“Detective Suarez.”

Gabriel Suarez scanned his caseload updates as he answered the phone.

“Another body was just found at the lake. Ice fisherman snagged her on his line.”

Gabriel tossed the list aside. He really had only one case and it was this one. This was now the second body to be pulled out of that lake, the other was discovered after the Spring thaw. Hopefully this was the break that he had been hoping for.

“How long ago?”

“Just pulled her out of the water. I’ll start my initial investigation once you get here.”

“Be there in five.”

Gabriel raced out of the office, jumped into his old Chevy truck, and screeched out of the parking lot sending a mixture of water and dirt flying off of his tires. He pressed the accelerator to the floor, heedless of anyone else on the roads, focused solely on getting to the lake before anyone could interfere with his crime scene. This case had been personal for some time now and it was his personal mission to solve this case or give his life in the process.

“What are they doing here?”

Skidding his truck to a stop next to the medical examiner’s vehicle, the unmistakable media horde mocked Gabriel. They were the reason he hadn’t already solved this case. They were the reason the maniac had killed again.

“Get them out of here now.”

Waving his arms in the air, Gabriel tried to light a fire under a couple of police officers who seemed more focused on enjoying the show than keeping the crime scene pristine.

“We have a right to be here.”

Kaitlin Berry had fiery, long tresses that perfectly matched her personality. She was used to getting her way no matter what it took.

“You have the right to be arrested and put in jail. Get these people out of here now.”

This time the officers got the message and began to shepherd the media away from the body. Kaitlin’s voice could be heard above the din of shuffling feet and moving equipment, but Gabriel didn’t care. He only had eyes for the dead woman.

“What are we looking at Victoria?”

Dr. Victoria Chernovtsy looked over at Gabriel. She had the look of someone who wanted to be any place else but here.

“I really didn’t want to see another one of these.”

Gabriel knelt down to get a better view of the woman. He never could get used to how bloated and disgusting even the most beautiful woman looked in death. When that woman had been dumped into a lake and then that lake had frozen over, well, it just wasn’t a pretty sight.

“Anything jump out at you, Victoria?”

“He really took his time with this one in every area.”

She raised the woman’s torn dress slightly to indicate the genital area. Sexual assault was yet another notch on the guy’s demented totem pole of terror.

“Was she sexually assaulted?”

Gabriel turned to find Kaitlin Berry standing behind him.

“I told you to get these people out of here.”

“I am not leaving.”

“You are under arrest.”

“Okay, okay. I’m leaving.”

Gabriel watched them leaving knowing that they had gotten just what they wanted. The story with the sexual assault as a lurid lead would be everywhere and the pressure to solve this case would just increase.

“Damned press.”

Gabriel turned back to Victoria and saw that she was getting ready to leave.

“That’s all?”

“For now. I’ll let you know after I get her on a slab and I can get away from this craziness.”

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s not your fault.”

Gabriel did a slow burn as he paced around the scene desperately looking for something to help solve this case. He knew he wasn’t thinking straight. He knew he was letting the pressure get to him and he knew what that could do to him. He didn’t want to go there again, ever. The more he looked at the winter scene around him, the more he knew that there was nothing here that would tell him anything about the killer. He was way too smart for that.

“Damned killer.”

His head hurt and Gabriel needed to go somewhere and think. He trudged back to his truck, got in and pulled out at a more reasonable speed this time. In truth, he had no idea where he was going. Darkness came upon him quickly and snow flurries beat across the road. He lost control and the truck went into a spin.

“Not again.”

Dark memories returned that he never wanted to live through again. His choice to follow the demon of drug use down the rabbit hole had made hell sound like a vacation spot. His head hurt and every part of his body was sore.

“Damned snow. I hate the holidays.”

Gabriel groused as he opened his eyes and looked around. He knew he had spun off the road.

“I don’t have time for this. I have a murderer to find.”

The pain in his head cut right through his body. He opened the driver’s side door and slowly stepped out of the truck being careful to keep his footing. He reached into his back seat and grabbed his coat wrapping it tightly around him.

“Why can’t the holidays have better weather?”

He knew that he should lock his truck, but he just didn’t care. He needed to find someplace to think. As he walked along the road, lights began to be visible. The closer he got, the more the red and green decor of Christmas showed itself everywhere. Whatever this place was, at least it was safe. Without realizing it he bumped into someone causing him to fall onto the frozen ground hidden by a thin veneer of snow.

“Are you okay?”

Gabriel looked up into a pretty, smiling face. It seemed familiar, but then it didn’t. Her hair was streaked green and red and she was wearing a strange costume.

“Fine, I think. You look strange.”

“Oh, I’m an elf.”

The woman did a quick curtsy, which made Gabriel laugh. He couldn’t remember the last time that he had laughed.

“Let me help you up.”

She put out her hand and Gabriel allowed her to lift him to his feet. His head still hurt very badly and the world around him spun. She led him through a maze of candy canes and Christmas trees. It was a psychedelic spiral through Christmas hell, but he felt safe enough. She directed him through a back door that led into a small room with a well-stocked bar.

“Have a seat and I’ll get us some Christmas cheer.”

“What is this place?”

“Somewhere for Santa and his elf to get away from the kids and have some adult time.”

Gabriel focused on the woman’s face as long as he could, but the cut of her elf outfit demanded that his eyes roam down to her prodigious bosom.

“Enjoying the view?”

“I am. Does that bother you?”

“Not at all. I’ve been a dancer for many years. I’m used to having men ogle me. I enjoy it most times.”

“And the others?”

“You get used to it.”

“Why the elf gig?”

“Extra money and I get to spend time with my boyfriend.”

“Where is he?”

“Finishing up his Santa gig with the kids.”

“I see. Is he the jealous type?”

“Not at all. He was one of my best customers before we got together. He likes the fact that men fawn over me. It makes him feel like a big man.”

“Here you go.”

The woman slid a glass across to him. He knew he shouldn’t be drinking, but he needed to take the edge off. They clinked glasses and each downed their drink in one gulp.

“Are you sure we’ve never met?”

Gabriel continued to study the woman’s features. She smiled and looked deep into his eyes. She definitely had a way of moving her body that made her irresistible.

“I believe you know my sister. She’s a reporter and she’s going to be a big star very soon.”

That was it. All of the pieces were coming together. Gabriel reached for his gun, but he found he couldn’t move. His world spun once more and he fell to the floor.

“I’ve been watching you. You should have just given up you stupid cop. Now look what you’ve made me do.”

Gabriel could feel the hot breath of the woman on his face as the paralyzing agent coursed through his veins. How could he have been so stupid?

“What’s going on?”

Marc Rogers was glad to be rid of the stinking kids, but what he saw now was worse. His girlfriend Cassidy was leaning down next to a man who looked like that detective.

“This idiot just would not stop.”

“You didn’t kill him, did you?”

“I’m not stupid. We have to make it look like he did this to himself. Remember how Kaitlin was trying to dig up dirt on his ass, well, she found it. He almost lost his job over drug use.”

Cassidy kicked Gabriel hard in the small of the back and laughed derisively.

“Trying to put other people in jail while he’s snorting away. He just wants to ruin people’s lives. Kaitlin would already be a star if he didn’t keep stopping her from doing her job. I hate this piece of filth. Shooting him would be too good for him. I want to make him suffer.”

Marc rushed over to Cassidy and stopped her from resuming her attack. He knew the moment that he drew close to her that her scent would be intoxicating. She had him under her spell. He would do anything for this woman.

“This is supposed to look like a drug overdose, Cassidy. It can’t look like he was attacked.”

He held her close and looked up into her eyes. She had that crazy look that both scared and excited him.

“I really hate this man.”

“Then let’s do it right.”

He wanted to stop right there, but being close to Cassidy drove his lust and he knew only one way to quench it.

“We’ve got some time, baby. Let’s have some fun and then we’ll take care of this piece of trash.”

Cassidy pushed away and replied, “Work now, play later.”

Cassidy loved teasing Marc like this. She knew her power over him was limited by how much she allowed him to get away with. It was a dangerous game, but that made it fun.

“Besides we have two people to take care of.”


“Yes. I want that ice fisherman dead. He screwed everything up. That last girl wasn’t supposed to be found until the ice thawed. Who the hell ice fishes?”

“Let’s get drugs in this pig.”

Gabriel willed himself to move, but couldn’t. A needle plunged in his vein and that feeling that he had once loved more than life, but had hoped never to feel again, returned with a vengeance. This stuff was potent and it hit him hard. He would have started to shake, but the paralyzing agent held him in its grip.

“Hurry up, idiot. Let’s get this guy in the water and then you have an ice fisherman to kill.”

“How are we going to get him in the lake? It’s frozen over now.”

“The ice fishing hole. You aren’t much of a thinker are you.”

Gabriel felt himself being picked up and slung over the man’s shoulder. It hurt as he banged along and his body was reacting poorly to the drug combination that he had been given. The cold air was bracing as the man trudged through the snow, but the icy cold water would most likely kill him.

“Over here.”

The woman’s voice seemed so calm and cruel. The man made a grunt and then Gabriel was slicing down through the air and he hit the water hard beginning to sink instantly. He couldn’t move. Oddly, as he sank down, he began to be able to move his feet. The bracing cold was offsetting the effects of the paralyzing agent and though the other drugs continued to affect him, he was beginning to find the resources within himself to save his life. He began to swim, frustratingly slowly at first, but eventually he found a rhythm. The hole above seemed far away and he wondered if he would run out of oxygen before he reached it. His mind spun and terror and confusion flowed through him. . Why was he trying so hard? Was life really that important? Yes, it was. Gabriel surged upward through the water, now feeling its stinging cold with every move. He burst through the hole in the ice, reveling in the burst of oxygen that crashed into his lungs, but knowing that his fight for his life was far from over.

Gabriel rushed across the frozen ice, slipping and sliding, but finally free of the ice. His wet clothes clung to him and he shivered uncontrollably. Despite the drugs, his mind broke through and he stripped out of his wet tomb. Once free of his wet clothing, he sought out a bank of snow and quickly covered himself with it. The cold was bracing, but his shivering began to slow somewhat. He curled up in a ball desperately trying to raise his body temperature. Sadly, he knew that this would not last. He had moved from one tomb to another.


The word came out garbled, but he was able to make a sound. He needed a miracle and Christmas time was the season for those. He laughed at how his attitude toward the season had changed from derision to hope.


This time his voice sounded desperate and very far off. He was slipping away. He closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

“Over here! Hurry!”

Kaitlin Berry couldn’t believe what she was looking at. The near-frozen body of Detective Gabriel Suarez lying in the snow. How did he get here?


“What’s going on?” Her camera-person asked breathing heavily.

“Grab his legs. We have to get him in the van immediately.”

“How’d he get out here?”

“Do it.”

They carried the half-frozen body toward the van. Kaitlin’s heart beat wildly and her arms ached horribly, but she kept pushing forward. Thankfully the van side door was open and they placed him inside before Kaitlin jumped in next to Gabriel.

“Start the van. Turn the heater to full blast.”

Kaitlin watched him move as she slid the van door shut. She grabbed some blankets and began to rub Gabriel’s body. He felt so cold through the blankets and he wasn’t responding. Thankfully the heat began to blast and temperature inside the van began to rise.

“Live, damn it. You will not die on my watch.”

Kaitlin worked feverishly and sweat began to form on her forehead, but she didn’t care. She put her head on Gabriel’s chest and thought she sensed shallow breathing and a weak pulse. She placed her body on top of him hoping that some of her body heat would reach him.

“How’s he doing?”

“I’m not sure, Jake. Thank you for helping.”

“I thought you hated that guy.”

“It’s a complicated relationship.”

“It’s getting really hot in here.”

“Yes it is.”

Something moved beneath her. Kaitlin pressed her ear hard against Gabriel’s chest. He was breathing stronger now.

“Breathe, damn it. Breathe.”

“Where am I?”


Kaitlin began to hug Gabriel even tighter. He was alive. He was breathing. He was talking.

“Gabriel, can you hear me?”

“You’re laying on top of me. What do you think?”

“I didn’t think I’d ever be so happy to hear your voice.”

“Me either.”

The drug hit again as Gabriel began to recover physically and the memories of his near death hit him hard. He closed his eyes as he relived pain and fear.

“What’s wrong, Gabriel?”

“They almost killed me.”


Gabriel looked into Kaitlin’s eyes. He was so used to seeing her as a problem that he had never stopped to see her as a human being.

“Tell me.”

“It was your sister and her boyfriend.”

“Damn it!”

Kaitlin slammed her fists into Gabriel causing him to buck her up into the air.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it.”

Kaitlin broke down on top of Gabriel and the tears poured out like a shower wet and hot. Her stupid sister.

“I’m sorry, Kaitlin.”

“My sister idolized me growing up. She always said that I was going to be a star. She talked about how I would break a big story and become famous. I can’t believe she would go this far.”

“She was very unhinged; borderline obsessive.”

“I’m so sorry, Gabriel.”

“It isn’t your fault.”

“I have to fix this, Gabriel.”

“Well, if you can get me warm and some clothes then I have an idea.”

“I’m all ears.”

Cassidy Berry sat on the loveseat in the living room with a warm blanket draping her nude body. She enjoyed the moments afterwards in many ways far more than the actual event. She could still hear Marc snoring away, but after committing two murders and an intense romp in bed, well, he deserved some down time. She knew this partnership was coming to an end. She would miss the physical nature of the relationship, but otherwise she wouldn’t miss his pawing attempts at affection. Like most men, he was far too quick to get to the climax and little skilled at true romance. But, he had helped her achieve her goal. Four bodies were more than enough to make Kaitlin a star and one day her sister would appreciate the effort. She heard her phone. Who would be calling now? She rushed over before it woke Marc up.


“Cassidy, this is Kaitlin.”

“Hey big sister. You must be having a great day. These killings are going to make you a star.”

Kaitlin took a deep breath and tears formed in her eyes as the truth of everything hit her all over again. Her sister had murdered three people and tried to kill another.

“I’ve got something to show you. Can you come over?”

“Of course. I have so much to tell you.”

Cassidy was so amped up that she was struggling to get her words out. Her big sister would finally be proud of her.

“I’ll see you soon then.”

“Be there in ten.”

Cassidy got dressed and packed a bag while being careful not to wake Marc. It was time for her to disappear.

“You’re doing the right thing, Kaitlin.”

“Then why does it feel so wrong, Gabriel?”

“Sometimes the best things do.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. The more I warm up, though, the more I can feel the drugs in my system.”

“How could my sister be so cruel?”

“We do almost anything to impress our idols.”

“I suppose.”

“You don’t have to do this, Kaitlin.”

“I do.”

“Okay, everything is in place. Once you get your sister to confess, then I’ll set it in motion.”


Gabriel moved to a place where he would be able to witness everything and be ready if it went sideways, which it could very easily do. This was all about how well Kaitlin could keep it together and with family you never knew. Could she turn on her sister when it counted? Time would certainly tell. He was just in place when a knock came at the door.

“Come in.”

Kaitlin stood up and walked confidently toward the door. She had to make her sister believe that this was a happy visit. Cassidy opened the door and stepped inside before closing the door against the cold. She rushed toward her big sister and gave her a big hug. It was the way that it always should have been. All of the bad times were in the past.

“What do you have to tell me? Is it a job offer?”

“Yes. It’s the Times.”

“I knew it. I knew it would work.”

“How did you do it, Cassidy?”

“Does it matter?”

“I’d like to know.”

“The first was the hardest, but I had Marc to help. He’s not that smart, but he’s strong. Killing the girl was easy. The detective and fisherman, well, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That stupid ice fisherman almost ruined everything. I made sure Marc made him suffer.”

Kaitlin’s heart sank deep within her. Her sister was a monster. How had it happened? What had gone wrong?

“I’m so sorry, Cassidy.”


Gabriel had already heard enough. The confession was all on tape and he had made the call. Units were on their way to arrest Marc. Now he burst out of the room and approached Cassidy.

“Remember me, Cassidy?”

“You’re dead.”

“You tried.”

Gabriel pulled Cassidy’s arms behind her back much harder than necessary. His anger was real and the drugs were still doing damage.

“You are under arrest for three murders and one attempted murder. We have it all on tape.”

“You set me up, Kaitlin.”

Cassidy spit at her sister. All of the hatred that she felt was now focused on her.

“I hate you. I hate you.”

Cassidy repeated the words as Gabriel led her outside into the waiting arms of his commander and an array of squad cars. It appeared everyone wanted a piece of this arrest.

“Here you go commander. Here’s one of your killers. Did we get the guy?”

“Sorry, Gabriel. He was nowhere to be found. We think he got spooked when Cassidy disappeared.”

“Well, he couldn’t have gotten far.”

“You did a great job, Gabriel. We’ll get him.”

Two officers took Cassidy away as she continued to spew hate at whomever was near.

“How are you, Gabriel?”

Commander Karen Jenkins was a good boss. She always took the time to see how her people were doing.

“Better. Although, I’m going to fail my next mandatory drug test.”

Karen smiled and replied, “I think we can overlook that one. Why don’t you take some time off.”

“That’s great. I wish we had captured them both.”

“We’re on it, Gabriel. You take some time.”

Gabriel looked up as a soft snowfall made everything look magical. He had always hated the holidays, but this one was starting to look up.


He turned to see Kaitlin in the doorway with her arms wrapped around her.

“What’s up, Kaitlin?”

“I’m feeling vulnerable right now. I could use a pair of strong arms.”

“I think I can accommodate that.”

Marc stealthily entered and crept toward the bedroom door. Leaning against it, he could hear the sounds of love-making. He would disable the detective, then make him watch as he raped his woman before killing her in front of him. Then, after sufficient torture, he would end the detective as well. It would be beautiful. He took out his weapon, turned to open the door, but  then he heard a click, a shot, and darkness.

“Didn’t see that coming, did you?”

Gabriel stepped over the dead body with brain matter scattered everywhere. He opened the door to the sight of Kaitlin sitting up on the bed and smiling.

“Nice performance.”

“You too.”

Gabriel thought about the dichotomy of a dead serial-killer so near his lover.

“Damned holidays. You just never knew.”