A Merry Mersey Christmas
Chapter 1 - The Call
“You’re kidding me, surely? Is this a wind-up? It’s three days before Christmas.” Andy Ross almost shouted down the phone, in response to a call from the control room at Merseyside Police Headquarters, to his home. It was eight-thirty in the evening, the date was December 22nd, and he and his wife, Maria were about to sit down to a late evening meal, having spent an hour wrapping presents for relatives and friends.
“It’s no joke, D.I. Ross,” Jenny, the control room supervisor assured him. “The call was confirmed by the officer on the scene.”
“But the victim. That can’t be real, can it?”
“Afraid so, and as you are the senior officer on call, you get the pleasure of responding. I’ve also called Sergeant Drake and she said to tell you she’ll meet you there.”
“And just where is, there?” Ross inquired, as he realised Jenny still hadn’t given him a location for the crime.
“Pearson’s Emporium,” she replied. “It’s that new cheap department store that opened in the old closed down bank on…”
“I know where it is, thanks, Jenny.”
“I’ll leave it with you then, shall I? Just make sure there isn’t a double-parked sled with half a dozen reindeer attached when you get there,” she joked.
“Okay, I’m convinced. I’ll be there asap,” Ross confirmed. As he placed the phone back in its place on the cradle, in its place on the hall table, close to the front door of his home in Prescot, a few miles from Liverpool City Centre, Maria appeared through the door from the lounge.
“Not a call-out, surely?” she looked disappointed, but resigned to the fact this was all part of her husband’s job.
“Sorry, but yes. You’ll never believe it,” he hesitated before continuing. He had a wry smile on his face, unusual considering his evening had just been disrupted.
“Go on, spit it out,” said Maria, “What won’t I believe?”
Unable to contain himself, Andy Ross took hold of his wife, one hand on each shoulder, and pulled her , him, gave her a short but loving kiss and whispered in her ear, “Someone just killed Santa Claus!”
“Andy, don’t play silly buggers with me. Come on, what’s happened to drag you out at this time of night?”
“I just told you. Someone killed Santa,” he looked her in the eyes and Maria could tell he was deadly serious.-
“You mean it, don’t you?”
“Yes, looks like someone knocked off the department store Santa at that low-price department store, Pearson’s Emporium, in town.”
Ross took his mobile phone from its place on the charger in their bedroom as he extricated his warm, camel-coloured overcoat that Maria had bought him a couple of Christmases ago, and dropped the phone into one of its deep pockets. He picked up his brown leather gloves, added a pair of black leather shoes, a real mismatch with his coat and gloves and was out of the door and in his car within ten minutes of receiving the call from headquarters.
Chapter 2 - The Body
Pearson’s Emporium was typical of many of the stores of similar status that were opening in towns and cities all over the country, as many old, established stores ceased trading in the current economic downturn, to be replaced by others, operating on shoestring budgets and miniscule margins, usually on short leases. These businesses would usually operate profitably as long as they could remain economically viable, before their owners would close the doors one last time and move on to pastures new.
It was almost 9.20 pm by the time Ross pulled up outside the entrance to the store, where he parked on the double yellow lines immediately outside the store’s double plate glass doors. He was confident there were no traffic wardens on duty at that time of night so he was safe from receiving a parking ticket. He immediately saw that his sergeant, Clarissa (Izzie) Drake was already on the premises, as her car was parked a few yards further along the street. She’d conveniently left the space nearest the doors for her boss.