As the holiday season approached rapidly, I thought it would be nice to have a little competition over the festive period. To win a bundle of books, follow the guidelines and good luck. The UK Only, the conclusion will be published on the 02.01.2018.
Below is a short crime fiction story by the talented Linden Forster.
The Purple Party Popper
By Linden Forster
Detective Galbraith stands on the edge of the light cast by the police and ambulance services. He studies his fellow law enforcement officers billowing in and out of the old manor.
Through the ancient bay window, he can see a handful of badges trampling around the crime scene, around the body of Santa Claus, who is draped over a chair not far from a sparkling Christmas tree. His partner looks furious on the other side of the glass. Galbraith smiles, they had their different styles. Their different methods. Detective Gibb believes in clues, in detail, in the slightest misplacement of a pencil. Galbraith likes to believe in people.
He takes his hands from his pockets and walks to the ambulance. A young woman, or old girl he supposes, is sitting on the back seat with a blanket over her shoulders and a warm cup of something in her hands. Next , to her a woman in a luminescent jacket is keeping her company.
‘Not now, Galbraith. She needs space. And no stress,’ the medic adds meaningfully.
Galbraith sinks to the balls of his feet and looks up at the girl. Her eyes look to him for just a moment. ‘It is important that I ask her a few questions. Now.’
‘She’s in shock. She was unconscious five minutes ago.’
‘Then she can spare another five before you take her away, and take the excellent care of her I know you will.’ Galbraith’s eyes do not move from the girl.
‘You’ve got two,’ says the paramedic. She pushes herself off the ambulance step and walks away into the headlights.
‘Tell me your name,’ says Galbraith, kindly.
‘Hello, Robin. My name’s Jonathan. Do you remember where you are?’
‘Rigby. The r-Rigby Hotel.’
‘You work here, yes?’
Robin nods as she takes a sip of tea.
Galbraith can see from her clothes poking out from underneath the blanket that she is a waitress. ‘Do you remember anything about this evening. Anything at all. Who the guest were?’
‘They’re all from town. Mel says they c-come here every Christmas for a m-meal once they’ve finished their last day at the grotto,’ says Robin.
‘Would you say they are friends?’
‘I think s-s-Santa and m-Mrs Claus are married.’ Galbraith says nothing. ‘W-were married.’ Robin’s eyes drift up to the window.
‘And the others?’ asks Galbraith, calling her back to now. To the moment.
‘The elf is their s-son. The t-two who dressed as the front and back of Rudolf are brothers.’
‘So there were five in the party?’ Robin nods. ‘What do you remember about them? Other than what they were wearing. Did they have any strange behaviours?’
‘One of them asked for no brussel sprouts,’ says Robin.
‘And you found that strange?’
‘In my house we always make sure we make our way through a whole mound.’
‘Do you enjoy them?’ asks Galbraith.
‘Who asked for no brussel sprouts then? So far that’s my biggest lead,’ Galbraith smiles.
Robin closes her eyes for a moment. ‘I don’t remember,’ she says, eyes still shut. ‘They d-drank b-beer. That’s all I can remember.’ She opens her eyes and Galbraith can see the recollection, even one so minor, has drained her. But he needs to press on. The paramedic guardian will soon return.
‘Do you remember anything else about them. How were they seated? Who was next to who? Any other odd meal requests?’ He adds another smile, he needs her to stay with him.
‘Someone was in a y-yellow hat – they all had hats, different colours, from the crackers – the one in yellow didn’t want any gravy. The one in the Green hat sat on the left of the person in the purple hat.’ She closes her eyes again. ‘Rudolf’s front half had extra pork crackling.’
‘Did everyone ask for something different?’
‘Y-yes.’ Robin’s eyes are still tightly shut. ‘The person who asked for no c-c-cranberry sauce was sitting next to the person who drank mulled wine. I’m sorry, I know that is so vague,’ Robin opens her eyes, ’but that’s what I can remember.’
‘You’re doing great. Anything else?’ says Galbraith, aware of the approaching crunch of boots on snow-capped gravel.
‘The Elf had a red paper hat from his cracker. S-s-Santa was drinking whisky. Mrs Claus was sitting at the end of the table nearest the kitchen and to the right of her was the person in the blue party hat.’
‘What was everyone else drinking?’
‘The one in the green hat drank sherry. Whoever was sitting the middle drank spiced apple.’
‘Alright. That’s enough!’
‘Ok. You’re the boss.’ Galbraith gives the waitress one last look and pushed up off his knees.
Behind him, Detective Gibb has left the building and is marching across the snow-covered driveway. ‘Find anything?’ asks Detective Galbraith, as he turns his back to the ambulance.
Gibb holds up a small plastic bag for his partner to see. Sitting along the seam at the bottom is a miniscule dart. No longer than a grain of rice. ‘We found this in the victim’s neck.’
‘Didn’t he have a beard?’ asks Galbraith.
‘It seems he had taken it off by the time this was shot at him.’
‘Shot at him?’
‘It’s just a working theory,’ says Gibb. ‘There’s loads of that confetti string that you get in party poppers. They all seem to have one. We just need to work out which was pointed at Santa.’
‘The purple one.’
Galbraith and Gibb turn slowly to Robin.
‘What did you say?’
‘The purple one,’ reiterated Robin.
‘The purple party popper was aimed at Santa when it went off?’ asks Galbraith. ‘Who was holding it?’
‘The purple one!’
‘Was there more than one?’
‘No,’ says Gibb. ‘They were all different colours, I’ve just seen them.’
‘So every guest had a different coloured hat, ordered a different drink, wanted something changed in their meal and had a different coloured popper. Who was holding it, Robin? Who had the purple party popper?’ asks Galbraith.
‘Purple!’ Robin shouts, she’s shaking now.
‘I really have to ask you two to leave,’ says the medic. ‘She is in no state for these kinds of questions.’
Galbraith ignores her. ‘What do you remember about the other party poppers, Robin? Who had those?’
‘Rudolf’s back half had the blue party popper,’ she says. Her eyes glaze in a trance. ‘The person who asked for mashed potatoes instead of roasted had the yellow party popper. The guest who asked for no cranberry sauce sat next to the one who had the red party popper. The diner who had the green party popper sat next to the person who didn’t want gravy.’
Robin’s eyes shut and she swings forward out the back of the ambulance. The medic reacts to catch her and stares up at Detective Galbraith with the limp body in her hands. ‘I’ll report you for that!
Can you solve the case before Detective Galbraith?
There are 15 clues to be found.
Each Suspect wore a different coloured party hat, ordered a different drink, asked for a different alteration to their meal and had different coloured party popper.
A correct answer should include: the murderer, the colour of his/her hat, what he/she drank and what change his/her made to his/her meal.
Comment on the blog with your answer (one answer per person), one correct answer will be picked at random on the 02.01.2018
If you enjoyed the blog please leave a like and a comment. We would love it if you could share it on Twitter & Facebook. It really helps us to grow. Thanks so very much.
Merry Christmas from Kelly & The Team, thank you for all your support and love in 2017.