|Santy Claws Screed
Author: MeanRunt PM
Who is the last person you would ever think to play Santa Claus? And the answer is ...Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 5,297 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-24-05 - id: 2718520
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Santy Claws Screed
Toronto homicide detective Nick Knight waited outside the apartment building. He had been on stakeout for almost six hours. According to the weather channel, the temperature was -20c. Close to zero Fahrenheit. It was two weeks until Christmas, but he was hardly in a holiday mood. He was a vampire, and even though vampires could not feel the cold, after sitting here all this time, he was cold. He banged his hand against the malfunctioning heater vent in the car. He should have listened to Don Schanke, his deceased partner, and gotten the thing fixed years ago.
He and his current partner, Tracy Vetter had been working on this case for almost a month now, and yesterday morning they finally got a major break. Day shift got a tip from one of their snitches that Martin Bleetherson was living in this building.
Because of the nature of the case, this was one person the police did not want to go free. Bleetherson had allegedly robbed, raped and murdered at least three women in the past month. He had not killed them outright, but he had stabbed them several times, stripped off all their clothes, and left them naked to bleed to death in the frigid winter weather. He committed his crimes late at night or early morning, preying on waitresses or shift workers returning home. There were never any witnesses, and he hid his victims in narrow access alleys and behind dumpsters. There was a fourth victim, but she had somehow survived, thanks to a Good Samaritan who happened by shortly after the assault and heard her moaning in pain. According to her, Bleetherson was unemotional and methodical as he went about violating and maiming her.
Captain Joe Reese had ordered a round the clock stakeout, and now it was Nick's turn to man the surveillance from the front seat of his Caddy, parked across the street. There was no doubt Bleetherson was in the apartment. They had tried to question him earlier, but the building had a locked entrance and the custodian was adamant. No warrant, no entry. So now, all they could do was wait out here until he decided to leave.
Nick was thinking seriously about calling it a day ... or night ... when the door to the building opened and Bleetherson came out. Nick got out and approached the man. "Martin Bleetherson?" He asked.
"Who wants to know?"
Nick showed him his badge. Martin took off at a dead run, and almost before Nick could follow, disappeared around a corner.
Nick checked, but there were too many people around for him to use his powers, so this would have to be done the mortal way. He rounded the corner and stopped short. The alley was empty. There was however, an open manhole. Nick recognized it as one that led to the labyrinth of service and access tunnels that ran beneath the streets of Toronto. Nick had been down there several times. A vampire named Screed, a Carouche, made his home in one of the feeder tunnels. The many levels of tunnels were also home to a sizable colony of the city's most desperately poor. The called themselves Moles. They rarely left the area, so most of the residents of Toronto were not even aware that they even existed.
At least here in the alley he was alone, so Nick went down the ladder into the tunnel almost faster than the eye could follow. One could almost say he flew. Almost.
It only took him a few seconds to orient himself. He and Don Schanke had been down here two years ago to apprehend a demented man who was using a flamethrower to destroy the people who lived here. He called himself the Dragon, and claimed he was an 'exterminator' simply doing his 'job' ridding the tunnels of 'vermin'.
Using his enhanced senses, he heard the sound of someone running away from him about a hundred meters ahead. Unlike mortals, he could cover that distance in only a matter of seconds. He took off.
He had gone only a few meters when he ran into a brick wall. Or more exactly a thin, red suited, white wig and bearded, Cockney brick wall. They were both knocked flat. Slowly, they both stood up.
" 'Ere now, matey. Watch where yer goin'. Don'cha knows that yew'll get a lump o' coal in yer Christymas stockin' fer bangin' ol' Santy Claws about like that?" Screed said.
Nick tried hard to stifle the giggles that were threatening to erupt. The suit had obviously seen much better days. It was moth eaten and patched in numerous places. Screed was exceptionally thin, and he had unsuccessfully tried to pad it out with a few pillows that were not much fatter than he was. Consequently, the suit hung and sagged almost everywhere. Instead of a wide black belt, it was held together with a length of clothesline. His wig and beard were thin and scraggly as well. All in all, he was little more than a caricature of the jolly saint. The fact that it was a Carouche wearing the outfit made it that much more ridiculous.
"Screed?" Nick said. "What are you doing in that outfit? And what are you doing in this part of the tunnels? You live on the other side."
"Derfective Knight! What're yew doin' down 'ere? Come slummin' didja? It ain't sunlight yet so's ya don't need to use these byways to get to yer 'ome. As for what I'm doin' 'ere, that's none of yer busyness."
"I'm down here chasing a dangerous suspect. Now, thanks to you, he's gotten away."
"Which suspec' is that?"
" 'Oo's 'e?"
"He's the man we think raped and murdered those women this past month."
"I remembers now. I 'eard about it on the telly. Yer after 'im! Why didn' yer say so? We can't let a droog like 'at goes free, now can we? What's 'e looks like?"
"He's about 5'10", 85 to 90 kilos, light brown hair, and brown eyes. He was wearing a blue jacket with a yellow stripe across the chest, a red and gray T shirt, and jeans. Why do you ask?"
"Give me yer 'andycuffs an' I'll shows ya."
Nick handed his handcuffs to the Carouche, and Screed went to one of the large pipes lining the wall. He began tapping out a message in a sort of a Morse code. When he was done, he gave the handcuffs back. "That's sorter like our tellyphone system. Now everyone whats down 'ere will be keeping their peepers glued for 'im. If'n 'e's anywheres in 'ere, we'll find 'im fer ya."
Nick picked up a greasy brown cloth sack that looked as dilapidated as the Santa Claus that stood before him. "What's in here? Don't tell me you've been trash picking again."
"An' what if I 'ave? It ain't illegal like to grub fer what peoples throws out, is it? I gets a lots of good stuffs from what other blokes dispos-eds of, I do. That's where I got me suit 'ere. The Sal-vay-she-on Army throwed it out a coupla years ago. A few of me laydy like friends patched it up fer me, an' it's as good like new, it is. Well, almost anyways."
Nick opened the bag. Inside were numerous very small packages wrapped in Christmas paper. The largest package was only a few inches across. Screed grabbed the bag and held it tightly to his chest. "Yew can't take that from me. I didn' steals nothin'. I boughts 'em, I did, wit' me own moneys. Theys for the nippers they are."
"Yeah. 'At's what I'm doin' over 'ere. I'm on me way to The Camp. Ever' year, I plays Santy Claws fer th' little ones. They tells me what they wants fer Christmas an' I listens. They knows they ain't goin' ta gets much, but then, whats theys is askin' fer is somethin' what can't be wrapped up in pretty papers an' a bow. Like a real 'ome, or a mummy or daddy, or a full belly. I ain't gots much ta give 'em, but I sees to it that each of the little buggers gets a present. That way, they knows they ain't forgot. That's what's in the bag. There's some candy, an' some packs o' gum an' other goody things like that."
"Screed ... I ... " Nick stammered. He didn't know what to say. This was a side of the Carouche he had never seen before.
"I'd like to stays an' jimmy jam wit' ya, Derfective, but the kiddies is awaitin' the arrival of ol' Saintly Nicky-less as we speaks. Can't disappoint 'em now, can we?" In a streak of red and white, he was gone.
Nick followed a respectable distance behind Screed as he made his way down to the lowest level of tunnels to the place they called The Camp. It was a large cavern like room that the colony used as a combination meeting place, market, entertainment center, school of sorts, and whatever else they needed it to be. At one time, it had probably been used for equipment storage by the utility companies, but it had been abandoned by them years ago.
He had been here before when he and Schanke had been chasing the Dragon. Then, it reeked of napalm, burned flesh, and death. This time, it was a much happier and busier place. People were going around to the various stalls, swapping and bartering for the things they needed. They were laughing and chatting with friends as they shopped. If it weren't for the fact that it was so far underground, and the circumstances for its existence, it could have been any farmers market in the province.
Screed strode into the area and went to the center. Someone had pushed several crates together and had covered them with a frayed purple blanket to look like a throne. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Screed boomed in a surprisingly low voice. "Where are all me goody little kidsies? Come 'ere and tells ol' Santy Claws whats yer wants fer Christymas!" He sat on the 'throne' and the first one in line was a little blond haired girl, probably not more than six or seven. She was pitifully thin, and her clothes were ill fitting and threadbare. She was badly in need of a bath and a haircut.
"What's yer name me li'l princess?"
"An' whats does yew wants Santy ter brings yew, Annie me love?" Screed asked as he pulled her on his knee.
"I want a new daddy. My last one was real bad. He beat up my mommy and my sister, so they put him in jail for a long time. That's when we moved down here. And I want a real home with a real bed. Like we had before we moved. And a dolly that has a head, and arms and legs on it. Like this one, only better." She held up a headless dollar store doll that had only one arm and half a leg. It probably had been fished out of a trash can somewhere. She put her arms around Screed. "I know you can't bring me all of that, but I love you anyway." She planted a loud sloppy kiss on his cheek.
Nick could have sworn that the Carouche blushed. He turned to the lady standing next to him. "How long has Scr ... ah ... Santa been coming here?"
"He's been doing this for about four years. We can't exactly take the children to the Bay, or to any of the other malls or department stores to see Santa Claus. Even if we could afford to do it, we'd get too many strange stares and crude remarks. So, Santa comes here. Don't worry. We know he's not the real Santa. We know it's Screed in that suit, and so do most of the children. It doesn't matter. The fact that he takes the time to come here and do this for the little ones makes it seem all the more real." She smiled and held out her hands as Annie ran to her after her visit with Santa.
"Look, Mommy!" She gushed. "Look what Santa gave me." She held up a mini Snickers bar. "Isn't that just the greatest present you ever saw?"
There was a commotion as a boy of about ten stood defiantly before Santa. "You ain't real." He shouted. "You're that disgusting guy, Screed from over in the west tunnel. Santa doesn't exist. Neither does God. If He did, He wouldn't let us live like this." He spat at Screed and stomped away.
"Don't mind him." Annie said, with a wisdom far beyond her years. "He's just bein' a pain in the ..."
"ANNIE!" Her mother admonished.
" ... Butt."
" ... And there I was, face to face with Scr ... the skinniest Santa I had ever seen." Nick told Tracy. He proceeded to tell her about the scene at The Camp. "My heart went out to those people. Especially the children. S... Santa called them nippers. They had nothing, and yet they were the happiest people I've ever seen."
"Don't feel bad about not catching Bleetherson. Nobody really expected him to be collared on the first try. The Captain has put out an APB on him and we've got teams covering the apartment and all of his known hangouts. It's only a matter of time before we get him." Tracy replied. "Tell me more about Sc ... Santa and the Moles." Tracy knew about vampires, she was dating one of them, Javier Vachon. However, she did not know that her partner was also a vampire. As far as she was concerned, Nick did not know the truth about Screed, or anything about the vampire 'Community' in Toronto.
" ... And so these little kids won't even have a Christmas." Tracy told Vera Williams, the desk sergeant. "According to Nick, they have slipped through so many cracks in the welfare system they have given up on any outside help. And then I think of all the greedy children out there who are going to be so upset because they won't get the latest electronic games or the best of the designer clothes. It isn't right. No kid should have to live like that. I wish we could do something to help them."
"Why can't we? I'll pass the word that we're taking up a collection for them. If I know the people in here, we'll have bags and bags of things for them in plenty of time for Christmas."
"Yeah. But how do we get the stuff to them. From what Nick says, they're very suspicious of strangers. Especially after what the Dragon did to them."
"Knight seems to know this Santa guy. Maybe he could take the things to him and let him give them out."
"Vera. Did anyone ever tell you you're an angel?"
Vera put her finger to her lips. "S-h-h. Not so loud. I've got a reputation to uphold." She grinned mischievously.
Within an hour, there was a large coffee can sitting on Vera's desk and by morning, there were cans in every bullpen in the station. Each was wrapped in plain paper with the inscription 'For the Nippers' printed on them in felt marker. It seemed that Vera had repeated the story to Sergeant Mace of the SWAT team, who told it to Detective McIntyre in Robbery, who mentioned it to Gordon in Auto, who passed it on to ... And so on. The precinct grapevine, like grapevines everywhere, was still the most efficient method of spreading any 'unofficial' news.
Nick stared at the report on his monitor screen. It had been almost a week since Bleetherson had slipped down a manhole and disappeared from sight. To spite what Tracy and everyone else had told him, he felt responsible that Bleetherson had escaped. If he had not literally run into Screed, he would have had him in custody. Now, it was only a matter of time before he attacked and killed another woman. Another possibility was that he could also be three quarters of the way to Saskatoon by now.
To make matters worse, tomorrow was Christmas Eve, and the thought of all those kids in the tunnels made it even more depressing.
He looked up in time to see Vera Williams coming toward him pulling a mail container full of brightly wrapped packages. She stopped at his desk.
"What are those?" Nick asked the Sergeant.
"These are for the little nippers in the tunnels. Haven't you seen the cans on just about every desk lately?"
Nick shook his head.
"Then you must be blind. To make a long story short, Tracy told me what you told her about that Santa, what is his name? Scrod ... Screech ... "
Yeah. That's him. And she told me about the kids, and that they wouldn't be getting anything for Christmas. I mentioned it to a few others, and this is the result. There's toys in here, and we have another cart with clothes of just about every size, and a van full of food, too. Everything they need to have a really happy Christmas."
"What does that have to do with me?"
"We figured that since you were the one who made the initial contact, maybe you could take these things to your Santa Claus friend and he could pass them out to the kids."
Just then. Natalie Lambert, the Coroner came up. She had a large trash bag with numerous square shaped bulges in it slung over her shoulder. "You forgot these." She said, opening the bag and dumping over a dozen gift wrapped boxes into it.
"How did you know about this?" Vera asked.
"Well, you know that Dan Billings from Traffic is dating Rose Waterston who works in medical records over at the Coroners building. He told her. She told Grace Balthazar, and, as they say, the rest is history."
"I just wish we could all be there to see those kids' eyes when they see what we got for them." Vera said. "But if what Tracy says is correct, they don't trust strangers."
"That's right." Nick replied. "If they saw anyone they didn't know, they'd disappear and you'd never find them."
"Then how did you get into this Camp?" Tracy asked.
"Remember when Schanke and I went down there two years ago? We saved a number of them from the Dragon. I guess that makes me a sort of an honorary Mole." And I've also had to use the tunnels a few times to avoid the sunlight.
"So, you'll take the gifts to Screed?" Vera asked.
"Just call me Santa's helper." Nick, and Vera pushed the cart to Nick's car and loaded it with the gifts. Vera started to push the cart back to the station. "No, better put that in the back seat, too. I'll need it to get the gifts to Screed."
"How are you going to do that? Most manholes aren't wide enough to fit that down them."
"There's an access door off the subway tunnel just a few meters past the Bloor-Yonge station. Ah ... Schanke and I found it while we were down there. I can use that to get the cart in." It also leads to a tunnel that goes right past Gateway Lane.
"Well, then. What are you standing here for, Santa's Little Elf. Get going. Christmas Eve is only a few hours away."
"Dingle Bells. Santy smells. Christymas is h'on h'it's wa-a-a-ay. Oh what funs h'it h'is ter rides. In a beat up Chevy-ro-la-a-a y." Screed sang at the top of his voice. And at least three and a half notes off key. He spit on a greasy rag and proceeded to rub it briskly on his two-sizes-too-big work boots. That did little more than grind the dirt that was already on the shoes even deeper, and mix it with the grease and dirt that was on the rag. He slowly became aware that someone was standing behind him and turned to see Nick Knight standing in the 'doorway' to his section of the tunnel.
" 'allo 'ere Derfective. I was just shinin' up me boots fer to plays Santy Claws again. What brings yew down 'ere this time? Still lookin' fer 'at droog what offed those laydy's? We's still keepin' our eyesballs open fer 'im, too. Between yewse blokes up on the top, 'n' us down 'ere, we'll finds 'im right quick, we will."
"Actually, I came for a different reason. I followed you when you went to The Camp the other day. I saw what you were doing for all those kids. I mentioned it to Tracy and ... "
"Yew tol' Baby Jane? But she don't knows yew is of the vampire per-sue-a-shun. 'Ow did yew explains yer knowin' me to 'er?"
"I merely told her the truth. That I just happened to run into you ... literally ... while I was chasing Bleetherson and followed you."
"Anyway. She told some of the people in the bullpen, and they were so touched by the story that they took up a collection and bought presents for everyone." Nick pulled the mail cart into the living area. "We were hoping you could pass them out for us. We know how suspicious the Moles are of strangers."
"I certain-a-mentally can pass 'em out fer yer other derfectives. Why don't yer comes wit' me and watch wit' yer own peppers while I does?"
"I'd be delighted."
"Good. Can yer comes back tomorrey at this same times? An if'n yew wants ter bring one or two of yer derfective frien's wit' ya, I thinks I can guar-an-tees that nobody's will be 'idin from 'em. I'll passes th' words that yer comin' down 'ere sos they won't be so askaired like."
"Oh and Screed. You won't need that raggedy old Salvation Army reject Santa suit anymore." Nick handed the Carouche a large shopping bag. Inside was a new Santa suit, complete with beard and wig. Another bag held two fluffy new pillows. "Now you'll look like a real Santa Claus to them."
"I allus did looked like a real Santy Claws to 'em, Derfective. Ya gotta understands, they doesn't sees me wit' their eyes. They sees me wit' their 'earts." He handed the bags back. "Thanks fer th' thoughts, though. I really does appre-she-ates 'em."
"At least keep the pillows. That can be our Christmas gift to you."
Screed hugged the pillows tightly. "I ain't never 'ad a fluffy like pillows like these in me 'ole entirety life. I thanks yew and yer friends fer th' kindnesses. I guar-an-tees ya. I'll sleeps like a li'l bitty baby tonights."
Nick led Vera and Tracy through the maze of tunnels to the lower level. It was almost unanimously decided that these two should accompany Nick. They were, after all, the ones who played the greatest part in getting the gifts together in the first place.
Vera shook her head as they descended to another level. "I had no idea that any of this even existed. It's like another world down here."
"Most people have no clue that it exists. That's why the Moles feel safe down here. It's private. It's secure. And believe it or not, it's usually much warmer down here than it is on the streets." Nick explained.
There was tapping on the pipes as they climbed down the ladder to the last level. They had heard it periodically, and Nick assumed that it was the Mole's way of keeping track of the whereabouts of the three detectives.
They reached the bottom and went into The Camp. Screed, in his bedraggled Santa suit, was waiting for them. There were about thirty children and about that many adults with him.
"Laydys and gentlesmans." Screed intoned loudly. "I wants yer ta welcome a few o' me bestest like friends from up top. These is th' peoples what is goin' ter make this Christmas extras especial like fer ya little nippers. They's Derfective Knight." He pointed to Nick. "Takes a bows." He stage whispered. Nick bowed from the waist. "An besides 'im is Derfective Miss Tracy Vetter, 'is partener." Tracy curtsied deeply. The other one is Serge-a-aunt Vera Williams." Vera also curtsied. "They's from the ninety and sixth po-lice precinct."
A few of the adults began to drift toward the shadows.
"Now don't go an' does anythin' likes 'at." Screed admonished. "They's ain't gonna arrests any o' youse blokes. Theys 'ere jus' ta watch as ol' Santy Claws passes out the presents like what they collected fer yews. Yew can thinks of 'em as sorta like Santy's elvis's." He picked up a box. "An th' firs' one is fer Annie." The little girl that Nick had seen the other time came forward. She painstakingly removed the paper and folded it and handed it to her mother.
"I bet that paper will wrap presents for years to come." Vera explained to the others. "We used to do that all the time when I was young."
Annie opened the lid and shrieked as she took out a doll. With combable blond hair. And eyes that opened and shut. And bendable legs and arms. And a dress. She ran to the trio and hugged them all. "This is more than I've ever got in my whole life. Thank you so much."
It took almost three hours to pass out all the presents. There were more dolls, and board games and trucks and cars. There were balls of every kind. Books were a favorite. Each one was received with the same enthusiasm as Annie had shown.
The last one in line was Damien. The boy who didn't believe. He inspected his scuffed shoes as he stood before Screed. "I don't want a present. I said I didn't believe in Santa or God. I was wrong. That's what my dad has always told me. After what I saw tonight, I know that Santa exists. I know you're Screed, but I think Santa sent you to us. And I know God sent those three, and the other policemen to us, too. Why don't you give my present to someone who deserves it."
Screed held the box to Damien. "I'm givin' it ter someone what needs it. Yer right. Yer doesn't deserve a present. Nobody deserves a present. A gift is somethin' what is given freely from the heart. It's the same wit' God's present. God gives us love. We don't have ter do anythin' ter deserves it. He gives it to us because He loves us. An' these nice policemens gaves us all these presents 'cause they loves us too."
There were tears in Damien's eyes as he took the box. Then he threw his arms around Screed and hugged him. When he was finished, he went to each of the trio and hugged them, too.
As Tracy, Vera and Nick left The Camp, they were all wiping tears from their eyes.
"I still don't understand how they're going to get the rest of the stuff all the way down here. And I don't know how they got that first cart here either." Vera said. "It's too big to go down the ladder."
"I told Screed about the clothes and food and he said he'd take care of getting it to them. How he's going to do it ... " Nick just shrugged.
I don't think I'll tell her about the freight elevator just yet. Nick thought. He had known about it from Screed and from the Dragon. Tracy had the same thought. Javier had shown it to her on one of their visits to Screed.
Boxing day came and went. The Christmas holidays were just a little bit better for Nick after what he had observed in the tunnels. When he and Tracy and Vera had told the others, they all came to the same conclusion. They would adopt the Moles as their Christmas project. If they had their way, the people in the tunnels would never have to make do with candy and gum for Christmas ever again.
There was silence in the usually busy bullpen and all eyes were on the doorway. Four men stood there, holding a fifth one who was trussed up tightly. Following Vera's directions, they came to Nick's desk. He recognized three of them as Mole people. Screed was the fourth. The fifth one was Martin Bleetherson. Bleetherson had a large red bow taped to his forehead and a mailing tag around his neck with the inscription 'To the 96th Precinct. Happy Holidays.'
"Since all o' yewse was nice enough ta gives us all a Christymas present." Screed said. "We decides ter gives ya one." He pushed Bleetherson toward the Detective. "We founds 'im 'idin' in the storage room behinds the generators on th' third level. We 'ad forgots that it was even there. When we realizes 'oo 'e was, we brought 'im ta yews right pronto, we did. We even took the time ter wraps 'im all nicely and neatly.
An' yew doesn't even has ter read 'im 'is rights neither. I done that fer ya. I tol' 'im 'e 'as the right to keep 'is trap shut. If'n 'e opens it, the judge'll put 'is foot in it fer 'im. I says 'e 'as the right to a shyster lawyer and if'n 'e can't affords one, you'll give 'im one free for nuthin'. That's right. Right? "
"Please Detective! Arrest me. Please!" Martin Bleetherson pleaded. "I'll confess. Just don't let them near me ever again. Especially the little skinny one there. You won't believe the things he threatened to do to me if I tried to escape. And I believe he would have done them, too. Please. Put me in jail."
Tracy and Nick watched as Vera and several other officers led Bleetherson to the holding cells.
"Now that's what I call a Merry Christmas."
And a Happy Holidays to one and all