December was quiet for about ten years after I gunned down the Hollow’s Claus.
Something came back last night.
Some of the gentlemen from the Cross Sentinel came and got me mid-meal. They said it was important, and it’s rare for the men of that establishment to be wrong.
They certainly weren’t this time.
I left Hel to guard over the house. He had a goodly number of years on him, and it was getting harder for him to move about.
The town had grown a bit in the last few years, and new houses had been built. It was to one of these the newspapermen brought me.
Entering the home, I noticed a rough, grating sound. I followed the noise until I came to a large parlor and a trio of children. They were all young and gathered around a well-decorated Christmas tree. Presents were scattered about, and one girl – astride a rocking horse – glanced toward me as I entered the room. She smiled after a moment and then returned her attention to whatever enthralled her siblings.
I looked and saw why the men had remained outside.
I’m fairly certain the room had once been the dining room, but someone had gutted the walls and torn out the floor. In the center was a fire pit, and over that, a great spit. A man, his body blackened and glistening with oils, was tied down to the crossbar. On one end of it, a naked woman turned the spit, her eyes gouged out and her hair cut close to the scalp. On the other side of the fire stood a second woman, much younger and wearing the tattered remnants of a housemaid.
The housemaid had her eyes but little else.
The skin had been stripped from her face, the teeth smashed from her mouth, and her jaw wired shut. With painful motions, she basted the man on the spit.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Santa came early,” the girl on the rocker responded. “He gave us gifts and made mother and Annie to prepare a feast for his return this eve.”
“Go outside, children. I’ll help with the feast.”
In silence, the children gathered their gifts and left.
I had to leave the women alive until Father Christmas returned, but when he did, I’d put them out of their misery.
And Father Christmas would end up on the spit.