Jingle Bells was still playing over the scratchy sound system as Detective Sergeant Abby Sweet walked into the Santa’s grotto. The place was warmly lit with twinkly fairy lights on the roof and a fake fireplace in the corner. They had spared no expense on their Christmas decorations at Toyland, a children’s toy shop where their motto, “Where dreams come true” graced the entrance in large pink and blue letters.
But the scene in front of Abby was more like a nightmare.
“Do we know Santa’s name, Damo?” she asked her junior constable. She was looking at the body sprawled in Santa’s gilt-edged, velvet throne, a gunshot wound at his temple, a gun and old-fashioned tape recorder beside him on the floor. He was still wearing the full Santa suit; beard, hat and all.
“Uh yep, we do, this is Reggie Watts. One time rock star, now the owner of this establishment and part-time Santa, as you can see,” Damo said.
The old tape recorder contained just one message, apparently from the victim. On it he spoke in a strange whispery voice saying, “I’m sorry, I just can’t take it anymore.” There’s a brief pause then the gunshot.
“Anyone here at the time?”
“Just his elves.”
Abby looked sideways at the young policeman.
“He employed the same three men each year, all dwarves,” Damo said. “They were his elves.”
“I see,” Abby said. “Well, lead me to ’em.”
“Yeah, I knew him from his rock ’n’ roll days,” said the first man they spoke to. Mike Nevis still had his green elf costume on, but he was in the washroom scrubbing off his make-up when they found him. “We all heard the bang. I was the first person in there, pressed play on that tape recorder. It was all there.”
“You just pressed play, nothing else?” Abby asked.
Mike crossed his arms and nodded.
“So you think it was suicide, Mike?” Abby asked.
“Yeah, ’course,” he said with a shrug.
They found the next man in the staff kitchen. Roman Orlowski was unshaven and rumpled looking, and his hand shook as he raised a cigarette to his mouth. “He was a mean old git,” he said in a thick Polish accent. “He’d been chipping a bit off our rates every year – cheap, you know?”
“You heard the shot?” Abby asked.
“Yeah, I was just getting here – I was running late. Was coming in the staff entrance at the back when I heard it.”
The last of the unhappy trio of elves was out on the shop floor. Trent Bridges was the youngest of the three and when they found him, he was fussing nervously with some tinsel on the enormous Christmas tree that dominated the middle of the store.
“I work here all year. It’s only at Christmas Mr Watts makes me dress up as an elf,” Trent said, glancing miserably down at his sparkly green costume.
“You were here when it happened, Trent?” Abby asked.
“Oh yeah, I was in the staff room, I’d just changed into my costume, when I heard the bang.”
Abby walked back to the grotto to take one last look at the crime scene.
“Urgh, Damo, can we get this Christmas music turned off, please? It’s giving me a headache.”
When Damo returned, having banished Oh Come All ye Faithful, Abby was crouched in front of the body.
“Well, there’s one thing we know for sure,” she said, standing and plinking a Christmas bell that dangled near her head. “This was no suicide.”
“Oh really, boss?” Damo said.
“Yep, and I know who dispatched our jolly man in red, Damo.”
Who killed Santa (aka Reggie Watts)?
- Mike Nevis
- Roman Orlowski
- Trent Bridges