Going for something a little more festive this week. Festive but no less pulpy.
“Grr…Remind me again how it started, Rob.”
“It has been another year, hasn’t it sir?” asked Robert De Large to his immediate superior. The two trampled newly fallen snow as they walked from the car. “First was the murder of Harold Partridge.”
“Impaled on the branch of a pear tree, now I remember,” responded Commissioner West, pinching the bridge of his nose. “If not for the pun in the papers no one would have remembered it even the following month. Next?”
“Next came the doves,” continued Robert, scratching his head. “Street vendor found two live ones stuffed in a street lamp.”
“Real issue was catching the things, given how some jackass opened it up and let ’em loose,” complained the Commissioner. “Papers didn’t even know about it until nearly two months after, it was so minor. And of course…”
“…the three chickens…” said De Large, squirming under the weight of the thought once brought to bare. “…sent running around town square…”
“With their heads cut off,” finished West. “Had to have been done immediately before it happened, yet the vets on the scenes said it could have been hours based on their condition.”
“Chickens run around with their heads cut off ’cause if there’s enough brain stem remaining, the chickens don’t properly die,” explained the Commissioner, scowling. “Bastard actually decapitated them in such a way as to leave them alive. I remember having to order my men to kill the poor things.”
“That’s terrible, sir.”
“Why do I need you telling me? I was there,” said West, disgusted. “After that?”
“Oh!” De Large had to take out his notebook for this one. He fumbled through a dozen pages before reaching the required note. “Four blackbirds, caged in an unoccupied room deep in a heavy residential area. A cat was left to pace around below…”
“Causing them to screech and chirp for hours, disturbing peoples’ sleep,” finished the Commissioner. “It wasn’t until the landlord broke the door down that the setup was known. He didn’t have a record of anyone having rented the room, yet the door was locked and all keys missing. Which brings us to the rings.”
“A set of five ornate rings, gold, stolen from a private collector,” said Robert.
“A set of six, actually,” corrected Commissioner West. “There were six rings in the set, but only five were stolen. The sixth was left untouched. It’s at this point we – and the press for that matter – began making the connection. It didn’t help each one was a year apart.”
“Speaking of six, the wax goose statues,” injected De Large. “…released round gas bombs from a hatch in the rear. Six locations were hit this way, all at the stroke of midnight.”
“Hospitalized a bunch of people, one of which had already taken hits of gas during the war. Aggravated his condition. Didn’t survive the night, the poor bastard.”
“…the following year, I had joined up,” said Robert De Large, beaming momentarily. He lapsed into a frown and continued, “We thought the guy would be going after actual swans that time.”
“Instead, seven ballerinas disappeared in the days before Christmas,” said West, digging into the snow as the two ascended a staircase. “They turned up on the day, crawling onto shore from the river, all dressed like the Swan Princess. Said they’d been thrown out of a boat by some really huge guy. Not that they could see, blindfolded.”
“How many made it to shore?”
“Three,” answered West. “Not all of them could swim. Had to locate the rest downstream some hours later.”
Robert hung his head, dejected. “First year on the job…”
“Focus Rob, that’s an order,” commanded Commissioner West. “What came next?”
“Eight female serving staff from various rich houses,” said De Large, checking his notes feverishly. “Found in a local dairy, immersed waist deep in vats of milk. Three were already dead from hypothermia. Another died shortly after. All remaining hospitalized.”
“And then more dancers disappeared,” continued the Commissioner. “Nine in total, found by a janitor in the early hours of the morning. He was investigating loud music in a local school when he stumbled on them.”
“Yeah…” said De Large, looking through the notes. “According to their testimony, they’d been contacted by their manager for extra practice. Except when they arrived it was some mysterious guy covered in fur and holly. Threatened them with a gun to dance against their will…for hours…”
“When the janitor came in, the perpetrator jumped through a window and disappeared,” said West. “I remember getting their best description of the “Holly Man”, but none of them could see his face all that well. Only that he was of medium build and covered in leaves.”
“Yet the guy from the swans case was said to be a large guy, wasn’t he?” asked Robert. “Well, they were blind at the time. Could be an accomplice, or them just remembering wrong.”
“Maybe…” mused the Commissioner. The two finally reached the cordoned-off area. “I tell you, Rob, I miss when the worst we had was just the one murder. Ten years later, and what do we have?”
The two officers of the law stood at the foot of a pile of broken men, photographers and policemen hovering about. The whole thing lay at the base of a tall building. Looking up, one could see smoke rising from the roof, sections of masonry broken off in an outward direction.
“We have nine dead men,” said Commissioner West, looking from the scattered pile of bodies to the roof.
“Actually, Commissioner,” began a passing policeman, “There was one guy who only broke both his legs. They wheeled him off before you got here, sir.”
“Did he say anything?” asked West.
“Just started hollerin’ about some monster chasing them, sir.”
“Hmm…good work,” said West, pondering the sight before him. “Any new developments?”
“None sir. The initial report seems unchanged,” said the officer. Once dismissed, he wandered off.
The Commissioner released a great sigh, examining the faces of the men crumpled before him. “And here I thought we might catch a break this year, Rob. This country has no nobility as such. None that could be made to leap on command.”
“Right sir,” responded Robert, looking dejected at the sight.
“Naturally, we overlooked that we do have lords here,” continued West, stooped low to get a good look at the nearest corpse.
Taking a list from a nearby policemen, De Large began to read. “Victor Tronce, Carl Walters, Abe Almond, Ernst Digger, Frank Dole, Bernie Barrow, Forest Cotton, John Rotter, and Peter Smiles. These were all…”
“Crime lords,” finished Commissioner West. “Heads of mobs and mafia families all. Organized crime heads, served at the bottom of a steep drop.” He stared at the roof again. The smoke stood out from the cloudy, snow-dropping sky.
“At least two of these guys aren’t even from this city,” said Robert, examining the list. “Cotton and Rotter come from adjacent towns. Welton City and…Pineburg if I have it right.”
“Not to mention at least three of the natives only popped up within the last year,” added West, rubbing his chin. “Wasn’t even all that great a market for them to begin with, so far as smuggling or drugs are concerned. Now was hardly the time to even get into business.”
“You don’t think there’s a connection, do you sir?”
“…can’t jump to conclusions just yet,” said the Commissioner. “Yet it is awfully convenient for the Holly Man to have new crime lords pop up. Otherwise who knows if the quota could be met.”
“At least we’ve got these guys out of the picture,” said Robert, but he frowned at his superior’s face.
“No,” corrected Commissioner West. “The underworld just lost an entire set of leaders. We’re looking at some serious mob conflict in the coming months, assuming their lieutenants can’t or won’t establish some kind of new status quo. When it’s all said and done, the underworld is liable to completely change on us. What’s worse than a criminal element?”
“A wild one, sir?”
“One you don’t already know.” The Commissioner groaned, shaking his head. “Just two more years of this, huh?”