[personal profile] hwrnmnbsol
I left the Abominable Snowman's cave with more questions than I had when I arrived. This represented, I felt, rather poor performance on my part in the general area of private investigation. It is desirable, I have found, to find answers to questions if one wants to make it in the detecting business. Finding questions to answers is decidedly inferior, and has a much smaller profit margin.

I decided my next stop ought to be returning to the scene of the crime behind Santa's house during daytime hours. Not that there was better light to see, but there was superior visibility anyway on account of the fact that I was mostly not drunk. Clues, I hoped, would go a long way towards rectifying the disturbing question/answer imbalance.

I cut across Boxing Day Park, the shortest path back to Santa's castle. As I walked through an unusually dark stand of Christmas trees, I heard the jingle of bells strewn from the branches. Somebody or something had brushed up against a tree very close to me. Was I being followed?

I drew my Air Force sidearm pistol. I've found paranoia to be burdensome in the sense that one tends to get involved in embarrassing situations such as yelling at innocent strangers and pistol-whipping your landlady. On the other hand, it tends to reduce one's rate of emergency room visits to a smallish number. Life is all about weighing costs versus opportunities.

The nice thing about gliding instead of walking is that one makes less noise in snow. I walked casually around a tree and then quickly sneaked around the back side. I waited, gun drawn. A few seconds later I heard several sets of noisy footfalls coming from the place where I had been a moment earlier. "Where'd he go?" a deep voice muttered.

I came around the tree, gun drawn. There were three large reindeer there, looking around warily. Their eyes widened as they saw my pistol.

"Marco," I said.

A reindeer swallowed. "Polo?" he answered.

"Listen, fellahs," I said casually. "I know you're big fans and all, but I don't do autographs, and anyway I gave up the banjo years ago."

"Tough-guy snowman," one of the deer commented.

"Can it, caribou jerky," I snapped. "How come you're tailing me?"

"Bet he wouldn't be so tough without his gun," said another reindeer.

"He's right here," I reminded my stalkers, "and it's useless to talk in terms of hypotheticals. Better to deal in certainties, such as 'Try anything, and I will certainly shoot you so full of holes than an Inuit will be able to use you as an ocarina'.

"Relax, snowman," the lead deer said, keenly aware that the gun was still pointed at him. "Me and the boys weren't looking for any trouble. We just wanted to see what you were doing."

"What I'm doing," I said, "is trying to get one of your own out of trouble."

"You're meddling!" barked a reindeer.

"What my friend means," said the lead reindeer more calmly, "is that some matters involving reindeer are best resolved by reindeer. You're getting involved in a private, internal matter."

"Yeah?" I said. "How's that?"

"You can't shoot all of us before we rip your guts out," snarled one of the reindeer, taking a step forward.

"I bet I can get two out of three," I warned, shifting targets to him.

"Four," corrected the lead reindeer, smiling grimly.

Something hit me in the head, and I saw stars for a while. I remember I lay on the lovely cold ground a long time. Blurry forms moved around me.

"He ain't got nothing," said a voice.

"Fine, we'll leave him alone," said another. A hot muzzle pressed close to my face.

"Stay out of it, snooper," the voice said. "This is a deer matter."

"Ain't that sad?" said the first voice mockingly. "Can't call him either a flatfoot OR a gumshoe." The voices moved away amid laughter, and the universe swirled for a while.

I woke up and found that half my head had been bashed in. Worse, my hat was damaged. My brain was pounding and I wanted to throw up. I gingerly removed my head, put it on a patch of snow and rolled it until it was more or less the right size and shape again. Then I put it back on my shoulders, restored my facial features, and poked around looking for my gun. I found it under where my body had fallen. Lucky.

I trudged back home, feeling like I was made of a bag of thumbtacks and water balloons. I looked in the mirror and ran the sink. I straightened up my teeth, and evened out my lopsided eyes. Then I drank a bottle of gin and fell asleep.

I slept through a phone message. The machine was blinking when I woke up, crust in my coal eyes. I fumbled for the REPLAY button. A snivelly voice came on. I felt I should recognize it from somewhere, but I couldn't match it to a face.

"Sam Snowman," the voice on the message said, "I'm calling to give you important information on the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer case. If you want to know who had reason to want Rudolf dead, you should go see Yukon Cornelius. It all leads back there."

There was a noise in the background – a bump, or a slam. "I have to go," the voice said more quietly. "We need to talk!" The message ended. The caller hadn't given a name or a callback number, and my machine didn't save the calling number, having been bought back when New Coke was new.

I played the message a second time, and then a third. Then I erased it. The caller sounded scared. He also sounded over-dramatic. Most importantly, he sounded elvish.

I hate elves.

I checked my injuries in the mirror. My misshapen head was starting to frost over; I'd look like hell for a while. I knew I'd feel like hell too. The gin was still helping, though, and I had an important appointment. The crime scene had been left alone for, I was estimating, twenty four hours. I needed to get out there and see if any clues presented themselves for inspection. Without clues, the only thing this case was getting me was a bunch of unanswered questions and a rearranged face.

I glided back towards Santa's castle. It was night by then, and most of Christmastown was asleep. That's me, Sam Snowman – Creature of the Night. I slinked past the castle and down the gravel lot where Santa kept his sleighs.

There were four of them – two sporty little numbers for zipping around town, a big cargo-hauler covered with a weather-tarp, and the big gaudy classic sleigh Santa used for the Main Event. It was broad and low, with lots of room for toys in the back, and reinforced tandem traces to allow eight reindeer to pull it. Blankets were neatly folded in the front seat, and unlit running lanterns hung from hooks on the front and back. It looked like a Christmas postcard waiting to be taken.

I approached the sleigh, then froze. A dark shape was moving around on the far side of the craft.



September 2012

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