12 Murders of Christmas: Twelve Drummers Detonating

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“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–“

Click.

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…

Boom!

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

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“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

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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: 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.

12 Murders of Christmas: Seven Swans a Sinking

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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

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“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

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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.