a few minutes and I went home. But an idea began to percolate and it wouldn’t let me alone. 

I’m not a poet, by any stretch of the imagination.  But what came together was sort of a Dr. Seuss type of rhyme, filled with enough details on the two kids to personalize it. I printed it out on some festive holiday paper. Then I found a couple of miniature first aid kits the kids could hang on their backpacks. My darling wife made a couple of ornaments that look like mice when you run a candy cane through them. 

Christmas Eve I called next door and told Ken to meet me outside.  He was surprised when I handed over the package.  I learned later that the kids loved the story and were on their best behavior for the rest of the holiday break. 

You just never know when inspiration might strike.

 “Devious” is the only title that has been set tied in with the holiday season. But here’s a little wintry segment from “Vanishing Act” the second Jamie Richmond mystery.  In this scene, Jamie’s best friend Linda has become the target of a stalker.

Talking quietly, trudging through the clumps of snow and ice, neither one of us heard him at first. 

“It’s getting to the point where I just want to stay home,” she said quietly. 

“You can’t hide, Linda. If you become a prisoner in your own home, then he wins. And you are much too strong a person to let that happen.”

 She gave me a wan smile. “I know, it’s just…” 

“Hey!” a gruff voice snapped at us from only a couple of feet away.

Linda let out a shriek of surprise. She lost her footing on the ice and crashed to the pavement. I saw a blocky shape, hidden in the shadows beyond the reach of the overhead lights. He took a menacing step forward, one hand clutching something tightly and extending it towards us. 

 “Run!” I screamed. 

“Hey,” he snapped again. 

I took a step toward him and planted my left foot on one of the few dry patches of pavement. Then I swung my right foot as hard as I could, as if I was about to nail a fifty-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl. Without realizing it, I braced for the impact. To this day, I’d swear I was aiming for his crotch. Maybe the pavement wasn’t dry after all. Or maybe suddenly shifting my weight to make that kick caused me to lose my balance. Or maybe I couldn’t really kick a guy in the balls. Or maybe he sensed what was happening and he took a step back. 

In my peripheral vision, I could see Linda scrambling to her feet, already racing toward her car, clicking the remote control to unlock the doors. My leg continued its arc and just before making contact, my left foot shot out from underneath me. 

On the road this week I had an old rock and roll station come through with a few surprises. Here's a favorite from Rod Stewart.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Holiday Tales

December has arrived. With the holidays in sight, it also stirs up some favorites stories from friends and families about traditions, festive meals to football games in the snow.  After recently helping an elderly neighbor with their decorations, this tale came to mind. 

Years ago, Brian, a college buddy, shared this tale.  He was divorced and had two young children who were frequent visitors to his two-bedroom apartment.  Gearing up for his first Christmas there, he’d bought an artificial tree. The idea of putting this together for a few weeks’ time, then taking it apart and stowing it away for eleven months or more annoyed him. 

Inspiration struck.

After he measured the closet in the spare bedroom, he raced to the local hardware store where he bought a set of four sturdy casters that could be locked in place.  Back home, he bolted these to the base of the tree stand. With the tree assembled, he awaited the arrival of his young kids.  They spent several hours, stringing lights and hanging ornaments while carols played in the background.

When the holidays were over, Brian unplugged the lights, unlocked the casters and rolled the tree down the hall to the closet. He tossed an old sheet over it and slammed the door.

Flash forward to the following December 1.  Brian’s daughter called to make sure he was going to be home so they could come decorate the tree. Brian explained he’d been hard at work getting it ready.  Ending the call, he ran to the spare room’s closet, pull off the sheet and rolled the tree back to the living room. Locking the casters in place, he plugged in the lights and rearranged a few of ornaments. When the kids arrived, they marveled at his efforts.

Brian got away with this for several years before the kids figured it out. 

Here’s an excerpt from “Devious” the first Jamie Richmond novel. In this scene, Jamie has plans for a memorable Christmas with Malone and has more than a few surprises up her sleeve.  

Christmas Eve and Malone was scheduled to work a sixteen-hour shift. Some of the guys traded duty, to fit in with their family plans. Malone worked from noon until four the next morning. We would spend Christmas Day together, and he would go back on duty the following afternoon. It was tough, but I managed to wait for him to come home. He slipped into the apartment quietly and almost walked past me. I was curled up on the Jewish Aunt, only my nose visible.

    "Hey,”  I whispered.

    He jumped. "Hey, Jamie."

    Malone slid beside me and covered my face with kisses. After a while he sat up and started to unzip his jacket.

    "Keep it on." I struggled out of the aunt.


    "Because we're leaving, that's why."

    "Where are we going?" His eyes were barely visible in the dim light from the window.

    "It's a surprise. Trust me?"

There was a moment’s hesitation. “Mostly.”

    Can you believe it? The guy was using my own line on me again. "Then shut up and follow me." 

    "There’s nothing quite like a demanding woman."

    In the car I handed him a blindfold and wouldn't start the motor until he'd slipped it on. After a little grumbling, he did as I asked.

    "Kidnapping is against the law."

    "You're too old to be a kid. I’ll let you take the blindfold off soon, if you’re good."

    He sat there patiently while I drove to the house. It was only a few miles away and traffic was nonexistent. A light dusting of snow had fallen earlier, making everything sparkle. I parked by the curb and helped him from the car. He held my arm gingerly and followed me up the walk and the two short steps to the front entrance. Inside I made him stand by the door and wait. Only after I lit the fire in the hearth and turned a couple of switches on did I let him take the blindfold off.

    "What's going on?" Malone blinked as his eyes swept the room.

    "Welcome home." I patted the sleeping bag beside me. I was sprawled on top of another one, clutching my long, wool winter coat around me. A queen-sized air mattress was beneath them, giving the nest a bed-like quality.


    "It's my new place. I rented it last week."


    "Room for two, Malone, if you're interested."

    He stood there by the door, staring. I couldn't read his reaction from here and started getting nervous.

    "Aren't you going to come in?" I pleaded. "Take the chill off, get cozy."

    In front of the picture window was our tree, five feet of Blue Spruce, trimmed with little lights, ornaments and strings of popcorn. Outside I'd wrapped the railing in tinfoil and red ribbons. The fire was burning strongly, throwing heat toward the sleeping bag nest.  Beneath the tree were a dozen packages for Malone.

    "I don't know what to say, Jay." He spoke so softly it hurt my ears.

    "Don't say anything. Just haul your ass over here. "

    He peeled off his jacket and came to me. I tried to convince myself I was trembling because of the cold but even I didn't believe it.

    "Aren't you going to take your coat off? It's warm in here." Malone knelt beside me and took my face in his hands.

    I shook my head. "You do it. First present on Christmas Day."

    Malone laughed when he realized what I was wearing beneath the coat. There was just a black satin negligee and my little Santa Claus earrings. Tenderly he peeled off my coat and boots and helped me slide beneath the warmth of the sleeping bag. I'd zipped the two of them together so we'd have plenty of room. I was surprised at how quickly Malone could get out of his clothes. It must have been the proper motivation.

    "Jay, about this house..."

    "Hush. Let's not talk about it until after the holiday. I want this to be a happy time. A day filled with lots of smiles and love and warmth. Okay?"

    He moved against me and my body automatically reacted with his. It was as if someone had thrown a secret switch.

    "Wanna start with the love and warmth?"

Some radio stations were playing holiday tunes at the start of November. Here’s a great one from the Eagles that popped up a few times.