Monday, December 10, 2012

Write A Holiday Short Story Contest - It’s a Wonderful life? A Christmas Story by Wayne Zurl

Happy Monday!

I am happy to share the next story of Write A Holiday Short Story Contest with you! It is written by author Wayne Zurl. Wayne is the author of the mystery Heroes and Lovers.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Wayne Zurl!

It’s a Wonderful life?  A Christmas Story

By Wayne Zurl



 Few people want to work a four-to-twelve shift on Christmas night.

            My wife had made an early dinner and we opened our presents the night before on Christmas Eve. Our holiday spirit had been satisfied. And working Christmas day paid double time and a half. That’s no humbug.

            My partner, Louie, had just split up with his wife and it wasn’t his turn to have the kids.

            So, he and I sat drinking Dunkin Donuts’ coffee watching the stop light at Station Road and Montauk Highway. There were no cars, much less violators lurking about on December 25th.

            It was warm that year, about fifty degrees. I took the pile liner out of my leather jacket before I left home. The heat generated by the big 383 Plymouth engine and sent through the thin firewalls, made the interior of the police car too warm for a jacket. We tossed them into the back seat with our brief cases.

            And we drank more coffee.

            “We haven’t heard shit on the radio for almost twenty minutes,” I said.

            “If we could find another human being I’d run them for warrants,” Lou suggested, “just to keep the dispatcher awake.”

            “Goddamn, the things I do for money,” I said.

            Ten minutes passed and we sat in silence. Even with the caffeine I felt drowsy, barely able to hold my eyes open. The light changed once again. I felt myself beginning to drift off. Invisible east and westbound cars stopped. Similar north and southbound vehicles accelerated. I blinked a few times, shook off the drowsiness, and thought I was losing my mind.

            The dispatcher’s voice broke the radio silence. “Five-oh-three, unit five-zero-three. 10-17, disorderly subject. Main Street, Bellport, just east of Station. Complainant wishes to remain anonymous.”

            Louie picked up the microphone. “10-4, headquarters.” He sounded like he just woke up.

            I put the car into gear. I drove that night. I always drove. I turned right out of the Long Island Railroad parking lot and headed south on Station Road. Moments later at the red light at Station and Main, we spotted our disorderly subject. Less than twenty yards east of the intersection, a man sat in the doorway of a real estate office on the south side of Main Street. He held a pint-sized bottle at arm’s length and, at the top of his lungs, sang The Battle Hymn of the Big Red One.

            “Louis,” I said. “I am not going to arrest that bastard for public intox on Christmas night.”

            “What the hell are we going to do with him?”

            “I don’t know. We’ll see. But I’m not wasting an hour and a half of paperwork to give this guy a place to sleep and a free breakfast.

            I didn’t wait for the light to change as I turned left and stopped at the curb, twenty feet from our crooner.

            “Spurgie,” I said, walking toward the man. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be somewhere celebrating Christmas?”

            “That’s Sergeant Sneed to you, soldier.” He spoke seriously and then laughed and took a long pull from a bottle of Mogen-David 20/20.

            “No shit, Spurgie,” Lou said, “you can’t sit here making all kinds of noise. The people are complaining.”

            “Well, motha-fuck the people, private. I’m celebratin’. I’m havin’ a reunion.”

            A sour smell emanated from the old man’s body. I turned my head away and took a breath before speaking.

            “Spurgie,” I said, “we’ll take you wherever you want to go. But you can’t stay here.”

            “Yes, I damn sure can. I’m havin’ a reunion with Brownie, Foster, Whatshisname, the B.A.R. man, and . . . I’ve got K Company with me tonight.”

            I squatted down next to him. He offered me his bottle. I took the twist-off cap from his hand, capped the bottle, and stuck it into the pocket of his ragged overcoat. The wool felt like a dog too long without a bath.

            “Nobody’s here except you and us, partner,” I said. “Your friends have all packed it in. They’re heading back to base camp. Let’s take a ride and find you some place to stay.”

            “Goddamnit, soldier, I am K Company, 1st of the 18th. Sergeant Spurgeon Sneed, squad leader.”

            “I know, Spurgie, I know. 1st of the 18th, the Big Red One. You were a good soldier—you still are, but we can’t stay here, we gotta get back and report to the C.O. Let’s go, sarge.”

            Reluctantly, he began to stand. Lou and I each took an arm—he needed help. We half walked, half dragged our man to the police car. I opened the back door.

            “I swear to God, Spurgie,” Lou said, “if you puke in the back seat of my car I’ll fuckin’ kill you.”

            Spurgeon laughed, sunk into the vinyl, and in ten seconds began snoring.

            Lou and I looked at each other. He made a face and held his nose.

            “Okay, genius,” my partner said, “what are we going to do with him if we don’t arrest him?”

            “He’s got a wife. Maybe she doesn’t like him, but she’s still his wife.”

            “Oh, she’ll be thrilled to see us on Christmas night.”

            “Yeah, we’re just like Santa’s little elves,” I said. “Hang in there, buddy, everything’s under control.”

            The normally busy street was deserted. Artificial wreaths with blinking white lights hung on every utility pole. I made a U-turn, a quick right, and took off, again going north.

            “Why do you bother with him, Sam?” Lou asked.

            “I feel sorry for him. He’s a genuine war hero.”

            “What does that have to do with now? It’s 1974. World War Two was over almost thirty years ago. We’re veterans too, you know.”

            “I do know. And that’s why you should understand,” I said. “The old guy got a silver star and a purple heart somewhere over in Europe. That K Company shit he talks about—he was the only survivor. I heard the story once, during one of his more lucid moments.”

            “And you believe him?” Louis loved to act skeptical.

            “I’ve seen his medals. He pawns them almost every month at Nate Levy’s hock shop,” I said.

            “You should have been a social worker.”

            “Up yours.”

            In less than five minutes I turned onto the 600 block of Doane Avenue. We woke Spurgeon, helped him out of the car, and the three of us walked up to number 624. Spurgie seemed to have rejuvenated after his little nap. I knocked on the door.

            A woman in her late-forties answered and immediately appeared less than excited to see us.

            “What are you doin’ bringin’ him here?” she asked, shaking her head.

            “He gives this as his address.” My answer sounded a bit lame.

            “If he tol’ you he live on the moon, would you take him there?”

            She had a point.

            I heard Louie sigh. “Help us out here, Mrs. Sneed. Where does your husband live?” he asked.

            “My ex-husband, thank you,” she corrected him. “Last I heard he was stayin’ in that flop house down on Bay Avenue. But I don’t know for sure, I’m not his social secretary.”

            A big man stepped up behind Margaret Sneed. It looked like he decided to posture a little for his girlfriend.

            “Whatchew officers doin’ bringin’ that derelict round here for? He and you ain’t welcome.”

            I’d been about to speak when ex-Sergeant Sneed decided to stand up and protect his home.

            “Whatchew you doin’ in my house, Jesse Lester, you got-damn worthless nigger!”

            “Shut up, Spurgie,” Lou said, and began to hustle the old man down the brick steps.

            Jesse started to open the screen door. I pushed it closed.

            “Stay where you are, Mr. Lester. He’s leaving and you’re staying.”

            He set his jaw and began flexing his shoulders. That kind of crap was wasted on me.

            “No reason for you to come outside, Mr. Lester—understand?” I made it more of a command than a question.

            “Officer,” Mrs. Sneed said softly, “please don’t ever bring him back here.”

            I didn’t get a chance to speak before Jesse Lester stuck in his two cents.

            “I catch him back here again, I’ll damn sure kill his ass.”

            “Yeah, right.” I looked at Margaret Sneed. “Merry Christmas, folks” I followed Lou and Spurgie back to the car.

            “It’s nine-thirty,” Lou told me. “We missed our ring.”

            “Big deal, we had an assignment.”

            “You call this an assignment?”

            Then we heard a voice from the back seat.

            “Were y’all talkin’ to me?”

            Spurgeon, once again, seemed to be among the living. I’ve always been amazed how a drunk can regenerate and seem almost sober in a relatively short period of time.

            “Give me a dollar,” I said to Louie.

“For what?”

“Just give me a damn dollar.”

He did, and I took one from my pocket.

With the two bills in my hand, I drove for a few minutes and stopped in front of Pete’s Luncheonette, a place close enough to the Bay Avenue flop house for Spurgie to walk home.

“Okay, Spurgie,” I said, “here’s two bucks. Go inside and get yourself a cup of coffee and a buttered roll. I don’t want to see you on the street again before the New Year.”

He took the two dollars, fumbled with the door handle, and exited the vehicle. Once outside, he stepped next to my window. I cranked it open, wondering what he wanted.

“I thank ya gennelmens. Merry Christmas to y’all.” He flipped us a casual salute.


*   *   *


At twenty-to-twelve I parked next to the call box across from our relief point at the fire house, waiting for the midnight team to relieve us.

After dropping Spurgie off at Pete’s, we picked up several calls—two family fights, a first aid case where a young father skewered himself with a Phillips head screwdriver as he tried to assemble his son’s tricycle, and a false alarm active maternity handled by the pros from an ambulance crew.

Lou spoke on the phone with a deskman who typed a record of our calls into the blotter.

It hadn’t been an overly busy or difficult tour, but I had a headache and felt more than ready to go home. I pinched the bridge of my nose waiting for my partner to finish on the phone.

Not paying attention to much of anything, I suddenly noticed someone standing next to the car.

I cranked down the window and looked at Spurgie Sneed who looked really out of it. I assumed he had finished his pint of “Mad Dog” 20/20 and wandered up here rather than walking south on Bay Avenue to his furnished room.

He used his thumb to point at something behind him. He tried to talk, but I heard only gurgles.

“Goddamnit, Spurgie,” I said, “gimme a break. I’m ready to go home. I’m not arresting you on Christmas. Go lay down next to the fire house and the midnight guys will drive you home.”

He kept pointing behind him.

Lou finally finished with the deskman and looked to his left.

Spurgie managed to croak out, “Jesse fuckin’ Lester,” and he fell face-first onto the blacktop with a garden sickle lodged between his shoulder blades, his old gray herringbone overcoat soaked with blood.

Lou and I jumped out of the car. I lay two fingers over Spurgie’s neck checking for a carotid pulse. I looked at Lou and shook my head.

Ex-Buck Sergeant Spurgeon Sneed, United States Army, sole survivor of K Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division lay there dead.

Two hours later we sat in the 5th Squad Detective’s building with Detective Angelo Ruffino processing the arrest of Jesse Lester for murder in the second degree.

Lou called Central Records to get case and arrest numbers, and a record of Jesse’s priors. He tossed two sheets of paper on Angelo’s desk and walked toward the men’s room. I just finished typing the supplementary report explaining our probable cause to believe Jesse killed Spurgeon.

“Sam,” Angelo said, “you the arresting officer on this?”

“Yeah, it’s my turn.”

He smashed the keys of an ancient Olivetti typewriter enough times to fill in my name.

“What’s your tin number?” he asked.

“Twenty-four sixty-two.”

The characters smacked the rubber roller four more times.



Smack, smack.

The radio in the Squad was set on WRIV for their forty-eight hours of Christmas music. Bing Crosby sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

Angelo pulled the court information from the typewriter. He paper-clipped that and the other arrest reports together and held them in my direction.

“Here you go, pal. Go see the desk sergeant, sign your name, and swear all that’s true. I’ll take Jesse over for pictures and prints.”

“Thanks, Ange, see ya around the campus.”

Louie stepped out of the men’s room and walked over.

“Let’s go next door,” I said. “I’ll sign this and we’ll have the lieutenant credit us with some overtime.”

He nodded.

The next morning Jesse Lester drove to District Court with two cops in a prisoner van, not by Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer. They, like me, were home asleep.


The End

Thank you so much, Wayne, for sharing your story with us! It is highly appreciated!



Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.

Heroes and Lovers

Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold.  It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.” 

 Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made Knoxville TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas.  

Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation sounded exciting and would get her an exclusive story.  

But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing he mobilizes all personnel at Prospect PD and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.

During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.

After a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produces an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend.  But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.

Thanks again, Wayne, for your story!
Now, there is a giveaway connected to the Write A Holiday Short Story Contest. We will randomly choose 1 comment amongst all the comments posted under the published stories and this winner will receive amazon GC of 20$!

To enter, leave a blog comment below the post and you must enter the RC form below.
Open internationally!

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Happy commenting! Let's give some positive feedback to the participants of the Write A Holiday Short Story Contest!

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  1. Hi Inga,
    Thanks for posting my Christmas police story and inviting me to enter your contest.
    To you and all your followers, no matter what winter holiday you celebrate, have a happy one and a healthy and prosperous 2013.

    1. Thanks, Wayne! Happy holidays to you, too! :)

  2. Sorry...I think I mistakenly entered this giveaway. I didn't write a story!

    1. Cordelia, this specific giveaway is for readers andpeople who leave comments! So you are in the right place! :)

  3. This was great thank you.


  4. Christina K. in the rafflecopter

    The dialogue was very well done! I like the cop aspect in a CHristmas story:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  5. Wow, this writing is really incredible. Felt like I was in the story. Thank you so much.