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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2308023
The adults sat around in the red-and-white adorned lounge room drinking eggnog and scoffing down delicious homemade Christmas fruit cake.

While dressed as Santa's Little Helpers in green-and-white, Charlene ten, and Mikhail nine, were entertaining them with Christmas Carols.

The two youngsters looked at each other, smiled mischievously then began to sing:

"Christmas comes but once a year

"And thank God, it's bloody dear,

"Jingle Bells are coming near

"It's Christmas time again!"

They bent forward to do an exaggerated bow, then raced across to their seats, giggling as they ran.

"Grandpa Quigley!" called their mother.

"What, Hayley?" he said to his daughter.

"Did you corrupt your grandkids?"

"Don't be disgusting," protested the old man, "I never touched them."

"He just played us one of his old records," said Charlene. "Colin Bloody Wilson's Bloody Dirtiest Christmas Carols."

"Father!" said Hayley, making him know that he was in trouble. She only called him Father when he was about to get a serious telling-off."

"What, so now I can't play them Christmas Carols?"

"I especially like the one about the man with the hair on his..." began the ten-year-old girl, silenced as her grandfather slammed a hand across her mouth.

"That's enough, honey," said Grandpa. "Your mother, also known as the redheaded Gringe who tried to destroy Christmas, doesn't like Christmas Carols."

"I love Christmas Carols," protested Hayley. "Just as long as they're not smutty ones."

"Well, that rules out most of my best material," said the old man.

"You oughta be ashamed of yourself, you old pervo," said his wife Agnes, sitting in her wheelchair. Which she didn't really need, since she could walk perfectly all right with the aid of a walking stick. However, she had found that people were much more courteous to her if they thought that she was disabled.

"'Old Pervo'? How dare you? I told you that I never touched them."

"No, you just played dirty ditties to them!"

"Exactly," he protested.

"Charlene, Mikhail," said Hayley, "why don't you two go outside to play while we have it out with your grandpa?"

"Okay, Mum," they said together, grinning mischievously as they ran to the front door. Knowing full well that it was their fault that he was in the shit.

"Plan to be out there for a couple of hours," said Agnes. "He's going to get quite an earful."

"Oh, can't we stay and listen?" pleaded Charlene, a lot more like her Grandpa than she cared to admit.

"No, kids, out with you! Shoo! Shoo!" said Agnes.

Frowning, Charlene asked: "What does 'Shoo! Shoo!' mean?"

"It means to go outside before your Grandpa isn't the only one in trouble," said Hayley.

"Oh," said Charlene, following her younger brother outside."

"Now then, old man," said Hayley leaning over him threateningly.

At that moment, there came a hammering at the front door.

"What the...?" said Hayley walking across to open her front door.

As she opened it Charlene and Mikhail raced into the lounge room squealing."

"What is it, pets?" asked Grandma Agnes, cuddling them both.

"There's scary stuff falling out of the sky," whispered Mikhail, burrowing his head into Agnes' voluminous breasts.

"It's all cold and wet, and white," said Charlene, obviously not being cheeky this time.

"But what could...?" asked Hayley, staring outside in shock at an American-style white Christmas scene.

When she didn't answer, Agnes said: "What is it, Hayles?"

"It's snowing," said Hayley in shock.

"It's what?" asked Grandpa.

"It's snowing," said Hayley louder.

"Don't be ridiculous, honey," said Agnes, "it almost never snows in Australia. Only in the alpine regions ... and even then not much."

"Besides it's a hot summer's day," said Grandpa. "Christmas is in Summer in Australia, have you forgotten? But even as he said it he shivered and thought: Brrrr! It has turned cold all of a sudden!

"I'm telling you that it is snowing outside in Burnley Street," she said raising her voice.

"She must have put too much nog and not enough egg in the eggnog," said Grandpa, struggling to his feet. Walking slowly across the red and green streaked carpet, he grabbed the front door to reveal a scene out of a thousand American or English White Christmas movies."

"But that's impossible," said Agnes. Forgetting that she was supposed to be crippled, she got out of her wheelchair and gazed out in wonder at the snow and ice everywhere.

"But I don't understand," she said, "it never gets cold enough for water to ice over in Australia."

"That's why we're so shithouse at the Winter Olympics," said Grandpa, making the kids titter, and Agnes and Hayley glare at him.

Patting her thigh, Hayley said: "Come and have a look kids, there's nothing to be afraid of. Snow and ice can't harm you."

Looking a little reluctant, Charlene and Mikhail finally crept across to the door, staying safely behind Hayley and Agnes, while peering out at the snowy scene.

"Is it safe then for us to go out and play?" asked Charlene.

"Not dressed like that," said her mother, "you'll catch your deaths of cold. Run upstairs and change into your winter duds first." Then as the kids took off, "And be sure to wear a coat too."

Soon the whole family was outside, safely rugged up. Hayley, Agnes, and Grandpa watched as the kids threw snowballs at each other or lay down to make snow angels."

"Who would've thought we could have this kind of weather in summer?" asked Grandpa.

"Who wouldn't thought we could have this sort of weather in Australia, full stop," said his wife, Agnes.

"It must be El Nino, or his bossy big sister El Nina," said Grandpa.

"Yeah," agreed Hayley, "what we call winter is usually what the Yanks call fall, and the Poms call summer."

She was about to say something else when turning to her left she saw the lily white figure in daggy old trousers, and a wino's hat and coat. With moccasins instead of real shoes.

Pointing to it, she asked, "Where did that snowman come from?"

Looking around, Agnes said, "I never noticed it when we came out. I'm sure I would've noticed it."

"You couldn't notice it ... because it wasn't there," said her husband carefully traipsing across the fresh snow toward the snow Hobo.

After a moment, Agnes and Hayley started after him.

When they reached it, Grandpa reached out a hand to touch it.

"Surprise," said the snowman, suddenly turning around to face them. Not really made of snow, but rather like a very young child's drawing of a snowman.

"What the...?" said Grandpa, taking half a step backwards.

Not far enough or fast enough, as it turned. They saw it was holding a red-and-white cane, like a giant candy cane.

It touched Grandpa gently with the cane, and he quickly transformed into ice.

"Surprised, yet?" he asked touching Agnes and Hayley before the two women could react.

In less than two minutes all three adults had turned into life-sized ice statues.

"Where are Mummy and Granny and Grandpa?" asked Mikhail, naively walking across to the white man.

"They had to go into a hurry," said the Ice-Man.

"Who are you?" asked Mikhail, noticing the red-and-white striped staff for the first time. "Is that a gigantic candy cane?"

"Why yes," lied the Ice-Man, "would you like a lick?"

"Sure would," said Mikhail sticking his tongue out to lick it.

"Don't Mickey, it's a trick," warned Charlene wisely.

"Oh, don't listen to her. She's a killjoy."

"A killjoy," repeated Mickey.

"And we don't like killjoys, now do we."

"No, we don't like killjoys," said the boy, licking the staff.

And instantly starting to transform into ice.

"Mickey!" shrieked Charlene, turning to run out into the street, away from the Ice-Man as fast as she could.

Watching her for a moment, he considered going after the ten-year-old but then shrugged and thought: Oh well, four out of five ain't bad.

Walking across the yard he went out the gate, heading in the opposite direction to that taken by the hysterical girl.

"Christmas comes but once a year!" he started to sing as he walked out of sight to hide in the forest land not far from the town of Bromby in the Victorian countryside. Like a nearby town, Daley, it was named after its founder, Daley Bromby.

Twenty minutes later, a neighbour lady, Gwenifer, saw Charlene running down the road, screaming. Unable to calm her down, the lady drove the ten-year-old to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital to be treated.

To Jesus Costello (pronounced 'Hee-Zeus'), the chief administrator and head surgeon at the hospital, Gwenifer said: "She's completely hysterical. Keeps talking about a snowman turning her family into ice."

"A snowman? In an Australian summer?" asked Jesus.

"That's what I thought," said Gwenifer. "But I must admit that it did cool down fast in Bromby. One moment it was forty Degrees C, the next it wasn't much over twenty."

Colin Klein and Miss Lipzing were sitting down to a large beef roast at Mrs. Morton's two-storey boarding house in Rochester Road, Merridale, on the Glen Hartwell to Willamby line.

"Now make sure you eat everything," said Mrs Morton, piling his plate high with a massive slab of roast beef, three fried potatoes, three fried pumpkin pieces, half a dozen Brussel sprouts, peas, carrots, an ear of boiled corn-on-the-cob with butter, cauliflower, and broccoli. Finally, almost drowning it in thick, spicy meat gravy."

"I'm not sure if I can eat all of that?" said Colin Klein, a redheaded English reporter spending his long service leave in the Australian countryside.

"Nonsense, you're all skin and bones," said Mrs. Morton.

"All skin and bones," repeated Miss Lipzing, although she was a petite lady, one hundred and sixty-two centimetres tall and barely thirty-eight kilogrammes in weight, herself.

"You need building up," said Mrs. Morton watching the reporter as he started to eat.

"Need building up," agreed Miss Lipzing. "Especially if you're going to marry that lovely Miss Rampling."

"No no, dear," said Mrs. Morton, "Totty Rampling must have had a change of heart. She raced back to Melbourne to look after her wild live conservative, or whatever it is."

"The Melbourne Wildlife Safari Park," corrected Colin.

"The great hussy," said Miss Lipzing, "leaving a fine, handsome man like you at the altar. The girl ought to be horsewhipped. If I were forty ... thirty years younger I'd try to woo you myself?"

"Woo?" asked the redheaded reporter.

"That's an old-fashioned word for court," explained Mrs. Morton.

"Well, Totty does have a job in Melbourne," pointed out Colin Klein. "And I live four hundred kilometres away. And as we all know, long-distance relationships never work."

"Nonsense," insisted Natasha Lipzing, "when you got married she would have given up her job to keep the house for you. A wife's place is in the home!"

"Don't worry, Natasha," said Mrs. Morton, using Miss Lipzing's first name in front of Colin Klein for the first time as far as he could remember. "We'll soon find him someone else."

"I'm sure you will," agreed Colin, not wasting his breath trying to convince the two matchmakers that he was happily unmarried.

They had almost finished tea, and Colin Klein felt like exploding when there came a lock at the door.

"Now who could that be at this time?" said Mrs. Morton, going across to open the front door.

"Terri, honey, do come on in," said the old lady, leading Terri Scott, one of the local constabulary into the dining room. Giving a wink to Natasha Lipzing, she said, "Look who's here, lovely Terri." She nodded her head surreptitiously toward Colin Klein.

"Oh yes," said Natasha, smiling mischievously. "Do sit down dear, we have plenty of food to go around."

"Yes, plenty of food to go around," agreed Mrs. Morton.

"That's very kind of you," said Terri, "but I've come to take Mr. Klein out to a possible crime scene."

"Oh dear, not a murder, I hope?" said Miss Lipzing smiling despite herself, a great fan of murder. Both in fiction and in true crime magazines.

"We're not really sure," admitted Terri, "It involves the Quigley family, over in Bromley."

"Oh, yes, a lovely family," said Mrs. Morton. "I hope nothing has happened to them."

"We're ... we're not sure," admitted Terri as she and Colin Klein walked across to the front door.

As he started out the door, she said, "You'd better get a coat."

"In the middle of summer?" asked Colin, puzzled. "It must be nearly forty degrees outside."

"Not where we're going," said Terri mysteriously.

Half an hour later the police blue Lexus stopped in front of the Quigleys' house in Burnley Street Bromley. Terri and Colin stepped out into a winter wonderland.

"What the...?" said Colin, glad that she had insisted that he wear a thick coat. "I didn't think you got snow and ice in Australia ... Especially not in summer."

"We don't," said Terri, walking across the snow to where the four 'ice statues' stood near the left front corner of the yard.

"Look at the lovely ice statues," said Colin. "They almost look like real people."

"According to a hysterical girl who lives here they are real people," said Terri Scott. "Her mother, brother, and her mother's parents."

"What?" demanded Colin Klein.

Terri went on to tell him the whole crazy-sounding story that Charlene Quigley had finally managed to tell to Jesus Costello, then Terri, at the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital.

"So what're you going to do with them?" asked Colin.

As a freezer truck commandeered from the Glen Hartwell Mall turned up, she said: "First we need to get them on ice, in case there is anything living inside, then Elvis and Jesus can see what they can find out by testing them."

The driver alighted from the truck and walked around to push up the slide-away metal door, as two other burley men got out of the cabin of the truck.

"How do?" said one of the men to Colin and Terri.

As Terri and Colin watched, the men carefully lifted the human statues one at a time to put them into the freezer compartment of the truck. Sealed it back up and headed toward the Glen Hartwell Hospital.

"We'd better go with them," said Terri and they went across to get into her police-blue Lexus.

At the Hospital's freezer storage, still rugged up, Colin and Terri watched as Elvis Green (so named due to his devotion to the dead singer), the local coroner, and Jesus (pronounced 'Hee-Zeus') Costello, the chief surgeon and administrator of the G.H. Hospital looked at the human statues nervously.

"Where do we start?" asked Elvis. "If they are living flesh, we don't want to chip off any of them."

"You could take a small amount of flesh from just under the hairline," suggested Terri. "Then if the chisel slipped the worst thing that could happen is that she could end up with a haircut like Denise Crosby."

"Personally I think Denise Crosby is hot," said Elvis.

"Me too," said Colin Klein.

"All of which is irrelevant," said Jesus. "Because you can't freeze human blood, it rots. So if these really were living people, even if we could find a way to change them back, they would be dead.

"Something which they did not know in the early days of cryonic freezing. So if they ever find a cure for not having a body, and unfreeze Walt Disney's head, poor old Walt will be nothing more than a grinning skull."

Over at the Glen Hartwell Mall in Boothy Street (actually, it was no more than a two-storey supermarket) the Ice-Man walked slowly through the aisles, touching people with his striped cane, then moving on.

"So what are you supposed to be," asked a surprisingly tall Asian man, "Santa Claus on a bad day?"

"Yes," he said touching the man with his cane, "I'm just out buying my red-and-white suit." But the man had already turned to ice before he had finished speaking.

Seeing a family of four looking at a large Christmas tree, he walked over and gently touched all of them on the neck with his sane.

"Hey..." said the father, starting to turn around, instead turning to ice, along with his wife and two children.

"Sorry," said the Ice-Man, chuckling as he walked away from them.

By the time that he had finished, he had turned thirty-two people into ice statues. He would have continued, but as people discovered the 'ice statues' and started screaming hysterically, he decided that it was time to depart.

At the hospital, they were starting to get hysterical phone calls from people at the mall.

"Sounds like it's happened again," said Terri Scott. "At the Glen Hartwell Mall this time."

In the Mall Terri, Colin Klein, Jessie Baker, and Paul Bell were walking around examining the human statues while Jesus and Elvis arranged to have them transported in the freezer truck again to the freezer room in the Hospital in Baltimore Drive Glen Hartwell.

Jessie, a tall redhead man, and Paul Bell a lean, wiry raven-haired man, were local cops from neighbouring towns helping out Terri on this case since she had no constables.

"Move aside please," said a huge delivery man, actually employed by the mall, but on temporary loan to the G.H. Hospital, during this emergency.

"Sorry, Bob," said Terri, and they all stepped aside, so that he could carefully move the human statue that they had been looking at back out to the van for transportation.

Finally, the last of the thirty-two 'statues' had been taken away. So Terrie and the others returned to her blue Lexus to drive back to the hospital.

At the hospital, Elvis Green and Jesus Costello had finished examining the first four statues. As the new lot was being unloaded in the huge freezer room, Elvis said:

"Well, there's no doubt that the ice is mixed with flakes of human remains. So I'm gonna stick my neck out and say that these definitely were human beings."

"Before somehow magically, for want of another word, transformed them into ice," added Jesus.

"So what can we do?" asked Terri Scott.

"Apart from catching the maniac, magician, or magical elf that did this?" queried Elvis.


"Bury them," he said trying not to be too heartless. "They're dead. There's no way to turn them back into human beings."

"And if we did," said Jesus, "there's the problem of their blood rotting when frozen."

"So they're either dead ice statues or dead human beings?" asked Colin Klein.

"In a word, 'Yes!" said Elvis Green.

Terri drove Colin back to Mrs. Morton's boarding house in Rochester Road, Merridale, then got invited in to have lunch with them.

As they were struggling to get through one of Mrs. Morton's excellent but humungous meals, she suddenly said: "If you don't mind me asking, Terri, how much are you paying for your rent at the moment?"

"Far too much for the poking little hole that I live in."

"And I bet you have to pay for your meals separately," asked Natasha Lipzing.

"Too true," agreed the policewoman.

"Why don't you move in here?" asked Mrs. Morton.

"That's an excellent idea, Deidre," agreed Natasha.

"I've got a spare room ... right next door to Mr. Klein's room," said Deidre Morton.

Terri and Colin exchanged looks and said: "Uh-oh."

"They're matchmaking again," said Colin, getting a nod from Terri.

"Well, you do make a lovely couple," said Natasha. "Don't they Deidre?"

"They certainly do," agreed Mrs. Morton.

"Thank you but..." struggled Terri Scott.

"But at forty-eight I'm much too old for her," answered the redheaded reporter.

"Nonsense, that's only a decade older than she is," said Deidre Morton.

"Thirteen years, I'm only thirty-five," said Terri.

"Thirteen years, that's nothing these days."

"Especially nowadays, when people are living so long," pointed out Natasha.

The dirty, grey-brown waters of the Yannan River, in Glen Hartwell, have always been notorious as a breeding ground of terror. Around the turn of the century, there had still been a few centenarians left who could give supposed eyewitness accounts of the Glen Hartwell Beast: a gigantic mass of living, humanoid green algae, which in local mythology had stalked the banks of the Yannan in the late 1880s. Lurking upon the murky river bottom, the beast would occasionally break the surface to grab some unsuspecting picnicker from the grassy, sloping banks, or someone from one of the many punts that plied the river right up until the late 1930s, before plunging back to the river bottom, drowning his hapless victim.

Octogenarian fishermen told tales of fathers or uncles who had seen the beast -- which they described as being nearly three-metres-tall, emerald green, and trailing long rope-like strands of hair or fur -- drag crew mates off fishing vessels or had themselves been dragged to the river bottom. Old Man Frazer -- known locally as Crazy Joe Frazer -- told of having been captured by the beast in the early 1910s and taken to an underwater city, where he had met dozens of other people. All of whom, like himself, had been transported to Glen Hartwell’s version of Atlantis by the beast, and had been assumed drowned by the people of the upper world. After a few months in the wondrous, undersea paradise Frazer had somehow (he was very vague on that point) managed to escape and return to the surface world.

Now, however, for the first time in Australia's eighty-thousand-year-plus history of population, the river had frozen over into a dirty browny-grey ice.

Kids were having fun ice skating, some had set up fruit crates as goals to play ice hockey. Never a popular sport in Australia, since it was too expensive to pay to go to St. Moritz (Australia, not Switzerland), and the waterways normally never iced over down under.

Until now that is. No one could explain what had happened and none of the happy ice-capaders even cared. They were having fun, and that was all that mattered.

No one noticed, or cared about the old man dressed a bit like a hobo, a bit like a snowman, as he stepped out onto the ice, carrying his candy-striped cane. Walking confidently across the ice, despite having only leather shoes on his feet.

"Watch out, you silly old fart," said one of the ice skaters, just missing him.

"Sorry," said the Ice-Man tapping him on the shoulder with his cane.

The man quickly turned to ice, but kept skating down the Yannan River, till coming to the end of the ice, which only covered a kilometre stretch of the river, and fell into the murky water with a loud splash.

People looked around, puzzled by the splash. Then shrugged and went back to having their fun.

"What happened to Lawrence?" asked his wife, looking round for her husband. Until the Ice-Man tapped her and her two kids, turning them all into human statues.

"Hey, watch out," shouted a kid, in goal in the ice hockey game. Until the Ice-Man touched him, turning him into an ice statue.

A tall, lean redheaded boy on the other team ran in whacked the full can of Nugget shoe polish that they had found somewhere, and slammed it straight at the goalie. Expecting him to leap to one side. Instead, he stood his ground as the Nugget rocketed into his head...

Which shattered into a hundred pieces, along with his neck and most of his collarbone.

"Aaaaaaah!" shrieked the shooter, before throwing up on the ice.

"What is it Bob...?" said his mother, stopping as the Ice-Man walked behind her, touched her ankle with his candy cane, and turned her into an ice statue.

"Mum," said Bobbie, racing to her for comfort. Only to find that he was stuck to her lifeless icy corpse. Shrieking in panic, he struggled wildly trying to get free, until they both fell over and he was finally released...

By his mother shattering into hundreds of small shards of ice.

"Aaaaaaah!" shrieked Bobby throwing up again, then fainting, face down, stuck to his own frozen vomit.

"What is it Bobbie?" shouted his father. No ice-skater, Hiram fell over four times trying to get across the ice to Bobbie. Finally deciding to stay down, so that he couldn't fall again, he crawled on his hands and knees across the ice to his prostrate son.

"Bobbie! Bobbie!" he screamed, at first not realising what all of the broken ice around his son was. But then as he recognised pieces of his wife's face in the ice shards, he screamed, then fainted.

Over a hundred ice-capaders skated over to see what all of the fuss was about. So the Ice-Man took the trouble to sneak up behind them, touch them with his cane, and turned them all, one by one into ice.

The last two were the prostrate figures of Bobbie and his father.

"A job well done," said the Ice-Man, smiling in pleasure as he walked off the frozen river and headed back to the safety of the surrounding forestland.

At the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital, Jesus Costello, Elvis Green, Colin Klein, Terri Scott, and another dozen people were still sorting through the ice statues from the Glen Hartwell Mall when phone calls started to arrive about the hundred or so ice statues at the Yannan River.

"Oh God, here we go again," said Terri Scott, as she, Colin Klein, and the others abandoned the freezer room at the hospital to head out to the Yannan River in Glen Hartwell.

"Actually," said Paul Bell," I didn't think that you could freeze really dirty, muddy water, like the polluted Yannan?"

"That's actually a bit of a myth," said Elvis Green. "Dirty, muddy water freezes at much lower temperatures than clean water. But if the temperature gets cold enough it will freeze. The same as salt water. Some people think salt water can't be frozen, but the truth is that it needs a colder temperature to freeze. But it won't be salty ice, because only the water freezes, leaving the salt behind."

"That explains icebergs in the salty polar regions," said Terri.


Out on the Yannan River, there was no sign of the river starting to melt yet. However, the winter terrorland outside the Quigleys' house in Burnley Street had eventually melted. So the salvage crew as Terri now thought of them, began packing the human statues as quickly as possible into the back of the freezer truck.

Once the last of the statues had been carted away, Colin Klein asked:

"What now?"

Even as he spoke, they heard the sound of dogs barking. As they approached, Colin asked: "Can dogs follow scents on ice? I know they can't on water."

"That's actually an urban myth, started by the film The Defiant Ones with Sidney Portiere and Tony Curtis," said Terri. "In fact, smell carries very well over water and lingers a long time. So the only reason that a dog wouldn't be able to follow a scent over water would be if the water was very choppy, or too deep for the dogs. If it's ten centimetres deep and placid like in The Defiant Ones, dogs could follow you for kilometres along a shallow stream."

As she finished speaking Jessie Baker, Donald Esk (a bull-like man with a brown Beetles' mop top), and a couple of police officers whom Colin Klein had never met, arrived almost being pulled over by the dozen or so bloodhounds, Queensland Heelers, Kelpies, and Alsatians that they were following behind.

Now that the human statues had been removed, they had to lead the dogs, human and beast alike struggling to stay on their feet, across the ice for a while. But finally, the dogs caught the scent of the Ice-Man's clothing and ran so furiously that the police could no longer hold them without being dragged along the ice.

"Drop the leashes," ordered Terri, to the relief of the men, who gladly did so.

Barking excitedly the dogs ran-skated-slid across the ice, then more sure-footedly ran across the thin snow covering, until they were well out of sight of Colin Klein and the police.

"Come on," said Terri Scott, leading the way as the police and the redheaded reporter thundered after the dogs. Hoping to catch up when the dogs finally ran the psycho-magic elf-wizard to ground.

They ran across the snow, less sure-footedly than the dogs for nearly two kilometres. Until the barking suddenly changed to a terrified yelp.

Then stopped completely.

Surprised, the fatigued runners stopped and looked around at each other. They panted for a few seconds until their breathing settled down, Colin Klein said:

"What happened?"

"Ah ah ha," said Terri, still struggling to get her breathing under control.

They stayed there gasping for another minute or two, then started after the dogs again at a jog, now following their paw prints, rather than their yelping.

Finally, they reached a clearing where they found a dozen or more canine ice statues, which had once been tracking dogs.

"Thomas? Rufus?" cried Donald Esk racing across to the frozen remains of his two beloved heelers. As he went to grab one of them, Jessie Barker grabbed him, saying:

"Don't, man, you'll get stuck to it," quickly correcting himself: "Stuck to him."

After that, they tried following the shallower tracks of the Ice-Man, but the tracks soon faded out, as they reached the end of the snow.

"Okay," said Jesus Costello as the latest 'statues' arrived. So, he's not gender-specific. And he's not species-specific either. What, if anything, else do we know about this loony?"

"He's a heartless monster," said Don Esk, still grieving for Rufus and Thomas."

"I think we can take that as a given," said Terri, putting a hand on Don's left shoulder.

Back at Mrs. Morton's in Rochester Road, Merridale, they filled her in on the latest developments, hoping that it would distract her and Natasha Lipzing from their matchmaking.

"Don't you worry, dears," said Deidre Morton, "I'm sure that you'll soon solve the case. You've both got good heads on your shoulders."

"Yes," agreed Natasha Lipzing, "that's another reason why you would make such a perfect couple."

Not responding this time to Natasha's latest matchmaking attempts, Deidre piled Colin and Terri's plates high with lamb chops, sausages, cauliflower, carrots, plus four other types of vegetables.

"Oh dear," she said, "I forgot to boil any cabbage."

Terri and Colin exchanged relieved looks.

"Oh dear, indeed," agreed Natasha, "Cabbage is so important as roughage."

"Personally I think that cabbage is only edible in Chop Suey, spring rolls, or Dim Sims," said Colin, shocking both Deidre and Natasha.

Jesus Costello was getting ready to go off shift when he heard a commotion from down the corridor. He started down to the left when suddenly a terrified, blonde nurse ran from that direction.

"Pamela?" he called. But screaming, the young nurse-in-training raced straight past the hospital administrator without even answering. Let alone stopping.

"What the fuck?" he asked, heading down to the left, from whence Pamela had come.

Everywhere he looked nurses, orderlies, and other staff were running about as though St. Vitas had recently paid them a visit.

"Calm down, for God's sake!" he shouted. And for a second or two, they did.

Then shrieking hysterically, they began running down the corridor back the way that Jesus had just come, following after the nurse-in-training.

"What the Hell has caused all of this?" he wondered aloud.

"I think you will find that was me," said the Ice-Man from behind him.

Turning around, Jesus jumped backward. Just enough so that when the hobo-cum-snowman tried to touch his wrist, he missed by a centimetre or less.

"Almost gotcha," said the Ice-Man, reaching forward again with his staff. But not fast enough as Jesus spun around and charged down the corridor toward the elevator bay.

As he got there, the elevator chinged open. He almost stepped inside, then thought: No, I might be trapped at his mercy, in there."

Continuing on, Jesus raced across to the stairwell, pulled the door open, and started to run down to the ground floor.

"Why must they always make things so complicated?' asked the Ice-Man, stepping into the elevator, hoping to beat Jesus to the ground floor.

As the elevator reached ground level and the doors chinged open, however, Jesus had already raced outside and managed to jump in through the rear door of an ambulance, even as it started to roar away.

"I repeat...?" said the Ice-Man, starting at a slow jog after the ambulance.

Terri, Colin, Deidre, and Natasha, had just finished their enormous tea, when they heard a car screech to a halt outside the door.

"What the Hell?" asked Colin Klein. He got up to answer the door as furious knocking started.

"Patience! Patience!" called Deidre Morton.

Colin opened the door, and Jesus Costello almost fell into the entrance bay.

"Jesus, what's up?" Colin asked his friend.

"That thing attacked the hospital. Must have killed thirty or forty patients and staff."

"Oh, no," said Natasha Lipzing.

"Don't ask...?" began Terri stopping. "Oh," she suddenly said rising, looking as though she had just had an epiphany.

"What is it?" asked Colin.

"Follow me," she said, "I might know how to stop that monster."

Puzzled, the two men followed her outside.

"We'll take the Lexus," she said, and they piled inside. "It'll be faster than the ambulance."

She started the car, put it into gear, and it struggled to grip the road, let alone move.

"What the...?" she asked. Looking back she saw that Rochester Road had turned into a winter terrorland like the one outside the Quigleys' house in Burnley Street Bromby.

She struggled for a moment, then putting it down a gear managed to get the car travelling along sluggishly, but faster than walking.

"Come on you old K U N T," she spelt, although the car was only a few years old.

Finally, its tyres began to grip and the Lexus raced forward as she double-clutched up to fourth gear, taking off at a zoom.

"Where are we going?" asked Colin Klein.

"Department of Building and Works," she said heading the blue car toward the depot in Riordan Street, Harpertown.

As she drove, she got Colin and Jesus to ring around to other local cops to meet them at the depot.

"This had better work," said Colin, unconvinced.

"If it doesn't we're no worse off than we are now," she insisted.

"If it doesn't, we're dead," corrected Jesus. Looking back to where the street behind them was starting to ice up, as snow began falling.

When they reached the depot, they were relieved to see Jessie Baker, Donald Esk, and Andrew Braidwood all waiting for them.

"How do we get in?" asked Andrew, a tall gangly man with long, stringy yellow hair.

Terri pointed her key at the boot of her car, pressed the button, and it bip-bipped. She opened the boot to reveal a shiny-looking car jack.

"With this," she said, picking it up.

She swung the jack twice at the lock on the chained wire mesh gate, without success.

"Let me," said Donald Esk, taking it from her. With one swing of the jack, he managed to break both the lock and the jack.

"Oh, my jack!" said Terri, pushing the gate open so that they could run across to repeat the process with the remains of the jack on the locked door to the maintenance building.

"Okay, get inside," ordered Terri and they ran into the large building.

They hunted for precious minutes through the tools and knickknacks till finding what they wanted. Only to find that the flame throwers were empty.

Another couple of precious minutes were spent finding the fuel that they needed.

"They're usually used in summer to create fire breaks to stop bushfires," said Terri, as they hurriedly put on the backpacks, looking like a budget version of the Ghost Busters as they finally were ready to go outside to face the Ice-Man.

Reaching the wire-mesh gate to the Public Works Department, the Ice-Man smiled as they reappeared, saying: "At last, you're ready to meet your fate?"

He stopped still and stared in silence at the backpacks that they were all wearing. Finally, he asked:

"What are you supposed to be the Ghost Busters on a bad day? Or should that be in a bad movie? That's the last three films, of course."

"Something like that," said Terri, as she led the procession forward until they were less than three metres from the fiend. Then said:

"Any last words snowman-hobo?"

"That's The Ice-Man," he responded. Starting to scream as, at Terri Scott's command, they started to fire the flame throwers at the man of ice.

"Nooooo!" he shouted, turning to try to run away. Too late as he soon melted away, like a real snowman subjected to heat.

"Now the candy cane," ordered Terri, and they all opened fire upon it. Delighting as it ignited and soon burnt to cinders.

Then they had the job of telling a lot of people that their friends and family had been murdered. Before arranging for the ice statues to be buried. Including Thomas and Rufus.

Plus they were careful to scoop up the remains of the Ice-Man and his staff's ashes, hurling them into the newly re-melted Yannan River, in which nothing could possibly live.

"So?' asked Colin Klein: "Are you moving in next to me at Deidre Morton's boarding house?"

"Might as well," said Terri Scott: "The rent is cheaper, and the food is both delicious and plentiful."

© Copyright 2023 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Lipzing Australia
© Copyright 2023 Mayron57 (philroberts at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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