He made a mistake with the boys.
I’d slept little since finding the maid with the missing tongue. Oh, I’ve seen a damned sight worse than her injury, but I was busy trying to convince most of the families on Washington Street to keep a weather eye out for any sort of Christmas mischief ere the appointed eve.
A few heeded me, but far too many didn’t. I was more concerned for any children than I was for the adults.
I’d just spent an exhausting hour with the Andersons, and I was preparing to leave when a cheer broke the pleasant stillness of the home from behind the closed parlor door. The mother, clearly put out by her sons’ behavior, went to the room to reprimand them, but could not gain entry.
The door was barred against her.
She knocked upon it, a frown creasing her brow as her husband went to join her. The three of us could hear the boys laughing and chattering on the opposite side of the door, fully ignoring their parents.
As the father began to speak, threatening to take his belt to their backsides, a deep, booming laugh shook the house.
Fear swept all other emotions off the faces of the mother and father. As one, they turned and faced me, but I was already moving toward the door, drawing my Colts as I crossed the hall.
Before I reached the parlor, there was the rattle of musketry and a cry of pain, and the house shook.
The door opened.
In the parlor, standing by a bedecked Christmas tree, were all five of the Anderson brothers. They were dressed in military and police uniforms. In their hands were weapons, and around them were scattered magnificent gifts. A tree, tall and glorious, dominated the room, and the confusion on the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson spoke volumes.
“Where is he?” I asked.
The boy on the far left smiled. “He tried to take us with him, sir. He told us it was what he was owed.”
The boy nodded. “We’d given us real muskets, so opened fire, and the police beat him back to the chimney. Up the flue he went, sir, and good riddance to him. He was not as kind as he pretended.”
“No,” I agreed. “He most certainly was not.”