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I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus (Book 3) (A Harley and Davidson Mystery), page 1

 

I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus (Book 3) (A Harley and Davidson Mystery)
 


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I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus (Book 3) (A Harley and Davidson Mystery)


  I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus

  A Harley and Davidson Mystery Series (Book 3)

  Liliana Hart

  Scott Silverii

  To our kids ~

  Y’all are expensive, and worth more than diamonds.

  Contents

  Other Books In Series

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Epilogue

  Sneak Peek: Book 4

  About Liliana Hart

  About Scott Silverii

  Also by Liliana Hart

  Also by Scott Silverii

  Copyright © 2018 by SilverHart, LLC

  All rights reserved.

  Published by SilverHart Publishing

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  The Harley and Davidson Mystery Series

  The Farmer’s Slaughter

  A Tisket a Casket

  I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus

  Get Your Murder Running

  Deceased and Desist

  Prologue

  December 24, 2004

  “But I’m not sleepy.” Ellie yawned and rubbed her eyes, and her daddy nuzzled against the top of her head. She loved when he did that.

  “Honey, you know Santa Claus is waiting to bring your toys,” he said. “but you have to go to sleep first.”

  She was too excited to sleep. Santa was coming. And she was going to catch him this year.

  “Ellie,” her mother said. “Let’s get your teeth brushed and then you can set out the cookies and milk for Santa.”

  “Can we feed the reindeer too?” she asked. “Rudolph is my favorite. The others were so mean to him, but he showed them. He got revenge by leading the pack. He deserves a special snack.”

  “Ellie Bear,” her daddy said. “The point of the story isn’t revenge. Rudolph was just different, and it took an effort to see that being different didn’t mean bad. He had special blessings, and it just took his friends awhile to see that.”

  Daddy had that worried look in his eyes he got sometimes when she said something she shouldn’t, but she didn’t see anything wrong with what she’d said.

  “When I was being different, the doctor said I was being bad,” Ellie said, her bottom lip quivering.

  “Honey, that’s completely different. What you were doing to those animals was wrong. Very wrong. But you’ve stopped, and you’re all better now.”

  Ellie snickered beneath her breath. Her daddy thought she’d stopped. She’d just learned to be sneakier. They just didn’t understand why she did it.

  “I did stop playing with animals like the doctor told me too,” she lied. “I’m a good girl.”

  He sighed and the worried look didn’t go away. “You sure are trying, honey bunch. but you’ve got to stop hurting the other children.”

  She kicked out with her feet, tired of the conversation. It was always about what she couldn’t and shouldn’t do. Nobody let her have any fun.

  “The kids aren’t animals,” she said. “They can run away if they don’t like it. They’re not helpless.”

  “Baby, you shouldn’t hurt anybody or anything. I know you don’t want to be a bad girl. You’re so smart, and we love you very much.”

  She grinned and hugged his neck. “I love you, daddy.”

  “Enough stalling, little girl,” her mom said. “Time for bed or no Santa.”

  Ellie narrowed her eyes at her mother and gave her an angry face, and she smiled when her mother backed up a step. She liked that she could scare them.

  “Honey, mommy is just excited to get Santa’s cookies and milk set out, so we can go to bed too. We’re excited about Santa coming.”

  “Oh, daddy. You’re too big for Santa,” she said, giggling.

  “Santa has something special for everyone. Even grownups.”

  Ellie got ready for bed, put out the cookies and milk, and then hopped into bed. Her mommy tucked her in nice and tight, just how she liked.

  “I know Santa will love those special cookies,” her mother said. “He might even share with Rudolph. Now be a good girl and go nighty-night. We’ll see you in the morning.”

  Ellie snuggled under the covers, and despite her best intentions, was asleep in moments, but hours later she was stirred by a bump. Excitement filled her at the thought of Santa trying to get down their tiny chimney. She was going to catch him and keep him. There was no reason for the other kids to get all the toys.

  She slid out of bed, the wood floor cold beneath her feet, and she frowned as she her the soft murmur of voices. It didn’t sound like Santa Claus. She peered down the hall. The cramped living room was bathed by shimmering lights that cast a mystical glow. Her eyes were still foggy from the sleepy film of exhaustion, but she knew what she was seeing.

  “Santa,” she whispered, eyeing the man in the red suit with awe.

  Her eight-year-old heart fluttered in her chest, and she stayed still against the wall as he put presents under the tree. And then she heard another voice, and took the chance of peeking around the corner for a better look.

  “Mommy,” she said, her voice soft. And then she gasped and put her hand over her mouth so they wouldn’t hear her. Santa had hugged her mom and pulled her in for a kiss. A long kiss. Rage filled her from the tips of her toes to the top of her head, and she felt hot all over. Daddy was going to be so upset when she told him. So hurt. She had the best daddy in the world and he didn’t deserve that.

  “I hate Christmas,” she said. “And Santa.”

  Ellie crept back to her bed, her face wet with angry tears. She jerked the quilted afghan up to her chin, but there’d be no going to sleep. Her heart was broken. Were mommy and daddy going to divorce like Ronny’s parents had?

  She tried to sleep, but the voices in her head wouldn’t leave her alone. They were yelling at her, screaming at her to do something. She was the only one who could make things right.

  Ellie wasn’t sure how she got in the kitchen. She just opened her eyes and she was there. And then in a flash she was standing in front of the Christmas tree, the piles of presents glittering beneath the twinkling lights.

  “I hate Christmas,” she said. She struck a match, just like she’d seen daddy do when he was grilling, and she was mesmerized by the colors in the flame. She tossed it onto the presents and watched as the paper began to singe, then smolder.

  The voices quieted and she nodded once before sneaking back to her room. Maybe now she could finally get some sleep.

  Chapter One

  “One more lap,” Hank said, giving himself a pep talk. He was covered in sweat and his breath was labored. “Come on, Hank. You can do it.”

  Henry “Hank” Davidson had been a legend in the Philadelphia Police Department. Heck, he’d been a legend in departments across the country. He’d been trained by the FBI to profile and catch dangerous criminals. His mind and his body had been well-honed instruments. And then he’d retired. His waistline w
asn’t looking like it had a couple of years before, and he couldn’t go into the holidays already behind the ball. He’d challenged himself to drop ten pounds before next week’s Thanksgiving feast with Dr. Anna Rusk.

  The challenge wasn’t going so well. He was still two hundred and fifty pounds after two weeks of moderate dieting and even more moderate exercise. His six-foot-two-inch frame was solid and easily carried the weight, but at fifty-two years old, he had to start thinking about his health, not just about his looks. Plus, he wanted to look his best for Anna.

  The sound of a siren from behind him had him slowing and looking over his shoulder. Deputy Karl Johnson rolled down his passenger window and grinned.

  “How many laps you made?” he asked.

  “Two.” He huffed up the slight incline that lead from Camellia Drive to Maple Street. Karl followed along beside him in his unit. Maybe he was waiting to see if he was going to drop dead. He sure felt like it.

  “You’re looking good,” Karl said. “You’re already in better shape than all those other people sitting on their couches watching you.” He beeped his horn twice and drove off, and Hank gave a half-hearted wave.

  Hank’s thoughts went to Anna. He’d first met her last month while working an investigation in the town of Rio Chino. He and his partner, mystery writer Agatha Harley, had been able to clear a police officer convicted of killing his wife. Tony Fletcher, the real killer, had been struck down by a stray bullet while responding to a helicopter fire, so he’d avoided arrest and trial. Though Hank suspected his eternal fate of fire was much worse than a Texas prison. Anna Rusk had been the coroner who’d helped him and Agatha break the case.

  Anna had been a welcome escape from a solitary existence since he’d relocated from Philadelphia to Rusty Gun, Texas. His high-risk, high profile career as a serial killer hunter placed Hank under incredibly difficult circumstances. On the jagged edge, Hank knew that walking away with his pension was the only way to walk away sane.

  His long-time friend, Sheriff Reggie Coil had invited him to Rusty Gun. Hank decided it was far enough away from anything resembling a big city or crime-infested wasteland, but he’d developed an appetite for danger over the last couple of decades. He’d quickly grown bored in the small town.

  Hank stopped at the top of the small hill and hunched over to catch his breath. His favorite gray Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt was saturated with perspiration, and his half-calf socks had fallen to his ankles. He looked at his gut and started running again.

  “Keep moving, Hank.”

  Sedentary life wasn’t for him. He’d tried the life of an outdoorsman, but he’d fallen asleep in a deer stand while trophy bucks casually grazed within yards of his location.

  His attempt at camping out and fly fishing turned into a nightmare. He’d gotten a slight case of hypothermia when he’d forgotten his slicker suit, and he’d accidently cast his insulated sleeping bag into the river. The hook and worm through his top lip though had really sealed the deal.

  He heard another car approach and gritted his teeth as it slowed beside him.

  “Hank Davidson, what you trying to prove?” A familiar voice called out. “You’re too dang old to be worried about looking fine. Besides, you’re already fine as can be.”

  Sheila Johnson was Karl’s mom, and she owned Bucky’s Brisket Basket. She was one of the reasons he was out here running. Her barbecue was delicious, and her homemade rolls were to die for.

  He came to a stop and he turned to face her. “You think I’m wasting my time?” He tried to suck in air, but his lungs felt like they were going to explode. He was praying she would tell him yes, so he could go home and fall into bed.

  “No, sugar. If you wanna be more, fine, that’s all right with me. I like lookin’ at you either way, but I hope this ain’t for some floozy. Men your age are always killing themselves to impress some hot, teen blonde.”

  Hank grinned, thinking of Anna. “No worries then. She’s not a teen or a blonde.”

  Her eyes popped wide, and she laughed, a big bawdy laugh that commanded attention. “Look at you, Hank Davidson. You found yourself a woman. It looks good on you.”

  “Thanks,” he said.

  “Does Agatha know?”

  He froze and felt the wrinkle form between his brows as he frowned.

  “Nevermind,” she said, a sparkle in her eyes. “All I needed to know.” She waved and drove off, leaving him standing there alone.

  He decided to forgo the attempt for another lap around the block. He’d just skip the extra biscuit at the Kettle Café. He was meeting Agatha there for breakfast.

  The Kettle Café was almost vacant by nine-thirty. It was also the week before Thanksgiving, and most folks were sticking close to home in preparation for the big day. A few kids who’d gone off to college were back home early and seemed to like the adult environment of the café.

  Hank typically arrived everywhere fifteen minutes early. He liked to get settled into a location and watch the ebb and flow of the people. There was so much to be deciphered by the company one kept.

  Agatha wasn’t one to go unnoticed when she made an entrance. She was tall for a woman, around five-foot-ten, and she reminded him of a Ralph Lauren model he’d seen in a magazine once, wholesome. She had dark hair and a smattering of freckles across her nose, and mermaid eyes fringed with dark lashes. She was the girl next door. In his case, that was pretty close to being a true statement, since she lived across the street.

  She was a cacophony of color. Her trench coat was bright red and was tied around a slender waist. Her oversized purse was yellow, and she wore a royal blue scarf around her neck.

  Agatha said hello to several people along the way to the table, including Penny, their waitress. Penny tended to get on Agatha’s nerves, so he was surprised when Agatha leaned over and gave the girl a quick hug. It was obvious Penny had been crying, and the hug had spurred another round of tears.

  Hank had grown to admire Agatha’s expertise, and although she’d never worked as a cop, she had the intuitive nature and drive to have made a great detective. It helped that her undergraduate work had been in forensic anthropology, even though she’d been just shy of graduating.

  Of course, it had done nothing in the way of preparing her to write mysteries. Or maybe it had. She’d made a success out of it, and wrote under the name of A.C. Riddle.

  “Hey, partner,” Agatha, said as she walked up to the booth.

  “Hi yourself, stranger. It’s been a while.”

  “Looks like your lip is healing well,” she said, mouth twitching. “Those fish hooks are mean.”

  He felt the heat spread to his cheeks. “Fishing is a dangerous sport. I didn’t realize you knew about it.”

  She laughed. “Everyone knows about it. You should know by now there are no secrets in this town. Everyone knows about you and Dr. Rusk, too. How’s that working out?”

  He shrugged, not completely comfortable talking about his dating life with Agatha. He didn’t want to examine too closely why it was uncomfortable. “I’ve seen her a few times. It’s nice to talk to someone from back home. We’re going to get together for Thanksgiving next week at her place.”

  “Wow, is it serious?” she asked, her gaze intent on his.

  It was easy to fall right into those eyes and tell her anything she wanted to know. “We’ve only seen each other a few times. It’s just friendly for now.”

  Penny came over and took their orders, her eyes still red and puffy. He ordered his usual oatmeal and coffee, and Agatha ordered the lumberjack breakfast that came with every carb imaginable. She’d eat it all too. He didn’t know where she put it.

  “How’s the novel going?” he asked.

  “Amazing. I was so juiced up, that I locked myself in the house and wrote until I couldn’t see straight anymore.”

  “It’s always a joy when you rediscover your passion in what you do.”

  “Yes, but it’s short-lived. I’ve got to get a full proposal to my
agent by the end of the year. I’ve got nothing for that. I’ve been watching the news in hopes of a case catching my interest, but so far it’s all pretty ho-hum. It’s a heck of a time for America to get safe.”

  “Don’t worry, the holidays always make people crazy. Crime will skyrocket. It’s inevitable.”

  “We can only hope.”

  “Don’t let the sheriff hear you say that. He’ll lock you up.”

  Agatha grinned.

  “What’d you say to Penny to make her cry?”

  Agatha looked surprised. “Nothing. I try not to make people cry when I talk to them, but her grandfather passed away this week. He was supposed to visit her for Thanksgiving.”

  “Was he sick?”

  “No, Penny said he was pretty active, and he wasn’t that old. He dresses up as Santa Claus every year at one of the malls outside of Fort Worth.”

  “So much for Christmas magic,” Hank said.

  “No kidding. The guy just had a heart attack out of the blue. She said it scared the kids to death.”

  “That’s rough. I’ll be sure to pay my condolences on the way out. It’s hard losing someone that close to the holidays.”

  “The holidays don’t get easier when you’ve lost someone you love, no matter how much time passes.” She said.

  He knew she’d lost both her parents several years back in a car accident, but she rarely talked about them. He’d seen glimpses of that loss in her expression from time to time—like now—but she wasn’t one to openly share her hurts and wounds. In that way, she was a lot like him.

 
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