the smuggler’s bible

Drosselmeyer

Christmas morning. Drosselmeyer sits with his forehead on the table, hands cuffed behind him.

“You want your lawyer?”

“I want my toys back.”

“You’re more likely to get twenty-five to life. My partner’s been out all night with the forensic team bagging up your dollhouse.”

“It isn’t fair.”

Barraclough lets that drift up the chimney with the rest of the nonsense. “The note was signed ‘Mausekönig,’” he says. “The Mouse King. Strange for a guy who sells traps.”

“A spring, a lever, and a broken neck,” Drosselmeyer says icily. “On the whole, a better deal than most royalty can offer.”

Barraclough

They wait in the dark, cradling styrofoam cups of hot chocolate. Finally, Drosselmeyer leaves—a spindly shadow against the bricks.

“Call it in. We’ll search the shop.”

“No warrant,” Pontchartrain says. “The judge is at a party.”

“He’ll sign it tomorrow when his hangover wears off. Until then, let’s see if the clockmaker left cookies on the mantle.”

Flashlights. Creaking boards. A cabinet in the basement labeled ‘Clara.’ They force the lock and spools of thread clatter onto the floor. The thing on the shelf has glass eyes.

“Take him,” Barraclough says into the radio. “Jesus Christ, do it now.”

Drosselmeyer

The sign on the door is brass crusted with verdigris—DROSSELMEYER: TIMEPIECES, TOYS, TRAPS. Inside, Barraclough brushes snow from his white frosting shirt cuffs while Pontchartrain introduces them. The man behind the counter is tall and thin with stringy black hair.

“A murder?” he says, setting aside his screwdriver.

“Workers putting up decorations saw you enter the clock tower.”

“I have a contract with the city.”

Barraclough eyes a pocket watch under glass. “Timepieces,” he says, “and toys. Meaning dolls?”

“Sometimes, certainly.”

“Bet the elves don’t like that. But why traps?”

“Why else?” Drosselmeyer’s voice is soft. “To kill mice.”