I sit behind my desk, barely able to catch my breath. What can I say? Tardiness is a knack I have down pat. For some reason, I think I can perform superhuman feats in a small span of time. Maybe you can relate?
But I wasn’t just heaving for air from hurrying to catch up with the clock, but I was expecting company any minute. Sara McKinley and her husband Sean are two of the most generous people I know. They do so much good for other people and most time investigate cases the police won’t take on. They find justice for people who have died suspiciously and do so more recently operating under their new private investigation firm. Add get this: any profits associated with their cases are funneled to charities. If all that’s not enough to get me excited about meeting Sara, they’ve both become celebrities of sorts. They’ve been on television shows all over the United States.
Of all the days to leave everything to the last minute…
Sara McKinley saunters into my office, offers a pleasant greeting, and a stunning smile. She’s more beautiful in person than she is in the media. I offer a nervous smile in return and gesture for her to sit on the couch across from me. (And, yes, that’s exactly where it is… Well, not a real couch, but never mind, that would be a story for another day.)
She sits down and if she notices me pushing piles of paper aside, she doesn’t seem bothered by the clutter I surround myself with. Her smile is still holding. Of course, why should that surprise me?
“Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you,” I say.
“I always have time for you.” Her gaze now falls to the top of my desk, the folders, the candle—
I swoop it off the desk and tuck it into a side cabinet.
“Your office is nice. Yellow is one of my favorite colors.” As she takes in the room, she sets her purse beside her.
“Thank you. I love its energy.” It’s odd being here with her. I know so much about her, but in her presence, I feel like a member of her fan club. But when our eyes meet again, I realize there is no need to be uneasy, but maybe an attempt at humor won’t hurt in calming my nerves. “I’m just happy that I could get you away from Sean for a few seconds.”
Sara brushes a strand of hair behind an ear and cocks her head slightly to the side. “You think you’re funny.” There is the hint of amusement lingering on her lips.
“I’m just so used to seeing you together.”
“We can be apart. We just don’t like to be,” she adds.
I want to say something more, but I let her have this. I smile at her knowingly and get to business. “You know why I asked you here today?”
“You are writing an article on our latest investigation.”
“That’s right. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your neighbors.”
“Thank you,” she says solemnly.
“They died in a house fire” I summarize what I know.
“Yeah. It’s so sad. Sean and I just them the night before. I could tell that they were a sweet couple.”
“Is that why you couldn’t accept the cause of the fire as being holiday-related hazards?”
“I suppose it was a large part of it.”
“And the other part?” I ask while scribbling down what she has already told me onto a notepad. The ink was fading fast. I shake the pen and resume. Nothing. I scan my desk and spot the container that holds a bunch of writing implements. I’m sure some of them are older than my marriage…that’s going back twenty plus years.
Sara continues. “I get feelings about things, and their deaths just weren’t settling for me. I felt there was something. And for it to happen this time of year? It broke my heart.”
I pluck a red gel pen from the holder, certain I could rely on it. I swirl it on the page a few times and am rewarded for my efforts. “I take it your family is big into celebrating Christmas?”
“Oh, yes. All the holidays, actually, but Christmas is at the top of the list.”
“Why do you think that is?” I brace the pen over the notepad.
“My mother loves the lights and the decorations. She goes a little overboard at times, but that’s Mom.”
“She overdo it this year?”
“Oh yeah. She had large plastic candy canes lining the drive, with white lights strung between them. She grouped three giant baubles—about two feet across—at the base of her front stairs. They all glitter with light. One was red with white snowflakes, one was green with a gold filigree pattern, and one was blue with silver starbursts. They were beautiful, and they had me wanting my own.” Sara laughs. “Sean said he could probably find a spot in the attic.”
“I take it Christmas isn’t a big a deal to him?”
“I don’t think he’s had it easy. I was adopted as a baby. I’ve never experienced the loss of parents. Sean lost his mom when he was nine, and his father when he was twenty-one.”
“I’m sure his father did his best to make Christmas memorable for him.” I settle back into my chair, finally relaxing.
“I’m sure he did, and I’m certain Sean has good memories. It’s just so special that we’re finally able to celebrate together and share the experience as a family.”
“I’m sure it is.” I smile at her before going back into full reporter mode. “So… Getting back to this investigation, tell us a bit about it.”
“I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy, but I will tell you it had Sean and me pushing beyond our regular boundaries.”
“It’s rumored that you did some breaking and entering.”
“That’s a yes,” I say as I make a note. “I’ve also heard a little about this Christmas shop called Rudolph’s. How did they fit into the grand scheme of things?”
“If I told you that, I’d ruin the official story on the investigation.”
“I guess I wasn’t granted an exclusive?” I feel a tad dejected.
“Someone beat you to it.”
“You won’t give me any more insight into this case?”
“I don’t want to spoil the story.”
I press my lips, trying to think of something that would toe the line, but my mind isn’t cooperating. Possibly, my nerves are still getting to me. “While I’d love to hear everything straight from you, I understand. I guess I’ll wait until it releases.” I hope that she will bite, maybe even feel a little compelled to say something more.
She remains silent.
I figure since she didn’t get up to leave, she was still open to talking. “I’d like to ask one last question.”
Sara runs her hands on her thighs, lengthening the fabric of her skirt. “I’ll answer it if I can.”
“My inquiry is based on another rumor.” I pause to assess her body language. Her arms aren’t folded, her hands aren’t clasped. “Is it true Jimmy may have found someone?”
Jimmy Voight was an older friend of the couple and they used to work together at Albany PD.
“Oh no. I’m not saying anything about that. That is Jimmy’s story.” Sara straightens up and crosses her legs.
I am in the middle of writing down contact Jimmy Voigt for an interview when Sara continues.
“I will say that he was Santa Claus in the Christmas parade.” Her demeanor takes on that of a pleased parent—an odd analogy as Jimmy is old enough to be her dad. As the pride washes away from her features, it is replaced by amusement that has her lips curving upward.
“Why do I sense there’s more you’re not saying?”
“It’s quite possible you have some detective skills too, Carolyn.” She eyes me as she tucks her chin into her shoulder. “Let’s just say that his performance won’t soon be forgotten.”
It goes quiet between us for a few seconds until she adds, “Are you going to hide behind the label of reporter?”
“For today anyway.”
“So, will that be all?”
“It can be.”
As I watch her rise to her feet and extend her hand for a good-bye shake, I can’t just let her leave. “Please tell me that I’ll be seeing more of you—and Sean.”
She smiles at me. “You know it.”
You’ve reached the end of the interview, but I want you to know that the e-book version of Christmas is Murder is available for the month of December free by signing up here. It is also available in a couple paperback formats. For retailer links, visit the book page here.
“The opening sentence sets the scene for comfort (and joy!) by entering in a wintery wonderland of falling snow and heading out to pick up a Christmas tree – I was immediately excited. Although the direct storyline is in relation to the “suspicious” house fire of Sean and Sara’s neighbors, it never did take away from the Christmassy aspect. The descriptive words and sentences used throughout for people, places and things was so pleasant and allowed for an easy visual follow along. Both main characters, Sean and Sara are very likable – as were Sara’s parents. I especially liked her dad! This story kept my interest throughout with the little twists. I loved the humor with the blinking nose and hoofs, the chase at the parade and the little jokes between Sean and Sara. I definitely think this cozy mystery will bring a smile to your face and is perfect for a quick read to get you in that holiday spirit! I have not read any of the McKinley Series novellas before, but plan to do so! I’d like to know the back-story of Sara’s adoption, their police work etc. Carolyn Arnold will be an author for my list for sure!!”
—Chelsea White, Wifetime of Happiness
A variation of the above interview was originally posted on November 26, 2014.
FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team are called to Savannah, Georgia when body parts belonging to three victims are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River. As the case takes one dark turn after another, Brandon finds himself embroiled in a creepy psychological nightmare.
COMING APRIL 11, 2017