The Man with the Golden Sled

The Man with the Golden Sled

by Kendall Pagan

Summer was coming.

Of course, it was summer about half the year, somewhere on Earth, and when you had free air travel, that made for some pretty sweet time off. Sure, it was just early May, but Santa was making some vacation plans. There was a “Mystery Spot” in Wisconsin that he’d had his eye on for a few years, and his curiosity about the town of Baraboo had about reached its peak.

And then the call came in. On the blue phone.

The blue phone was of an early design, actually the earliest design from 1876, with its internal workings having been upgraded twice in the intervening fifteen years. The mouthpiece curved up from the desktop like a cobra, and as he picked up the handheld part to put to his ear and moved his face close to the mouthpiece, Santa felt about the same way he would have, had it been a cobra. Santa hadn’t always looked at the device that way, especially when it was first installed and the person at the other end was on a different sort of naughty list.

“North Pole, this is Santa,” he said into the telephone, his voice emotionless.

“Good morning, Mr. Claus,” the heavy male voice said. “I hope I’m not disturbing anything of importance.”

The bastard knew he wasn’t disturbing anything of importance. It was May, and Santa Claus had just one job: being Santa Claus. Except for when this phone rang.

“Not at all,” Santa lied.

“We have need of a sleigh ride. Approximately seven thousand miles. The usual tribute delivered the usual way. The Canadians are preparing it as we speak.”

“What’s the hard part?” Santa asked. There was always a hard part.

“It’s the timing,” the voice on the phone replied. “We expect you may have to catch your passenger in mid-air.”

“That’s not so hard,” Santa replied.

“Yes, but there’s a second potential passenger. That one needs to fall, and somewhere that his body won’t be found.”

Santa grimaced. Too much wetwork since the calls started coming from this one instead of the Queen. Ocean wetwork, usually. The sea kept the Empire’s secrets.

“I understand,” the not-so-jolly old elf replied.

The voice at the other end gave details. Switzerland, May 4th, the brother. Santa acknowledged it all and ended the call.

“A lump of coal for you this year, bastard,” Santa grumbled at the silent telephone.

“Language, darling,” Mrs. Claus chided.

“Sorry, babe,” Santa Claus replied. “I just can’t help but wonder if we made a mistake there. The actress is good enough, but that kid actually running things . . .”

“It’s the only way I could be here year ‘round, dear. Now let’s take your mind off that side job for a bit, shall we?”

“I just had the telephone installed to talk to you, you know,” Santa reminded Victoria. “Who’d have known where it would lead us?”

“I know where it’s going to lead us right now,” Mrs. Claus replied. “You’ve got time before the job.”

And Santa Claus and ex-Queen Victoria made sweet, sweet love, as they did every time Santa had to do a favor for the Empire. The man they called “M” still had to make sure the tribute came through, but even this gig came with some benefits.