It’s time for a Christmas story in our Ever After Mysteries series, and Chautona Havig always writes the best Christmas stories! Her The Nutcracker’s Suite released on November 26, and to celebrate it, the Ever After authors are doing another of our fun little blog hops! We’re all wondering… Who broke the nutcracker? Click HERE to see the first story.
“It was a nutcracker, not the Hope Diamond.” The hairdresser stopped, scissors in mid-air, and blew a bubble. It was nearly the size of a tennis ball before she sucked the gum back into her mouth and resumed chewing.
I leaned away, all too familiar with the hazards of mixing bubble gum and long hair. “But it was my nutcracker,” I said, “and it was important to me. It was a Christmas gift from my friend, Chautona. She’ll notice I’m not displaying it, and she’ll be crushed.”
“Cracked,” Trixie said. She snorted. “Not crushed.”
I gave her a look and sat up straighter. If she wasn’t such a good stylist, I’d have found someone else years ago. Fortunately, she never tried to talk me into emulating her own ever-changing styles. I’d look ridiculous in pink spikes or a platinum beehive.
“Can’t you just glue it?” Trixie pulled the comb through my hair and cut across the ends. “Put it on a high shelf, so she can’t get a good look at it.”
“Maybe, but still… someone broke it, and the police should have taken my statement. They just refused to investigate.” I narrowed my eyes at my reflection in the mirror. “It was a housebreaking, really, because someone had to break into the house to do it, but the police officers acted like I was making it all up.”
“Like I said, it’s just a nutcracker.” Trixie cracked her gum. “Was anything stolen?”
I started to shake my head and stopped at the sound of her scissors snipping perilously close to my ear. “I didn’t find anything missing,” I admitted, “but someone got inside and broke the nutcracker. It was laid out, broken, right in the middle of the living room rug.”
“But why?” Trixie paused, staring my reflection. “Do you think it might have contained something valuable? Maybe it had diamonds hidden inside it. Or drugs. Or a treasure map!”
What an imagination that woman has… You’d think she was the author of mystery novels instead of me. Still, I hadn’t considered that. There had been that big fuss about a missing treasure map last month. In the end, I’d found it in my copier. Oops.
“They’re not hollow,” I said. “At least… I don’t think so.”
“Then a secret message, written inside it.” She nodded vigorously, but her generous application of Aqua Net kept the beehive from wobbling. “I bet that was it. A spy code.”
“I highly doubt that.” I was seized by an urgent need to rush home and examine the carcass more closely. Besides, I was starting to feel a bit miffed that she was coming up with so many plots that hadn’t even occurred to me.
My phone trilled, and Trixie handed it to me before resuming the haircut. I held it up rather than tip my head forward. Chautona’s picture filled the screen, and, alarmed, I hit the answer button.
“What’s the matter?” I demanded, nearly fumbling the phone in my anxious haste.
“Um… nothing. Why?” She sounded confused. Or was it disingenuous?
“You never call me. Never. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and spoken on the phone twice.”
“Well, actually, I just called to see how your writing was coming along. You know… the writer’s block.” She lowered her voice on the last couple of words, as if they were a little vulgar.
“Oh.” I blew out a sigh. “It’s about the same. I just can’t think of anything new to write.”
“Seriously?” Her exasperated huff must have been audible to Trixie, because the stylist stopped snipping and waited patiently for me to finish. “You haven’t thought of anything new to write? At all? Not recently? Your brain is still sludge?” She hastened on, probably realizing that was a little rude. “I was sure you’d come up with something today.”
“Why today?” A suspicion grew in me. “I mean, why today particularly?”
“Well…” She sounded a little too innocent. “Sometimes, strange things happen that sort of kickstart the brain into new ideas and you can use them for stories. I just thought maybe something might happen to do that today.”
Uh huh. Chautona is one of my favorite people on the planet, but there’s no denying she’s eccentric. She’s a fixer. Not the gangster type, like she wrote into that last book of hers, but the genuine article. She’s generous and kind and soft-hearted. When a friend has a problem, she wants to fix it. Maybe she’d decided to fix my writer’s block.
“Did you break my nutcracker?” No point in beating around the bush. I saw Trixie’s mouth drop open and spun away.
Chautona let out a peal of laughter. I could just picture her… doubled over and slapping her knee, positively howling with laughter. “Didn’t it work? I thought by now you’d have come up with a dozen theories about what happened! I thought you’d be well into chapter two of a spy thriller or a heist novel.”
I compressed my lips and took a minute to compose myself. If Trixie hadn’t been there, eavesdropping with all her might, I would have mentioned the diamonds, but… Oh, well. It kept me humble. And my brain was starting to clear. A plot unfolded with beautiful clarity. It was a suspense novel about a woman who strangled her best friend. Then she published a bestselling detective story and was blackmailed by her hairdresser and persuaded the police that Trixie… er, the hairdresser was obsessed with nutcrackers and should be locked up.
“I’ve gotta go, Chautona. I need to let the police know they can stop looking for the housebreaker. If you need me, send me a text.” I struggled out of the stylist’s chair. My hair was good enough for now. I had writing to do. “If you want to chat, give Denise Barela a call. I understand she’s working on her next book now and could probably use some “inspiration.” I hoped she heard the air quotes. “But thank you. You’re the best. Love you!”
I was out the door before I realized I hadn’t paid Trixie. Oh, well. I’d take care of it tomorrow. I needed to get to my computer.
Be sure to enter the giveaway here and then follow up at Denise Barela’s blog!
The Ever After Mysteries from Celebrate Lit
How many of the Ever After Mysteries have you read so far? They’re all really fun mysteries set in the 1920’s and inspired by fairy tales.
My own contribution is Murder at the Empire. I enjoyed the research for it so much! Read about Gayle, the first female theater organist in Chicago. She plays the Mighty Wurlitzer to accompany the movies and other acts at the glamorous Empire Theater, until a string of disappearances and murders cause the curtain to crash down. The theater’s artwork and other treasures are disappearing, too, and Gayle looks guilty!