THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
A Holiday Whodunnit
By Christine Madden
★ ★ ★ ★
FICTION ADVENT CALENDAR
In yesterday’s advent calendar, Garda McNamara discovers something on the roof while Holly unwittingly reveals a clue, read Day 13 here.
Episode 14: Snowmen don’t tell tales
“Something on the roof?” Garda Brady repeated.
“Yeah. Not really sure what it is,” said Paul McNamara. “There are signs of some activity, and a couple of things half buried in the snow, but it’s too dark out there to see.”
Selina Brady hesitated for a moment. Where, she wondered, were the reinforcements and the coroner? They had to secure the crime scene and collect evidence. She couldn’t do it while she was interrogating the Carrolls. And they needed the coroner to examine “Brendan’s” body. She was pretty sure it was somebody, probably using an alias, to prey on a lonely, hopeful elderly woman. Even if, judging from her utterances thus far, Mrs Carroll senior seemed to be nobody’s fool.
“Is there a ladder on the premises?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Marie, when Joe said nothing immediately. “It’s in the shed. I can get it for you.”
“Ah, no, Mrs, erm … ” Garda McNamara stammered. “I’ll find it.”
“No,” she said, then remembered the moment they’d had – just a few moments ago? Time had become elastic and unreliable. Well, she’d offered now. “I’ll give you a hand. The door is a bit tricky.”
She walked into the kitchen, slipped on her boots by the back door and went out into the cold. Paul McNamara had no choice but to follow.
Remaining in the room, Selina Brady decided that the physical evidence wouldn’t be tampered with if they killed those bloody fairy lights. “Maybe somebody could switch off the tree?” she requested.
“I can,” said Noel. It was an excuse to be helpful. And not to stand about stupidly while the situation only got worse.
“Right,” said Selina, with a sense of relief as the tree stopped its giddy flashing. “So, Mr Carroll, can you tell me, is it true that you came down again after going to bed, but before Holly arrived to find the body?”
Joe cleared his throat.
“Yes, he did,” Granny offered. “I heard him, too.”
“What?” The word was a bit strangled in his throat. He coughed, and repeated, too loudly this time: “What?”
“You’re the only person who never avoids that step. Even I avoid it, and I’m not the best on the old pins anymore.”
“Jesus, Mum, give it a rest!” Joe groaned. “Anything else you want to criticise me for?” Then he remembered her accusation from before and went cold, despite still being in the warmth of the house.
Outside, Marie trudged towards the shed in the back of the garden.
“We should keep to the sides; try not to disturb anything out here,” said Garda Paul McNamara.
“Right, of course,” said Marie. She kept to the hedge, with Paul behind her.
“Erm … ” Paul felt the need to break the silence somehow. “Nice snowman,” he said. He instantly wished he could turn into one himself. Inscrutable and – most importantly – silent.
Mind you, maybe it would have seen something. If it could talk
Marie luckily had her back to him and was fiddling with the latch on the shed door. With any luck she hadn’t heard him. “There,” she said, swinging the door open. “The ladder – ”
“I can see it there,” said Paul, glad he was facing away from the light. “I’ve got it. You’d best get back inside. Thanks.” He started to extract the ladder from all the other junk around it as Marie very gladly fled, happy to exchange polar temperatures and social awkwardness for the warmth of the sitting room – even if it had become a crime scene and interrogation room.
Marie re-entered to hear Garda Brady ask, “What made you come downstairs? Did you find anything out of the ordinary down here? Or what was your purpose?”
Christine Madden is an Irish writer, journalist and dramaturg. She worked as subeditor and arts correspondent for the Irish Times, writing extensively on theatre, dance and literature as well as other culture and feature topics. As literary manager at Rough Magic Theatre Company, and New Playwrights Programme Manager at the Abbey Theatre, she assisted the development of new plays and playwrights for the Irish stage. Together with Theatre Forum and Dublin Theatre Festival, she also devised, initiated and launched The Next Stage theatre development workshop, which she also led in its first two years. She is currently resident in Germany, where she continues to work as a freelance journalist and editor, and is concentrating on her own work: she has written a novel and is currently working on her second.
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