Tag Archives: Christmas

And Goodwill to All Men

The only light in the dark room came from the red-and-green bulbs on the Christmas tree. Tim stood before the tree, staring out the eyeholes of his ski mask, looking up at the angel mounted above him. The angel had watched over the birth of the savior of mankind. Now, it was regulated to watching over shiny packages stuffed underneath a plastic tree. Tim smiled at the thought.

+++++“Hey, Tim. Nobody home.”

+++++He turned around, saw his partner coming down the stairs.

+++++“No names,” Tim said, “and put your fucking mask back on.”

+++++“Didn’t you hear me? Nobody home.”

+++++“What if they come home? You want them to see your face?”

+++++“I don’t like the way it feels against my skin. All fuzzy and all. It makes me itch.”

+++++“Goddamnit, Larry,” Tim said, “put your mask back on.”

+++++“I thought we weren’t using names?”

+++++Tim sighed and checked his watch as Larry pulled the ski mask down over his face and stepped farther into the living room, admiring the tree.

+++++“They got a lot of ornaments on that thing,” Larry said. “How long do you think it took them to hang all those? I hate hanging ornaments.”

+++++“Yeah. Me too. Look, it’s almost midnight. I don’t know where these people are. Maybe at a friend’s house, grandma’s house, I don’t care. Maybe they’re not coming back tonight, but maybe they are, and if they are, I want to be the fuck out of here before they come in, okay?”

+++++“Okay.”

+++++“So how about you go find the master bedroom and get the jewelry and whatever else looks good, and I’ll stay down here and handle the china cabinet.”

+++++“Okay.”

+++++“Take only what you can fit in the bag,” Tim offered as parting advice as Larry went back upstairs. He made his own way into the dining room. He switched on his flashlight, panned it across the room, noticed the fine furniture, the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It wasn’t a big home, and the people who owned it weren’t rich, but they certainly weren’t hurting, either.

+++++Tim shined his light on the china cabinet and walked over to it. He opened it up and grabbed all he could and shoved the loot into a gym bag. When the shelves were empty, he closed the cabinet and zipped his bag shut and checked his watch again. They needed to go.

+++++“Hey,” he called upstairs.

+++++Larry came to the top of the stairs, his bag slung over his shoulder. He said down to Tim, “I found a safe.”

+++++“A safe?”

+++++“Yeah. In the closet up here.”

+++++“Why the fuck were you in the closet?”

+++++“I was looking to see if they had anything else around,” Larry said, “maybe some money stashed somewhere, so I looked in the closet and I found a safe in the wall.”

+++++“I don’t know how to crack a safe.”

+++++“Neither do I.”

+++++“So what are we talking about? Let’s get out of here.”

+++++“Can’t we try something? A screwdriver or something like that?”

+++++“I don’t think it works that way. Come on.”

+++++Larry came down the stairs, his fat ass stomping loud with each step. Tim rolled his eyes and tried to ignore it, checked his watch again, gave the Christmas tree another look, all the presents underneath it. They all looked so colorful and pristine, perfect folds, little ribbons wrapped around them, bows on top.

+++++Tim, knowing he shouldn’t but he did anyway, asked, “You figure these people give each other nice things for Christmas?”

+++++“I’d imagine so.”

+++++“How long do you think it’d take us to go through all those presents?”

+++++Larry smiled. He liked the way his partner was thinking.

+++++“I don’t know,” Larry said. “Five minutes, maybe?”

+++++“Let’s see.”

+++++The burglars opened the presents. They tore into the paper, disregarding the careful folding and taping that went into the process of wrapping the packages, the sounds of the paper shredding and crinkling the only sounds in the house. They flung the toys they unwrapped into the corner, caring none whether they broke or not when they hit the floor. When they got to a necklace or a nice watch or some expensive gadget the adults of the household had bought for one another, they shoved them into their bags. By the time they were nearly finished, the floor was littered with wrapping paper.

+++++Headlights beamed through the windows as a car pulled into the driveway.

+++++“Shit,” Tim said and dropped the present in his hands and started looking for a place to hide. “I’ll get the closet by the door. You stay here. Get down behind the couch. We’ll jump them when they come in. Wait for me to make the first move.”

+++++Tim headed for the coat closet. He opened it up and stepped inside and pulled the door toward him, but he didn’t close it all the way. It was cracked ever so slightly so he could peer out and see what was happening, and also so when he jumped out, he could just push the door open and not worry about turning the handle. For further precaution, he reached behind his back and when his hand came forward again he held a knife.

+++++Outside, the car’s engine turned off and car doors opened and closed and footsteps walked toward the house. Keys jangled. The lock clicked open.

+++++“Better get him to bed before he wakes up,” said the man entering the house, carrying a small child in his arms. He was followed by a pretty blonde woman, his wife. “Won’t get him back to sleep if he does.”

+++++“I think he was out the second the minister started speaking,” said the wife, shrugging off her coat, pellets of snow on the shoulders, and thankfully tossing the coat onto the back of a chair instead of hanging it in the closet.

+++++“Can’t blame him. I was falling asleep during the service, too. Same message every year.”

+++++“It’s a Christmas Eve service. What do you expect them to talk about? Noah’s Ark?”

+++++The husband turned the corner from the front hallway into the dining room, from where he could see the Christmas tree and the paper strewn all over the living room floor.

+++++“Jesus Christ,” he said. “Honey, call—”

+++++Tim burst out of the closet, grabbing the wife from behind. His gloved hand pressed firm on her mouth, keeping her quiet, and his knife came up to her throat. The husband took a step toward them before he was suddenly grabbed from behind by Larry, Larry pointing the tip of a knife into the man’s back.

+++++“Now,” Tim said, “let’s get you all in the living room. Sit you down on the couch. Nobody talk and nobody put up a fight.”

+++++They herded them into the couch, the victims going along with their commands. The young boy was still asleep.

+++++The two burglars stood over the family, menacing in their black clothes and masks, still holding their knives.

+++++Tim reached into his bag, his hand coming out with a roll of duct tape.

+++++“Here,” he said, tossing the tape to Larry. “Tape them up.”

+++++The sound of Larry tearing off the tape started waking the child. The boy was young, would probably start screaming when he saw the masked men. Larry put a piece of tape over his mouth first.

+++++“You opened all of our presents,” the husband said as Larry wrapped the tape around his wrists, then moved down to his ankles. “It’s Christmas Eve. Don’t do this.”

+++++Larry pushed a piece of tape on the man’s mouth, shutting him up. He moved to the wife after that, taped her mouth and her wrists. He started to do her ankles, then Tim told him to stop.

+++++Leaning in close to her face, holding his knife close to her face, Tim said, “You got a safe in this house, yeah?”

+++++Her eyes were red with tears. She nodded in response to his question.

“You’re going to take my partner to the safe. We’ve found it. We know where it is, so don’t try anything funny. You’re going to enter the combination for him, then you’re going to step back and let him take whatever’s inside. If you try anything, he will kill you, and I will kill your husband and boy. Understand?”

She nodded again.

“Stand up,” he said. He checked his watch, told Larry to go on up with her. The two of them disappeared up the stairs.

+++++“You sure do have a pretty house here,” Tim said to the husband. The man, obviously, couldn’t respond. He just stared at Tim, then moved his eyes toward his child, who was fully awake now and whimpering through the tape on his mouth.

+++++A crash came from the second floor, sounded like glass breaking, followed by a heavy thud.

+++++“Fuck,” Tim said, walking toward the stairs. “Everything okay up there?”

+++++There was no response. He looked at his victims taped up on the couch, knew they weren’t going anywhere, and, a little reluctantly, he ventured up the stairs.

+++++The hallway was dark. He flipped on his flashlight, held the light in one hand and his knife in the other. He called out again, asking, “Everything okay?”

+++++Nada.

+++++He continued on, came to the end of the hall and an open door leading into the bedroom on his right. He stepped in, and the second he crossed the threshold he felt a sharp pierce into the left side of his chest. He staggered backward into the hall, gasping, swinging his knife in the air at no particular target.

+++++His partner’s knife stuck out of his chest, blood oozing from the wound.

+++++Tim started to pull the knife from his chest, but he was hit with something heavy and fell to his knees, a loud shattering as the china in the bag on his shoulder broke with the fall. His mind stopped thinking rationally, and he thought only of escape. He crawled along the hardwood floor, leaving drops of red as he did so, headed toward the stairs and a way out. Footsteps followed behind him, the mother carrying a baseball bat.

+++++When he reached the top of the stairs, he tried standing, wobbling his way up, and the mother hit him again with the bat, and he fell forward, rolled down the stairs. Larry’s knife was only pushed further into his chest as this happened, jamming deep into a lung. Blood rose in his throat, and he started choking.

+++++He hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs. He could see the lights of the Christmas tree and he took off his ski mask and coughed red. Things turned fuzzy, but he made out the angel sitting on top of the tree. The angel just sat there, emotionless, staring down at Tim, offering no help as the burglar choked on his own blood.

A Christmas Crime Carol

For thieves like Huey and me, Christmastime was comparable to tax season for accountants. We were busier than a one legged man at an ass kicking contest.

+++++We started out years ago with car break-ins, heisting purchases and ruining Christmas for people stupid enough to leave gifts in their cars. Alarms as standard equipment put a crimp in that racket. After that we moved on to shoplifting, grab and go’s with Salvation Army kettles, you name it- if it was a holiday related crime we’ve done it.

+++++The best gift we ever got was a huge boon for our holiday business. It was something called Santa Con. In big cities all around the country, thousands of Frat boys and hipsters donned Santa costumes and went on pub crawls.

+++++A few years back I saw a story on the evening news about the first one to be held in Portland. It hit me like a fat man falling down a chimney. Possibilities danced in my head like sugar plums. I called Huey, gave him the scoop and he reacted like a kid on Christmas Eve. The poor guy couldn’t contain himself.

+++++There were only two days to plan so we decided to just wing it see what tidings the day would bring.

+++++We were dressed like a pair of St. Nick’s that Saturday as were hundreds of others, up and down 21st Street. All the padding served to hide the pistols we both carried. The bars were packed with Santa’s. This would be like taking candy canes from toddlers.

+++++Mu Mu’s was the first to go down, after that the Pope House Bourbon Lounge. We took particular delight in that one as it was a notorious hipster hangout where idiots paid up to twenty bucks for a shot of fancy whiskey. Huey and me might have been the only ones in the joint with fake beards.

+++++We hit three or four more and ended the day taking down the Mbar. I’m telling you, easiest scores ever. Pull our guns, demand money from a barkeep and disappear into a crowd of red and white.

+++++That night we started planning for the next year, and what festive plans they were. We enjoyed a few modest scores while waiting for December to roll back around. Long before Thanksgiving, the Christmas spirit filled me. Hell, I even put up a little tree.

+++++The big day finally came around. We were bank robbers dressed as Santa’s. We hit four banks starting at Burnside, one on the corner of Everett another at Davis and last on Lovejoy. The sacks slung over our shoulders were filled with cash instead of toys. We split enough that one day to get us through the year. Huey and me even did something we had never done before, we left the winter gloom of Portland behind and took a two week beach vacation to Mexico.

+++++This year we hit the jackpot. There’s a Safeway store at 21st and Vaughan. Every Saturday at two o’clock an armored car makes a pickup there. Right next door is a bar so there were plenty of other Santa’s milling around. Yeah, we took down an armored car carrying over a million bucks without a shot being fired. We stashed the money at Huey’s crib and joined the celebrants. We got pretty drunk that day.

+++++The next morning we got bad news. The mayor was pissed. He decided to play Scrooge and put forth a resolution that due to the fact a couple of bad actors had ruined it for everyone, Santa Con should be banned. The City council agreed.

+++++All good things must come to an end. Fortunately for us the armored car heist meant we could retire. If it wasn’t for that score- well, we’d still be plugging away without the benefit of Santa Con and the pickings would have been much slimmer than Santa’s cookie plate on Christmas morning. There is one thing I’ll tell you in the wake of Portland banning the event; there isn’t much I agree with this Trump character about but he got one thing right. Too much government regulation is bad for business.

XXXMAS BOOGALOO

Christmas Eve… in the drunk tank.

+++++I’m on a concrete bed, sleeping off a heavy session. It started with a quiet pint in the Cock & Whistle and ended with a knife-fight in the Dirty Lemon. The other guy had a fucking meat cleaver, so I must have been drunk to try and fight him…

*

+++++A bulbous bastard named Salvatore ‘Sweaty’ Moretti shakes me awake. He’s a permanently nervous safecracker who went down in local folklore after losing his footing in a pool of his own perspiration and cracking his skull on the wrought iron door of the safe he had just robbed. Surgeons tried to repair his ruptured skull meat with a steel plate, but it got infected, and the back of his head swelled up like a fucking cantaloupe.

+++++I assume that the sweaty old shit-bag wants my ratty grey blanket, so I plant a size 11 on his chest and kick him into the rancid cinderblock wall.

+++++He’s too drunk to talk and barely grunts as his steel plate clatters against the crumbling masonry.

+++++A pair of elderly cops called Benson and Hedges lurk on the other side of the rusty cage, leering at me. Hedges stubs out his cigarette on an egg mayonnaise sandwich and drops it on a stainless steel breakfast tray, which Benson kicks under the bars towards me.

+++++“Something to line the stomach, young man?”

+++++I toss it back through the bars at him. It falls apart at Benson’s feet, but he picks it up and eats it anyway, grinning at me through misshapen, egg-smeared teeth.

+++++“Suit your fucking self, darling.”

*

+++++Four hours later.

+++++Check-out time.

+++++I emerge blinking into the wintry lunchtime glare.

+++++Outside the cop-shop, I’m met by a geriatric named Holder. He’s the hotel detective at the Excelsior. He’s wearing a threadbare electric blue suit and shuffles nervously from foot to foot.

+++++“Mr. Rey? One of our esteemed guests would like a few moments of your time.”

+++++I try to walk past him, but he halts me with a liver-spotted hand.

+++++“Do I have a choice?”

+++++He pats the gun-shaped bulge under his armpit and smiles awkwardly.

+++++“Everyone has a choice, Mr. Rey.”

+++++I grunt.

+++++“Get shot in the front, or get shot in the back, right?”

+++++He shrugs and gestures to a tiny hatchback in the far corner of the car park.

+++++Fuck it.

+++++I was heading that way anyway…

*

+++++The tinsel-strewn Excelsior Hotel lobby throbs with gaudy horror. Whoever was in charge of the Christmas decorations went too far, and the garish decor reminds me of an overly made-up Harbourside whore.

+++++The Excelsior is probably the only hotel in Paignton that stays full in the dead of winter. It’s also the only hotel that offers seven channels of complimentary softcore pornography. Go figure.

+++++Holder steers me towards the service elevator.

+++++“This way. Let’s avoid the crowd.”

+++++Some crowd. The cheap plastic Christmas tree next to the reception desk looks more alive than most of the fucking guests.

*

+++++Dominic Dominguez stays at the Excelsior every Christmas. Fuck knows why.

+++++When I step inside his suite, he is balanced precariously on the edge of a sturdy barstool, playing on a fruit machine that is on loan from the Greasy Nugget amusement arcade. Holder told me that the mechanism had been rigged, so it pays out every third game.

+++++Dominguez is a big bastard – fatter than a shithouse spider. His enormous bulk gives him a curiously ageless quality, although I notice that his dark hair is now threaded with grey.

+++++He glances at me briefly and wets his lips on a fluorescent umbrella drink.

+++++“You know what I like most about this town, Mr. Rey?”

+++++I shrug.

+++++“Strong beds and even stronger drinks?”

+++++His expression sours.

+++++“Everyone and everything is for sale. Even you.”

+++++He says something else, but the metallic rumble of falling coins blots out his words.

+++++He offers me a coprophagous grin, and I slump onto the oversized bed, suddenly bone-weary.

*

+++++People say Dominguez accrued his wealth through a lucrative chain of boy-brothels in the Midlands, but really I have no idea.

+++++However he earned his money, he has an awful fucking lot of it. The fat fucker offered me £750 to track down the Sexy Santa costume that Cha Cha Chilkins – ‘Paignton’s premier gender illusionist’ – was wearing when she had a heart attack last Christmas, during the ‘Christmas is a Drag’ seasonal revue at the Palace Avenue Theatre.

+++++Sure, I’ve taken stranger jobs in my time, but I almost changed my mind when Dominguez said that he wanted the outfit for his fucking mother…

*

+++++It’s too cold to trawl my usual haunts, so I head straight to the Greasy Nugget on Torbay Road.

+++++A local cabaret hack called Louie Drambuie told me that a couple of members of Cha Cha’s old chorus line work out of the amusement arcade, offering punters the old Paignton two-step – a side-street suck-and-fuck – in one of the lock-ups round the back.

+++++As I walk in, ‘Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas’ by Gary Glitter is being played over the Tannoy. The volume has been turned up to drown out the coin-op cacophony.

+++++It is so loud that I swear I can hear the sound of stack-heeled youngsters being dragged across linoleum and hauled into an untaxed transit van during the fadeout…

*

+++++The Greasy Nugget is awash with stretched red fabric and sick-stained synthetic beards. People are passing bottles of rot-gut between them – drunken faces congealed with pleasure. I grab an unmarked bottle off a passed-out man in a badly soiled Santa suit and take a glug.

+++++He’s face down next to the cashier’s cage, and people are treading on him as they try to get past. I notice that the backside of his suit is slick with anal mucus, and I really wish I hadn’t stolen his drink.

+++++The black-market booze hits me like a sledgehammer, and I press deeper into the crowd. It’s hotter than hell, and I’m sweating bullets.

+++++I pick my way through the throng and walk the perimeter of the building, where the nooks and crannies are darker than God’s fucking pockets. Paignton sure hides its secrets well. There is a bit of rough trade loitering at the back of the building, but no one who could convincingly perform in a drag act – even in Paignton.

+++++I have almost completed my circuit, when I see the outfit. It has a fur-lined hood and ‘Cha Cha’ written across the back in diamante studs.

+++++I tap the girl on the shoulder, and she turns around sharply. I’m shocked to see deep purple bruising down the left side of her face.

+++++I try to clear my throat, but only succeed in coughing up a phlegmy string of liquor. I spit it on the floor.

+++++“Nice dress.”

+++++She shrugs.

+++++“My boyfriend won it in a card game. On Winner Street. Gave it to me to say sorry.”

+++++She gestures absentmindedly at the hideous bruise, and then her arms drop to her side like those of a drunken rag-doll.

+++++“Early Christmas present…”

+++++She has narrow hips and a flat stomach, and Cha Cha’s voluminous outfit looks baggy on her.

+++++“I’m going to need you to take the dress off, sweetheart.”

+++++She pouts.

+++++“£50.”

+++++I pat my pockets, but Dominguez said cash on delivery, and I let it slide because I knew that the fat motherfucker was good for it.

+++++“£100 if you want to do it yourself with your big strong hands.”

+++++She removes her bubble-gum and presses it against the fruit machine she has been leaning against.

+++++“£150 if you want me to blow you afterward… my boyfriend won’t mind – honest.”

+++++“Who’s your boyfriend?”

+++++“Me.”

+++++I turn around slowly.

+++++The man in front of me smells like a piss-soaked lift. His name is ‘Ten Tonne’ Teddy Tucker. He used to do strong-arm work for the self-styled Foxhole Mafia, but his body has long since failed him, and now he has to travel between pubs and drinking clubs using a fucking mobility scooter.

+++++Straight away I wish he weren’t wearing a Santa suit, as I know I’m going to feel awfully conflicted when I hit him in a minute.

+++++He struggles to clamber out of his scooter and throws a lazy punch in my direction. It travels so slowly I probably have time to pop out for a quick pint before it arrives…

+++++I side-step the blow and hammer a hard right hook into his ear. I’m working up to another shot when he tries to grab me by the throat.

+++++He lets out a weird, sickly little laugh.

+++++“I’m gonna ruin you, cunt.”

+++++He has three fingers missing on his left hand – removed by a former employer after a ‘workplace dispute’ – and I easily wriggle free of his grasp.

+++++I slam a punch into his enormous gut and he doubles over, hot vomit splattering on his rented Santa suit. I bounce his skull off the nearest fruit machine, hard, and he drops to his knees, eyes the colour of tainted milk. I bounce him off the machine a second time, and this time it pays out, coughing up its grubby, coppery loot.

+++++I cram a handful of spilled coins in his mouth and kick his rotten jaw shut. It closes with a sick crunch.

+++++I turn back to the girl, but the dress is already around her ankles, like a puddle of old piss.

+++++“Sorry.”

+++++She shrugs, shivering in her tattered underwear.

+++++“Don’t be. I’m not.”

*

+++++When I arrive back at the Excelsior, an elderly woman I assume to be Dominguez’s mother is reclining on a chaise-longue, wearing nothing except a flimsy, cellophane-like nightgown. She has to be at least 80 and has a heavily-medicated care-in-the-community expression.

+++++“Good evening, Mrs. Dominguez…”

+++++She glances at me, then cackles, toothlessly.

+++++I ball up the outfit and throw it to Dominguez for inspection. Then I wipe my bloody hands on his pastel Camberwick bedspread.

+++++He waddles across the room towards me, wonky grin etched across his fat face, and stuffs the grubby banknotes down the front of my jeans with his podgy fingers – like I’m a fucking carnival stripper. I can feel his hot breath on my cheek as his ragged fingernail snags my pubic hair.

+++++“Merry Christmas, Mr. Rey. Don’t spend it all at once.”

+++++I take a parting look at his mother, and she is still chuckling to herself. At least someone around here has something to laugh about…

THE END