The Crime Readers' Association

Happy Christmas

By David Stuart Davies

While caught up in the maelstrom of Christmas shoppers in the big department store, buffeted, crushed and elbowed by the desperate purchasers, Edna Burrows began to feel claustrophobic. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea after all coming out late on Christmas Eve to visit the shops. It had only been a whim. With the prospect of a lonely Christmas on her own she had desired some company, some contact with humanity before she closed her door on the world for the duration of the festive season. Now she was not so sure she wanted any contact with these inconsiderate, selfish demons whose only thoughts were to grab something from the shelves and barge their way to the tills, taking no note of who they might shove out of the way in the process.

In desperation, Edna headed for the exit and squeezed her way out into the cold chill of a late December afternoon. If that is humanity, she mused, you can keep it. Doggedly, she made her way to the bus station and caught a number 43 which dropped her quite near where she lived: Thornhill Avenue, a row of narrow terraced houses. As she approached home, she noticed a figure standing by the streetlamp adjacent to her house. It was a tall man who was standing absolutely still and looking directly at number 12: her house. She felt her tummy tighten with apprehension. Who was this man? Why was he gazing at her house?

Moving closer she could see now that the man was wearing a uniform: a police uniform. He turned to face her as she approached.

‘Evening, madam?’ he said in a friendly tone. He had a strong face, with a neat moustache and kind eyes. ‘Do you live here?’

Edna nodded. ‘Yes. Is there something wrong.’

‘We’re doing a house check down here, Mrs…?’


‘Yes, Mrs Burrows. I’m afraid one of the patients at Colston House has escaped…’

‘Colston House, the mental place?’

The policeman nodded. ‘Yes. Apparently he used to live around here at one time and the doctors think he may well be headed back to his old stomping ground.’

Edna shivered. ‘Oh, dear.’

‘I’m afraid he’s very dangerous. So we’re checking all the houses in the area to make sure he hasn’t sort of … y’know, got himself inside one of them, if you see what I mean.’

‘Oh dear,’ Edna repeated.

‘I’ve been to all the properties on Thornhill apart from yours. So, Mrs Burrows, if you wouldn’t mind letting me have a quick look round in your house, just checking to be on the safe side, like.’

‘You want to go inside my house… now?’

‘Yes, if you don’t mind. I’ll just have a quick shufty. It won’t take me long. Better safe than sorry, eh?’

‘I suppose so,’ said Edna, leading the way up the path and opening the door. Switching on the lights in the hall, she beckoned the policeman inside.

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ she asked.

‘That’s very kind, but I’m OK, thanks.’ He pulled a large torch from out of his jacket. ‘I’ll just take a quick look upstairs and then finish off down here. I’m sure everything will be all right, but, as I say, better safe than sorry. I’ll be out your hair in less than ten minutes. I expect you’ve got plans with it being Christmas Eve.’

Edna gave him a wan smile. As she made her way to the kitchen she could hear the policeman’s heavy footsteps clumping up the stairs. She filled the kettle at the sink and plugged it in. ‘Plans for Christmas Eve,’ she murmured and added a bitter laugh.

Having brewed the tea, she moved into the small sitting room and switched on the electric fire and drew the curtains. Moments later the policeman entered.

‘All safe and sound,’ he grinned. ‘Nothing to worry about.’

He did not notice the door behind swing open and a figure advance on him at speed. A figure with a knife in his hand. The figure plunged the blade into the neck of the policeman who emitted a gurgling groan as he sank to his knees, eyes wide with shock and blood spewing from his mouth.

The man with the knife gazed down at the inert figure with a grin of satisfaction and then he turned his attention to Edna.

‘Hello, Mum,’ he said. ‘Happy Christmas.’

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