Evil vs Evil
Approximately 660 words
My local writing group has a tradition of writing flash fiction for our Holiday gathering. The theme this year is "Evil vs Evil." We're also supposed to use the word "extrinsic." This story is my first draft of a Christmas story that meets the criteria. The use of "extrinsic" feels forced, to me, though. Suggestions welcomed.
I'd also like to know if my POV character is sufficiently evil--at least before his epiphany. I was striving for "evil with principles." See https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EvilVersusEvil
I've fiddled with this some since originally posting. The actual story is 665 words. I'd like it to be 500 words, so I've got some cutting to do...
The Christmas Puppy
A frigid December wind prickled Rufus's cheeks. He hunkered in bushes across the street from the mark's residence and checked his watch: midnight. A faint chorus wafted from the Christmas Eve service at the church in the next block. It came upon a midnight clear. He let a sneer bend his lips. He was coming at midnight, all right.
The full moon gave a lustre of mid-day to the new-fallen snow and cast ghostly shadows over the suburban street. A scattering of houses displayed holiday lights, but not the house he was watching. There, not a creature was stirring. It had been silent and dark since the upstairs lights went out at eleven.
He already knew which presents to steal. He'd delivered them just two days ago to the rich SOB who lived here. That was when he'd spotted the key that the idiot kept hidden under a fake rock. It was like a frigging invitation, like he wanted to be robbed. Rufus figured it wasn't that he was intrinsically bad, or anything. Just opportunistic, and maybe spreading the wealth a bit. Like Robin Hood. He snickered. His libtard social worker sister would say that even though stealing crap was evil, it was extrinsic evil.
The hymn faded to oblivion. Rufus scuttled across the street and retrieved the key. He held his breath as he unlocked the door and eased it open. The alarm panel just inside was dark and unarmed.
Rufus breathed a sigh of relief. More evidence that the guy was an idiot. He deserved to be robbed.
Sure enough, the living room held a gi-normous tree, festooned with fake snow and icicles. A pile of presents rested underneath, and stockings were hung by the chimney with care, just waiting for him. A plate of cookies and bowl of milk sat on a table. The bowl had a picture of a puppy painted on the side. What the hell? Why put out a dog bowl for Santa?
Damn. Maybe they own a dog. That could be bad. Really bad. Where could the mutt be?
Rufus chewed his lip. Could be it was asleep. Or in the back yard for the night. Still, the added danger made him hurry.
Like a peddler opening his pack, Rufus unrolled a black trash bag and began to fill it, chortling over his loot.
A scrabble of paws made him freeze. A puppy, with floppy ears, tongue a-gaggle, and big, brown eyes sat in a moonbeam, peering at him.
He squatted and held out his fingers. The animal approached, its tail going a mile-a-minute, and sniffed. Then it gave his hand slobbery kisses. Good. The damned mongrel didn't bark.
A high-pitched voice sent shivers down his spine. "Santa?"
Rufus turned his head. The boy stood in an open doorway, framed by a halo from a nightlight behind him. He couldn't have been more than four or five, with tousled blonde hair and wearing puppy-dog PJs with paws for footies. He was cute as a a bug.
Rufus hated cute.
The brat rubbed sleepy eyes and said, "You don't look like Santa."
Rufus snarled, "I'm Santa's helper." He stood and inspected the toddler. The kid had a black eye, an angry, cigarette-sized burn on his left arm, and a cast on his right. He muttered, "What happened to you, kid?"
"I fell down." The words came in a rush, as if from memory. Then his tone turned suspicious. "You're really one of Santa's helpers? You don't look like an elf."
"Ain't you just full of questions?" Rufus gestured at the puppy. "This your mutt?"
"Yeah. But I was bad. Daddy said he was gonna take him to the pound tomorrow. He said they'd put him down. What's that mean?"
"He said that, did he? Is that when you 'fell down' and got 'hurt?' When you was bad?" Rufus's face flamed and his throat tightened in fury. Memories of his own abusive father cascaded back. He knew the tricks all too well.
"I guess." The brat rubbed his eyes again. Great. Now the kid was bawling.
He whimpered, "I don't believe you're really Santa's helper."
Rufus chewed his lower lip. "Yeah? I'll prove it to ya." He reached into his sack, pulled out the packages he'd lifted earlier, and put them back under the tree. "See? I'm makin' a delivery for him. Now, you get your butt to bed. Take your damned puppy, too. And don't you go tellin' nobody I was here, neither. Santa don't like it when you tattle on his helpers."
Back outside, bereft of plunder, Rufus lit a cigarette, pulled out his cell phone, and dialed a number. It rang twelve times before his sister Angela answered, "Happy Holidays. Children's Services. How can we help you?"