The bishop was dead. Stabbed through the heart. His carcass was left in front of the alter, clutching a calling card with a single blackbird printed on it.
To the untrained eye this would look like an isolated incident, but to Nicky Saint, Boston’s premiere private eye, this was another Christmas murder.
“How can this be related to Christmas?” the police officer guarding the crime scene asked Nicky.
“It’s the twenty-eighth of December, the fourth day of Christmas, right? Well, according to the song, the gift for today is ‘four colly birds.'” Nicky stooped down to get a closer look at the knife wound. It was clean, professional, one hard jab and the work was done.
“Don’t you mean ‘calling birds’?” the cop said.
“Common mistake,” Nicky replied. “It’s actually ‘colly’, an Old World term for the common blackbird.”
“Ah,” said the cop taking a second look at the image on the bloody card in the bishop’s hands. “But why the bishop?”
Nicky stood up and looked around the chapel. The perpetrator didn’t force his way in, the church had been open since eight o’clock this morning. He had probably walked right in and sat in the front pew just like any member of the laity would. In fact, judging from the angle of the wound and the pattern of blood on the floor, he had sat on the west side of the building. Then, as soon as the bishop happened by…
“I don’t think the killer cared who the bishop was, I think he only cared where he was,” Nicky said.
“Meaning here at St. Matthew’s?” the cop said gazing up a the statue of St. Matthew presiding over the choir loft.
“Precisely. According to legend, the Twelve Days of Christmas song corresponds to a Catholic catechism in which the four colly birds represent the four gospels.”
“John,” Nicky said. “And all four are names of cathedrals in Boston.”
“Blimey, we should warn them other priests,” the cop said rushing out of the building to find a call box.
“You scare off the police with another one of your crazy conspiracy theories, Saint?” a journalist said walking up the main isle. He scribbled a few notes then produced a camera. “Let me guess, this murder is related to your favorite Christmas carol, right? How’s it go?” He cleared his throat and started singing, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, blah blah blah blah.”
My true love, Nicky thought. This crime is a gift to someone. But who? He took a second look at where the killer had probably been sitting. There was a plaque on the bench engraved with the words, “Donated in memory of Margret Blackbird, may she be forever at peace.”
“Move over, Saint. You’re in my shot,” the journalist said from behind his camera.
The flash blew a puff of smoke in the air and the evening edition had its front cover photo.
But by the time that particular newspaper would hit the streets, two other priests would be dead, and Nicky Saint would be ankle deep in snow and neck deep in trouble.