Friday, December 11, 2015
A medium snowfall fell from the skies, blanketing the city of Tejas, Texas in a soft, white blanket. On a street corner just out in front of a large newly built toy store in downtown Tejas, a man stood dressed in a Santa Claus suit holding a red metal bucket in one hand and ringing a small silver bell in the other. As multiple people on the street passed by him smiling and giving him a friendly wave, the costumed gentleman waved back at them returning the smile. A few people before going into the toy store behind the gentleman, stopped and put a few bills into his red bucket. The gentleman politely thanked them for their donation with a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye. A few small children who were with their parents of course couldn’t help but ask the man if he was the real Santa. The man of course laughed rather heartily and replied that he was merely one of Santa’s older and taller elves. His sharp and quick answer made the children squeal with delight. The children also broke into bright shiny smiles the moment the Santa asked some of the children what they wanted for Christmas. The parents themselves felt their own hearts swell deep in their chests from the warmth of the holiday magic as they watched their kids talking with the Santa Claus before heading into the giant toy store.
Later on the toy store employees began closing down the store for the evening and locking the front doors. As soon as the exterior lights above the large store went off, the Santa took that as his que it was time to head home for the evening. He heard the phrase “Goodnight” and the name “Maurice” being called and so he turned behind him to face one of the toy store’s large picture windows to see an employee shouting at him through the glass. Maurice the man inside the Santa costume; waved back at a young, red-orange curly haired woman. Then with his red bucket and small bell in hand, he started walking off down the sidewalk for a narrow alley located behind the toy store which was where he’d parked his car earlier that afternoon. As he headed to his car, Maurice thought about this Christmas season and the few before that. He’d collected donations of all kinds for the Tejas children’s home for the last four years so that the kids in the orphanage could afford to have a decent Christmas, a MAGICAL Christmas. Maurice was a retired marine corps vet so he didn’t have anything else better to do with his time at the moment. In his opinion, this was a much more worthwhile use of his time rather than sit at home like most retirees and play those useless Facebook games.
Parked in the alley directly behind the toy store near one of the loading docks and covered in a heavy blanket of snow like most everything else in the city, was an older model black Lincoln town car. Maurice hardly ever went anywhere so he hadn’t needed a new car for years. He stood next to his car and placed the red pail which was half-filled up with cash and quite a few coins on the roof of his car while he got the car keys out. He shook with a chill as he was unlocking the door. Even with his thick Santa coat on it felt like he was freezing. The temperature was DEFINITELY dropping and it was dropping fast. The weatherman on Channel Three had said around six that evening it was supposed to be in the lower teens by the end of the weekend. If it was going to be that cold, Maurice didn’t know how he was going to stand out in front of that toy store; Santa Claus suit or not! Maybe the store would let him stand inside if it got too cold. Normally they had a policy of not allowing solicitors inside, even if it was for a good cause. This was the Christmas season though so maybe they’d make an exception. All he cared about at the moment was getting into his car and getting the heat going.
As Maurice was about to grab his bucket from the roof of the car and get inside he thought he heard the jingling of what sounded almost like sleigh bells in the alley somewhere nearby. He looked up and down the alley for a moment but couldn’t really see anything as there wasn’t any kind of streetlamps. He then briefly ducked his head inside the car so he could put the bucket with the money inside the front passenger seat. As he put one leg inside to get into the car himself and close the door he heard the bells again. Maurice looked around the alley again. “Is somewhere there?!” Maurice called out. There was nothing but the momentary echo of his own voice. When no one answered once again, he climbed into his car behind the wheel and started the engine so he could get the heater started and ramped up. As he was about to close the door, the jingling bells sounded once more. Maurice was fed up! He got out of his car and went to the back, around to the trunk and opened it. He reached inside and pulled out a tire iron. He then turned and looked up and down the alley again. “Okay who’s out there?!” Maurice then started to wade through the heavy snow down to the other end of the alley as the bells sounded again. Behind him the taillights from his car lit up the alley somewhat, giving a portion of the alley and snow covered street an eerie red glow. The bells sounded again and again, this time the as the bells would ring, they sounded as if they were almost ringing instantly or nonstop as it were. Maurice gripped the tire iron tightly in his right hand. He was prepared for whoever was playing with him. He’d knock their marbles into place. That would teach them to pick on an old man!
It was near a fire escape, more than halfway down the alley before Maurice found the source of the never-ending, jingling sleigh bells. Taped to the bottom rung of the fire escape’s ladder was what looked like a small black micro-recorder. Maurice relaxed then lowered his tire iron, reached out and yanked the recorder away from the rung of the ladder. He let the tire iron drop to the ground in the snow for a moment while he fiddled with the settings on the micro-recorder. The recorder he had found was OBVIOUSLY the source of the jingling bells he’d been hearing. After looking over the small device for a minute or so, he discovered the settings were set to auto playback and then set into an endless loop. Surprisingly enough for such a small device, the sound quality seemed to be top notch. Then again with the alley as small as it was, it really wasn’t a surprise that sound had little to no problem being projected around. Further back down the alley Maurice thought he heard the sound of a car door slamming shut. He instantly dropped the recorder in the snow, then retrieved his tire iron and walked as fast as he could back to his car.
When Maurice reached his car he noticed that his trunk had been closed. Obviously someone was screwing with him. “Alright you kids! Just go on and get outta here!” Maurice yelled out into the night air. Fog came out of his mouth as he yelled indicating the temperature was dropping rapidly as it was getting later into the evening. Maurice opened his trunk and put the tire iron back beneath his spare tire then slammed the trunk shut. Afterwards he went back to the driver’s side door and climbed in. Maurice in his haste to run off down the alley chasing the jingling bells, he’d forgotten when he left the trunk open he had also originally left the driver’s side door open. Once inside the warm cabin of the car he immediately removed his hat, and the black leather gloves he was wearing tossing them into the passenger seat next to his bucket of cash. He sat there for a moment with the engine idling and rubbing his hands together enjoying the warmth coming from the vents. Then he noticed it. The large green envelope taped to the center of the steering wheel, with his name on it written in cursive. He would’ve been lying to himself if he said he wasn’t curious. Maurice snatched the envelope off the steering wheel and quickly ripped it open. Inside the envelope was a plain white business card inside. The only thing on the reverse side of the business card were two words. The words “Naughty List” were typed as neat and then centered to near perfection as possible. Maurice was convinced by now more than ever someone was playing a joke on him. Maurice couldn’t care less however, as he didn’t have time for childish games. He tossed the business card along with the envelope behind him over his right shoulder then he put his car in gear. He checked all his mirrors then began to drive forward.
For once Ethan Mendoza was riding in a standard police cruiser with his partner Trevor Hemphill. Both Ethan and Trevor, were detectives in the homicide division for the Tejas Police Department. At the moment the two detectives were headed out to the mall so Trevor could do a little bit of last minute Christmas shopping that he had promised his wife he’d do. Ethan didn’t have anyone himself he usually bought gifts for, except maybe his father. Most of Ethan’s family still lived out west in El Paso on the reservation, and he had no plans of going to visit any of them for Christmas if he could help it. That is unless his father asked him to go then of course Ethan knew he would be screwed, blued, and tattooed. The car’s police band was mostly quiet except for a small bit of idle chatter between other police officers and the dispatch. The regular radio was tuned to a country music oldies station which is what Trevor usually listened to most of the time in his car. Ethan didn’t mind it so much, but his genre that he liked to listen to was alternative and then some garage grunge.
As they were sitting at a red light not far from the mall Trevor looked over at Ethan and said in his usual gruff tone, “You doing any shopping while we’re here?” Ethan looked over at him and frowned. “Shopping for who? It’s just me and my father. Besides, I don’t really celebrate Christmas.” Trevor frowned right back at him as he started driving forward. “You’re a real Grinch ya’ know that Mendoza?” Ethan let out a laugh. “Why? Because I don’t celebrate a bullshit holiday?” Trevor sighed. “Aww c’mon man! What’s bullshit about it?” “You want the short answer or the long, detailed version?”
It was Trevor’s turn to laugh a little. “How about just tell me how you got to be such a dick so early in your life? And so anti-American I might add!” Ethan laughed at his partner’s assumption. “Oh I’m anti-American huh? Just because I don’t celebrate Christmas?” Trevor nodded as he was navigating the car into the parking lot of the huge mall. “Yeah, in my opinion you are! Anyone that doesn’t celebrate Christmas is pretty darned anti-American in my book!” “Well your book’s wrong and it’s full of holes. Look Trev it all comes down to this.” Ethan started explaining as Trevor was trying to find a decent parking spot. It didn’t take long to find a spot close to the entrance and as Trevor was parking, Ethan continued to explain why he really wasn’t into celebrating Christmas. As the two of them got out of the car and started walking towards the large mall entrance Ethan continued.
“Have you watched some of the videos on YouTube of people stomping each other at Wal-Mart on Black Friday?” Ethan asked. “Oh yeah man! It’s freaking hilarious ain’t it?! I love watching those videos!” Trevor said. He was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. Ethan just gave him a weird look as they entered the mall. “So you think that’s funny then people getting beat up over a plasma?” Trevor let out another small laugh as they were walking then looked at Ethan. “Nah I guess not. I forgot I was partnered up with someone who couldn’t find a sense of humor in a haystack!” Soon as they stepped inside Ethan walked up to an illuminated directory. Trevor walked up slapped him in the back of his leather coat playfully. “C’mon man! We don’t need that; I know where I’m going!” Ethan shrugged and walked off with him. As they were getting near some of the fashionable clothing stores and the food court, they continued their conversation. The mall meanwhile was crowded with people everywhere, both young and old doing their last minute shopping. Over the loudspeakers of the mall the sounds of instrumental Christmas music could be heard.
In the center of the mall near a large fountain, kids were lined up with their parents for some reason or another near what looked like some kind of fake gingerbread village sitting in the middle of what looked to be fake snow. Ethan strained his neck to see what all the fuss was about as they were walking along. Towards the back of the village there was someone dressed up in a Santa Claus suit sitting on a large blue chair made to resemble a king’s throne and decorated with multicolored blinking Christmas lights. Near him were young teenage girls that were dressed up as elves and the elves seemed to be guiding children up to sit on Santa’s lap.
Trevor entered a popular video game store while Ethan waited outside near a jewelry store. There were two Tejas police officers standing near the entrance to the jewelry store he knew and so he was chatting with them. While Trevor was inside getting something for his son, Ethan’s cell rang. He excused himself, saying goodbye to the two officers then stepped a few feet away so he could answer his phone. He pulled it from an interior pocket of his jacket and swiped his finger across the smooth surface then put it to his ear. “Yeah this is Mendoza.” About ten minutes later when Trevor came out of the store carrying a large plastic bag, he saw Ethan talking on his phone and then noticed the serious look on his partner’s face. “Aww c’mon man this is Christmas!” Trevor said. “I understand sir.” Ethan could be heard saying into the phone. He then put his phone away after hanging it up. Trevor sighed. “You’re kidding me right?!” He asked. Ethan shook his head. “Okay what is it and where is it?” “You’ll never guess!” Ethan said with a smile. Trevor looked at him oddly. “I swear Mendoza! Sometimes I think you live for this job. So where is it?” “C’mon, I’ll tell you on the way unless you have more shopping to do.” Trevor held up the plastic bag in his left hand containing a PlayStation Four and a few games. “Nah I guess I’m done! I might as well order the rest of my shit online now!”
With holiday traffic it took about twenty minutes or so for Trevor and Ethan to get across town and into the downtown area. It wasn’t long after getting into downtown before they had arrived at the crime scene. Trevor nodded at the large sign on the front of the toy store sitting on the corner of Main and Orleans. “Yeah, my son’s been wanting to come here to see some of the toys. They claim to have some toys from other parts of the world.” “Ian should be parked around back in the alley.” Ethan said. “Of course it’s in the alley!” Trevor said. “They’re ALWAYS in the alley aren’t they?” Ethan tilted his head at him, grinned and said, “Well if anything, these freaks always predictable.” As Trevor was turning the squad car around the street corner and into the alley, the black forensic van belonging to the City of Tejas came into view. Parked near the rear of the van and blocking off direct access to the alley were three black and white current model Ford Cobra Mustangs. The Tejas police cruisers were parked almost in a W-shape pattern.
Ahead of the forensic van the two detectives could see a late model black Lincoln town car parked behind the back of the toy store near one of the loading docks. Ethan got out before Trevor could even get the engine turned off and started walking; practically running towards the forensic van. He looked up and down the snow covered alley as he was going. Even though he was wearing black gloves to match his jacket, his hands felt like mini-ice cubes. He knew why they’d been called to the alley behind the toy store. Ethan continued to walk down the alley where Ian Holmes, the youthful, medical examiner was kneeling on one knee near a fire escape, with a clipboard containing some papers and pen in his hands. He had his head bent at an angle and it also looked like he was making notes on the papers on his clipboard. On the ground in front of him was something that Ethan couldn’t quite make out. At least not until he got closer. Behind him Trevor was catching up. When Ethan walked up to where Ian was kneeling down, he could finally see what the medical examiner was looking at. He was surprised to see that the object on the ground appeared to be the fresh remains of an upper human torso. He was even more surprised to see that the torso seemed to be dressed in a Santa Claus suit.
“What in the hell is that?!” Ethan heard the voice of Trevor say behind him. Ian turned his head sharply to look up at both Ethan and Trevor. “What this is Detective… is the remains of Santa Claus!” “You mean he really is real?!” Trevor asked feigning shock. Ethan snorted and looked behind him briefly. “You’re not that gullible right?” Even Ian had to laugh at Ethan’s cynicism. “Of course I’m not! So what the hell kinda crap are we lookin’ at here lab rat?!” Trevor pulled a smoke from out of his jacket pocket and lit it up. Ian cursed silently to himself. He reminded himself that Trevor was just an ignorant redneck and he’d just have to make do with the people he had to work with. At least Ethan showed promise. Ethan never treated him like less than a human being. Ian pointed with the pen he was holding. “What we’re looking at is the remains of one Maurice James.” Ethan was impressed. “Wow! Nice work man! How’d you find out who he was so fast?” “Well when the rest of him is sitting inside the front seat of his car, it really wasn’t that hard. Plus, it also helps that his driver’s license was inside the pants, which of course is still attached to his lower torso.”
Ian stood up and motioned for the two detectives to follow him. Ian tromped back through the snow past the black town car to the forensic van. He went around to the back and opened one of the doors then retrieved two pairs of blue forensic gloves, and then handed them to Trevor and Ethan. Then he headed over to the victim’s car with the detectives close behind. “Prepare yourselves.” Ian said. Ethan nodded and told him to open the door. Ian put his clipboard and pen on the roof of the car then opened the driver’s side door. The minute Trevor saw the inside of the car he immediately turned and hurled up his breakfast. Piled into the front seat was the remains of Maurice James. The front seat itself, including the steering wheel and dashboard had dried blood smeared all over. “Okay that’s just disturbing.” Was Ethan’s only response. He looked behind him and asked if Trevor was okay or if he needed a moment. His partner shook his head and said he’d be okay. “Any idea who did this?” Ethan asked. Trevor turned back around wiping his mouth off.
Ian shook his head. He opened the rear left door and retrieved the green Christmas card envelope along with the business card that Maurice had tossed into the backseat the night before. He handed both objects to Ethan so he could examine them. Ethan looked at the name on the front of the envelope and how it had Maurice’s written name and then he noticed what was typed on the business card. He then handed the items to Trevor who was still recovering from the initial shock of seeing the gory remains. “The naughty list huh? Any idea what it means?” Ethan asked. Ian shook his head and put his back to the car leaning up against the side. “I can’t tell you anything definitive at the moment dude. I can tell you this though. You know Francis with The county coroner’s office itself right?” Both detectives nodded. “Yeah he called last week and he mentioned how he responded to three different crime scenes over in Mid-County, and when he got there, he found similar victims. Apparently someone out there doesn’t like Santa Claus.”
Trevor rubbed his face a couple of times with his hands. “I need another smoke I’ll be back in a minute. I left my other pack in the car. Mendoza you can handle things here?” Ethan nodded at him. After he was gone Ian asked him, “And he’s supposed to be a homicide detective?” “I know right? I’ve got a stronger stomach than him it seems. So anyways, how’d this person, assuming this is a person pull this off?” Ethan asked. Ian stood away from the car and then leaned over into the car. He pointed to one of the leg portions of the victim laying across the front seat. Ethan bent down so he could see what Ian was pointing at.
“You see how it’s a mostly neat and clean edge here? Ethan nodded. “It’s not typically jagged like it would be if the person had used a serrated blade. The cuts were mostly clean and straight across so I am guessing it was some kinda surgical tool, but I’ll know for sure what kind of weapon or tool was used once I get the remains back to the lab. Now here’s the ugly part.” Ethan motioned to the smeared blood on the inside of the car. “How much worse can it get?” Ian frowned. “A lot worse I’m afraid man, a lot worse! Mr. James our victim, well he was alive when he was cut up.” Ethan rolled his eyes. “So you’re telling me he felt all of this? And you’re gonna try and tell me no one heard him screaming?” Ian shook his head. “Most likely not and you know why?” “I haven’t the foggiest.” Ethan said with a slight shake of his head. “I can tell you why.” Trevor said as he walked up and stood next to Ethan. He took another final drag off his cigarette then tossed it away. “There’s nothing but businesses in the downtown area. And if he worked inside that toy store then he was probably leaving after they closed last night.” Ian was impressed. So maybe Trevor wasn’t a stupid, useless hillbilly after all.
“Actually Detective according to the patrol officers over there, Mr. James didn’t work for the toy store. He was collecting money for some orphanage in town to buy them Christmas presents.” Ian said. “You mean like one of those guys that rings those bells?” Trevor asked. Ian nodded. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.” Ethan peeked inside the front of the car then the back. “Then where’s the money?” Ethan asked looking at Ian. “That’s a good question. But for some reason I don’t think this was about money. And the reason why is because of that business card I showed to you.” “What do you think it’s about then?” Trevor asked. Ian smiled. “Detective that’s your job. My job is just to figure out how they did it. I will of course let you know once the toxicology comes back, because personally I don’t believe for a second he was conscious while he was being chopped up. At least I hope to god he wasn’t!” “Yeah, I can imagine that would’ve probably hurt like hell!” Trevor said. Ethan thanked Ian then told him that he and Trevor were going to get out of his way and let him finish doing his thing. In the meantime, the two of them were going to head inside to talk to the toy store employees about the Santa Claus.
It wouldn’t be long before the city of Tejas would once more be gripped by an immeasurable amount of fear, overwhelming panic, and ultimately mass hysteria. In a season that was recognized globally as one regarding joy, celebration, and normally a time of peace; in the city of Tejas the streets were running red with blood. Simon Baker the local conservative shock jock as usual had taken it upon himself to nickname the killer. It wasn’t long before the nickname would start to be used by anchors working for Channel Three Action News and then journalists working for The Tejas Herald, the city’s local paper. Once more another citywide curfew was in effect until the police could find and catch the city’s newest serial killer.
However, before the Christmas season would be all over with, “The Kris Kringle Killer” would claim the lives of at least five more people dressed up as Santa Claus. At every other crime scene like the one where the body of Maurice James was found, a similar large solid green or solid red envelope with the name of the victim written in cursive on the front of the envelope was also found. And of course stashed inside each envelope was a plain white business card with the words “Naughty List” typed upon it.
©December 11, 2015 The previous story is a complete work of fiction. Any names, characters, places and incidents contained herein are products of the author’s highly overactive and creative imagination. Any resemblance to any actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Please do not re-print from my stories anywhere without my express written permission. This is my creative work and even though I may choose to share samples of some of my work online with close and personal friends, I would hope no one would take advantage of my good nature and steal portions my work and then change them up for their own benefit or personal gain. This notice at the end of all my books/stories serves as my official copyright notice. Any characters in official capacity including names of characters or having to do with the actual plot of the story are all copyrighted by me.