she tore open the first letter. It was written on Mickey Mouse notepaper and scribbled in crayon. The kid must have been about five when he wrote it.
Five letters to Santa
By David Rae
The great thing about homicide is what it does to retail values. We would never have been able to afford the house if it hadn’t been for the murders; two murders and a suicide to be precise. That put a big dent in the asking price, and Amy haggled it down still further. After all, it’s not everyone that is willing to move into a crime scene. Even then we had to stretch to the limit to afford it. Luckily the banks were still happy to loan out high.
People get so spooked about these things; I mean, why. Do they imagine they’re going to find ghosts haunting the place? The past, in my opinion, is firmly in the past. Ghosts are all just in your imagination, and the one thing I don’t have is much imagination. Amy doesn’t either. She’s like me only more so; practical.
The house was in a bit of a state when we moved in. It looked like it had been rented out as a multiple occupancy unit. There were locks on the bedroom doors, and there were separate fridges with locks on them too. We were going to remodel anyway. We had budgeted for that when we bought the place and got some further discount. But we were going to have to do most of the work ourselves. That’s ok. As I said, I’m practical. We stayed in the basement flat to begin with and got to work. Of course, there was more work than we expected there always is. First thing to do was to clear out all the trashy, old furniture and fittings. I ripped out the kitchen and threw all old appliances in a skip. I know you think that I could have got a house clearer in to take the furniture and white goods, but seriously they were not worth anything. We did get some local house clearers round to look at it, but they all wanted money to haul it away. My guess is that whoever inherited the house sold the original furniture and, like I said, set the place up as bedsits.
The house was going to need a new kitchen; the bathrooms needed to be redone, a complete redecoration, rewired, new heating. That was before we could even think about the landscaping. Still, we knew we could make money from it; not least because eventually, people forget about the past. We just had to hold onto it long enough.
We made pretty good progress. We refitted the kitchen, and we got an electrician in to do the first fit on the rewiring, and we got heating done. We’d had to replace some of the doors due to the locks that had been stuck on them, but we managed to keep most of the original features. We even took some of the fireplaces out and had sold them to bring in some extra cash for the work.
I stripped out the fireplace in the back bedroom. It had been boarded up and a heater had been stuck in front of it. I was going to take out the chimney breast and get a bit more room anyway. But it was a nice fire surround and I was pretty sure I could make good money from selling it on to the salvage merchants.
When I pulled out the fire, there were five yellowing envelopes lying in at the back. Amy, who was here helping, leaned over and picked them up. The envelopes were all different sizes, but all of them were addressed to Santa Claus. I guess a kid had written then and stuck them in there.
“Cute,” I said. “Let’s read them.”
“I don’t know,” said Amy. “Let’s just bin them with the rest of the rubble.”
“Nah, go on read them,” I insisted.
“Well, alright,” said Amy. And she tore open the first letter. It was written on Mickey Mouse notepaper and scribbled in crayon. The kid must have been about five when he wrote it.
“Dear Santa,” Amy read. “Please make Daddy come home from the hospital. I miss him so much and Mummy is sad because he is not here. She cries a lot and looks worried even though she tries not to.”
“That’s a bit of downer,” said Amy.
“Poor kid,” I said. “I wonder what was wrong with his Dad. I hope things turned out all right. I guess they must have if he wrote more. Let’s read the next one.”
“Alright,” agreed Amy. “I’m not sure which one it is. I guess this one going by the handwriting. That one was on top of the pile so it must be the last so I guess this is next.”
“Dear Santa, Thank you for letting Daddy come home. It’s great to see him, even although I need to keep quiet because he’s not well. Mummy says that he’ll get better and this is for the best. She says that the doctors will fix him and that why he needs his special medicine. I’d like special medicine too. Sometimes I get sad, just like Daddy, although I don’t shout and break things when I feel sad. Mummy hugs me when she feels sad. I wish Daddy would hug Mummy or me. But Mummy says he can’t because he’s so ill. Do you get sad, and does Rudolf give you a hug when you feel bad?”
“This isn’t any better,” said Amy.
“I don’t know; it’s kind of cute. You should give me a hug when I’m sad,” I said.
“I do,” said Amy. That made us laugh.
“Next one,” Amy said, opening the middle letter from the pile.
“Dear Santa, I’m sorry I’ve not been a very good boy this year. I’ve tried to be good but I keep making Daddy mad. He keeps shouting at me. When I make him mad, he hits Mummy and makes her cry. Mummy should go to the doctors but she won’t. She says Daddy is very ill and that if we tell the doctors, then they will take him away again. She says he is ill because the doctors won’t give him enough of his special medicine. When Daddy gets his special medicine, he can be lots of fun. He tells all sorts of funny jokes and things. I know this letter is from me, but can I ask you to give Daddy more special medicine for Christmas.”
“Wow,” said Amy, and put the letter down. “Let’s not read anymore.”
“We can’t stop now,” I said. “I want to hear what happens next.”
“Then you read them,” she said and handed me the two last letter.
“Ok,” I agreed. “But this is not like you.”
I opened the fourth letter. It was written in copperplate handwriting with a fountain pen like a schoolboy. Who knows what age the kid was now; I and guess twelve.
“Dear Santa,” I read. “Thank you for the presents last year. I liked the cowboy suit and the train set very much, although I’m a bit big for them now. Dad took them and sold them. He said that they were too babyish for a boy my age. Dad is well, and so is Mum. They send their best regards. I am doing well at school and working hard. Dad is fine now that he has enough medicine. I help Mum to look after him and clean him up after he’s been sick or fallen asleep on the floor. He has a friend that comes and stays sometimes. She is very nice, although I think Mum does not like her. Sometimes I hear Mum and Dad arguing about her. Mum says that she is a whore. But when I asked the teacher at school what that meant, I got into trouble. Mum cries a lot now, and I have to help her look after the house. I love my Mum and Dad very much. Please help us to be happy this Christmas and keep Dad’s friend away.”
When I finished the letter, Amy took it and screwed it up.
“That’s enough,” she said. But we both knew that we had to read the last letter. I looked at her and took a deep breath. She was shaking her head. But we had to. We owed it to the kid at the very least.
“Alright then,” she said at last, and tore open the envelope with shaking fingers. There was only one line of writing.
“Dear Santa, For Christmas I would like a new bicycle, a new phone and a .22 hand gun. Thanks.”
Like I said; ghosts only exist in your head, and now there was the ghost of an abused, twelve year old kid with a gun that shot his parents and then turned the gun on himself living in my head.
We lost a fortune on that house when we sold it. And of course, Christmas was never the same.
First published in TREMBLING WITH FEAR