It was criminal what they were making of Christmas this year.
"Us, Sandy, us."
"Well, yeah. I know that. How long we have to hold this stuff before fencing it, ya think?"
"it's not like fencing the usual stuff, my friend. We don't even know what's in some of those Christmas packages. All we know is its fancy stuff in fancy homes where rich people live."
"They can afford it. I'd like to come back sometime to those homes and do them up right." Sandy laughed. You're sure good with those security alarms, Jack. No-one better."
"They all went to the same security company, I think. The whole neighborhood was wired the same. Probably at the same party when we hit, too. We got lucky all right."
Our van hit a pothole and we heard everything bounce in the back of the van. "Thought they got better service than that." Sandy sighed. "City is going down the drain, my friend. Even the rich don't get what they pay their taxes for. Hey! Where are you going? "
"Those flashing lights aren't from someone's Christmas decorations, Sandy. Just act normal." The sirens kicked in then and Jack slowed to the side of the street, crossing his fingers, wondering if the game was finally up. He was a two-time loser. One more time in the slammer and he'd be in for life. He heard Sandy jack a round into his pistol and slide it out of sight by his side.
"Careful with that."
"I ain't going back inside. I ain't queer and don't want to be."
"Shh, here they come. Let me do the talking."
"Right. I'll do the shooting."
The officer knocked on the driver side window and Jack rolled it down. "Problem officer?"
"Your back door is ajar. I was afraid it would come open and cause a hazard. You delivering around here? Your license plate says you're a delivery van." He looked suspiciously at the two savage looking dudes inside.
"Yeah. Yeah... just picked up a load to take down to the shelter. Christmas gifts from the nice people around here."
"That right?" The cop lifted the rim of his hat. "Can I see your license, sir?"
Jack nodded, not daring to look at Sandy. Knowing his partner had an itchy trigger finger. "Sure, sure. No problem." He fumbled for his wallet and pulled out the chosen fake ID for the day.
"Look, Officer, It's Christmas already and we're already late. Those kids are waiting if you know what I mean. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, right? We need to deliver this stuff or we're going to have a lot of unhappy people on our hands."
The Officer looked briefly at the ID and nodded. "Ok, pal. You got yourself friends in the right places. This is a first. This neighborhood doesn't give Christmas, it just pulls in the latest on investment earnings. I didn't even know they celebrated the true spirit of Christmas. I'd like to help out. I'll escort you down to the shelter. Which one?"
Sandy's eyes pierced Jacks like poisoned darts. "That's ok Officer. We've got a few more places to stop by before we leave.”
The cop smiled a cheerful nod. "It's slow today. I'll follow you."
That's the way it went for three more houses. Jack and Sandy slipping in the front door as nicely as you please, deactivating the alarm system without the cop at the curb noticing anything unusual. Even joining in the parade to carry the gift-wrapped packages the two thieves left on the front porch, out to the van.
"My nerves aren't going to handle another house, Jack. Let's get the heck outa’ here. Do something with that Yuletide spirited Copper and let's scram."
Jack walked over to the police car, humming “White Christmas”. “Thanks, officer. We can handle it from here. We got donated more than we thought. We get to deliver half the stuff to another homeless shelter.
“I got you, pal. Look I called in what you are doing and no-one’s heard a thing about it. This is great how these rich guys keep things under their hat. You’d think they’d want some recognition and press like they usually do. The precinct said for me to give you our total support. However, you did this is ok with us. I got several more cars on their way to make sure you deliver this load safe where it’s going.”
Jack walked back on trembling legs. He lit up a smoke, burning one of his fingers before he was able to suck in a deep breath from the cigarette dangling dangerously from his lips.
“What? What?” Sandy was tense. “What’d you work out?” He was fumbling with his gun again.
“Put that way. The good news is we might get away with this. The bad news is we aren’t getting away with the goods. There might be an angle in it somewhere though. We aren’t stopped yet.”
Sandy slid the gun out of sight for a second time. “What exactly do you mean, Jack?”
“Don’t be scared of the zillion cop cars descending on us as I speak. They’re here to escort us to our aforesaid chosen destinations. I told them we had enough donations to give to two shelters so they’re leading the way to make it easy for us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the mayor himself at the door when we arrive along with the press. We have been had, fella and all we can do is go along with the caper.”
Sandy groaned. “What we going to get out this deal. You said we still might get something worth keeping?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “A step at a time, guy. A step at a time.”
They were surrounded by police officers, sirens, and flashing lights as the cavalcade made its way slowly through downtown streets past several news stations on purpose if you asked Jack. In the rearview mirror, he soon saw a parade of white news vans following in their wake.
Sure enough, City and even state officials were at hand in front of the shelter doors to welcome officers and gifts. Hands shook between bewildered shelter workers and guardians of the city while police officers made a line to pass up the gifts into the startled hands of homeless men, women, and children. Sandy was weeping unashamedly as he tossed out the last package to the last cop at the last stop. “You’re really into the spirit of the thing, pal.” The cop sniffed. “I hear you volunteered for this duty and aren’t even getting paid for it.”
Jack had to tear Sandy’s hands from the rear inside paneling to get him back up front. “Don’t lose it now, guy. We’re almost out of here. When this thing gets on the news, there are going to be a lot of irate rich folks wanting our hides.”
“I can’t believe it.”” Sandy moaned over and over. “We were rich.”
“Yeah. But now we’re free. Take a deep breath. Geez. There’s a news crew pointing a camera at us. Act like you got something in your eye.”
Jack’s foot pushed down on the accelerator and he swerved around the camera crew catching their escape. The news lady was talking about the selfless, devoted volunteers and wealthy donors who had made this Christmas the best this poor city had ever seen as they drove out of sight around the corner.
Jack stopped and sat there shivering with mixed relief and rage. “You able to kick anything decent under a seat or something?” Sandy shook his head miserably. “Nope. They cleaned us.”
They left the van at the airport and took a taxi into town. Jack flipped on the TV and sure enough there the mayor was, large as life, beaming with a slightly down at the heel homeless dude who was lifting a gold plated watch wrapped around his wrist for all to see.
“These folks have never seen a Christmas like this before. No-one has come forth from the neighborhood we mentioned to claim credit for these gifts to the needy but we city and state officials want to give them the recognition they deserve and are to humble to ask for. Here is a list of names of the houses on that street. Not one is lacking from the whole neighborhoods massive outpouring of gifts to the homeless. Many, we have found out, giving up their own Christmas right from under their own tree, in a display of giving unheralded in the record of public giving since the foundation of our city was formed.”
“Any way we can get that stuff back?” Sandy asked hopefully.
“Naw, Santa. The worst part is, they will use it as a tax write off for this year’s income tax and take their families to the Bahamas or something to make up for the loss of presents.””
“So we hit them again while they’re gone?” Sandy looked elated.
“Shut up and let's go get a beer.” Jack sighed.
"I don't believe in Santa Claus no more." Sandy hit the front of the fridge before opening it for his beer.
"This year you did better than Santa!" Jack laughed, finally shaking off the post stealing jitters. "We're Santa's little helpers, dude. Merry Christmas."
"Shut up." They both said in unison, toasting each other from opened bottles of beer.