by Michael Bracken
Enjoy another Christmas mystery short story! This one has never before been published.
My partner and I left the warmth of our unmarked car and trudged up the snow-covered walk to the porch of a three-bedroom brick ranch in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Smoke drifted from the home’s chimney, suggesting the warmth that awaited us. We couldn’t wait to get next to the fire and thaw the winter chill from our bones.
We were responding to our third call that morning and had the sinking suspicion that we would have many more calls before our shift ended. The city had seen a crime wave of unusual proportions–more B&Es in one night than we had seen all year. It was our job to investigate the crime scenes and identify the perp. We work the day watch out of Burglary and the holiday season kept us busy.
The homeowner met us at the door. After we identified ourselves as Sergeant Moore and Detective Donder, he invited us inside and repeated the story he’d told the patrol officer who had first responded to the call. Someone had broken into the house while the family was sleeping.
The homeowner, a nervous little man who kept wringing his hands as we spoke, swore that the doors and all of the windows had been locked tight before the family retired for the evening and that they were still locked tight when the family awoke. Our own observations confirmed that no locks were broken and that none of the doors and none of the windows had been jimmied.
“Did he take anything?” Detective Donder asked. He and I had been partners for nearly ten years, so long that we often shared the same thoughts when working a case.
The homeowner shook his head. Then he led us into the living room. “He ate my cookies, drank my milk, and left this mess.”
We looked at the plate full of crumbs, at the empty glass, and at the brightly colored paper strewn everywhere. The crime scene resembled the two crime scenes we’d already visited that morning, and I suspected that close examination of the scene would provide little more information than examination of the first two had.
The homeowner looked away. “Not exactly,” he finally admitted as he wrung his hands. “My children woke before we did. I think they made the mess worse than it might have been.”
“Your children tampered with the crime scene?”
“I’m sorry,” the homeowner said. “I would have stopped them if I had awoken in time.”
While I was talking to the homeowner and warming myself by the fire, my partner applied fingerprint powder to the milk glass and examined the results.
From across the room I asked, “Any prints?”
“Nothing,” Detective Donder replied. “The perp must have worn gloves.”
He continued examining the carpet around the coffee table where the plate and glass had been. A moment later he held up a pair of tweezers gripping a long white hair. “But I did find this.”
I crossed the living room and examined the single hair. I’d seen hair like it once before, a year earlier when we had worked a similar string of unsolved B&Es.
My partner put the hair in a cellophane envelope and marked the date and location on the outside for the crime lab. After we finished a thorough examination of the crime scene, we realized that the single hair was our only evidence.
We also realized that there was no way anyone could get in or out of the house without help from the inside. We thought we might have to interrogate the homeowner’s wife and children until we both looked at the fireplace.
“No,” he replied. “Only since this morning.”
Detective Donder turned to me. “You thinking what I’m thinking? You think it’s the same guy as last year?”
“Bound to be,” I replied. “The M.O. matches.”
We bundled ourselves up, borrowed a ladder from a neighbor, and climbed up to the snow-covered roof. What we saw confirmed our suspicions: Sleigh tracks and the hoof prints of eight tiny reindeer.
Also in this issue is Champagne Chocolate Medley, another Christmas mystery short story. Check out even more Christmas mysteries in our Terrific Tales section, with several more to come before Christmas!