Fiona looked through the prison bars at the first snow dancing in its decent, reflecting the cheery twinkle lights beyond and heaved a giant sigh. Another Christmas season was here, as if Fiona needed the reminder- it was this time six years ago when her life had jack-knifed off the road of normalcy and left her stranded in this jail cell- deemed a criminal, a murderer. She knew that’s what she was, despite the occasional morning when she would wake up believing for a few precious minutes that she was still in her bed on Green Briar Lane. It had been in that house, on Green Briar Lane, that it had happened.
Fiona had always loved Christmas, the decorating, the baking, the search for the perfect gift. But then, something changed. And the killings began. Fiona still claimed to this day that she cannot recall those early killings, and who knows, maybe she’s telling the truth. The killings were always random- an elderly woman suffocated with her pillow as her husband lay sleeping beside her one week, a college student stabbed outside the campus library two weeks later followed by a prominent pastor found floating face-down in his baptismal the following week. Soon, the media caught wind of the bizarre homicides and almost overnight “The Christmas Killer” was born, so dubbed thanks to the poinsettia found at each of the crime scenes.
Over three years passed, and the killings continued- oddly only around the holiday season (lending even more credence to the moniker “Christmas Killer”. Fiona was aware of the headlines and the general details of the story but had no more of a passing interest, until December 24th when her home was swarmed by SWAT and she was suddenly whisked away. It took three days, chipping away at her around the clock for them to break through the mental wall Fiona had built around the truth; but finally they did. In a moment of terrorized clarity, Fiona began to remember. Agreeing to cooperate, she recounted all the bloody details of her killings, each and every one laid out as if it had just happened. In all, Fiona had brought 24 lives to an early end in the span of three years. The only detail not explained in the hours of confession- why had she done it? That Fiona would not reveal, some believed her mind had simply gone or a traumatic event had pushed her over the edge.
The state prosecutor did not need to know the ‘why’ he had enough to lock Fiona and throw away the key- and that is exactly what happened, eventually. Fiona spent the first two years in a high security facility for the criminally insane before being found within her sound mind, at which time she was tried by a jury of her peers and found guilty. Facing a life sentence, Fiona felt a strange calm from incarceration, at least now she couldn’t hurt anyone. That thought, and one other, kept her going day to day, despite the tedious redundancy and loneliness of her reality. The other thought? Knowing she would never have to see another poinsettia for as long as she lived.
56 years later, as they were cleaning out prisoner 556832’s cell, the housekeeping staff came upon a small diary tucked inside the mattress. Taking the item to the warden before moving on to the other cells, housekeeping didn’t give the matter another thought. Leafing through the diary, Warden Dexier found mild interest in some of the writings which were mostly accounts of life inside the prison’s walls before flipping to the last page-
“I always found great amusement in the name I was given by the public, although I hesitate to find anything slightly humorous about the actions that led to it. I suppose it was inevitable, given their need to believe there was some obvious reason I killed the people I did, but they missed the point entirely. It was not me who left those foul weeds after the deed was done, for as anyone who has known me for any amount of time could attest to my absolute hatred of poinsettias. It was, in fact, these toxic plants that marked my victims for me. Poinsettias have long represented death in my mind, first when my beloved pet Jingles died after consuming the leaves of beastly weed and again at my dear father’s funeral as his grave was littered with the plant. Despite my abhorrence of the plant, my mother, in yet another example of intuitiveness, forced me to carry a plant to his grave, and, just as I was walking from the church to the car, a stranger stopped me and said, “Strange, I’ve seen so many poinsettias today, I’d swear everyone was going to a funeral”. I suppose something in me just ‘snapped’ years later when I began to see the plants pop up in people’s homes, in store fronts, on TV sets each holiday season. More later, it’s lights out…”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Don’t you love walking into a room to find a surprise is waiting for you? That’s how I entered my office this morning where I found a 9” poinsettia sitting on my desk. Well, come to find it’s an early Christmas gift from my boss, along with a very lovely gift certificate, thanking me for ‘all that I do’. Can I tell you how nice it is to work for someone who appreciates and respects the work you do, and then demonstrates that appreciation? It’s nice (there, just told you).
TWO: So on my way out after work, as I’m waiting for Andy to come pick me up (more car trouble, yay!) an older gentleman sees the poinsettia I am precariously balancing in my arms, along with my laptop and oversized purse and made the oddest comment (at least to me, maybe someone can shed some light on what he could have meant). He said, “Wow, I’ve seen so many poinsettias today, you’d think there was a funeral”. Wha??? I didn’t get it but gave him the obligatory uncomfortable head nod/chuckle as he continued on his way. Weird.
Love & Squirrels.