K.C. and Chapel sit at her small kitchen table, close enough to the fridge to hear them hum.
"This is a very … well, it's bigger then a bread box, but not by much," says Chapel.
"I know. Takes a little adjustment," handing him some hot cocoa with miniature marshmallows.
"The little old woman who lived in the shoe would be flabbergasted."
She sits down, "I make due."
"If you don't mind me asking, why are you here? I could probably see to it you got a room at the Paladin, and money's not an issue—"
"I know, and I appreciate it. It's just that it's mine; I earned it."
"Ah," shakes his head in acknowledgement.
"Nobody can take it away but the evil land lady. I'm not under anybody's thumb."
Chapel opens some a couple large vanilla envelopes.
"Not that there's anything wrong with your thumbs. I'm sure those Chapel Mysteries include hand modeling," adds K.C.
"So, what's all this…" picks up a large typing-paper sized photo.
"Holy crap," she looks at a photo of a kid next to the Christmas tree, in a puddle of blood. Then another. Then in another room, the mother. "Somebody killed a family."
"On Christmas," he adds.
She looks more closely at the mother, "What's wrong with her head?"
"With a .38 Magnum. In real life a weapon like that blows out the back of your head. Typically that's why you might see a blanket thrown over a victim; a larger caliber was used."
"Why would someone do this?"
"There's another set of photos in that stack. It's the Christmas Sleighings."
"I remember hearing about that. There was one last year, and I think there was another."
"The year before."
"Wasn't there a witness who said the guy was dressed as Santa Claus?"
"Santa was doing a different kind of slaying those nights. I missed the first one. And the second Christmas," he gets up, "I was tied up in other … work."
"You want this guy, don't you?"
"With a finger upside my nose. He's only struck once each year. I can't wait for the cops to accidently stumble upon him this year."
"If he strikes again," K.C. points out.
Pacing steadily, he replies, "He will."
Putting the photos back into the envelope, "How do you know?"
Chapel changes direction while pacing, "Because he's sick in the head. He was damaged goods long ago, and learned to like it."
"So, how are we playing this? He's working alone, so there's nobody to turn against him, he must have no conscious to manipulate. Jail seems a little too good for him."
"I'm still weighing my options."
"Isn't that kind of like, you know, going to the grocery store hungry? With a wad of money."
"No. I fold my money."
"Of course. Why does this bother you so much? I mean, it's a horrific crime, but it's not like horrible crimes don't happen all the time in a hundred mile radius of you."
"Christmas is different."
"As opposed to being murdered the other 364 days in the year?" she rebukes.
"No, no – terminology's wrong. These poor folks were slaughtered. You got a mother and her kid, all happy and joyous, excited at the prospect of a few days of happiness and giving. Singing Christmas carols, watching holiday specials and driving around looking at Christmas lights and BAM!" smacks his right hand into his left fist, stopping from frantic pacing. There's an odd few seconds of silence as he stares and thinks, almost recouping and receding back into himself. "And some punk who should have long dropped the soap in some prison dating alternative area, comes along and destroys all that's right in the world. The presents are under the tree, photos on the wall, cloths in the bedroom, but the life is gone," cocks his head and breaths in and out, "anyway," he sits down.
"Yeah," quietly examining Chapel's face.
"5683 Oaktrace Road."
"Is that where he's gonna strike next?"
"If I can help it. Mr. & Mrs. Smith are the proud new owners."
"Who are they?"
He reaches for the second vanilla envelope and spills the contents onto the table, "Keys."
"I'm Mrs. Smith?"
"Driver's license," hands he one.
"Hey – I don't weight that much."
"Oh, I must be mistaken," Chapel comments coyly.
"Well, you are."
"So I take it as per your comments earlier, you're Mr. Smith? Very original, by the way."
"No, that was just to gauge your reaction. And what's wrong, exactly," motioning with his hands to himself, "with a fine specimen of the male sex such as myself? I'm quite the catch."
"I'm sure nothing a decade of psychiatric counseling and a new psychological eponym couldn't resolve."
"Once, my feelings," he pours his glass of water into a wilting plant in a small pot in the middle of the table. "Where's your sense of Christmas cheer? Or your yuletide log for that matter?"
"Fire codes won't allow any log burning in my apartment. And in case you didn't hear, I haven't exactly had much to cheer about."
"You still got your health," he says.
"So do those runners before they suddenly drop dead."
"Come on – we'll sing 'Frosting the Snowman' together. Ready? Go: Frosty the Snowman, was—"
"Okay, stop singing!"
"And you don't like my voice either? Why, Mrs. Smith – I'm beginning to think you and I just weren't meant for the long haul."
She takes another sip of the cocoa, "Where'd you get the house?"
"Let's just say a realtor owed me a favor. In fact, that would be very accurate."
"Well, what do I do?" asks K.C.
"Credit card," hands her an American Express.
"You do realize you just handed me a credit card, right?"
"Oh, my goodness – you mean that wasn't my Boob Inspector license?"
"What if I spend like a bazillion dollars with it?" she toys with him.
"There's a $200,000 thousand dollar limit on it. I want you to go around and just start buying things. TV's, VCR's, furniture, expensive house hold items, and pile the empty boxes outside. Not all at once, I want a steady daily pile. Draw attention to yourself. If he doesn't work somewhere, he'll be casing the upscale neighborhoods for items."
"So, you're saying my job is to go shopping? For a week? I love you."
"And … get yourself something. And make sure you get a diamond necklace – don't spend all the credit on it – and wear it while you shop."
"I can do that. Where will you be?"
"Watching and taking care of business. Car keys," hands her another set of keys.
"Parked elsewhere. Take you to it tomorrow – you got a lot of spending to do."
"Sounds like a plan. Just one question," she says.
"Yes?" wrinkles his forehead looking at her.
"Who's Mr. Smith?"