Michaeline: December is Story Time!

Christmas postcard with Santa Claus and bag of toys in a basket suspended by greenery from an airship, with "Greetings to one and all - Merry Christmas." Color postcard, ca. 1916. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. N39376.

Christmas goes so well with an airship or two! (Image via Missouri History)

Well, another NaNo here and gone for some of us on Eight Ladies. Three thousand words is better than nothing, and I take heart in the fact that December has often been a great month for story for all of us.

Want proof? We have our Christmas week stories! The tradition started Continue reading

Nancy: They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Chrismas(ish) Tale

Happy New Year! It’s official. It’s now 2018.

And yet, I come offering my 2017 Christmas story. It’s a long one. (Had I been a wise woman like Jilly, I would have posted it in two parts.) It’s involves a bit of romance. And a clandestine organization. And, as promised, flamingos. Whether you’re nursing a hangover, agonizing over returning to work, or mulling over your new year’s resolutions, I hope you enjoy it!

They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Christmas(ish) Tale

There had to be a better way to make a living.

Going straight was for the birds. Literally. I glanced down at the deflated inflatable flamingos I clutched by limp necks. Who the hell had ever heard of flamingos in a Christmas lawn display? There weren’t flamingos in Bethlehem or at the North Pole. No respectable Christmas story featured the ridiculous pink birds. But Mrs. Leary had insisted that the damned things – part of her year-round yard décor on her 2-acre plot in the heart of Beverly Hills – be included in the Christmas decoration design.

“Miss Klauson, you wanted to see me?” Old Mrs. Leary, probably never very tall but now well under 5 feet, with tight shoulder-length curls shot through with gray, tottered toward me.

“Please, it’s Sandy.”

Sandy Klauson. Seriously. I mean, Jesus of Nazareth. Never let it be said that Ms. X doesn’t have a sense of humor, but if she had to cut me loose a few weeks before Christmas, she sure as hell could have come up with a better cover name for me. And a better civilian job. And a better place than LA at Christmas time, under a beating hot sun with nary a snowflake in sight. X had probably done it out of spite, but it was ridiculously unfair. Anyone could have made the mistake of tranquilizing an overly handsy ambassador from a small but important US ally. OK, so it was more of a choice than a mistake, but still.

Mrs. Leary sucked in her breath and opened her eyes wide in surprise. “Oh, this is a catastrophe!” She reached out and petted one of the limp plastic birds. “My dearly departed husband gave me these flamingos on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I’ve had them in my yard ever since.” Her eyes filled with tears.

Well hell. So much for the suggestion of rehoming the birds in the trash can.

“I don’t know what happened.” I didn’t mention the small slits I’d found in their throats. “I found them like this. But I’ll fix them for you. We’ll make them good as new.”

Mrs. Leary wiped away a tear. “Oh, you’re a good girl. Thank you, dear.”

As the old lady returned to the house, I looped around the outskirts of the palatial building until I found TJ, the job foreman, and explained the dilemma and my plan. “I’ll just take the van, find a garage or bike shop, and have someone fix these for me, like a flat tire. I should be back in a few hours.”

Across the lawn, the old lady emerged from the side door with her oversized chauffeur – whom I suspected doubled as a body guard – steadying her, and headed for the detached garage. Her daily 2 PM outing to get a newspaper, a cup of tea, and a comb-out at the beauty parlor. Yes, I’d clocked her movements and done some recon. So sue me. Old habits die hard.

I turned back to TJ, who’d been watching me watch her. He had his own interesting habits, and with his height and heft, I wouldn’t mind having him at my back in a fight, just like Derek…I wouldn’t let my mind go there. Still, TJ would have been good Company material, and if X hadn’t lost her mind and fired me, I might have recruited him.

TJ shook his head at me. “Get the old lady’s birds fixed. But you can’t take the van. We still have half the strings of lights in there. Take an Uber and get a receipt.”

I nodded and headed for the front gates, which stood wide open to give us easy access to our van and equipment that Mrs. Leary refused to let us park in her driveway. I’d just pulled out my phone to contact an Uber – and yes, I would save the receipt and turn it in for reimbursement, thank you very much, since X had frozen my assets – when something caught my eye. Something that didn’t belong on this neat, narrow, tree-covered street in the Hills.

The scuffed black work boots immediately gave away the game. Half a block down and on the other side of the road, leaning against the side of a shiny, black, expensive-looking pick-up truck, thumbs hooked in the belt loops of his jeans, wearing a tight blue tee shirt that showcased his broad chest his rock-hard biceps, with his long legs stretched in front of him and crossed at the shank of those boots I’d know anywhere.

“Bastard.” Continue reading

Jilly: New Year’s Resolution – Christmas Short Story, Part 2

Happy New Year, everyone!

This year I decided to write a two-parter in response to our Christmas Short Story Challenge. Click here to read Part One, in which our heroine, horologist Sandy Sharp, searches for clues about her missing father and encounters a mysterious otherworldly character at midnight in the clock mechanism room of Big Ben’s tower.

New Year’s Resolution

The mystery man was so tall, Sandy’d had to stand on tiptoe to reach his collar. He’d been fast enough to catch her wrist, strong enough to block her and absorb the momentum of her entire bodyweight as she swung the hammer at the panel. He could have broken her hold on him, could have swatted her like a gnat, but he didn’t.

He leaned down, just enough to allow her feet to settle back on the ground and relieve the pull on the fabric of his uniform. Above her clenched hand, his shoulders rose and fell in a slow, steady rhythm. Under the peak of his hat, his brown-rimmed hazel eyes gleamed, focused and calm. Waiting.

Seconds dripped by. The pounding in her chest slowed to a rapid thump-thump-thump that made it easier to catch her breath. Then her whole body started to shake, making the gold braid scratch against her fingers. With a supreme effort of will, she opened her hand and stepped back out of reach.

He straightened to his full height, walked around to where her hammer lay forgotten, picked it up and returned to present it to her with a polite bow. “I apologize for frightening you. I suppose it’s too much to ask that you forget you ever saw me?”

Continue reading

Elizabeth: A Visit from “Saint” Nic

Time for another entry in our annual Short Story Challenge (you can see this year’s words here).

Kay got us off to a delicious start with her feel-good snowy tale Botticelli Pizza, followed by Michaeline’s Steampunk Christmas Story and part one of Jilly’s mysterious ghostly tale Midnight Reflections (you’ll have to wait for New Year’s Eve for the conclusion to that story).  If you haven’t read them yet, make sure to check them out; they’re each fun, entertaining takes on this year’s words.

My own entry features Detective Cassie McColl and Nicolai Papadopoulos, who readers of the blog might remember from a series of Friday Writing Sprints earlier this year (or was that last year?).  Hope you enjoy it.

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A Visit from “Saint” Nic

I gave the zip-ties encircling the wrists of the latest felon to cross my path a tug to make sure they were secure before handing him off to the security guard for transport to the local jail.  That made eight, with four hours still to go on my shift.

If it was up to me I’d have made a public spectacle of walking him out the door as a warning to all of the other wanna-be criminals in the area, but the owners of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino preferred a more subtle approach.

Definitely a mistake on their part. Continue reading

Nancy: Happy Holidays!

Danish Christmas Hearts

From all of us here at 8LW, to all who celebrate the season, Merry Christmas!

Today, I’m spending the day with lots of family, drinking Aquavit, and enjoying a traditional Danish kolde bord, which literally translates to cold table and involves almost every imaginable ingredient to make amazing open faced sandwiches. And beer. Lots of good, dark beer.

I’ll be back next week with my contribution to this year’s Christmas short story challenge. Spoiler: there are flamingoes. And guns. And a hot guy – because of course! That means we’ll hold our January accountability thread on January 8, and we’ll add a discussion of our 2018 goals. In the meantime, if you’ve had your fill of Hallmark holiday movies and have watched all of the classics but still have a hankering for something holiday-themed and fun to watch, I’ll recommend two of our family favorites that aren’t as well known as some of the stories we’ve discussed on the blog: Olive, the Other Reindeer (available on Amazon Prime), and A Wish for Wings That Work (starring Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat! and available on Netflix).

Joy and peace to all, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2017!

Jilly: Midnight Reflections – A Christmas Short Story

Happy Holidays, everyone!

It’s Christmas story time again, already! Check out Elizabeth’s post for this year’s challenge words. Click here for Kay’s deliciously feelgood snowy tale, and here for Michaeline’s steampunk treat.

As my posts fall on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve this year, I decided to write a two-parter covering both nights. I picked off the prompt words in Part One, below, but the Happy Ending will have to wait until next Sunday.

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Midnight Reflections

Bong!Bong! … Bong!

The unmistakable chimes of the Great Bell of London, commonly known as Big Ben, resonated across the moonlit, traffic-free city. A random snowflake drifted from the cloudless sky and settled on the roof of the Elizabeth Tower. It was officially Christmas.

Below the belfry, in the mechanism room, Sandy Sharp, the youngest horologist in the Palace of Westminster, waited until the last echo of the final chime faded. Then she threw the temporary switch that disconnected the hour train that caused the half-ton hammer to strike the fourteen-ton bell.

She wiped her hands on her jeans and traced the raised, gold-on-black inscription at the base of the legendary clock. Made in the Year of our Lord 1854 by Frederick Dent of the Strand and the Royal Exchange, Clockmaker to the Queen, from the Designs of Edmund Beckett Denison, QC. Fixed here 1859.

Officially the clock was shut down for refurbishment, but the powers that be had decreed the Great Bell should ring out to celebrate the start of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The Keeper of the Clock had asked for volunteers to babysit the process, and the other mechanics, who had families to consider, had accepted with guilty relief when Sandy offered to cover both shifts.

The team thought they knew why she wanted to do it. They weren’t wrong exactly, they just didn’t know the half of it. The critical aspects of her plan were too unorthodox to share with her profoundly rational colleagues.

Her earliest memory was of being carried in her father’s arms, up, up and around endless stairs to this room. As a tenth birthday surprise, Dad had let her place an old copper penny on the pendulum stack to speed up the mechanism by two-fifths of a second per day. On her sixteenth, he’d signed her up as his apprentice. On her twentieth, she’d joined the team as a fully qualified mechanic.

And then a scant few weeks later, joy had turned to catastrophe. Some time between the beginning of his shift on New Year’s Eve, and the end of it the following day, Dad had simply disappeared. It was as though the Elizabeth Tower had swallowed him whole.

Sandy was almost sure she didn’t believe in ghosts, but Continue reading

Michaeline: My Steampunk Christmas Story

Christmas postcard with Santa Claus and bag of toys in a basket suspended by greenery from an airship, with "Greetings to one and all - Merry Christmas." Color postcard, ca. 1916. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. N39376.

Christmas goes so well with an airship or two! (Image via Missouri History)

It was Christmas Eve, 1897, and Joey Lunardi had invited us all up for a party on his airship, but he was anxious, because he wanted the party to end so he could make it in time for midnight mass. The plan was to land in Central Park’s airstrip at 11 o’clock and we’d all get in electric taxis to the church. Best laid plans of mice and airmen, often go a-gley – in this case, the turning point was when the flamingos went missing at 10:35.

Claire LeMaire, star of stage, screen and Edison cylinders, had just won the diamond prize for guessing the most mystery dishes at the buffet. And Joey, he didn’t do anything small – it was a flawless 10-carat rock, hanging from a pretty hefty gold chain. Claire was waving the thing under the nose of her “patron”, Eddie the Rat, taunting him. “How come you never get me anything this nice, Eddie?” she said, while casting a flirtatious glance at Joey.

Eddie was turning red – only a dozen of us at this party, because let’s face it, an airship is still limited capacity, especially when you are filling it up with buffets and Christmas trees and a fake ice pond, but still, at least ten of us who are not that impressed with Eddie – when he said, “What are you talking about, honey? I got you dem flamingos, didn’t I?” And we all turned to the fake ice pond, where the flamingos had been delicately Continue reading