Authors: Steve Demaree
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Humor, #Religion & Spirituality, #Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #General Humor, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Christian Fiction, #Teen & Young Adult
A pink flamingo and a little old lady
who shoots a paintball gun at anyone who gets too close to her house are just
two of the characters an author meets when he inherits and moves into his
grandparents' house. Minutes after moving into the house, a
middle-aged couple, and his attractive next-door neighbor, knock on his
door, sing Christmas carols to him, and invite him to join them in
progressive caroling, followed by a Christmas get-together of all of the
– book one in the Aylesford Place
Humorous Christian Romance Series - is a feel-good book, with lovable
characters, including the neighborhood tightwad, and the neighbor who causes
him grief. The book is a combination of humor and romance and has a
All Rights Reserved
This book is dedicated to the two people I
love the most and whose love I deserve the least, my wife Nell and my daughter
Kelly. May God continue to bless me with their presence in my life. It is
also dedicated to the memory of those people who lived on the real Aylesford
Place when I did; Russell Hamilton, L. J. Boyers, Grace Adams, Bill Prather,
and Gano and Pat Lee. All of them meant so much to the teenage boy I was then.
Other Books by Steve
Dekker-Sgt. Murdock Mystery Series
52 Steps to Murder
Murder in the Winter
Murder in the Library
Murder at Breakfast
Murder at the High
Murder at the Art
& Craft Fair
PG-Rated Mystery/Thriller Series
Picture Them Dead
Murder in the Dark
Humorous Christian Romance Series
Neighborhood Hi Jinx
Reflecting Upon God’s
Table of Contents
Forrester - Aylesford Place’s newest resident, a young, single man who writes
Carmichael - A young, single woman who earns her living by taking photographs
and selling them through her website and in specialty stores.
Henderson - The most vocal resident of Aylesford Place. She specializes in
organizing church events, neighborhood fund raisers, and in making Brad and Amy
Henderson - Cora’s husband, who usually keeps quiet, but has a sound head on
Scott Armbruster - Pastor of The Church on Aylesford Place, the church attended
by most of the street’s residents.
Armbruster - Wife of Scott and mother of Jill, Kenny, and Mallory.
Armbruster - The almost-teenage daughter of Scott and Nancy, an avid book
reader who has a crush on the street’s most famous author.
Armbruster - Ten-year-old son of Scott and Nancy, who delights in teasing his
Armbruster - Five-year-old daughter of Scott and Nancy, who acts well above her
Conklin - Retired IRS agent, who likes to hold on to his money and often incurs
Conklin - Harry’s wife.
Peabody - The street’s most infamous recluse whose house is hidden behind a
wall. It is rumored that she shoots at intruders.
Davenport - A young woman who is confined to a wheelchair, but runs an internet
business from her home and gets around as well as most of the neighborhood’s
Daniels - A young, single woman who chases men and sells real estate.
Flowers - A retired jeweler who is known for wearing loud shirts, driving a
candy apple red 1949 Buick, and dating Bertha Callahan.
Callahan - An elderly woman who is hard of hearing and is in love with Barney
Ramsey - An elderly, but still practicing, doctor.
Catherine McPherson - An elderly woman who claims to have been an actress and
dramatizes every word she speaks.
McPherson - Lady Catherine’s grandson, who has not been seen by anyone on the
street in over a year, but is a night clerk at the local motel.
Mitchell - A salesman who travels most of the time.
Mitchell - Jim’s wife. She spends her winters reading and her summers running
around with her newlywed daughter.
& Doris Orthmyer – A couple who are away in Florida.
When his day began, best-selling novelist Brad
Forrester envisioned driving to his new home five hours away, hiding out in the
upper reaches of a three-story red brick house, and writing his next whodunit.
In some neighborhoods in Hopemont, that might have been possible, but Brad was
not moving to some neighborhood, he was moving to Aylesford Place. Before he
would realize it, he would become one of the gang. Not the top dog, even though
he was a successful author. Not the left out newcomer found in most “normal”
neighborhoods. But one of the family, no more important, no less important,
than anyone else on that dead end street known as Aylesford Place.
Brad had barely arrived when a bit of Aylesford Place descended upon him. He had merely opened the front door of his house for the
first time and dumped his first batch of belongings on the floor. His furniture
was yet to come. He had brought with him a new homeowner’s equivalent of an
airplane carry-on bag. The rest of his belongings would arrive the next day. He
had just finished unloading everything he thought he might need on his first
night in his new home. Almost as soon as Brad sat down the first of his
belongings and laid his claim to his new home, he met some of his neighbors.
As Brad bounded down the stairs to the first floor of
his new home, the doorbell rang.
Who in the world can that be? I’ve
just finished unloading the car. Can this be the welcoming committee so soon?
If so, they mustn’t have much to do.
Brad hurried to the door to see who
was there. As he twisted the brass knob and opened the thick, oak door, he
heard carolers. Brad leaned against the door and smiled as he looked down at
the statuesque, attractive redhead and the couple who accompanied her, a couple
who looked as if they might be in their early sixties. The older woman looked
much like Edith Bunker, the man like someone who would be a calming influence
in the eye of a storm, but it was the redhead who really caught his attention.
Small group. Good carolers must be hard to find around
Brad continued to lean against
the door enjoying each moment until the caroling stopped.
“Hi, I’m Cora Henderson and this is my husband Frank.
And this pretty young thing is Amy. Frank and I live two doors down, and Amy is
your next-door neighbor,” Cora said, as she pointed to their homes. “Welcome to
Aylesford Place, the street where everyone is family.”
This woman might look like Edith Bunker, but there’s
no way she sounds like her.
quickly decided that this woman was the decision maker of the neighborhood.
Stunned by the immediate hospitality, Brad recovered
“Wow! Are you always this prompt when welcoming new
“Only the nice ones,” Cora answered.
“And how do you know I’m nice?”
“I can tell,” Cora answered. “You’re going to be an
asset to the neighborhood.”
Cora glanced at Amy and smiled at her as she answered
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Brad responded to
Cora as he caught a glimpse of Amy out of the corner of his eye. “Oh, by the
way, I’m Brad.”
“Well, Brad, we’re doing some progressive caroling,”
Amy chimed in. “Want to join us? It’s a lot of fun.”
“Yeah, a lot of fun,” repeated Cora.
“What’s progressive caroling?” Brad asked. He did not
care what progressive caroling was. Unless it was illegal or immoral, he wanted
in. There was something about Cora’s persuasiveness and Amy’s looks that
“It’s where someone starts out by going to a house and
carols to whoever lives there, and then asks them to join the group and carol
to the other neighbors.”
“From the size of your group, I’d say either you are
just getting started or the other neighbors are less enthused about your
endeavor than you are.”
“An astute observation, Mr. Holmes. We’ve just begun,
and this will be a good way for you to meet many of your neighbors,” Amy said,
hoping to encourage her new neighbor to join them.
“Sounds like fun to me, Dr. Watson,” Brad said,
picking up on Amy’s Sherlock Holmes reference and choosing to continue it by
referring to Sherlock Holmes trusted companion. The pluses mounted. Not only
was this young woman attractive and nice, but she knew something about murder
mysteries. “Why don’t the three of you step inside while I get my coat?”
“And you might want a hat or a scarf,” Amy suggested.
“You’ll probably need them since it’s snowing hard and the wind is blowing.”
“Yeah, I can tell,” Brad said, as he flashed a smile,
causing Cora to elbow Frank and give him a wink.
The trio stepped into the bare house. Brad hurried
over to the stairs and turned to climb them to get his coat and boots.
Cora looked around at the empty house.
“Why, Brad, your place is divine. You must let me know
who your decorator is.”
“I’m glad you like it. My decorator came cheaply and
highly recommended by Abe Lincoln. Word is he also did Lincoln’s first cabin,”
Brad called out over his shoulder as he jogged up the stairs.
When Brad was out of earshot, Cora turned to Amy and
whispered, “Looks like a good neighbor for you, Amy.”
Amy grinned, then turned red and did her best to cover
her mouth and face with her hand. Amy was seldom embarrassed by anything or
anyone, but then Amy had seldom had a handsome new neighbor.
In a couple of minutes Brad returned, bundled up,
ready to take on the elements. He looked at Amy who stood in front of him,
happy that he had not dreamed up this gorgeous creature. Brad loved the way
Amy’s auburn hair fell against the back of her coat. Her hair served as a frame
to show off her smooth skin, her emerald green eyes, her captivating smile.
“Sorry it took me so long. I hope I’m not holding you
up,” Brad apologized.
“I hope you’re not, either,” Cora replied. “Money is so
hard to come by these days.”
“Oh, Frank, you’ve got a clever wife. I can tell
someone has to get up mighty early in the morning to get ahead of her. Oh, by
the way, to satisfy your curiosity, the moving van will be bringing my
furniture first thing in the morning.”
“Where do you plan to sleep in the meantime?” Frank
“My mansion came with some of the finest hardwood
floors this side of Old Abe himself, and I did bring a couple of pillows and
enough blankets to keep me warm.”
“There’s a reason they call them hardwood floors. Why
don’t you stay with us?” Frank asked.
“Thanks for the offer, but the van may arrive mighty
early and I want to be up and about when it gets here.”
“We’d better quit all of this chitchat or we’ll never
get any caroling done,” Cora interrupted. “Brad, Amy will serve as your guide
on your initial tour of Aylesford Place.”
Brad locked the door and the
threesome-turned-foursome scurried to Brad’s other next-door neighbor’s
house. When Cora was sure that Amy had diverted Brad’s attention, she turned
and whispered in Frank’s ear, “Thanks for the offer. How do you know that you
weren’t offering a room to an ax murderer?”
“Oh, he has impeccable credentials. An old lady I know
told me that he will be an asset to our neighborhood,” Frank whispered, then
smiled at his wife.
Amy had never served as a tour guide, but decided to
be both informative and entertaining as she educated Brad about his new
“On the left you see a three-story red brick, much
like all of the other three-story red bricks in this neighborhood, only at this
particular house we will find Harry and Ethel Conklin. While it cannot be
confirmed, all evidence points to the fact that if Harry does not still have
the first dollar he ever made, he has the second one. In other words, if you
find yourself low on money, check with all of the rest of the neighbors before
you check with Harry.”
Brad ate it up. He loved Amy’s sense of humor as much
as he enjoyed her looks. He had already made up his mind that he was going to
like this neighborhood, or at least a part of it.
As the foursome arrived at the Conklin house, Cora
nudged Amy and encouraged her to act as spokesman for the group. Amy climbed
the steps and rang the doorbell. The quartet began to sing. After they had sung
a few bars, a man, most of whose hair had long since parted ways with his head,
opened the door. When they had finished singing their complement of songs, Amy
“Harry, this is Brad. He just moved in next door.
We’re going progressive caroling again. Are you and Ethel ready to go?”
“We sure are,” said a gray-headed woman who joined her
husband at the door. “Good to meet you, Brad.”
Brad formed impressions based on old movies and TV
shows. This woman reminded him of Mrs. Wilson, Dennis the Menace’s next-door
neighbor, the man more like Sam Drucker, of
“Is it just like last year?”
“Yes, Harry, and the year before that and the year
before that,” Cora added.
“So that means there’ll be food and it doesn’t cost me
anything?” Harry asked.
“Nothing ever costs you anything, Harry,” Cora
responded. “Now, get your coat on and get your carcass out the door. You’re
holding us up.”
“See, Harry, you were right when you said you thought
they’d come tonight and that we didn’t need to worry about fixing dinner,”
Ethel said, loud enough for all to hear. While Cora looked more like Edith
Bunker, Ethel’s comments sounded more like something Edith would say to Archie.
Harry frowned at Ethel and then turned to his new
“Well, there’s no need wasting good food, I always
Brad looked at Amy and they grinned at one another
Evidently Amy was right about this guy,
The foursome waited until Harry and Ethel zipped and
buttoned their coats and wrapped scarves around their necks before they moved
Cora continued to bark out instructions.
“We’ll stay on this side of the street until the end,
even though there are no more stops. That way Amy can let Brad know who all the
Brad took advantage of Cora’s comment and turned to
“So, you discriminate.”
“Just a little,” Amy replied. “Ray and Doris Orthmyer
live in the next house. We won’t sing to them because they can’t hear us.”
“So they’re hearing impaired?”
“No, they’re in Florida,” Amy interjected, with a
satisfied look on her face. “They go every winter. By the time they get back,
no one wants to listen to Christmas carols.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I kind of like singing
them in July.”
“I’ll make a note of that. We’ll put you down for our
number one caroler at the Fourth of July picnic.”
Amy enjoyed how comfortable she felt around Brad, and
Brad liked the idea that this woman could hold her own with him. Still, Brad
was not about to let up as the group continued to walk.
The snowfall grew heavier and more closely resembled a
January snow than a pre-Christmas snow. While snow was not unusual before
Christmas in Hopemont, snowfalls with any significant accumulation usually did
not happen until sometime in January. The weather report predicted a heavy
snow; it also predicted one of short duration. It snowed hard enough that
sometimes it was hard to see through, but no one expected an accumulation of
more than an inch or two.
The snow beat against Brad’s face. He stuck his tongue
out and tried to catch as many flakes as possible. Amy looked at him and
laughed. Brad looked at her and stuck his tongue out again. Amy stuck out her
tongue, too. Brad stumbled slightly, latched on to Amy to steady himself, then
noticed that they had arrived at the next house.
I must remember to tell mother that my new neighbor
threw himself at me just minutes after he met me,
Amy thought, then laughed to herself. Amy would not
tell her mother any such thing. Her mother was too eager to see her daughters
married, and so far she was zero for three.
Brad’s voice stopped Amy’s woolgathering.
“I think it’s time you got back to the task at hand,
Little Lady. What about this house? Are these people in Florida, too?”
“No, but they’re gone until tomorrow. The Armbrusters
live here. Scott pastors the church, and he and Nancy have the only three
children on the street.”
“Children, huh? Tell me about them.”
Amy took note that the tone of Brad’s voice signified
that he liked children. Another plus for the new guy.
“Jill’s the oldest. She’s twelve, or almost thirteen
as she sees it. Jill has long, straight, blonde hair and is definitely the most
straight-laced of the three kids. She spends most of her time reading, although
I suspect that she’d be interested if the right boy came along.”