12 Murders of Christmas: Eight Maids a Melting

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Martin Kingsley was sure to be convicted. After all, it was his maids who had been murdered.

Initially the fire at the Kingsley mansion was assumed to be an accident. The blaze started in the kitchen (a natural enough place for one to begin) and spread throughout the servants’ quarters quickly. The firefighters managed to put it out before it reached the main living quarters, but it still caused considerable damage.

Everyone got out except for eight housemaids who were found huddled together in a back room, burned to a crisp.

Yet, upon further investigation it became clear that the fire was no accident, and the maids had not died as a result of the fire. In fact, their skulls had been bashed in with a hammer–violently, maliciously, intentionally.

The murder weapon was found in Mr. Kingsley’s bedstand, bloodstained with bits of flesh and hair still on it.  He was also the last one seen in the kitchen cooking himself some bacon for a midnight snack.  The grease fire that started the blaze made even the charred wood and brick walls of the house smell like pork.

“Old Mr. Kingsley was a harsh lord,” the butler had said in his interview with the police. “Mean spirited, that’s for sure. Especially towards the lady folk. Mostly with words, if you must know, but on occasion he’d use… other means of discipline. We all learned to avoid him as much as we could.”

“He was much nicer when his daughter lived with us,” the cook said. “She was lovely and kind. The opposite of her father in every way.”

But Maryanne Noel Kingsley had left the house about a year before, quickly, silently and in shame. Rumor had it she was currently living in Delaware with a small child, by herself.

“You know the old saying, ‘the walls have ears?'” the police officer at the jailhouse said to Nicky Saint, P.I.  “Well, the Kingsley walls had maids’ ears. Them biddies were milking the old man out of all his money. Blackmail.”

Nicky looked at the old man in question. Martin Kingsley had to be at least eighty years old.  He sat hunched in his jail cell, staring at the floor. They said that the only words he’d spoken since his arrest was, “Served them servant girls right to die like that.”

“Close enough for a confession,” the D.A. had replied.

The cop went on talking, though Nicky was hardly paying attention. “My guess is ol’ Mr. Kingsley didn’t like the name of the playboy who sired his heir. That’s why he kicked his daughter out. That’s why he was giving all his servants his money. From what the chief detective said, two more years paying out like that and he’d a been working for them.”

But the facts didn’t add up, Nicky thought. What kind of murderer keeps the murder weapon in such an obvious place? Only sociopaths and psychos who want to be caught, Nicky knew from experience, and Mr. Kingsley was neither. In fact, his mind was so nimble he still ran the daily operations of the bank he’d founded.

Did Martin Kingsley even have the strength to swing a hammer forty times to smash in their skulls? He looked like he had trouble getting from one side of his house to the other.  When the police had taken away his cane they had to help him walk to the cot in the jail cell.

“He’s an innocent man,” Nicky declared. “And I can prove it.”

“Big words,” a reporter from the Dispatch said walking into the jailhouse. His pencil was ready to write down every word from Mr. Kingsley’s mouth. It was good publicity for the D.A. office to have a case open and shut so quick, so they’d granted a few exclusive interviews. “You think this murder is related to your Christmas song, Mr. Saint?”

“It is the eighth day of Christmas, and there were eight of them killed.”

“And the old man’s eighty. So what?” the reporter retorted. “Open the door so I can talk to the old guy, would ya, officer?”

Nicky grabbed the reporter’s arm before he entered the rows of cells. “Your paper’s gossip column has tidbits on the young Miss Kingsley now and then, doesn’t it? If I remember right, the last I’d read about it was that the child was rumored to have turned one year-old this last September.”

“Yeah, so?” the reporter said.

Nicky did a quick calculation on his fingers and said, “That puts the conception of the child right around Christmas.”

“What are you implying?” the policeman asked.

“I might know who the father is,” Nicky said opening the door to the outside and stepping into the night air.

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12 Murders of Christmas: Five Golden Ring Fingers

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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.

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.

12 Murders of Christmas: The Three Dead French Hens

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The audience had gathered, the orchestra music had swelled and the curtains had opened to reveal a scene of absolute horror.

There, dangling by their necks, lifeless and pale, were the three stars of the “Post-Christmas Chorale Spectacular and Fundraiser,” five feet above center stage.

The dead women were Ella, Sarah and Matilda Dubois. Back at the turn of the century the sensational singing trio of French beauties had risen to fame as the “Three French Chickadees.”  Over the decades their increasing age, weight and persnicketiness had earned them the mock title the “Three French Hens.”

They dangled like limp chicken carcasses in a butcher’s window now, thought Nicky Saint, gentleman detective.  Three dead women on the third day of Christmas. This was going to be one of those cases.

“I heard these dames were set for a comeback,” a reporter at the crime scene said to his fellow newshound as they chewed gum, snapped pictures and scribbled in their notepads. “I heard they were supposed to sing a couple of numbers in that new big time motion picture musical with What’s Her Name, you know, the movie actress, the blonde one.”

“They’re all blonde ones now,” the other reporter replied. “Besides, you heard wrong.  These old French biddies have been recording their voices in movies for years, just they never get the credit.  They sing over some beautiful starlet’s caterwauling so’s it sounds like she’s got real talent.”

“Ah, everybody knows that,” the first reporter said. “I mean these broads were supposed to sing on the big screen as themselves. They were all going to star as What’s Her Name’s aunties in her next musical. Geez, why can’t I think of her name? She married that football star, that quarterback fella, about a month ago, you remember?”

“How they gonna dub her voice if the three women that provide it for her are on screen at the same time?”

“Beats me.  Movie magic, I guess.”

“Show’s over, boys,” a police officer said coming across the stage to shoo them away. “You too, whitey,” he said to Nicky, glaring at the detective’s stark white locks.

“Ah, come on. The show ain’t over until all three fat ladies sing,” one of the reporters joked.

“The show never even started,” the cop replied.  “Now, get.”

Nicky Saint relit his pipe and adjusted his overcoat’s collar to head out into the cold winter night. “Mind telling us what the opening number was supposed to be?” he asked the policeman.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was ‘Ave Maria.’ Why?”

“No reason,” Nicky said.

Ave Maria, Hail Mary.  The clue itself was a bit of a Hail Mary, but at least it was something to go on.

12 Murders of Christmas: Miss Partridge

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“Welcome to the first murder of the season,” thinks Nicky Saint, the white haired, black suited, Bostonian private detective as he stands over the body of Miss Juliann Partridge, a beautiful blond bombshell bludgeoned to death on Christmas day in front of the cozy fireplace of her small apartment on Pear Tree Lane.

The present she had just opened now lay empty beside her. Nicky had a hunch that it once contained the murder weapon.

“Killers like these are poetic,” Nicky explains to the beat cop left behind to guard the crime scene after the “official investigators” had trampled over everything.  “These fellas have style.  Look at her lipstick, just slightly smudged.  She was probably giving some lucky schmuck a kiss under the mistletoe when… BLAM!”  Nicky slams his hand down across the imaginary back of her head.  “He wasn’t just sending a message to her, he was broadcasting it for all of us to hear.”

“You think she was killed by her lover?” the beat cop asks.

“Lover?  You mean lovers. Don’t you recognize this broad?” the reporter says. “She’s in the society pages twice a week, always hanging on some millionaire’s arm.  More likely a jealous lover’s wife.”

“Plausible,” Nicky says relighting his pipe.  “But which one?”

“Gotta a phone book?” the reporter laughs.

“See those smudges on the edge of the carpet?” Nicky says pointing towards the fireplace.  “They look like footprints, coming from that direction…” he traces the steps back towards the smoldering embers.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the reporter says with wide, exaggerated hand gestures as if to wipe away the idea formulating in everyone’s mind.  “You ain’t proposing that the killer entered the room through the fireplace like… like…”

“Santa?” the cop says bursting into laughter.  The reporter joins him, laughing hard enough to slap his own knees.

“In that case, the suspect should be easy to apprehend,” the cop says with a grin. “He should be back up to the North Pole by now.”  The cop opens up the apartment door for Nicky.

“Well, it’s a place to start,” says Nicky Saint, throwing his scarf around his neck, burrowing his hands deep into his pockets, and heading out into the cold winter air.