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Concept Factory

Welcome to the Concept Factory

brain_gears-300x300 Here you will find the beginning of ideas and concepts rattling around in my head in the form of short stories. Some may even be complete but all are hoped to be as entertaining to read as they were to write or imagine

Below is a short story I wrote while gripped by the Christmas Elf of Inspiration last year. It will be the first of many. For a time, each short story or fragment of imagination will be posted here on this page, then after a period, will be archived in a different format and location in this site

Yes, I know, it's out of season but while it is not exactly Charles Dickens, I hope its enjoyable any time of the year... 

I Might Know a Guy

A Short Story By

Kelvin Kwa

Written: 20th December 2015

Posted: 14th February 2016

‘Twas the day after the pardoning of the turkey and all through this house, it was business as usual...or so it seemed. General George A. Purcell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had been summoned to the Oval Office. That in itself wasn’t particularly strange except that according to his watch which he glanced at briefly as he walked down the external colonnade of the west wing, this was precisely the time of day when the President was taking his daily brief.

The President’s Daily Brief was supposed to be given by the Director of National Intelligence’s briefing officer and the only other people allowed in the room at this time were SecDef, SecState and the National Security Advisor. The fact that George was being called in could only mean one thing: there was a real-time problem with the threat matrix.

As the President’s secretarial assistant opened the door for him, the highest ranking officer in the United States Military was surprised to find that he wasn’t the only gatecrasher today. Seated on the couch to his left was Henry Tome, the Director of Clandestine Operations for the CIA. The couch to the right of the Presidential seal beneath the ornate coffee table was occupied by the DNI briefer Colonel Dalton McLearey. Next to him was National Security Advisor Martin Teague. Secretary of State Deveraux and Secretary of Defense Atkins had their own chairs on either side of POTUS (President of the United States) who held a large, black leather bound folder in his hands. An exact duplicate of the same folder lay open in front of the DNI briefer on the coffee table between the group of heavy hitters. It contained the threat matrix: a top secret document compiled by the CIA, FBI, the National Security Agency and Homeland. It was a summarized analysis of all identifiable dangers to national and global interests, presented to the President every morning, without exception or deviation. Today was a deviation.

‘Come in, George’ SecDef Atkins didn’t look up from his laptop. They had known each other for decades and this was the first time that Purcell ever felt something terribly off about his best friend’s demeanour. The CJC (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) settled himself at the end of the couch on the left since it looked like there was more room there next to Director Tome.

‘Good morning, Mr. President’ said the General not one to easily disregard protocol, even under unusual circumstances.

‘Good morning, General Purcell’ replied the President gravely, ‘I’m sure this all seems a little ominous to you. All will be explained momentarily.’

‘Yes, sir...’ the President’s statement did nothing to dispel the tension in the room or its ‘ominous’ nature but George let it drop. Whatever it was would land in his lap soon enough.

The Chief Executive turned to McLearey, ‘Colonel, please bring the General up to speed.’

The DNI briefer began, ‘As you know, since we rolled back our bombing campaign in Syria with boots on the ground to clean out the last of the insurgents this administration has begun implementing a new policy of proactively finding the next problem and cutting it off while in its infancy.’

‘Not a good analogy given the season, Colonel’ admonished the Chief of Staff who was happy to just lean against the chief executive’s desk with his arms crossed, ‘You’re gonna make us all sound like Herod giving the order to hunt down the newborn Messiah.’

‘Yes, sir. Sorry sir.’

‘Continue’ said the President.

Dalton cleared his throat and resumed, ‘For several months now, NSA’s Echelon program have begun getting intercepts about a new...group coming out of North Africa calling itself ‘Sayf Al Nabi’, loosely translated to Sword of the Prophet. We know a lot about them but there are glaring holes in the intel that have us worried. Mostly made up of an all star line-up from the remnants of Al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIL, Boko Harram...’

‘These guys don’t die’ muttered SecDef, ‘They just run off someplace to rebrand.’

‘Well, ma’am’ replied the briefer, ‘This group is something very different altogether. Our intelligence analysts say that this Sayf Al Nabi formed practically out of nowhere in as little as six months after we took down ISIL. They have a distributed command structure which means as soon as we cut off one head, another grows in its place. Then the whole organization just repositions to the new dynamic. No centralized base of operations. They’re not interested in claiming territory so there’s no singular operational area we can hit. The communications are fully online which means any schmuck with a burner phone and/or a laptop with access to the dark net can join up. These guys are not looking to create a caliphate, they just want to hurt us any way they can.’

‘But here’s the scary part; their operating budget is rumoured to be twelve billion dollars and upwards. We don’t know where it came from.’

‘Well there you have it,’ said the Secretary of State, ‘That kind of money has got to leave a trail, right? We follow it right to the source and we kill it, I guarantee the rest of this snake will die too.’

Colonel McLearey shifted uncomfortably, ‘Madam Secretary, I believe I used the term ‘rumoured’ in my statement because we can’t confirm the existence of these funds. We know they exist, we can even see some of it but, the money is constantly in motion through various banks and corporations using a transfer system our best cyber ops and forensic accountants have never seen.’

Atkins cut in, ‘So far, it’s a game of musical chairs. The money just moves around and as far as we know, it hasn’t been accessed. Not one cent...until sixteen hours ago. Five million dollars disappeared from one of the accounts we were monitoring as it passed through Switzerland.’

‘We believe it’s significant’ said Dalton, ‘So far, Sayf Al Nabi’s just recruiting, getting itself together, but this new development...’

‘They’re going to strike,’ George finally spoke, ‘This is their...coming out party.’

‘Confidence is high, General’ said the President.

‘Of course, Mr. President’ replied the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, ‘I can upgrade our global threat condition and deploy SOCOM assets anywhere in the world within hours of your authorization. Just tell me where...’

‘You misunderstand, General’ said the President, ‘We didn’t call you here for that.’

‘Sir?’

‘We believe we finally know the identity of Sayf Al Nabi’s financier,’ the Director of Central Intelligence finally spoke up, ‘The head of the snake is none other than Crown Prince Faizal Al Azwari.’

‘The son of King Mahmoud Azwari’ George raised an eyebrow. The Azwari Royal Family were the ruling government of the kingdom of Marabeau, a small North African country which recently began supplying oil to the West from a field that was estimated to have eight times the capacity of Saudi Arabia. The King himself was a close personal friend of the Commander in Chief.

‘To make matters worse, the President is hosting a Christmas Party at the Whitehouse next week and King Azwari’s entire family will be attending’ offered the Chief of Staff, ‘Obviously, anything we do to his son will have to be completely deniable.’

‘Why not go to the King with this?’ George looked at his boss evenly across the room, ‘The Azwari intelligence directorate has a reputation for being rabidly anti-terrorist.’

‘We don’t have any proof,’ DCI Tome replied, ‘At least, none that would be believed. Three deep cover assets confirmed the finding before they all disappeared. That’s all we have and that’s the good news.’

The National Security Advisor cut in, ‘We also don’t know where Prince Faizal is at this very moment. He went off the grid at the same time as the money...about sixteen hours ago. And then something else happened...’

Colonel Dalton continued, ‘As of zero three thirty this morning we received actionable intelligence that Sayf Al Nabi is planning a major attack to happen within the next twenty four hours. We know it’s going to be a high visibility target but don’t know anymore about it. Could be anyone, anything, anywhere.’

‘We also know...’ said the President quietly, ‘No, we hope, we pray that if we take out Faizal Azwari, we stop the attack.’

George could hear the earnestness in the Commander in Chief’s voice, ‘Mr. President, I have at your disposal satellites, combat drones, fighters, bombers, aircraft carriers and missile subs. I have Marines, SEALs, Delta Force and any number of off book assassins that can get the job done. The combined might of the United States military, legal or otherwise; powerless in the face of a single salient truth: I can’t hit what I can’t see.’

‘George,’ said SecDef Atkins. There was something in his voice, ‘I told them about the guy.’

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs stared at his long time friend in shock.

‘I’m sorry,’ Atkins continued in a whisper, ‘five million, give or take was just about the sale price of a suitcase nuke at an arms deal the CIA broke up last night in Hong Kong. We got everything but the nuke. To save the lives of millions of innocent civilians, I’ll put every option on the table including making a deal with the Devil.’

‘Except this guy is way more dangerous than the Devil,’ growled the General as he met the eyes of everyone in the room ‘You don’t have anything he wants so I can only assume you plan to threaten him. Take a piece of advice from me, all of you: Don’t. Piss. Him. Off.’

‘Can he do it? Can he find the crown prince?’

George nodded, ‘Mr. President, he knows where everybody sleeps.’

‘Then sweeten the deal’, the Commander in Chief replied thoughtfully, ‘Find Prince Faizal Al Azwari, terminate him with extreme prejudice and recover the nuke. In return, I’ll authorize overfly rights over CONUS and NATO airspace in perpetuity. I know he’s never needed our permission before but I’m sure he’d like to make it official.’

The General rubbed his chin, ‘That might just work...’

‘In any case, General, consider this next part an order,’ the President got up and walked behind his desk. He pulled out the chair but didn’t sit down, ‘Use my stationary, it’ll look better with the Presidential seal and when you’re done, I’ll put my signature right next to yours.’

As the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s got up from the couch and walked toward the desk, Director Tome came up beside the Secretary of Defence and asked the questions he had been keeping inside since the meeting began, ‘So who is this guy we’re talking about? Sounds like a cross between James Bond and Superman. How come I’ve never heard of him?’

‘Oh, but you have’ replied Secretary Atkins and whispered a name.    

‘Wait, what?’ Henry Tome practically reeled back, ‘He’s been in my house!’

‘Yes, mine too. And he’s been in the Residence...’

A good man knows when he’s in way over his head. George Purcell sat uncomfortably in the President’s chair while the Commander in Chief looked over his shoulder. On the desk in front of him was a single piece of paper resting on the gleaming English Oak surface from the timbers of the HMS Resolute. The sheet was blank save for the Presidential seal emblazoned at the top of the letterhead.

‘As soon as you’re done, I have an F22 Raptor on the tarmac at Andrews fuelled and ready.’

‘That won’t be necessary; Mr. President’ the senior officer picked up the felt tip pen and began to write.

‘Dear Santa...’

***

0 degrees North

0 degrees East

‘Martha!’

To anyone standing inside the cavernous workshop, it looked like an impossibly large ass in red pants was protruding out of an impossibly small cupboard. The other end of that apparition was digging and throwing stuffed animals toys onto a growing pile in front of a group of concerned elves.

‘Martha! I can’t seem to find my suit’ Saint Nick’s voice was a little muffled from inside the closet space but he was still loud enough to be heard across the other side of the Arctic Circle.

Mrs, Claus certainly heard him, ‘You have literally thousands of suits, dear! Which one?’

‘The Ghillie!’

Santa’s wife poked her head into the room, ‘What the hell do you want with the Ghillie suit? You haven’t worn that thing since...1968.’

Nicholas backed himself out of the closet and stood to his feet towering over her. They’d been married for nearly 1800 years and he still loved her as much as the day they had met. Probably also because she kept things interesting by changing up her look. This incarnation resembled Giselle Bundchen.

‘Khe Sanh. I remember.’

Mrs. Klaus smiled, ‘That little boy. What was his name?’

‘George. George Purcell’ a whimsical look came over Father Christmas’ face, ‘The trap he set in his house was ingenious. I wasn’t being patronizing. I really couldn’t escape. That ten year old was some kind of tactician.’

‘That ten year old just wanted his father to come home from Vietnam alive,’ said Mrs. Klaus ‘Is this about him?’

‘Yes,’ replied Santa a scowl stealing across his normally jovial features, ‘A Presidential finding against one Faizal Al Azwari. This special order’s time critical which is why I’m leaving now.’

A tablet computer appeared in Martha’s hands, ‘Naughty list?’

‘Very naughty.’

‘Okay, then’ said Mother Christmas tapping on a few more onscreen keys, ‘He’s in Melbourne, Australia. Crown Towers Penthouse Suite. He has the whole top floor and his own security contingent. Thirty-eight operators, some on loan from his cartel friends in Bogotá.’

‘So no friendlies and low probability of collateral damage,’ Santa grimaced, ‘Still...’

‘What’s the problem?’

‘It’s Australia,’ whined Father Christmas, ‘This time of year, its hot and sunny down there. And there’s no snow. What kind of Christmas is it with no snow? It’s...not natural. Don’t even get me started on that ‘Christmas in July’ crap. Plus you know when I get sweaty my shorts tend to ride all the way up the...’

Martha rolled her eyes, ‘Oh, would you just cowboy up, old man?! Besides, its Melbourne. You can’t tell from one moment to the next how the weather’s going to pan out in that city. You might not get snow but hail is close enough.’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘Take Bob with you as backup’ Mrs. Klaus instructed in a tone that brooked no dissent.

‘Bob from the Fairy Princess department?’

Martha sighed, ‘No. The other Bob.’

‘Bob from Leggo Star Wars dispatch?’

‘The other Bob!’ now her voice was going up a tone and Santa knew it was time to back off, ‘Bob from the...Armoury.’

‘Oh, that Bob’ the truth was that Saint Nick knew exactly who she was talking about but he still wasn’t looking forward to the company of the strangely quiet elf from the War Toys department, otherwise known as The Armoury. Some children on the nice list still asked Santa for guns, tanks and fighter jets. And where does Luke Skywalker get his lightsaber from? Prince Valiant his sword? What would an Imperial Stormtrooper be without his laser rifle? The Armoury was the necessary part of Santa’s workshop that none of the other elves ever talked about.

There’s something not right about that one’ said Santa dubiously, ‘You know he’s been diagnosed with PTSD?’

‘And whose fault is that?’ it was a rhetorical question that Nicholas knew better than to answer, ‘Operation Desert Storm, Christmas 1990. You picked a flyover Baghdad, at night in the middle of an air raid while the poor guy was in the back seat. No wonder he’s messed up!’

‘Okay,’ Father Christmas muttered, finally giving into the inevitable, ‘I still don’t know where my Ghillie suit is... ‘

‘It’s dry-cleaned and I sent it ahead. It’ll be in your sleigh along with a full CQB (Close Quarter Battle) load out. I also took the liberty of including the AS50 sniper rifle for Bob’ Martha Klaus stood up on her tip toes and gave him a peck on the cheek, ‘Better get moving, Nick. You don’t want to keep a suitcase nuke waiting.’

Father Christmas lifted his supermodel wife off the floor folding her into a bear hug that would have crushed a grizzly, ‘Don’t wait up.’

‘Safe journey, dear’ Mother Christmas watched her man waddle into the night, ‘Enjoy yourself.’

***

Melbourne, Australia

Close as he was to el jefe, it seemed that Crown Prince Faizal Azwari only trusted his own countrymen to be his personal bodyguards. Twelve stone faced men inside the penthouse suite and four more in front and behind the prince wherever he went. The enforcers on loan from the Cartagena Cartel were relegated to outer perimeter security. This obvious affront to his coyotes did not prevent Ruiz Estaban from doing his job. He had stationed four men on the roof of Crown Towers with Stinger missiles, one other operating what could only be described as a miniature airborne early warning system. In addition, four snipers with Barrett .50 calibre rifles bolstered the defences.

Ruiz and his men patrolled the rest of the casino hotel’s upper floor which Prince Azwari had retained for the duration of his visit: one night. The cartel’s chief enforcer had armed each man with military grade assault rifles and carbines. Five patrols, each on rotating watches of no more than thirty minutes at a time to ensure that they stayed alert. There was even a pair of guards outside the suite; one carrying a belt fed, heavy machine gun and the other had a street sweeper, which is a nickname given to an automatic shotgun illegal in most countries including this one.       

 Something heavy fell against a wall in the corridor outside and the silenced MP10 was instantly in Ruiz’s hand. His other hand was at the earpiece, ‘All stations check in, now!’

‘Roof team: clear’ came the reply.

‘Alpha team: clear’

‘Burrito team: clear’ that Pablo was a real joker.

‘Charlie team: clear’

‘Corridor team: clear’

Delta and Echo teams were on their break.

‘All stations: clear’ Ruiz confirmed into his radio. Something still didn’t feel right. He moved across the empty junior suite and opened the door into the carpeted hallway outside. Looking right down the corridor, he could see the two guards on either side of the double door entrance to the prince’s quarters. Turning left, none of the other two man patrols were visible either at the lift well or the crosswalk in front of him.

Ruiz came out of the room and moved left down the corridor away from the presidential suite toward the elevators. Charlie team should be just around the corner as soon as he reached the cross walk at the far end. As an afterthought, the enforcer decided to perform another radio check on the way.

‘Roof team: clear’

‘Alpha team: clear, Burrito team: clear, Charlie team: clear’ What the hell...?

The responses from the three roving patrols came in over the radio as expected only Ruiz also heard the voices echoing together from behind the door to his right. It sounded as if they were all inside the suite instead of guarding the hallways as they should be. Either they were goofing off or something was very wrong.

Ruiz raised his submachine gun, holding the folded stock next to his cheek while he turned the door handle with his free hand. He moved into the room low and fast with his weapon up and ready but nothing happened. The lights were out inside the suite with the only illumination coming from the city outside the large open windows. This close to Christmas, the multicoloured decorations shining into the hotel room reflected off the tables, chairs and bodies with eerie effect.

Ruiz’s men, including Delta and Echo teams were seated, upright and motionless on the couches and chairs arranged around the suite. Their eyes were open, staring straight ahead, their faces locked in an expression of abject terror that the cartel enforcer had never seen on anyone, even his victims. He found Pablo on an armchair closest to the bedroom. Something was buried in his left eye socket. It looked like a...candy cane.

‘Burrrreeetooo Teeem....’

Pablo’s voice, deep and distorted caused him to spin around, the MP10’s laser sight played across every darkened corner of the room but there was nothing to kill. He was alone with the dead.

Then he looked down and found the source of the voice. Three toys arranged back to back on the floor in the centre of the room. A teddy bear, a wooden soldier and a delicately crafted doll. Each one had a coyote’s radio secured to its chest with a ribbon and bow.

Ruiz clicked the button on his earpiece, ‘All stations check.’

‘Roof team: clear’ came the reply.

‘Alpha team: clear’ the toy soldier’s lights blinked.

‘Burrito team: clear’ said the teddy bear, it mouth flapping open and shut.

‘Charlie team: clear’ the doll’s hands moved up and down.

‘HO...HO...HO...!’ the laugh was deep bass and completely devoid of warmth. It was also everywhere; inside the room and outside in the corridor.

‘Aaeee! Diablo!’ the belt fed heavy machine gun opened up and turned the corridor all the way to the elevator banks into Swiss cheese. Bullets tore through walls and furniture alike. That was before the auto shotgun added its voice to the chaotic thunder outside the Crown Prince’s suite.

At the end of the hall, Ruiz dove for cover as Pablo’s corpse was riddled and everything exploded around him. The hapless Columbian enforcer could only lay flat on the carpet as fire and noise rolled through the room turning it inside out.

The two cartel sentries outside the double doors of the presidential suite where still firing when three small objects flew out of the smoke filled hall bouncing of the wall behind them and rolling to a halt at their feet. The enforcer with the machine gun looked down at one of the objects and found himself staring at a Christmas tree bauble. The sphere was shiny and red with the words: ‘Merry Christmas’ etched in white crystalline filigree across the circumference. He missed the arming pin and spoon lying nearby. When the hi- explosive charge within the festively decorated grenades exploded three seconds later, the two sentries were vaporized while the heavy mahogany double doors and a good portion of the surrounding wall were simply blown to smithereens.

Those personal body guards on the other side of the large hole that used to be the entrance to the penthouse could only watch in shocked amazement as a large hulking figure emerged from the smoky haze. He was covered from head to toe in vines, branches and leaves while the surfaces seemed to flow and blend with the surroundings. Faizal Azwari’s elite guard could not seem to look at the lumbering apparition without feeling the beginnings of a migraine behind the eyes. What was stranger still was that despite the camouflaging intent, an assortment of Christmas decorations hung from every branch and blinking multicoloured lights adorned the suit, completely defeating its original purpose. A large pointy red hat with a fur lined brim and a puffy white ball on top finished off the whole picture. After all, no matter the nature of the visitation, Santa always liked people to know who had been in their house.

‘HO...HO...HO...!’

Frozen in absolute disbelief, the crown prince’s bodyguards were shocked into action only when they saw the figure produce an M134 minigun from within the folds of the festive Ghillie suite. The six barrels of the hand held rotary cannon spun up with a high pitched whine just as the first bodyguard reached Father Christmas who simply swept his weapon into the attacker’s gut sending him flying across the room, through the heavy double paned windows and into the air a hundred and forty five meters above Crown Promenade. A few seconds later, an elderly couple having an intimate dinner at one of the many restaurants below would receive a nasty entree they did not order.

Meanwhile, in the penthouse, a large blossom of flame exploded from the muzzle of the spinning minigun spraying three thousand rounds per minute into the room. Every fifth round was a tracer that resembled a laser cutting a swathe through the building and across Melbourne’s night sky. Glass, concrete and the occasional dismembered bodyguard rained from the top of Crown Towers in the wake of the ballistic stream.

Ruiz Estaban was bleeding from a dozen cuts and flesh wounds when he crawled out of the junior suite down the hall. None of his injuries were particularly deep or life threatening and he still had his sub-machinegun which he held close to his cheek as he frog walked towards the gaping hole at the end of the corridor. There was a loud mechanical roar and a flashing strobe that obscured what was happening inside the crown prince’s suite. Ruiz had no idea who or what had attacked them and he was fairly certain that Azwari was probably dead. That being said, el jefe’s expectation would now be that the perpetrators receive payback at his enforcer’s hands. He got to the left hand side of the gaping hole in the wall and leaned in to take a peak. The roaring had stopped and there was now only the sound of crackling flames. Standing in the middle of the room was what could only be described as a giant droopy Christmas tree. Ruiz blinked to clear the dust from his eyes. The tree moved. It dropped a smoking minigun from its hands, unsheathed a large, gleaming scimitar and moved toward the bedroom doors at the far end of the suite.

It took a second but the cartel enforcer now realized that the tree was actually a large man in a ghillie suit...a very strange ghillie suit. The man had his back to the opening and that was all the advantage Ruiz needed to move into the room with his MP10 up and aimed at a point three inches below the ridiculous red hat. One round to the base of the skull and its ragdoll city, baby.

In Eureka Tower, approximately nine hundred meters east, on a mid-level floor at an elevation of one hundred and fifty meters above the street, Bob the Christmas Elf was staring at Ruiz Estaban through the Leupold Mark 4 sniper scope. Reaching out with his left hand, he adjusted the mildot sights so that he could zero in on the enforcer’s head then smoothly and with economy of motion, he resumed his prone position on the bare concrete floor. Bob took in a full breath then let it out halfway and held. The right index finger squeezed to three pounds of pressure before the hammer snapped into the chambered round.

Ruiz was too busy concentrating on the back of his target’s head at the end of his iron sights to see the muzzle flash from one of the higher floors in the neighbouring tower. The fifty calibre MOAB projectile would travel 900 meters in two seconds and not even slow down as it passed through the Colombian’s brain detonating his head like a grenade in a watermelon.

It would have done all that if Santa had not spun around, his hand shooting outwards and catching the supersonic round half an inch from Ruiz Estaban’s left cheekbone just below the eye. The enforcer felt the radiant heat from the bullet and a moment later heard the thunderous report echo in the wind outside.

He hardly noticed the submachine gun had fallen from his fingers while he stared like a deer caught in headlights at the towering giant in the decorated ghillie suit who had just saved his life. The stranger drew close causing Ruiz to fall back on his butt. Underneath the hood, he could just make out a big bushy beard the same camouflage pattern as the rest of the ghillie...but the eyes. The eyes were...jolly?

The Colombian felt reality drop out from under him. This could not be him...

‘Ruiz Immanuel Estaban’ the giant’s voice rumbled, ‘For the sins you have committed, you have surely earned your place near the top of the Naughty List.’

His breath smelled like cinnamon, sugar and cherries.

‘You would have died here if not for someone who prays for you day and night. Someone who is at the very top of my Nice List’ the jolly eyes flashed, ‘Go home, Ruiz...and call your mother.’

Santa Klaus turned and walked toward Prince Faizal Al Azwari’s bedroom. He didn’t look back, he didn’t need to see Ruiz Estaban scramble to his feet and run toward the stairwell with hysteria hot on his heels.

Instead, Saint Nick turned the handles and flung open the double doors with just a little more theatre than was necessary. The bedroom, as you would expect from a six star hotel, was palatial. The mattress, with its silk sheets was far too large for any one person, nevertheless, the scrawny, half naked North African prince, cowering in the corner, apparently disagreed.

Faizal Azwari held the silver suitcase nuke to his chest like a shield, ‘I can pay you! I can pay you more money than God!’

To which Santa responded, ‘HO...HO...HO...!’

No one prayed for this one.

***

Father Christmas flipped the switches to spin up the sleigh’s engines. Prancer, Dancer, Donner, Blitzen rumbled to life as their scramjet blades sucked the summer air through the intakes. While Dasher, Vixen, Commet and Cupid began to generate the anti-gravity field, Rudolph: the radar, communications and ECM stealth systems came online.

Once he had what he came for, Santa quickly shovelled any stray toys or evidence into his bag. The ordinance and explosives he’d used could not be traced but he took great care to police up the shell casings while reminding Bob in the Eureka Tower to do the same. The bodies would stay where they were, the ones on the roof and in the luxury suites below. The sleigh lifted smoothly off the Crown Towers and melted into the surroundings just as the Victoria Police helicopters arrived.

‘That was a nice shot you took, Bob’ said Nicholas as the elf climbed up the rappel line into the sleigh with the sniper rifle strapped to his back.

‘Thank-you...sir’ he replied smiling from pointy ear to pointy ear, ‘That was a very impressive catch.’

The smile melted away and a look came over the elf’s features, ‘We put a lot of bad men into the ground today. If you don’t mind my asking, sir; why save that one?’

‘I take orders just like you do, Bob. And I don’t mean Mrs. Klaus,’ Santa activated Rudolph’s autopilot routine then took out his cell phone. Punching in the numbers he waited for a voice on the other end.

‘This is Saint Nick. Go secure’ there was a click beep, ‘Hello George. Season’s greetings...yes, it is done. I’ll have the suitcase delivered, gift wrapped and under your tree by Christmas morning. You know my policy. No peeking.’

The General’s voice was muted but Nicholas heard the question loud and clear. He reached into his bag and pulled out a zip-lock satchel containing something approximately the size of a large dark haired coconut partially immersed in crimson liquid.

‘The prince?’ said Santa examining the satchel, ‘Yes. What do you want me to do with him?’

He snorted and laughed when he heard the reply, ‘I’ll take care of it.’

After hanging up the phone, Nicholas reached again into his parcel bag and pulled out a shiny new box. It was decorated with small reindeer interspersed with Christmas trees and stars. While Bob held the empty box out, Santa poured the contents of the satchel in and hermetically sealed the container. He then placed an ornate bow around the gift and attached a card on top.

As he wrote the words down, Father Christmas couldn’t stop smiling.

***

Washington DC – Christmas Eve

Of all the tasks that Secretary of State Deveraux needed to take care of before the Christmas Party on the Whitehouse lawn, this one was the least arduous. Clipboard in hand, she checked off the list of invited guests against the number of Christmas presents under the tree.

It especially wouldn’t do for the Iraqi Ambassador or any of his entourage to receive a Christmas Ham from the President, now would it?

She walked between the rows of a thousand gifts arranged on the floor of the Blue Room so that she could easily access each one, or rather, her assistant could while she checked off her list.

‘Have you seen the one for King Mahmoud Azwari?’ asked Deveraux.

The assistant picked up a medium sized square box. It looked quite average; designs of Christmas trees interspersed with stars and small reindeer all tied of with an ornate bow.

SecState squinted at her clipboard, ‘Doesn’t say what’s in it. Just listed as Special Order of the President.’

 The assistant put it to her ear and shook it, ‘Pudding. Feels like pudding.’

‘Look, there’s a card’ said Deveraux pointing to the side of the parcel, ‘What’s it say?’

‘It’s handwritten:

To My Friend

King Mahmoud Bin Azwari

Peace on Earth

And Goodwill to all Men

Merry X-Mas to You and Your Family

From

The President of the United States

 

There’s the Presidential Seal and his signature, Ma’am. I think this one’s personal and we shouldn’t open it.’

The Secretary of State chewed on her bottom lip and hesitated for only a moment, ‘Alright, let’s move on.’

As she walked away, Deveraux was struck by a sudden odour from the President’s gift to the King of Marabeau. It smelled like...cinnamon, sugar and cherries.

The End