TIMOTHY R. BALDWIN

A Bazaar Christmas

First published by Indies United Publishing House,LLC 2020

Copyright © 2020 by Timothy R. Baldwin

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distribute it by any other means without permission.

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CONTENTS

Chapter 1 

Chapter 2 

Chapter 3 

Chapter 4 

Chapter 5 

Chapter 6 

Thanks for reading 

About the Author 

Chapter 1

Garland and lights hung from the gymnasium

walls and the smell of nutmeg and cinnamon

filled the air. The static of old speakers churned

out Christmas music while vendors packed their

wares — crafts, treats, and other homemade items.

Meanwhile, lingering shoppers, their arms already

loaded down with goods, seemed to pester vendors

for that final sale of the night. My mom was one

such vendor. As with years past, she wasted no time

to pack up.

“Marcus, help me with this,” Mom said as she knelt

behind one of the many tables lining the school

gymnasium.

“Sure,” I said, kneeling opposite her to assist with

a crate.

On the count of three, Mom and I grunted as we

lifted and placed the crate on the table.

“I thought you’d sell out of scrapbook material,” I

said. “It looks like you’re coming home with twice

as much.”

Mom scowled. “It’s actually half.” She added a

wink. “There might be something in there for you

and Bri.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I said. “I’m going to go see if any

of the other vendors need help.”

There was still so much to do to close out the

annual Christmas Bazaar. As the son of the longest

running PTSA president and the son of the assistant

principal, everyone came to expect that I’d be around

to help out at every event.

I didn’t mind helping out, especially since I was

in good company who I spotted coming toward us.

My girlfriend, Alissa, carried a stack of cardboard

boxes as she trailed a few paces behind her mother,

Mrs. Claude.

I waved. “Hey. Can I give you a hand?”

Alissa grinned. “You bet! Here.”

She handed me the entire stack, which I fumbled

as I turned, letting several flattened boxes slide off

the top of the stack and onto the table.

“Jeez! These are heavy,” I said.

She placed a hand on her hip. “Glad you finally

admitted it. I’m stronger.”

On the other side of the table, Mom and Mrs.

Claude laughed.

Before I could give a comeback, shouting from the

other side of the gymnasium drew my attention. A

group of patrons circled around the silent auction

table, creating a din that echoed throughout the

gymnasium. Other vendors, parents and their kids,

stopped their packing to have a look.

“Oh dear,” Mom said. “We should go put out that

fire.”

Mom and Mrs. Claude jogged over to the crowd.

Alissa and I followed close behind.

As we drew near, a middle-aged man dressed in a

tweed jacket and a Santa hat stood on a chair.

“If you would please all take a moment,” he said.

“I’m sure we can sort this out.”

“Hey!” A stout balding man roared. “What kind of

a place are you running here?”

Mom stepped in. “Mr. Robinson. Please step

down. And you, sir —”

“Johnston Hill,” the stout balding man said, stepping

close to Mom. She stepped back, her eyes

darting around.

Mrs. Claude stepped in. “You’d do well to back

up, Mr. Hill.”

Mr. Hill pointed at Mr. Robinson. “This guy here

in the tweed says the grand prize TV I won in the

silent auction is missing.”

Mr. Robinson stepped off the chair. “Easy now.

I returned only moments ago. When I’d left, it was

here. I’m sure it was just misplaced.”

“Just like last year,” someone said.

“Last year?” a booming voice spoke up. We turned

to see a bearded man in a football jersey. “Are you

talking about the stereo system that went missing?”

“No, that was the year before,” another person

corrected. Others chimed in, arguing about what

went missing when.

“What are they talking about?” Mr. Hill said. He

spun. “Mr. Robinson, you…”

Mr. Hill’s voice trailed off. The chair once

occupied by Mr. Robinson was empty.

Mr. Hill pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his

brow. “I need to speak to whoever’s in charge. Who

would that be?”

Mom stepped up to Mr. Hill. “That’ll be me. I’m

sure we can —”

“You better hope you do, because —”

“Sir,” Mom said. “Why don’t you step over here

with us while the others finish picking up their

items?”

I glanced at Alissa. “Where’d Mr. Robinson go?”

Alissa shrugged. “Every time I stopped by this

table, he had a mouth full of roasted walnuts. Maybe

it caught up to him.”

We laughed.

Mrs. Claude marched over to us. “Alissa Imani

Claude, I don’t know what you think is so funny.

There’s a TV missing.” She glared at me. “And

Marcus, your mother is trying to placate an angry

patron.”

“Sorry,” Alissa and I said.

Mrs. Claude held up a hand. “Marcus, we need

you to go find your father. After that, we need you

both to look for the TV.”

“On it!” Alissa said. “C’mon, Marcus.”

Once in the hallway, Alissa pulled me off to the

side. “You realize what’ll happen if that TV isn’t

recovered.”

I nodded. “Another lost item and we won’t have a

Bazaar next year.”

“Which means fewer funds in the booster clubs,”

Alissa said. “Once we find your father, we’re gonna

find that TV and whoever took it.”

“I propose we start with Mr. Robinson,” I said.

“He dipped out a little too quick.”

Alissa grinned. “Sounds like a plan!”

We jogged down the hallway, passing a man in a

red flannel who called out. “You two stop running!”

We ignored him as we hooked a right at the next

intersection. Once around the corner, we came to

the glassed-in main office. Dad, dressed in khakis

and a holiday tie, stood at the counter counting cash

with Ms. Berry, one of our math teachers.

Dad and Ms. Berry looked up when Alissa and I

entered.

“You two can’t be here,” Dad said.

“We’ve got a problem in the gymnasium,” Alissa

said.

“It’ll have to wait,” Dad said.

“It can’t!” I insisted. “Mom is trying to calm a Mr.

Hill who —”

“Oh brother!” Ms. Berry said. “Mr. Kahale, you’ll

want to handle this one quickly.”

Dad turned to us. “What’s the problem?”

Alissa and I started talking at the same time about

the missing TV.

Dad held up a hand. “Alright. Alright. I’ll take care

of it. Uh… Ms. Berry. Let me lock this up and we’ll

get back to it shortly.”

Ms. Berry placed the cash and receipts in the

lockbox and handed it to Dad. With the lockbox

in hand, Dad disappeared into the office.

Folding her arms across her chest, Ms. Berry

leaned on the counter. “The school really can’t afford

losing that TV. If you know what I mean.”

Dad returned before Alissa and I could say anything

else. “What’re you all standing around for?

Let’s go!”

Allissa and I followed as Dad led the charge back

toward the gymnasium. Ms. Berry remained two

strides behind him. When they rounded a corner,

Alissa and I stopped.

Alissa turned to me. “We need to find Mr. Robinson,

and fast!”

“What do you have in mind? I asked.

Alissa grinned. “Follow my lead.”

Chapter 2

In the gymnasium, Dad and Ms. Berry had taken

Mr. Hill to the side. Though the man no longer

hollered at everyone who happened to pass by, he

gritted his teeth as he wrung his handkerchief in his

hands.

Alissa and I took the center of the gymnasium

where we caught a cold draft sweeping through the

great room. Alissa hugged herself as we surveyed

the room. Under Mom’s direction, volunteers had

already begun to take down garland and tinsel, while

vendors continued to pack things away. The bearded

man wearing the football jersey seemed to bounce

between tables, talking loudly about sports and

the trips he had planned for the holiday break. A

woman carrying a few smaller bags seemed to hug

the bleachers as she trekked across the gymnasium.

“Have you spotted Mr. Robinson?” Alissa asked.

“No,” I said. “So, let’s not rule him out.”

Alissa nodded. “Until then, who else looks like

they could’ve swiped a big screen TV?”

“Let’s see,” I replied as a I rubbed my chin. “It’s

kind of bulky and weighs at least a hundred pounds.

Maybe football jersey over there.”

Alissa shrugged. “Maybe. Wait!” She grabbed my

shoulder. “Do you see that guy over there? He was

in the hallway when we went to get your father.”

On the far side of the gymnasium, a man in jeans

and a red flannel kept his eyes to the floor. He headed

straight toward the auxiliary gym.

“Isn’t there a back entrance somewhere over

there?” I asked.

“Yeah!” Alissa said. “Let’s follow, but not too close.”

Chapter 3

We ducked behind a small cluster of people

packing things away at the nearest table.

Keeping ourselves close to the wall, we made our

way toward the auxiliary gym. When the wall

cornered off, Alissa peeked beyond it.

She turned back to me. “He’s not there, but there

is a wide-open door at the other end.”

With one last look around the gymnasium, we

confirmed no one noticed what we were up to.

While Dad remained with Mr. Hill, Mom seemed

to be directing patrons out the doors so vendors

could finish packing. Mrs. Claude had moved on

to assist with further clean-up. Mr. Robinson still

hadn’t shown. Alissa and I exchanged a quick nod

and slipped around the corner.

Wads of unused garland and assorted boxes of

green and red looked out of place next to the gym

equipment scattered in stations around the room.

On the far side of the room, a water fountain trickled

onto the floor. By its side, an open steel door.

“Shall we?” Alissa asked.

Something beyond the open door rattled. Alissa

grabbed my hand. We waited, listening to the trickle

of water.

“I think we’re good,” Alissa said. “Stay close.”

When we reached the door, we took a peek inside

the room. Mechanical equipment lined one wall.

The room also housed stacks of boxes, a broken cart,

and an old Christmas tree.

“It’s just a utility closet,” I said.

“Figures,” Alissa said. “I’ve been dying to dive into

another mystery.”

I sighed. “Me, too. We should go.”

As we turned to leave, a grunt followed by a heavy

crash came from above. A ladder mounted on the

wall led into an open access door in the ceiling.

“Do you think…” I grabbed a rung and lifted

myself up.

Alissa pulled me back. “Marcus, you can’t go up

there!”

“Why not?” I asked. “That’s a perfect place to hide

a TV.”

She crossed her arms. “Sure. And one guy is going

to lift it up there and squeeze it through just to take

it out when everyone’s gone.”

“What about two guys?” I asked.

“Who’s down there?” A man called from above.

Heavy footsteps made their way from one side of

the ceiling to the other. In the opening of the ceiling

a face appeared. “What do you two need?”

That’s when I recognized the head custodian. “Uh,

sorry Mr. Ford. We were looking for—”

“Sorry to bother you,” Alissa said, pulling me away.

Chapter 4

With that false lead out of the way, Alissa

and I squirreled ourselves into a corner of

the gymnasium far away from the utility closet.

Hidden away, we took that moment to survey

what remained of the bazaar. Mom directed a

group of volunteers breaking down the empty tables.

Football jersey was among those volunteers helping

with Mom. Meanwhile, Mrs. Claude remained by

the silent auction table as winners picked up the few

remaining items. A few feet away from her, Mr. Hill

sat wiping his forehead and glaring at every person

who passed by him, as if he suspected everyone of

taking off with the TV. Dad and Ms. Berry weren’t

around.

“What next?” Alissa asked.

“Not sure,” I said. “Still no sign of Mr. Robinson.”

“Any idea what he drives?” Alissa asked. “Maybe

we could check the parking lot.”

“Let’s go ask my mom,” I said.

As we made our way over to Mom, Mr. Ford

entered the main gymnasium. He spotted Mom and

approached her. After talking briefly, she pointed

toward the main office.

“Well, your mother definitely knows something,”

Alissa said.

“Put those tables and chairs in the corner,” Mom

said, directing her comments toward a couple of

tired looking fathers. They complied. Mom turned

to us as we approached.

“Where’ve you two been?” She asked. “Wait. Let

me guess. Following Mr. Ford around.”

I cringed. “Oops.”

“Uh-huh,” Mom said. “Your father asked Mr. Ford

to check the wiring. It seems the security cameras

are fried.”

Alissa and I exchanged a glance. “Do you think?”

Mom laughed. “Don’t be silly. No one cut the

wires so they could steal a TV.”

I muttered. “Hearing you say it like that…”

“Makes it sound pretty stupid,” Alissa finished.

Mom smiled. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’ll

turn up.”

“Hey,” Alissa said. “Has Mr. Robinson returned?

He was the last person to see it, right?”

“Probably,” Mom said. “But I haven’t seen him

since Mr. Hill had a fit.”

“What does his car look like?” I asked. “Maybe we

could —”

A loud crash cut me off. Mom spun. “You’ve got

to be kidding.”

A pile of tables lay scattered across the floor next to

the wall. Two men, their shoulders slumped, stood

several feet away from the tables. As Mom headed

over to the pair, she called over a few others to help

out, leaving Alissa and me alone.

Alissa turned toward the auction table. “We

should’ve started with Mr. Robinson.”

“Well he couldn’t have gotten far,” I said. “Wait!

Where did football jersey go?”

“There he is!” Alissa pointed. The man had his

phone up to his ear as he headed in the direction of

the auction table.

Alissa and I ran after him. Before I could catch

up to football jersey, my shin collided with a metal

object and I collapsed on the floor. Alissa skidded

to a halt. As I rose, I took in the handcart, the jeans,

and the red flannel.

Mr. Ford set the hand truck down and glared at us.

“First you’re running in the hallways. Then you’re

snooping in the utility closets. What are you kids up

to?”

“We’re sorry,” Alissa said, helping me up.

“I’m really sorry, Mr. Ford,” I said, cringing as I

favored my right leg.

Mr. Ford looked around the gymnasium. “Look

at this mess. Every year the PTSA holds this bazaar,

and every year things are left out of place. It’s late

and the shift is almost over. Now someone needs a

hand truck to move some big screen TV.”

“Mr. Ford, do you know where the TV is?” Alissa

asked.

He scowled. “Now why would I know where that is?

Do I look like Best Buy or something?”

I choked back a laugh. For a second, Mr. Ford

glared at me until his glare transformed into a grin.

“Doesn’t matter,” Mr. Ford said. “It looks like you

two know more about this TV than I do. Why don’t

I leave this hand truck with you? Put it in the utility

closet when you’re done.”

“Yes, sir,” Alissa said.

When I didn’t respond, Alissa pushed me lightly

on the shoulder.

“I… sorry again for running into you,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Mr. Ford said.

Chapter 5

Armed with a hand truck, I thought about Mr.

Robinson’s casual remark about the TV being

misplaced.

Alissa grabbed the hand truck and tipped it on an

angle. “Well, let’s not just stand here.”

“Wait,” I said. “You remember what football

jersey’s said about the missing stereo system?”

Alissa let go of the hand truck. “Where’re you

going with this?”

“Lis, don’t you see?” I asked.

She nodded slowly. “You’re thinking it was a

distraction. It’s circumstantial, but that’s about the

time Mr. Robinson disappeared.”

“Now football jersey is gone,” I said. “I betcha he

was talking to Mr. Robinson on the phone.”

Alissa crossed her arms. “Now you’re stretching

Besides —” She crinkled her nose as the scent

of something stale and smoky wafted through the

gymnasium. “What’s that smell?”

“I think it’s coming from over there,” I said, point-

ing toward the silent auction table. “The side door

is probably open.”

Alissa took the lead as we ran toward the side door.

“Alissa!” Mrs. Claude called.

Alissa and I halted.

“Mom! We need to hurry. There’s someone —”

“Let’s go then.” Mrs. Claude grabbed her jacket

and led the way outside as she put it on.

Once outside, we were greeted by a light snow fall

and the distinct smell of cigarette smoke clinging in

the damp air. To our left, football jersey paced the

loading dock, talking on the phone and puffing on

a cigarette. On the edge of the loading dock sat a

large object draped in a tarp. Alissa and I followed

Mrs. Claude as she approached the loading dock.

“Excuse me, sir,” Mrs. Claude said. “You can’t

smoke here.”

Football jersey turned. “Sorry, I didn’t know.” He

dropped his cigarette and stomped on it. “I’m about

ready to go. Waiting on my friend to pull up.”

Mrs. Claude nodded. “What’s under the tarp?”

“This?” Football jersey asked. He stepped toward

the tarped object. “It was here when I came outside.”

Mrs. Claude closed the distance between her and

football jersey, beating him to the tarped object.

Despite his size, football jersey took a step back as

Mrs. Claude lifted the tarp. She turned to us. “Can

you two go tell Mr. Hill his TV is waiting for him.

After that, please return the hand truck.”

“On it!” We both said.

As we headed inside, I heard Mrs. Claude say, “I’m

sure glad you were here keeping an eye on this.”

Once inside, we made our first stop where Mr.

Hill sat with his arms crossed.

“Excuse me, Mr. Hill,” Alissa said. “My mother is

waiting by the loading dock with your TV. Someone

must’ve put it there for you to pick up.”

Mr. Hill stood. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

As Mr. Hill hobbled away, I realized Mr. Robinson

hadn’t returned.

“What if Mr. Robinson was pulling his vehicle up

to the loading dock?” I asked.

“Doesn’t matter now,” Alissa said. She hooked her

arm into mine. “Let’s go help your mother. She’ll be

glad to know we found the TV.”

Chapter 6

We found Mom struggling with the tables that

had toppled onto the floor. “Oh good,” Mom

said. “You two came just in the nick of time. The

guys who were helping me had to leave.”

“We can help,” I said. “You’ll also want to know

Mr. Hill is far happier now that he has his TV.”

“Oh good,” Mom said. “Where was it?”

“It was on the loading dock,” Alissa said.

“Well,” Mom said. “Let’s sort the rest of this stuff

out so the custodial staff can get out of here on time.”

Just then, a flustered Mr. Robinson joined us.

“Mrs. Kahale. I’m sorry, I looked everywhere. The

TV is gone.”

“No, it’s not,” Mom said. “Mystery solved. And

you have our two detectives here to thank.”

Mr. Robinson shot us a wide-eyed look. “That’s…

great! Where was it?”

“It was sitting on the loading dock under a tarp,”

Alissa said.

“That’s bizarre,” Mr. Robinson said. “It was…” As

he fumbled around for the right words, I noticed

dampness on the shoulders of his tweed jacket.

“Where were you anyway?” I asked.

“Here’s the thing,” Mr. Robinson said. “I… there

was… an emergency and —”

“That’s okay,” Mom said. “We don’t need to hear

anymore. But since you’re here, why don’t you help

us with these tables.”

Alissa and I took either side of a table and exchanged

a glance. Something about Mr. Robinson

didn’t add up. In the process of recovering the

TV, I suspected we also discovered the source of

several other missing items. We couldn’t prove

anything, yet. But we ensured there would be

another Christmas Bazaar. If Mr. Robinson tried

anything in the future, we’d be watching, especially

if football jersey showed up.

Thanks for reading.

Thank you for taking the time to download and

read this copy of A Bazaar Christmas. If you enjoyed

adventuring with Marcus and Alissa on this cozy

little mystery, then you might enjoy the full-length

books in the series.

A Kahale and Claude Mystery Series

Camp Lenape (2019)

Shadows of Doubt (2020)

Operation Varsity Blues (2020)

If you enjoyed this story, it would mean a lot to me

if you took the time to leave a review. Criticism

is welcome as well. Both forms of feedback keep

independent and small press authors writing.

About the Author

Tim grew up in Syracuse, New York. He currently

resides in Maryland where he teaches English, Creative

Writing, Film, and Theatre on the middle

school level. At the insistence of his own students,

he began writing seriously in 2014.

He credits his love for story to his mother, who

spent countless hours reading to him and his siblings

when they were growing up. Growing up, he

devoured the literary words of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R.

Tolkien, Piers Anthony, and many others. Mysteries,

thrillers, and fantasies are among the genre he most

frequently reads.

When he’s not writing, he’s reading, teaching,

camping, or enjoying a live music concert.

You can connect with me on:

http://www.timothyrbaldwin.com

https://www.facebook.com/TimothyRBaldwin

https://instagram.com/timothyrbaldwin

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