Read Bah! Humbug - A Jeff Resnick Story Online

Authors: L.L. Bartlett

Tags: #brothers, #buffalo ny, #christmas story, #family drama, #jeff resnick mystery, #l l bartlett, #ll bartlett, #lorna barrett, #paranormal, #psychic

Bah! Humbug - A Jeff Resnick Story

BOOK: Bah! Humbug - A Jeff Resnick Story
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Bah Humbug / L.L. Bartlett

Bah, Humbug

A Jeff Resnick Story

By L.L. Bartlett

Copyright © 2010 by L.L. Bartlett

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This story is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously--and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

License Notes:

This efiction is licensed for your personal
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others. If you would like to share, please purchase an additional
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Bah, Humbug

A Jeff Resnick Story

By L.L. Bartlett


You won’t forget to top up
the water in the Christmas tree stand, will you?” my brother
Richard asked, his gaze darting to the long line at the security
check-in outside the waiting area at the Buffalo International
Airport.


No,” I told him for the
tenth time. And I wouldn’t forget to water the plants. Clear off
the steps, or do any of the other nit-picky chores he’d outlined on
the list he’d left taped to his refrigerator door.


We should’ve gotten an
artificial tree. Then I wouldn’t have had to worry....” he went
on.


You’d worry if we’d gotten
a flame-retardant, stainless steel tree with sprinklers connected
to every branch,” his wife Brenda piped up, as she stooped to
rearrange the top layer of books, candy, vitamins and other
sundries in her carry-on bag. Brenda never traveled
light.


Just think, later tonight you’ll
be standing on a beach, under romantic moonlight,” my girlfriend
Maggie said and sighed.


If the plane isn’t late.
Or the weather acts up, or—”


Will you stop being so
pessimistic,” Brenda told Richard.


I don’t know why I’m so
nervous,” he admitted, and tugged at the collar of his turtleneck
shirt. No wonder he was sweating. He also had on a parka—something
he wouldn’t be needing south of the border.


I’m the one who gets
premonitions,” I told him. It had been that way since March, when
I’d been bashed in the head with a baseball bat by some punk who
thought he needed my wallet more than I did. Since then I’d known a
lot of things—and not many of them were pleasant. Brenda says I’m
psychic. I say … I know
some
things. “I predict you guys will have a wonderful,
relaxing, stress-free vacation.”


That’s good enough for
me,” Brenda said, and snatched up Richard’s hand, squeezing
it.

He managed a hesitant smile, the edges of
his mustache quirking upward.

A family of five, all loaded down with
carry-on baggage, passed us, and the line at security got that much
longer. “We’d better get going,” Brenda said, noticing. She
captured Maggie in a hug. “Now take care of Jeffy while we’re gone.
Make sure he eats at least one good meal a day.”


I will, I will,” Maggie
promised.

Brenda grabbed me next, kissing me on the
cheek. “And take care of my girlfriend.”


You’ll only be gone six
days. How much trouble can either of us get into?”

Brenda pulled away, giving me the fish eye.
“Knowing you, a lot!”


Come on,” Richard urged,
picking up their carry-on luggage. He paused, gave me a knowing
look that transcended words. A look that said, “I love you. I’m
glad you’re back in my life. And don’t forget to take out the
trash,” all rolled into one. I hoped he read most of the same on my
face. What he actually said was, “Take care of the house, kid. I’m
depending on you.”


Be good,” Brenda called,
following Richard to the waiting line. “Merry
Christmas!”


Bon voyage!” Maggie
wrapped one arm around mine, waving to their backs as they joined
the line of sheep waiting for the dreaded security nightmare that
preceded all flights.

We turned to walk toward the terminal’s
exit, and I swallowed down the lump that had formed in my throat.
The best part of my holiday had just ended.


I wish it was like the old
days when you could stay in the waiting area and wave to the plane
as it took off,” Maggie said, wistfully.


Me, too.” Maybe then I
wouldn’t feel quite so abandoned?

Maggie’s crystal blue eyes were moist with
understanding. “The good old days,” she whispered, and her hand
snaked down to take mine. All around us, the airport hummed with
passengers and visitors, tearful goodbyes and joyful hellos. It was
painful to experience and I wanted to get the hell out of there. I
picked up my pace, dragging Maggie along with me.


I wish we were going with
them,” she said.


They need time alone. Time
to heal.”

She nodded, no doubt thinking about the
trauma we’d all endured earlier in the month, thanks to Ray
Sampson.


I’ve had a good day,”
Maggie said, fingering the garnet pendant on the chain around her
neck. I’d bought it for her, not considering she might wear a red
sweater for Christmas. It couldn’t compare with the diamond
solitaire earrings Richard had given Brenda. Or the emerald
necklace, or the sapphire ring ... the trip to Mexico, and
....


Me, too.”

It
had
been the best Christmas of my
life, but I had this funny feeling the day wouldn’t end on such a
happy note.

Maybe I did wish I could’ve gotten on that
plane.

We headed for the short-term parking lot.
Maybe we should have said our goodbyes outside the terminal, but
Maggie and I had time to kill, and I wasn’t quite ready to let the
best Christmas I’d ever had end.

To say the air was bracing was putting it
mildly, though late afternoon sunlight glinted off the parked cars
as I huddled into my jacket and lowered my head so as not to take a
direct hit from the wind. Unless the plane hit clear-air
turbulence, they had perfect flying weather.

We claimed Richard’s Lincoln Town Car, paid
the parking fee, and started off for Lackawanna and the Brennan
family Christmas gathering.

Bah, humbug.

Except for carols on the radio, the drive
was a quiet one. Even Maggie’s usually buoyant enthusiasm had
flattened into nothingness as clouds began to gather in the
west.


It’ll be fine,” Maggie
said at last.

I gave her a skeptical glance, but said
nothing. She didn’t have that familiar quiver in her gut, a feeling
I’d learned to be wary of. She didn’t have that niggling itch in
the back of her skull—trouble on the way. Only I didn’t know what
kind of trouble. And for all her soothing words, she was worried
about something and had been transmitting it for the past hour.

We pulled up the driveway and I cut the
engine.

The handmade wreath on the front door was
heavy with what looked like real fruit, straight out of a Colonial
Williamsburg brochure. Maggie’s sister Irene’s deft hand, no doubt.
According to Maggie, Irene made sure everything about her home, her
children, and her marriage was perfect. Or else.

That’s probably why she didn’t like me. Not
only was I flawed, but I was essentially broke. And I was ruining
her sister’s life. Not that she’d said so the one time I’d met her
back in September. That was after the accident that totaled my car.
I wasn’t hurt, but Maggie.... Well, the five-inch scar on her right
calf might fade in another couple of years. Considering she’d
nearly bled to death, that wasn’t too bad a price to pay.

I opened the trunk and retrieved the
brightly wrapped presents, then followed Maggie up the walk. She
pressed the doorbell and we waited. Minuscule snowflakes gently
landed in Maggie’s auburn hair. She smiled and impulsively kissed
me.

The door flew open and Irene, dressed in a
gold sequined top, dark silk pants, with perfectly coiffed hair the
color of muslin and carefully applied make-up, stood before us.
“Maggie, darling,” she cried, and gathered her sister in a careful
hug. She glanced at me over Maggie’s shoulder. Her smile faded.


Jeff,” she said
coolly.


Irene.”

I stood there with my arms laden with
packages Maggie had insisted on adding my name to. But I didn’t
know these people, hadn’t contributed toward the cost of the
gifts.

Irene ushered us into her tastefully
decorated Colonial home, to the formal living room where Maggie’s
kin were sitting on the stiff, uncomfortable-looking furniture.
Irene took our coats, and Maggie and I added the pile of gifts to
the overflowing stack under the Christmas tree. It was Brennan
family custom to open presents after dinner, she’d told me.

The holiday spirit seemed in short supply,
although the adults were all sipping drinks. The kids were off in
another part of the house, whooping and hollering, which gave the
only hint of holiday cheer. As I took in the somber faces around
me, a sensation of smothering concern for Maggie seeped into me. It
permeated the room.

It would be a long evening.


Can I get you anything?” a
vaguely familiar face politely asked.


Jeff, you remember Irene’s
husband, Peter,” Maggie said.


Peter,” I said in
acknowledgment. The painless dentist, and the source of status
Irene so coveted. “Bourbon on the rocks, please.”


Maggie?”


White wine would be
great,” she said, and Peter turned for the makeshift bar in the
corner. Moments later, we collected our drinks.


Let me introduce you
around,” Maggie said, and turned toward the couple sitting in the
love seat. “You remember my sister Sandy and her husband
Dave.”

They nodded. Dave didn’t offer his hand.
Just as well. I didn’t want to touch him. Or anyone else. That
might kick-start my sixth sense that let me know what people were
feeling—and sometimes even thinking. But touching any of them
didn’t seem like it would be a problem tonight. I’d been branded a
pariah.

As I was introduced around the room, I knew
the dark feelings I experienced were more than my own paranoia.
Maggie’s family had already made up their minds to dislike me. But
why?

Irene returned with a tray full of stuffed
mushroom caps. She offered them to everyone. Everyone but me.

Okay.

Taking the chair farthest from the group, I
looked for something to distract myself. The shelves against the
back wall were full of bric-a-brac, but not a magazine or a book
graced the tables—not even the morning’s newspaper.

I nursed my bourbon. This was as bad as
sitting in a hospital waiting room. Okay, I knew that routine for
killing time. Two times two is four. Three times two is six. Four
times two is eight....

I made it to the sixes before Maggie caught
up on the latest family gossip and found me.


You okay?” she
asked.

I could’ve told her I had a migraine, that I
needed to go home. But why ruin her Christmas with her family
because I was uncomfortable with them? Besides, something in my gut
told me we ought to stay. That was good enough for me.


I’m fine.”


You’re awfully
quiet.”

I shrugged. “I don’t do well with new
people.”


So mingle,” she said and
smiled.

God, I loved her. She wanted her family to
like me. She knew they didn’t. Did she know why?

I decided to push it. “Is something going on
I should know about?”

Maggie’s smile waned.


Maggs?” I
pressed.


I don’t know,” she
admitted, her expression darkening, her gaze darting to the crowd
in front of the fireplace. “But I don’t like it. I’ll tell
Irene—”


No, don’t say anything.
It’s not worth it.”


But you’re important to
me. I don’t want them to—”

I touched her arm. “Maggs, it’s just for a
couple of hours. I’ll hang back and keep a low profile”


But you shouldn’t have
to.” Her whisper was turning harsh.


Can I get you another
drink?” Peter asked from behind her.

I peered around Maggie. “No, thanks, I’m
fine.”

BOOK: Bah! Humbug - A Jeff Resnick Story
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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