When the department store Santa of Rutherford, Minnesota, goes missing, it’s a child’s happy shot that calls attention to the red-suited figure just visable within the branches of the Christmas tree. Jake Hines is called to investigate a holiday mystery with too many Santas…
Originally published in the anthology How Still We See Thee Lie.
It’s one thing to shrug off in advance the idea of sitting all night in the cold doing nothing, but in practice, five people in an unheated vehicle in the dark, watching snow and trash blow across an empty parking lot in which nothing is taking place, quickly get so bored out of their skulls they start wanting to blame somebody for the fact that their bulletproof vests are uncomfortable.
There was no way to relieve the tedium; we could not tell jokes or trade department gossip or even give vent to inane chatter about Christmas; silence was key. Using murmurs, grunts and whispers, by eleven P.M. we had offered each other snacks, checked the time, and commented on the weather until those subjects were, by common agreement, closed.
By midnight, we had passed through the surly stage and were all battling torpidity, breathing shallowly through our mouths and staring with glazed eyes into the darkness. So three minutes after midnight, when the right front door of the van was yanked open, the group rate of systolic blood pressure inside the van shot up about two hundred points.