"Murder on the North Pole Express"

This is my ninth story featuring Texas PI Helmut Erhard, although thanks to the different publication schedules of different publications, it's the sixth one to appear in print. (The first one, "The Yellow Rose of Texas," was in The Eyes of Texas. The second, "The Stopwatch of Death," was in Black Cat Mystery Magazine. Number 3, "The Great Filling Station Holdup," was in my same-titled Jimmy Buffet anthology. Number 4, "KLDI," was in Mickey Finn: Volume 2. And Number 5, "The Vampire Shift," was in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. As I create this web page on December 31, 2022, Number 6 is forthcoming in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Number 7 is forthcoming in EQMM, and Number 8 is awaiting a decision from AHMM.)

About halfway through 2022, Crippen and Landru publisher Jeff Marks asked me to write the story for the pamphlet it distributes to its subscribers every Christmas. That's an honor, and I was happy to accept the invitation. It seemed obvious that it ought to be a Christmas story, so I decided to send Helmut and his new girlfriend Bonnie up to Grapevine, which bills itself as "the Christmas Capital of Texas," where they find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a murder.

Since the C&L pamphlet was privately published, you can't read this story unless you're one of the company's subscribers -- yet. I'm hoping to eventually do a Helmut collection, though, and of course it'll be reprinted there. (And, yes, like all of the previous Erhard stories, this one once again includes what by now has to be the most magnificent Easter egg in the history of Easter eggs....)

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