The X-Mas File

Originally published online December 20, 2016

That title…yeah, yeah, I know, but having released a story collection entitled “Furst World Problems,” no pun is safe!  The agents in this holiday mystery are based on two friends who went fairly divergent ways; one got married and the other became a priest.  I’d say the roles they played here fit them well.

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“And here we have, the evidence.” Agent Richard whispered, motioning to a white plate upon which a light dusting of cookie crumbs lay.

“Oh, please.” Agent Michelle sighed.

“Shh,” Richard shushed, pointing a gloved thumb upwards, “You don’t want to wake Billy up.”  He reached into his coat and pulled out a scanning device.  He waved the device over the plate.  Blue light emanated from the scanner and covered the plate in light.  The agent frowned as several small fingerprints glowed on its surface.  “Darn it.”

“Careful now,” Michelle snarked, “Santa will hear you.”

Richard returned the scanner to his coat pocket and sighed.  “No prints, except for Billy’s.” he fumed.  “He never leaves any prints.”

“That’s because he wasn’t here.” Michelle replied.

“Then who ate these cookies, Michelle?” Richard motioned to the empty plate.  “Billy’s mother is at work right now.  Somebody that isn’t Billy or his mother ate these cookies and they didn’t leave any fingerprints behind.”

“Let’s say we find fingerprints…how would we confirm his identity?” Michelle whispered back.  “Where do you find Santa Claus’s fingerprints?  The 34th Street police station?”

“We wouldn’t find them anywhere,” Richard retorted.  “If someone in the house ate the cookies, any prints would belong to them.  Even a thief’s prints would show up somewhere.”  Just then, a thump could be heard from upstairs.  Richard gasped and scrambled to the front door, tripping over himself as he made his way to the front door of the townhouse.  He flung it open with abandon and ran outside.

“So much for not waking up Billy,” Michelle said before calmly following her partner out of the living room.  She slowly closed the front door behind her and re-locked it with her omni-key.

Richard stood on the sidewalk looking up to the night sky.  He used a gloved hand to shield his eyes from the blowing snow.  “We just missed him.  I know it.”  He sighed.

“How can you be so sure?”  Michelle smirked.

Agent Richard closed his eyes and put his other hand up to his ear.  “Listen.  I can just barely hear jingle bells,” he whispered.  “Don’t you hear them, Michelle?”

“The only thing I hear is my teeth chattering, Agent.  What are we doing out here freezing our duffs off on Christmas Eve?  Wouldn’t you rather be at home with a hot cocoa?”  She groused.

“We have a job to do, Michelle.  Finding the truth.”

“I think the truth is that you’re truly nuts, Rich.” Michelle growled.  “What’s our next case going to be? Finding the Easter Bunny?”

Richard pointed at her.  “You know, the jury’s still out on that one,” he insisted.  “Consider the empirical evidence.  Letters to Santa that disappear into nowhere from the post office, reindeer tracks on rooftops, presents magically appearing under the tree on Christmas morning…”

“Come on, we all know that last one’s the work of parents.”

“Exactly.  They’re in on the conspiracy.  We aren’t aware of it because we don’t have children.  Besides…I’ve always known that Santa’s real.”

“Let me guess:  You saw mommy kissing Santa Claus?”

“Har-dee-har-har.”

“Would it bother you if I said I don’t believe you, Rich?”

“No more so than usual, Michelle.” Agent Richard replied, shaking the snow from his hands.

“There’s something zen about us, you know?” Michelle observed.  “The skeptic and the believer.   Two opposites going around the country chasing after boogeymen and legends.  One always ready to believe, the other always ready to doubt.”

“Hm.  Maybe we should be on television.”

Michelle clasped her hands against herself.  “Naah.  Nobody would watch it.  Tonight’s episode: Two government agents spend Christmas Eve investigating an empty plate of cookies.  Every Christmas we investigate alleged Santa-sightings and every year we don’t find anything.  I don’t even want to think about that one guy…”

“The one who claims he spent a night with a reindeer-woman?” Richard smiled.  Michelle said nothing; she shut her eyes tight and shuddered.  Richard chuckled.

“This is all pointless.”  She said.

“Every year we get closer to finding him, and every year he disappears without a trace…where could he be?”  He replied, again looking up to the night sky.

“Come on, Rich, everybody knows Santa’s workshop is at the North Pole.”  Michelle answered with a smirk.

“And there we have the biggest red herring in history, Michelle.  If there was a ‘Santa’s workshop’ up north, somebody would have found it by now, even if it was the Russians.”  Another sigh.  “Where could he be?

Somewhere in Texas the next day, a cherry red pickup truck stopped in front of a modest house.  A portly white-bearded gentleman and his wife exited the vehicle.  A very short man wearing blue jeans and a leather coat exited the home and approached the couple, waving.

“Hey boss!  Glad to see you-all are back in town.”  He said.  “Another successful trip?”

“Sure was, Larry.  Busy as usual, but it was a good one.” Santa replied.  He walked to the bed of the truck to retrieve their luggage.  It’s “y’all” by the way.”

“Oh.”

“Remember, Larry, when in Rome…”

“Gotcha.  You run across those spooks again?”

“Almost. I like to keep just a step ahead of Richard.”  Santa smiled.  “I let him get close, but not too close.”

“Have you ever thought about just telling him, boss?”  The elf asked.  “Why not just tell the world that Santa is real?”

“I suppose I could, but you know what, Larry?  Nothing would change.”  Santa sighed.  “I forget who said it, but ‘for the believer, no evidence is needed, for the non-believer, no evidence is enough.’  The children, and a few adults like Richard, believe, and that’s enough to keep us going.”

“Wouldn’t that make the world a better place, though?”  Larry asked.  “If people knew Santa was watching, wouldn’t they be nicer?”

“True, but honesty and generosity are things that need to come from the genuine goodness in a person’s heart, not because they expect to get a prize for being good on Christmas Eve.”  He smiled, winked, and looked up to the sky:  “Besides, if people know that I’m watching, they can be pretty sure that somebody else is watching, too, and He ain’t talking!”

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