Did you miss the first two chapters? Catch them HERE.
“Focus on the father, huh?” You know you’re stressed out when you’re talking to yourself. You begin to sift through the file, taking more of a focus on John Sr. One word jumps out at you: Carol. They’ve been dating since last Christmas.
When she opens the door, you hold out the empty mugs and the packets of gourmet chocolate mixes.
“This is going to be one of those awkward conversations that’s not going to be any easier to believe no matter what I do. So, I’m bringing cocoa. It still won’t make this any easier to believe, but you’ll have hot cocoa, which makes just about everything better.” You stick out your hand. “Nancy Nyce. I’m a private investigator looking to keep Jack off the naughty list.”
She stares at you dumbfounded. There are only two ways for a person to respond to statements like this. They can call you insane and tell you to go away before they call the cops, or . . .
“I’ll warm up some milk. Won’t you come in?”
An hour later, Carol is knocking on a different door. It takes just a bit too long to open.
“Hi,” she replies. “Let’s talk about why you haven’t been returning my calls, please.”
He glances your way. “Who’s this?”
“Christmas consultant,” you quip. “I’m just hear to pour the eggnog and to make sure everything goes all right for Jack Jr.”
They both scrunch their faces up at you. He speaks first. “My son never goes by Jack. He says it makes no sense how you can get Jack out of John.”
You absorb that for a moment. They hired you to get John SENIOR off the naughty list? Oh, you are going to have words with Ginger and Mr. K.
“Sorry. Bad intel on my part. Shall we?”
You push past him, easy enough when he’s so confused.
“Where are you going?”
“I told you. I’m here to pour the eggnog.”
“I don’t have any . . .”
He stops because you have opened the refrigerator door to find three old-fashioned milk bottles full to the brim with pale yellow liquid.
“Where did those come from?”
“Focus on Carol, Jack. I’ll take care of the eggnog.”
You shoo them out of the room, but you can hear them. You pull out a nutmeg and a grater (standard issue when working for the Kringle family) and you start to grating as they talk.
“So, why did you stop calling me?”
She says not a word more. Eventually the silence becomes too heavy for him not to “Because you started talking about our future, and I realized I didn’t think we really had one. But Johnny got pretty attached to you and . . .”
He stops, unable to say more. She takes up the thread.
” . . . and you couldn’t work up the guts to look me in the eye and tell me.”
“It didn’t seem right to break things off right before Christmas.”
“So instead you stopped answering your phone and just hoped I’d go away? That seemed right to you?”
You roll your eyes. It takes Jack way too long to answer this no-brainer of a question. “No. That was even less fair to “you. I just couldn’t . . .” He lets out a sigh, and gives up trying to justify things. “I’m sorry.”
You can tell he means it. And that is the apology which will get him off the naughty list. You bring in the drinks, pat them each on the shoulder, and walk out the door.
“So please let the big guy know Jack can get off the naughty list. And thank Mrs. K for the peppermint bark.”
“I will, Nancy.” Ginger sounds exhausted. “We had Jack’s present ready to go, so I’ll give the boys on sleigh loading the go ahead to put it in the sack. We’ll deposit your fees in about an hour. Thank you.”
“Always happy to lend a hand.”
“You know, Mr. Kringle was sort of hoping you and Jack . . .”
“Yeah. I figured. But considering how he handled things in his last relationship, I don’t think it was quite in the cards.”
“Maybe next year?”
You narrow your eyes. “Tell Mr. Kringle I’ll be adding a ‘no matchmaking’ clause to all my future contracts with him. It’s bad enough when the Cupid Group tries to pull that stuff with me. I’m fine by myself, and if I decide I want his help in the future, I’ll put it in my letter.”
“Sounds good. I need some shut eye before we go into final prep, here. Have a Merry Christmas, Nancy.”
“And to all a good night.”