BY MARK THOMAS
Copyright is held by the author.
IT WAS Christmas Eve and Bob was preparing to kill his Grandma Sterling. Actually, it was the beginning of Christmas day, because it was a little past midnight, but Bob chose to consider that technicality a good omen. Statistically, December 25th was the deadliest day of the year, in terms of negative hospital outcomes. It was probably the only day the deed could be accomplished without suspicion.
The old lady had changed her will again, leaving her townhouse and mutual fund portfolio to her current favourite grandson… Bob. That was certainly fortuitous, but Bob knew it would only be a matter of time before Grandma Sterling staggered into her lawyer’s office and altered it once more. A few days ago, his obnoxious cousin Karol had been the beneficiary. A few days before that, his sister was the lucky one and she had been insufferable, measuring the bay window for new drapes and pulling up corners of the carpet to check for hardwood.
There would be nothing left of the estate if things continued like this. Her lawyer was an unscrupulous dirtbag who charged nearly a thousand dollars every time the old lady walked through his vestibule with a question.
It had to be done today, that much was obvious. The method of death was also obvious after a festive afternoon that included eleven rum egg nogs: Bob would kill Grandma Sterling with a Voodoo curse. The family had crammed into the old lady’s townhouse living room to watch Holiday specials, and one of them had been a cross-character abomination called “Have a Happy Haitian Christmas, Charlie Brown.”
For Bob, that had been a life-altering half hour.
Bob learned that you didn’t need wax to make a voodoo effigy as most people believed. The magic could easily be delivered through a doll composed of tightly bound Christmas ribbons. One loop served as the head, a tangled mass formed the torso and trailing strands were symbolic limbs. The figure had to be purified with caustic alcohol (which was no problem), presumably to remove cast-off DNA, and a single strand of the victim’s hair had to be sewn into the trunk while the supplicant quietly mumbled a hate prayer.
Bob had pretended to fall asleep on the couch, waiting for his relatives to lurch off to spare bedrooms or inflatable mattresses in a basement rec room. As soon as he was alone, Bob fashioned the decorative weapon. Obtaining a hair sample was no problem; the withered crone shed like a Maine Coon. Bob’s first thought was to pluck a tendril from the maple syrup bottle they had been passing around at brunch, but his stomach rolled at the prospect. Luckily, there were many alternate sources. His uncle Devin had pounded three-inch spiral ardox nails into the fireplace mantle to hang stockings, and the old lady had snagged herself multiple times while stuffing them full of underwear and breath mints.
Bob walked over to the fireplace and selected one particularly robust thread and carefully unwrapped it from the galvanized nail head. The hair was glistening white along most of its length, but had bits of disgusting yellowish discoloration near the end. Bob swallowed hard, then used a swizzle stick to knit the hair into the entrails of his doll. Bob clicked his Zippo open and purified a metal skewer lying on an appetizer tray. Then he closed his eyes, silently expelled the most fervent Christmas wish of his life and plunged the slender metal sword into the doll’s thorax.
Bob was woken from a nightmare-filled slumber by a pounding on the front door. He rolled off the couch, quickly checked to see if he was wearing pants, and stumbled down the hall to the entranceway. Bob pulled the door open to witness utter chaos on the tiny front lawn. Two ambulance attendants were administering defibrillator shocks to a blanketed figure on a stretcher. Bob could see a swath of yellowish-white hair, and a patch of red bathrobe. The sky above this little tableau was full of boiling black clouds as if a winter thunderstorm was readying to punish the planet.
A policeman in full Kevlar armour addressed Bob. “Sir, it appears that someone was taken ill as they left your residence.” He leaned forward aggressively. “You had a Christmas party last night?”
“Well, yes,” Bob said thickly. “Is it my aunt?” Now that his body had metabolized some of the residual alcohol, Bob was quietly amazed that the drunken voodoo plan had actually worked.
The policeman furrowed his brows. “The victim is an elderly male, sir.”
Grandma Sterling suddenly appeared behind Bob’s shoulder. “What’s going on?” she asked. “Is someone hurt?”
“Yes, someone collapsed on your front lawn a number of hours ago and a neighbour just called nine-one-one. Did anyone at your party dress as Santa Claus?”
Bob and Grandma Sterling looked at each other briefly. “Of course not.”
“The victim doesn’t appear to have any conventional identification. He’s wearing a fur-trimmed red suit and the only things in his pockets are some baby carrots, a handful of sugar cubes and a laminated address card reading North Pole.” A stubby finger jabbed Bob’s chest. “Can you have a quick look at the gentleman to see if you recognize him, before they slide him into the ambulance.”
Bob tiptoed down the icy sidewalk and paused beside the stretcher. There was an oxygen mask stretched across the broad, bearded face. The man’s cheeks were feverish red spots, but he was alive. For an instant, their eyes locked and Bob felt intensely uncomfortable.
“No,” Bob said uncertainly.
The policeman activated his radio. “Negative, Cap. We’ll continue to canvas the neighbourhood.” Bob walked back up Grandma Sterling’s steps. Several other relatives had been awakened by the commotion and were peeking over the old lady’s shoulders.
The sky continued to darken and rumble as ambulance doors slammed shut. “Merry Christmas,” the policeman said as he touched his cap in a perfunctory salute, and crunched violently across the lawn.