Tis the season for a holiday Turvy! The Instagram writing community wrapped up the #12DaysOfTurvy Writing Challenge on Monday. It was a spirited event filled with amazing writers of varying genres.
Introducing the co-hosts👇
I typically write a new micro story for each Turvy prompt. This time around, I threaded the prompts together into a short story featuring the crew from the Marnie Reilly Mysteries series, including Marnie Reilly, Tom Keller, Danny Gregg, Gram, and Tater and Dickens, too. I hope you enjoy the story.
Note: This story does not fall within the timeline of the series.
Day 1, Turvy Prompt: Weather
A blazing fire snapped and crackled in the fieldstone fireplace on the veranda of Detective Danny Gregg’s log cabin. Snuggled up in a green-plaid fleece blanket, Marnie Reilly pulled her woolen toque over her ears and curled her legs under her on the porch glider. The front door swung open and two Border Collies bounded out the door, down the steps, and into freshly fallen snow. Danny pushed through the door, carrying two large and steaming mugs.
“Oo! Is that hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps?” she asked, swinging her feet to the decking and holding out her gloved hands.
“Yes, ma’am!” Danny sat and handed her a mug.
Her face shone with joy as she took a healthy sip. “So good!”
“Ha-ha! It’s heavy on the schnapps,” Danny said. “Are you sure you don’t want to enjoy this inside?”
“Nope. I love it out here. It smells like Christmas.” She rested her head on one of his big shoulders.
Tater and Dickens the Border Collies woofed at tires squeaking through the snow.
A moment later, Detective Tom Keller rounded the corner, stomped the snow off his boots, and climbed the steps.
“Isn’t this cozy?” he said dryly. “Your phone isn’t working or you’re ignoring it.”
Danny pulled his phone from his pocket. “No missed calls.”
“Not your phone. Her phone. I need you to come back to town.”
Marnie’s face pinched with worry. “Why?”
Tom held out his hand with a failed flourish. “Madam Séance, they need your spooky skills at the museum. It seems the spirit of our founder is wreaking havoc.”
“Ah, geez! I told him to stop doing that two years ago. What’s got him riled up this time?”
“A Ouija board,” Tom said. He reached for Marnie’s mug, sniffed the contents, and handed it back. “I’ll drive.”
Danny groaned. “I thought the story of Nolan Flannigan was an urban legend.”
“Nope. He’s my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side,” Marnie said, getting to her feet. “I hate to do it, but I think it’s time to pull back the veil and get some other-worldly help.”
“Yeah. Just make sure you can close it when you’re finished,” Tom said with a huff.
Day 2, Turvy Prompt: Family/Found Family
Every light in the building glowed through the windows of the Creekwood Museum. Mrs. Flood, the curator, paced the wide veranda, her coat haphazardly draped about her shoulders and her woolen toque askew.
“Thank goodness, you’re here!” the curator called out as Marnie and the detectives exited the Jeep. “I have tried everything to calm down old Nolan, but he is hell-bent on raising a fuss tonight.”
Marnie stood below her on the snowy sidewalk, hands on her hips. “Tom mentioned a Ouija board. Whose daft idea was that?”
The curator waved a gloved hand. “I didn’t think any harm would be done. We’ve done everything to raise funds for the museum, and a haunted Halloween event with a séance sounded fun.”
“Yeah, well, that depends on your definition of fun. C’mon! Let’s get inside.” Marnie stomped up the steps, with Danny and Tom trailing.
They stood in the formal foyer, but there were no ghosts in sight.
“Grandpa Nolan! I know you’re here!” Marnie shouted. “Get your butt downstairs! Now!”
Tom nudged her. “Do you really want to piss him off?” His voice cracked, and he took a step back toward the open door.
“There he is!” Danny yelled, pointing to the top of the stairs.
All heads turned and their eyes traveled up the grand staircase to see the spirit of Nolan Flannigan leaning over the railing, laughing at them.
“I don’t see him,” Tom said, taking another step back.
Marnie rolled her eyes. “Only because you don’t want to.”
“How are we gonna get him downstairs?” Danny asked.
“I’m going to insult him,” Marnie said with a giggle. “Oi! Flannigan! Get your thieving, lying, convict ass down here!”
“Wrongly accused!” came a thundering voice from above.
A gust of wind flew past them, the lights flickered, and the door slammed shut as Nolan Flannigan left the building.
“Uh-oh! We better get moving before he destroys Creekwood!” Marnie pulled open the door and raced to the Jeep.
Day 3, Turvy Prompt: Decorations
“Where are we goin’,” Tom asked, slipping behind the wheel of Danny’s Jeep.
“The diner,” Marnie said, leaning over the backseat.
“Calling in the big gun?” Danny asked.
“Yup. Gram’s Irish charm is just the magic we need,” Marnie replied. “Plus, she has a Ouija board.”
“Ah, geez! Can I stay in the car?” Tom whined.
Marnie laughed. “Sure, if you want to be defenseless against an angry spirit, you can’t see.”
Tom maneuvered the Jeep through a snowdrift and parked at the curb outside Gram’s diner. They all hopped out and ran through the diner and up the stairs to Gram’s apartment.
She met them at the door with a surprised expression. “You sound like a herd of turtles racin’ up them stairs!”
“We need your help! Where’s your Ouija board?” Danny asked.
“Whaddya need that for?” She stood back and apprised them.
“Someone let Nolan Flannigan loose in the museum and then Marnie pissed him off and he escaped through the front door!” Tom tattled.
“Nolan Flannigan, you say?” Gram tittered.
Marnie kicked off her boots and circled the room nervously, stepping over crates of Christmas decorations. “The last time he acted out, I simply asked him to stop, and he did.”
“Why would they call you, lass?”
Marnie flopped down on the couch. “He’s my great-great-grandfather.”
Gram smirked. “I see. Well, there’s only one thing that’ll bring him to us, and it isn’t my Ouija board. Lucky for you, I have just what he’s looking for.” She disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a bottle of Guinness. “He’ll be along shortly. The last time he scarpered, this is how we got him.”
“Beer?” Tom asked, eyes rolling.
“It’s stout,” Gram replied with an indignant huff.
“He’s done this before?” Marnie asked.
“Oh, every twenty years of so. Let’s decorate while we wait.” Gram’s blue eyes twinkled as she fussed with the ribbon on a wreath.
“Decorating has to wait until tomorrow. We’re not allowed to decorate until after Shari’s birthday.” Marnie pulled a face. “I mean, I get it. I don’t like how my birthday gets lost between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but she’s really a pain about it.”
“Hey! Don’t go off script!” I said.
Day 4, Turvy Prompt: Quirky Traditions (Mistletoe / Pranks)
“Expecting company, Gram?” Tom snickered, pointing to several bundles of mistletoe hung about her apartment.
“One never knows when uninvited guests will blow through the door,” Gram said.
“Like my great-great-grandfather,” Marnie huffed.
“Oh, I don’t hang it for him. There’s more to his story, lass.” Gram peered over the top of her glasses. “The mistletoe is for evil-doers. Nolan is a mischievous old fool, but he’s ne’er been evil.”
Danny held up a hand. “Hang on! I’m confused. What does mistletoe have to do with uninvited guests? Isn’t mistletoe for kissing?”
“Goodness, no!” Gram exclaimed. “Druids gathered mistletoe during the festival of Alban Arthan to ward off evil spirits and fill their homes with luck. You should pay better attention to your heritage, Daniel.”
Danny’s eyebrows shot up. “I’ve heard nothing about Druids in our family.”
“That’s for another time. Let’s focus on Nolan. Christmas carols and more Guinness should do the trick.” Gram crossed the room to her hi-fi and selected an album from the shelf. A moment later, the Clancy Brothers and Danny O’Flaherty’s rendition of Curoo, Curoo filled the room.
Danny added a log to the fire and Tom returned with five bottles. He popped the caps, passing a frothy Guinness to all, leaving one open in the middle of the table.
A whoosh of wind raced down the chimney, sparking the fire, before traveling around Marnie’s shoulders, and plonking down on the couch next to her.
She sputtered and choked on her stout as Nolan Flannigan reached for her Guinness, but she pulled the bottle away. “Stop that! Behave yourself!”
He chuckled to himself before turning to Gram. “Margaret, lovely to see you. This is the one they’ve been telling me about, yes?”
Gram’s blue eye twinkled. “She is. Now, drink your stout.”
Tom nudged Danny. “Do you see him?”
“Of course,” he said.
“Who’s been telling you about me?” Marnie demanded.
Gram held up a bottle. “Get in, Nolan. It’s time to go.”
Nolan bowed, puffed into a plume of silver smoke and swirled into the bottle, sloshing foam over the lip. Gram gripped a hand over the top. “Quick! Give me a cap!”
Day 5, Turvy Prompt: Entertainment (TV Shows / Movies / Plays)
The flicker of a fire danced across the room as Marnie, Tater and Dickens snuggled together under a quilt on the couch. They watched the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol—the one with Alastair Sim, because all others are rubbish. Dickens lolled on his back while Tater curled into the crook of his mistress’s legs.
Taking a sip from her wineglass, Marnie sighed and with her toe, she poked the bottle holding Nolan Flannigan. The Guinness sat on her coffee table because Gram told her to take it home. Shrugging off the blankets, she pulled her legs from under Tater’s chin, sat up and stared at the brown glass in the firelight.
Tater dropped his front legs to the floor and nosed the bottle. He looked up at Marnie when a tapping on the window startled them. Their heads snapped around to see a man waving.
Marnie scowled when she recognized him. “Thank goodness Gram gave me mistletoe.” She waggled the bundle of greens and berries at Sebastian St. Michel and turned back to the bottle. “Can you scare away a demon, Grandpa? Never mind. The mistletoe will keep him on the service porch.”
Dickens rolled awkwardly off the couch, tipped his head and pawed Tater’s shoulder, whose ears perked at the shrill whistle escaping the bottle. They jerked backward as the cap blew off, clattering against the chandelier above.
“Holy crap!” Marnie squawked as Nolan materialized from the silver smoke billowing from the bottle. He settled atop the coffee table, looking pleased with himself.
The dogs dove onto the couch, one on either side of their mistress. A chorus of growls in varying octaves followed.
“Shh. It’s okay,” she cooed. Then she glared at Nolan. “What in the name of all that is holy? You frightened us half to death!”
A deep belly laugh echoed through the house and the ghost stepped down from the table. “Oh, lass, I wasn’t tryin’ to scare ya. I was tryin’ to pop the plug from the bottle.”
Red-faced, she leapt to her feet. “What do you want?”
He chuckled. “Why, dear, I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake!”
Day 6, Turvy Prompt: Outdoor Activities (Sledding / Caroling)
“Sledding? You want to go sledding?” Marnie’s wrinkled expression brought a chuckle to her great-great-grandfather.
“As I said last night, you need to have fun. Look what happened to me. You don’t want that, do you?”
Twirling her teacup in its saucer, she considered Nolan’s suggestion. “Well, there is a great hill on the other side of the barn.” She leapt up from her chair at the kitchen table—eyes dancing. “And then we can make taffy on snow and hot chocolate.” A glance out the window displayed a winter wonderland as huge fluffy flakes of snow drifted to the ground. “Should I invite the detectives?”
“The more the merrier!”
“Be mindful of Devil’s Hole,” Nolan said as he floated along the snowy ground.
“What’s that?” asked Danny and Marnie in unison.
“You’ve never seen it?” asked the ghost.
They shook their heads.
“What’s what?” Tom asked.
“Devil’s Hole,” Marnie replied with a shrug.
Tom snapped his fingers. “Oh! I’ve heard that story. There’s a trapdoor somewhere around here that leads to the cave where Nolan Flannigan stashed his ill-gotten gains. Another Creekwood myth. Ha-ha!”
“He-he! Like me,” said the ghost.
Danny and Marnie both laughed.
Tom frowned. “It wasn’t that funny.”
“Nolan is funny, not you. Open yourself up, Tommy.” Danny rolled his eyes before walking off, pulling a sled to the top of the hill. “Marnie, do you want to go with me?”
“Nah! You go ahead. I’ll see you down there.” She dragged her sled to a patch of fresh snow, sat, and Tom gave her a push before jumping on his sled—not wanting to be left behind with a ghost.
Nolan glided down the hill, weaving between the sleds, basking in his granddaughter’s joy. He watched with delight as Danny snowplowed to a stop and Tom crashed into a fence, toppling over with a thump.
Danny stood, brushed snow off his jeans and searched the hill. “Hey! Where’d Marnie go?”
Tom scanned the snowy field with a worried look on his wind-burned face. “Uh-oh!”
Day 7, Turvy Prompt: Music / Songs
“Marnie!” Danny called. “How could she just disappear?”
The detectives trudged up the hill, stopping every few moments to call out again.
“Look!” Tom shouted. “There’s her cap!” He pointed to a fluorescent blue baseball cap skittering in the breeze across the bright white field that was scattered with deer, raccoon, fox and bobcat prints.
“Ugh!” Marnie sucked in a breath, kicked away the sled and rolled to her knees. “Ah, geez! I forgot how much it hurts to have the wind knocked out after a fall.” She breathed in as a wave of nausea passed over. She got to her feet, brushed away the snow, pulled her phone from her pocket and turned on the flashlight.
“Halleluiah! Halleluiah!” she sang, spotting a door in one of the stone walls. She glanced around, noting canned goods on shelves, a pair of snowshoes, cross-country skis, and a broken ladder on the wall opposite the door. A fieldstone fireplace graced another wall, stacked with logs and kindling, ready to light. Her eyes followed the chimney that appeared to vent into the wall—not up.
“Hmm… I wonder where that goes.” Eyebrows raised, she crossed to the fireplace, shook her head, and turned back to the door. “I can check that out later. I’ll take door number one, Monty.”
“She’s found Devil’s Hole!” shouted Nolan.
Danny spun around. “Found? Ha! Where’s the trapdoor?”
The ghost shook his head sadly. “I don’t remember.”
Tom walked in a circle, searching the landscape. “Legend says there’s a hemlock tree thirteen paces from the hole.”
“Tchah!” Danny scowled. “They cleared this field for crops years ago.”
“Well, it has to be here. Let’s get Tater and Dickens. They’ll sniff her out. Tater’s done it before.”
Danny nodded. “Okay! Go back to the house. Nolan and I will stay here and keep searching.”
Tom burst through the back door. “Tater! Dickens! Come!”
When the dogs didn’t run to his command, he stomped through the house and found them in the den, digging at the rug in the center of the room.
“Tater! Dickens! Get help!” Marnie’s voice echoed from below the rug.
Tom looked at the smiling Borders. “Do you hear what I hear?”
Day 8, Turvy Prompt: Travel
“Marnie! I’m here! Hang on!” Tom herded the Border Collies off the rug and pulled it aside. He kneeled down, searching for an opening.
“It’s a door, Tom! I can’t open it from this side!” Marnie shouted.
Tom spied a candle and a box of matches on a shelf. He lit the candle and held it close to the floor, then blew it out. Smoke swirled from the wick, traveling down through the floorboards. “Gotcha!” he whispered. Tossing the candle and matches aside, he dug into his pocket for his knife, which he eased into the crack. He ran it around the edges, breaking through years of built up varnish and floor wax. “Marn, push up! I think it will give!”
She planted her feet on the stone step below, pressed her back against the door and pushed. Her head popped up, and she grinned. “Holy crap, Tom! You have got to see this!”
“Nolan, if it’s a trapdoor, it opens up, right?” Danny asked.
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” The ghost laughed, then noting Danny’s icy glare, he added, “It’s spring-loaded. It drops into a root cellar—so to speak.”
“Why would you do that?”
“One too many stouts,” Nolan said, shrugging.
With frustration, the detective ran a hand through his thick hair. “Where the hell is Tom?”
Tom peeked into the hole. “Is it safe down there?”
“Yeah! Grab the dog leads and a flashlight!”
“Wow!” Tom stopped on the bottom step, eyes wide. He marveled at the whiskey barrels sitting atop wagons, dusty canning jars containing amber liquid, old lanterns, and a crude table holding a deck of cards. “This looks like somethin’ out of a movie!”
“C’mon! There’s a door. Let’s see where it goes!” Marnie tugged the wrought-iron ring, and the door creaked open.
As they traveled down a long tunnel, they realized they were in the heart of Creekwood’s underbelly. They’d heard stories, but this was proof! A hundred proof, most likely.
Day 9, Turvy Prompt: Gifts / Presents
“Tom! Call me! Where the hell are you?” Danny yelled into his phone. He jabbed “end,” and shoved it into his pocket. He spun around, a scowl lining his face. “Can’t you find her? You’re a ghost! You should be able to locate your granddaughter!”
“It doesn’t work like that,” the ghost said.
“Ha! You sound like Marnie. She says that all the time.” He turned away and kicked at the snow. “Let’s find Tom,” he called over his shoulder.
Tom clung to Marnie’s elbow as she led the way, the beam of the flashlight dancing up the walls. Tater and Dickens trotted happily behind them, stopping only briefly to sniff the air.
“I’ve counted six locked doors. I wonder where they lead,” Tom whispered.
“You know, there’s a drawer full of skeleton keys in the den. Maybe we’ve found their locks.” Marnie stopped in front of a door and tried the doorknob. Her eyes widened when it turned. “Oh! This one’s unlocked! Shall we?” She pushed through the door with a giggle.
“Ha-ha! We’ve found Grandpa’s stash!” Marnie picked up a bottle and pulled out the plug. She took a whiff and pulled a face. “Phwaw! That’s strong!” She held it up to Tom’s nose, who jerked back, waving a hand in front of his face.
“Whoa! That’s Irish whiskey!”
“Hey! There’s another door!” Marnie crossed the room, turned the knob and disappeared through the opening. She stopped dead in her tracks when she recognized the woman on the other side. “Gram?”
Tom poked his head into the room, his jaw dropping. Tater and Dickens raced to the old woman’s side and sat.
“Oh! How thoughtful! You brought me a present!” Gram eyes twinkled as she snatched the bottle from Marnie’s hand.
Day 10, Turvy Prompt: Holiday Dinner
Danny pushed through the back door. “Tom! Nolan, you check upstairs. I’ll search down here.”
The detective rushed into the living room, the library and then the den, stopping short when he saw the trapdoor laying open. “What the heck?” As he moved closer to investigate, Nolan appeared beside him.
“You’ll need a torch,” said the ghost.
A propane fire burned beneath a copper still in one corner of the room and the drip, drip, drip of amber liquid filled a pot beneath it. A table beside held bottles and labels imprinted with a shamrock and “Flannigan’s Single Malt” in bold, gold lettering.
“Gram, you know this is illegal, right?” Tom asked, rubbing the back of his neck.
She shot him an indignant look. “Not if I have a license!”
Marnie giggled, poking a finger at a distilling license hanging on the wall.
Tom glanced at the license and scratched his head. “Does Danny know about this?”
Gram’s coy expression told them he didn’t.
Danny and Nolan arrived at the open door in time to hear Gram’s explanation.
“Many wrongly accused Nolan of having a multitude of sins. Some were true. Some weren’t. He sold his whiskey to raise money for our town. Now, you can say that’s wrong—illegal, even—but his intentions were righteous. He kept food on the table and a fire in the stoves of many a Creekwood settler. The man was a hero. He died a tired and ruined man because he dedicated his life to helping others.”
“Oh!” said Marnie, remembering her conversation with her grandfather. “But how did you end up with the still?” she asked.
“Danny’s grandfather and I stumbled upon it after we bought the pub. We read Nolan’s diaries and recipes and carried on his tradition. Every penny of profit goes to charity. It wasn’t hard to find buyers. You’ll find a bottle of Flannigan’s Single Malt hidden on the top shelf of most pubs in the county. Those who know, know.”
“Gram, when were you gonna tell me?” Danny asked from the doorway.
“I’ll tell you over dinner. I have a lamb roast in the oven.” Gram scooted around him and out the door. “Come along, now!” she called over her shoulder.
Day 11, Turvy Prompt: Games / Board Games
- Players sit around a candle-lit table. No electric lights allowed.
- A draw of slips of paper from a hat determines who the “murderer” is.
- While engaging in chit-chat, the “murderer” kills by making eye contact and then winking surreptitiously at another player.
- Winked at players must count silently to five before feigning sudden death by slumping forward on the table.
- If a player suspects they know the identity of the murderer, they raise their hand and announce “I accuse”. If they’re wrong, the accuser is out, the game recommences, and the murderer continues their wicked ways.
- The goal is to murder as many people as possible without being caught.
“Fantastic dinner, Gram!” Tom pushed out his chair from the table, covering a burp with his hand.
Marnie hopped up from her chair. “C’mon! Let’s get the table cleared so we can play a game.”
The detectives exchanged glances, sighed and got to their feet, gathering plates, silverware and glasses.
“What game shall we play?” Gram asked.
“Wink murder!” Marnie shouted.
“Ooo! I like that one!” said Gram. “Nolan, you can’t play. Poor Tom can’t see you.”
“Being murdered once is enough for me.” The ghost shrugged before dissipating into a plume of silver smoke.
Danny and Marnie gasped, turning to Gram.
“Is that true?” Marnie asked.
“A story for another day.”
“Is what true?” Tom asked.
“Grandfather said he’d been murdered,” Marnie replied.
Tom pulled a face. “Huh. That seems to happen a lot in Creekwood.”
Danny added logs to the fire while Gram, Tom, and Marnie lit candles around the apartment. When the last wick glowed, Gram turned off the lights, and they gathered around the table.
Marnie pulled the four aces from a deck of cards, tossed them into a large bowl, and passed it around the table for everyone to choose a card. “Whoever gets the ace of spades is the murder.”
Everyone glanced at their card and then turned them upside down on the table
“Gram, tell us what happened to my grandfather. Was he really murdered?” Marnie’s aquamarine eyes fixed on the woman across the table.
“You should ask him, dear. I’ve only heard stories, and he has never confirmed or denied.” Gram sprawled speechlessly across the table.
“Do you think you could look into old police records?” asked Marnie, staring at the detectives in the firelight.
Tom shook his head. “We don’t have anything that old in records.”
“I’m with Tommy. The records don’t go back that far. There may be something at the library though.” Danny clutched his throat before collapsing in a heap.
Tom grinned and winked at Marnie. “We really need more than four people for this game.”
She rolled eyes. “Tom, you are such a winker!”
Day 12, Turvy Prompt: Wildcard
“Every room is chock-full of toys!” Marnie raced up the stairs from the tunnel and into the den to find Nolan standing behind her desk reading her Christmas cards, his eyes glistening—a broad smile upon his face.
“You have lovely friends, child,” he said proudly.
“Yes, I do. I’m very lucky.”
“Do you have any enemies, too?” the ghost asked.
She bit her lip and glanced out the window. “Hmm. One or two.”
“Be careful. Even family and close friends can be dangerous.”
She looked down at Tater and Dickens, who sat wagging their tails, smiling up into her face. “I know, but I have the boys to keep me safe, and of course, Danny, Tom, Gram, and other friends you haven’t met.” Marnie crossed the room and stood in front of her grandfather. “Grandpa, who murdered you?”
He stared down at the desk and sighed. “It’s a long story, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t a good husband or brother.”
“But Gram said you are a hero. She said you did so much good for Creekwood,” she cried.
“Ah! I did, but my family suffered because of it. I took care of everyone but them. Don’t repeat my mistakes, lass. Promise me.”
She nodded, her bottom lip trembling.
“The toys you found in the rooms… I made them all and was to deliver the packages to the tots of Creekwood on Christmas Eve—the night I met my demise. Rather than offering to help to make quick work of the deliveries, my wife and brother dropped a barrel of whiskey on my head.”
“How terrible!” she said, her cheeks burning with anger.
He waved a hand, dismissing her outrage. “They didn’t think they would kill me. They only thought they would stop me from leaving, and I suppose I deserved it. Four children at home, and here I was going out on the most magical night of the year. Never mind. In the end, you can take away a few lessons I have learned.”
Marnie edged closer, her fingertips pressed to her desktop.
“Make your loved ones a priority. Always look up, and last, Christmas in Creekwood is murder!” he said with a wink.
A note from the author: May the spirit of Christmas be with you and not spilled upon you!
Check out all the other authors who participated in the #12DaysOfTurvy Writing Challenge. Their Instagram profiles are below: