I must admit that seeing Christmas decorations still up after New Year’s Day is one of my pet peeves. By that time, I’m so sick of the season, which now starts in September, that I can understand why the time is right for murder. But, despite the Christmas connotations of today’s title, I think that every season is equally suitable for dastardly deeds.
In Raymond Chandler’s great short story, “Red Wind,” he talks about the Santa Ana Winds that sweep up from south of the border and increase the misery level in southern California during late August and early September. Sounds like a good season for murder to me. Having worked most of my adult life as a cop, I can attest that crime, and especially murder, increases during those long, hot summers. I used to actually look forward to our cold winters here in the Windy City because they limited the time the knuckleheads were out on the streets. Of course, a lot of times the cold weather means an increase in those crimes that occur inside. Domestic disturbances flourish during those long periods of “cabin fever.” But traipsing around in the snow isn’t a lot of fun, either. I remember one time we had a call of an armed robbery up on the commuter railroad tracks. A call came in of a male subject, who generally matched the description of the robber, running along the tracks. Since I was up on the platform, I jumped down and gave chase. There was about two feet of snow on the ground and it was pretty damn cold. I saw the guy about a hundred yards ahead and radioed his direction of travel. Then I tripped over something and went tumbling pell-mell down this sloping forty foot embankment. I banged up my knee and had more snow under my collar than on my boots, but I figured it had been worth it. Another police unit had caught the running suspect. My satisfaction faded, however, when I found out the runner wasn’t the robber. The former turned out to be this glue-sniffing idiot who lived with his mother in a house adjacent to the tracks. He’d just gone up there with a bag full of “goodies” and saw me. He thought I was after him. Yeah, when I found this out, I was thinking it was a good season to commit murder, all right.
After prowling those long, cold, winter nights I always looked forward to spring. To this day, it remains my favorite season. I mean, what’s not to love? The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and the trees are sprouting tiny buds that will eventually develop into full-fledged leaves. And with the thawing snow and ice, the dastardly deeds of the winter may be exposed. I remember getting sent to a forest preserve to meet with a complainant who’d seen a dead body in the woods. I arrived and the guy was totally shaken up. “It’s over there,” he said, refusing to look. The poor guy looked like he was about ready to faint. I checked, and sure enough, a male subject was lying next to a fallen tree, partially exposed in a roll of plastic. The victim had been there a while, and I silently reflected that it looked like the poor guy hadn’t had a very good Christmas. Ironically, the case got solved. Years later, when I was in breathalyzer school, I met an officer who had arrested two prostitutes who’d been using the dead guy’s credit cards. They implicated the shooter who’d dispatched the guy, stolen the cards, and dumped the body. As I mentioned, when the temperature rises, and things get hot, the murder rate climbs as well. The body count this summer in my home town has been staggering. I think we topped out at something like 763 homicides for 2016. This total is a bit misleading, since the murders on the Chicago expressways are not included because that’s been deemed Illinois State Police jurisdiction. Off the record, the murder total is purported to be a slightly higher number.
Onward to autumn, my least favorite time of the year. Days are getting shorter, the weather is getting chillier, leaves are changing color and falling off the coniferous trees, and, worst of all, the school year begins. Now this last one was a lot more painful back in the day, when I was in school, but now that I’m doing some teaching, I kind of welcome it. Still, the antics of some of those students are enough to make one’s blood boil. It can put people, especially teachers, in a murderous state of mind. As autumn marks the beginning of the end of the year, people begin to plot… Isn’t Halloween the perfect night to commit a murder? I mean, it’s acceptable to dress up like a goblin or monster, so no one will recognize you. Thanksgiving is always good for those family get-togethers where old bitterness inevitably surfaces during those famous dinners. Pass the cranberries, please… Or else.
Well, it seems as though we’ve come full circle. I previously mentioned that the night of the last Christmas I worked as a cop included an officer-involved shooting at three in the morning. And New Year’s Eve is always an unpleasant night to work, whether you’re a cop or not.
So, in the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter what time of the year it is when murder is in the air. Any season will do, and all have their respective advantages.