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Introduction

The mystery story is two stories in one: the story of what happened and the story of what appeared to happen.
~ Mary Roberts Reinhart

Here at Tell-Tale Press, we hope to entertain you with quality stories from talented writers around the world. Some stories may include graphic violence, erotica, or both. They have been indicated as such before the story begins. Thank you for joining us, and happy reading!

Winter Holidays - Story 1 - A Parcel of Pups by J.B. Dane

The shop was crowded with holiday shoppers, so the fact that I didn’t look frazzled probably made me stand out. Or it was simply that I was the only guy in a dark suit, dark overcoat, dark leather gloves, and wearing dark glasses in the joint.

“Yes?” the woman who’d just slipped behind the counter queried. “Do you have a problem, sir?”

I took off the sunglasses and gave her a reassuring smile. At least, I hope that’s what she saw it as. “I was told you’re the one with the problem. Are you the manager, ma’am?”

“Ah, yes,” she said sounding more like she really didn’t want to admit to it.

I dropped what I hoped would be a magic word. “Puppies.” Handed her my card.

She took it on automatic, glanced at it, and relaxed.

If you could read over her shoulder you’d see that it said Nick Clausowitz, Lost Items Detected. You lose ‘em, we find ‘em. Specializing in missing animals.

Not that my name is Nick Clausowitz. Really, it’s Nick Claus. Number one son at the North Pole and runner up to the sl…

Winter Holidays - Story 2 - That Holiday Newsletter by Diane Arrelle

This story was originally published in Freedom Fiction and The Best Of Freedom Fiction in 2011 and 2012, Death and Decorations in 2016, and Short and Twisted Christmas Tales in 2017.

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Hi, All Important Family Members and Dear, Dear Friends:

Well, it's that time once again when I know, if you are at all like me, you look so forward to these long personal Christmas letters. Although this year has been very, very eventful and incredibly full for my entire family, I wouldn't want to disappoint anyone and not get our annual letter out. So have cheer, I managed to sit down and get this one done on time.

January:

The new year began with great things looming. I started working full time at the mall. I am making 20 cents above minimum wage at a coffee kiosk and the future looks bright. Stu (my husband for all you who have forgotten I got married two decades ago) is still looking for a job. Stu was let go and has been diligently seeking employment for the last nine months. The boys a…

Winter Holidays - Story 3 - First Case of the Year by Ken MacGregor

This story originally appeared in Mr. MacGregor's collection An Aberrant Mind, published 2014.

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“Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. ONE!!! Happy New Year!” Thirty-five voices in near harmony. Nice. Then, the obligatory hugs, kisses and handshakes all around. Same shit, different year.

Five minutes later, my phone rang. If I hadn’t had it on vibrate, I never would have noticed. Why in the hell did I put it on vibrate?

Once I got off the phone, I called Sam, my partner. At least we were both still sober. Close enough to fake it anyway. Sam offered to pick me up, and we went to the crime scene in his car. Wasn’t too far. We got there half an hour into the new year.

We pulled up to a nice brownstone in a nice neighborhood; not the kind of place you expect to find homicide detectives. Sam and I stood out like dirty, dented metal garbage cans at an outdoor wedding.

The couple that lived there seemed decent enough; she offered us coffee first thing. Good coffee, too…

Winter Holidays - Story 4 - Jesus loves Jorge Hernandez by Melissa Watkins Starr

It was seventy-two degrees at 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 2012, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, when a surfer found a dead man on the dunes near Lori Wilson Park and called the police. My news editor, Wallace Norton, picked it up on our police scanner and called me into his office. “Some guy just died on the beach,” he said. “No sign of foul play, maybe an overdose. Go see if there’s a story in it.”

Because our office was near the scene, I arrived before the ambulance and took the park trail by the bathhouse out to the dunes, where a small group had gathered, including Grady Flynn, a red-faced, gray-haired cop, a middle-aged surfer in a partial wetsuit, and Flynn’s patrol partner, Robert Johnson, who was younger, but looked enough like Flynn to be his son.

I glanced at the body. The old man wore blue flip-flops, dirty jeans with torn-out knees, a long-sleeved gray t-shirt, and a red Santa’s cap. He had a full white beard, a real one. I studied his face, which seemed familiar, and blurted out…

Winter Holidays - Story 5 - Claus of Death by Michael M. Jones

This story originally appeared in Slipstreams from DAW in 2006, edited by John Helfers.

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It began, as these things always do, with a woman. She strolled into the dingy, cramped room I laughingly call an office these days, pausing at the door to cast a contemptuously dubious look around at the mix-and-match Salvation Army decor. I could just imagine how it all looked through her eyes: the scarred mahogany desk overflowing with papers and empty coffee mugs, the dented green file cabinet on which sat a single fern barely clinging to life, bare wooden floor, the couch with its assortment of stains and old cigarette burns, the mismatched wooden chairs, and the faded paint on the door that read, “Nicholas St. Claus, Private Investigator.” Yeah, I knew just how this lady would look upon her surroundings and despair. I knew her tastes, and this was as far away from them as you got. I couldn’t even imagine what she made of me, so I slammed the door on that line of thought immediately.

In fa…

COMING SOON - DECEMBER 20 - WINTER HOLIDAYS

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Five stories, five mysteries to solve. Christmas won't be the same after you read these clever, insightful, smart, and sometimes quite witty stories. We're very excited to be able to begin The Case Files series with some incredible talent who understand the nuances of mystery and how to have fun with it.

Our first publication of stories will be available to read right here, for free, starting on December 20 at 12:15 am, MST. Just come to this page and click on the title of the story of your choice. They will be numbered in the order we chose for the digital anthology, but you're welcome to read them in any order you wish.

The stories will also be available in digital format on Amazon for your Kindle. The price is only 99 cents. A great gift for those friends and family who like a bit of horror to slightly taint their holidays.

We'd love to see your comments on the stories, so please feel free to let us know what you think by using the Comments section after each story…

The Shed Chamber by Laura E. Richards

Unknown original publication date.
Posted here as assumed to be public domain.

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“Well, I once answered an advertisement in the Farmer’s Friend, girls, and I have always been glad I did. It was that summer when father broke his arm and the potato crop failed, and everything seemed to be going wrong on the farm. There were plenty of girls to do the work at home, and I thought I ought to get something outside to do if I could. I tried here and there, but without success; at last my eye caught a notice in the Farmer’s Friend, just the same kind of notice as that you are speaking of, Lottie: ‘Wanted, a capable, steady girl to assist in housework and take care of children. Address, with references, A.B.C., Dashville.’ I talked it over with mother, and she agreed with me; father didn’t take so kindly to the idea, naturally; he likes to have us all at home, especially in summer. However, he said I might do as I pleased; so I answered the notice and sent a letter from our pastor, saying what…