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.
“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.