The Christmas Killer

Marla took a deep drag of her cigarette and coughed before tossing it to the pavement and stamping it out. She had barely stumbled out of bed just thirty minutes before. It was New Year’s Day and the party had been out of control the night before. She had lost count of how many glasses of egg nog she had had and that was long before the champagne even showed up. She had thrown on some shades in order to hide bloodshot eyes and had done the best she could with her hair and makeup. An investigative reporter had to look professional. Apparently, there were no days off for a true professional even though she wanted to spend the day hovering near her toilet. Ah well.

The paper had not sent over a photographer which was either an oversight or a budget cutback. The Spotlight was always being overshadowed by the Tribune and television so things were getting a little tight back at the office. The accounting department was getting increasingly testy. So, Marla was surreptitiously snapping pictures with her cell phone from behind the police tape. It looked grim. Cops at crime scenes always looked grim but this one looked particularly bad. Everybody was walking around either ashen-faced or pissed. Not a single cop was lax in their duties guarding the crime scene. Marla suspected she knew what the cause of it all was.

It was the Christmas Killer. It had been more than a week since the killings had begun. On Christmas Eve, a young woman had been found dead in an alleyway. She had been stabbed in the carotid artery and had bled out. It had not been pretty. What was curious is that the deed had been done with a simple candy cane. It had been sharpened to a point and driven deep. It had certainly put an extra chill in the air just before Christmas. The next day there was a very similar killer only this time the victim was male and the target was their femoral artery. Christmas Day in broad daylight. Every day since then there had been another bloody killing, all done with the same sharpened sweet. It was a baffling serial killer case because there did not seem to be a pattern with the victims.

So far, Marla had been at every crime scene but she had gotten very few details. After the first two kills, the cops had done well clamping down on any information they had. Though, the killings kept happening so they must not have had much of an idea yet either. It was frightening that a killer like that could work with impunity in a big city. It made anybody a target. It was a fact that Marla knew all too well. She had made a point of never being alone in the open wherever she went. She moved through crowds and attended parties. Safety in numbers had been her hope as it had been the hope of a lot of people during the last week.

Marla spotted a familiar face near the police tape so she headed in that direction. She had already tried flagging down an officer or detective for a comment. None of them would comment but she had not really expected them to. At one point, like at other crime scenes, she had shouted at them the question of whether it had been the Christmas Killer. The flinch she had seen in one officer had told her all she had needed to know. She moved over toward Rick Friedman who looked almost as hungover as she did.

“Hey Rick,” Marla said. “What’s a private investigator like you doing here? Can’t you see the professionals are already on the case?” She smirked, loving to tease even her closest friends.

Rick sighed. “Good morning, Marla,” he said. “You know very well that I’m a professional. I’m at least as good at sniffing out the facts as you are.”

“Only too true,” Marla said. “I’ll give the devil his due but seriously what are you doing here? I wouldn’t peg you as a rubbernecker.”

“I’m here for the same reason as you and the cops are here,” Rick said. “I want to help figure out who keeps doing this.”

Marla’s eyebrows went up. “You had the same hunch that I did, huh?” she asked. “The Christmas Killer strikes again.”

“I did,” Rick said. “Two of the families have hired me to assist with the investigation.”

“The cops must not be happy with that,” Marla said. “You’re making as many friends as I am.”

“No,” Rick said. “They’re not going to be happy that I’m snooping around but maybe I can see something if I look from an outside angle. Which brings me to why I’m glad that I ran into you.”

Marla smiled. “Aw shucks,” she said. “Why are you glad to see me?”

“I have a proposal for you, Marla,” Rick said.

Marla laughed softly. “I’ve already been married, Rick,” she said. “It didn’t work out.”

Rick smiled. “No,” he said. “I suggest a team-up. You and me. We try to figure some stuff out.”

“Are you for real?” Marla asked.

“I am,” Rick said. “However, I have one caveat.”

“Only one?” Marla asked. “Brave man.”

“Whatever you get, you keep out of the paper until the guy is caught,” Rick said.

“Deal,” Marla said. “For an exclusive, I can stay quiet for a little while but we should really get to work.”

“Agreed,” Rick said.

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