A Merry Little Christmas Gift: A Short Story

The holidays can bring out the worst in everyone and does in this Christmas treat.

Christmas BAlls2 CW

The mall was jam-packed with holiday shoppers. Christmas music from the likes of Perry Como to Elvis to Brad Paisley and the latest rapper blared out in no particular order. With only three shopping days left before the big day, last-minute shoppers were scurrying all over from one shop to another. The line of young kids waiting to tell Santa the list of toys they wanted, no it was more like demanded, to see under the tree was staggering. It was the best time of the year.

 I was standing just inside the entranceway to Jordan’s Jewel Factory, one of those large chain stores that clog up space in most of America’s malls these days. In jewelry stores, it’s not unusual to see beautiful young women. If they are not rich and buying the diamonds, they are looking and wishing they could. Hoping to find some kind of satisfaction by just looking at the necklaces, rings, earrings, and other accessories. That in itself is a common occurrence. What was uncommon happened when my eyes caught the attention of this one young woman. Yes, she was beautiful. That was obvious even from the distance between us. However, I was more interested in how quickly she picked up a particular necklace, slipped it into her coat pocket and dashed out of the store disappearing into the crowded mall. She did it with such precision, grace and speed that the employees behind the counter didn’t realize the necklace was gone until it was too late.

She didn’t quite disappear. I moved quickly myself following her as soon as she left the store. I caught up with her as she was heading toward the mall exit. I gently placed a hand on her arm.

“Excuse me a minute, miss,” I said.

She froze but kept her back to me.

I walked around her so I could face her directly.

“We need to have a little talk. Could we just walk over to the side here so we are out of the way.” I said.

“I don’t talk to men I don’t know,” she said with a chill in her voice that would have given Frosty the Snowman a shiver down his spine.

“Well, I think this time you will.”

Her eyes were darting around until she found what she was looking for. “There’s a security guard right over there. I have no problem calling him over if you don’t leave me alone right now,” she said.

I followed her eyes and sure enough, there was a security guard standing by the crowded food court. He was looking right at us.

“Miss, we just need to have a little talk,” I said, “No need to…”

Before I could finish, she waved the security guard over. In a moment the six foot two or so guard was between us.

“Everything okay here?” he asked.

Before she could get another word out, I said, “It’s okay, Damon. This young lady and I are just having a little talk.”

She looked at me and then at Damon.

“Yes. I’m sorry… I just.”

“Thanks, Damon,” I interceded. “If we need you, I will give you a call.”

“Yes sir.”

With that, Damon moved on walking slowly away from us and back toward the crowded food court.

“You’re a cop?”

“Retired cop. Now I’m head of security here at the mall,” I said.

“What do you want?” she said.

“I was in the jewelry store at the same time as you.”

“So,” she said, keeping her cool.

 “I saw what you did.”

“I didn’t do anything!” she said defiantly.

I managed to steer her away to one of the few spots in the mall where there wasn’t a crowd of Christmas shoppers. I stared at her for a moment. She was only about twenty-three or so, very attractive with shoulder-length brown hair and green eyes.

“You don’t look like the typical jewel thief,” I said.

Her face remained frozen. She was still trying to tough it out.

“What are you accusing me of?”

“Why don’t we just drop the pretense? I was there. I saw everything. Just empty your coat pocket, the right one specifically.”

She was trapped and she finally gave in to the inevitable. She pulled the necklace out of her pocket. I took it from her.

“Nice. Must be worth a couple of hundred bucks,” I said.

“Seven hundred,” She said.

I smiled. “I see you do your homework.”

“Let’s see some I.D.,” I said.

She pulled out her wallet from her handbag and handed me her driver’s license. I put the necklace in my pocket for safekeeping and examined her license.

“Julia Ross?” I asked. I pulled out my cellphone and snapped a photo of the license. I then handed it back to her.

“Look, I’m sorry, really sorry. Isn’t there some way we can make this go away?” she said. “We could go somewhere quiet, somewhere private, my car and…”

“Miss Ross, or is it Ms. Ross. I am a married man with two beautiful kids. In thirty-five years of marriage, I never, not once, cheated on my wife.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say anything to upset you.”

“Do you have a record?” I asked. “Don’t lie because I can easily check it out and I will. Remember I have a photo of your license.”

“No, no, I don’t. I have never been in any kind of trouble.”

I smiled. “You know, I’m not surprised. I was watching you for a while in the store and you’re pretty smooth. You must have gotten away with plenty of good stuff in the past. You just knew when to make the snatch and split without anyone noticing. That is, except for me, of course. I am pretty good myself at my job.

“I know…couldn’t we just let this go? Just this one time,” She asked.

“You’re young and you have got your entire life ahead of you,” I said.  “A criminal record could really screw your life up.”

“I’m really, really sorry,” she said.

“I don’t like people stealing stuff on my watch. It pisses me off. Especially at this time of the year. Families are out there shopping. Looking for the right gift. Working their way through the crowds. That’s why I’m out here. As head of security, I’m usually not out here pounding the beat so to speak. But the holidays bring out more lowlife’s and crooks than usual so I put myself out here too. Another pair of eyes for the holidays.”

She was shaking a bit now and on the verge of tears. “I’m so sorry, please…”

“Well,” I sighed, “as it stands now, no real harm has been done. I got the jewelry back, so therefore you didn’t steal anything which means I have no reason to arrest you.”

She looked up at me in shock. “Really? Oh, God, thank you so much.”

“I guess I am getting soft. Maybe it’s my old age. Maybe it’s the holiday season, I don’t know. I just don’t want to see a pretty young thing like you get in so much trouble that would ruin your life.”

“Oh, thank you so, so much!”

“You’ve got to promise me something though,” I said.

“Anything, anything. What is it?” She said.

“You’re not going to do this anymore,” I said.

“Yes, yes, I promise. Never again,” She said.

I knew that was a lie. Once a thief, always a thief.

“And if you do it again… do it somewhere else other than my fuckin’ mall!”

She looked at me. A bit in shock. Not sure how to respond.

“Merry Christmas,” I smiled.

“Merry Christmas,” she smiled back and took off through the exit door and out into the snow.

I felt good. I gave the kid a break. Why not, it’s the holidays. Hopefully, she takes my advice and stops her little crime spree or at least stays away from my mall. I looked around at the crowds. Yep, it was only three days before Christmas and the place was packed. Frank Sinatra was now on the sound system singing, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I put my hands in my pockets. That’s when I remembered I still had the necklace. I smiled and thought, yes it will be a merry little Christmas. The wife is gonna love this!

A Merry Little Christmas Gift is included in my short stories collection, DEVIOUS TALES, available as an ebook and paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Murder, Mayhem and Christmas

John Greco Author/Photographer

Over the years, I have developed a bit of an addiction to reading holiday themed mysteries around this time of the year.   Murder, mayhem and Christmas make for a good holiday treat. I thought  I would list a few seasonal mystery books I have read over the years that you may enjoy.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas- Agatha Christie

Technically, I have not read this yet. I bought a copy a couple of days ago and just began it last night. But hey, it’s Dame Agatha, so it can’t be bad.

AC5EFF68-1DB5-4BA7-B16D-B7138B0EBEAF

 Silent Night – Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker was one of my favorite authors. This slender volume was left uncompleted when the author passed away in 2010. The book was completed by his long time editor and friend Helen Brann. Subsequently, we got one last Spenser novel from the master. It’s not Parker at his best, but even middle of the road…

View original post 440 more words

Mistletoe and Mayhem: Christmas Crime Time

Mysterious

It’s the time of the season where I like to indulge myself in a little holiday criminal activity… on the written page only of course. Over the past few years, I’ve read one or two mysteries set during the Christmas season. This year’s top choice is Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop.

As a way to give back to his customers for their support and loyalty, The owner of The Mysterious Bookshop,  Otto Penzler, commissioned an original short story from a top-notch crime writer each year that he would give away to his devoted customers. Penzler gave the authors three rules: first the story had to be a mystery, second it had to be set during the Christmas season, and finally The Mysterious Bookshop had to be included in some way. Over the years, writers have included Lawrence Block, Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, and  Meagan Abbott among others.  In all, 17 stories were written. 

In 2010, Penzler published the complete collection of short fiction under the title Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop.  Recently, I purchased a copy and am ready to sit down by the fireplace with a hot chocolate and dive in. Okay, I live in Florida and I don’t have a fireplace! It will be more like turning on the air conditioning and a cold drink, but a fireplace and hot chocolate sounds more cozy and seasonal.

There are plenty of Christmas crime tales to keep you busy for many seasons to come, especially if you read cozy’s. I rarely do, but admittedly I have indulged on occasion. Lea Wait’s Shadows on a Maine Christmas is a favorite.

I have listed below a partial list of Christmas themed mysteries I’ve read in past years.  I am always looking for suggestions for the future.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (aka A Murder for Christmas & A Holiday for Murder) – Agatha Christie

The Spy Who Came for Christmas – David Morrell

A Christmas Tragedy (short story) – Agatha Christie 

Silent Night (Spenser) Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries – Otto Penzler (editor)

Visions of Sugar Plums – Janet Evanovich

Deck the Halls – Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross – James Patterson

Shadows on a Maine Christmas – Lea Wait

Sanity Clause – Steve Brewer

King’s Christmas (short story) – Richard  Neer

Wreck the Halls – Sarah Graves

 

 

Murder, Mayhem and Christmas

Over the years, I have developed a bit of an addiction to reading holiday themed mysteries around this time of the year.   Murder, mayhem and Christmas make for a good holiday treat. I thought  I would list a few seasonal mystery books I have read over the years that you may enjoy.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas- Agatha Christie

Technically, I have not read this yet. I bought a copy a couple of days ago and just began it last night. But hey, it’s Dame Agatha, so it can’t be bad.

AC5EFF68-1DB5-4BA7-B16D-B7138B0EBEAF

 Silent Night – Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker was one of my favorite authors. This slender volume was left uncompleted when the author passed away in 2010. The book was completed by his long time editor and friend Helen Brann. Subsequently, we got one last Spenser novel from the master. It’s not Parker at his best, but even middle of the road Parker is better than none at all.

AC768696-56DA-42B3-8523-625F7ED7447B

The Spy Who Came For Christmas – David Morrell

Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of my favorite cities to visit. David Morrell, born in Canada, has lived in Santa Fe for many years. He knows the town and uses it’s famed art strip, Canyon Road, as the setting for this fast paced snowy Christmas Eve thriller.

55C0DE96-4E76-477D-BC19-30C358DEAAF4

Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop – Otto Penzler

For 17 years, Otto Penzler commissioned a Christmas themed short story from one of his favorite mystery writers. The one criteria, besides a Christmas setting, was the story or at least some of it had to take place at Penzler’s famed NYC Mysterious Bookshop.  In 2010, he compiled the stories and published this excellent collection. Among the authors, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, S.J.Rozan and Mary Higgins Clark. A must read.

45263E98-D2D2-42BA-BC22-D5CDB1B865C4

Wreck the Halls – Sarah Graves

I earlier mentioned New Mexico as one of my favorite places to visit. The great state of Maine is another. Like New Mexico, I have been to Maine a few times. On one of our trips, my wife and I went to Eastport. Maine, the eastern most city in the United States. While walking along the small town’s main street we came across a hardware store. We noticed there was something  odd about its window display.  In one corner, there was a series of paperback books, all by one author…Sarah Graves. Intrigued, we went in and browsed through some of the books and decided to purchase two. The woman behind the counter, then asked us if we would like the books autographed? The author was upstairs, she said pointing to a staircase toward the back of the store. We climbed up and sure enough, there was Sarah Graves sitting at a desk. We talked for a few minutes, and she signed our books. While I never found out, I suspect Ms. Graves owned the hardware store. It would make sense, but then again, like her books, it’s a mystery.

EC83BEAC-C286-4435-A1BB-56C76DB2AAC9

Shadows of a Maine Christmas  Lea Wait

Like Ms. Graves, Lea Wait is a Maine author, and she captures the state’s atmosphere superbly in her series of cozy mysteries. You genuinely feel like you are in small town Maine. Murder, a bit of violence, and long buried secrets all come to light in this holiday treat.

64A5A66C-97E9-49FC-AAED-5051869E1BF2

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Okay, it may be a bit of a stretch to include Dicken’s classic as a mystery, but think about it; the book is filled with suspense, ghosts and a bit of mayhem. I have read A Christmas Carol several times over the years and it’s always a pleasure,

mmass

.

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol – Five Favorites

 

charles_dickens_1858When asked to donate to help the poor for the holidays the greediest, grumpiest Grinch of all time, Ebenezer Scrooge, replies “Are there no prisons? Are there no union workhouses?”

One of the greatest characters in Charles Dicken’s brilliant library of creations  is Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s the epitome of meanness, a tower of cold unmoving steel,  dismissing Christmas with the wave of a hand and his own personal mantra, “Bah Humbug!” It’s a phrase that has become part of our everyday  language.

It was Dicken’s ability as a writer to take a wretched old geezer, full of nastiness and miserliness, and convincingly have him find redemption.

This time of the year I always try to watch at least one film version of A Christmas Carol. This year, it was the 1938 film with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. I didn’t think Owen made for a great Ebenezer, but the film is entertaining and certainly worth watching.

With all that said, below is a list of my the top five A Christmas Carol movies.

5) Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney if for no other reason that than for the show stopping, Thank You, Very Much number.

scrooge

4) Scrooged (1988)  with Bill Murray. Enough said!

scrooged-1988

3) Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) just because Scrooge McDuck rules!

mcduck1

2) A Christmas Carol  (1984) George C. Scott’s gruff voice and demeanor are pure perfection.scott-christmas-carol-1984-george-scott-5601) A Christmas Carol (1951) Nobody does it better than Alastair Sim. The film itself is a holiday masterpiece.

ebenezer-scrooge

Please feel free to share your own favorite.