Detective Lauren Bruni has dealt with death for her entire life. She has watched it ruin lives, and brought people closer together. Her job taught her to separate fact from fiction.
But on a cold December day, all Lauren had believed in would be shattered and tossed aside. Thrust in a world unlike any she has seen before, she investigates a prominent figure’s grisly murder, and searches for answers along a strange new set of people.
All while a killer watchers her every movement from the background. He waits in the shadows, waiting to strike at her when the time is right.
What is the secret of the death at the North Pole, and what is the larger horror at hand? Life lessons are learned and a realization that sometimes the most real things in this world are the ones we believe in the least.
***Update: Guest Post from the Author:)
Holiday Shopping Ideas for Authors
When the holidays come around, certain people prove to be a problem to shop for. It is because of this you will want to be sure that you consider the person and some of the things they might like. In some cases, you might consider looking at their overall interest as a way to find the perfect gift. With that in mind, if you are shopping for an author, then you might want to consider the following items.
One of my favorite books on writing is Bird by Bird it is by Anne Lamott. This is an exceptional tool that will provide writer’s with some great tips on ways to improve their writing. The information in this book can help the avid writer to focus on the things that matter in writing and churn out a better story.
If your author has a particular style of music they love to listen to, you can pick up a few albums that will help to put them in the writing mood. In some cases, the best choice you will have is to pick up an iTunes gift card and let them begin to pick out their favorite songs so they can build the perfect writing playlist.
Notepads and pens are always a great idea when you have a writer in your life. During the course of a lifetime, these individuals will fill endless numbers of notebooks and spare pieces of paper with their writing. By giving them a single item they can use, they can contain a series of thoughts into an impressive book.
Of course, you are going to find that no matter what you end up getting them, that special author is going to love what you have purchased for them. As a rule, these individuals tend to be very appreciative of everything that they receive and will truly cherish every item that has been gifted to them.
Crimson stained the white satin snow on this cold December afternoon. A crowd of the concerned gathered around the ghastly sight.
This was something that has never happened here, something that none of them could fathom. This was a place of love and peace. This was a very simple place where pure joy and happiness sounded through the Northern Sky and there was harmony in the land.
But today was different, very different. Minds ached in agony as a shrill penetrating shriek flew through the small village of Natale, North Pole. The grisly discovery left a grim image etched forever in the minds of the inhabitants. A powerful, nurturing and caring man now lay crumbled on the ground as a pool of his own blood stained the snow dusted ground.
The smell of warm baked goods and pine burning in an iron fireplace no longer seemed safe. Instead they posed as a cover up for the grisly crime at hand. The Northern Wind chilled not only the outer flesh of everyone there, but froze the very bones of the one man who rode it in joyful playfulness.
Only one of the elves, the smallest of the bunch by far, dared lean in closer to the still figure. He brought his tiny, cold-red ears close to the body searching for any sound of life.
Nervously he whispered to the still warm body. “Father,” he whimpered as tears began to fill his eyes. “Father, you need to wake up. Please, wake up!”
Several elves turned their heads, fighting back their tears at child’s horrific loss of innocence. None were able to embrace him, all yearning to comfort him from the traumatic sight that lay before his feet. Violence had never been a part of this land. Although, elves lived centuries, this was nothing any of them had prepared for. Nothing natural could have killed this icon.
Nothing natural indeed, sadly though, something unnatural created of hate and fear, had destroyed the last being of pure goodness in the world.
A thought crossed some minds that perhaps this was just a big hoax, or perhaps it was even someone entirely different than whom it appeared to be. That was certainly a possibility. After all, anyone could have a red suit and anyone could have a large build. Why the face was buried deeply in the snow, so there was really no proof as to the identity of the corpse before them.
“What should we do,” an elf in the back, dressed in his best green silk uniform asked. “We can’t just let him lay out here. Perhaps we should take him to bed. That is where he has us go when we don’t feel well.”
Several others mumbled their agreement. Still not understanding or, perhaps, not wanting to understand the importance of the scene before them, they began to approach the body. Each elf thinking of the best way to move the body to a more concealed and respectful place.
“If any of you touch that body, I’ll throw your tiny ass in jail.” A cold brunette woman snapped, appearing out of nowhere. She was a remarkable beauty with olive skin and cool brown eyes. Her frame was one that would make a supermodel jealous. But her clothes said she was of an authority figure. “This is a crime scene, and I am not sure what the hell all of you are doing out here playing in tights, but you need to get away now.”
Numerous pairs of eyes stared at this stranger with bewildered amazement, and the innocence of youth. None quite sure what this creature was, so tall with long chocolate brown hair, a firm face and the strangest ears they had ever seen.
“What are you?” the youngest elf, who had urged his father to wake earlier, inquired. “Are you here to help father?”
The woman stared baffled by the innocence and pleading in the eyes of these little men and women.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.” She groaned.
In a moment of pain she grimaced. In a swift movement she lightly placed her thumb and index finger on her temple. .”If this is some weird ass reality show, I want no part of it.”
“What is a reality show,” one of the elves inquired, a faint look of bewilderment crossing her face.
“Alright,” the woman demanded. “Play time is over, I want to know who is in charge here, and I want to know…NOW.”
Behind the mask of authority and force all she could think of was this migraine throbbing in her head, and how a nice shot of whiskey might cure it. Hopefully she could clean up here soon and move along. God how that drink sounded good.
Bewilderment crossed the elves faces. This woman was like they had seen before, and her aggressive manner was sending eerie chills down their spines. This was another sign that something in the Northern air was changing for the worst. The chill from the pine air was slowly seeping into the hearts of all.
Finally one of the elves raised his hand slow and steady and pointed at the body on the ground. Silence fell again, only the sound of the Northern winds rushing through the trees could be heard. The woman sighed deeply. This was a bit more than she had bargained for.
Here was a group of delusional little people mindlessly following a deranged man in a red suit. Why the hell did she move to this cold, barren place to begin with? She had never encountered over the top crimes such as this in the city.
“Alright, where then can I find an adult I can talk to?” The woman muttered through gritted teeth.
“Many of us here are adults,” a short fat elf giggled. His high pitched voice scratched at the pain in her head, leaving it feeling wounded and bloody.
Finally coming from across the distance, a very old grandmotherly type began to approach them. Stress and panic etched in the lines on her sweet face. She wore glasses which appeared too tiny for her eyes.
The woman’s plump flesh strained from behind her crisp ivory clothes and stained apron. The soft curls in her sterling hair were caked with patches of white from flour or perhaps age. It was tough to tell.
As she arrived, and gazed around, her eyes fell on the corpse before them. Her body tensed and she collapsed to her knees, clutching at her chest as she fell. She gave a heart-wrenching cry then began to moan. She was still not sure of what was happening.
“My beloved Kris,” she keened, her voice full of agony. The anguish and pain of her words sinking like shards of glass into the hearts of everyone present. “For the love of our lord, please don’t take him from me. Don’t take him from us.”
The warm salty tears of grief trickled slowly down her face. Each tear following her soft wrinkles on their long journey to the snowy ground below.
The strange detective stood watching this display of trepidation. She found the sticky saccharine act to be over the top and began to wonder if it was only a ruse to cover up what really happened. She felt her anger begin to rise in her throat and she swallowed hard.
Catch yourself Lauren. The Woman thought. Curb your anger; focus on the task at hand.
“Ma’am, I need you to get up and answer a few questions for me.” She emotionlessly requested of the old lady before her.
The old lady slowly turned her head and looked up at the woman, noticing her for the first time. She began to try to regain her composure and forced a cracked dishonest smile, trying to avoid the pain she was feeling. Trying to emulate the nature of a strong confident woman as opposed to a woman damaged beyond repair.
“Oh my dear,” the woman spoke, in a soft loving voice. “What brings you to our lovely winter village? Why don‘t we go and get you some cookies and some hot cocoa to warm you up.”
“Cut the crap old woman.” Lauren snapped. “We both know I‘m not here for some sick Grandma fetish. I have a body and a lot of questions, with a hearty topping of village idiots. We’re not playing anymore games. I want straight forward answers from this moment forth. If there are any more games, everyone’s going to be loaded up into the squad cars and have their asses hauled off to jail.”
“My child, there is no need to use such language. You are among friends here.” The old lady responded.
Control the rage Lauren. “Let’s start with an easy question,” the words were spoken through clenched teeth. “Who are you, and what is this place?”
The sound of patrol cruisers began crunching across the distant snow, and she knew that some sense of order was finally in the works. Hopefully soon she could get some answers. The Medical Examiner should be close behind the cruisers since they shared a garage and a building. This place was too small to afford separate facilities.
The old woman slowly began to rise to her feet, both legs wet with the melting snow. She absent-mindedly brushed at them, composed herself and again forced a smile. “My name is Jessica Kringle, but, my dear, you can call me Mrs. Claus if it suits you better.”
“This is really sick,” Lauren grumbled. Behind her the patrol cars came to a stop, one of them sliding slightly and coming dangerously close to the crime scene. “First time driving in the fucking snow?”
Six officers exited the cars with her male counterpart, Michael McMillan. She had been attracted to him from the moment she first laid eyes on his rusty hair, and looked into his deep green eyes. He was honest and straightforward. A calm man, balancing out her tendency to be too brusque.
“Detective Bruni,” he called to her. His raised his right hand in a firm wave, a smile crossing his face slightly raising his moustache. “Sorry it took us so long to arrive.”
“It’s fine Detective McMillan. Get the men to block of the crime scene, and let’s get this investigation wrapped up. We don’t know when it’s going to start snowing again, and we need to collect as much evidence as we can find.”Lauren sighed heavily.
“You heard the woman, get a move on it men.” Michael called to the officers.
One by one the officers began herding the on looking elves back to their homes, writing down the names and addresses of the crowd, asking only the elves who happened to arrive on the body first to stay behind for further questioning.
No one had witnessed the crime first hand, or so they had claimed, so there was no eye witness, making the investigation that much harder.
The crowd of elves quickly dwindled from close to a hundred down to only five elves. Along with Jessica, the six officers, and the two detectives the scene was considerably more manageable than it had previously been. The officers began taping off the wide area, and taking photographs of the scene while starting to search the area for potential clues.
Lauren turned back to Jessica, and gazed in her eyes. “I want to know what is going on here. It seems you and your husband are harboring an awful lot of strange little people and brainwashing them. Perhaps one of them turned hostile and snapped on your husband as they took a walk?”
“Oh heavens no dear, those are elves, not little people. They work for us! My husband was walking with one of them, he would be checking with them and making sure all preparations for the end of December were coming along.” The old woman laughed heartily. “None of them would ever harm Kris.”
“Elves? Listen, I’m not going to buy any of this Claus crap.” Lauren snapped.
“Lauren, you’re getting out of line,” Michael snapped. “Let’s let the old woman tell her story and we’ll move from there.”
Lauren shot Michael a quick hard stare, and returned her attention to Jessica. “Fine, tell me what you recall of the day.”
Joel M. Andre was born January 13, 1981. At a young age he was fascinated with the written word. It was at fourteen that Poe blew his mind, and Andre began to dabble with darker poetry.
Between the years of 1999 and 2007 Joel was featured in various poetry anthologies and publications. In 2008 he released his first collection,Pray the Rain Never Ends.
Knowing there was something deeper and darker inside of his soul, Joel decided to take a stab at commercialism. Releasing the dark tongue in cheek, A Death at the North Pole, created a dark world among the death of Kris Kringle. Ultimately providing a tale of redemption.
October of 2008 saw Joel release his second book, Kill 4 Me. A tale in which a woman is haunted by a vengeful spirit through text messages and instant messaging.
Taking some time off and doing a lot of soul searching, Joel took things in a new direction and dabbled in the Fantasy Genre with, The Pentacle of Light. The tale dealing with five major races battling for control of Earth, and the acceptance of their God.
Finally, after missing his detective Lauren Bruni, he released the book The Return in October 2009, this time moving the action from the North Pole and placing it in the small Arizona community he was raised in.
Andre’s latest book is The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen about a dead man who seeks revenge on the woman that tormented him in peaceful Northern Arizona.
Currently, he resides in Chandler, AZ.
You can visit his website at www.joelmandre.info.
Disclosure: I signed up for this tour to post a Guest Post from the author, but just like most of us, he is running behind this time of year, which is completely understandable. I didn't get a copy of the book because I wasn't posting a review. I still want to show my support for the author, so I've included the synopsis and excerpt for your enjoyment. If you like what you read, I encourage you to purchase a copy of the book :)