Holiday Grind

To Alex, Andrew, and Tia

Never stop believing in goodness.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I’m often asked what coffeehouses helped inspire me to create the Village Blend. Joe is always at the top of my list—Joe, the Art of Coffee, that is, whose flagship store is located in the heart of Greenwich Village. Joe’s visionary founder, Jonathan Rubinstein, and his sister Gabri ella run Joe’s with the same dedication to quality and the community that I imagine Clare Cosi does.

I’d also like to recognize Joe’s coffee director, Amanda Byron, whose fun and informative coffee classes helped educate me on the romance of the bean as well as the culinary expertise of the barista. Since I began writing the Coffeehouse Mysteries, Joe has expanded to several locations in New York—and kudos to them for being named by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top coffee bars in the country. For more information, you can visit their online home at www.joetheartofcoffee.com.

No book goes from laptop to printed page without the help of an intrepid posse of publishing professionals, and the people at Berkley Prime Crime are among the best in the business. I’d especially like to thank Executive Editor Wendy McCurdy for her editorial ingenuity and generosity of spirit. A shout-out also goes to Allison Brandau and Katherine Pelz for their good cheer and hard work.

As always, I thank my husband, Marc, who—as many of you already know—is my partner in writing not only this Coffeehouse Mystery series but also our Haunted Bookshop Mysteries. (A better partner a girl couldn’t ask for.)

For his consistent professionalism, I thank my agent John Talbot. For advice on matters medical, Dr. Grace Alfonsi is my angel—if literary license is taken in this area, the blame is mine. A tip of the hat also goes to Sammy L. for his tips on Jamaican slang and cuisine.

A sincere salute must be given to the dedicated officers of the Sixth Precinct, which serves and protects Greenwich Village. As these are light works of amateur sleuth fiction, I sometimes take liberties with police procedure, but be assured that my respect for the men and women of the NYPD knows no bounds.

Given the premise of this fictional story, I’d also like to recognize two very real and worthy holiday charities. Operation Santa Claus, run by the employees of the U.S. Postal Service, allows the general public to answer letters to Santa from needy children and families. The dedicated bell ringers of the Salvation Army also aid families in need with the donations they collect via their street-corner kettles. If you’d like to learn more about these two charities, just turn to the afterword of this book.

Finally, I’d like to send good cheer to all of you Santa Clauses out there. In an age when anxiety and cynicism keep far too many hands firmly clenched inside pockets, you represent the true spirit of the holidays. Thank you for understanding what joy there is in the simple act of giving.

Yours sincerely,

Cleo Coyle

I have always thought of Christmas time . . . as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women . . . open their shut-up hearts freely and think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave . . .

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

PROLOGUE

SANTA’D been naughty . . .

He also had a pattern, and the shooter was counting on it.

Out the door at noon, then a bus downtown. By one, the white-bearded wanderer was checking in at the depot near Union Square, picking