"Geez.." I mumbled, more like exhaled, as I squatted beside the body, careful to keep my left pantleg out of the pool of blood around Santa's head. He lay on his side facing me, his head resting in a dark oily pool of blood. His beard had turned a shade of pink which would have been pretty under other circumstances, like maybe on the head of a panhandler out in the food court. Here, it looked grotesque.
Lacey Snyder squatted down beside me. She'd been on the job the about 10 years too, and between the two of us, I didn't think there was anything we hadn't seen. Still, this was something else.
"Let's get to it," I said, motioning to the lifeless St. Nick. "I'm exhausted and I haven't had dinner."
Snyder had a smile on her face that didn't fit the occasion. "Three guesses on the cause of death," she said, grinning.
I was good at this game, definitely won more than I lost, but like I said, I was exhausted and still in vacation mode. Stalling while I got my thoughts together, I pulled a pair of gloves out of my pocket and slipped them on, balancing on the balls of my feet, my calves already sore, trying not to wreck another pair of good pants.
"Well, there's no evidence of strangulation," I said, shuffling sideways to get a better look. "No visible stab wounds or gunshots... My first guess would be blunt force, trauma, he got hit on the head with..." I looked around. "I don't know, a pipe or something."
Snyder shook her head, her upper lip quivering in an obvious attempt to hide a smile. "Try again."
There was a lot of blood, but it was hard to see where it was coming from on account of Mr Claus being dressed head to toe in red. Obviously he wasn't poisoned or hung or suffocated, something had to make a hole in him. "Okay, how about gunshot wound somewhere underneath that jolly red jumpsuit?" I guessed, knowing even as I said it that it was all wrong. There was no smell of gunpowder, no burn marks on the clothes.
Snyder sensed victory. "One more guess."
I was out of ideas. "I don't know," I offered, shrugging. Did he get beat to death by a mob of angry elves?"
"Close," she said, unable to hold back her grin any longer. Silently, she held up the evidence bag she had been holding for me to see. It looked like a piece of wood, shaved to a point at one end, and it was covered in blood.
"He was stabbed!" She declared, beaming. "And I'm pretty sure is a reindeer antler!"