Free Fiction Thursday – Carl of the Bells

Carl Bells web

Carl of the Bells

Annie Reed

 

My friend Carl was born a few beers short of a six-pack, if you know what I mean. He’s one of those guys with a bucket full of great ideas you just know will never pan out. He told me once he could make a killing selling rocks in a box.

“People are stupid gullible,” he said. “They’ll buy anything if you package it right.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him Pet Rocks went out of style while we were still learning our ABCs.

Carl being Carl, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he interrupted our football watching one night to tell me about his latest money-making idea.

We were nursing beers at Big Ed’s Tavern on this particular Thursday night watching the Chargers beat the crap out of the 49ers on Big Ed’s dinky television.

Big Ed got the NFL channel, which was why we hung out there. The place was packed because the 49ers were playing this week, and Reno’s chock full of diehard Niners fans. Didn’t matter that this late in December the 49ers didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs.

Carl and I counted ourselves lucky we got our favorite seats at the bar so we could see the tiny screen. You’d think with all the money Big Ed raked in on Thursdays, he’d shell out the bucks for a flat screen TV bigger than a postage stamp.

“You know those bell ringers they got in front of every grocery store around town?” Carl asked me.

“Yeah, the Salvation Army guys.”

Carl gave me one of his that’s what you think looks, complete with arched eyebrow and all-knowing sneer. Carl’s been losing his hair since high school graduation, and he could stand to shed those thirty or so extra pounds around his middle. His sense of fashion is lounge lizard slick. Look at him sideways, and he could have doubled for Clark Griswold’s hick cousin in that Christmas movie my wife makes me watch every year.

The arched eyebrow combined with a sneer wasn’t a particularly flattering look on my good buddy Carl.

“How do you know they’re all with the Salvation Army?” Carl asked.

(end of sample)

~~~

Carl of the Bells

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January 2013 edition

This story can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

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Free Fiction – The New Year that Almost Wasn’t

Welcome to the special holiday edition of Free Fiction Thurs… er, Saturday. *g*

Thanks to the fine folks at Thunder Valley Press, who’ve been more than patient with me while I’ve been crunching this deadline, I’m happy to announce a brand new Diz & Dee holiday mystery, “The New Year that Almost Wasn’t.”  This time around, Diz and Dee are hired on Christmas Eve to find the missing and very pregnant mother of the next Baby New Year.

“The New Year that Almost Wasn’t” will be free to read throughout the holidays.  I hope you enjoy it!  Merry Christmas, everyone.

baby new year cover ebook small

 

The New Year That Almost Wasn’t

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

© Copyright 2012 Annie Reed

Cover Art © Nadezda Postolit | Dreamstime.com

 

The last person I expected to see walk through my office door on Christmas Eve was one of Santa’s elves.

Merry was all of three foot nothing tall.  She had green eyes and a cute button nose, and her brown curls had grown out since the last time I’d seen her.  When we first met, I hadn’t realized she was a girl, but there was no mistaking her for a boy this time around.  In my defense, back then she’d worn one of the unisex tunics like the rest of the elves wore.  Today she was dressed in a sleeveless red frock and a red Santa hat, and she had cute little gold earrings in her ears.

Merry had been one of a group of elves from the North Pole who’d hired D & D Investigations to find Santa’s missing stand-in, Norman. I’m Dee, the human half of D & D Investigations.  My partner Diz, the other D in D & D, was out buying a Christmas present for my cat. Diz and I had agreed not to buy presents for each other this year since the agency was barely staying afloat, and besides, I had no idea what to get a grumpy elf who had everything and always refused to give me a wish list.

“You’ve got to help me,” Merry said in her high-pitched, helium-addict voice. “I’m in big-time trouble.”

“Don’t tell me Norman’s missing again,” I said. We’d found Norman easily enough the last time.  Finding missing persons was, after all, our specialty, like it said on the sign on our office window, but I had a feeling that if Santa’s stand-in had decided to take a powder – again – he’d  make himself really scarce this time.

“No.” Merry’s mouth turned down in a sad little pout. “Baby New Year’s mother.”

Baby who’s what?

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’m having a blast this holiday season watching the Christmas episodes of my favorite shows.  First there was Castle, and tonight’s there’s a brand new Christmas episode of The Big Bang Theory.  I can’t wait!

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, just like for the young boy in this week’s story. Only this year a dark cloud has arrived to wreck Roger’s Christmas.  He has one last chance to set things right — he needs to catch Santa on Christmas Eve so he can make the most important wish he’s ever made in his life.  I hope you enjoy “Roger’s Christmas Wish.”

xmaswish1

ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Roger couldn’t sleep.

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already—mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping—but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble.

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Case of the Missing Elf

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I feel like asking how Christmas shopping is going, but I’m afraid you’ll all throw things at me. That’s kinda what I felt like doing the other night when a perky local newscaster asked, since there were only 22 days until Christmas, if we were all stressed yet.

This week’s story features a group of stressed-out elves who’ve lost Santa’s stand in right before Christmas. Who do you call when you’ve got a missing person? Private detectives Diz and Dee, of course. Enjoy “The Case of the Missing Elf.”

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THE CASE OF THE MISSING ELF

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

I was having a non-argument argument with my partner about whether we should get a Christmas tree for the office when the front door opened and a whole passel of elves piled in.

Up front, I should tell you that my partner is an elf.  A tall one.  Broad-shouldered, pointy-eared, strong-jawed, and with the most drop dead gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen.  You might be thinking Legolas from those movies, but Diz is more The Rock than Orlando Bloom.  He even has The Rock’s glower.  The cinnamon and marshmallow-colored mullet, though—that’s all Diz’s own.

Yeah, I know.  A mullet.  But considering how great the rest of him looks, who am I to complain?

Together, Diz and I run a private detective agency called D & D Investigations out of a former bakery in a rundown neighborhood on the mainland side of Moretown Bay.  I’m Dee, the other D in D & D.  I’m not an elf.  Or a dwarf.  Or a fairy, or any one of a hundred other kinds of magic folk who call the area around the Bay home.  I’m a plain old vanilla human with curly brown hair that tends to frizz when it’s humid, which is just about all the time.  I also have a touch of precognition I’ve yet to learn how to control any better than my hair.

“You find missing people?” the nearest elf in the pack said.

I looked down at him.  Unlike Diz, who’s a good foot taller than my medium height, these elves were all way shorter than I am.  I counted seven of the mini elves.  They all wore variations of the same outfit: forest-green pants, red-and-green shirts that were more tunic than shirt, and red, green, or white scarves.  The elf who asked me whether we find missing people had curly salt and pepper hair peeking out from beneath a red knit hat with a white pom-pom on top.  They made the office look like a seasonal munchkin convention.

“Uh, yeah,” I said.  I resisted the urge to point to the lettering beneath the agency name on the plate glass window of our office—Missing Persons Are Our Specialty.  We’d paid extra for that, but no one ever seemed to read it.

The elf behind the guy with the red knit hat elbowed him.  “I don’t care what you say, this can’t be the right place,” he said in a stage whisper I could hear fine even though his voice sounded like he’d just taken a hit of helium.  “Just look at it.”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Good morning, everyone! Happy three days before Christmas.

If you’re still shopping, I wish you short lines and easy finds. In other words, no stress. The young boy in this week’s story has a whole different kind of wish. ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH is a sentimental look back at an earlier era, before iPods and Nintendo DX and PS3’s. I hope you enjoy it!

Roger’s Christmas Wish

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

Roger couldn’t sleep. 

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already — mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping — but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble. 

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Case of the Missing Elf

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Can you believe it’s December 1st already? Wow. This year has just flown by. Pretty soon I’ll be annoying my co-workers with holiday music — I’m already annoying my family with a holiday CD in the car — and it will be time to put up the Christmas tree and see how the new cats and the tree cope with each other. To celebrate this first day of the holiday season, this week’s free story is a Diz & Dee holiday mystery – THE CASE OF THE MISSING ELF. Enjoy!

The Case of the Missing Elf

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

  

I was having a non-argument argument with my partner about whether we should get a Christmas tree for the office when the front door opened and a whole passel of elves piled in.

Up front, I should tell you that my partner is an elf.  A tall one.  Broad shouldered, pointy-eared, strong jawed, and with the most drop dead gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen.  You might be thinking Legolas from those movies, but Diz is more The Rock than Orlando Bloom.  He even has The Rock’s glower.  The cinnamon and marshmallow-colored mullet, though — that’s all Diz’s own.

Yeah, I know.  A mullet.  But considering how great the rest of him looks, who am I to complain?

Together, Diz and I run a private detective agency called D & D Investigations out of a former bakery in a rundown neighborhood on the mainland side of Moretown Bay.  I’m Dee, the other D in D & D.  I’m not an elf.  Or a dwarf.  Or a fairy, or any one of a hundred other kinds of magic folk who call the area around the Bay home.  I’m a plain old vanilla human with curly brown hair that tends to frizz when it’s humid, which is just about all the time.  I also have a touch of precognition I’ve yet to learn how to control any better than my hair.

“You find missing people?” the nearest elf in the pack said.

I looked down at him.  Unlike Diz, who’s a good foot taller than my medium height, these elves were all way shorter than I am.  I counted seven of the mini elves.  They all wore variations of the same outfit: forest green pants, red and green shirts that were more tunic than shirt, and red, green, or white scarves.  The elf who asked me whether we find missing people had curly salt and pepper hair peeking out from beneath a red knit hat with a white pom-pom on top.  They made the office look like a seasonal munchkin convention.

“Uh, yeah,” I said.  I resisted the urge to point to the lettering beneath the agency name on the plate glass window of our office — Missing Persons Are Our Specialty.  We’d paid extra for that, but no one ever seemed to read it.

The elf behind the guy with the red knit hat elbowed him.  “I don’t care what you say, this can’t be the right place,” he said in a stage whisper I could hear fine even though his voice sounded like he’d just taken a hit of helium.  “Just look at it.”

The rest of the elves nodded and muttered among themselves.  Except for the elf with the red hat, they all sounded like helium addicts.

I glanced over at Diz, expecting to see his everyday glower amped up to a killer scowl.  My partner and patience aren’t even on a handshake basis.  Diz was born without that sense of serenity that’s second nature to most wood elves.  Stuff gets to him.  He left his clan’s home on Marlette Island years before I was even born.  Life among the trees probably drove him batty.  Lord knows why he puts up with me, not that I’d complain about that either.  I know when I’ve got a good thing going. 

One of the things Diz can’t stand is a client who won’t get to the point.  Between the scowl and the lack of patience and the elfly strength, Diz can be flat out intimidating.  That’s what made him such a kickass interrogator when we were both with the cops.  Now that we’re detecting on our own and can’t afford to scare potential clients away, I do most of the initial interviews.  I can be kind of a smartass, but at least I’m nice about it.

Most of the time.

But now, instead of having to deflect Diz from going into full scowl mode, I caught him in a near-grin. 

“You’re smiling,” I said to him.

The grin disappeared.  “Am not.”

I lifted an eyebrow. I’m not sure why my partner doesn’t like to admit when he’s having a good time, but far be it for me to let him get away with it.

“Right,” I said.  “And I’m Santa.”

Immediately, all the pint-sized elves in the office went quiet.

“What?” I said to the group who were all giving me the evil eye.

(read the rest of the story here)

This week’s free Christmas story

Merry almost Christmas, everyone! We’re all having a good holiday week, right? *don’t throw things at me!*

Okay, okay, for those still dealing with crowded stores, last minute shoppers, and crazy, impatient drivers, and those who already have all their holiday stuff done (really? people actually finish before midnight on Christmas Eve??), here’s a little holiday Free Fiction Thursday story to take your mind off the seasonal madness.

In this week’s story, life hasn’t been the same for Roger since his grandmother moved in. First she took his room, and now she’s about to ruin Christmas! Unless Roger catches Santa on Christmas Eve and makes one last wish, this will be the worst Christmas ever.

Roger’s Christmas Wish

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

Roger couldn’t sleep.

It was Christmas Eve. He was supposed to be asleep already — mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping — but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa. He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there. Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents. Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important. He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells. If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble.

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve. Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas. Things were already bad enough at his house. He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

His mom’s Bing Crosby Christmas album was playing on the record player in the kitchen. Roger’s mom played that album every year on Christmas Eve. The room Roger slept in now was just off the kitchen, and the wall between his room and the kitchen didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling. The songs sounded scratchy and his mom had the volume set lower than she usually did. Still, Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols always meant Santa was on his way.

Roger knew he was a little old to believe in Santa. Some of his friends didn’t believe anymore. They teased him and called him a baby, especially Eddie from down the block.

Eddie was bigger than anyone else in the second grade. He had three older sisters who all acted like tomboys, according to Roger’s mom. Eddie said parents did all the Santa stuff when kids were asleep. He double dared Roger to look under his parents’ bed or in the back of their closet. Eddie said if Roger had the guts to look, he’d find all the presents his parents would say came from Santa.

The day Eddie from down the block said all that stuff, Roger did the hardest thing he’d ever done since the day second grade started. Even harder that the What I Did On My Summer Vacation paper he had to write at the beginning of the school year.

Roger had turned his back on a double dare and walked away.

His face had burned with shame. Everyone would think he was a coward, but Santa had to be real, he just had to be. Roger had already prayed to God for what he wanted, and that hadn’t worked. Santa was his last resort.

link to the rest of the story

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This story is available for sale on Smashwords for a variety of formats and on Amazon for Kindle.