Saturday, December 5, 2009
The Christmas Mystery
Part One--by Lenora Worth
Zelda Parsons found the package a week before Christmas. The chill of early morning greeted her as she hurried to get the newspaper, shivering with each step. She almost tripped over the big red box with the giant fluffy white bow jammed on top. But her red fur-topped booties shielded her from getting caught up in the curls of the ribbons.
“What is this?” she said into the cold air.
She wasn’t a morning person, but a present on her doorstep? That sure changed her grumpy mood. Glancing around, Zelda wondered which one of her neighbors had left her this early Christmas present.
Maybe that nice widower Mr. Gilbert two doors down from her Atlanta townhouse. Or it could have been the Garrisons. They were an older couple across the street. Their Victorian house was filled with antiques and quirky, creepy treasures from their many travels abroad. And they volunteered for just about everything in this quiet bedroom community a few miles north of the city. Or maybe … this intriguing gift had come from the equally intriguing man who’d moved in next door yesterday.
The man Zelda had waved to and later taken some fresh-baked pumpkin bread. (She’d made way too much, after all.) What was his name? Oh, yeah. Benjamin Rudolph. Like she could forget his name, or his ocean-smelling aftershave or his mysterious eyes or his dark hair. He’d certainly upped the interesting neighbor quota around here.
“Call me Ben,” he’d said, his voice deep, his dark blue eyes dreamy. “And thanks for the pumpkin bread.”
Zelda let out a sigh now, reminding herself they’d only spoken a few words. But she’d love to call him Ben any old time. Okay, so they’d connected but that didn’t mean the man had immediately rushed out and bought her a nice gift. Her pumpkin bread was good, but it wasn’t that good.
Forgetting the paper, she sank down beside the package on her porch, her chenille “101 Dalmatians” robe puffing around her like a belle’s ball gown. “Okay, let’s see what we have here.”
Then she saw the attached note, scrawled in a rather scratchy, shaky handwriting: Do not open until Christmas.