'Happy ne' year tae ye! Constable Hammond,' slurred Archie Murdoch.
Hammond glanced at him then knocked back his own dram. The fire of the Sow Croft Inn popped and a sudden gust sent a cloud of ash and cinders near his foot. He stepped on the glowing specks. They hissed at him.
'Y've twa minutes afore the bells Murdoch,' said Mr Cameron, the proprietor, 'An' keep yer voice doon or you'll rouse Mrs Cameron!'
'Aye! fit ever!' replied Murdoch.
Hammond tapped his glass and it was filled.
'Aye freedom is a fine thing constable! De ye no agree?'
'That's enough o' that shite Murdoch. I'll no have ye provoking a rammy in my establishment!' said Cameron who was answered from above by several angry thumps. He grimaced,'You've gotten away with robbery this day, and yer victim lies on a cauld slab. I knew Robert Calder. What you did was an affront to decency. Justice will yet be done unto ye!'
'But nae withoot a witness!' Murdoch sniggered knocking back another dram.
'I just wish I could afford tae throw ye oot and bar ye!' said Cameron.
'Well, in the meantime I shall indulge myself wi another dram all round if you please Cameron,' a cacophony of approval erupted. Murdoch took a pinch from a silver snuffbox and snorted, 'Choo!'
Suddenly the door was thrown open allowing a flurry of snow soft as powder down to whip around the faces of the onlookers and catch in their hair and whiskers. At that moment the St. Nicholas kirk yard clock began to strike.
On the stroke of twelve, a figure stepped in like a ghost and turned its hooded gaze around the room then raised its gnarled and bony hand and pointed an arthritic finger at Archie Murdoch.
'You!' cried Robert Calder, 'You whapped me ower the heid and laid me flat in the snow! Ye bastard!
Murdoch cowered and the others ran off into the shadows.
'Y-y-you're dead!' Murdoch screamed, I was sure I hit ye enough times! Here hae back what's left o' yer money and yer snuff!
'Too late for that! You will pay for your sins with your soul!'
'And wi a long stint in Perth penitentiary!' said Hammond, grabbing Murdoch and snapping the irons on his wrists.
'Alright yer honour ye can come in now,' said Hammond. 'Did ye hear all that was said sir?'
'I did constable. Take him to the cells,' said judge O'Halleran.
'See!' said Calder removing his hood, 'Nae so deid aifter all!'
'B-but how?' stammered Murdoch.
'Thick skull ye eejit!' said Calder tapping his bandaged head. He was a little faint but this did not prevent him from driving his boot into Murdoch's groin.
Murdoch yelped and slumped, Hammond grabbed him by the scruff.
'Now there's a first foot you'll nae forget in a hurry laddie! Your bells will be ringing in the New Year for a while yet!' sneered Hammond.
From above the wakened Mrs Cameron thumped on the floor.
[editor's note - Sow Croft Inn did exist and was the oldest pub in Aberdeen - now called Ma Cameron's after the one-time landlady whose peace is disturbed in this story]