THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A Holiday Whodunnit

By Christine Madden

★ ★ ★ ★

FICTION ADVENT CALENDAR

In yesterday’s advent calendar, Granny announces that the body under the tree is her secret boyfriend Brendan. If you missed it, read Day 5 here.

Episode 6: Swipe right for Santa

Before Marie could answer, Holly asked, “Granny, if that is your boyfriend, why is he dressed up to look like Santa?”

“That’s true,” said Granny. “I didn’t think of that.”

A couple of days ago, they had met up for what was turning into their weekly carvery lunch at Cooley’s Hotel. He was always waiting for her at the door, always dapper in a suit and tie and a big warm smile. In fact, Granny considered, he didn’t look at all as portly as he did now, supine on the floor with a big, round belly straining at a clownish red jacket. He must have really gone to great lengths to get into the role, she thought.

They were well into their roast beef and three veg when he reached over and took her hand. Granny’s heart beat faster, which was pleasantly exciting but also a bit worrisome, as you never knew at her age how much excitement your heart could take. But at that moment it was wonderful. He’d been thinking, Brendan said, he wanted to leave a little something for her under the Christmas tree. Would it be possible to get in late on Christmas Eve, after she was asleep, and put it there for her to find in the morning? He looked into her eyes – he had such magnetic, cobalt blue eyes, like the winter sky on a cloudless afternoon – and Granny thought, my heart can’t flutter any more than this.

She giggled nervously. “Don’t be silly,” she said. “Don’t be spending good money on me.” At the same time, thinking: I can’t wait to see what it is.

“I expect he wanted it to be really special,” Granny said to Holly. “Oh, Brendan, maybe it was just too much for you.” She made another attempt to go over to him, but Joe had hobbled over and held her back.

“No. Tell me, one of you, who is this man? How did you meet him?”

Marie took a deep breath. “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

Oh, no, thought Noel. This is going to be much worse than it sounds.

“We met him on my smart phone, “ said Granny.

“What?” Joe cried. “You don’t even have a smart phone!”

“My phone is very smart, thank you very much,” Granny huffed. “I got it from Noel.”

Noel knew it. He knew it would only be a matter of time before he would be implicated in some way. “It was my last phone,” he explained. “When I got a new phone for my birthday, I didn’t need the old one anymore, so Granny got it.”

“I thought I was going to get that phone,” said Holly accusingly.

“We were very careful,” said Marie, “very discreet. I was just helping her find a friend.”

“We saw his picture, I waved at him on the screen,” said Granny, swishing her hand through the air, “and we got together.”

“You swiped the screen?” Joe’s voice was getting shrill again. He turned to Marie. “You had my mum looking for men on Tinder? You had my 74-year-old mother looking for a hook-up on Tinder?”

“It wasn’t like that!” Marie said defiantly.

“What was it like, then?” Joe shouted. “What the hell were you doing on Tinder anyway?”

“I think he’s bleeding,” said Holly.

They all looked down. While the adults were preoccupied, Holly had taken the opportunity to detach herself from them and examine the body more closely. She held up a hand to show them how her palm was smeared with blood.

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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