Give Santa a Hand
This short story appears in Tales by the Tree: An Anthology of Holiday Flash Fiction, an anthology of fantastical Christmas stories.
Give Santa a Hand
Detective Nolan Hamilton ducked under the crime scene tape strung across the smoked glass doors and entered the opulent lobby of Baum, Abraham, and Kaminski. He shook out his trench, sending icy droplets into the air, and sighed heavily, dreaming of his warm apartment and the movie marathon he’d been forced to abandon—not to mention that bottle of Wild Turkey with its foil wrap still intact.
Officer Rhonda Jamison awaited him on the 18th floor, long, flame-red hair loose around her narrow shoulders. He’d never seen her hair down before, nor had he seen her in a knit emerald wrap dress that hugged her curves, while her stiletto heels brought the two of them unnervingly eye to eye.
“Jamison.” Nolan nodded and swallowed. “What have we got?”
“Another holiday party murder.”
Nolan glanced around the undisturbed landscape of the sleek office. “Where?”
“Copy room.” Rhonda led the way, giving Nolan a private viewing of her sashaying hips.
Why had he never noticed her feminine beauty before? He’d always considered Rhonda “one of the guys” in dress blues with no makeup and her hair pulled severely back from her angular face.
Nolan cleared his throat. “I see your evening was disturbed, too.”
Rhonda glanced back at him, amusement twinkling in her eyes. “A gathering with friends. You?”
Rhonda’s eyes traveled over Nolan’s lanky frame, taking in his typical uniform of black slacks, white button-down, and signature well-worn trench, then cocked an eyebrow. “Must have been pretty wild.”
Nolan floundered under her intense stare.
“Here we are.” Rhonda offered a saucy smile and swept her arm toward a frosted glass door.
Officer Grant nodded their way and stepped aside. Nolan and Rhonda pulled on latex gloves before entering the room. Rhonda flicked the switch just inside; bars of fluorescents flickered and hummed to life.
For a moment, Nolan was taken aback. The rest of the building was decorated in neutral grays, but this room held a jarring burst of color. He glanced at the long table along one wall, multiple copy machines, and cabinetry before realizing crimson wasn’t part of the décor. The killer had used the room as a canvas for macabre abstract art. Above the copy machines, CHEATER was painted in stark lettering.
The floor was littered with photocopies as if the machines had gone mad and spewed hundreds of pages. In a shadowed corner of the room, he knew he’d find a handless victim.
The coppery stench of blood danced its way up Nolan’s nostrils. Even after ten years on the force, his stomach still rolled a little. “Who’s the unlucky bastard?”
Nolan’s eyebrows shot up. “The senior partner?”
Nolan ran a rough hand over his face. There had been seven murders so far, all involving holiday parties. Each time, a handless body was left behind along with a verifiable accusation against the victim. They had no suspects, and the mayor’s office was leaning heavily on the department to make an arrest.
“Shit. The mayor’s going to go ballistic.”
“Maybe not.” Rhonda offered up a satisfied smile that sent a thrill through Nolan for more than one reason. “We caught a bit of a break.”
“You know my theory that there’s a common thread here? Take a look at this.” Rhonda pulled a business card from her purse and handed it to Nolan.
The real Saint Nick will be the life of your next event! Available for corporate parties, photo shoots, and fund raisers. Book early—dates go fast.
Nolan flipped the card over to a picture of a jolly looking Santa posing in front of a fireplace. “Oookay . . .”
“This particular Santa was present at all the events in question.”
* * *
Nick Santos’ chubby fingers drummed against the table in the interrogation room. His back ached, and his sciatic nerve throbbed like a bad toothache. The cops had been grilling him for hours, accusing him of being the Holiday Slayer.
Detective Hamilton slapped a stack of photos on the table. The glossy paper did a slow slide, fanning out in a flip show of horror. Walls splashed with blood. Frozen hands.
Nick waved a meaty hand. “Why are you showing me these?”
“Recognize this shot, Mr. Santos?” Hamilton slid a photo in front of him.
“Hey, that’s my house! How’d you get in?”
“It’s called a warrant.” He slid another photo in front of Nick and tapped a finger on it. “Got you dead to rights.”
Nick’s face turned purple. “What? You planted evidence! I didn’t kill nobody!”
“I suppose we also fabricated the DNA you left at the crime scenes? Better get yourself a kick-ass lawyer, Santos. You’re going down—it’s just a matter of for how long.”
“No. I’ve been good . . .” Nick shook his head. Ever since that night.
“We found something else of interest in the course of our investigation.” Hamilton leaned back in his chair casually and tossed another photo down. “This has been missing since the Bellamy slaying four years ago.”
Icy prickles climbed Nick’s spine at the sight of the ugly statue, an artifact found in a tomb by Jason Bellamy during an archaeological expedition. The hollow eyes stared up at him, hideous even in a photograph. It was supposedly a karmic totem.
Of the group of four men that had conspired to steal it, Nick was the only one remaining. Lefty was hit by a train. Bart was currently lolling behind the walls of a sanitarium. Mike had hung himself, leaving behind a cryptic note that said You win.
“Where did you find it?”
“Sitting on your mantle.”
Nick’s chair scraped against the floor as he pushed back from the table. “That’s impossible!”
Because we all agreed to bury it after weird shit started happening.
Jason Bellamy and his wife came home early that night. Mike and Lefty slaughtered them; Nick and Bart watched. And now the statue they’d buried was back—for him.
Nick nodded, ready to accept his punishment for being a coward. “I confess.”
In the evidence room, the eyes of the statue glowed crimson for a moment before fading back to muddy brown.