The children were afraid.
Frank Richards came to me with a story. His children claimed Santa Claus visited them at night. The old elf, they said, had come the first of December and each night thereafter.
Frank hadn’t believed it until this morning when he’d gone into their room and found the place half-covered with gifts. Neither he nor his wife had placed them there.
The children were loathed to talk about it. According to them, Father Christmas watched them sleep, and there was nothing pleasant about the experience. He seemed to wait for one of them to leave the bed, and so not a one dared to do so.
Last night had been different.
Claus had tried to take the blankets off.
Frank asked me to come to his house and to hide myself close to the children’s room.
I agreed to, and while I strapped on my Colts, I also brought my Bowie knife.
When I arrived at Frank’s home, we went up to the children’s room. They were excited and nervous, lined up in bed and looking at me expectantly.
“Do you know who this is?” Frank asked them.
The eldest child nodded, and the others followed suit.
“Then you know I spoke the truth when I said I’d bring someone home to help,” Frank continued. “Duncan will stay here with you tonight, just on the other side of the room and in the dark. He’ll be beside the wardrobe, and he’ll know what to do.”
I squatted down by the bedside and looked at the children. “Do you trust me?”
They whispered that they did.
“Good. Now rest, if you can. I’ll be here.”
I took up my position by the wardrobe and waited.
He arrived sometime after one.
He was tall, thin, and stank of madness. I watched him as he crept up to the bed curtains, free hand twitching as he pushed his face between them to peer in at the children. The sack on his back hung empty on his back, but I doubt he intended it to be empty for much longer.
As he pushed aside the curtains, I stepped forward.
I put one hand over his mouth and slipped the Bowie knife between his ribs, pushing until his back was arched and he stood on his toes. He died a moment later.
As the children slept, Frank and I buried the bastard outside.