Fiction

The mystery of the missing Christmas cards

Mr. McQuill just loved getting them — and sending them. But it made him miserable when they didn’t come out even. There was only one thing to do

Stuart Trueman December 22 1956
Fiction

The mystery of the missing Christmas cards

Mr. McQuill just loved getting them — and sending them. But it made him miserable when they didn’t come out even. There was only one thing to do

Stuart Trueman December 22 1956

The mystery of the missing Christmas cards

Mr. McQuill just loved getting them — and sending them. But it made him miserable when they didn’t come out even. There was only one thing to do

Stuart Trueman

Please tell me,” said Inspector Hawkloft quietly, “any clues you can suggest concerning what happened to Sylvester J. McQuill.”

Well (I told him) I can't help much, but here goes:

Mr. McQuill just loved Christmas cards. He'd start buying them in September, badgering Mr. Crumley at the stationery store for something nobody else would be sending.

“Yes,” said Inspector Hawkloft, quietly making notes. “Please go on.”

Christmas Eve two years ago (1 went on) I called at his boardinghouse and wished him a Merry Christmas.

But he shook his head, sadly and cmphati-

cally. “You can't expect me to feel happy.” His kindly old landlady, Mrs. Peabody, confided to me his bitter secret—he sent out 89 cards and got back only 73!

“He just sits counting his cards,” she said in distress. “He's simply furious with Mr. Crumley; three of them are the same as he sent—the ‘Winter Hackmatack Forest.' ”

Inspector Hawkloft broke in quietly, “I remember that Christmas. Mr. McQuill phoned my home at 6 a.m. and demanded I investigate a postman who was keeping back on purpose

some of his greeting cards. Please continue.”

Well (I continued) the next Christmas Eve I phoned Mrs. Peabody before supper. The dear old soul was overjoyed—Mr. McQuill had received more cards than he sent!

I dropped in and wished him a Very Merry Christmas, because 1 knew he'd feel enthusiastic about how popular he was.

But he shook his head glumly. “I got 104 cards —but I sent out only 92! What must the other twelve people be thinking? They're thinking I ignored them.”

Poor Mrs. Peabody told me he was raging at the postman for bringing so many cards. He was mad at Mr. Crumley too. for some reason 1 couldn’t understand.

“Dear old Mrs. Peabody was holding a smoking gun”

Inspector Hawkloft observed quietly. “I remember the occasion. He woke me up at 5 a.m. Christmas Day and insisted 1 arrest a Mr. Crumley for false pretences —he had received six cards he bought as exclusive. ‘Cherubs In A Snowfall. 1 believe. Kindly proceed.”

Well (I proceeded), this Christmas I decided to see that Mr. McQuill received exactly as many cards as the hundred he was sending.

So I bought a dozen from Mr. Crumley-—different. of course, from the “Pixies Throwing Snowballs” Mr. McQuill chose. 1 signed them with vague names like “Jack” and “Dick.”

As Christmas approached, 1 kept in touch with Mrs. Peabody. When cards for Mr. McQuill were arriving too fast, she hid a few in the bookcase. When they came in too slowly, she brought out the hidden cards and added some of mine.

“Yes.” said Inspector Hawkloft quietly; “the ease is becoming quite clear. Please resume your story.”

Well (I resumed), tonight — Christmas Eve—I wished Mr. McQuill a Joyously Merry Christmas. I knew he would be delighted.

But he shook his head in despair. “My cards are driving me crazy.”

I asked why.

“1 sent one hundred and I got one hundred.” he said, “bin some people I sent to didn’t send, and some who sent I didn't send to, and I can't figure out who they are so i can get Mr. Crumley to open up his store and sell me enough to send back —that is, if the postman will pick them

up so they can be date-stamped before midnight—and will I ever give that Crumley an earful! I got eight 'Pixies Throwing Snowballs’—”

It was precisely at that moment (I said) when I drew out the revolver and shot him.

The hang! seemed to echo strangely, which was explained when 1 noticed dear sweet old Mrs. Peabody also holding a smoking revolver. Further. 1 perceived the front window was shattered and a postman was walking down the street whistling merrily and tossing a revolver into an ashcan. It was then. also. Mr. Crumley stepped out beaming from behind tne drapes, pocketed a smoking revolver and, remarking he had just dropped in. apologized he couldn't stay as he had to hurry home and get his house ready for “the Merriest Christmas yet.”

It was not, you understand. Inspector, that we had anything against Mr. McQuill. It merely occurred to all of us he would have a much happier Christmas without the cards on his mind.

So. as I said. I can't help you much. I really haven't the slightest idea who shot him. By the way. Inspector, how did you reach the scene so quickly? It seemed no sooner Mr. McQuill hit the floor than you climbed out of the hot-air vent.

“It was,” Inspector Hawkloft said quietly, “pure coincidence.” And after jotting down “committed by person or persons unknown,” he quietly took a revolver from his pocket, blew a puff of blue smoke out the barrel, put it back, said, 'A Wonderfully Merry Christmas to all” and strolled home with me for coffee and sandwiches, it