12 Murders of Christmas: Twelve Drummers Detonating


“Two bombs have exploded downtown today within minutes of each other,” the newswoman on the radio declared. “The first was in a music store on Marketplace, the second was in the Paramount Center during a concert rehearsal. The police have no leads so far–“


Nicky Saint turned off his transistor radio and swiveled his chair around to look out of his office window. Past the words “Detective for Hire” he watched as innocent people casually walked through the snow covered street two stories below. To nearly all Bostonians this was just another cold winter day in January, but to Nicky Saint, this was a day he’d been dreading for a long, long time: January 5th, the twelfth day of Christmas.

The chatter Nicky was listening to on his contraband police radio had already informed him that the BPD had no leads. However, what he heard next was the clue he’d been waiting for.

“This is Lieutenant O’Brien, District C-6 ballistics expert, at the scene of the Marketplace Street bombing,” the voice crackled, “Chief Inspector Lewis wanted an update as soon as I had one. Tell him we’ve determined that the detonation device was planted inside a drum.”

The drummer most likely wasn’t the target, just the trigger, Nicky immediately thought.

Twelve drummers drumming. Two down, ten to go.

Nicky Saint grabbed his overcoat and scarf and headed outside. With dozens of music stores all over town, a handful of performance centers, not to mention dozens more drums in private citizens homes, where would the holiday bomber strike next?

Nicky took out his pipe and lit it while he thought. Killers like this want maximum impact. Explosions are meant to be seen, heard, felt. They’re almost like mini performances themselves–concerts of flame, ash and death.

On the street corner was a newsstand. On the back page of today’s newspaper there was a large advertisement for the music store that got bombed. “Everything must go!” it said. “One day only liquidation sale.”

Nicky flipped to the paper’s entertainment section. Sure enough, there was a concert at the Paramount Center scheduled for tonight. The orchestral drummer was probably just warming up earlier than anticipated.

Where would the next target be? Nicky flipped through the paper looking for more clues. He found the answer on page twelve.

“Three Kings’ Day Parade,” the headline of a short article said. “For the thirtieth year in a row, scores of people will come downtown to celebrate the start of the feast of Epiphany with the journey of the three wise men.” The rest of the article went on to say there would be floats, dancers and a marching band.

A decent sized drum line had at least three snare drum players, five tenors and one bass drum. That’s nine chances to blow the Boston skyline sky high.

Nicky looked down at his wristwatch. The parade was scheduled to start at noon and march down Tremont Street. He had five minutes to make it across town before…


A puff of smoke rose up towards the clouds from the direction of Brookline. Police sirens began to wail. People on the street began to point and murmur. Nicky Saint went the opposite direction. He had a parade to stop.

12 Murders of Christmas: Eleven Pipers in the Piping


“They specifically asked for Duncan McGregor,” said Angus Ferguson in his police report, “but McGregor was nowhere to be found. Probably down at the pub taking in a pint, I thought. So I sent McDaniel.”

They didn’t find McDaniel’s body for hours. It was Fletcher, McBride and Kilpatrick’s bodies they found first. Those were the next three plumbers Angus Ferguson, head of the Gaelic Plumbers Union, sent to the same house when the caller kept phoning in a request for a new plumber.

“It was a woman’s voice,” Angus recalled. “Normal sounding, nothing odd. She kept saying the plumbers I sent couldn’t fix her piping and she wanted McGregor to come, but he was still missing, so finally I decided to go myself. I wanted to see what the problem was first hand, you know.”

The house, located on East 7th Street, had an entrance to the sewer in the street in front of it. When Angus showed up for the call he noticed a bit of blood on the manhole cover. When he looked inside he saw Kilpatrick’s bloody face staring back at him.

The police arrived and investigated. The house was empty. There was no furniture, no plumbing, no phone, and most importantly no woman.

Angus was taken downtown for more questioning. The crime scene was sealed off and a guard was posted. That’s when Nicky Saint, P.I. showed up.

“Anybody ever find McGregor?” Nicky asked the cop on duty.

“The fella the woman first requested? Why would we go looking for McGregor?” the cop said. “He never once came to this address. He’s a lucky lad compared to these poor bastards. They were all brained by their own wrenches.”

“How do you suppose a woman wrestled each of these men’s tools away from them, clobbered them hard enough over the head to kill them, dragged their limp, bleeding bodies onto the street, lifted a fifty-pound manhole cover and dumped them inside during the middle of the day without being caught?

“Well, now, I’ve seen some burly lasses in Charleston…”

“And the first man, McDaniel, they found him ten blocks from here, deep in the sewers, his head in shambles,” Nicky said looking down the manhole to the open sewer line. “That’d take a real burly lass.”

The policeman huffed and said, “We’ll find the killer soon enough. All the plumbers in the area are being told not to respond to any calls for the rest of the week.”

“They only need worry about today,” Nicky said straightening up and looking at the sky. It was near dusk. The air was getting bitter cold. He pulled the flashlight from his pocket and tested it twice. “It’s January 4th, right? The eleventh day of Christmas, and these men are pipers, of sorts.”

“Oh boy, you and your theories, Saint,” said the crime reporter for the Globe stepping up to the edge of the sewer entrance and taking a look around. He wrote something down in his notebook and kept talking, “Although you’ll be happy to know, Mr. Private Eye, that these victims weren’t just pipers in the plumbing sense, but true blue (or should I say plaid?) pipers. Seems as though these fellas were also part of a Scottish bagpipe playing band with Ferguson.”

“Did you get their names?” Nicky asked. He quickly studied the piece of paper the journalist handed him, then gave it back.  “There’s twelve names on that list including Ferguson,” Nicky observed. “No need to go looking for these other guys, I’m sure they’re either all dead or about to be.”

“Well, if that’s true then Ferguson himself will be in trouble, too,” the reporter said. “I came from the station house just now and they’ve let Ferguson go. No proof that he did anything other than answer the phone.”

Nicky Saint took a deep breath then started climbing down into the sewer.

“What are you doing?” the cop said.

“There’s twelve men on that list, and there only needs to be eleven victims,” Nicky said pausing on the ladder and looking back up towards the street. “My guess is it’s either McGregor or Ferguson doing the killing. Either way, the confrontation will take place down here.”

“Hey if you see my career, send it back up, will ya?” the reporter called out as Nicky stepped into the ankle deep waste waters of the Boston sewer system.

12 Murders of Christmas: Ten Lords A Leaping From Ledges


The Lords ruled most of Roxbury.

Mostly they drank a lot, raced their suped-up cars up and down Blue Hill Avenue at all hours and spent a lot of time loitering, combing gel into their hair and making lude remarks about women who passed by.

But they also transported and sold a lot of guns and narcotics. They were a street gang, after all.

Tommy King was their leader. He was a towering 6’4″ bully with a mean streak as long as the Massachusetts shoreline.

“We almost didn’t recognize him,” the police officer guarding the crime scene told Nicky Saint, Boston’s best private detective. “But that’s Thompson Dwayne King alright.” The cop pointed to a three yard smudge of blood on the sidewalk beneath a tall brick building on Tremont Street, downtown. “What’s left of him anyway.”

“This is a long way from Roxbury,” Nicky said stooping down to be eye-level with the street.  The snow bank on the sidewalk still had blood splattered all over it. Fresh snow had fallen just the night before, so everything was still clean and white, and now red.

“The chief detective thinks one of the other teenage gangs around here plugged him then tossed him off this building to destroy the evidence,” the cop said. “Mr. King here probably strayed onto someone eles’s turf and got taken for a ride… straight down.”

“That would’ve taken a couple of guys to throw someone as big as Tommy this far out onto the street.”  Nicky turned his gaze upwards calculating the angle of the fall with his finger to the top corner of the building. “Any chance he jumped himself? Perhaps a running jump?”

“You know some of the witnesses said they did hear footsteps running up the stairs, before the time of the murder,” the police officer said. “And a bunch of them also said they could hear Tommy yelling out, ‘Happy birthday!'”

“Strange thing to be yelling if you’re being murdered,” Nicky said.

“It was a suicide,” the reporter for the Gazette said stepping under the police tape. “I just came from two other scenes just like these in Fenway. Both of them were members of the Lords as well. One eye witness had even tried to stop a guy from jumping, a boy by the name of…” he consulted his notepad, “Frankie Mullen. Seems as though he too thought he was winning some sort of race by jumping off the ledge of the building he was moving so fast. His last words were, ‘Happy birthday,’ then splat!”

“What would drive three people to do themselves in like that?” the policeman wondered out loud.

The reporter shrugged. “You know these juvenile delinquents are into all kinds of crazy drugs. Dealing, selling, smoking, shooting, you name it. They probably got a hold of some bad dope and it drove them all nuts.”

The cop looked around, then in a hushed voice said, “I hear the kids around here are getting hooked on a new kind of cocaine called Frosty. Supposed to be real powerful stuff.”

Nicky shook his head. “The Lords didn’t use narcotics. Alcohol, yeah, but pills, powder, pot, no. That’s why they’ve been so successful. They sell it, not use it. If they took something, it wasn’t voluntary.”

“So we’re back to murder,” the cop said.

“It is the ninth day of Christmas, you know,” Nicky said, “and they are Lords… a leaping…”

The reporter rolled his eyes. “Not that stupid song again, Saint. Besides, there’s only three of them dead.”

“Not for long,” another policeman said running up to them. He addressed the first cop and said, “I just got a call on the radio, Burt. There’s three more jumpers lined up on the Charlestown Bridge ready to plunge into the river. Let’s go!”

The two police officers jumped into the patrol car and roared off. The siren wailed into the distance.

The reporter ran towards the nearest phone booth to place a call into his editor. The crowd that had gathered around the crime scene started hustling back to their homes to catch the breaking story on their own radios. Nicky Saint stood looking at the blood smeared on the street. He could only think of two well known people who’s birthdays were associated with Christmas. The first was the savior of the world, and the second was a rascally snowman with a magical top hat who just so happened to be named Frosty.

12 Murders of Christmas: Nine Ladies Dancing On Your Grave


January 2nd is a holiday in its own right. It’s first day of the year in which everyone breaks their New Year’s resolutions. And the place people go to break them most often? The bar.

The Green Dragon Tavern on Marshall Street was the first place someone died that day.

“He just fell off his stool, choking, gasping for air. He was spewing alcohol then blood out of his mouth,” an eye witness said.

“Steam came out of his eyes, I tell ya, and bood from his ears, and green puss from his mouth. Foaming like a rapid dog, then POP! some veins in his neck exploded and he died,” another witness said. “Thank God.”

It was horrific. It lasted two full minutes. There was nothing anyone could do.

“He ordered a Dancing Lady,” the bartender said to the police. “That’s what I gave him. I swear it. Here, I’ll show you.”

He showed them. It contained four different types of fruits, and was served with a tiny umbrella in a martini glass. The cops all looked at the cocktail like it was some newly discovered chemical. One of them tried it. He didn’t die, but the other officers instantly gave him the nickname fruitcake.

The bartender sighed in relief. “Yeah, it’s a girl’s drink. I don’t know why a man would want it, particularly at noon, but I’m not here to ask questions. The fella wants a pink drink, I give him a pink drink. Yeah, I serve it with suspicion, but we serve all types in here.”

The man that died was named Douglas Eckart. He had no known enemies. He was a business man at an accounting firm downtown. He’d been in the place a few times over the last few years. No one could really remember what he drank previously. No one paid that much attention.

The police searched the whole tavern top to bottom and found no trace of poison. They took the bartender downtown for more questioning. The case went cold, until two o’clock when another man died in another bar in the exact same way.

“Yeah, he ordered a Dancing Lady,” the bartender at that tavern said to the investigators. “I didn’t have any banana liqueur, so I had to skip that, but that shouldn’t have killed him.”

The police went through the same procedure. There was no evidence, no residual poison, no connection to the first victim.

By five o’clock, six more people had died the same way. All of them in different bars, but all with the same drink.

“And you know what the crazy thing is,” the reporter for the Globe was telling the police officer standing outside the Union Bar, the site of the latest death, “this Dancing Lady drink is getting popular. People are ordering it left and right.”

“Flirting with death,” the cop said.  Across the street, people were pouring into the Bell In Hand for happy hour. Whenever someone ordered the infamous drink, the crowd would go silent, then when the person had taken a sip and survived the place erupted with cheers.

“They think it’s a game,” the reporter said.

“It is a game,” said Nicky Saint, Boston’s one and only white-haired private detective. “More of a puzzle, really.”

“I was wondering when you were going to come snooping around these murders,” the reporter said snidely.

“I could say the same to you,” Nicky replied. “Of course, nothing makes your paper’s circulation increase like murder.”

“Five percent lift for every dead body we put on the front page, the chief always says,” the reporter replied. “We’re off to a great start this year.”

Nicky lit his pipe and watched the tavern across the street get rowdier and rowdier. “Well, I hate to spoil your business goals, but there’s only one person left who hasn’t been killed.”

“How do you know that?” the policeman said.

“It’s the ninth day of Christmas,” Nicky replied. “Nine ladies dancing. Eight are dead so far. That leaves one. But not to worry. I’ve got this case all but wrapped up.”

“What?” the policeman said. “Why last I heard the chief detective hadn’t a single clue. The lab fellas haven’t even identified what kind of poison was used yet.”

“The police department would be better off trying to deduce who the next victim is going to be,” Nicky replied, “rather than how they’re going to die.”

“But these killings are random acts of violence,” the reporter said.

“Hardly,” Nicky retorted. “Put the victim’s names together and you can see the pattern. D. Eckart, A. D’Tre, E. Wither, Lotta Hay, P. Mame Eres. May K., D. Tule, Ty D.”

Nicky said the list three times fast before the police officer picked up on it. “Yeah, yeah,” he said snapping his fingers to the rhythm playing in his head. “It’s the last line to that old Christmas song, ‘Decorate the tree with a lot of happy memories, and make the yule tide gay.'”

“So the last victim will be named Gay!” the reporter said. “First or last?”

“Who knows,” Nicky said. “But I know just where to start.”

The P.I. then strode across the street towards the noisy tavern, right on past the entrance to a phone booth on the  street corner where he began thumbing through the phone book.

12 Murders of Christmas: Eight Maids a Melting


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.

12 Murders of Christmas: Seven Swans a Sinking


After a long, cold New England winter, the sight of the swan boats gracefully floating across the Boston Public Garden lagoon was always a familiar and welcome sign of Spring.

Starting in April, young and old alike would line up for a short ride around the waterway on the dual pontooned paddle boats with giant, wood-carved swans sitting on the back, sheltering the driver.

So it came as quite a surprise when one of the iconic swans was spotted from the park’s suspension bridge on the last day of December.  It was bobbing up and down beneath the ice… with a dead girl tied to it’s neck.

“No one even noticed the swans had been stolen out of the warehouse were they were stored,” said the beat cop who was left to guard the crime scene after the official investigators had left. “The fellas that investigated the warehouse said there was undisturbed dust all over the boats indicating the swans had been taken off at least a month or so ago.”

Nicky Saint, Boston’s top private detective, looked over the side of the bridge at the hole in the ice where the swan and it’s dead victim had been lifted from. “Let me guess, there were seven of them taken.”

“How’d you know that?” the policeman asked.

“It’s the seventh day of Christmas,” Nicky replied. He had arrived at the scene just as they were putting the girl in a body bag.  She was young, thin and blue. Her face was literally frozen in a scream of horror. She had been dressed in an evening gown which indicated that she had been abducted the night before.

“Any word who the victim was?” Nicky asked.

“Marla Von Dieter,” the newspaper reporter covering the story for the Herald said from the other side of the bridge. “The investigators haven’t officially identified her, but I recognized her from the ballet posters.”

“Ballet?” the cop said.

Swan Lake, of course! It’s been playing downtown for the last few months,” Nicky muttered.  He lit up his pipe and thrust his hands in his pockets. “Have your department contact all of the cast members immediately,” Nicky said to the cop as he strode away. “Six more of the dancers are in immediate danger, if not dead already.”

Nicky Saint knew that, at best, he had only a few hours to find the remaining victims. But rather than searching all the iced-over waterways for kidnapped ballerinas,  he’d start with the swans.  After all, there couldn’t be too many places one could inconspicuously store seven giant swans for a month.

Find the hiding place, find the killer, stop the murders. “For good, this time,” thought Nicky. “No more killing.”

12 Murders of Christmas: Six Geese a Laying… Dead


“They were all zeros, every one,” the owner of the bowling alley said when the police asked him about the dead men in his parking lot.

There were six of them, shot to death outside a Dorchester dive, gangster style–lined up and gunned down with a Thompson 45.  Just like Big Al did to those boys on St. Valentine’s.

Nicky Saint, P.I., found the scene bloody, horrible and fascinating. The neon lights of the bowling alley sign bathed the scene in a strange blue and orange glow. The falling snow melted in the still warm blood. It was two o’clock in the morning, December 30th.

All six men were part of a bowling team called “The Geesers,” a play on their age and their bowling record.

“They were the worst bowlers in the whole joint,” the other league members said in their interview with the police investigators, “maybe of all of Boston. They always bowled zeros, nearly every frame.  They became notorious for throwing big giant goose eggs.  That’s why their leader, Hap Simpson, was called ‘Mama Goose.'”

The rest of the team was Sal “Zip” Rizzo, Stanley “Nada” Banks, Harry “Zilch” Maroni, Ernie “Nixy” Yarbrough, and Louie “the Void” Nelson.

Rumor had it they were a rowdy bunch.  They drank a lot, laughed a lot, kidded the other bowling teams endlessly, but all in good fun. Most people thought their antics to be quaint. That’s one of the benefits to being old.  Annoyances get called eccentricities, ornery behavior gets labeled as cute.

The old men had just finished last place in a late-night tournament and were tying one on until the bartender kicked them out of the bar at eleven-thirty.  Thirty minutes later there was the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun in the parking lot, and the six Geesers were a laying dead.

“What kind of beef would gangsters have with a bunch of retired bowlers?” Nicky wondered out loud.  He had counted fifty-three casings by the curb.  Someone really laid into these guys, and good.

“You know these boys were all retired mobsters themselves,” the beat cop who was taping off the crime scene told Nicky. “Rumor had it that they were all hit men, too.  Their nicknames preceded their bowling records because they were renown for completely erasing their targets. “Mama Goose,’ in particular, was the go-to man for the head of the Languine family if he needed to put any problems to bed.”

“Those are just rumors,” the newspaper man writing up the story for the Globe said. “Besides, Zilch Maroni and Nixy Yarbrough were in opposing gangs. Cold blooded killers like that don’t just shake hands after shooting each other’s cousins for a decade.  No, these guys were low level traffickers and bootleggers.  They all spent the last few years getting to know each other in jail serving nickel and dime stints for minor offenses and came out the other side on a bowling team. From the Pen to the Pins, Ha! That’ll be the headline.”

“Well, either way, these geezers ain’t exactly innocents,” the cop retorted. “Pretty open and shut case by the looks of it.  A couple of old Mafia boys killed off by a new crop of young Mafia boys.  Let ’em pick each other off, I say.  Saves the G-men the trouble.”

“Open and shut except for the timing,” Nicky said.

The reporter took up-close shots of each of the dead men’s faces.  He’d be the lead story for sure. “What do you mean the timing?” he asked Nicky between flashes.

“The thirty minute window from when they left the bar to when they were killed.”

“Probably stumbling around looking for their cars,” the cop said.

“Maybe they tried to talk their killers out of doing them in,” the reporter suggested. “They probably knew the boys.”

“Or maybe they didn’t,” Nicky postulated as he puffed on his pipe.  “Maybe this is just supposed to look like a mob hit. Maybe the killer wanted to make sure he left them dead on the sixth day of Christmas.”

“Oh boy,” the reporter sighed. “Here we go again.”

12 Murders of Christmas: Five Golden Ring Fingers


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: Four Calling Cards


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.”

The copper counted out the evangelists on his fingers, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and…”

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.

12 Murders of Christmas: The Three Dead French Hens


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: The Two Turtle’s Doves


The first to die was Mary Turtle.

Her throat was slashed, quickly, suddenly, violently. She barely had time to cry out, “My diamond!” before collapsing to the ground in a choking, spurting mess of blood and tears.

“My diamond” as she called it, or “the world’s most valuable diamond” as most jewelers called it, was the murderer’s real target.  Mary Turtle had been wearing one half of the world famous Dove Diamond–a gem with a torrid and bloody history of its own.

Through a series of dubious methods and oily deals, the infamous 50 carat rock had landed in the hands of Harrison P. Turtle, a Georgian real estate magnate, railroad tycoon and father of two beautiful, precocious twin daughters.

In a brash and controversial move that still makes gemologists, scientists and the upper class bristle with rage, Harrison split the diamond in half, giving each of his daughters an equal share. “Perhaps this will break the stone’s curse and bring about the peace that its name implies,” he proclaimed to the newspaper men he had gathered for the occasion.

The twin Southern belles then put on their Dove Diamond necklaces in unison and proclaimed that the gems would never leave their necks, and they would never leave each other, thus keeping the diamond whole.

“These necklaces shall only be removed from our persons upon our deaths,” Mary declared, to which Carol, her exact physical double, quickly added, “And even then we’ll likely put up a good fight.”

That earned them a good laugh at the time, but no one was laughing now.

Nicky Saint, Boston’s best private eye, looked down at Mary’s bloody corpse.  “The thief probably could’ve cut off her necklace without going another six inches into her jugular, don’t you think?” he asked the cop attending the scene.

“Must’ve not wanted her to say anything about it… ever again,” the cop said.

“That’s one way of doing it,” Nicky said.  He stepped over her body and looked out the mansion’s window to the snow falling gently outside. “A Turtle’s dove stolen on December the twenty-sixth, the second day of Christmas,” he mused out loud.  “That’s no coincidence.”

“What do you mean?” the cop said.

Nicky Saint checked his watch, then wrapped his scarf back around his neck, “I mean we have less than twelve hours to find the killer before Carol meets the same fate.”

12 Murders of Christmas: Miss Partridge


“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.

Mystery #17

The myth of the feral child, whether he be raised by wolves, apes, sheep, cobras, or whatever, is fascinating in its effect on culture.  It’s produced some of the best selling modern stories (Tarzan, The Jungle Book), and the most compelling ancient stories (i.e. the founding of Rome).

Is it our own desire to reconnect with our ancient, wild roots that drives our interest in these tales, or are they a way for us to collectively contrast and reinforce our superiority over nature?

Rakik doesn’t care.  He was raised by a pack of wolves in the Canadian Rockies in the early 1800’s.  Above is one of his many encounters with fur trappers who are after the pelt of his adopted mother, the great white wolf.

Mystery #16

Welcome to 2012, the year the world is supposed to end… again.  Every once in a while the end of the world gets predicted, but none is more anticipated than the Mayan Calendar prediction of total earthly destruction on 12.21.12.

Above is the story of a few, select Green Beret troops sent back in time (with a doddering, bearded scientist as a historical guide, of course) to stop the predicted Mayan Apocalypse, whose origins have been traced back to a single human sacrifice by a wicked high priest to the god Bolon Yokte’ in 950 AD.  The blood of the Sofia-Vergara-esqe beautiful princess is the only thing capable of waking the terrible god of war, who will take exactly 1062 years to travel from the underworld to our world.

Mystery #15

How powerful is the human mind?  Can it really foresee the future?  Can it see through locked doors hundreds of miles away?  Can it lift and move objects?  Can it tell what you are thinking right now?  Will we ever truly know?

Above is the Great Zanzini, magician extraordinaire, or fraud.  Is he lifting the crystal ball with his mind, or with air blown through a mechanism hidden under the table?  You decide.

Mystery #14


Outer space.  Or should I say, outer spaaaaaace!  The infinite unknown, the final frontier, the grandest mystery of nature.  Have you ever looked up and wondered, are we alone?

Above is a quick story of four astronauts captured by giant aliens.  They’re bound and forced to watch the destruction of earth.  “You will be allowed to live,” the slug-like emperor, Gleb, promises, “provided you make no attempt to escape.”

But Captain Brash Granford can’t sit idly by when there’s still a chance to save mankind!

“No!” says his second in command, Susan Gallicknick, who was secretly looking forward to restarting the human race with the impetuous captain.

“Yikes!” says corporal Howie Corbin, brought along on this space mission to clean dishes and provide mild comic relief.

“Fools,” mutters Dr. Razinoff under his breath.  Then the Russian-born doctor begins to chuckle to himself as if he knows something the others don’t.

The title of this dime-novel space opera:  “Three, Two, One, Destroy!”

Mystery #13

For the thirteenth post in this series I decided to dig into the mystery surrounding the number thirteen itself.  One theory is that it’s infamy comes from the order given to arrest all of the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th, 1307.  Bonus! Two mysteries in one.  The Knights Templar have been the source of many a conspiracy theory virtually since their inception.  What were they really up to?  What did they really know?  What relics did they actually possess and where are they today?

Mystery #12


Belief is a powerful thing.  It shapes our perspective, it changes our actions, it alters the way we walk and talk, it can even change our identity.  What do you believe and why do you believe it?  Faith, experience, hope, despair, ignorance, education, tradition, rebellion?

The mystery of belief to me is why we believe anything at all, and conversely, why don’t we just believe everything.

Mystery #11

We’re so used to seeing ourselves nowadays, with mirrors on everything from walls to windows to sunglasses, yet how often do you catch a glimpse of yourself and wonder if you really look like that all the time?  What do you look like with no optic distortion or preconceived filter and flipped around the right way?  What do other people really see?  Is that the real you staring into the mirror or is the real you staring back?

Mystery #9

There’s something perpetually intriguing about Stonehenge and early  European paganism.  Heck, even the word “druid” is cool.  Maybe it’s because no one really knows what Stonehenge was for or if the druids really used it and what the druids really practiced in the first place.  You can look at the picture above and imagine yourself peering through the giant stones of a mysterious monument at a long forgotten, forbidden ritual on a cold winter’s night in ancient Britain, or just click here.

Mystery #7

Where do those darn socks go?  The age old mystery of the missing matching sock has yet to be solved.  I think that they disappear into a separate dimension where they battle each other to the death for ultimate supremacy.  That or your mom/wife/girlfriend throws them away when they start looking old.

Mystery #6

From the ancient Babylonian goddess Tiamat, the monstrous embodiment of  chaos, to the more modern-day theory of our own origins out of the “primordial soup,” the ocean has always been the birthplace of mystery.  It’s dark, deep, vast and unknown.  The creatures in it are strange.  It’s landscape foreign.  It’s effect on our lives, still not fully understood.  And I’ll be the first to admit, it freaks me out.  Who knows what’s swimming around in there, beyond your vision, beyond your comprehension?

Mystery #5


From the toothless Bumble in “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to the one-armed Wampas in “Star Wars” the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, has taken many forms.  Above is my take on the ape-like cryptid said to inhabit Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet.

I see this story as one man’s quest to find out what happened to his brother who went missing ten years before.  it would be called “The Terror at Ten-Thousand Feet.”

Was his brother killed and eaten by the savage clan of Yeti rumored to live in the region, or did he somehow use his superior intellect to enslave the man-like beasts and make them do his bidding, or did he never even climb the mountain and simply faked his death in an effort to lure his legendary mountaineering brother to his doom?

You decide.

Mystery #4

If you don’t know the story of Bobby Dunbar, experience it here.  Haunting, moving, thought-provoking.  The solution to the mystery in this story lies in your willingness to answer this question: are we anything more than who we’re told we are?

Mystery #3

Beware the fire-breathing, super-jumping, demonic-looking villain of the Victorian era, Spring-heeled Jack.  Known to pop up and frighten the bejeezus out of women, the true identity of this hysterics inducing horror remains a mystery to this day.  Was he just a figment of a repressed society’s imagination?  Was he really Henry de La Poer Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford? (No British wacko escapes being pegged as a European nobleman with a vendetta/drinking problem.)  Or was he truly the devil?  Bwah-ha-ha-ha!