(a piece of
wasn’t bothered so
much by the blood. This line of work, you saw it every day - splattered on
the shrieking tracks of a subway station, rivulets dried to a play-do
paste on the porcelain walls of a drained suicide tub, speckled trails
leading from a woman’s body to a regretful boyfriend who usually drove a
Camaro and wore his hair cropped close on top, and long in the back.
What bothered McKinney was
where the blood was - inside Santa’s Castle. North Pole, a freeze
your nuts to cold metal marbles kind of place. And on Mrs. Claus’s
smock, to be more precise. He bent again to the woman as the paramedics
wrapped her wound in gauze and checked her vitals. She was blue-lipped and
as white as the gales outside, but she was breathing. Breathing slowly, a
gentle wheeze only a dog could hear, but then she was nearly four hundred
years old, and having a pair of mounted antlers rammed through her chest
was probably a pretty big shock.
Mrs. Claus had a sweet, pruned
apple kind of face – even in pain her cheeks crinkled along laugh lines.
McKinney wondered what made Santa do it. Was she boning an elf? Not
likely, given her age and the elves’ natural smallness, but love is love
and lust is lust and in a case you never toss anything without thinking it
McKinney realized he was
salivating. Ducking his head, he wiped his forearm across his mouth and
grinned privately. He’d fantasized about throwing Santa in prison for
four long years- People would ask, "what about all the good little
girls and boys?" But this was the 21st century, and as far
as McKinney was concerned, there were no more good little boys and girls.
"He took Blitzen,"
said the Rookie, his nervous eyes twitching back and forth in disbelief.
"But judging by the Elves’ saddle count, he must be riding
bareback, so he won’t get very far,"
"Why do you say
"Well his, uh, his
unmentionables’ll get numb, won’t they?" The Rookie blushed.
Probably the eggnog, thought McKinney, or maybe the way seeing one of your
lifelong heroes turn out to be just another asshole burns you right
through like a harpooned, flaming stake.
waved the Rookie away. It would be hard to run down and corner the plump
jolly man, even if he was riding bareback. McKinney knew Blitzen’s
heaving, bony spinal cord should make anyone’s dick numb, like a
sponsored athlete racing the Tour de France. But McKinney also had first
hand knowledge of just how fat and cushy Santa’s bum was. Not only that,
but Santa had good reason to suck it up and ignore the pain. Santa was on
"What have you got
smoked Camels smuggled back from a weekend trip to New York City. He drew
long and hard, then exhaled, letting the smoke curl around his head with
the steam of his breath, only to wisp away in the brutal northern winds.
"Christ, it’s cold."
"Least you’re warmer
than me," said Philmore.
McKinney could tell where this
was going, but waiting the Sergeant Jenkins was aggravating and he needed
to pass the time. "How’s that?"
"Look at me,
He did. Philmore was a
freckled, bleach white red head with crooked teeth and a runny nose.
"I’m white as a
"No way. You’re so
black you’re probably soaking up any heat that could be coming my way,
McKinney flicked an ash with
his left hand while his right hand fingered the butt of his revolver. One
slug, he thought, one bullet in the near eye and Philmore’s snaggle
toothed smile and idiotic misperceptions could be banned from the Earth
forever. Instead McKinney grinned good-naturedly and shrugged.
He went back into the foyer of
Santa’s castle and stood there, surrounded by fringed red coats and worn
leather boots. Sure, McKinney was black. Black as road pitch. Black as the
star-filled night where somewhere, Santa was pushing Blitzen along
maniacally as he ran from the law. McKinney was so black he shoulda known,
even as a kid, not to expect a good gift from Santa. How many lumps of
coal had he found under his splintered family’s Charlie Brown, one
needle havin’, tenement housin’ tree on Christmas morning?
McKinney took the burning
cigarette butt from his mouth and singed it into one of Santa’s coats.
"We’ve got enough to
bring him in for questioning." McKinny was in Santa’s kitchen now,
with Sergeant Jenkins.
Jenkins leaned forward.
"And how you gonna get him?"
"We got a tip in Mexico.
Have the locals detain him until we get there."
"Wife said anything
"She’s in shock,
Jenkins. Crazy bastard tried to kill her."
There was a brief silence.
Jenkins packed and lit his pie. Of course he smokes a pipe, McKinney
thought. Anything to perpetuate the myth he’s actually got a brain. That
ignorant, narcissistic, flatulent bastard-
Jenkins interrupted McKinney’s
thoughts. "What’ve you got against Santa?"
"It’s those ties you
"What are you talking
There was a clever glint in
Jenkins’ eyes McKinney had never noticed before. "Every year he
gives you them ugly, thoughtless ties. When has Santa ever left you a good
McKinney paused, as if this
required thought, a fine toothed comb tearing through the nappy hairs of
his memory. He shook his head. "I want to give the Mexicans
permission to use force, Jenkins."
"Huh, Lemme think that
McKinney sat waiting, knowing
it was a tease and nothing more. He licked his lips. The penny acid taste
of handcuffs was still fresh - he’d been gnawing on a set just a few
minutes ago, fantasizing about latching them around Santa’s bloated
wrists before shoving him into a four by four cell with a seatless toilet
and a lumpy, urine stained mattress-
"They can wield
weapons," Jenkins finally said.
McKinney grinned with real
"-But they touch a white
hair on that man’s head I’ll see they’re picking lettuce heads
inside of a week."
McKinney’s grin faded.
"Thank you, sir." He got up slowly and walked out, the knees of
his pants crumpled from the choking grip of his sweaty, pink palms.
As a kid in Queens, McKinney
saw the drug lords had power. In their stretch Mercedes and BMWs, they
cruised the weed riddled sidewalks and crumbling stoops. when they fired
their guns, the streets cleared out like cockroaches scattering from the
light, and nobody never knew nothin’ - But then the cops came in,
swinging billy clubs and guns and badges, and you could bet they’d get
their man. They’d crack heads if they had to, they’d mace and bludgeon
and kill innocent people, but they’d get their man.
"You don’t mess with
coppers," a kid from down the street had said, just two weeks before
stopping a crossfire bullet with his thorax. "Cops is the
"A decade ago we could’ve
shot Santa between the eyes, put a smoking gun in his fist, stashed a bag
of coke in the reindeer stalls, and called it self-defense." Now…"
McKinney trailed off. None of the men were paying attention, and anyway
the rotors of the helicopter made it tough to have a conversation.
Philmore wiped his nose with
his issued overcoat and shouted, "Do you think Santa ever gets
"What the hell are you
talking about?" The pilot didn’t turn - instead he bellowed into
the concave glass nose of the copper and let his voice shrill back,
canyoned and echoed.
"He eats all those
cookies. Every house he goes to, he eats them all.
The steady woompf woompf
woompf of the rotors was his only answer. All the men looked at Philmore.
"Well, I’m just asking. You never hear about Santa puking."
McKinney looked down at the
ground and tried not to think about the breakfast burrito he’d wolfed
down just before take-off. Did Santa ever get nauseous, barreling around
in his sleigh at just under light speed? Did the wind sheers and
turbulence ever make him lean over the side and toss the cookies little
Johnny had left by the fireside, fifteen thousand feet down to splat on an
old woman watching her Westie crap on somebody else’s lawn?
Not likely. No, Santa never
puked. He really was made in God’s image. Jolly, chubby, iron stomach,
the beard - God was even partial to red. McKinney scowled. Even if they
brought Santa to the High Tribunal, God wouldn’t care; trying to kill
your wife just wasn’t such a big deal in His eyes. After all, women were
only an afterthought to begin with,
"I’ll tell you,"
said Philmore, as they touched down on top of a low tenement building just
three blocks from the Mexican police station, "Every black man who
grew up in the ghetto hates Santa."
‘I don’t hate Santa!"
"Shut up, McKinney, and
quit taking it so personal. It was just business. I mean, of course he
left you crap. What did he ever expect you’d be able to give him?"
McKinney opened his mouth, but
nothing came out. Philmore was right. For generations Santa gave gifts to
the wealthy and beautiful, never asking for anything in return. Then, just
over a decade ago, when his popularity was at its peak, he started
collecting the favors back. His visits to the young women were what really
got under McKinney’s black skin, especially back when he was in Queens
and used his beat as an excuse to nail every one within a ten block radius
How many of them had Santa gotten to? How many flushed at the mention of
Santa’s name and squirmed, uncrossing and recrossing their legs,
whenever they saw a Norelco commercial with Santa mounting a razor and
riding it downhill like an Alpine sleigh?
So rape charges were trashed
as quickly as wrapping paper on Christmas morning Every time it was
consensual. They went for statutory. tried to execute a sting with a
breasty sixteen year old from Jersey. A few home baked cookies, and she
sat up late drinking eggnog and scratching her inner thigh as she lolled
on a polar bear pelt by the fireplace- But four hundred years of traveling
had left Santa pretty damn street smart. He came in, filled the stocking,
winked at the hidden camera, and left without so much as a peck on the
cheek. Santa smelled traps a mile away.
Then, four years ago, Santa’s
requests for favors got more shady. Pharmaceuticals. Industrial strength
cleaners, even fertilizer. When the Pole Squad was created to keep an eye
on old Saint Nick, McKinney had been the first to volunteer. But even
though they’d flown over the North Pole with radar and infra red more
times than the UN buzzed Hussein’s palace, nothing was found. Still, you
didn’t need to be a gumshoe to figure out Santa was building up an
arsenal under those glaciers.
McKinney sighed, stepping from
the copter. He knew Santa would slip through the loose fingered grasp of
justice. God dammit Santa was supposed to spread goodwill to mankind.
Instead he had taken away everything McKinney ever had. The men tromped
down the firewell, their Arctic boots ringing out like New Year's bells on
the rusted metal steps.
"Critically wounded's not
dead," Santa said, as they pushed him into the back of a snow truck
to make the last of the journey home. "Ho ho ho."
McKinney turned to glare at
Santa, smooshed between two officers in the backseat.
Santa smiled. McKinney's hands
twitched with strangling desire, so he balled them up and jammed them into
the pockets of his coat. "What happened, Santa?"
"The little lady was
dusting Rudolph's antlers" Santa paused, misting up a tad. "You
boys know Rudolph passed on, don't you?"
They did. A mournful silence
during which McKinney seethed, chomping his own tongue to meaty bits.
Finally Santa resumed his story- "Anyway, she was dusting, and
suddenly, she fell off the ladder, right into the antlers."
"Your fingerprints are
all over them."
Santa blinked, wounded.
"I tried to pull them
out. She was hurt."
"Then why'd you
"I- I panicked, seeing
Mrs. Claus like that. I went to find a doctor-"
"Forty five hundred miles
away in Mexico?!"
Santa shrugged. "I got
You were drinking
"I got lost and
McKinney waited, but Santa
didn't bow his head in shame, didn't weep out a confession. Instead, he
turned to the other cops and asked, "Have you been good boys?"
McKinney wanted to scream,
wanted to lurch into the backseat and gouge Santa's eyeballs out with his
thumbs, then cram them into his mouth, anything to stop the ceaseless,
"Ho Ho Ho."
Instead he said, "We'll
see what your wife's story is, pal" But there was no venom in
McKinney's voice. He knew what she'd say. She'd say she was dusting
Rudolph's antlers, remember Rudolph? And that she fell, my, my she was
clumsy, and that her dear husband went to get help.
When they arrived at the
castle, Santa stepped out, boots sinking into the blinding powder snow. He
winked at McKinney. "How's your wife? Lovely girl, terrific
"Fabulous nipples. Like
little Hershey's Kisses-"
The troopers gaped. McKinney's
eyes fluttered as a memory came searing back Five years ago this Christmas
Eve. McKinney woke from his sugar plum dreams in a cold sweat to the sound
of moans, his first thought that some maniac he'd sent to the pen had been
paroled and come back, seeking revenge. He fumbled for his revolver,
certain his wife was being strangled under the seven-foot spruce they'd
bought just the week before, and raced downstairs.
And there it was. An expanse
of white collagulated flesh the likes of which McKinney had never seen
before, bumping and grinding away, beads of sweat running into the crack
and the odd pimple rising from its pink base to a majestic white head.
McKinney didn't know whether
to weep or fly into a rage.
Then he realized Santa hadn't
even removed his hat the puffy white ball at the end kept smacking
McKinney’s wife in the face. A face that was, McKinney had to admit,
aglow with rapture as Santa delivered his goodies.
McKinney fired. A target as
big as Santa's fat ass, and still he only grazed it. And with a twinkle of
his nose and a waggle of his woody, Santa shot up the chimney and
So that was the end of
McKinney's marriage. Well, what could you do? She was no angel to begin
Standing in the snow outside
his castle, Santa was still grinning. McKinney stepped forward, his jaw
tightening. "You don't mess with coppers."
"Cops is the Power."
McKinney swung. He knew it was
the last punch he'd ever throw on the force, so he threw it hard. Fast
through the downy beard, through the heavy jowls, to jar against bone.
The bone of a Saint, maybe,
but McKinney made it sting. Santa sagged to the ground and twitched, a
wobbling red jel-lo mold, an immense, tinsel wrapped bag of shit. 'Fuck
you, Santa!" McKinney said.
And he meant it.
Santa's Fat Ass
Harris Levine Wilkinson
copyright 1998 All Rights Reserved