I arrived at the Jolly Holly Christmas Shop a little after 7am.
A body had been discovered by the fire exit in the back office area at 6am: a 37 year old Caucasian male identified as Martin Ahlstrom, assistant manager. Blunt force trauma was believed to have been the cause. On searching the immediate area around the body, I found no weapon though I did note that a display of heavy wreath hangers had fallen to the floor.
Harjinder Banwait, the cleaner, had discovered the body shortly before the end of his morning shift.
"I did not see or hear anyone," he told me, "I knew this young man though not well. He said some horrible things."
I asked him to elaborate.
I asked him to elaborate.
"He made jokes about my turban, said it was yellow like the urine which I never mopped up right," Mr Banwait replied, "He said other things. He was a bully."
I asked to see the security footage for the office space and was directed to Gertrude Morris, the manager. Not only was permission sought from her, she was the only one allowed access to the CCTV.
Nevertheless she seemed reluctant to show me. I reminded her that all evidence was essential. She had a naturally red face but nevertheless seemed genuinely ashamed of something.
"I'm sorry," she said, "Of course you should see it. It's just that I should explain some of the footage."
Though the audio was of poor quality, I could discern strange interactions between Mrs Morris and Martin Ahlstrom. He often seemed to be backing her into a corner.
"Regardless of what Tunde and his frumpy girlfriend might say, I don't want to leave," he said, "You don't want me to leave either. Jingle bells, remember? Jingle bells."
Mrs Morris buried her head in her hands.
"Last Christmas, there were some wall adornment bells left loose. On a very low shelf. They were there for a good hour. When Martin tidied up, he found that one of the bells was missing."
Mrs Morris shifted uncomfortably. "A day later there was a local news story about a baby suffocating. On a tiny bell."
I, of course, knew about this already. Nevertheless I was surprised at Mrs Morris' candour.
She rubbed the back of her neck. "We have no way of knowing for sure that it was our bell that got caught in the baby's throat. The mother certainly never came out and blamed us directly. Even so Martin was sure it was one of ours."
There was something else. It didn't take much more than a look to convince Mrs Morris to be completely transparent.
"He also claimed to know who left the bells out," she explained, "Though there was a blind spot around that particular area and we all claimed not to know the person who let the accident happen. If it happened. But Martin wouldn't tell me: he thought he could get some mileage out of that piece of information."
There was a similar blind spot to that morning's footage. It seemed that the victim was in a heated argument with somebody but, whoever they were, they were hidden between a shelving unit and the fire exit.
On reviewing other footage, Mr Banwait appeared to have been in the toilet for a little over fifteen minutes.
"There was a blockage," he told me later.
"I came an hour later," Mrs Morris said, "I usually do. Harjinder and I usually cross paths outside the front."
Though there was no footage attesting to this particular detail it also occurred to me that Mrs Morris's rather expansive build would have been visible from behind the shelving unit. The murderer would have had a much slighter frame.
Tunde Farrell and Judy Wilhousky, sales assistants, both matched such a description. They also had their own sets of keys.
"Martin was twisted," Mr Farrell spoke first, "He liked playing mind games. Both Judy and I were shelf-stacking back when that child died so he must have known that one or even both of us must have made the mistake with the bells."
"He wasn't holding out for a confession," Ms Wilhousky added, "He wanted whoever he suspected was guilty to stay quiet, keep in line."
This seemed to make Mr Farrell look uncomfortable. "He even tried to get me to have sex with him through it. He had always been jealous of what I had with Judy."
How would they have described their relationship?
Both Mr Farrell and Ms Wilhousky glanced at each other: they didn't even know. She slipped one of her loose strands of black hair behind her ear.
And did Martin successfully bring an end to the relationship?
"Of course not," Ms Wilhousky said. I made a note of her sudden anger.
I asked them both to stand behind the shelving unit: they both were successfully hidden away. I also observed how comfortable they were revisiting the space: Mr Farrell was nervous but Ms Wilhousky seemed oddly focused on the space above our heads. The green light of the fire exit.
I then explored the space outside. The bins were close but too close: the murderer would not have thrown their weapon in such an obvious area. I moved around the building but could find nothing.
It still occurred to me that the most obvious weapon would have been the heavy wreath hangers considering the state in which they had been left. I returned to the footage and observed Mr Banwait vacuuming around the mess.
"I do the carpets," he told me, "I leave stock mess to the shelf stackers."
So that brought me back to Mr Farrell and Ms Wihousky. I observed footage from the previous day, from opening to closure. Around 4pm the heavy wreath hangers fell. The hand that brought them down had been a thin female hand. Ms Wilhousky's.
I showed her the footage. She seemed somewhat relieved.
"Martin resented all of us, except perhaps for Tunde," she said, "But then maybe Martin resented him as well for not accepting his advances. I know he hated me. The tall, messy thing that had moments with his would-be boyfriend. Tunde had nothing to do with this: he's really sweet.
"All I did was borrow his phone last night, sent a text to Martin. Then, when he snuck in for the morning, he was horrified to find me there.
"I told him he was a prick. I told him that Tunde was disgusted by him, that I wanted Martin to leave us alone. Or else? He actually asked me that. Or else what? I didn't know what to say."
Ms Wilhousky searched for sympathy in my eyes. Of course, I could not give it.
"He laughed and turned his back on me. I realised that I had brought the wreath hanger along for a reason. One hit and I ran. I didn't even know it had killed him till a few hours ago."
Ms Wilhousky seemed remorseful though the anger was obviously still there. I asked her where the wreath hanger was. Back with the others, buried near the bottom.
Though everyone was unsettled at the news, only Mr Farrell reacted badly. He had to be restrained as Ms Wilhousky was escorted into the back of a police car.
I doubt there will be a Jolly Holly Christmas Shop come the New Year.
Somewhere in the distance, another shop was blaring out Christmas music. The tune at the time was, quite distastefully, Jingle All the Way.