Christmas Coda 45
MURDER BETWEEN THE PAGES: Felix and Leonard
The clocks were chiming when I landed on Felix’s doorstep.
I could hear them through the tall, white front door of the Colonial farmhouse. All fifty three of them. Ding-donging away. Chiming out the hour in ten long notes.
Maybe that’s what was taking him so long to come to the door. Maybe he couldn’t hear me over the clocks. Or maybe it was the rain rattling on the windows and roof--and the ragged leaves of the little palm tree plant I cradled in my arms--that deafened him to my knock.
I knocked again and rang the doorbell for good measure. Where would he be on Christmas morning? Hopefully nobody had wrung his scrawny neck while I’d been away.
I was just starting to get nervous when the door suddenly flew open.
“Well?” Felix demanded. His thin face changed. Black eyes narrowing, lip curling. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Hell, yes, it’s me. Who were you expecting?”
“I told you I’d be back.”
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
His throat jumped as he swallowed. He said haughtily, unpleasantly, “Don’t you have somewhere more important to be?”
His lashes swept down, then flicked up. He gave me a funny, crooked smile. “No?”
“You know I don’t.”
“I thought they loved you in
“They do. But it’s not home, is it?”
“It could be. If you wanted it to be.”
“I guess so.”
He frowned. “You’re shivering, Leonard.”
“I’m freezing to death.”
“You’re not used to our weather anymore.”
“I could be. If you wanted me to be.”
Felix studied my face. “Hm. Well, maybe you had better come in then.”
I came inside, handing over the little palm tree and the bags of oranges and almonds. “Anyway, Merry Christmas.” I took a deep appreciative sniff. “Something smells great.”
almonds rained down around our feet.
I don’t think he believed I'd be back.
Nah. He had to know. Maybe he thought when I did come back, it would be pack my suitcase and grab my hat.
I don’t deny it crossed my mind as that train had clickity-clacked its way over deserts and cornfields, through small towns and mountain ranges, over the rivers and through the woods…
. I liked
the palm trees and the orange trees and the Technicolor blue of those always-sunny
skies. I liked the hustle and bustle of movie studios and doing business beside
a swimming pool. I liked the money to be made in California . California
I liked the fact that nothing shocked people in
And that everybody but Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons minded their own
didn’t have was Felix Day. California
The one thing I couldn’t live without.