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Authors: Joyce Lavene,Jim Lavene

Tags: #Female Sleuth, #Christmas, #ghost, #Cozy Mystery

Murder Fir Christmas

BOOK: Murder Fir Christmas
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Murder Fir Christmas

A Christmas Tree Valley Mystery

By

Joyce and Jim Lavene

With Chris Lavene

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Joyce and Jim Lavene

Book coach and editor—Jeni Chappelle

http://www.jenichappelle.com/

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

* * *

This is a work of
fiction
. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Acknowledgments:

The authors want to acknowledge Patricia Tucker for her help in choosing the name for the wolf in this book, Cynthia Chappelle for whom Bonnie Tuttle’s new life was inspired by.

Also Jeni Chappelle and Emily Andreis for their help or this book would not have been finished.

 

 

 

Dedication:

This book is in memory of Joyce Lavene who passed away on October 20, 2015

We will miss her and hope her memory and works live on as she would want them to.

 

Table of Contents

Murder Fir Christmas

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

RECIPES

Traditional Stollen

Sausage and Potato Casserole with Cheese

Almond Crescent Cookies

About the Authors

 

Chapter One

 

Bonnie Tuttle braked abruptly for the tiny, old man in the white robe. He appeared out of nowhere and was standing in the middle of the road with a greenwood staff in one hand. The other hand rested on the side of the biggest stag she’d ever seen. The antlers had sixteen points. The man’s long, white hair whipped around his aged Cherokee face as the stag pawed at the blacktop.

She didn’t turn off the truck engine since she wasn’t sure it would start again, but she got out to address the man. Old snow was heaped on the sides of the road where it had been pushed by a plow, and salt grated under her tennis shoes. The area had readied itself for another snowstorm.

“Excuse me, sir.” The wind whipped at her short, sun-bleached blond hair and her jacket that had been adequate when she’d left Alabama. “It’s not a good idea to stand in the road. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll find out where you belong?”

“Unega Awinita.” He bowed his head elegantly toward her. “I have awaited your return. Welcome home. We have great need of your presence.”

She started to speak, but the man and the stag were gone. It was as though they disappeared right before her eyes. A few snow flurries swirled around her as she scanned the nearby woods for any sign of them.

Bonnie rubbed her eyes. She was more tired than she thought. Good thing she was close to town. What was that he’d called her?

She got back in her pickup, glancing around one last time before she headed into Sweet Pepper, Tennessee.

 It was two weeks before Christmas, and the small town was decorated with plenty of holly—both fake and real. There was a huge Douglas fir tree at the VFW Park in the center of town decorated with lights and gleaming, colored ornaments.

She parked in front of town hall, glad to turn off the engine that had been overheating for the last fifty miles. She hadn’t been sure if the old truck would make it from Alabama, but she was finally here.

A cold wind swept down from the Great Smoky Mountains that surrounded the town, and she shivered, not used to the colder temperatures anymore. She was originally from this area—Christmas Tree Valley, just past Sweet Pepper and down the mountain. But she hadn’t lived here in ten years. Her visits were during the summer when it was warm. She’d forgotten how cold it could be or that there could be so much snow. 

Bonnie hurried into the warmth of the building. Snow, ice, and cold were going to take some getting used to, but since her job was primarily outside as a Federal Wildlife Agent, she’d get used to it pretty quickly. A new coat would help. Maybe some boots besides her rubber wading boots would be good too.

“Good morning!” A woman with teased-high, fifties hair, dressed as though she’d never left that era, greeted her. “Can I help you?”

Bonnie looked around. There were plenty of people moving back and forth, in and out of the offices. She didn’t recognize any of them. Even though Christmas Tree Valley was the next town over, she hadn’t grown up here. This was somewhere her mother shopped once in a while, and they always came to the Sweet Pepper Festival. But that brief acquaintance didn’t help now. She was still a stranger.

“I’m Bonnie Tuttle.” She pushed at her hair that had a tendency to swing into her face and pulled out her federal ID. Maybe it would’ve been better to wear the uniform. “I’m here to meet with Chief Don Rogers and Agent Harvey Shelton. Could you tell them I’m here?”

The woman behind the desk got up and smiled. “Well aren’t you a tall drink of water! You’re going to get along just fine with our fire chief, Stella Griffin. At least you two will see eye to eye, if you’ll forgive the joke.”

At slightly over six feet, Bonnie was used to being taller than most women and quite a few men. She nearly always felt as though she was towering over everyone.

“Thank you.” She was really tall compared to this woman who offered her hand.

“Sandie Selvy. It’s very nice to meet you.” She patted her slightly stiff hair. “Let me find out where they’re going to hold this shindig. I’ll be right back.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Selvy.”

“Just call me Sandie. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other since you’re taking Harvey’s place. It’s very exciting to have another woman involved in town business.”

Bonnie started to correct her. She had nothing to do with town business besides the formalities of working with the police and sheriff from time to time. Mostly she spent her days giving wildlife education classes and in the woods and on the lakes. In Alabama, that included a lot of swamps too. The weather was warmer, and there were plenty of gators.

Here she knew it would be black bears, deer, bobcats, and such, with a helping of rattlesnakes on the side.

A tall woman who equaled her height came into the building. Her fiery red hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wore jeans and a heavy jacket with a Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade T-shirt under it. This had to be Stella Griffin, the fire chief.

She looked tough, despite the freckles and curious, brown eyes. She glanced aside for a moment and said a few words to an empty place beside her. As soon as she noticed Bonnie, she moved forward and stretched out her hand.

“You must be the new Wildlife Agent. I’m Stella Griffin. Welcome to Sweet Pepper.”

Her accent wasn’t from Tennessee or anywhere in the South. But her smile was as warm as her hearty handshake.

“Bonnie Tuttle. Nice to meet you. You must be the fire chief. Miss Selvy said we’d see eye to eye. I know what she means now.”

Stella laughed. “Yeah. Like you didn’t have enough jolly green giant jokes growing up, right? But Sandie’s nice. And she won’t bring it up all the time. It’s probably hard for someone as short as she is to constantly look up.”

“I suppose that’s true.” Bonnie already liked Stella. It wasn’t just the height thing either. She hoped they’d be friends. She wasn’t sure how many of those she had left in this area.

Harvey Shelton came out of an office accompanied by another man. When she saw the shield on his belt, she assumed this was Chief Rogers. He was in his fifties, she guessed, with pale blue eyes and graying, blond hair cut in a flat top.

“You made it right on time and before the snowstorm they’re predicting.” Harvey shook her hand. He had bushy, dark brows and brown eyes, and his dark mustache wasn’t quite centered on his face, a curiosity she had noticed when she’d met him in Alabama. “Welcome. This is Chief Don Rogers of the Sweet Pepper Police Department. Chief, this is the very hard working and astute young woman who is taking my place so I can retire—Agent Bonnie Tuttle.”

They shook hands. Chief Rogers seemed to want to sum her up in a glance.

“Welcome to Sweet Pepper,” he said. “I see you’ve already met our fire chief. Let’s take this in the conference room. We have a lot to cover.”

It was easy to tell during the briefing that the Sweet Pepper Police Department had a much closer relationship with Harvey than Bonnie had enjoyed with the police departments in the area she’d been responsible for in Alabama. She guessed it was because the mountainous area was sparsely populated compared to the many small towns where she’d worked.

Even though Federal Wildlife Agents were able to investigate almost any crime in their jurisdiction, knowing she had backup that was closer than the next state didn’t bother her. She’d worked mostly on her own but welcomed the assistance where ever she could get it.

At the end of the meeting, she gave her cell number to the fire and police departments, who gave her their information as well. She had a bag full of brochures and Welcome to the Community coupons and notepads for her refrigerator. The people seemed happy to have her here.

“I understand you still have relatives in Christmas Tree Valley and Sweet Pepper,” Chief Rogers said as the meeting was breaking up.

“Yes. I’m actually here to help my mother. She lives in the valley. She hasn’t been well for the past few years.”

“I’m sorry I have to ask, but who is that?”

She smiled. That was one thing that never changed. If you lived in a small town, everyone wanted to know everything about you.

“Her name is Rose Tuttle now, but she was Rose Addison growing up. She was raised right here in Sweet Pepper.”

The lights in the town hall flickered, and the front door blew open. A gust of air carried papers from desks to the floor.

“Might be that storm coming this way.” Harvey glanced around the room.

Stella turned her head to the side again and muttered a few words before looking back. She appeared to be upset about something more than some flickering and the door coming open. She wondered if the fire chief had some issues—talking to herself being one of them.

“I’ve met your mother,” Stella said. “I didn’t realize she was in bad health. I’m sorry.”

Since these people were recent acquaintances, Bonnie thanked her but didn’t go into detail about her mother’s health. “My brother, Eric, has taken an overseas position in Germany with his company. It’s not a big deal.”

It had been a big deal leaving her friends in Alabama, but she understood that her brother couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And maybe it was good for her to start again. She’d thought a relationship she’d cultivated was going somewhere, but it seemed she’d been mistaken. Saul Chase wasn’t ready to settle down.

“Well, you let us know if we can do anything to help,” Chief Rogers said. “We’re family here in Sweet Pepper and Christmas Tree Valley. We work together.”

Bonnie thanked him and gathered everything together. Sandie gave her a canvas Sweet Pepper tote bag to carry it in. She walked toward the door to leave, and it opened unexpectedly. What was even stranger was that it closed behind her. They obviously needed someone to fix that door.

BOOK: Murder Fir Christmas
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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