A Strange Christmas Carol

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Oeuvre Coterie
A short story about Paranormal Criminal activity in London of 1978. What initially seems as an imaginary Christmas tradition and myth, may actually turn out to be very much true...
Read more at https://www.booksie.com/posting/james-kingston/a-strange-christmas-carol-450896#5Cah2djXyFVtdkBA.99

Submitted: December 28, 2015

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Submitted: December 28, 2015




The snowflakes landed softly on the marshy ground of the Yuletide Square. The carousel and the merry-go-round were garnished with all kinds of Christmas brit-a-brats , making the ambiance all the more festive. Candy lanes and striped statuettes of Elves and Hobgoblins and Teeny-tiny pucks were smartly placed in the corners of the square, dressed with all the cables and extension chords for the lights.
London was a fairly good celebrator of Christmas every year. Last December, in 1977, the decorations were spread out even further, to the outer grass plains and swamps. This year the quagmires down by the dark banks of Thames were not illuminated, ever since mysterious activity had been noticed. There was a small church belfry by that one swamp, which was actually abandoned very long ago, after having been seriously damaged by the fire of 1666. The police had received records and letters from witnesses who had claimed to have seen eerie shadows on the bells, making sounds reverberating all over the misty areas in a hellish, hoarse voice.
Very few people dared meddle with the place up there, mainly deterred by the creepy atmosphere. Consequently, the cops had disregarded the records and , without any distinct trouble having been caused, considered the case non-existent.

Jonathan Christoff did not. Being a private detective, he had been urged by the police department of Avery district, the one where the Square and the Belfry were located, to lay off, since there was no actual evidence to support the case. But he always had a fling for the mysterious, and this would not go unnoticed.
He was walking amongst the Avery District's Christmas Eve fair. The square was filled with all sorts of calico frills and festoons, and people were dancing around in the snow, or enjoying the performances of the rather dauntingly skilled jesters. Jonathan was dressed in his white shirt, his grey vest and black coat and overcoat. The air was cold and frisky and stung him when coming to contact with his face, so he had turned his collar up in hopes of protecting himself from it.
He was on his way to the belfry, but he would not initiate any sort of business before paying a visit to his friend Barry, in the Café by the corner of the square. Entering, he felt the surrounding warmth surging through him, as whiffs of hot steam from the stoves reached him.
"Will you pour me a cup of coffee, Barry?" he said, rubbing his gloved hands together to warm himself up.
"Sure. Black right?"
"You know it". Jonathan picked up on a few conversations from the tables nearby.
"I'm telling you" a rather unappealing buxom was saying" I saw it with my own eyes. It was like a scraggy, gaunt shadow. On the tower. Looking at me and my husband. We were freezing and scared. We ran to the police but they did not believe us. Thought it was bollocks."
"It certainly seems quite difficult to believe, Brianna" a short man replied from across the table.
"Well you can believe what you want. I know what I saw!"
  Jonathan was not afraid after hearing this. He had a mission. A mystery to investigate. A problem to solve. As long as he was careful, he would be alright. He decided not to tell Barry of where he was heading. Perhaps it would be ill-advised to reveal anything.
"Thanks" Jonathan told him, upon receiving the cup, leaving him a few coins.
"Are you not staying?"Barry asked."You will miss the best part of the fair. The entertainers will swing by my café too."
"Yeah well, I have, some abeyances to see to. I shall see you soon. Regardless, though, have an early Merry Christmas!"
"In that case, to you too, Jonathan. Oh, and be careful out there. You know what they say. No Christmas was complete without a Glorious Murder" he japed, chuckling.
Jonathan smiled warmly and exited the café. The swamp was on his right, however it would take him about 30 minutes to reach it on foot. He swiftly located an one-seated carriage, and so he accosted the driver.
"Would you be so kind as to take me to St.Anne's Belfry?"
The driver looked at him in an inquisitive manner, but once he noticed the money coming out of Jonathan's pocket, his face returned to normal.
"Hop on, bloke" he told him.
As Jonathan was ascending, the driver kept looking at him.
''Is there anything in particular you wish to find there? Have you not heard the rumors?"
"Oh, I certainly do have. However, I choose to be wise enough to assess the situation for myself first, before drawing any conclusions."
The driver remained silent, as he took Jonathan all the way to the dark, foggy swamp. Shortly before they reach the bridge allowing for a pass to the other side of the ague, to the church, the carriage stopped.
"This is as far as I can go"
"Well , thank you then" Jonathan said, descending and putting on his Stetson hat, watching the driver elongate himself from the place, but not before he left him with a small wooden cross.
"Let's hope I will not be needing that" Jonathan whispered to himself, putting the cross in one of his inside pockets.
Crossing the bridge, he noticed how the small forest surrounding it was dazzling with cricket sounds and all sorts of herbs and shrubs. Pecan streaks were growing at the banks of the morass, and mildew was formed on the edges. As he reached the other side, he eventually came across the infamous church. The truth was, it was more like a small wooden shanty with an average-height tower.
Lighting up his lamp, he proceeded into the nave. The pews were groggy and rusty, and the simulacrum of Jesus Christ on the altar had gone rusty, too. There were a few burnt up candles scattered all over, and a collapsed wall, leading to the wooden staircase to the tower.
Jonathan wished that the stairs would not collapse under his feet, as he slowly started to ascend them. Lighting the way in front of him, he managed to reach the room right before the bells and the peak of the tower.
This was where he stopped, feeling scared for the first time. He heard voices coming from the lych-gate on the top of another small ladder leading to the bells. Eerie voices. As if somebody, or something, was struggling to breathe.
Hiding behind an old crate, he attempted to hear more. But an incomprehensible buzzing was merely the only thing heard.
"Alright, here we go" he whispered, slowly approaching the ladder. Clambering with one hand, to hold the lamp with the other, he reached the bell room.
He was now shivering like a leaf, as he noticed weird shadows trembling all over the old alcoves. But those shadows were not ordinary; They looked scrawny and terrifying. Until a loud scream was heard, which sent Jonathan flying down the ladder to the previous room.
Landing on his back really abruptly, he struggled to get up and leave that place as quickly as possible. He began running, as he stormed off the tower and the small church below it, finding his way out to the bridge again.
  Pausing for a moment to breathe and collect himself, he stared at the belfry ; The voices were still heard, but now a big, straight up shadow, like a dark figure of some sort, looked like it was staring at him from up there.
  Jonathan ran to the other side of the swamp and rushed back on foot, without realizing that the whole time he had been running to escape, his hands were on the cross...


In the safety of his humble abode, he tried to gather his thoughts and think rationally. What could those things be? The villagers had been hearing them for the past few days, and they had all seen strange shadows. When he was up there, he could notice a lot of them. But in the end, there was only one casting its gaze at him. And God, was it frightening!
He decided that he could not just give up. He had to return to the tower. Would an honored private investigator like Jonathan Christoff, having assisted so many clients, back off because of some shadow? No, he would get back, only now he would be better prepared.
Drawing out a piece of paper, he jotted down all the exact locations around the tower, and went to Olga, the landlord of the block of flats he was living in, to leave it to her just in case he needed help.
"Oh, where are you going, Jonathan?"she asked. "Didn't you just return?"
"Well, I have to take care of an..uh..unfinished case, let's say"
"On Christmas Eve?"
"It is my job, Olga, Crime won't wait for holidays!" he said laughing, waving at her as he exited the door.
He was quite certain this was what it had to do with. Crime. Back at the café he had overheard that woman saying she went there with her husband. What would they be doing there on their own? Plus, the rest of her friends had not believed her. Jonathan rushed to the small precinct, whose officers he was usually colluding with, and asked for the names of the witnesses who had reported on the tower and the shadows.
"Jonathan, I thought I told you to lay off. Go home. Enjoy the holidays with your family. Don't be harrowed by such nonsense."Samantha, the chief, told him, as she was ready to close up the place and head home for the Christmas turkey.
"Considering I have been single for the past 10 years and my family lives in Scotland, I would rather not choose to go back to my empty apartment. Please Samantha. I think I might be onto something here"
Samantha reluctantly agreed, eventually, and so they checked out the records, after Jonathan informed her of everything that had happened. And his suspicions were confirmed. There had been 3 reports so far. All by the same people. Fred Nickolson, Mike Jonquils, and Brianna Lewis. Jonathan had stuck around enough in the café to realize these were the names of the woman on that table and her allegedly disbelieving friends.
Jonathan explained to Samantha how the very same names had actually appeared on reports for the last 5 consecutive Christmas holidays. Jonathan always kept the records but never thought to look further into it, since Samantha and the rest in the precinct usually thought they were crackpots thinking of scary Christmas goblins. But this year, Jonathan had looked into it.
"What if that woman and her friends have some involvement? Perhaps they want to pass  as whacky peasants to cover something up. Else why bother doing that around Christmas every year?"
"I am afraid I cannot keep up with your logic, Jonathan. Even if they have been planning something every year, why would they have anything to do with the tower?"
"I know not. But this is what we are about to find out, if you wish to join me on my second journey to the tower."
Samantha was about to protest, but she remained silent for a moment.
"It is past 8...Christmas dinner in my house will take place in about an hour..."
"We can catch those people if our claims are true and be back soon. If we are wrong, we shall return with the carriage hastily."


Jonathan and Samantha returned to the tower, consequently. Jonathan showed her the way, until they reached the small church.
"This is where I started hearing the voices. They are coming from the bell room, along with the shadows"
"I see..We could throw one of our lamps in there. If there are actually people conducting any sort of dangerous business, it should draw them out."
"I do not know. Fire sounds a bit dangerous itself."
"Well, you drew me all the way up here. Let us do it right"
"Can't argue with that" Jonathan said, as they went back up to the tower.
Walking slowly and carefully, they now heard the voices again. And the bundle of shadows was trembling on the reflection of the light of their lamp flames on the walls above them. This time though, they noticed that the shadows actually appeared the moment they got there. As though someone had deliberately put them there.
"Somebody must be trying to scare us off" Jonathan said.
"Let them watch this, then" Samantha said as she threw her lamp with force on the room above. The blazes spread out very quickly, and now the voices of panic and havoc could clearly be heard. Human voices.
"Fuck, that annoying detective must have understood something ,Brianna!" someone said..
"How should I know he would come back?!" another voice, Brianna's most probably, was heard. "I thought the shadows we made with the figures had scared him to death"
"We need to get down!" the other person said.
The bunch of three friends started descending the ladder, the fire having spread dangerously around them. Jonathan and Samantha had their pistols ready, as they noticed the two other men holding small wax figures they probably used to make the shadows on one hand, and bags of gold on the other.
Jonathan and Samantha instructed them to hand over the gold and the figures, as they successfully tied them up. Jonathan quickly expunged the flames, using two big buckets of water he and Samantha had thought of getting from the quagmire for what they had been about to do.
"Here we got our "shadows" '’ Jonathan ironically said, as Samantha admitted that Jonathan had been right about something going on this whole time.
On their way back with Samantha's carriage, Jonathan seemed to be contemplating about something.
"The gold you three stole was from the very church of St.Anne, was it not? This was why you tried to fend people off. You wanted them to believe that there was nothing left there"
"People were starting to explore the debris, thinking they could locate all the precious church gold and items in the sacrosanct. We had to find a way to scare them off. We wanted the gold for ourselves" Brianna angrily admitted.
Jonathan and Samantha locked them up in the precinct's cells, until further notice to the rest of the policemen after the holidays.
"No Christmas for them this year then." Samantha said.
Jonathan smiled, as they left the precinct.
"Going home?"She asked.
"Yeah...Pretty much. I don't revel in all the festivities and stuff. Seem too pointless for me."
"You were always grumpy like that, weren't you?" Samantha teased him, bidding farewell to him, as she was headed to the fair in the square." Merry Christmas, by the way. I might have missed the dinner, but it is past twelve. I'll meet my family in the fair!" she explained.
"It was for a good cause, at least!" Jonathan said, wishing her a merry Christmas as well.


It was around 2 am, and the fair was now over. Most of the people in the square had headed home to rest and relax by their fireplaces, feeling the celebrative mood with their families. Jonathan had returned to Barry's, to have  a drink this time. Leaving the place when Barry decided to head home, Jonathan was slightly tiddly.
The cold, fresh air, however, now worked in his favor, filling his lungs with clear oxygen. As he headed home, he glanced at the tower, which was visible from the Yuletide square, behind the small forest and the swamps.
It must have been the alcohol, because he thought he actually saw that tarnished, frightening shadow he had seen when he had gone to the church on his own, still standing up there.
No, this was not possible. They had solved the mystery. It was over. The shadows were only figures , held by Brianna and her accomplices.
He rubbed his eyes and looked again. That hellish thing was there, staring at him. And then, with slow, delicate movements, it actually started leaving the tower, and headed to the town.
"I am drunk....I am very very drunk" Jonathan said, as he felt the world spinning around him, seeing the shadow descending from the swamps and reaching the town square.

A faint music was heard from somewhere in the town. A light, Christmas Carol, a jingling melody. The shadow moved past the wooden carousel, causing it to spin slowly, as it approached Jonathan.
"No...I am drunk..I am hallucinating...What..What is this thing...What are you?"
There was a swishing sound heard and then everything froze for Jonathan, as the shadow seemed to have cut right through him.


The jingling melody was now heard a bit more clearly. Was he hallucinating? Or were all these stories about Christmas monsters and shadows and goblins actually real?
Jonathan did not have much time to wonder about this, either way. The warm blood coming out of his mouth as he collapsed to the ground was proof enough.
The carousel was spinning, the candle lights sparkled in the cold, clear night, and the snow fell calmly and soothingly on the striped candy lanes and decorations.
With the huge river of blood oozing out of Jonathan's dead body in the quiet, Christmas-themed square, Barry's saying had actually come true; No Christmas was complete without a Glorious Murder............................................................



Read more at https://www.booksie.com/posting/james-kingston/a-strange-christmas-carol-450896#5Cah2djXyFVtdkBA.99

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