On January 1st, Dick Gumshoe had asked for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. So he had been the front of the queue to get Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. Nobody on beat was earlier on the draw than he was. He had pick of the pile, top of the class. He was on top of things, for the first time ever in his life, and had been approved for the time off on January 2nd. He had almost a full year to be certain that he was going to have Christmas Eve and Christmas day off.
Every time he got called in for a big assignment, he said, “Just remember, I have Christmas Eve off!” to the point that everyone in the office was tired of hearing it. When November started and they put up the big bi-monthly calendar in the main workspace, Dick Gumshoe circled Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and wrote Detective Gumshoe off, just so nobody could forget. So he couldn’t forget.
And then, on December 23rd, Miles Edgeworth walked into his office and dropped a case file directly onto his desk. It landed with a thwap that sounded a lot less like paper hitting wood and a lot more like five psychelocks slamming shut around the dream Christmas of Gumshoe’s poor, bereft, hard-working soul, the clanging of the jail cell door on top of that, and then the press of a big red button that said YOU ARE NOW GOING TO BE SINGLE in all caps on it.
“Mr. Edgeworth,” Gumshoe said, his voice not shaking, “I have Christmas Eve off. You’ll have to get one of the junior officers, sir. I’m not gonna be in town.”
“If I trusted any junior officer further than I can spit, I’d ask one of them. Sadly, Detective, you have ingratiated yourself into my goodwill, and I now cannot rely on anyone that does not have your unique and indispensable brand of ethics. So I will have to pay you double overtime, and you will have to not take off Christmas Eve, and we will just all have to live with the hands we have been dealt.”
Gumshoe’s brain had changed channels to the all-static “Unlock Only When Mr. Edgeworth Shows Human Affection In Order To Emit A Constant Scream” channel, and he’d tuned out at “I now cannot rely on anyone but you” and totally forgotten that he had Christmas Eve off. Or why.
Dick Gumshoe pounded the desk, stood up so fast he bashed both his knees on the underside of it, and immediately sat back down with a yelp, rubbing the tops of his thighs. “Of course!” He crowed. “What could I be thinking, letting you deal with some junior officer who doesn’t even know how to tie their shoes!” He clenched his fists, grinned, flexed. “You got it! Anything you ask, Sir!”
“My sister’s running the case,” Mr. Edgeworth said. “Have fun.”
Dick Gumshoe immediately remembered why he had Christmas Eve off.
On the previous Christmas, after his back-to-back shift that only let him off at ten in the evening, Maggey said, “My parents are really upset that you can’t ever manage to get the holidays off. They want us to drive out to Vegas next year to see them.”
“Ah, jeez, Maggey.” Dick Gumshoe had been a detective for almost twenty years, and he’d had...exactly zero Christmases off in all that time. He always worked holidays, because it was overtime, and he was always, always short on cash. It wasn’t even like he spent it on anything, and his paycheck was more than enough to live on! He just somehow came out short every month.
But there were people so much less well-off than him, and he always gave his cash away to folks asking for money on the street or busking at bus stops, since cash didn’t really come out of his bank account and all, so it was ok. Better they get a hot bite to eat than him! He had a roof over his head, and as much free coffee at the precinct that he could possibly ask for! Even if he really didn’t like coffee.
“I promise, Maggey, I’ll get Christmas off for you next year. That way we can go out to Vegas and you can introduce me to your parents!” He’d meant it, too, which was why he’d immediately asked for the holidays off on January 1, so that nobody could get in ahead of him.
And now he’d taken this assignment.
Maybe they could get it sorted tonight.
They couldn’t get it sorted tonight. Like, not even to the slightest. The four hours that Gumshoe spent at the crime scene, listening to Ms. Franziska swear and curse herself blue in the face, proved that much, and he scuffed home to Maggey a little after eleven.
“I’m home,” Gumshoe said tiredly to his warm little apartment. Maggey appeared a moment later, looking excited. She was working as a kindergarten teacher now, between other odd jobs, so she was already off for the whole of December and most of January. She was sitting around at home a lot, doing fitness exercises, making paper cutouts for the kids, and generally just passing the time between when her soaps came on and Gumshoe came home and school started again.
“Tomorrow!” She said, excited, dragging him into the kitchen. "Tomorrow, Richard! I’ve already got the car all packed and we can head out to see my parents!”
“Yeah,” Gumshoe agreed, putting the kettle on as Maggey waved at him and taking the hot cocoa packets she handed him. “Tomorrow, huh.”
“Yes!” Maggey whipped out a hot platter of freshly-made snowman sugar cookies (probably from a box) from the oven, banged the cookie sheet on the top of the oven, and five cookies made a break for it, three of them hitting Gumshoe and the other two to the floor. “Oh well,” Maggey said, totally distracted. “But yeah! Tomorrow morning! I’m really excited, I think you’ll love Vegas. And I think you’ll love my parents! Anyway, I hope you love my parents. And maybe that my parents love you. It seems like we’ve been dating forever and we’ve never spent Christmas together, and now we finally get to! It’s going to be amazing, I know it!”
Gumshoe nodded glumly, took one of the snowmen off of where it was stuck to his shirt, and dripped it in his freshly-poured and still steaming hot cocoa.
He’d heated the water too hot. The marshmallows were melting into little drops and bubbles of mallow-foam, gurgling into a slow and painful death as froth. When he dipped his cookie in, he held it too tight, and one of the legs snapped off right by the hip, crumbling off the snowman and then dropping into the cocoa. He watched it as it got soggy and brown, broke up into chunks and crumbs, and then slowly sank down into the depths to be devoured by the eldritch darkness that was the unstirred powder at the bottom of a cup of instant cocoa.
There was something poetic about that, probably. And what was happening to his life. And the monumental level to which he had just hecked up.
“Maggey,” Gumshoe said, “I gotta work tomorrow.”
“No you don’t!” Maggey replied, rolling her eyes. “You got the time off, remember? You’re coming; don’t be a scaredy cat!”
“No, I mean. I got called in on a case, for Mr. Edgeworth and Ms. Franziska. I have to work tomorrow, Mag. I promised.”
Maggey took a great big breath in, and inflated like a small angry balloon, her cheeks and forehead and chin all turning bright, bright read as she puffed up. “Richard!” She yelled, waving her hands. One of her hands caught the cookie sheet, and Gumshoe reflexively caught the two cookies that launched into the air and carefully put them back down on the sheet, turned it sideways so Maggey couldn’t thwack it again. “You promised! My parents are expecting us; I can’t bail on them!”
“I gotta go to the crime scene at five tomorrow,” Gumshoe told her, taking Maggey’s hands in his own. Her hands were so small, scarred and calloused and burned from years of cop-work and accidents, against his big dinner-plate hands, his fingers each like huge ugly spoons. “I promised, Mag. I gotta go work. At least until there’s enough evidence for Ms. Franziska to get a case together.”
He chanced a look upward, and saw Maggey watching him, her huge eyes big with goopy tears. She took in a short breath and then burst into tears, crying in angry agony, threw her arms around his waist.
“Richard!” She pounded on his chest with her fists. It hurt, too; Maggey was strong. “You promised, I can’t call them and say we can’t make it now!”
“I know! I just. I’ll go to this scene, and help out, and leave other folks in charge, and we’ll leave after lunch and still be there in time for dinner!” She looked up at him. Angry.
“I’m gonna come down there,” she snarled, “And I’m gonna beat Franziska up until she lets me take you if you don’t come right back here right on time at one and you mark my words that I will, Richard! You’re coming to Vegas tomorrow whether you like it or not! Non-negotiable! I won’t hear a single word against it! And if I get arrested for fighting Franziska, then you’re gonna go without me, and meet them anyway!”
Gumshoe had long ago learned that there was no negotiating with Maggey when she got like this. He just had to do what she wanted, and hope it would all work out for the best in the end.
Gumshoe smiled, picked her up, and kissed her soundly on the mouth until she started gagging. “Gross, Richard!”
“I love you, little birdie girl.”