“I wondered when you would show up.” Dave stepped away from the body on the floor to let Helen get a look. The gold detective badge clipped to his belt flashed in the sun streaming in the small shop’s front window.
“Place is crawling with cops. Had to find a good spot to land.” She crouched down. “Same as always. Strangled, dressed up as Santa. The note was in his hands? And hit on the head?”
Dave nodded. “Yep. This guy may only show up once a year, but he’s consistent. Gotta give him that.”
Helen looked up as two medical examiners wheeled a gurney into the room. “Oh, hello, Helen. Didn’t know you’d arrived. Have a good flight in?”
“Uh, yeah. Not bad. Find anything new on this one?”
“Not so far. We’ll let you know if we do.” He and his partner lifted the body onto the gurney and covered it. They wheeled it out and loaded it onto their vehicle.
“Where’s the note?” She took the sealed plastic bag Dave handed her. The note inside was similar to the ones found on previous years’ victims. Printed on holiday paper, it had only two words on it: Crule Yule.
“Wish we knew what that meant. Deliberate misspelling or not?” Dave looked down at the spot where the body had lain. “One victim a week, all December. Then he just disappears again. Three years in a row.”
“Four.” At her word, Dave glanced up to see her running a hand under the turtleneck sweater she always wore.
“Yeah, sorry. We’ve had him for three. Which leaves us with another question? Why change locations? You had just the one year, and one victim. Now, he comes here, and we get four every year.” He looked out the door where the coroner was just pulling away from the curb. “Too many questions, and not nearly enough time to find answers. Hard to put together a case when your killer only shows up once a year.”
“Time of death?”
“About eight hours, near as they can figure. Delivery guy came in to drop off some stuff and found him right where you saw him.”
“So, just about midnight. Like all the others.”
Dave watched her for a moment. “Too bad you didn’t get a look at him back when…” He stopped.
“If I’d known, I’d have lined the room with mirrors.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Sorry. I know you didn’t mean anything. It’s just- I wish I’d gotten a look at this creep, too. He’s good. Hits his vics from behind, doesn’t leave a scrap of evidence.”
“He’ll make a mistake at some point. They always do. Then, we’ll get him, and you can rest easy. Though I think I’ll miss you when that happens. You’re the most unusual partner I’ve worked with, and this is probably the most unusual case I’ve worked, but it makes me look forward to Christmas. Well, not to the dead folk, of course. But your showing up, I meant.”
Helen smiled, just a bit. “It’s been good working with you, too, Dave. Not many people would take it as well as you did. I appreciate that. And, don’t worry. I’ll be around for a while, at least until this one goes cold. And, unless we get lucky, I’ll see you next year.” She watched Dave walk out of the small shop. She stepped up to the window as he climbed into his car, parked at the curb. Catching her reflection in the shop window, she tugged the front of her turtleneck down, exposing the scar lines around her neck. It looked like someone had wrapped two thin wires around her throat and pulled them tight. She rubbed the scar with one hand, and sighed. She pulled the turtleneck back up as Dave waved and turned car into the stream of traffic. If he’d looked back now, all he would see was a blank window.
(Picture: Spirit of Christmas Past by Linda Mason)
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