THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
A Holiday Whodunnit
By Christine Madden
★ ★ ★ ★
FICTION ADVENT CALENDAR
In yesterday’s advent calendar, when Brendan the ‘dead Santa’ regains consciousness the case goes from whodunnit to what in the name of Christmas happened?, read Day 17 here.
Episode 18: Brendan’s surprise
Garda Paul McNamara reappeared. “They’re on the way. Said they’re sorry for the delay. Short-staffed.”
“Right,” said Garda Brady, stifling a few riper words in the name of professionalism. “Thanks. Now,” turning back to Brendan, “Mr Jones?”
“Yes, er, sorry, what was the question?”
Shit, he did seem to be suffering from memory loss, Garda Brady thought. Was it from the blow to his head or was he generally a bit doddery? “You were going to tell me what happened this evening, Mr Jones. Can you remember?”
Brendan looked around again. Again he fixed on Joe. “I’m not so sure anymore. I remember … yes, I was coming here to put a little something under the tree for my sweetheart. Such a lovely girl. Yes, and I came in, and was just going to put Anna’s present under the tree, and then I was struck behind the head with a whiskey bottle. After that I don’t remember anything. And now I’m here with all of you.”
“Did you see who struck you?”
“Oh … ” Brendan hesitated. “Well, I can’t be sure, but … I do remember seeing Joe before. His face does look familiar to me. I think it might – ”
“That’s a lie!” Joe shouted. “I never saw him before in my life! I didn’t even know he existed!”
“Restrain yourself, Mr Carroll,” Garda Brady ordered. “Now, Mr Jones. You say you remember seeing Mr Carroll before. Perhaps you were introduced to him?”
“I just said – ”
“Mr Carroll,” said Selina Brady, giving him the look that silenced everyone. Once again, it worked.
“No, we were never introduced,” said Brendan. “I – of course, I can’t be sure – but I do think I remember him hitting me with the whiskey bottle.”
Selina Brady looked over at her colleague. “McNamara, where did you put that hurley?”
“It’s here,” said Paul McNamara, retrieving it from where he had placed it against the wall.
“Do you recognise this, Mr Jones?” Selina Brady gestured towards the beribboned, blood-stained hurley.
Brendan appeared alarmed and confused as he regarded the hurley. “Oh. Goodness,” he stammered. “Goodness. Oh, perhaps, perhaps that was what I got hit by. Yes, perhaps it was a hurley after all.”
Selina Brady and Paul McNamara exchanged a look. It was also obvious that the whiskey bottle had been broken at some point. In a struggle?
Garda McNamara retrieved something else from the side wall. “There was also this. Does it look familiar to you, Mr Jones?”
Unexpectedly, the colour in Brendan’s face deepened. “That Rudolf! I knew there was something fishy about him!”
Selina Brady regarded Brendan narrowly. Did that hit on the head dislodge something?
“Oh, God,” Granny cried, entering the room with a mug of tea. “He’s delirious! Here, drink this, Pet, It’ll do you good.”
“I told you it was Rudolf’s nose!” Holly proclaimed.
“Hoooolllly,” Noel groaned. “Stop it!”
Something doesn’t add up here, Selina Brady thought. She glanced at Paul McNamara; they were in agreement.
“Mr Jones, where is the present you were leaving Mrs Carroll senior under the tree? Presumably you didn’t get a chance to leave it there before you were hit on the head?”
“Present?” Brendan said, coming back to himself. “Oh, er, yes.” He made an elaborate show of checking the non-existent pockets in his suit. “Er, yes,” he said, looking self-conscious. “I, I don’t seem to have it with me.”
“So you used the house alarm code,” garda Brady said, “to gain entry to your girlfriend’s family’s house in order to leave her a present under the tree, and didn’t even bring the present with you?”
“Oh, well, we’re all getting a bit forgetful at our age, aren’t we? Or maybe it was stolen? Yes, that must be it. He took it off me after he hit me.”
“I never took anything from you after – ” Joe said sharply, then realised that he had stupidly answered a Groucho Marx-style question without even being asked. “Fuck,” he said involuntarily.
“Language!” Granny scolded.
This could well be true, Selina Brady surmised. Brendan Jones might just be a confused elderly man, made perhaps a bit more muddled by love. On the other hand, he could have had another, less endearing intent. Perhaps with an accomplice who bashed him over the head, pocketed the gift and anything else he could find and scarpered. Or she. The jealous ex-girlfriend could be a jealous still-girlfriend.
“Mr Jones,” she said, “I think we’ll have to take you down to the station for further questions. We’ll see to your head injury, too, of course.”
Brendan appeared extremely uncomfortable. He seemed to be tensing, perhaps steeling himself to make a run for it? Then he finally spoke.
“Yes, all right,” he said, with a deep sigh. “I’ll have to be honest with you. My name isn’t Brendan Jones. It’s – in fact – I am Santa Claus.”
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.
At The Wild Word we are proud to present some of the best online writing around, as well as being a platform for new and emerging writers and artists.
As a non-profit, the entire site is a labour of love.
If you have read the work in The Wild Word and like what we do, please put something in our tip jar to keep this amazing platform alive.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!