I used the Barker house as my headquarters on Washington Street. Once night fell, I ranged up and down the street, returning to the house only to warm or feed myself. A heavy snow fell, and a bitter wind played havoc, driving sheets of snow down from roofs and building drifts along walls.
As I walked, I listened and looked. I waited to hear Christmas merriment and to see the lights of the same.
Yet as the hours passed, I neither saw nor heard anything of the sort.
I confess I began to hope.
Yet, it was too soon to do so.
Nigh on three, close to the witching hour itself, I heard wailing and went running.
I entered the house through the back, slamming into the wood and knocking the door out of the frame. I crashed through the kitchen, leapt the body of a maid, and followed the wailing.
Through a dark hallway, I stumbled, swore, and turned into a parlor with the Colts drawn.
The wailing had been replaced with weeping, and there, in front of me, was a young girl.
Barefoot and wearing her nightdress, she was on the hearth, leaning in over what should have been a roaring fire and staring up the flue.
The room was stripped bare.
No furniture, no decorations. Nothing.
Nothing save the child weeping on the hearth.
I slipped the Colts into their holsters and approached the girl, who turned at the sound of my boots upon the bare wood of the floor. Her red eyes implored, and her lips trembled.
When I reached her, I crouched down.
“What happened?” I asked.
“He took them,” she whispered.
“Father Christmas,” she wailed. “He said they were needed. My mother and my father, my brothers. Everything was needed.”
“For what, child?”
“Toys,” she sobbed, collapsing into my arms. “Father Christmas said he needed them all to make toys from.”
I cradled the child against my chest and stood.
“He didn’t take me,” she moaned. “He didn’t need any parts from little girls. Not yet.”
I had no words of comfort for the child.
I carried her to the kitchen to see if Father Christmas had left the maid alive or dead.
She was alive, but it seems he had needed her tongue.