Winter Holidays - Story 3 - First Case of the Year by Ken MacGregor

This story originally appeared in Mr. MacGregor's collection An Aberrant Mind, published 2014.

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“Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. ONE!!! Happy New Year!” Thirty-five voices in near harmony. Nice. Then, the obligatory hugs, kisses and handshakes all around. Same shit, different year.

Five minutes later, my phone rang. If I hadn’t had it on vibrate, I never would have noticed. Why in the hell did I put it on vibrate?

Once I got off the phone I called Sam, my partner. At least we were both still sober. Close enough to fake it anyway. Sam offered to pick me up, and we went to the crime scene in his car. Wasn’t too far. We got there half an hour into the new year.

We pulled up to a nice brownstone in a nice neighborhood; not the kind of place you expect to find homicide detectives. Sam and I stood out like dirty, dented metal garbage cans at an outdoor wedding.

The couple that lived there seemed decent enough; she offered us coffee first thing. Good coffee, too. Wasted on guys like us, but we weren’t complaining. Her hands shook a little as she poured. We took it black.

The husband put his hand on his wife’s shoulder, being strong for her. Nice. He informed me that he told the uniforms the whole story already. I asked him to humor me and tell it to me, too.

“Well, sir,” he said. Sir. I could get used to working this side of town. “We noticed the smell the day before yesterday, but it didn’t get really bad until this morning. We thought it was a raccoon maybe, so we called animal control. They came out and looked in the chimney and told us to call the cops. The police, I mean.”

“‘Cops’ is fine,” I said. “Anything else?”

“Well... when they left, I looked up there. I had to, you know? Now, I wish I hadn’t.”

“What’d you see?”

“A hand. A human hand. Kind of grey though, like spoiled meat.” His wife (No ring. Girlfriend?) gagged a little and looked away. It was not an attractive sound. He put his arm around her. Noble and shit. Good for him.

“Okay. Thanks. Why don’t you stay here while we take a look?” I handed him my card, the one that just says Detective James Hatfield, Homicide and a phone number. I have some others that say Ninja Master, but I didn’t think this was a good time for levity.

Sam and I walked into the living room; yeah... you could smell it in here, all right. I walked to the fireplace and stuck my head in. I too could see the hand. Looked like it was dead maybe a week. I got out my skinny flashlight and shined it up the chimney. I kind of knew what I was going to find, but I still didn’t believe it.

“Sam, you gotta see this.” Sam and I changed places, and he whistled low as he looked up.

“Shit.”

“Yeah. ’Bout sums it up.”

The crime scene guys bustled around, taking pictures and fingerprints and finally got around to ah, extracting the body. It was him all right, but nobody would say it out loud. We all just stood around him for a minute, looking down at his grey face with its white beard. His red suit with white trim.

So, we all jumped about a mile when we heard a loud thud! in the fireplace. My heart pounding, I turned to look. It was a big bag, a sack. And it was all lumpy like it was full of stuff.

Nobody made a move toward it. I made sure my rubber gloves were on nice and tight and I stepped over to the bag. Very carefully, I opened it at the top.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “It’s toys.”

Later, we’d get the autopsy results. Coroner said time of death was December twenty-fifth, sometime between 11:00 and midnight. There were a lot of details about organ size and weight, tissue decay, et cetera, but the one thing I couldn’t get past was the guy’s age. The report said he appears to be a man in his mid-sixties, overweight but otherwise healthy; still had all his original teeth (no fillings or dental work of any kind; this meant no dental records); but, while he appeared sixty-ish, the report had a lot of language in it like morphological and histological changes to the bone that went right over my head, but I got the gist. By looking at the guy’s femur, the coroner figures he had to be a couple thousand years old. At least. Maybe several thousand.

Don’t believe me if you don’t want to. I hardly believe it myself. I’ll tell you one thing though. Next year? Christmas is really gonna suck.

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Ken MacGregor has been writing since he could hold a crayon and getting paid for it since 2012. His work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and magazines and the occasional podcast. He has two story collections: An Aberrant Mind and Sex, Gore and Millipedes. He is a board member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW). He has also written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, and a zombie movie. Recently, he co-wrote a novel (pending publication), and they are working on the sequel. He is the Managing Editor of Anthologies for LVP Publications. When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife. Ken can be found at ken-macgregor.com. You can also connect with him via social media on the following platforms:
Twitter: @kenmacgregor 

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