A few days before Christmas, select members of LAPD’s Threat Management Unit, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of West Hollywood, gather for an unexpected holiday party. They’ve all received engraved invitations to a chalet-style house in the Hollywood Hills, notorious for its alleged decadent swingers’ parties that go on for days. Nobody’s heard of the host, but these men are all single and um, desperate. Upon arrival, a masked man offers each guest a champagne cocktail that promises to deliver each man his secret Christmas wish.
Lucius Partridge suddenly wants to do unspeakable things with a pear tree. Two men who previously hated each other now can’t keep their hands off each other. Tommy Pearl, the group curmudgeon, finds creative uses for five gold rings he mysteriously finds in his pocket. And he can’t stop. The wicked party host informs them all that only true love can break his lusty spell.
Are the choir members destined to be undone by their deepest desires? What is this weird curse, anyway? Can anything help them? Or will The Twelve Days of Christmas be the start of a long trip to hell?
Easter Smeaton stared in awe at the gigantic white building. The trademark Apple sign shone from the gleaming storefront as Bing Crosby’s Christmas classic, Let it Snow, boomed out over the West Hollywood outdoor mall’s sound system. This made it twice since he’d arrived twenty minutes ago, casing the joint.
Little kids and adults alike squealed as snow fell from the sky. It settled on their shoulders and the boughs of three massive, heavily decorated holiday trees in the mall’s center square.
A red and green trolley decked out with bells and ribbons, hustled by, shoppers aboard clutching store bags. Some held out gloved hands to catch snowflakes on their fingers. One guy even tried catching them with his open mouth. What a putz. It almost made Easter laugh. He swiveled his gaze back to the store.
All this snow gave an air of authenticity to the holiday vibe. Except it never snowed in Los Angeles. Well, it did once, in 1962, but according to Easter’s research that was a fluke and had never happened again.
Was the snow here a Christmas miracle?
“Let’s boogie,” a voice muttered in Easter’s ear. Ugh. Tommy Pearl. The office curmudgeon.
Adjusting his camera glasses, Easter stepped forward, his gaze pivoting in all directions as he went inside the store. Stunned by the frenzied activity, Easter tamped down a flash of panic at the thirty or so people milling around the shelves and display tables. He hoped like hell that his camera was taking photos, as it was supposed to be, every few seconds.
A store associate lounging at the Genius Bar straightened, approaching him. “Hi, can I help you?” His name tag identified him as Kyle. As far as Easter knew, Kyle had been with the store since it had opened a month ago.
“Hey.” Easter smiled back. “I’m interested in the Powerbeats Pro earbuds. My nephew’s an athlete and I think he’ll really dig them.”
“Dig them?” Tommy let out a snarky cackle in his ear.
Shut up! Easter forced a smile on his lips.
Kyle nodded. “Everybody loves ’em. We just got the black ones back in. They’ve been on backorder until this morning. Did you want the black, or would you prefer ivory, navy, or moss?” He pointed to a well-stocked wall display.
He’s like Vanna White, showcasing letters. Earphones for two hundred bucks. “Black, please.” Easter needed to get his hands on these wireless earphones since they were so coveted.
Kyle whipped them from the metal hook and led him to the row of cashiers.
“Shimmy down the chimney,” a gravelly voice whispered in Easter’s free ear. Then a tongue flicked at his lobe.
What the actual…what? He whipped around. Nobody was there.
“Easter? You okay?” Tommy sounded panicked.
“Yeah.” Easter smiled at Kyle, hoping Tommy believed him. “Thanks.” He was rattled. Where had the voice come from? And why had he imagined being licked? He glanced around but everybody seemed focused on spending their hard-earned money.
Man, I’m so horny I’m hearing and, ugh…feeling things.
Kyle tapped something onto the keyboard of a small mobile device.
I wonder if that’s real or is it a fake? Easter zeroed in on Kyle’s dexterous fingers for a moment.
“Pan across the cashiers. We need to get their faces,” Tommy commanded.
Easter longed to scream, “Duh,” but of course, he didn’t.
“Was there anything else you needed today?” Kyle asked.
“Nope. That ought to do it.” Easter longed to slap handcuffs on the guy but couldn’t. Not yet, anyway. He kept staring at the endless wall displays.
“Great. Have a nice day and Happy Holidays to you.” Kyle placed the package on the counter as though he didn’t trust Easter with it. He took off without waiting for a response.
Easter was third in line, which gave him plenty of time to scan the computers, cash registers, and the constant activity of credit cards being inserted into chip readers. He tried not to fret about the countless strangers giving up their valuable, private information.
“Unreal, isn’t it?” Tommy muttered.
Easter ground out a dismayed “Yeah.”
The heavy scent of Brut aftershave invaded his senses. Easter glanced to his right and noticed a man in heavy woolen scarves, a coat and balaclava examining cell phone displays. Easter recognized the smell as Caveman Original. Yeah. The guy looked like a caveman but was part of Easter’s crew. Why the hell was Lucius Partridge in the store? Dressed like this?
Easter gulped. Something was wrong.
Snow, Lucius mouthed and left the store again.
“You ready?” a woman’s voice sang out.
Easter moved forward as the harried sales associate beckoned him as though he were a wayward child.
What the hell was going on and why was Tommy Pearl suddenly silent? Why wasn’t he giving Easter updates? And how was it that the smell of Brut aftershave lingered?
“Cash or charge?” the sales associate asked.
He offered cash for the transaction.
“Would you like to sign up for an Apple credit card today?”
“No thanks.” He held up the bills in his hand. She gave him a hard stare. Gen Xers were all about plastic, but no way could or would Easter fork over a damned credit card.
“Did anyone else help you today?” she asked.
Was this a trick question? “Just Kyle.”
“Oh, right.” She rang up the sale with an air of annoyance, pointed to the chip reader and he shook his head.
“I gave you cash, remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Right.” Nostrils flared, she snatched the receipt off the printer, handed him his change and held the earphones as she fixed him with another sharp glance. “Will you be needing a bag for this today?”
“Yes.” Boy, people were taking the recycling thing a little too far these days. Besides, he needed the store bag for evidence.
“Thanks, and have a nice day.” She almost flung his purchase at him. At least she didn’t charge him for the bag as some stores did.
“She’s a charm school dropout.” Tommy chuckled in Easter’s ear.
It was only then that Easter realized where he’d seen Kyle before. Not on just numerous surveillance photos and footage, but from before.