Christopher donned his white garb and covered his face. This was supposed to be the hardest test yet. If rumor was correct, this was the last one as well. All he had to do was slip into this McMansion on this cold winter’s night and deliver a small silk wrapped figurine into the master bedroom and onto the nightstand. If Christopher could do all of this, and get away without getting caught, he would pass. The compensation for the job he was auditioning for was in the seven figures, so Christopher knew he was against tough competition, but they only selected the best of the best, and Christopher always believed in being that.
As he approached the wall from the downwind direction, Christopher placed a small listening device into his left ear. Suddenly the mostly silent night exploded into sound. He pressed his ear against the wall and closed his eyes. Centering himself before attempting an insertion was one of the ways he earned top spot in his class as a Navy Seal. Three breathes in and he could almost map the sounds from inside the compound. There were at least three dogs wandering. The hum of electricity spoke of cameras nearby. He figured there must be at least two people, but they were on the far side or inside a structure since their voices were so muffled.
Christopher looked at his watch. His diversion should kick in three, two, one. He was over the wall before the lights had fully gone out due to lack of electricity. He took out a small crossbow and fired off one, then reload and fired a second shot. The smell of roast beef carried into the night. Christopher ran the other way, turning down the listening device, but he didn’t shut it off. Two dogs seemed to be running towards the free meal, but he could hear one coming his way. Whether the animal could smell him, or Christopher had ran into the dog’s most likely path, he couldn’t be certain, but he reached for his favorite dog toy. The Doberman came around a bush and Christopher triggered his ultraviolet flash, blinding the animal temporarily. Christopher threw his last helping of meat in front of the dog as compensation before running as silently as possible to the window.
A few magnets were carefully stuck to the outside window casing and two laser diodes trained at the photodetectors to defeat the alarm system should it come back on. A quick layer of tape over one of the panes and then a swipe of a glass cutter took off the first layer of glass. Another cut and more tape took out the second layer. He quickly opened the latch and let himself inside. He fixed the windows with a bit more tape to stand up to a cursory inspection from the guards that were undoubtedly roaming the compound because of the loss of power.
Christopher military crawled on his elbows an knees out of the room and towards the staircase. He didn’t have long before… and there it was, power was back on. The cat jumped back from Christopher crawling up the stairs. He had noticed the cat when he had done his reconnaissance two days ago. The cat guaranteed that as long as he stayed less than two feet off the ground that the alarm shouldn’t trigger. That and it was badass to talk later about military crawling a marble staircase, especially without pads. At the top he reoriented himself to where the master bedroom should be. He stopped in the first bedroom on the staircase and left a present of his own. Once the package was delivered he continued down the hallway.
The master bedroom was closed. Christopher put his ear to the door and listened, one person breathing in and out, slightly out of unison with something else. Damn! He didn’t think anything else would be there. There could be another cat, but Christopher hadn’t seen anything other than the cat he already encountered. Flashlights flashed above him from the floor below. The guards must have found the dogs’ treats. Well, fate favors the bold. He pulled his feet underneath him into a crouching position. The alarm must be off if the guards were in the house. He pressed the button on his belt, opened the door and rolled into the room and to the right. He tucked himself behind a chair as the alarms went ballistic. An older man jumped out of bed, his white hair looking comic with a severe case of bedhead and his beard covered in drool. The old man ran through the door among shouts from the guards down below. The small dachshund that had been sleeping with the man blinked in the sudden light, but didn’t move from the warm pillow it had been sleeping on.
Seizing the opportunity, Christopher jumped out of his cover and ran to the nightstand, placing the figurine in place. Glancing at the bed, the dachshund seemed to almost be smiling at him. Christopher snapped himself back into the now and looked for possible cover. With none to be had, he quickly slipped out onto the porch off the bedroom. He slung himself down from the railing and fell the story to the ground below, rolling as he hit. Christopher came up and tried to run, but found out he had twisted his ankle on landing. He began to limp as best as he could, but the flood lights came on lighting him up.
“Hands above your head or you won’t have one,” called a deep male voice from the porch.
Christopher put his hands over his head and turned around. He wanted to go for his pistol, but he was told no wet works under any circumstances. There was the old man with a sniper rifle pointed straight at Christopher. Christopher was impressed. The man held it like someone who had many hours of practice with the weapon. “Look,” said Christopher, “this is all a misunderstanding.”
The old man actually ho ho hoed. “Misunderstanding young man? I know who’s been naughty or nice, and you were definitely naughty tonight,” the old man said. “Putting a fog grenade in a spare bedroom was brilliant. the perfect diversion. Something I might have done back in my day.” Christopher bowed but didn’t say a thing.
The old man paused, thinking. He then threw the figurine, still in the silk cover, to Christopher who caught it with one hand. “You forgot this.”
“Thanks, but I believe I was supposed to leave it with you,” Christopher admitted.
“Well, you earned it. You made it farther than any of the others,” the old man said.
Christopher looked from the figurine, to the old man, and back to the figurine. “What do you mean old man?” he asked.
“Open it if you want the job,” the old man said, a twinkle in his eye.
Christopher opened the drawstring on the silk bag and looked inside. It was impossible to see what it was. Christopher looked back at the old man. “But I failed,” he said.
The old man whistled and out waddled the dachshund. “There was no chance you could have won. Not unless you had some magic of your own,” the old man said. “Besides, Blitzen here has taken a liking to you.”
Christopher laughed and dropped the figurine out of the bag and into his hand. It was a small statue of the man in front of him, winking with a finger alongside his nose. Christopher held it out to old man. “Okay, what’s next?” he asked.
The old man dropped the sniper rifle on the table and threw himself off the balcony. Christopher tried to move to catch the old man, but his ankle failed him, dropping Christopher to the ground. The dachshund morphed into a reindeer and lightning quick took flight and caught the old man before he had dropped five feet. The two of them glided to a stop a foot away from Christopher. The old man held out his hand to help Christopher up. “Welcome to the corps,” the old man said.
Christopher stood and felt his ankle mend immediately. “Are you Santa?” he asked.
The old man ho ho hoed again. “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question I would be rich,” the old man said. “Actually my name is Stanly. You just became a part of the Santa Corps. People have screwed it up for so many years we decided to just keep the Santa Claus moniker. Makes us seem even more mysterious, a single guy doing something miraculous.”
“How many are in the Corps?” asked Christopher.
“I know you have many questions, but I’m hungry, so let’s go get a bite to eat. The elves should have something ready by now,” Stanly said.
“My private security. One can never be too careful,” Stanly said as he dismounted Blitzen. “How do you feel about beards?” He began walking back to the house. Christopher fell in beside him.
“I don’t mind them,” Christopher said. He looked at the house again. “Why did you have me break into this place?”
“What can you do if your magic ever fails? We need capable men and women,” Stanly said.
“Men and women?” asked Christopher.
Stanly put his arm around Christopher. “It’s just the beginning. I’ve got forms you need to sign, and we need to get you some training, but let me tell you the fringe benefits are awesome.”
Christopher let himself be led inside. “But what of the pay?” he asked.
Stanly smiled. “I can tell you it’s not just milk and cookies.”