AUTHOR’S NOTE: Not much to say about this. It’s short but hopefully sweet…
“MERRY CHRISTMAS, SANTA,” THE DRY CLEANER said, mockingly. “We’ve been good boys all year and are here for our Christmas present.”
I stood close to the urn, which contained several hundred dollars in change and loose bills. It didn’t make any sense. The Dry Cleaner and Cordu-Roy were heavy hitters. Clearly they weren’t responsible for the previous thefts that had led to my undercover sting. As The Confectioneer, I’d kicked Cord’s ass on several prior occasions. My mind raced faster than a Lionel train at full throttle. Had he learned my secret identity? Was he here on a revenge kick? No. He was focusing only on the cash bucket. I had no time to consider the how or why of the situation as the brushed cotton of Cordu-Roy’s fist stuck the back of my neck. I lost my footing and slid across the snow-covered sidewalk, finally coming to rest against a parked BMW. The crowd, which had initially dispersed, was slowly gathering again, curious to watch, but scared enough to keep its distance. The Santa suit impeded my movement. I struggled to my feet, stunned, and wondered how I might switch into my Confectioneer persona, but quickly remembered that the costume was in my closet at home. So much for public displays of super-heroics.
A small, scared voice called out from the crowd. “Mom, what’s happened to Santa?”
“Santa’s okay, dear,” mom answered, feigning reassurance. I then realized there were other kids in the area watching with their parents, the drama unfolding like so much Christmas wrapping paper.
This wasn’t going to be easy. I could either allow the villains to escape with the donation pot or kick some ass. The second option was the obvious choice, but I worried about exposing the little tykes to my unique brand of violence by trouncing the super-losers before their innocent eyes.
Suddenly, The Dry Cleaner ripped the urn from its base and held it with both hands, or tried to. It was clearly heavier than he’d anticipated. “This weighs a ton!” he shouted to his comrade in crime.
“Put it down, idiot!” Cordu-Roy cried. “Just keep Mr. Ho Ho Ho occupied.” Cordu-Roy shoved both hands into the center of the collection pot. “Got it. Now let’s get outta here,” he said, leaving the cash bucket behind.
I gazed at the crowd of onlookers. So many dismayed faces. In that moment I knew it would be okay. I knew that my actions would be condoned, or at least accepted, by this impromptu crowd. It was time. I reached into the left pocket of the Santa suit and found exactly what I needed. Tearing open the paper, I quickly consumed the entire sugar packet. Within seconds an adrenaline rush consumed me as the veins on my arms began to surge. The duo were already in flight mode, The Dry Cleaner clearing a path by frantically waving the squirt bottle and its lethal contents. I tore after him with reindeer speed and snatched the bottle from his hand, squeezing it so hard that the trigger dislodged from its housing, sending a river of poison onto the thief’s face. He dropped to his knees and cried out in anguish before blacking out. As Cordu-Roy looked on in desperation, I turned quickly and tripped him to the ground. He landed hard, his head impacting with the sidewalk and was out for the count. The street fell silent until all that was heard was the sound of snowflakes crunching against the sidewalk and distant sirens.
“Way to go Santa,” someone yelled. I waved a hand in appreciation, trying to downplay the entire drama.
I gazed down at the unconscious Cordu-Roy. His left hand held a single coin. Upon closer inspection it was revealed to be the Spanish medallion that had recently been stolen from the Hildebrandt Museum.
Following their apprehension, The Dry Cleaner and his partner sang like a Christmas choir. They confessed it all, explaining how they, along the criminal mastermind known as Velvet Blue, aka, The Man With the Blue Eyes, had stolen the rare coin and were intending to sell it to a foreign buyer. However, Velvet Blue, who’d recently been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer, was experiencing a unique moral crisis. Faced with his own mortality, he sought to turn over a new leaf. He insisted that the coin be returned to the museum. This idea didn’t go over well with his partners, but he was a man of new convictions. Velvet Blue double-crossed them, but realized he needed a plan. Knowing he was being pursued, he took on the guise of a drunk and tossed the coin into my collection urn (I knew I’d seen those blue eyes before). He then placed an anonymous call to the police informing them of the coin’s location.
The coin was returned to the museum. The Dry Cleaner and the Cordu-Roy spent the holiday, and several subsequent holidays, in the Combustible Penitentiary. Velvet Blue was never seen in Combustible again, though there were rumored sightings as far away as Belize and Madrid. As for the two juveniles who’d stolen the donations from a half dozen collection pots earlier in the month, they too confessed to the cops and returned the stolen cash.
Through it all, I somehow managed to finish the holiday shopping, though with scant seconds to spare. The cold winter wind and snow that blew against my face as I trudged home with colorfully wrapped boxes and bags in tow never felt quite as refreshing as it did that Christmas Eve.