2 Yule Be the Death of Me

Yule Be the Death of Me:

 

 

Book Two of the Vivienne Finch Magical Mysteries

 

J.D. SHAW

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by J.D. Shaw

All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means
without the prior written consent of the author, excepting brief quotes used in
reviews.

 

[email protected]

 

 

 

Manuscript
Editing by George G. Weiss.

 

 

Cover
illustrations by Allison Marie for
Alli’s
Studio.
Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved. No part of these designs may be
reproduced without written consent from the artist.

 

[email protected]

DEDICATION

 

 

This one is
for my entire family. You have all made Christmas Eve one of the most special
gifts I have ever received. I will treasure the memories of each and every one
for as long as I live.

 

 

 

THE VIVIENNE FINCH MAGICAL MYSTERIES

 

 

 

Book
One:  Easy Bake Coven

 

 

Book
Two:  Yule Be the Death of Me

CHAPTER
1

 

Monday, December 16th

It was supposed to be the most
wonderful time of the year, according to the song lyrics. Yet, as she stood in
the line with the others, Vivienne Finch certainly wasn’t feeling any holiday
cheer. In fact, she was pretty sure that her feelings were matching those of
Ebenezer Scrooge before his visit by the three ghosts.

Here it was, nine days before
Christmas and she still wasn’t even close to finishing her list of tasks. It
had been such a flurry of activity ever since Halloween had come and gone. She
found herself wishing that the calendar could roll back just a few weeks to
allow her a chance to catch up. But she knew better than to do such a thing.
The elder council of witches had made it quite clear to her that they frowned
upon any tampering with the normal flow of time. She had been given a free pass
for the last mess, but that was it. She was on her own to fix any future
mistakes.

“Ladies, stay in single file
please.” A stern, yet matronly voice ordered. The line moved forward but she
really wasn’t all that eager to proceed. She just wanted to leave this nonsense
and go back home. No one really wanted to be standing here anyway.

The line led directly into the next
room where bright lights forced her to squint. She put her hand up to her face
to shield her eyes from the blinding glare.

 
The line came to a stop as the stern voice
returned. “Face forward.”

She did as they were told and
stared at the bright lights. Nothing ruined the holiday like standing in a
police lineup as a suspect in a murder. Yet, that was exactly where she found
herself and she had very little time to find the real killer.

“Number three, step forward.” The
voice ordered as a blonde woman that was about Vivienne’s height took a
tentative step toward the light.

The others in the lineup remained
quiet, except for the occasional gurgle of a nervous stomach or someone
breathing a bit too heavy through their nostrils.

“Step back please.” The voice
ordered.

“Number seven, step forward.” The
stern voice continued.

No one moved. Vivienne began to tap
her foot in annoyance that this was taking so long. An elbow poked into her
ribs. “What are you waiting for honey, a red carpet?” A brunette with a very
short haircut, multiple piercings, and a rather masculine looking body mocked
her.

“They called me forward?” Vivienne
asked.

“Number seven, please step
forward.” The voice echoed from the room speakers in a rather unpleasant tone.

She put one foot in front of the
other and stepped toward the light. She couldn’t see who was behind the glass,
but she had a feeling they weren’t going to help her out. It was the worst
feeling in the world. She fought to keep herself composed as she faced scrutiny
from behind the tinted glass.

“Step back please.” The voice
ordered.

Vivienne let out a little sigh and
was happy to rejoin the line.

“Everyone may return to holding.”
The voice ordered.

They were led out of the room and
marched back toward the holding cells. Vivienne had just cleared the doorway
when a firm grip took her by the arm. “Miss Finch, I need you to follow me.”
The officer in charge, a harsh-looking woman who had lips so thin they were almost
non-existent, ordered.

She swallowed hard and left the
others in the line. “It can’t be me.”

Please come with me, ma’am.” The
officer replied in her husky voice that revealed years of a heavy smoking
habit. Vivienne had seen her around the station many times but always forgot
her name.

This is ridiculous.” Vivienne
countered. “I’m not the killer.” She paused awkwardly as the name rolled off
her tongue. “Alma.” Vivienne gave a little smile, hoping she got the name right
to establish a little bit of empathy.

It’s best not to speak unless your
lawyer is present.” She clearly was not moved by Vivienne’s attempt to guess
her name.  She marched her into Sheriff
Rigsbee’s
office and tapped the chair facing his desk. “Please have a seat, the Sheriff
will be right in.”

Vivienne sat down and thought it
best to keep her mouth closed from this point on.

The officer stood guard at the
door, seeming quite bored with her current task. As the heavy footfalls of
Sheriff Zeke
Rigsbee
approached the office, she
smiled for the first time which gave Vivienne a glimmer of hope that everything
was going to work out. An early Christmas miracle, perhaps? “Since we know each
other so well and all, I thought you should know that I like my Christmas cards
made out to Selma. That being my real name and all. Happy holidays.”

Vivienne felt her sudden hope
harden into a lump of coal. It was going to be a holiday to remember, that much
was for sure.

CHAPTER
2

 

 

Friday, November 29th

“Tommy, don’t
bite on those.” Vivienne snatched the string of miniature Christmas lights away
from her grey and white cat that had chosen to adopt her back in late
September. He swiped at the string with his paws and gave her a defiant meow
for taking away his newest toy. She crammed the lights up into the higher
branches of her seven foot artificial blue spruce to keep them out of his
reach. “Why don’t you play with those catnip mice I bought the other day?”

Opening a blue
plastic tote that was labeled ‘Tree Stuff’ with a piece of masking tape,
Vivienne hoped to find all of her ornaments collected over the years carefully
packed into cardboard boxes and organized by color and shape. On the contrary,
as she had done every New Year’s Day since she had moved into her rented Cape
Cod on Sunset Terrance, they were haphazardly wrapped in paper towels and
crammed whichever way they would fit. A testament to the end of the season when
she was sick to death of holly and jolly and rushed to pack everything away
with a vow to do it better the next time.

The tree began
to sway side to side as Tommy Cat, all sixteen pounds of him, shimmied up the
wire branches in a mad race to the top. “Get out of there you crazy beast.”
Vivienne shouted.

He meowed from
somewhere inside the dark green branches and then stuck his head out from the
middle section. He blinked a few times and let out a sound somewhere between a
meow and a purr.

Vivienne
reached over and pulled him free, before he could bring the entire tree
crashing down. His front claws sank deep into her shoulder as he held on for
dear life. “Ouch, ouch, claws. Watch the claws.” She yelped and released him
onto the sofa where he proceeded to dance across her new tan slipcover she had
purchased to hide the shredding job he had done to the original fabric.

Nora, always ready
with her motherly advice, had told her repeatedly to have her cat declawed.
“They’re like disobedient children.” She had said many times. “You can say no a
thousand times but they’ll keep doing it just to spite you.”

What her
mother didn’t know was that just before Halloween she had wrestled Tommy into
the large plastic cat carrier after discovering his first shredding crime
committed on the right arm of the sofa. But by the time she pulled into the
parking lot of Lakeside Veterinary, she had calmed down and decided she just
couldn’t go through with it. Even though her veterinarian had assured her the
laser procedure was less painful than the old surgery, she couldn’t help but
feel it was just plain wrong to take his claws away.

So she vowed
to deal with the problem by investing in slip covers. About three or four a
year would be about right she guessed. Besides, it would give her tired
furniture one of those inexpensive but stylish makeovers she had seen on those
home improvement television shows and countless magazine covers.

Tommy Cat
curled into a ball shape on the sofa and pulled his tail close to his face as
he took what was most likely his tenth nap of the day. After his neutering and
vaccinations, he didn’t seem to miss going outside much anymore. Fabric mice
stuffed with catnip and trailing ribbon tails seemed good enough to stalk as
prey. Like many cats, he was content to watch the world on a cozy padded perch
from the living room window and only occasionally play a game of ‘catch me if
you can’ with Joshua every now and then when he sometimes escaped. Thankfully,
the shaking of a cat treat bag proved irresistible to ignore and he could
always be coaxed back inside before straying too far into the wilds of
suburbia.

Free to
decorate in peace, Vivienne continued pulling out the ornaments one by one and
set them on the oak coffee table where several packages of green hooks were
waiting. Not that she would need to use many hooks, as most of the baubles
still had them attached from last year.

Actually, as
she stared at the package she had thrown into her cart during her last trip to
the Monarch Grocery, they weren’t even hooks or made of metal. These days, they
were manufactured of thin green plastic and had little loops you squeezed apart
to put the ornament on. She imagined that switching over to those would save
the inevitable holiday chore of having to dig one out of her bare feet whenever
she walked past the tree to get the morning paper. Yet, it would take forever
to make the switch. No, she would do that when she took the ornaments down at
the end of the season. She wanted the tree up and finished before Joshua
arrived at her home for the evening.

She pulled out
a set of vintage Jewel
Brite
brand plastic ornaments
that had cutout dioramas of little scenes inside them and smiled. They had
graced every tree in the Finch household since she was a little girl. One
ornament in particular was always hers to hang. It was the yellow plastic
diorama scene of an angel petting a deer.

She would hang
it last, front and center on her mother’s Scotch pine tree, much to Nora’s
displeasure at having a cheap plastic ornament in such a visible place on her
glorious tree. Her father would then find a way to have one of the large glass
light bulbs placed nearby so it would be illuminated. She spent hours lying
down upon the tree skirt, gazing at the twinkling lights and inhaling the scent
of fresh pine that wafted from the sturdy branches. It seemed Christmas Eve
would never come fast enough, but it always arrived on time and usually with
her parents protesting it came a bit too fast.

The first
Christmas after her father had passed away, Nora had given Vivienne most of the
ornaments from the family tree. She had said she was downsizing to a table top
tree and only needed a few silver and gold glass balls, but Vivienne knew
better. The memories of those ornaments proved too painful to look upon for the
weeks leading up to the holidays. Where Nora saw only sadness at what once had
been, Vivienne treasured as sweet nostalgia that warmed her heart with precious
memories.

Pulling
herself away from the memories of the past, Vivienne spent the next hour and a
half wrapping the tree with colored lights and suspending ornaments on the wire
branches. This year, she had to keep the fragile glass ornaments near the top
of the tree and used the plastic along the lower branches should wayward paws
choose to play. If the worst-case scenario did occur, she hoped the fluffy red
tree skirt she wrapped around the base would help cushion the blow and prevent
a shattered mess.

With her work
complete, she stepped back to admire the effort and then remembered how she
hadn’t tested the light strands to make sure they worked. She took a deep
breath and then plugged the extension cord into the outlet. The lights on the
tree burned bright and flooded the surrounding walls and corner windows with a
festive kaleidoscope of color. She exhaled and looked over at Tommy Cat who was
stretching from his nap. “Isn’t it beautiful?” She asked him. He opened one
eye, unimpressed, and returned to snoozing.

The front door
opened as Joshua returned from his day shift at the Cayuga Cove Sheriff’s
office. Dapper in his brown deputy uniform and hat, he announced his presence
with an impressed whistle.

Vivienne
gestured to the tree like a model on a television game show. “What do you
think?”

“I think it
looks amazing.” Joshua took off his hat and coat and hung them on the wall
hooks. “Isn’t a little strange though?”

“What’s
strange?” Vivienne asked. “Using colored and clear lights together?” She put
her hands on her hips and stared at the tree again. “I couldn’t decide which I
liked better so I used both.”

“I meant being
a witch and celebrating Christmas.” Joshua clarified as he pulled off his boots
and padded across the hardwood floor in his thick black socks with the bright
yellow tips. He wrapped his arms around her waist and gave her a kiss.

“Not really.”
Vivienne smiled at him. I’ve always loved Christmas. Just because I’m a witch
doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the season of giving.”

“I understand
that.” Joshua agreed. “Part of me expected you to ignore the whole Christmas
holiday thing. I figured Halloween was your big celebration for the year.”

“Most of the
traditions that people associate with Christmas are actually older than
Christianity and often have Pagan roots.” Vivienne walked over the sofa and sat
down.

Joshua
followed and plopped next to her. “Such as what?”

“Mistletoe.”
Vivienne continued. “It was actually a symbol for virility that was sacred to
the Druids. I read something once about how early tribes used the plant to try
and cure fertility problems.”

Joshua leaned
closer to her and nibbled on her ear. “Is that why people kiss under it?”

Vivienne
shrugged. “I don’t know, but it sounds reasonable enough.” She enjoyed the way
the tree lights reflected off his dark hair. Even more so, she thought that his
decision to allow his goatee to grow out into a beard gave him a level of
distinction and trust that complimented his deputy title quite nicely.

“Smart people,
those fertile Druids.” Joshua grinned at her.

“I’m not
concerned about you needing the mistletoe. It would please my mother to know
that you can provide a pack of grandchildren.”

“Let’s not
tell your mother everything.” He stifled a little yawn.

She gently
swatted his shoulder with her left hand. “For right now, my mother will have to
suffice with a fluffy grand-cat. Isn’t that right, Tommy?”

Tommy opened
one eye and appeared underwhelmed and uninterested.

“What’s for
dinner?” Joshua asked.

“I have some
chicken noodle soup in the slow-cooker.” Vivienne ran her hands through his
thick brown hair. “Stephanie and I closed the bakery up early because everyone
was out at the outlets for the Black Friday sales.”

“I thought you
and Nora always go Black Friday shopping?”

“We used to.”
Vivienne sighed. “But now that I have my own business to run, I just can’t stay
up all night hunting bargains. She ended up going out with Clara since the
diner is closed for the holiday weekend.”

“Don’t forget
to make out your list for Santa to look at.” Joshua stretched his arms upward
with a little yawn. “He likes to have plenty of notice since his shopping
skills aren’t as fine-tuned as yours.”

Vivienne
rolled her eyes. “That’s a sexist thing to say.”

He shrugged.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”

She shook her
head and got up from the sofa. “You’re lucky it’s the season for peace and
goodwill toward men.”

He reached
over to the end table and grabbed the television remote. “Sheriff
Rigsbee
approved my personal day for tomorrow so we can go
to the holiday parade together.”

“I don’t
believe it. Was he visited by three ghosts the other night by any chance?”

“You’re the
witch in the family, you tell me.” He said with a laugh. “But if they visit
again, will you ask them to mention something to him about giving me a pay
raise?”

“Absolutely.”
Vivienne snickered. “Maybe we can get Tommy Cat to play the part of Tiny Tim?”

“Tiny?” Joshua
scoffed. “I’ve never seen such a fat cat.”

“He’s not fat,
he’s fluffy.” Vivienne protested.

“I’ve never
heard of a cat with sixteen pounds of fluff on it.” Joshua turned the
television on and started flipping through the channels with furious speed. “So
what’s the plan with the bakery?”

“Well, the
parade route covers all of Main Street so we’ll have a great view from outside
the bakery.” Vivienne smiled. “As we sell cups of hot cocoa and cookies from
the table we’ve set up on the sidewalk.”

Joshua stopped
on the sports channel that was showing a football game. “Sell things?”

“Yes.” She
replied. “It’s going to be a busy day and I’d be a fool not to take advantage
of it.”

“I thought
this was going to be our day to watch the parade, grab something for lunch, and
maybe do a little shopping at the Waterloo Premium Outlets?”

“It still will
be.” Vivienne did her best to sell him on the concept. “We’re only going to
have the bakery open from eight in the morning until eleven.”

Joshua propped
his feet up on the coffee table. “I guess that will be okay.”

“Stephanie and
I will handle the crowds. All you need to do is keep the thermal pots filled
with coffee and cocoa and bring out trays of cookies when we get low.” Vivienne
explained calmly. “It’ll be hardly any effort at all.”

“I hope so.”
Joshua flipped through the channels a few more times before stopping on a rerun
of a popular sitcom. “We deserve some quality time before the chaos of the
season kicks full into gear.”

“I couldn’t
agree more.” Vivienne replied. “Besides, I need to work on the finishing
touches on our entry for the Gingerbread Dream House contest on Sunday
afternoon.”

“How is that
coming along?”

“Stephanie
finished making the sugar stained glass windows for the upstairs turrets.”
Vivienne was especially proud of her entry in the town’s contest. A few weeks
beforehand, she and Stephanie had gone around the town and photographed several
of the stately old homes around town for inspiration. After some debate, they
chose the Edgar
Rothwell
mansion, named for the
railroad tycoon who built the largest home in Cayuga Cove back in 1864.

Today, it
housed the local historical society and their collection of relics and
documents sealed up in dusty little display cases scattered throughout the
fifteen rooms.

“Can you
imagine living in a place like that?” Joshua wondered.

“Not without an
army of servants to keep it up.” Vivienne laughed. “And even then, who the heck
needs fifteen rooms?”

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