This is an Aston West piece I created a year or two back...figured I'd dredge it back up for some good, old-fashioned Christmas cheer. Enjoy!
I turned toward the entrance, sighed, then finished off my glass. I’d been waiting forever for my buyer to show up, and had nothing but an empty bar to show for it. So much for making a quick sale. If it took much longer, I’d have to consider myself duped and take off for another spot down the shipping lane, a few credits lighter from topping off my tanks.
At least the bartender had an ample supply of Vladirian liquor. A near-empty bottle rested on the counter next to my other hand. I poured the glass full again.
The entry hatch slid open and caught my attention. I turned with a smile, only to turn into a sourpuss a moment later. This wasn’t the buyer I was waiting for, but some old, bearded fat man in a red jumpsuit. Small, round silver balls were tied to a black belt around his giant waist. They jingled with each step he took in my direction. I turned toward the front and slammed the glass back. The sweet yellow nectar flowed down my throat.
He pulled himself up on the stool next to me. I looked over with a scowl, wondering why he couldn’t have taken one of the many other seats. I was big on my personal space.
He pulled his red cap off and wiped gray strands across his skull. “Hello, Aston.”
I didn’t have a good feeling. “Do I know you?”
“I know everyone.” He held out a black glove. “Kris Kringle. You can call me Santa.”
I raised an eyebrow. I would have remembered this character. “And why do you need to know everyone?”
He pulled his hand back, finally realizing how futile the move was, then rested his elbows on the counter. “I give presents to good little boys and girls all over the universe. I have to know them all.”
A shiver ran up my spine. “That’s a lot of presents.”
“Tell me about it.” The bartender came over, but Kris waved him off. I idly wondered what he was doing here if he wasn’t going to drink.
“I don’t remember ever getting presents growing up.”
His cheeks turned bright red as he laughed deep from his belly. “Well, if memory serves, you weren’t exactly a good little boy.”
I let the insult slide. Life hadn’t dealt me a very kind hand with the death of my parents when I was young. I didn’t really expect this old man to understand.
“Unfortunately, even good little boys and girls have trouble believing in me. I have to pass them by, same as the bad ones.”
“Pass them by? Not give them presents?”
“Exactly. You can’t get presents from someone you don’t believe in.”
“And so these presents, how do you deliver them?”
“I enter their homes while they’re sleeping and leave the presents in secret.”
My forehead scrunched even tighter. “While they’re sleeping?”
“I’d never be able to deliver all of these presents if they were hanging onto me, begging me to stay longer.”
I emptied the bottle and raised my glass. “So, why do you give presents to them?”
“Because I love them. They’re all so innocent, untainted by the evils of the world.”
I shot a glance at the bartender, who had an equally concerned look before he shook his head and walked through a swinging door, out of sight. I turned back to Kringle, and eased myself a little farther away on the stool.
“So, let me get this straight. You love little boys and girls, sneak around their homes while they’re sleeping, and leave them presents?”
His mouth turned up and his eyes sparkled. “Exactly!”
“You sound like a sick freak to me.” I downed the rest of my drink in one gulp and turned to leave.
He gripped my arm, with surprising strength for such an old man. “What are you talking about? I bring joy to good little boys and girls all over the universe.”
I tried to pull myself free, but he wasn’t releasing his grip. “You need to let go.”
“Don’t you understand? I’m trying to spread goodwill and happiness, to let children keep a small piece of their innocence. I’ve come here to ask for your help, Aston.”
I reached inside my jacket and yanked out my Mark II blaster. Before he could react, I fired a single shot into his chest. He fell from the stool and crashed to the floor. I shoved the weapon back in its holster. “Sorry, Santa, you’re going to need more help than I can give.”
The bartender rushed back into the room. He took one look at the big man, and then glanced up at me.
“You might want to call the local authorities. I think they’d be mighty interested in talking to this one.” I continued toward the exit. He’d wake up later, a little sore, but none the worse for wear. I didn’t figure children really needed the goodwill and happiness this dirty old man was pushing.