Christmas in The Sisters
The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series Book 6
by Becki Willis
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Latest book in the Award-Winning The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series!
Brash has plans of his own for the perfect Christmas. With the help of a new jewelry store, he thinks he’s found just the right gift for Madison, until the Grinch strikes again. This wasn’t the surprise he had in mind.
Ready or not, Christmas is on its way, and time is running out to create the holiday of their dreams. As the house fills with unexpected guests, Madison and the twins honor favorite traditions from the past while creating a few new ones of their own.
Who has time for being kidnapped by men in Santa suits and bad beards?
This is one Christmas that no one in The Sisters will ever forget!
Emergency lights clashed with the festive Christmas scene.
Beyond the police car’s glaring strobe, cheerful strands of twinkling white icicles dripped from the eaves of the house. Each porch post was wrapped in green. A profusion of multi-color lights sprang up in the yard, garnishing every bush, every bird feeder, and every tree in sight.
Wedging the cruiser into a slim niche between a Ford Expedition and a Pontiac Grand Am, Brash deCordova came within inches of a gigantic inflatable snowman. The chief of police picked his way between a stand of lighted candy canes, a herd of reindeer, and an animated gingerbread man. The obstacle course led him to the front porch, where a trio of wooden carolers greeted him, and a motion-activated wreath began the first bars of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
It came as no surprise when the doorbell twinkled out the tune of Jingle Bells. Brash shook his head in wonder. The Hutchins certainly loved the season.
The door swung open and a plump woman motioned him inside. “Brash! You’re here.” The relief in Vanessa Hutchins’ voice was palatable. “Come in, come in.” She turned slightly away and bellowed down the hall, “Larry! The police are here!”
“I’m sorry to come calling like this, Vanessa,” Brash apologized, tugging the cowboy hat from his auburn head. “Larry tells me you’ve had some trouble.”
“I’ll say! Look! Just look at that!” She flung her arm toward the massive Christmas tree centered at the front windows. Dozens of bulbs, baubles, and ornaments covered every tip, illuminated by hundreds of miniature white lights. A red and green tree skirt peeked from beneath the lower branches.
“Nice tree,” Brash murmured, wondering how it kept from collapsing.
“Nice? It’s empty! Glory be, someone stole all our presents!”
A groove of worry puckered the officer’s brow. “All of them? How many did you have under there?”
“You mean an exact number?”
“For now, an estimate will do.”
Vanessa cocked her head to one side, mentally tallying up the gifts. “At least thirty. I’m almost done with my shopping. Or I was, until this happened!” She gave another emphatic wave toward the barren tree skirt.
“Calm down, Nessa,” her husband said, coming into the room carrying a steaming mug. He thrust it at his wife before offering his hand to Brash. “Brash, thanks for coming out so quick. Vanessa, take a few sips of hot chocolate and try to relax. Everything is going to be all right.”
“All right? You’re not the one who shopped for those gifts. And you didn’t wrap a single one of them, Larry, so don’t tell me to calm down!” Her voice rose with every word, both in pitch and volume.
“Can we have a seat?” Brash suggested.
Appalled by her lack of manners, the frantic woman immediately turned apologetic. She fussed around the officer, fluffing a snowman afghan at his back and producing a Santa-shaped ottoman for his feet. Brash politely settled among the excessive holiday pillows, grimacing when he activated one with music. Over the digital notes of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, he struggled to sound professional. “Tell me exactly what happened.”
“We were robbed, that’s what happened!”
“Were there any signs of forced entry?”
“The back door was jimmied open, if that’s what you mean,” Larry Hutchins offered. “We didn’t touch anything, in case you want to dust for prints.”
“Smart thinking. Was anything else taken?”
“Not that we’re aware of. We checked the gun case, jewelry box, desk drawers where we keep the checkbook, that sort of thing. Everything else seems to be here.”
“They were only interested in the presents,” his wife concurred. Hot chocolate already forgotten, she had taken to wringing her hands.
Brash jotted down notes in his trusty little notebook. It traveled with him everywhere he went, tucked into his shirt pocket. “Take me through this evening. We need to establish some sort of timeline.”
“Well, let’s see… I got off work around four. I stopped by Granny Bert Cessna’s to leave a donation for the Angel Tree. Bless her heart, that woman is over eighty and still as active as ever! She told me she’s going to Vegas to attend the National Finals Rodeo with her new beau, Sticker Pierce. They’re doing some big award for him, being as he’s a rodeo legend and all. Glory be! Anyway, on the way home, I spotted Glitter Thompson walking her dogs, so I stopped to chat for a few minutes. Poor dear is having trouble with her bursitis again. So, I must have wound up getting home about five fifteen or so. Since I forgot to lay anything out for dinner, we decided to go out for supper when Larry came home.”
Brash waded through all the useless chatter to find a kernel or two of helpful information. “Were the gifts still under the tree when you arrived home at five fifteen?”
“Yes. The first thing I do when I get home is turn on the tree lights. I’ve thought of getting one of those automatic timers, but I’m not sure I trust them.”
“What time did Larry get in?”
“Five thirty-eight, same as every day. You can set your clock by this man.” For the first time since Brash had arrived, Vanessa smiled. She patted her husband’s shoulder as she stood over him, too nervous to sit.
“And neither of you saw anything unusual? No strangers about, no cars out front, no unscheduled deliveries?” Brash clarified.
“No, everything seemed normal,” Larry answered.
“What time did you leave for the restaurant?”
“Around six thirty. And we called you the minute we got in, about ten minutes ago.”
“So that narrows down the window of opportunity to about an hour and thirty-five minutes.”
Larry nodded. “That sounds about right.”
“Vanessa, do you have a list of everything under the tree?”
“Of course. I keep a detailed list of what I buy for each person, and I check each item off as I wrap it. I’ll be happy to get it for you.”
“Fine, fine. But I’d like to ask a few more questions before you do. Have either of you noticed anything strange over the past several days, or weeks? Again, any strangers about, cars out front, deliveries, anything disturbed in the yard, anything at all?”
“I don’t believe so.”
“Glory be, not that I can think of.”
“How long has your tree been up?”
“We always put it up Thanksgiving evening, while the kids are here to help pull things out of the attic. Larry’s shoulder gives him a fit, you know. Rheumatism.”
“Old football injury,” her husband claimed, rotating his arm as if to disprove his wife’s claims.
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Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.
An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.
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