A Murder on Christmas Eve

Criteria:

Subject: A Murder

Setting: Christmas Eve

Time Period: Any

Length: About 1000 words

 

The muffled sound of snow touching lightly down on the windowsill outside did little to calm the nerves when burlap hung loosely about Alan’s face, leaving his skin slightly tender.  There was some light that poured through the mesh, but he had long ago given up trying to see what was going on all around him and settled on just trying to breathe.  The air had become warm and thick with the vapor of his breath, and with each passing moment became more of a chore to take in.

With a sudden rush of light and a few minor fabric burns, the hood was suddenly yanked from his head.  A refreshing wall of cool air closed in on him quickly, and the stale scent of the burlap vanished at long last.  His eyes fought to adjust to the new light.

He could see that there was a man sitting in front of him, wide-legged and mounting the chair backwards.  He was facing him, and though he hadn’t the optical facility to pull much information in, he could at least tell the man was smiling.  It was a bright, cheery smile that nearly enveloped his entire face.  As his sight finally returned fully, he realized why it was that the look seemed so far out of place in the situation.

The man was smiling with genuine warmth, the expression bringing rosy highlights to his cheeks and causing his eyes to almost completely disappear behind the upward-arcing rims.  Recognition flooded in, and Alan realized that this was a face he hadn’t seen in well over a decade.  This was the last place he would have anticipated this reunion.

“Nick?”  The word was more a croaked whisper than anything else.

The man brightened.  “Ah!  I thought you might recognize me, Allen!”

Allen glanced around, trying hard to imagine the man in this place, but even witnessing it, he couldn’t fully manage it.  “Nick…what the – what’s going on here?”

“I was hoping you could tell me, kid.  Seems some of my guys spied you loitering, and as you know…” he winked and wagged a finger as he spoke, “…that sort of behavior is discouraged.”

Allan’s face took on an expression of amazement.  “Your guys?  Nick, what are you even doing here?”

Nick looked confused.  “Well i own this place.  The real question is why are you here, Allen?”  He stood and paced a few steps, then turned to face Allen again.  Nick gestured wide with one hand, as if pointing around the other man.  “Then again, you are sitting here bound at the wrists and up until recently gagged, so I think we both have an idea of the answer to that question.”  His face darkened considerably, the warmth of the smile vanishing and his eyes going almost coal black.  “Why are you breaking and entering at my place of business, Allen?”

Allen regarded him suspiciously.  “Nick.  I’m a cop.  This place is the reported location of one of the city’s most profitable criminal operations.  Do you think I’d come within a thousand fucking miles of your front door knowing that?”

That rosy-cheeked, face consuming grin returned as Nick considered this.  “You’re suggesting I had you fetched.”

Allen rolled his eyes.  “Good call.  Sounds and feels like it to me.  What the hell, Nick?  Eighteen years and you go from the bowl full of jelly to this?”

Nick let out a chuckle that sounded like the deep thrum of chiming bells.  “I never did like that phrase.”

“I know.  It’s why I chose it.”

Nick’s face darkened again, and he placed a finger on the left side of his nose.  In the blink of an eye he appeared by Allen’s side, eyes blazing.  A trail of white sparkles faded slowly as they fell from where Nick had been standing a moment before.  “Time does things to people, Allen.  So does being taken for granted.”  Allen struggled against the rope around his neck as he tried to turn his head to see the man.  “You try having your name invoked as a weapon, the entire spirit behind what I was twisted until I became some sort of bogeyman.  There comes a point when it’s just a bit too much and you have to take matters into your own hands.”

Allen coughed.  “How does this…” he waved his head to indicate the large warehouse, “…help any of that?”

“It depends on who you ask.  Personally, it’s kind of nice to think of myself for once.  Do you realize the way the world has changed?  I wasn’t just contending with good and bad.  After a while, selfish came heavy into play as well.  Kids have no perspective where giving and taking is concerned.  That is thanks to their parents, and to some degree thanks to me.”

The reality of what was happening began to sink into Allen’s mind.  The naughty and nice list, the ability to see into the behavior of others, even the short-ranged teleportation he just displayed; this man was far more dangerous than the old stories could have possibly made evident.  “So you’ve turned your attention to money.  Now what?  Why am I here?”

Nick wasn’t looking at him, and didn’t bother to when he answered.  “Now comes a message, I think.  One to you, and more importantly, one to your friends downtown looking to shut my endeavor down.”

Tears began to fill his eyes as Allen’s mind began to fill with panic.  Messages like what Nick was implying meant one thing: the line in the sand.  Cops don’t respond well to messages like those, even more so when it’s at the expense of a fellow cop.  What did he have in mind, exactly?  Could the city – or even the world – do anything to stop him?

The thought was cut short by a crash of thunder and a flash of light that winked out abruptly into pitch darkness.  All thought ceased as Allen crumpled to the floor, his head falling into a spray of his own blood as he landed.

Nick crouched down in front of the body, weapon still smoking in his hand.  He said over his shoulder, “Clean this up, and make sure it’s found.”  He opened his pocket watch and examined it.  “Oh, and merry Christmas, Allen,” he mumbled.

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