Be careful what you wish for

“It wasn’t like that!” Kris Kringle shot out.

Alias Rudolf ignored him. “He met Anna here, managed to charm her – he can be a smooth customer when he wants to – and used her to gain access to your house and plan an ambush.”

“You bastard!” Joe lunged forward, but Marie held him back.

“It was likely that Kringle would try something tonight,” Alias Rudolf continued. “I came down into your lovely home with Santa to check the coast was clear. And as we now know, it wasn’t. Kringle – who was nipping into your special whiskey, Joe – took a swing at me with the bottle. I parried his swing with my antlers – great things, antlers – grabbed one of your pressies – the hurley – and got him at the back of the head.”

“You hit him with my hurley?” Noel cried.

“I did,” Alias Rudolf said. “It wasn’t easy without opposable thumbs. But there you are. We reindeer have hidden talents. Anyway, before we could put it all to rights again, Holly turned up, so we had to scarper.”

“Why?” Holly interjected. “I wouldn’t have hurt you.”

“Santa had to move on and keep delivering presents, or the logistics of the night before Christmas would have crashed and burned. So I hung back, biding my time, waiting for the coast to clear. But things just continued to escalate. And here we are.”

“That’s his story,” Kris Kringle spat.

“Right, then,” Joe retorted. “What’s yours?”

Kris Kringle paused, which didn’t lend him much credibility.

“Why, Brendan?” Granny asked. “Or, Kris. Whoever you are. Why did you do all this? Why?”

“Cripes,” Kris Kringle grumbled. “Don’t you go all Cindy-Lou-Who on me.”

Holly ran up and kicked Kris Kringle hard in the shin, and he yelped in pain. “Don’t talk to my granny like that!”

“Good girl!” Granny.

“Nice one, Holly,” said Alias Rudolf. “We might have a job for you in a few years.”

“Why did you want to ruin Christmas?” Noel persisted.

“Ruin it? I didn’t want to ruin it!” Kris Kringle protested. “I would have been terrific! I had lots of good ideas. It would have been better than ever. I mean, look at him. He’s such an idiot,” he finished contemptuously. “I’d be a much better Santa.”

“Well, the jury’s actually out on that, Kris,” said Alias Rudolf. “And the verdict, sadly, is no.”

“So, now what?” Joe said.

“I’m off,” Santa announced. “I’ve still got the entire western hemisphere to tackle. It’s going to be a long night.”

“Wait, you can’t leave,” garda Brady ordered. “We’ve got to – ”

“What? Write up a report?” Alias Rudolf laughed, and Santa joined in.

He had her there, Selina Brady conceded silently. Her eyes met her colleague’s. It was hopeless.

Santa took a deep breath to stop his laughing and gave a nod to the two freelance elves. “Well, I guess this is all wrapped up. Ho ho ho!”

Alias Rudolf groaned. “Less of the stand-up there, Nick. If I were you I’d stick with the night job.”

“I will,” said Santa good-naturedly. “A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” As Santa prepared to exit with his entourage, Kris Kringle turned to look at Granny once more. “I’m sorry, Anna.”

“Ha!” Granny barked. “Merry bloody Christmas to you, too!”

Then Santa Claus, Kris Kringle and the elves were gone. Nobody had actually seen them go up the chimney. It was as though they had evaporated and been sucked up in an instant.

Alias Rudolf, however, was still there. “Best if we all just forget this ever happened. Right?”

“Hold on a minute,” said Marie. “You can’t just leave like this. What have you done to our Christmas? How are we going to pick up the pieces?”

“Don’t worry,” said Alias Rudolf. “It’s all taken care of. You’ll get your presents. And of course we’ll replace the hurley for Noel.”

“That’s it?” Joe said. “You barge in here, use our sitting room to capture a notorious criminal, turn our lives upside down and then just feck off?”

“Well, Joe, you know, you’ve got a point,” said Alias Rudolf. “I’ll tell you what. I’m feeling generous, so I’ll get ye something extra. What would you like?”

“Noel’s smartphone,” Holly got in quickly.

“Right, it’s yours,” said Alias Rudolf. “That was easy. Got to be – ”

“That’s hardly a present,” Noel snapped.

“Well, you’re a smart wee fella.” Rudolf sighed. “OK, what can I get ye?”

“A new carpet,” Marie said quickly.

“Done. White again?” Alias Rudolf asked. “Brave colour choice. The lads will come by and measure for it next week.”

“Yeah, who, Prancer and Vixen?” Joe scoffed.

“I’m in a hurry, so I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” said Alias Rudolf. “Right, that’s me off now.”

Rudolf leapt out of the room and disappeared. The humans remaining in the room heard the back door slam shut.


Tomorrow: the conclusion

Or go back to the beginning to catch up