He had been missing since Christmas day. Peter Black, lawyer, newlywed.
Judy Black, his wife, had called the police the afternoon of the twenty-fifth after he failed to return from the store.
“He said he wanted eggnog and so he was going to go down to the corner market to pick up some eggs,” she had told the investigators. “It’s not like him to disappear. He’s not the type. I know the type. I’ve dated the type, I’ve been engaged to the type, and I married Peter because he wasn’t the type.”
The cops looked for her husband, sort of.
It wasn’t unheard of for a man to up and leave his wife. After all, they’d been married only a few days. Maybe he changed his mind?
When the police interviewed the neighbors they said they’d overheard the young married couple fighting… often. When they interviewed Peter’s co-workers, they said he was the last guy to turn down a drink at lunch, and the first guy to buy a round after work. And rumor had it, Judy had married Peter impulsively, perhaps to keep him from running of with the other girls in his office that still seemed quite interested in him.
Maybe this wasn’t the missing persons case the new Mrs. Black claimed it to be. Maybe Peter had gone on a giant bender. Maybe he’d run off with another dame. Maybe he’d moved to Hoboken just to get away.
“He’ll be back,” the police reassured Judy.
“If we see him we’ll pick him up,” they said.
Judy hired Nicky Saint, private detective, on the fifth day that Peter had been missing.
“Big fan of eggnog?” Nicky asked her as he looked around their downtown apartment. Nice place. Peter must’ve been a good lawyer… or a bad one.
“Peter liked his liquor… um, flavored,” Judy replied toying with the ornaments on the Christmas tree she’d left set up by the window, “particularly in the morning. And, well, eggnog is the flavor of the season.”
Nicky sat down by the fire and looked at their wedding photo on the mantel. Peter looked simple, happy, handsome. Judy was the same. They made a nice looking couple. Too nice.
“Oh, my, what is this?” Judy exclaimed. She picked up a package from under the tree. “I swear this wasn’t here yesterday, and look, it’s adressed to me.”
On the outside it was a simple box with a bow and some stripped wrapping paper. Inside was a severed finger with a golden ring on it.
When Judy finally stopped screaming Nicky asked her, “Would you say Peter was your true love?”
“Y-y-y-yes,” she sputtered, her eyes glued to the the crimson horror in the box.
“Then you’ll most likely be receiving four more of these.”
Nicky Saint left the woman’s apartment as she sobbed and phoned the police again. The ring was definitely Peter’s wedding ring, but that was no finger of a man who made his living sorting through case files and drinking with his colleagues. That finger had blisters on it from hard work. It had dirt under the fingernails, coal black dirt. Oh, and by chance there was a coal plant just a few miles away.
Nicky walked out into the clear, white, snow-covered streets on the blackest of errands.