Welcome. Each episode of the Christmas Story has been written by a different author adding to what has been written by previously. Part Three is brought to us by Kelly Whitley
Red and white lights lasered through the living room windows and bounced off the glass balls decorating the tree in a parody of Christmas cheer. Shadowy men and women with “Police” on the backs of their jackets tracked in snow and walked through her house, talking in low voices.
Heather jerked her attention to the overweight detective on her couch. Detective…Carson, that was it. The man assigned to find Madison. Watery eyes, balding head, broken blood vessels on his cheeks. He had the look of a man who saw too much and drank too much to forget. No wedding ring and no sympathy.
The scent of coffee and stale cigarette smoke drifted over. “When’s the last time you saw your daughter?”
“I…tucked her in an hour ago. In her room.” Right before I put on this damned necklace. Heather rubbed her temples with her forefingers. She should’ve let Madi stay up, camp out in the living room like she’d wanted to. Kept an eye on her. Christmas Eve, and she’d been so excited.
“Has she run away before?” Carson tapped his notebook with the tip of his pen.
“Before? Before what?”
“No.” Heather glared. “She’s a little girl, and tonight’s Christmas Eve. She didn’t run away.”
The detective’s eyebrows lifted.
“She didn’t,” Heather snapped. “I know my daughter.”
“Your husband disappeared a month ago.” He flipped through a couple of pages. “Sean Nielsen, age thirty-four. Left home for work and never arrived. No contact, no trace of his whereabouts.”
Something squeezed inside Heather’s chest, stealing her breath. In the span of a month she’d lost them both. Twisting her hands together in her lap, she forced her gaze to meet the detective’s.
“Have you heard from your husband?”
Heather swallowed hard. “No,” she whispered.
Springs squeaked as the detective rearranged his bulk on the couch. “Two missing persons from the same household within a month is a big coincidence.”
What was she supposed to say? Of course it didn’t make sense. Nothing about this situation did.
“Something happen between you and your daughter tonight?”
“No. We’re very close.”
“Maybe an argument got out of hand, you overreacted, and—”
Heather jumped off the couch. “No. I didn’t hurt my daughter. She’s gone, and you’re wasting time here with these idiotic questions.”
Detective Carson pursed his pudgy lips. “Look. There’s no evidence that the kid ever left the house. The windows in her room are locked. The snow around the outside of the house is undisturbed. None of your neighbors have seen her. You’re telling me she was safe in bed, and then in the space of an hour she was gone.”
“I can’t explain it, and I need you to find her.”
“I think we’d better take this downtown, Mrs. Nielsen.”
The front door opened, bringing with it an icy blast. The tinsel fluttered on the Christmas tree and Heather shivered. They didn’t believe her. Madi was gone, and instead of searching, they’d decided Heather had committed some sort of crime.
“No. I can’t leave. She might come back, and I need to be here. Or there could be a call if someone took her.” A strangled cry forced its way past the lump in her throat and she slumped into the recliner.
One of the crime scene investigators stepped into the room. “Detective, there’s something you need to see.”