Date Published: December 4th, 2020
Provençal mayor Victor Jacquet receives a mystifying note.
Then his small town mounts a rebellion.
And then his entire world implodes.
Some holiday season!
Fortunately for Victor, he never believed in the magic of Christmas.
Unfortunately for Victor, said magic still believes in him…
Told from Victor’s point of view, this novella stands alone within the Julie Cavallo Investigates Series.
Mayor of Beldoc Victor Jacquet takes his seat and opens the manila envelope in front of him. Efficient as ever, Chantal has prepared enough of them for each attendee to have one. The envelope contains the minutes of the last sitting, the agenda of the current one, and all the relevant documents.
Victor takes the floor. “This year, we’re going to change things up. There will be no Christmas tree on Beldoc’s Place de la Mairie or on any other square.”
The room gasps. Then, shocked whats and whys hit him from everywhere.
“I have a good reason for the ban!” Victor shouts over multiple voices.
The room falls silent, curious to hear it.
“My team and I do not wish to encourage consumerism,” Victor says. “And we want an eco-friendly holiday season.”
“In what way is our cherished Christmas tree an impediment to that?” Sarah asks.
Victor adjusts his tie. “Well, you see the tree encourages compulsive gift buying. People acquire useless items just to have something to put under the tree.”
“Are you going to ban Christmas trees in private homes, too?” Rose asks, her tone laced with sarcasm.
I wish I could!
“Of course not,” Victor replies. “All I want is to make our town greener. I don’t want living trees slaughtered in the name of consumerism! So, whether you like it or not, we’re ditching the Christmas tree.”
“But what about the spiritualism of its meaning?” Rose asks. “To many of us, it symbolizes the birth of Jesus. You aren’t qualified to deny us that celebration!”
Victor glares at his rival.
Really, Rose? You’re a former hippie who believes in karma and never goes to church. You aren’t qualified to talk about Jesus!
He opens his mouth to say just that, when Clothilde butts in. “You know what the Christmas tree also stands for, Victor? Family. Friendship. Human connection. Love. You want to cancel those, too?”
Victor redirects his scowl at her.
What a sucker punch. That was low, Clothilde, even for you!
She knows better than anyone in this room how lonely he’s been since his wife and parents passed. She knows he has no real friends.
“Anyhow, it doesn’t matter what the Christmas tree represents,” he says at length. “There’s no money to pay for it this year. The municipality has used that budget line for… er… a town planning project. Discussion closed.”
Rose claps a hand to her mouth. “You sneaky, scheming, shameless ruffian! You didn’t… Did you?”
She knows. She figured it out, the witch!
Victor chews on his pencil, refusing to respond.
The council members, staffers, and citizens look from Rose to him and back.
“What?” many ask. “What is this about?”
“The urinal,” Rose says without taking her eyes off him. “He spent the Christmas tree budget on purchasing and installing that god-awful public urinal in front of Magda’s shop.”
Something hurtles across the room, like a frisbee, and smashes into Victor’s face. It’s an unopened manila envelope. Victor swears and rubs his sore nose. It doesn’t seem broken.
Like a shark smelling blood, Magda draws her daggerlike, red nails and launches herself at him.
Before she’s had a chance to scratch Victor’s chest, his deputy Blandine slams her purse on Magda’s head. The ladies yelp and grab handfuls of each other’s hair. Magda kicks Blandine’s shin. Blandine steps on Magda’s foot. Bawling, Magda lets go of Blandine’s hair and rips her silk blouse down the front.
“Aaaargh!” Blandine swings to punch Magda. “That cost a fortune, you dumb cow!”
Magda blocks the blow. “Serves you right, thief!”
They grapple with each other and tumble down.
People rush to the pair who are now rolling on the floor. They pull the determined wrestlers apart and drag them to the opposite corners of the room.
Victor rises to his feet. “This council meeting is over! We’ll discuss the remaining two items in January.”
The attendees fidget and wriggle but stay put, clearly too entertained to leave just yet.
Chantal rushes to Victor’s side. “Mesdames, Messieurs, it’s truly over! Please go home!”
Without saying another word, she stretches both arms toward the doors on each side, the way flight attendants show the emergency exits during the safety demo.
“Merry Christmas, everyone!” she cries as the reluctant attendees shuffle to the doors.
About the Author
Ana T. Drew is the evil mastermind behind the recent series of murders in the fictional French town of Beldoc.
When she is not writing cozy mysteries or doing mom-and-wife things, she can be found watching “The Rookie” to help her get over “Castle”.
She lives in Paris but her heart is in Provence.