We surprised each other.
I was walking with Hel, the dog I’d rescued the year before, and minding our own business.
Both Hel and I were in good moods. He’d rousted some birds a short time before, and I had a belly full of coffee and fine tobacco going in my pipe. The snow was thick, the air cold, and the warmth of home was only an hour or so away.
I should have known it was too good to last.
Hel froze and pointed, his nose still and left paw up as a low growl grew in his throat. My hands dropped to the Colts, pipe clenched between my teeth, and Father Christmas slid out into the open. Over his shoulder, he held a bag of gifts, and in his right hand, he held an evergreen.
For a moment, we stared at each other, and then the bastard threw the tree at me.
Hel darted forward, and I ducked, drawing the Colts as I did so. Father Christmas gave the dog a kick that Hel partly dodged, the toe of the man’s boot snapping up from his ski catching the dog’s hindquarters and sending him howling and rolling through the snow.
I fired a pair of shots at the man, but he’d swung his bag and the gifts within blocked the slugs before he hurled the bag at me. Once more, I ducked, and when I could see him clearly again, Father Christmas had a hatchet.
I snapped off a quick shot that took the man in the shin, causing him to drop to a knee, blood spraying out over the white snow. He cursed at me in Danish and threw the hatchet, the blade lodging in my right shoulder.
He let out a deep, pleased laugh, one that died in his throat as I brought up my left hand and shot him in the face.
For a moment, he wavered on his knee, reached up, probed the hole where his nose had been and then keeled over to the right.
Hel limped up, sniffed Father Christmas, and then made water on the dead man’s face.
When he finished, the dog limped to me, sat down and kept me company as I worked the hatchet out of my shoulder.
He’s a good companion and a hell of a dog.
(This photo is courtesy of the Danish Royal Library and was created by Sven Türck.)