A very Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us here at Maine Crime Writers. Should you have a quiet moment during the festivities, we invite you to enjoy this Christmas story written just for you.
A Very Safe Christmas Eve
Bradford Ellis was a rookie as green as a Christmas tree, a fact he couldn’t forget since not only his colleagues at the Beston Falls police department but his entire family, except his mom, called him “Rookie.”
Because he was a rookie, and low on the food chain, he was going to be working a double shift this Christmas, so his fellow—and sister—officers could spend Christmas Eve with their families. That was fine with Brad. If he was at home, he’d have to hear war stories from his father, chief in the next town, his uncle, chief in another, and his older brother, who was also a cop. While the men gathered in the living room to share stories, his sister would be upstairs, trying to settle her two little ones and occasionally snapping at the menfolk to please quiet down.
His mother, her rosary handy in her apron pocket, would be in the kitchen, making the dinner they’d eat before leaving for midnight mass, and lasagna and a Christmas cake for tomorrow. She made no secret of the fact that she hadn’t wanted her baby to follow the rest of the family into the business.
Her baby had, though. First the military, then the police academy. Now, as a gentle snow drifted down, he was taking a break between shifts, swapping his wet boots for a dry pair, and gearing up for Christmas Eve.
“Christmas Eve is crazy. It’s like three full moons at once,” his Uncle Joe said.
“Brace yourself,” his father said. “Domestics and drunks you expect. What you’ll also get are lonely old men who call in fake prowlers because they need someone to drink with, and sad old ladies with lost dogs or cats. You’ll get college kids driving around texting because they can’t stand to go home. Pissed off girlfriends who didn’t get engagement rings going out and driving into things, and a handful of shoplifters who don’t have money for presents.”
“Don’t forget lonely divorcees looking for comfort from a hot young cop,” his brother added.
It really made Brad eager for his next shift. The only plus in all their stories was that Christmas Eve was when Mrs. Gladys Young, who according to police lore made the best brownies in the world, dropped several dozen of them off at the department.
As Brad headed out this morning for his first shift, his mother had put a hand on his arm. “What they’ve said is true, Brad. It’s crazy out there. But what they can get kind of cynical about is how hard this holiday is on people. So do your job, of course. And stay safe. But remember to be kind.”
Now, his eyes already sore from eight hours of vigilance, his back stiff from so many hours in the car, his digestion off from too much sugar, he wondered whether he’d be called upon to be kind. Also where he’d find the energy for the next shift. As he passed his sergeant’s desk, he saw a big plate of brownies with a bright red bow. Looked like Mrs. Young had come through again. As he headed back out to his cruiser, he snagged one. The reputation was overblown, he thought. It was good enough, but too dry and cake-like. Brad like rich, fudgy brownies.
He’d barely had time to grab a coffee and begin patrolling his sector when the calls started coming. Another officer needed backup on a domestic. Domestics always had the potential to be dangerous, but he preferred a busy night to a quiet one, so he hit lights and siren and took off. It was a bad one. The husband ex-military with PTSD, the wife terrified, and two small children cowering in a corner. He let the other cop handle the husband while he took the wife and kids into another room to get their story.
Usually situations like this made him edgy but tonight, for some reason, he was feeling mellow. He took the smaller boy on his lap and answered the other boy’s many questions about his gear and his radio while the mother told her story. Rookie or not, he’d heard it before.
“I don’t want him arrested, Officer. He doesn’t mean to hurt me or scare the boys. He’s just got these troubles and sometimes something just sets him off.”
“I understand, ma’am, but he can’t be out of control and hurting you, even if he does have problems.”
She sniffled, and he gave her his handkerchief. His mother bought everyone in the family a couple dozen every Christmas. She knew they’d get used.
“I don’t want him arrested, is all, having to spend Christmas in jail,” the woman said. “The boys have been looking forward to having their daddy back home. He was away last Christmas.”
The small boy on his knee gave Brad a big smile and said, “Santa coming.”