Christmas Morning with Madison Knight

Excerpt: Chapter 5, Justified, a Madison Knight Novel

Madison’s eyes felt like they had been welded shut by the sandman.  She heard a faint banging, which at first she was able to convince herself was conjured by her sub-conscious and part of a REM cycle, but unfortunately it was persistent. 
What time was it anyhow?  She managed to read the clock through foggy slits.  Seven a.m. 
The knocking intensified.  Her visitor wasn’t going to leave.  Her initial reaction was to throw something hard at the wall and protest the awakening, but she didn’t have enough energy for that. 
“What!”  She yelled loud, certain her neighbors would bang on the wall to protest the noise.  The walls were paper thin in this place, and normally it didn’t take much for them to pound on the wall and scream obscenities to quiet her.  Maybe they had drunk their Christmas cheer and passed out unconscious to the world.  Or possibly, they had taken her last warning seriously, when at one in the morning she had donned a housecoat, fuzzy slippers, and her Glock and paid them a visit.  Not necessarily something a good cop would be proud of but she was just human.
The banging on the door continued.
“I’m coming.  Shut up!”  She couldn’t help it.  Her patience was never a strong suit and at this point, on the limited amount of sleep, she had even less of it.
She swung the door open and faced Terry.  “What are you doing—”
“Nice PJs.” 
She looked down at herself and was thankful for full coverage—a pair of blue track pants and a Stiles PD sweatshirt. 
“And I would have taken you for a white lace woman.”
“As if.”  She stepped back from the door to let him in.
He held a couple of cloth grocery bags with one hand and a small, decorated tree under his other arm.
“What are you doing here?”  Her words stopped when he handed her the tree.  “What—”
“You don’t have one do you?”  He glanced around the apartment.  “Didn’t think so.”  He met eyes with her and smiled.  “Everyone needs a tree, Maddy.”
“Put it where you like.”
She found herself somewhat touched by the gesture, but didn’t allow him to see it.  “It’s early.”  She plugged the pre-lit tree in.  It had small white lights tastefully dispersed.  She fought a smile from giving her away.
Terry made himself at home and worked at emptying the contents of a cloth bag on her kitchen counter.  He pulled out a Tupperware container filled with what looked like batter, and two smaller ones filled with blueberry and strawberry sauce.  He took out a bottle of genuine maple syrup and then folded the bag signaling the end of its contents.
“What are you doing?”
“You’re going to repeat yourself all day like a parrot?”
A cliché—Terry’s vocabulary was poisoned with them.  “Until you answer the question.” 
He laughed.
“Is this some joke?”
“Absolutely not.”  He swung open cabinet doors, working his way around the compact space in seconds.  “Guess I should have brought it with me—”
“What are you looking for?  Terry, it’s seven in the morning!”
“A non-stick fry pan.  I’m going to cook you up some superb pancakes.  With Grant pancakes the secret’s in the batter.  We know how to make them light and fluffy—”
“Stop there—”  The sincere happiness he seemed to be experiencing in this moment was breaking through her grumpy exterior.  “Light and fluffy?”
“The best.”  He took out a flipper and turned on a burner. 
“But why?  And why so early?”  She brushed past him, opened the bottom drawer on the stove, and put a fry pan on the burner.
“Because we’ve got to get to work you and I—”
“But it’s Christmas day.”
“Doesn’t mean we don’t work.”
Okay, so he had a point.  The strange part was he was the one pushing work this morning, and she was the one being tempted to take personal time.  The lab was shut down until Friday so no forensic results.  Their list of suspects was short at this point despite Allison’s mention that many people wanted Claire dead.  The only name they got was that of the best friend, Darcy Simms.
He wiped the inside of the pan with oil and turned the burner on.  “Annabelle’s on the way with Hershey.”
Hershey.  She almost said it aloud.  Damn, that wasn’t part of a dream, or a nightmare.  No, it was her cursed Christmas gift from the Grants.  Could they stop giving all ready?  Her thoughts were sarcastic, and her internal venting shifted viewpoint when she found herself excited about petting the little guy again.  But why a dog, and why a lab that would grow larger than an apartment?
“She’s bringing a kennel for him too.”
She nodded as if she knew what all that meant.  “I’m not sure…”  Her words flittered into non-existence when she saw the look of disappointment on his face.  She decided to twist her words to have a different meaning than they were originally intended to express.  “What is the kennel for?”
He laughed.  He must have found her naivety entertaining.  “For training purposes mostly.  Some people keep them in the crate whenever they’re not home.  We don’t like to do that with Todd and Bailey.  We like them to have free rein, but you’ll want to make sure he’s trained first.”
There was a knock on the door.  “I left the door cracked open downstairs.”
Madison stared at him.  “The front door?  So much for a secured building.”
He just smiled at her and answered the door as if it were his place.  It was Annabelle, and her arms were overloaded.  She carried a kennel crate folded flat under one arm, a bag of puppy chow under the other, and a hyperactive puppy pulled on a leash.  For the excess she toted one would think it was just as bad as a baby.
Oh, her simple home life was about to change.

Want to read more? You can download Justified from the following retailers:

Amazon - for Kindle, or print


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