*****Happy Holidays Everyone!!!*****
Christmas time was the best time of the year for Evan. It was that time of year when conspicuous consumption was at its highest. People maxed out credit cards, spent huge chunks of their savings and entire Christmas bonuses just so they could buy their children and other loved ones expensive gifts to put under the Christmas tree. Some people would even spare no expense to redecorate their living rooms and kitchens just to impress their neighbours while they hosted annual Christmas parties.
Christmas was indeed the best time of the year….a thief like him could easily make a killing!
This neighbourhood in particular was a perfect example of that. He could pick any house to rob and be able to fund his cruise to Isla Paradiso for the New Year once he sold off the goods. Some of his colleagues surprisingly disapproved of his fondness for robbing wealthy families on Christmas Eve. Evan didn’t care for the kiddies whose Christmas would be ruined when they realised Santa didn’t bring anything for them or the parents who would be shocked to find that the gifts they bought and wrapped had been stolen overnight by some intruder. He didn’t mind being the Grinch as long as he had Merry Christmas.
And a merry Christmas he would have once he cleaned this house of all its presents.
He chose this one because of its occupants, Dr and Mrs Chancellor. They were extremely well-off. He was a surgeon and she was an entrepreneur with several businesses in the town. Together they both had one daughter and they doted on her since the day she was born. Obviously she was a spoiled brat from the spread of presents he saw as he looked in through the glass door.
The house was dark and it looked like everyone was asleep.
He wasn’t stupid enough to try to rob the place while everyone was awake. He was good, but not that good. Now all he had to do was find a way to get into the house without making noise or setting off any alarms. A rich family like this ought to have a high tech security system. Good thing he knew how to hack into those things. Most people are always dumb enough to use a simple password like their birthday or anniversary date. In this case they used their daughter’s birthday, October 24, which made the password 1024. Evan wanted to pat himself on the back for thinking to do proper research on the family beforehand. He walked in easy, carefully looking around to make sure no one was up and about to catch him.
Once he felt sure, he moved into the living room. The first thing he saw was the pink Victorian dollhouse next to the tree. He knew those dollhouses were big on the market this year but the toy company that made them only released a small number of them even though they had ads running for this toy from since the beginning of October. This was a common technique used by toy companies where they create the demand but limit the supply and then hike up the prices because they knew parents were dumb enough to pay anything in order to make their children happy – and he would make a killing auctioning it on eBay!
The dollhouse would be too heavy for him to move together with all of the presents so he would need to make two trips to his car. He decided to go for the presents first since they were lighter and probably more valuable. He was sure the good doctor gifted his wife some diamonds and she some new golf clubs for him to practice his swing down at the country club where they were long time members.
Rich people were the greatest offenders of conspicuous consumption. They had to have more than they actually needed.
Evan grew up poor and there were many Christmases when he would get socks as his present. For one Christmas his gift was food – a mac and cheese with Vienna sausage dinner that his mother made with ingredients she received from a hamper donated to their family by their church. He never believed in Santa Clause because he was a myth that only privileged children could afford to believe in. He never got what he wanted for Christmas because he realised early on that his mother was the giver of gifts and she simply could not afford it all the time.
It made him respect her even more for all the sacrifices she made to take care of him all on her own. That’s why he hated snot nosed brats who just expected things to be handed to them because they asked for it and the parents who indulged them in the nonsense. Christmas was about family and togetherness, not about what kind of gift you received, hence why he took such enjoyment in ruining their idea of Christmas by stealing all their gifts. He knew it made him no better, but at least it will teach them a lesson about not having.
As he began packing the presents into the suitcases he brought with him, he heard a noise and froze in his steps.
“Are you Santa?” Her voice was soft, barely audible and her eyes stared back at him with a look of confusion.
“Uh….” He mumbled, realising that he needed to play along so the kid wouldn’t scream or cry and alert her parents. If she thought he was Santa, he would be Santa. “Yes, yes I am Santa. Ho, ho, ho!” His Santa impression sucked and he knew it, but he was hoping this child would be dumb enough to believe him.
“Why are you dressed in black? Where’s your red suit? And your red hat?”
“Well…” How am I gonna explain that one? “I…uh…Mrs Claus forgot to take them to the dry cleaners so I have to make do with this.”
“I thought Santa was old and had a big belly. You don’t look old. You look young and thin like my Uncle Jake.”
“Santa’s been doing a juice cleanse. It really works. Drop the pounds in no time. It makes me look and feel like I’m in my twenties again.”
“But where’s you beard?”
Why the hell is this kid asking so many questions?
“Mrs Claus hated it so she finally got me to shave it off. What do you think? It suits me right?”
She studied him for a few minutes and it looked to him like she did not believe a word he was saying. “Listen, Emma…”
“You know my name! It’s really you! You’re Santa!” She squealed excitedly.
Evan breathed a sigh of relief for his quick thinking that got this little girl believing he was Santa Claus. “Now keep it down. We don’t want to wake up the whole neighbourhood and we especially don’t want to wake up your parents.”
“Why not?” She asked.
“Well, because, we don’t want them to wake up and see all the presents under the tree before morning. It’ll ruin the surprise.”
“Santa’s for kids not for parents and I’ve already seen you so I don’t need to be surprised. I think I should call them to meet you!” She turned to head back upstairs so Evan stopped her.
“No, no, no, Emma, look, why don’t you do me a favour and bring me some milk and cookies from the kitchen. Santa loves milk and cookies.”
“What kind of cookies do you like?”
“Surprise me.” Evan didn’t care. He just wanted her to leave the room and not go upstairs to her parents.
“I don’t know. We have lots of cookies. We have sugar cookies, chocolate chip, macaroons, cinnamon snaps…”
“Sugar cookies. I want sugar cookies.”
“Okay, what kind of milk do you want?”
What is she talking about? “There’s only one kind of milk Emma.”
“No. We have whole milk, soy milk, almond milk, chocolate milk…”
“Whole milk.” He was biting frustration at this point. The more time passed, the more anxious he became about getting caught. He could make a run for it but this girl might catch on and then he’d get caught before he’d have a chance to make it down the road.
“Okay, I’ll be right back Santa.”
Evan watched her bounce all the way to the kitchen before he began stuffing a couple more presents into the suitcase. He had to get back to his car before she came back out. One more glimpse at the dollhouse. He thought about the money he’d be missing out on if he left it behind but he had no time. He couldn’t have the child return before he could make his escape.
“What are you doing Santa?”
He jumped, hearing her voice and wondering how she got the milk and cookies so quickly. He thought he had at least three more minutes to make a run for it. “Uh…I’m just putting out your gifts.”
“Why are they in a suitcase? What about your big red bag?”
“I… it’s easier to transport from the North Pole when they’re in a suitcase. Where’s the milk and cookies?”
“I can’t reach it. The cookie jar is too high up. I should call Daddy to get them for you.”
“No, no, don’t call your Daddy. I’ll get them for you.” Evan’s heart was racing. He should have been out of the house by now and not reaching on a shelf for a cookie jar for the occupant of the house he was robbing. “Fine, I’ll get the cookies.”
“Let’s eat together. That will be fun!”
“Actually I’m really busy and I got a lot of presents to deliver to other kids.”
“But you said you wanted milk and cookies.” She stared at him, making a sad face to play on his sympathy. “Please have cookies with me Santa.”
He didn’t want her to get upset and then cry so pacifying her was his only option. “Sure.”
Evan went with her in the kitchen and fetched the cookies and milk all the while his mind raced thinking about ways he could leave without her noticing. It was a nicely decorated kitchen from what he could see in the dark. The living room had the lights from the Christmas tree and the fireplace to illuminate it but the kitchen was completely dark which was perfect. The less she saw of his face, the better. When they got back to the living room, she insisted he sit and eat with her.
“Which present did you bring for me Santa?” She asked, after taking a bite of her cookie.
“What do you mean? I brought all of them for you.”
She giggled. “No you didn’t, silly. The gifts under the tree aren’t mine.”
Evan was confused. There were a lot of gifts there including the dollhouse and yet none of them were hers? “Whose gifts are they?”
“They’re for us to give to the children at St Catherine’s tomorrow. We do it every year. We wrap the gifts together on Christmas Eve and put them under our tree then we go there and drop them off in the morning.”
He searched his memory as the name St Catherine’s sounded familiar. Then he remembered what it was. It was a group home for children who were wards of the state. He had a friend who grew up there after his parents died. So the Chancellors didn’t buy all those gifts for their daughter. They bought them to donate to charity. And he was going to steal them!
“I don’t understand. Don’t you get any gifts from your parents?”
“They give me my gift on Christmas morning before we go. I only get one gift from the both of them and this year I hope it’s a Mr Fuzzy!”
This child of wealthy parents was excited to get one of gift and a stuffed bear at that! Evan realised he misjudged the Chancellors and their daughter. They were not entitled rich people, but generous parents teaching their daughter good values. Maybe I should let a little of her rub off on me. “It’s really nice what your parents do.” Now I feel a little guilty about trying to rob them.
“I never get a gift from Santa. Mommy and Daddy always tell me the gift is from them. They also say Santa is not real so I’m curious about the gift you left for me.”
The look in her eye was enough to tell him the true meaning of her words. She was not as innocent and naïve as he thought. She saw right through him. The sirens blaring in the background confirmed it.
This little girl set him up!
Next thing he knew, the police came in through the door. There were two of them and they looked like detectives who were probably on patrol in the area. Evan wondered how they knew an intruder was in the house. Could it be that the Chancellors heard noises downstairs and called them? Or maybe there was some silent alarm in the house that was triggered when he entered.
Evan immediately jumped up off the couch and tried to find a way to run but he was cornered. “Freeze, you scoundrel!” The male cop yelled at him. Pretty soon he heard the rumbling sounds of the girl’s parents coming down the stairs.
“What’s going on?” The father asked as he switched on the lights. The mother called for her daughter to come to her when they noticed the stranger in their home.
The male officer forced Evan to sit as he read aloud his rights while the other informed the Chancellors of what happened. Their daughter called the police after seeing a stranger enter the home.
It became clear to Evan that her incessant questions and innocent requests were all a part of her trying to stall him until the police arrived. She duped him. The little girl he initially thought would be spoiled and stupid turned out to be kind and very intelligent and brave. He wasn’t going to make it on that cruise this year, but as much as he dreaded spending Christmas in a jail cell he couldn’t help but laugh at his situation. He tried to ruin this little girl’s Christmas and in turn she ruined his.
“Well played, Emma. Well played.”