“No mum, I won’t forget the Christmas Pudding… yes I have the recipe, I make it every year!” Emmeline rolls her eyes from the safety of her end of the phone as her mother relays the recipe anyway. “No mum I haven’t forgotten about Grampy’s nut allergy, I’m making him a mini-pud all to himself…of course without any nuts, I’m not about to murder an 83 year old man!” She shakes her head and stifles a giggle as her mother rants about the importance of not letting Gramp’s pud come into contact with any nuts.

After another ten minutes and three ‘goodbye’s, Emmeline finally hangs up and drops the phone on the sofa beside her. A stunted Christmas tree sits in the corner, decorated scantily with a draping of white fairy lights and a few silver baubles. Silver has always been her Christmas colour, for her mum it was always red, but silver reminds her of the snow that has long since stopped falling. She remembers when she was a kid and snow was everywhere, her dad used to dig them a path out of the house and take them sledging in the holidays. When she looks outside now, all she sees is rain falling steadily from the sky and coating everything in its dreary greyness.

She pops open a bottle of beer and grabs a parcel from the kitchen side, sliding a knife under the sellotape to open it without ripping the paper. A note falls onto the side. She pulls a cardboard box from the package and puts her ear to it before prising it open. Inside is a tiny bauble decoupaged with pictures of her family.She places it on the black marble surface and picks up the note. It’s written on one of those ‘Letter to Santa’ notecards she’s seen her niece with around Christmas, in a sloping green ink. But where her niece would have written a list of all the gifts she’d like, this note simply says: Merry Christmas. Ho. Ho. Ho.

She is startled by the blaring chime of her phone ringing and slides it right to answer.

“Fontane…Five minutes”

Four minutes and thirty-two seconds later, she arrives at a little flat on Fawley Place. The blinking blue lights of police cars cast beams of danger into the night sky, and a few police-men are cordoning off the area. Her partner approaches, handing her a file and directing her inside.

“The victim’s Rosie Clifford, 27 years old, worked for the beauty salon down the road…Belladonna, know it? Anyway, her friend Leo found her ten minutes ago, they were supposed to be going on a night out and he’d come to pick her up. He’s dressed to the nines and she was too, so it looks like that checks out. They reckon she died within the last couple of hours, cause was a blow to the back of the head… blunt object. Possibly this chair leg seeing as it’s covered in blood. Nice, take that to evidence will you, dust it for prints. What’re you thinking?”

He’d been gesturing around the room to various items and people, as well as the seductively dressed corpse on the floor; but now he stops and looks at Emmeline directly. She absorbs the scene, the chair he’d mentioned is broken, deformed and balancing precariously on three legs. There’d been a struggle.  She bends down and looks closely at the body. Her hair had been curled before it had matted with the blood and what had clearly been some sort of fight. Nine manicured acrylic nails sit undamaged on her dainty fingers, but her left thumbnail is absent. One shoulder is torn off from the dress.

“Any sign of break in?”

“No, so she probably knew her…”

“Detective Fontane” The kid who’d taken the chair’s missing limb off to evidence returns holding an envelope. His hand shakes a little as he holds it out to Emmeline. “This is addressed to you.” She slips on a silicon glove from her pocket and takes the envelope, sliding a finger beneath the seal to open it without tearing the evidence. It is a plain piece of notepaper with a single line of black typed font in the centre.




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