Christine Madden

journalist | editor | dramaturg | literary translator

Month: December 2017 (page 2 of 8)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, episode 21

Reindeer games

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

Or catch up from the beginning

‘Twas the night before Christmas, episode 20

There’s not much company on the North Pole

“Anna. Snow Bunny,” Brendan/Santa pleaded. “It wasn’t really lying. I could hardly go on Tinder as Santa Claus, could I?”

There was a mass involuntary cringe momentarily silencing everyone in the room except the two ex-lovers. “How could you, Brendan? How could you? All that time, lying to me about who you were!”

“Too right he’s lying!” Joe snarled. “But not about being Santa Claus!”

“Mr Carroll,” garda Selina Brady cautioned. It was imperative to calm the atmosphere down and convey the elderly gentleman, whoever he was, to a hospital before he or anybody else sustained any further injury.

But this was scuppered by her colleague. “What were you doing masquerading on Tinder, deceiving innocent ladies like Mrs Carroll?” he asked sharply.

“McNamara,” Selina Brady growled. “Go phone and find out where the ambulance and reinforcements are.”

Garda McNamara looked like he was about to add something, but was sufficiently chastened. “Right.” He laid the hurley across the couch and walked heavily out of the room.

“Right,” Selina Brady said. “Mr – ”

“What about Mrs Claus?” Noel interrupted. “Does she know you’ve been – dating our Granny?”

Brendan/Santa sighed. “Mrs Claus is a myth.”

“What an awful thing to say about your wife!” Marie’s guilt and anguish was speedily giving way to anger at this man. She no longer cared whether he was a bit soft in the head or had received a brain-numbing blow. She also no longer noticed whether she was making any sense. What was this bastard doing preying on elderly ladies on Tinder, and now telling them this insane story to wriggle out of a tight spot? She hoped it was Joe who had hit him. She’d deck his halls herself if she got half a chance.

“Mar, you know he’s not Santa,” Joe said. “He was clearly posing on Tinder, trying to find vulnerable women to rip off. He probably has a younger accomplice who double-crossed him.”

Granny looked stricken. “Are you really married? Am I just your bit on the side?”

“That’s a horrible thing to do!” Holly shouted at him indignantly.

“No, listen. Anna, please! When I say Mrs Claus is a myth, I mean there is no Mrs Claus. That’s just a popular story. I – ” Brendan/Santa broke off. “I mean, it gets very lonely at the North Pole. All I have for company are the elves, and they’re not really good for a chat. The reindeer have their own agenda, keeping themselves flying fit. And it’s a long cold year until I deliver presents. And I don’t see anybody then, either. By necessity.”

“But,” Granny whimpered, “you didn’t have to lie to me, Brendan.”

“It’s Nick. I’m sorry, Anna. I shouldn’t have lied to you, I see that now. My name is Nick. I’m just old Nick. Some people say Saint, but – ”

“You’re no saint,” Granny retorted.

“Right, that’s it now,” said garda Brady with authority. “Mr – Jones – please come with me. We’ll have that injury to your head seen to, and we can talk later.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” said Brendan/Santa, taking a step backwards. “I’ve got millions of presents to deliver still. I can have my head seen to tomorrow.”

“Now, Mr Jones – ” Selina Brady took a step towards him as garda McNamara re-entered the room. “They’re – ” he started, but got no further.

Seizing the opportunity, Brendan/Santa snatched up the hurley lying on the couch and swung it at his accusers. Garda Selina Brady managed to duck, and Paul McNamara leapt towards the Carroll family to pull them down and protect them. Selina Brady quickly regained her balance and lunged at Brendan/Santa to grab away the hurley –


They all froze as they heard the back door being kicked open. A blast of cold air swept into the room, and hard footsteps clattered rapidly across the kitchen.


Episode 21 here

Or catch up from episode 1

‘Twas the night before Christmas, episode 19

Santa Baby

The sleuth Sherlock Holmes said that, when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. But they hadn’t eliminated quite everything yet. And anyway, garda Selina Brady thought dismissively, Sherlock was a fictional character himself.

No one in the Carroll’s sitting room in the small hours of that Christmas morning had the same reaction to Brendan aka Santa’s admission. Garda Brady had never encountered a Santa Claus before, but she once had to subdue and cart away someone who insisted he was Elvis. He had tried to bargain with her by offering to let her be the opening act on his revival tour. She figured she could handle Santa. For one thing, the suit would be less slippery.

Garda Paul McNamara thought back to his training not so long ago and couldn’t remember anything specific about how to handle someone with superhero delusions. He supposed they just had to humour the man, bundle him into the car and deliver him to a mental facility. Additionally, he was coming to the conclusion that an internet speed-dating app was perhaps not the most harmless place to be spending your time. It had already (nearly?) compromised him. And judging by their call-out this evening, he had got away lightly.

Marie felt a fresh wash of guilt for assisting her mother-in-law in developing a relationship with this – creature – who was clearly no longer the full shilling. Maybe never was. She looked over at Granny, still holding the cup of tea, looking entirely unperturbed.

“Of course you are, Honey Bear. You’re my Secret Santa, aren’t you?”

“Eh, no, Anna.” Brendan looked conflicted. “I mean, I really am Santa Claus.”

Joe was wondering whether he should pounce on their intruder or wait for the guards to do it. Why were they just standing there? Who was this bastard who had been messing his mother about? Noel was beginning to think it was a bad dream that he couldn’t wake up from. Or maybe his (in retrospect) actually very nice, normal life was the dream and this was the hellish reality.

Holly had no doubts. “You’re not Santa. I felt your tummy, and it’s fake.”

“Yes, you’re right, it’s fake,” said Brendan/Santa. “You’re a very observant little girl. And I’m sorry about this, but, you know, times change. I didn’t want to be a roly-poly old man anymore. So I lost the weight, worked the machines, trimmed up. I still have to wear the suit, because it’s the uniform. But actually, now that I’m fit, it’s a lot easier to get around and deliver all those presents. Not to mention negotiating my way up and down those the chimneys.”

“Brendan,” Granny said. “Honey Bear. What are you saying?”

“What about all the presents, and the reindeer? And the sleigh?” Noel asked. If this was some new, awful reality, he wanted to set the parameters straight.

Brendan/Santa didn’t hesitate. “I expect they went on without me. Those presents have to be delivered. We can’t have millions and billions of disappointed people on Christmas Day.”

“And the code,” Joe snarled through gritted teeth. “If you’re ‘Santa’,” he said, jeering the name, “why did you need our house alarm code to get in? When you could have just ‘come down the chimney’?”

Brendan/Santa cast a guilty look at Granny. “I wanted it to look real. I mean, not like I was Santa, but Brendan being Santa. I’m – I’m sorry, Anna.”

Granny set down the tea she was still holding on the arm of a chair. It instantly tipped over and spilled on to the floor, creating another stain. “What are you saying? Brendan? Were you – lying to me?”


Episode 20 here

Need to catch up? Start at the beginning

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