Authors: Deborah Malone
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Ephesians 3:16-17 (NIV)
First and foremost I want to thank my incredible editor, Beverly Nault. Without Bev’s hand to rope in Trixie and the girls no telling what trouble they’d get into.
As always I want to thank my readers. You’ve encouraged me, inspired me and kept me writing. Without readers there wouldn’t be much need for writer’s. Keep on reading and remember that I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at
Chilled in Chattanooga
is dedicated to my friends and family who have encouraged me throughout my writing journey.
My mother and father didn’t get to see me become a published author, but I know they would have been proud.
I’m thankful for the love of reading they instilled in me.
It was this love of reading that lead to my love of writing.
Thank you Mother and Dad.
body in the deep freeze? Dear God, please help me
Harv, my boss at
Georgia by the Way
, gave me grief when I told him I wanted to attend a three day intensive workshop for magazine writers. I finally convinced him it would be for the good of the magazine. I wished I hadn’t been so convincing.
Yes, Annie possessed a brash side and rubbed some of the writing students the wrong way, but murder? How could attending an intensive writer’s workshop end up in my discovering our teacher’s body in the deep freeze?
How in the name of all that’s good did I find myself in the vicinity of another dead body? This wasn’t the first body I’d found, but I prayed it would be my last. Since I began writing for
Georgia by the Way
, a magazine where past meets present, I’d stumbled into several murder investigations. I cringed at the thought of becoming another Jessica Fletcher.
As I waited my turn for Detective Bianca Sams’ interrogation, my mind traveled back a little more than twenty-four hours ago. I needed to make sense of the senseless murder of Annie Henderson. As I journeyed alone in my mind’s eye I could see my great-aunt Nana plain as the nose on her face. I heard her call out into the night.
“Would you look at those lights – breathtaking! Oh, there’s an elf, take our picture together.”
My great-aunt, also known as Nana, gushed over the Enchanted Christmas light display at Rock City on Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The numerous fairy lights twinkled like a sky full of stars. Nana took off in a slow run. I didn’t know such a thing existed until I saw her version of running. Guilt shrouded me for laughing; after all she is a senior citizen. “Nana, wait on us!” In a flash she’d grabbed the arm of an elf mascot and pulled him toward her. The surprised elf pulled the other way, but Nana held on with a death grip.
“Get that camera of yours and start shooting. I want something to remember this night by. You know my memory ain’t so good anymore.” That might be true, but most of the time Nana’s memory rivaled an elephants. I believe the term is selective memory. Many times since I’d moved back home I believed Nana used her age to get away with quirky antics. On our last vacation to Tybee Island, without anyone’s knowledge, she decided to get a tattoo “a mermaid to remember our trip by.” As if anyone could forget.
I removed my camera from my shoulder, focused and clicked away. Since working for
Georgia by the Way,
I’d taken hundreds of pictures. Harv required photos with his articles, so photography had become second nature to me.
When Nana begged me to come along on this trip, I hesitated. That is, until my best friend Dee Dee Lamont promised she’d come and help me keep herd on Nana. Dee Dee had more patience with Nana than I did. I loved her dearly, but my patience remained in practice mode.
Nana did a 360 and let out a big sigh. “Ain’t this something? Just look at all these lights. Have you ever seen anything like it, Trix?” Nana looked at me, eyes wide with excitement, reminding me of a child at Christmas.
I told the truth when I said, “No, I don’t believe I have, Nana.” The lights at Rock City were nice, but a little too much for me. I preferred the jaw-dropping view from the top of Lookout Mountain. We arrived in time to see the sunset from Lover’s Leap, one of the observation points at Rock City. The park boasts that you can see seven states from several points on the grounds. The sunset was God’s display of lights and what an exhibition he put on for us. The blue and pink hues merged together, weaving a beautiful tapestry as the orange ball disappeared.
Thinking of Lover’s Leap brought bittersweet memories to mind. Time had flown and I’d already been married for almost a year to the most wonderful man, Beau Beaumont. I’d traveled to Chattanooga to attend an intensive workshop for magazine writers. Beau, a deputy sheriff, was in Texas taking classes for recertification. I missed him. This would be the first time we’d been apart for more than a couple of days.
Dee Dee nudged me. “Hey girl, get with the program. If we don’t get a move on Nana’s going to take that elf home with us.”
That put a burr under my saddle. “Come on, Nana. Let’s go back to the hotel. This is our last night together before I attend the workshop. Then you and Dee Dee will be on your own for a couple of days.” I hugged Nana. “Think you can get along without me?”
Dee Dee and Nana shared a grin. “Sure we can, Trixie,” Nana said.
“Well, that makes me feel loved.”
“Aw come on, Trixie, don’t be such a whiner. You know we love you. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get along without you.” Dee Dee laughed to soften the sting of her comment. “Come on ladies, let’s get a move on so we can stop for some hot chocolate at the Café Espresso.” We’d booked a hotel room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo and were delighted when we discovered you could stay in an authentic railroad car. I looked forward to a restful night in the Victorian room.
I’d been to the Chattanooga train station before, but it had been years ago. Time had clouded my memory of the beautiful building. When we walked into the historic station the first thing that caught my eye was the multi-colored dome covering the concourse. Four enormous brass chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
We enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa at the little out of the way café and headed to our room. “I don’t know about y’all, but I’m ready to hit the hay,” Dee Dee said. “ I’m going to change into my pajamas and I’ll be right out.” True to her word, in a few minutes she stepped out of the small bathroom wearing red pajamas covered in black and white kitties decorated with wreaths around their necks. Even though Dee Dee had two grown children of her own, she referred to her five cats as her children.
She stretched and yawned loud enough to wake the dead. “Okay, I’m ready for some shut-eye.”
“You and me both girl.” I changed into my night clothes while Dee Dee was in the bathroom. I just needed to wash my face.
“Hey, don’t go to sleep yet. We have too much to talk about.” I looked at Nana decked out in footie pajamas, a far cry from her usual Victoria’s Secret nighties. I guess the December weather was too much for her usual nighttime attire. I wondered why she wanted to stay up – we were all tired.
A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. Nana and I raced to the door. I beat her by a nano-second.
i,” two elves, one male and one female, stood in the hallway and saluted me smartly, “we’re here to tuck you in.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. You have the wrong room.” I started to shut the door when Nana tugged on my arm.
“Don’t go!” Nana yelled. “You have the right room.” She pulled them inside and turned toward me. “Surprise! This is for you and Dee Dee. Isn’t it the greatest thing since sliced bread?”
Dee Dee, her eyes the size of saucers, stared straight at the pixies. “What in the world?” She turned to Nana. “You did this?”
“Yes, I did. Now you two quit acting like a couple of ole fuddy-duddies and get with the act. I thought this would be a great idea. Trixie, you take yourself way too seriously, so I decided you needed a little laughter in your life.”
I looked at Dee Dee and tried to telepath my thoughts. She shrugged as if to say she had no idea Nana planned this
. I winced at the idea of her capers already starting. Nana was going to be a handful, and I wasn’t sure Dee Dee could rein her in. Now that the elves were here I guess there wasn’t much to do but acquiesce and endure a tucking-in by a pair of Santa’s helpers.
“Okay, Nana, you win. Let’s get this over with.” I shot Dee Dee a serious look. “That means you too, friend.” We endured the next twenty minutes while the elves read us nighttime stories and sang Christmas carols. By the time they left, I’d mellowed quite a bit. Maybe Nana knew more about me than I gave her credit for. Dee Dee assured me we’d laugh about this in the morning. I hoped she was right.
I slept fitfully, dreaming of elves rocking me to sleep as I lay in a giant cradle. Nana popped into the fantasy as an elfette. She kept laughing and saying to the other elves, ‘isn’t she cute? That’s my grandniece.’ Then she cackled and disappeared until she made another surprise appearance. Then Dee Dee wound up in the cradle with me donned in her red kitty pajamas. Believe me when I say it was one crowded cradle.
Beau made a grand appearance wearing a suit of armor. He literally lifted me from the cradle and into his arms as he spoke softly in my ear, “Let’s go home, honey.” When I woke to a room filled with sunlight I sensed someone staring at me. I turned to see Dee Dee propped on her elbow in the next bed. Her hair reminded me of a porcupine in defensive mode. Should I tell her?
“What were you grinning about? Or is it too steamy to tell me?” Dee Dee laughed at her witty comment.
“No, it’s not too steamy – not to say I’d tell you if it was. I had this crazy dream about elves and I thought I’d be in their clutches until Beau came and rescued me.” I thought how this wasn’t far from the truth. A few years ago, my then husband, Wade Middlebrooks Montgomery III, decided to check the grass on the other side of the fence. He found his true love on the internet, and after 20 years of marriage he announced his departure to California to meet the blonde bombshell he’d met in a chat room.
Shortly after he arrived in the sunny state he discovered that all things on the internet are not as they seemed. His soul mate turned out to be a 300 pound bimbo who conned men. He returned to Atlanta with a chip on his shoulder and a destroyed marriage.
Left with a bankrupt heart and an empty bank account I ran home to Mama with my tail between my legs. She took me under her wings and helped me through the difficult times.
Dee Dee wore a sweet smile. “Isn’t it amazing how our dreams replicate real life? Beau is a real life knight in shining armor and you are one lucky damsel in distress.”
Nana’s gray head popped up from across the room. “You got that right. If I’d been just a few years younger I’d have given you a run for your money.”
“A few years, Nana?” I loved to tease my great-aunt. Since moving back to Vans Valley, Nana and I had formed a bond. When Mama was young she lost both parents. Nana, her mother’s sister, stepped in and raised her like her own. When Nana’s husband died and she nose-dived into a deep depression, Mama insisted she move in with her.
Mama quickly discovered Nana’s personality had changed as she’d grown older. She used to be prim and proper and would never draw attention to herself. Now Nana’s behavior had put Mama in a tizzy more than once. Mama thought she might have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, but I’d decided Nana knows exactly what she’s doing and uses her age to get away with her outrageous antics.
Albeit, it still took the patience of Job to be with Nana any length of time. Mama and I took turns keeping an eye on her. I didn’t mind bringing her along on my trips to give Mama a rest, as long as I had Dee Dee to help.
“Hmph, watch it Missy,” Nana’s endearment for me when she meant business.
“Come on, let’s go find something to eat. I just need a little something, I’m not very hungry.”
Dee Dee and I exchanged knowing glances. Nana usually ate like a dog with worms and could give a grown man a run for his money. But, according to her, she ate like a bird. I agreed, since a bird eats all the time.
Dee Dee placed her arm around Nana’s shoulder and pulled her close. “I’m with you Nana. My stomach is yelling ‘feed me, feed me.’ She turned toward me. “Trix, have any ideas where we should eat.”
“I don’t think I’ll eat with y’all this morning. They’ll be serving breakfast pastries at the workshop. I’d better get going if I don’t want to be late.” I felt bad leaving Dee Dee with the responsibility of watching Nana, but she assured me they’d be fine.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo is located downtown, so the drive to the workshop wasn’t far. At the end of Main Street I could see the unique glass building that housed the Aquarium. It stood high above the skyline like a sentinel guarding the historic city. I took a right on Third and then turned onto High Street leading to the artsy area known as the Bluff View Art District. The streets wove through the hills of the quaint area. A young couple on bicycles rode past me.
A charming bed and breakfast had been chosen for the workshop venue. I looked forward to learning as much as I could about magazine writing. More than two years had passed since I’d started working for Harv, and I’d learned a lot on the job, but I was eager to expand my knowledge. I knew Beau would take care of me, but memories of being without money haunted me.
My phone played a jaunty melody. I answered it, expecting Harv to be the caller.
“Hi Sweetie, you got there yet. How is it?”
I released a big sigh. Nana! “No I’m not there yet, I’m still looking for the right house. I’ve got to go Nana. I can’t talk and look, too.” Ever since Nana had acquired a phone for seniors, sporting large numbers and speed dial, she jumped at any chance to make a call. More often than not I was the recipient.
“Okie dokie, be sure and let us know when you get checked in and scope out your room. I want to hear all about it. Dee Dee and I are on our way to look at Christmas decorations. We might even ride the Duck.” I couldn’t imagine Nana riding on the Duck, an apparatus that looked like an army tank that went from riding on wheels to floating on the river. But then she’s surprised me more than once.
“Okay, have a good time and I love you,” I said.
“Love you, too. Now don’t get into any trouble.”
We hung up and I returned to the task of finding the venue for the workshop. We planned to spend the night so we could have late classes and get up early and start all over. Talk about intensive! I already knew there were several bed and breakfasts in the Bluff District. The District itself is small and encompasses only a couple of blocks. As I intently surveyed my surroundings I spotted a Victorian era house. The sign in front read The James R. Jones House, Bed and Breakfast. That was it! I slammed on my brakes and backed up since I’d passed the narrow driveway.
I didn’t know a lot about architecture, but I knew enough to label it Edwardian. A number of steps led to the porch. A porch, the length of the house and dotted with white wicker chairs, invited the stranger to come and sit a spell. The second floor possessed a balcony and large, elongated, curved-top windows decorated the front. It boasted a cupola on top opening onto a balcony.
As I sat in the driveway, my PT Cruiser idling, I surveyed the myriad of trees and bushes spread around the small front yard. Since it was December, and most of the plants were bare, it leant an eerie feel to the portly old house. The hair on the back of my neck stood at attention and a chill ran up my spine. My heart beat rapidly for just a minute, but then I shook off the ominous feeling. I chuckled out loud and scolded myself.
For goodness sake, what can happen at a writer’s workshop? Probably just the excitement, like a girl feels on the first day of school, right?