Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

Photo by Norman Tsui on Unsplash

The haggard, ruddy-faced detective sighed heavily as he groped across the table for the tape machine. He hit a button and began speaking in the weary, nicotine-and-vodka drenched tones of a man resigned to keeling over in a 2am taxi queue long before his 60th birthday, dying of a cholesterol-clogged artery face down on the wet, kebab-strewn Tarmac amongst vomiting drunks and hair pulling, stiletto heel dueling harpies.

“This is Detective Inspector John Pappalardo resuming the interview at…” he paused to glance at his watch. “Twenty thirty two hours on December the 24th, 2023. Also present are Detective Constable Richard Bodyform and Mr Morfar, who has waived his right to be accompanied by the duty lawyer this evening.”

It was Christmas Eve. Every officer in the station was desperate to go home to their families. But DI Pappalardo, a man never afraid to make life’s unpopular decisions, had kept them all back for this case. Something about the old man sitting across the table from him wasn’t quite adding up.

“So take me through all this again Mr Morfar,” he said slouching back in his chair. “You say your wife was walking back from a few drinks with the in-laws around the corner, when out of nowhere, a reindeer came charging up the road behind her and struck her?”

“That’s right. Ran straight over her, she didn’t even see it coming. A frightful business.”

“And you saw this…incident…occur from your kitchen window?”

“Yes. I’m still in shock. I didn’t know reindeer were capable of such despicable violence.”

“And you said you advised her to stay in the house this evening. Why was that, Mr Morfar?”

“It’s like I told you. Eggnog does funny things to her. Sends her loopy, it does. She gets on that stuff and there’s no stopping her. She’d forgotten to take her medication and all, what with all the Yuletide excitement going on. I didn’t want her spending Christmas day with a hangover or in A&E. Not at her age.”

A knock on the interview room door interrupted the elderly man’s increasingly desperate ramblings. A uniformed officer whispered something to DC Bodyform and handed him a paper file. The detective raised his eyebrows and began browsing its contents.

It was going to be a long night, thought Pappalardo. But what was there to go home for? The four walls of his latest divorcee batchelor pad. A single armchair. A portable television. ITV pumping out syrupy Christmas Eve re-runs of that creepy Shakin’ Stevens video and a gurning Vernon Kaye yelling inanities in a light-up snowman jumper. The overflowing kitchen bin. The free calendar from the Chinese takeaway hanging at an angle from a drawing pin. The bottle of supermarket vodka. The overflowing ashtray. The upstairs neighbour talking to the voices again.

No. Pappalardo was going to get to the bottom of this. He was in it for the long run, Christmas Eve be damned. Christmas be damned. Christ be damned, if he got in the way of justice.

He leaned forwards and crossed his arms on the desk. He stared hard into the old man’s eyes for a few seconds. He had stared into the eyes of enough psychopaths, murderers and petty criminals over the years to know when someone was lying to him. And the old man was lying to his face.

“The problem is, Mr Morfar, that there are a few little inconsistencies in your account,” he said, calmly. “Our boys have been down to the scene of the incident for the best part of three hours now and they can find absolutely no trace of any hoof print originating from any native or non-native members of the deer family in the snow.”

The old man went to speak but Pappalardo cut in ahead of him. “Furthermore, none of your neighbours saw anything even resembling a reindeer in the vicinity. We’ve been door to door across the entire postcode, Mr Morfar. Nothing. Not even a stray cat. How do you explain that?”

“I know what I saw,” said Morfar, brushing away a non-existent tear.

DC Bodyform appeared out of nowhere beside him.

“Unfortunately for you, Grandpa, I know what one of your neighbour’s CCTV cameras saw,” he roared, slamming down a handful of photographs on the table.

“Here’s grandma toddling back home through the snow,” he said thrusting the first image into Morfar’s face. “Oh, and look. Here comes a black Peugeot 506 haring around the corner behind her.”

“What kind of car do you drive, Mr Morfar?,” asked Pappalardo, calmly.

“I own a Peugeot 506,” groaned the old man. “But it’s more for the grandson to use to take us shopping and suchlike.”

“But you have access to the keys?”

“Yes, but I don’t…..”

“Wallop!,” yelled DC Bodyform, slapping another photograph on the desk. “Grandma wiped out by the Peugeot. Ooft.”

Morfar held his head in his hands. “It was a reindeer. I’m telling you, it was a reindeer. You’ll find incriminating hoof prints on her forehead.”

“Your grandson mentioned a cousin Mel,” said Pappalardo. “Apparently you and her like to drink and play cards together.”

“Yes, yes. Since her husband left her she’s been round a lot more. She’s a second or third cousin. What has she got to do with anything?”

“Was cousin Mel driving the car, Grandpa?,” screamed DC Bodyform. “Did you cook this whole thing up together? She scratches your back, you leave her that lovely detached villa in your will? Is that why you killed your wife you randy old bugger? A bit of quality alone time with second or third cousin Mel?”

DI Pappalardo had seen it all before. The nagging wife, the younger woman, the quid quo pro arrangement. Similar issues had been at the root of two of his three divorces. But it had never spilled over into murder. Morfar had crossed the Rubicon.

The old man sat up straight and stared across the table. “I think I will have that lawyer after all, Detective Inspector,” he said, blankly.

“You have got to be kidding,” bawled DC Bodyform, throwing up his arms in dismay.

“I can’t see the registration plate of that Peugeot,” said Morfar. “It could be any Peugeot. I don’t think I should answer any more questions without legal advice.”

DC Bodyform kicked his chair across the room and held his head in his hands.

“Interview suspended at twenty forty eight hours,” said Pappalardo, turning off the tape recorder. The detectives left the interview room.

“Get uniform to bring this Mel character in,” growled Pappalardo, fishing in his suit jacket for his cigarettes. “And press the grandson more on their relationship. I want enough to force a full confession before this lawyer gets his talons too deep into the old boy.”

It was going to be a long night. But that was what Pappalardo needed. It was what he needed to keep him from the divorcee batchelor pad. Away from the cigarette smoke air. Away from another greasy microwave dinner for one and half bottle of vodka to oblivion in front of Springwatch. He would be there all night. Until the old man cracked. Until he admitted that grandma did not get run over by a reindeer.

“Sorry to bother you sir,” said a young uniformed officer, breaking the detective’s train of thought. “There’s a bloke at the front desk. Name’s Mr Lake. Says he was missold a dream of Christmas and a silent night. I don’t know what to….”

“Kick him out,” spat Pappalardo. “Sounds like a drunk looking for a bit of warmth. Not in my station.”

Not in DI Pappalardo’s station.

© DH 2023