Milliseconds later, the creator of the clatter in the kitchen appeared in the doorway: a reindeer bounded in the sitting room and pointed its head menacingly at Brendan/Santa, forcing him back.
“Game over, Kris,” the reindeer said. “I’ve got antlers and I’m not afraid to use them.”
“You bastard!” Brendan/Santa – Kris? – snarled. “I knew it was you!”
“Stay back,” the reindeer announced to the other human beings in the room. Not that he needed to. They had all frozen in position, and not because of the gust of icy air that accompanied the reindeer’s entrance.
“Ah, I see you’ve got my nose, Paul,” the reindeer said without turning around. “Would you mind?”
“Would I … mind? … ” garda McNamara babbled.
“Pop it back on, there’s a good lad,” the reindeer said. When nothing happened, he sighed, retrieved the red knob and attached it to his nose himself. It instantly started to pulse red, a bit like the rear light of a bicycle.
“Right, transmitter’s back on,” the reindeer announced. “Nick’ll be here shortly. Then, I’m afraid,” Rudolf prodded his antlers into Brendan/Santa, forcing him to step back into the Christmas tree, “it’s last orders for you.”
“I knew it was you, Rudolf,” Brendan/Santa said malevolently. “I never trusted you.”
“Ah, now, that’s where you’re wrong again, Kris. I’m not Rudolf,” said the reindeer good-naturedly.
“That’s cause Rudolf has his own red nose,” Holly interjected. “He doesn’t need a fake one.”
“Very good, Holly,” said Alias Rudolf. “You’re a clever wee girl.”
The adults in the room remained petrified in place – particularly Brendan/Santa, who glowered furiously at the reindeer. Even garda Selina Brady, for the first time in a very long time, was open-mouthedly, speechlessly astonished. Only Holly and Noel seemed able to function almost as normal.
“But, if you’re not Rudolf – ” Noel babbled.
“Good thinking, Noel,” Alias Rudolf said. “I’m somebody else.”
“How do you know everyone’s name?” Noel asked. It was unnerving.
“He sees you when you’re sleeping … he knows when you’re awake,” Alias Rudolf crooned. “He knows when you’ve been bad or good – and this lad here has been very, very bad.” He took another dig at Brendan/Santa with his antlers. The ornaments on the tree tinkled as Brendan/Santa backed closer into them.
“Who are you then?” asked Holly. “Where’s Rudolf? Why are you pretending to be him?”
“Rudolf and I did a swap,” said the reindeer. “Santa had had intelligence that Kris was planning to throw a large spanner into the works. So he asked the SRS to step in. So I – ”
“What’s the SRS?” Noel asked.
“Secret Reindeer Service,” Alias Rudolf explained. “Don’t interrupt. You get points deducted from your yearly tally.”
“What’s a tally?” Holly asked.
Alias Rudolf sighed. “To continue: I needed to stay close to Santa, so I took Rudolf’s place. Told him it was time he took a holiday. He wasn’t too keen initially. So I told him he could choose a place himself, or I’d choose one for him. Made up his mind pretty fast. From all accounts, he and his nose are having a fine time in Thailand.
“So Kris,” the reindeer turned to the man he had pinned against the Christmas tree, “as Santa will be here any moment, maybe you’d like to take your last opportunity to apologise to this good lady for leading her round the garden path?”
Of the rest of the grown-ups, Granny thawed first. “What did you call him?” she asked tremulously.
“Kris. Allow me to introduce you, Anna. This is your ex-boyfriend, Kris Kringle. AKA Secret Santa. But we know him as the Dark Santa.”
“That’s right,” said a fruity, jolly voice. The shock of having yet another visitor in the dark, early hours of Christmas Day gripped the Carroll family and the two gardaí. Everyone but Alias Rudolf whipped round. In front of the fireplace, without warning, a larger-than-life, Santa-suited Santa had appeared.
Episode 22 here
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