by Jayne Barnard
Enjoy another Christmas mystery short story.
The Early Music Society’s Yuletide Concert was over for another year, the cookies and punch done, the excellent acoustics of the Elbow Park church gone silent, the great stained-glass windows dark. Security consultant, Lacey McCrae, drove home along Mount Royal’s slippery slopes, admiring the sprinkling of coloured lights glowing under in a dusting of new snow. The tiny ember of Christmas spirit in her stomach glowed almost warm below the usual layers of worry about money.
At a four-way stop, she glanced left, wondering what kind of lights were up at the stark, modern house she had wired last week. Behind that glass front and black metal beams, what would the Holmes house display–a traditional green tree and colored lights in its two-story atrium, or something sleek and futuristic in gold foil? It was white foil, a polished pyramid reflecting every smidge of colored light from outside, including the blue-and-red from a half dozen cruisers on the street.
Lacey circled the block for a second look. Behind the glass wall, irregular flashes of white light competed with the Christmas tree: police cameras at work upstairs. Clear in her mind was Mr. Holmes’ insistence on her showing him and his son the separate alarms for the garage and the master-bedroom wall safe. Had someone broken in?
She parked and walked past a thicket of idle EMS persons, reaching the front door before a cop stopped her.
“Crime scene. No entry.”
Lacey had her ID ready. “I wired this house.”
The cop eyed her, then the ID. “Stay here.”
He came back. “Sergeant Wilkes says he knows you. Go in.”
Wilkes leaned on a black metal railing, his snow-white hair matching the frosted tree. Lacey walked over and looked up.
“Who’s the stiff?” she asked. “Mr. or Mrs.?”
“Big assumption, McCrae. Why’d you think there’s a body at all?”
“EMS don’t work burglaries. And they’re not doing CPR either.”
“Smart.” He paused. “Okay. It was the Mrs. Any ideas why?”
“Maybe. Did they go for the jewelery?”
“There’s an open safe up there. Empty. You wired it?”
“It’s on a separate circuit. So’s the garage. Holmes didn’t want to wake his sweet, young wife by accidentally letting the garage alarm sound some morning. And he said she wouldn’t want to walk downstairs to shut off the safe alarm if she keyed in a wrong number while getting dressed for dinner.” She waved at the wall of windows. “Can’t blame her for that.”
“The perp gained entry through the garage. Think the mister forgot to reset the alarm when he left?”
“Maybe. But the son–his grown son–was there when I explained the on-off codes for both systems. Maybe sonny liked the trophy wife’s taste in gems.”
“It was the son found the body.” Wilkes pointed towards the kitchen. “That the guy you showed the alarm codes to?”
Lacey looked along the corridor. A man sat with his head in his hands. She waited until he looked up.
“Nope. Must be a brother.”
“He has no brothers. Just sisters. Holmes introduced the fellow as his son?”
“The man called him ‘Dad’. He didn’t contradict. A son-in-law?”
“I’ll find out. Describe this so-called son.”
“Late twenties. Dark brown hair, that messy style. Brown eyes. About my height.”
Wilkes strode off down the hall. He was soon back. “Not either five-foot-seven, graying and balding, or six-foot-two and blond, huh?”
Lacey shook her head, then shook it again as the implication hit her. “So Mr. Holmes hired me to re-wire and immediately showed a stranger the alarm codes?”
Wilkes nodded. “Wanna bet the Mrs. had a boat-load of life insurance?”
“Not needed for motive,” said Lacey. The problem with trophy wives was, after a few years they started to look like the one you left for them. “I’m betting Holmes had Wife Number Three lined up and couldn’t afford more alimony. Anyway, there’ll be a photo of ‘sonny’ on the garage camera, with me and Holmes. Look back to last Wednesday.”
“Thanks for stopping by. We’ll get in touch when we need a statement.”
“Uh, Sergeant? Not to be callous, but re-wiring this house was my biggest job this year.” She was trying not to sound desperate, but rent had to come from somewhere. “Can you keep my name out of it until Holmes’ check clears?”
His nod warmed her clear through. “Why not? It’s Christmas.”
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section. You can check out all of the Christmas short stories that have gone up this month, and the ones going up yet over the next week, in our Terrific Tales section. There will be more mystery and pet Christmas stories.