How a dirty rotten scoundrel made Christmas the most meaningful one of all.
Nick adjusted his Santa beard. The famous red rose colored suit was the perfect disguise for his night’s outing. There were thousands of imposters of the old elf out tonight. Who was going to stop Santa from visiting houses on Christmas Eve? The hefty burglar's bag filled with stolen holiday gifts fit right in.
He was leaving empty houses with more than bad memories though. He liked switching gifts from house to house to keep the season’s mystery and cheer alive. In places that were not up for the festivities, he left a lump of coal and still bagged jewelry, tools, the occasional purse, or what have you.
Nick was busy doing this thing in the last house on the block when he heard, “Up with your hands or I’ll shoot.”
There was a first icy chill of fear that froze him in midmotion before his ears tuned in on the fact that this was a kid’s voice. Nick raised his white-gloved hands, turned, and winked. “Ho, ho. You caught me.”
He faced a nickel plated six-shooter cap gun aimed at his ample gut. A kid about five-years-old with the name, Roy Junior, stenciled onto his cowboy shirt motioned him to keep his hands up. “How come you are stuffing presents into your bag? You should be taking them out?”
Nick had to think fast. You can’t lie to kids. They pick right up on it. “It’s a magic bag you know. It will tell me who’s been naughty or nice. Watch.” He sunk a glove down inside and drew out a softball chunk of black coal. “See? Put in a present, take out a present. Guess who this one is for?”
“Wow. That’s for Eddie?. My big brother bully? Neat.”
Nick fumbled in his bag for Eddie’s present with the sticker that read ‘from Santa’ on it. He pulled the sticker off, pressed against the coal, and put the coal on the fireplace mantle. “There. That ought to teach him a lesson. He’ll be thinking he’s getting what he wanted and get him what he needs instead.”
The pistol barrel drooped and pointed at the bag. “I couldn’t afford what mom wants. Are you going to give it to her? You can keep the hanky I got her.”
“Even better.” Nick pulled out some of the jewelry from the last house he’d kept in the bag. “You choose.”
Now that the first moment of crisis was over, Nick’s mind was traveling a mile a minute figuring how to escape before the kid waked the entire clan. “Shh. I’ll have to disappear if anyone else wakes up. I wanted to meet you for a special reason.”
“You did? Me? Gee.”
“Yes. You were starting to believe what your brother was telling you. That there is no Santa Claus.” Nick put a finger to his nose, wiggled it, and winked. “What’s in a nickname? I get called lots of them. Do you have one?”
“Huh? My brother calls me Brat. It makes me want to kick him.” Roy Junior pawed through the jewelry strewn on the floor and picked up a glittering diamond necklace. “I wish he would call me Bro like dad does. Can we give this to my sister, Henrietta?”
“Well… That was supposed to go to someone else.” It was supposed to go to Nick’s pawn shop and be turned into cash.
“Eddie says Henrietta is ugly. She’d feel really pretty wearing this.”
Nick’s head was telling him it was past time to leave. “Sure, Roy. Let’s make it a Christmas she will always remember.”
“Now all we need is something for my dad. He’s away working. He won’t get here until the weekend.”
A little of the tension eased from Nick’s shoulders. Something glinted at him from inside his bag. “How about this?” He pulled out a small and simple ornament attached to another gift. It was a picture of Santa sharing gifts glued to some popsicle sticks with a string on top. It read ‘Give the gift of yourself.’
“Money isn’t everything. You tell your dad I said that. You show this to him hanging on the tree. Tell him to spend next Christmas home with his family.”
“Roy Junior? What are you doing downstairs? Who on earth are you talking to?” A woman’s voice filled the air. Nick leaned down next to the boy’s ear. “It’s time for us both to disappear, you to bed and me to the North Pole. Let’s see who can disappear fastest.”
With years of practice behind him, Nick made a silent get-away while Roy Junior distracted his mother.
“See, Mom? I told you he was here. Look what he left us.” He flashed the jewelry for his mom up where she could see it. Eddie came downstairs to see what was going on, followed by Henrietta.
Roy couldn’t wait to put the necklace around her neck. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Eddie’s eyes were popping out at what everyone else was getting. “Where’s mine?”
Helda kept the lump of coal on the mantle as a reminder for Eddie. She kept the ornament as a reminder for Roy Senior about changing priorities when he got home. The police were offered the rest of the presents. There was a city-wide neighborly get-together as families brought in presents meant for others. For many, that was the first time they had ever introduced themselves and talked together. Long lasting relationships were forged.
That close to getting caught made Eddie reform his life of crime. He became a police consultant with wide-spreading fame at how to prevent home break in’s and catch burglars. Sometimes, everyone wins.