Damn Santas By Patrick Whitehurst

Punk Noir Magazine

Santa Bigger finished tying the rope around Sam’s feet. Tight enough the hemp chewed into his bare ankles. Sam stirred slightly and took note of the pressure around his legs and wrists. Roped to a wooden kitchen chair. Closed blinds to his right let in a bit of the gray San Francisco light, but not much. Red, green, and gold Christmas bulbs wreathed the window. His vision swirled. His hearing began to work again.

Somebody had done a job on him.

A voice mumbled, “Pour water over his face, I guess. But you gotta put the towel over it first. Does mom still keep the dish towels in the bottom drawer?”

“Water boarding or some shit, right?”

“Bet it don’t work.”

Sam’s world went white. He felt the cloth against his unshaved chin. Cold water dribbled over the towel and down his bare chest. He didn’t gasp or groan, however. Wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Water filled his mouth. He swallowed it. The towel went away, replaced by an open-palmed meat hook. Santa Big, the shorter giant, gave him a slap across the jaw.

Sam shook it off. His captor gave him another, this time with passion. Split his lip. A little brother to the scabbed wound on the back of his head.

“Yeah, I’m up,” Sam said. Blood dripped on his chin. Water bubbled from his lips.

“’Bout damn time,” Big said.

They’d stripped off his clothes. Everything but his black boxers. Obviously, they didn’t want to have to look at his junk. Sam figured them for pair of prudish dumbasses. Still dangerous, but dumb. Somewhere in the house a heater kicked on. He wondered which one of the Santas lived there with their mother. Maybe both did. The place screamed Christmas cheer. Garland ran around the kitchen entryway, wrapped in blinking white Christmas lights. Arranged on the dining room table were a dozen snow globes. At the center of the table sat a fur-green, ceramic Christmas tree.

“You two brothers?” Sam asked. “Could be twins. Hard to tell under the white beards.”

Santa Bigger took charge. “Talk when I tell you.”

Bigger adjusted his Santa beard to cover more of his face. Nothing camouflaged their sea blue eyes or the pockmarks on their rosy cheeks. Both wore identical red suits, fire engine red, with white trim and matching stocking caps. Looked like they’d stuffed plump pillows around their waists. The bulges made it difficult for them to move around in the small kitchen. The pair of them towered over him when they’d stopped him on the street. He’d just picked up a peppermint mocha when one of them whacked him with a blackjack. Second time he’d been tapped out on the job this year. And it hurt like hell.

The life of a thug, he figured. Never rosy.

“Keep it down.” Santa Big whispered into his brother’s ear.

“Sleeps through earthquakes when she’s on those pills,” Bigger replied.

Sam interrupted. “You guys save my mocha? Shit’s not cheap.”

“Where’s the suit?”

“What’s that?”

Santa Bigger slapped him again. This one stung. None of it helped the throbbing at the base of his skull. “The Gwenn suit. We know you got it,” he said.

Sam stared into his eyes. “You high, Santa?”

Slapped harder. “Red Silk Velvet. Rabbit fur trim.”

Santa Big piped up. “The Kris Kringle Santa suit worn by Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. Quit playing.”

“Watched you sneak up to the truck and grab it,” Bigger said. “Shit, once we heard they were going to show off the suit, we decided to do the same thing.”

Sam remembered the Santa party. A fucking hall full of plump, gaily dressed white beards. Some kind of celebration for the city’s Saint Nicks, with that suit to take center stage. Thing was like a holy relic to these guys.

It took him all of five minutes to find the delivery vehicle in the back alley. Plan was to don one of his daughter’s Hello Kitty face masks and threaten the driver with a bit of death. Might have been scarier with a different mask, but it was all he could find in the apartment. The driver rolled up the delivery door and walked away not ten minutes after Sam staked out the scene. There sat the suit in a clear, protective case, blissfully unguarded. Hello Kitty stayed in his pocket.

He thought of an essay written by Jack Kerouac in 1957, “Not Long Ago Joy Abounded at Christmas,” in which his favorite author preached on the holiday’s lost subtleties, an appreciation lost on these idiots.

“When it was time to show off the suit,” Bigger said, “No one could find it. You ruined the party.”

Santa Big waved his hand. “Not that we care.”

“Just want the suit. Where’d you stash it? Saw you go into the garage but lost you for a few minutes. Won’t kill you, but we got some other things in mind. Got an idea better than water boarding.”

The bigger Santa stepped back and told Big to keep an eye on things.

Had to have been behind him when he took the suit. That blackjack must have been meant for the driver, only Sam got there first. The Gwenn suit, he learned after a quick Google search, came with a price tag over twenty grand.

The first guy stomped out of the room. The tip of his Santa hat brushed the top of the door frame and the floorboards moaned under his feet. Santa Big got in Sam’s face. Hot breath warmed his cheek, smelling of garlic and beer. With no one watchinghis hands, Sam started picking at the ropewith his fingernails and twisting his wrists.

“I got your back, bro. Just tell me where it is, and we’ll let you go.”

Sam stopped. He looked into the man’s striking blue eyes and squinted. What’s this good cop, bad cop shit? Crap’s been done to death.

His client hired him through email. Gave him the time and place and stashed the two grand under a flower pot a block from the party. Money had been there as promised, so he tossed the suit in the backseat of a black Honda per theinstructions. Car had been parked in a nearby garage, third level, as detailed in the email.

He went for his mocha after the drop and googled the suit for kicks while he waited in line. He had most of the day to kill before his daughter’s holiday recital.

“Listen, I didn’t know we’d jump you. But I gotta do what my brother says. What does the suit matter to you?”

“Could ask you the same thing.”

“Take a fucking look around, idiot. Check the decorations. Christmas is our life.” The movie, Sam reminded himself, had to do with a man who claimed to be Santa Claus. Most people thought he was insane, but was he? Sam pegged his captors as lunatics. Unlike the flick, nothing would change his mind. He saw a framed movie poster in the hallway outside the kitchen. Maureen O’Hara and Sam Payne’s faces gazed at each like a couple of saps. Next to it he saw another framed picture of a young Natalie Wood getting bear hugged by Edmund Gwenn. Looked autographed.

“Yeah, big fans of Christmas cheer.” Sam tugged on his ropes. These Santas weren’t all that clever. The hemp loosened.

“All you have to do is give up the suit. I’ll get him to let you go.” Beads of sweat trickled down one side of his holly jolly forehead. They heard heavy footsteps. Big lowered his voice. “Deal?”

“Four grand.”

Big’s eyes widened. “Dude…”

“Four grand and I’ll spill. And get my clothes out where I can see them.”

“Only got a grand on me, man.”

Sam closed his eyes. The footsteps got louder. “Put it in my pants pockets.”

The shorter Santa dug around for Sam’s clothes. As he did so Santa Bigger pounded into the room holding a car battery with jumper cables. He grunted like an old man when he plunked it at Sam’s bare feet. Black box, red top, clean terminals; looked brand-spanking new. Those things carried a lot of amps, nine hundred? Sam couldn’t remember.

Bigger unspooled the jumpers. Sam stared at the battery, then over at his clothes on the table, as he worked to loosen the ropes behind him. Shorter Santa slipped a wad of cash into his pocket.

The hemp around his wrists slackened. “Know this may sound cliché, but I got an appointment tonight I can’t miss. Kid has a recital.”

Bigger popped him in the mouth, this time with a closed fist, and widened the split on his lip. Blood filled the inside of Sam’s mouth.

“Which ends do I clamp first?” Bigger asked.

Big shrugged. “The hell would I know? I’d attach the battery first. Where you gonna attach the other clamps? Nipples?”

“Guess so.”

“Fuck that,” Sam said. Bloody spittle flew from his mouth. “First off, neither of you have done this before and it shows. Second, I just made a deal with this asshole.”

“That’s right, said he’ll talk for a grand.”

“Shit, what about the battery?” Bigger asked. His fluffy white beard sagged into a frown. “Could be lying.” He attached the clamps to the battery.

“The Holy Hell is all this?” A massive shadow fell across the kitchen.

Sam and the two Santas looked up. Santa Big gasped. The woman standing in the entry had to be one of the biggest Sam had ever laid eyes on. She wore a paisley moo moo, but not a loose-fitting one. It stretched across her massive frame like a second skin. Santa Bigger let the clamps fall to the floor. The two ends touched briefly, sending a burst of fireworks over their prisoner’s toes.

“Mama, we can explain…” Big said.

Sam saw fear in their eyes. “Asshole stole the Kris Kringle suit from the Holiday Appreciation Dinner,” he stammered.“We were…”

“Hell hounds, the both of you! What’d I say about bringing crap home? What did I say?”

A shudder ran down Sam’s spine. She had to be six feet, broad-shouldered, with wrinkles like an army general who’d seen thirty years of combat. A plastic shower cap covered her scalp. Her arms were aswide as tree stumps. Mama had striking blue eyes, same as the kids, which she turned on him.

“Must be Sam,” she said. 

Sam cocked his head, trying to place the giant. “I know you?”


“Should have aborted these idiots.” She flashed Sam a warm smile. It worried him. “Can’t do a wonderful thing without it going wrong.”

Unseen, Sam freed a hand and curled his fingers into a fist behind his back. “Shit. The suit,” he said. “It’s for these morons?”

“Their Christmas present. Surprise is spoiled now.” She tilted her head at Bigger. “Untie him.”

Big’s jaw dropped. “You hired him to steal the suit?”

Bigger started jabbering. “Mama, if we’d known… you should have…”

Sam showed his free hand. “Got one out already, just need help with rest.”

Mama shook her head. “Sons of bitchescan’t even tie a man right.”

The bulky Santas set to work on the rest of Sam’s bonds. He eyed them suspiciously, then went to his clothes and pulled on his pants.

Mama watched him dress. “Haven’t got to the car yet. It’s in there? No hitches?”

“It’s there.” Sam said, feeling the extra grand in his pocket. “And I’d call your sons here a pretty big hitch.”

“Boys, best apologize to this man. Oneof Santa’s helpers. He helped Mama with her Christmas shopping.”

They mumbled their apologies as Sam slipped into his black canvas shoes.

“No harm done, am I right?” Big said.

“Hey, Happy Holidays!” Bigger added.

“Fuck off.”

Big grabbed him from behind. Sam tried to pull away, but the man was too strong. He strained, then saw the fist coming for his face. It felt like a brick in the teeth. Stars flooded his vision and he hit the floor. Stay awake, he told himself, get out.

“Can’t have you knowing where we live,” Mama said, her voice an odd echo of repeating words. Blackness took him.

He woke in an alley. His back against a dumpster and a handful of candy canes spread out in his lap. Pink daylight overhead. Sam took a deep breath, his face throbbing, and cursed those damn Santas.

Better hurry or he’d miss the recital. Flag down a cab and clean up on the way. He got to his feet and let the candy canesdrop to the asphalt. He dug into his pants pocket. The extra grand was gone.

After staggering out of the alley he headed south. Sam remembered a line from Miracle on 34th Street as he waved down the first cab he saw.

“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind,” Kringle said.

That frame of mind hurt like hell.