It's December in White Eagle and Tess and Tony are preparing for a huge Christmas celebration. The town is planning their annual festival, which has Tess and Tony struggling to stay ahead of things. In addition to their work with the festival, Tess fills in for the mail carrier who took over her route and Tony spends long days with Shaggy working to finish the development of their most recent video game. In spite of their busy schedules' things seem to be going smoothly until an unexpected visitor comes to town with an unusual request sending Tess and Tony off in a direction no one had seen coming.
Release date: November 14, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 191
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1)
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The Christmas Visitor: A Cozy Mystery
Georgie Crawford was twelve years four months old when he was placed with the Johnson
family, the fourth in a series of foster placements that had begun six years earlier when his
mother had died of a drug overdose. Remington Beckett joined Georgie in the Johnson home just
over three years later when both boys were fifteen. While it seemed, based on my research, that
the Johnsons were seasoned foster parents who were generally liked by those thrust into their
care, neither Remi nor Georgie ever really settled in. According to Remi, the couple weren’t bad
foster parents as far as foster parents went. They provided satisfactory lodging, nutritious meals,
steady discipline, and a supportive environment. But the couple had two biological children in
addition to the revolving door of foster children they provided a home for, and according to
Remi, both he and Georgie felt like outcasts despite the effort put forth by the Johnsons to
include them. I supposed that it was this feeling of isolation that opened the door to what
“I’m heading out for a latte. Would you like something from the coffee cart?” Kim, my
business neighbor from Gooseberry Yogurt, asked after poking her head in through the back door
of Ainsley Holloway Investigations from the shared hallway.
“I appreciate that you thought to ask, but I think I’ve had enough coffee for the day.”
“They have tea and hot cocoa.”
I was tempted but decided to decline.
“Kevin’s late again, so the yogurt shop is temporarily unstaffed. It’s super slow, so I put a
sign on the door letting folks know I’ve taken a break and would return in fifteen minutes. The
door is locked, so there shouldn’t be a problem, but I figured I should let you know what’s going
on in case someone pokes their head in here and asks about it.”
“Okay, I’ll pass the message along if anyone asks.”
“Thanks, Ainsley. I’ll hurry.”
After Kim left, I returned my attention to my computer. Sliding my finger across the
touchpad, I closed the file I had been studying and opened another. During a previous
conversation, Remi told me he’d entered the foster care system when he was fourteen after his
adoptive mother died. Remi had been abandoned at birth and had no memory of his biological
parents, or any other family connections for that matter, so after the death of his adoptive mother,
he was placed with a series of temporary families before ending up with the Johnsons a year after
entering the system.
Georgie’s biological mother had raised him until he was six years seven months old, and
unlike Remi, Georgie had fond memories of the young woman who’d raised him. While I found
the story of these young men to be both fascinating and heartbreaking, it was what came after
that grabbed my interest, and refused to let go.
“Hello,” I said, pausing what I was doing to answer the landline that serviced Ainsley
“Is this Vinny’s Pizza?”
“I’m sorry you have the wrong number,” I informed the caller. “This number ends in seven
eight seven six. Vinny’s Pizza is seven six seven eight.”
“No problem,” I said before hanging up. I got a lot of callers looking for Vinny’s Pizza.
Perhaps I should change my phone number to something less similar to such a frequently called
Once again, I returned my attention to my computer, although my annoyance at all the
distractions caused me to wonder if I should continue. If I were honest with myself, the quest I
was spending more and more time on was one I probably should abandon if I didn’t want to risk
damaging a friendship I valued very much. And yet, I found myself unable to walk away from
the unsolved mystery that had seemed to consume my thoughts since I’d first heard the story of
Remi’s missing friend.
According to Remi, he and Georgie were living with the Johnsons when a bunch of kids from
school were planning on going to a carnival that had pulled into town for the weekend. Remi and
Georgie were under house arrest after an incident that had led to another boy from their class
needing stitches. Both Georgie and Remi had been forbidden to attend the carnival despite their
desperation to do so, so, in the end, they’d made the ill-fated decision to climb out the second-
story window, sneak around to the back of the house, and then ride their bikes into town.
Once they arrived at the carnival, the boys hung out with one another until a girl Remi had a
crush on asked him to accompany her on the Ferris wheel. Remi figured he’d only be gone for a
few minutes, so he’d asked Georgie to wait for him near the hotdog stand, and Georgie had
agreed. When Remi went to meet up with Georgie after his ride, which had admittedly taken
much longer than he’d initially anticipated, the teen was nowhere to be found. Remi looked for
him for hours but eventually realized he needed help, so he went home and told his foster father
what had happened.
The police were called in, and an intensive investigation into Georgie’s disappearance was
initiated. Even though volunteers continued to look for the young boy well into the night, as far
as Remi knew, Georgie had never been seen again.
When Remi had told me his story, I’d volunteered to look into things, but Remi had seemed
less than thrilled with the idea. In fact, he’d asked me to let it go, although he later said he’d
think about pursuing it. Of course, since I’m a private investigator by trade and thus prone to
snooping, I’d taken it upon myself to do some digging without Remi’s permission.
After several months of following leads that simply led to dead ends, I still didn’t know
much, but I had learned a few things. I was able to backtrack and discovered that Georgie
Crawford had disappeared from a small Northern California town in two thousand six.
According to both the police report and numerous newspaper articles that were published at the
time of the boy’s disappearance, Georgie had last been seen at the local carnival with his friend,
Remington Beckett. This matched what Remi had shared. Also matching Remi’s retelling was
the fact that Georgie had been in foster care for the past six years, and while he’d learned to
adapt, generally speaking, he never could find a level of contentment.
According to the file kept by his social worker, it appeared Georgie felt alienated. His case
worker had made a series of notes concerning Georgie’s tendency to act out, and it seemed clear
that he had run away on more than one occasion. As I dug around in the history of the case, I felt
almost sure that running away was exactly what had happened. Georgie had been having a hard
time at school, which had caused his foster parents to become involved, which, in turn, caused a
volatile environment at home.
There was no way that I, or anyone, for that matter, could prove that the missing boy had
simply left of his own free will at this point, but the police hadn’t found anything to suggest
otherwise. There hadn’t been blood at the scene, nor had there been a sign of a struggle. The
carnival had been packed that Friday night, and the hotdog vendor where Georgie had promised
to wait for Remi was located near the center of the activity. It seemed to me now, and to the
police at the time of their original investigation, that if the boy had been forcefully detained,
there would have been numerous witnesses to attest to as much.
The only real explanation anyone could come up with was that Georgie’s disappearance was
the result of a planned exodus.
“Am I interrupting something?” I was startled from my ruminations by a young woman with
long red hair who’d entered my office through the front door. She stood near the tall Silvertip
tree I’d covered in white lights and displayed in the corner, so it took my eyes a few seconds to
adapt and really focus in on her.
Once my eyes adjusted, I smiled. “No, you aren’t interrupting anything.” I glanced at my
laptop. “I was researching a few things, and I guess I didn’t hear you come in. How can I help
“Are you Ainsley Holloway?” the woman asked.
“I am,” I answered.
The woman took a few steps forward, her hand extended in greeting. “My name is Bexley
Cosgrove. Most people call me Bex. I recently leased the storefront next door, and the rental
agent told me I could get the key from you.”
I nodded as I fought off the tightening in my throat. It had only been two months since the
previous tenant had died, and her sister had decided to close their shop and move out of the area.
“Yes, I have the key.” I opened my desk drawer, forcing a smile as I took out a ring with keys to
the front and back door, plus a key to the bathroom and the common area. “Would you like me to
show you around?”
“It’s okay if you aren’t totally thrilled to meet me,” the woman said, offering me a gentle
look as she took another step forward, reached out a hand, and adjusted the poinsettia on the
corner of my desk. “I know this must be hard for you.”
My forced smile softened. “I’m sorry.” I turned down the volume on the stereo, which had
been playing Christmas carols in the background. “I really am happy to meet you. I should have
done a better job masking my emotions, but as you’ve obviously deduced, this whole thing has
been hard for me.” I looked around my festively decorated office. “Actually, it’s been hard for
everyone in the neighborhood. Edna and Beverly had been fixtures on this block long before I
moved to the area. It just seems so odd that they’re no longer here.”
The woman offered a genuine look of sympathy. “I understand. And I am sorry. The rental
agent explained everything when I spoke to him about the property. The story is truly a tragic
It was a tragic story, but it was time to move on. “I understand that you’re going to open a pet
She nodded. “Sort of. What we’re really opening is an adoption center. I run a dog and cat
rescue, and for a while now, I’ve felt that we needed a better way to find forever homes for the
animals we take into our care. We currently run the rescue from a hobby ranch located on
Bainbridge Island. The location is perfect to house and rehabilitate those needing medical care or
training, but it isn’t the best place to showcase the animals needing permanent relocation. We’ve
had the idea for a while now to bring the animals who are ready for adoption into cities where
folks can visit with them. It’s taken a while to line up both the volunteers and the funding
required to make this dream a reality, but after almost two years of work, I finally put a viable
plan together. I’m happy to say that we recently opened an adoption center in Seattle and are
working to open adoption centers both here in Gooseberry Bay and in Port Orchard.”
I had to admit that I really liked the energy the woman seemed to bring to her cause. Based
on the way she moved her hands and gestured with her whole body, it seemed evident that she
was passionate about and committed to her cause. “That sounds like an interesting idea. You
aren’t going to have the dogs and cats locked up in small cages, are you?”
She shook her head. “No, we’ll be working with a small area compared to the barns, kennels,
and gated pastures we have access to at our main facility, but we plan to design the area within
the adoption centers in such a way that the dogs and cats can move around and interact with folks
who come in for a visit.” She looked me up and down. “I don’t suppose you’re in the market for
a furry best friend.”
I laughed. “No, I already have two furry best friends. Kai and Kallie are Bernese Mountain
Dogs. They often come in to work with me, but today, they went hiking with my friend, Jemma,
and her boyfriend, Coop.” I referred to Jemma Hawthorn and Coop Fairchild.
“Bernese Mountain Dogs are one of my favorite breeds. They always seem so happy and
friendly no matter what the situation. I look forward to meeting them.”
“They’ll likely be in with me tomorrow if you’re still in town.”
“Actually, I’m planning to be in town until the remodel is complete, and we can hire and
train full-time staff. In fact, I’m planning to meet with a realtor later today. I’m hoping to find a
furnished rental with a six-month lease.”
“I hope you’re able to find something. Gooseberry Bay seems to cater to visitors and short-
term rentals, so the number of longer-term leases is fairly limited.” I smiled. “I remember the
first day I showed up in town. It was Halloween, and I had two huge dogs and nowhere to stay.
Luckily, I just happened to meet the perfect person at the perfect time and ended up with the
perfect cottage on the peninsula.”
“That does sound like opportune timing.”
“It was.” I motioned for the woman to follow me as I walked out the back door of my office
into the hallway that provided access to all four storefronts that shared the parking and common
area. I introduced Bex to Kim, who had returned from her coffee break, and then we headed next
door to meet Peggy Newsome and Ella Joseph at Hair Affair. While my building mates each
conveyed their sorrow over losing Edna and Beverly, they also expressed their excitement that
there would be an unending supply of puppies and kittens to play with.
“It seems as if you have a tight-knit community here,” Bexley commented as we entered the
empty storefront she’d leased.
“We are close. I think you’ll find Gooseberry Bay to be made up of folks who genuinely care
about each other.”
She walked over to the massive picture windows that made up the entire wall and allowed
one to view the boardwalk and the bay. “This is going to work out exactly as I envisioned.”
“I hope so. Do you have a lot of dogs and cats being housed at your rescue?”
“More than we can accommodate most times. In addition to rescuing dogs and cats from
puppy and kitten mills, we also have established relationships with kill shelters in the state. It
took some negotiating, but we’ve worked out a system where the shelters will call us and give us
the opportunity to take custody of any animal whose time with them is nearing an end.”
“It sounds like important work,” I said, making a mental note to look into the organization
once I had an opportunity to do some digging. The service provided by Bexley and her group
seemed important, but I wanted to make sure that everything was on the up and up before I
began recommending the organization to those I knew who might be looking for a furry
companion or a place to funnel their annual donations.
“I think it is,” she said. Her smile faded just a bit. “It can be rewarding, but it can also be
frustrating. The hard truth is that we can’t save them all, and when I lose one, it truly pulls on my
heartstrings. I know that I’m doing what I can, and I’ve had many people in my life try to
counsel me to let that be enough, but the truth of the matter is that with so much need out there,
no matter what I do, it will never be enough.”
“It seems as if you’re hard on yourself.”
She shrugged. “Maybe. I like to say that I’m motivated rather than obsessed, but sometimes
obsessed is the better word.” She looked around the room with a smile. “Of course, I have
learned to celebrate my victories as well, and I really think that opening an adoption center in
this prime location with so much foot traffic will earn a huge mark in the win column.”
I had a feeling I was going to like this woman. Based on her looks, I’d say Bexley was
around thirty. She had a natural way about her and wore very little makeup, yet her eyes were
striking. Blue like mine, but hers tended to lighten and darken with her mood. Between the
expressive blue eyes and dark red hair, she really was stunning.
Bexley and I chatted for a few more minutes before she left to meet with the realtor, who was
helping her lease a living space, and I returned to my office. I’d just logged back into the site
where I stored my Georgie Crawford research when Jemma, Kai, and Kallie wandered in.
“You’re back,” I said, getting up to give Kai and Kallie hugs and kisses.
“We are,” Jemma unnecessarily confirmed. “I told you we’d be by to pick you up in time to
make the volunteer shift at the Christmas tree lot.”
I groaned. “I totally forgot about that.” I logged out of the program before closing it and then
turned my computer off.
“Is your SUV ready?” Jemma asked.
I’d taken my SUV to the tire shop to have snow tires put on, and Jemma had agreed to pick
me up from work on her way to the volunteer duty we’d both signed up for.
“It is. If you can drop me off, I’ll run in and pay for the snow tires, and then I’ll meet you and
the dogs at the Christmas tree lot.”
“That works for me,” Jemma said as I slipped into my bright red jacket.
“Is Josie going to make it?” I asked as I began turning lights off and locking the doors. Josie
Wellington was Jemma’s roommate and best friend.
“Josie said she might be a few minutes late but plans to meet us there. I guess Tegan left
work early today, so Josie had to wait until the dinner shift arrived before heading out.” Tegan
Walker owned the Rambling Rose and was Josie’s boss. She was also a resident of the peninsula
where we all lived.
“Was Tegan still not feeling well?” I asked. The last time I’d spoken to her, she’d shared that
she’d been feeling tired and rundown. She thought she might be coming down with something,
but I felt sure that her lack of energy had more to do with the chaos created when her ex-
boyfriend, Booker Maguire, and new boyfriend, Jackson Davidson, had decided to bury the
hatchet and resume their best friend relationship even though Tegan was far from being ready to
forgive and forget.
“Josie didn’t clarify why Tegan left early, but I suspect she didn’t sleep well,” Jemma
responded. “I hate to say this, and I know this is going to sound mean, but the girl looks awful.”
“I knew it would be hard on Tegan when Booker decided to return to Gooseberry Bay, but
the depth of her depression has been a surprise.”
“I know that Tegan really loved Booker, and I know it killed her when he left, but it seemed
as if she’d moved on. It appeared that she and Jackson had a good thing going, but I’m not sure
I bent over to unplug the tree lights. “Yeah,” I agreed. “The stress is getting to Tegan. I think
Josie’s planning to talk to her about getting out of town for a bit. Tegan closed the Rambling
Rose over Christmas last year. I think Josie hopes to convince her to do so again this year. A
week or two away should help her to figure things out without either the boyfriend from her past
or the one from her present messing with her head.” I looked around to make sure that everything
was turned off or unplugged. “Okay. I guess I’m ready to go.”
I called the dogs, and then Jemma, Kai, Kallie, and I headed out to her SUV.
Luckily, the tire shop wasn’t busy when I arrived, so I was in and out in a reasonable amount
of time. The drive to the Christmas tree lot where Jemma, Josie, and I had planned to volunteer
all week was short. I parked in the lot and headed toward the fenced-in area with the bright lights
and festive holiday music. I tried to volunteer at the Christmas tree lot every year. There was
something special about helping friends and neighbors find the perfect tree while Frosty the
Snowman played in the distance, and the scent of pine, fir, and cedar filled the air. This year, in
addition to the snack table that sold hot cocoa and Christmas cookies, the event organizer had
brought a food truck in, which had been allowed to park on the curb in front of the lot from four
to seven. In my opinion, this was genius since a lot of folks stopped by for the food and ended up
buying a tree, wreath, or ornament while they were in the area.
“What can I get you this evening?” Joy asked me after I wandered over to the truck. I figured
that Jemma and the dogs must be inside the staff shack since I hadn’t noticed them in the lot,
even though I knew they would have arrived before me. “I haven’t eaten all day, so I need
something hearty, but I want something I can nibble on as I work. Maybe a sandwich.”
“I have a hot roast beef sandwich with horseradish gravy on a French roll. Don’t worry, the
horseradish is mild, and I can be sparing with the gravy so it won’t be drippy.”
“That sounds perfect. Can I also get a couple of packets of shredded chicken breasts for the
Joy went to work putting my order together while I texted Jemma to let her know I was here
but had stopped to grab a sandwich. I asked her if she wanted anything, but she said she and
Coop had enjoyed a late lunch after their hike, so she wasn’t hungry. She did ask me to bring her
a cup of coffee. I texted back and let her know I was on it.
“I guess you heard about the war between Parker and Sawyer,” Joy said as she scooped meat
onto a roll.
“There’s a war between Parker and Sawyer?” I asked.
Parker Peterson was a good friend and resident of the peninsula. She was also a reporter for
the local newspaper, which was currently owned by Sawyer Banning. Parker and Sawyer had
shared a volatile relationship ever since Sawyer had bought the Gooseberry Bay Gazette and
taken over the management. Parker had made it clear that she was only interested in researching
and writing about hard-hitting news, while Sawyer seemed to enjoy setting Parker off by
assigning her fluff pieces with little to no substance. Initially, I thought Parker would simply quit
and go elsewhere, but to this point, she’d managed to stick it out. I think part of her willingness
to stay had more to do with the personal relationship that had developed between the employer
and employee rather than the professional relationship that seemed to make them both nuts.
“Parker stopped by earlier for some of my clam chowder, and she told me that Sawyer had
taken her off the case involving the coverup down at the county offices,” Joy informed me.
“According to Parker, not only had Sawyer stripped the story she had been working on right out
from under her, but he reassigned her a series of Christmas-themed stories involving local
charities and the fundraisers they depend on during the holiday season.”
I cringed. I could tell this would end badly. “Did Parker say why Sawyer took her off the
“Not really. I suppose Sawyer must have had a good reason, but when I asked Parker that
question, she let loose with a series of words too vulgar to repeat.”
That sounded like Parker. “If Sawyer took Parker off the story, is anyone covering it?”
“I guess he assigned it to Axel Stone.”
I cringed yet again. I was sure this wouldn’t go over well with my very ambitious friend, and
I knew the fallout from what Parker would interpret as a betrayal of trust would be significant.
“Parker is the one who figured out that the new bookkeeper hired by the county had been
embezzling money the entire two years she was on the job,” I said. “Parker also suggested that
the county manager might have been in on things after she found out he had covered for the
woman rather than having her arrested. If Sawyer removed Parker from a story that only exists
because of her investigative skills, that must mean that Parker really stepped in it this time.”
“I suspect you may be right.” Joy handed me my bag of food, and I handed her cash that
included a generous tip. “When I spoke to Parker, she was out for blood. I really hope she and
Sawyer can sit down and talk this out.”
I really hoped that as well. Parker had threatened to quit over a similar situation in the past.
She was an excellent reporter, and I knew she’d land on her feet if she did decide that working
for Sawyer was no longer working for her, but a new job would mean a new town, and I knew
I’d really miss her if she was no longer an everyday fixture in my life.
A line had formed behind me, so I took my food, said my goodbyes, and headed to the staff
“Joy just told me that Sawyer took Parker off the story about shakeup down at the county
offices,” I said, directing my comment to Jemma as I handed her the cup of coffee she’d asked
me to bring.
“I heard that from Josie. I haven’t spoken to Parker yet, but Josie swears that Parker is about
as mad as she’s ever seen her.”
“It makes no sense that Sawyer would do that to Parker.” I opened the bag, took out the foil
with the shredded chicken, and then put it onto paper plates for the dogs. “He had to know that
she would be beyond mad. He also had to know she might even quit over the whole thing.”
Jemma took a sip of her coffee and then responded. “Josie said that Hudson talked to Sawyer
about the situation, and Sawyer shared with Hudson that he took Parker off the story because she
was like a dog with a bone and was acting reckless in her pursuit of the story.”
Hudson Hanson was Josie’s new boyfriend.
“I guess that does sound like Parker,” I admitted.
“Sawyer told Hudson that Parker is sure she has everything figured out and has been sharing
her theory with anyone who will listen despite the fact that she’s seriously lacking any real
evidence. Apparently, the county manager threatened to sue the newspaper if Parker didn’t back
“She does seem determined to run the guy out of office,” I commented.
“Parker found out about the embezzlement, which seemed to get her all fired up,” Jemma
continued. “Since the embezzlement had been going on for two years under the eye of the county
manager, Parker concluded that the guy had to have known about what was going on and had
chosen not to act. In her mind, that meant he was part of it. Parker even publicly accused him of
taking a bribe to keep his mouth shut.”
“But she had no proof of this.”
Jemma shook her head. “Based on what Josie told me that Hudson had shared with her, it
sounded as if Sawyer didn’t want a legal hassle, so he gave the story to Axel.”
I supposed I could see Sawyer’s side of the situation. Once Parker picked up a scent, she was
unlikely to let things go even though Sawyer had asked her to do so. The real problem, in my
mind, was that even though Sawyer had taken her off the story, that didn’t mean she was any
more likely to drop it than she was when she was on it.
“I hope Parker is smart about this and doesn’t push Sawyer into a corner,” I said. “If she’s
making statements that she’s unable to back up, then she really is putting the newspaper in a
“It’s a tricky situation,” Jemma agreed. “When I first heard that Sawyer had taken Parker off
the story, I fully sided with Parker, but now I find myself reconsidering. There are laws about
what you can say and print. Having a hunch isn’t proof, and a hunch isn’t enough to keep you
from ending up in court for libel or slander.” She paused and looked out the window. “It looks
like we have a customer. I’ll get them while you eat your dinner.”
I really did want to eat the sandwich while it was still warm, so I didn’t argue. By the time
I’d finished, Jemma had moved onto a family of six who appeared to be divided on which type
of tree to get, so I decided to head over and speak to the woman wearing the faded black jacket
who was showing the bright lights near the snack bar to the baby she had strapped to her chest.
“Can I help you find something?” I asked.
The tiny, thin woman turned and looked at me. “No. Zoe and I were just admiring your
lights.” She turned slightly to look around at the entire area. “I like to stop by when I can.
Between the lights and the trees, this lot really feels like Christmas.”
“Do you have lights at home?” I asked the woman.
“No. My husband says we can’t afford things like gifts, lights, or decorations. I love
Christmas, but I think he’s likely right.”
My heart went out to the young woman. I realized that many young families were on tight
budgets, but the hollowness in the woman’s eyes made me want to help.
“I have a small tree in the back. It was moved to the recycling area because it has a broken
branch. If you want it, I’d be happy to give you the little tree at no charge. It already has lights
since it was on display in the front before it was damaged.” The woman looked both hopeful and
fearful. I could understand the hope but wasn’t sure where the fear came from. “If you want to
take some time to think it over, that’s perfectly fine with me,” I added. “They won’t recycle the
tree until tomorrow at the earliest.”
“Thank you. While I know that Zoe would love the lights, I’m not sure my husband would be
happy I accepted a handout, so I would like to think about it a bit.”
“I understand,” I said. “Just think it over and let me know what you decide.”
“I will. Is it okay if Zoe and I continue to look around this evening? My husband went to the
bar with his friends and isn’t missing us yet.”
I bit my tongue in an effort to keep my opinion to myself about a man who’d go out drinking
while he was too broke to buy a tree or lights for his wife and child. “Take your time,” I reached
out to allow the baby to grab my finger. “We don’t close until eight o’clock. Come and find me if
you decide to take the tree with you. I could drop it off at your home if you’re on foot tonight.”
“Thank you. That’s very kind of you, although I have my car this evening. It’s parked in the
community lot near the five-and-dime. It’s a bit of a hike from here, but I think I can manage
even with the tree if I decide to take it.”
“Okay, great. Well, just let me know what you decide.” I turned to walk away but paused and
turned back toward the woman. I pulled a business card out of my pocket. “Here’s my business
card. My work and cell phone numbers and business address are on it.” I turned the card over
and jotted down my home address before handing it to her. “And this is my home address. If you
need anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
She slowly held out a hand and accepted the offering. She didn’t say a word, but I noticed her
quiver as she turned the card over and looked at the handwritten address.
“You live on the peninsula.”
I nodded. “Cottage four. I’m not always home since I spend quite a bit of my time in town,
but if you need help or even if you just need someone to talk to, please do call. I can help.”
The woman slowly put the card in her jacket pocket and then turned toward the lights.
She didn’t say more, although she seemed to want to. My instinct at this moment was to give
the woman some space, so I told her I’d set the little tree aside in case she needed a day or two to
think things over. She thanked me again, and I wandered off to help another customer. Looking
back on that moment, I wasn’t sure why I’d done what I had. It wasn’t as if the waiflike woman
appeared to be bruised and battered, yet she had that look. I’d seen it before in women who were
physically, psychologically, or emotionally abused. It was a look that seemed to demand that I do whatever I could to intervene before it was too late. ...
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