Comments: Just a bit of silliness.
"This has got to be the worst assignment I've ever been on," JD grumbled.
"Keep complainin' and you're gonna ruin the whole thing."
"Come on, Buck, I'm cold. No, I'm freezing to death. We've been out here all night and it's damn near morning. Do you really think he's still going to show?"
"He'll be here. He does this every year and this year, we're gonna catch him in the act."
"We're both going to catch pneumonia, that's what we're going to catch."
"Would you be quiet, kid? If he hears us he'll just pass on by and I'll have to wait another year for a shot at him."
"Just don't invite me along next time."
"Fine. But be quiet."
A half-hour later
"You hear that, kid?"
"All I hear is my teeth chattering."
"Can't you hear those bells?"
"Bells? Buck, the cold's seeped into your head. Froze your brain cells . . . the ones you have left."
"You're real funny, kid. I'm telling you, I hear bells. Listen."
"Buck, I I'll be damned. I'm starting to hear bells, too. Oh, man, maybe we've both frozen to death and"
"Hey, that sounds like a horse?"
"Horses don't fly, JD. And it'd have to in order to get up here."
"Well, it sounds like some kind of an animal to m What was that?"
"Come on, let's crawl over there and see what he's doing. He must be breakin' in. I'm gonna get 'im this time "
A few minutes later
"What's he doing, Buck?"
"Looks like he's trying to shove that bag through the air conditioning vent."
"What are we going to do?"
"We wait until he's inside, then we bust 'im for breaking and entering."
"Hey, there he goes. He's in. Looks like a B&E to me."
"Come on, kid, I want to see if we can watch him from the vent "
"Nothin'. He's over by the Christmas tree display. I can't see a damn thing."
"Huh, Buck, I can't feel my feet any more. We can't get frostbite out here, can we?"
"Here he comes."
"We'll grab him when he comes out. You ready?"
"I don't know. I can't feel my fingers either. I don't know if I can hold my gun."
"Federal Agents! Freeze! I'll cover him, you cuff him."
"Hold it right there, Mister. Don't move. Hey, that's a nice red suit you have there Here, I'll take that bag"
"What the hell was that?"
"I told you I heard an animal up here, Buck. Okay, where is it, Mister?"
"You heard him, call your dog or whatever to come out here."
"Rudolph, come here, boy. It's okay. These nice federal agents won't shoot you."
"Rudolph? Buck, did he just say Rudolph?"
"Very funny, Mister. Call him again."
"Rudolph, get out here, right now. These men mean business."
"Damn right we do."
"You tell him, Buck. We've been here all night waiting for you, freezing our"
"Rudolph! They're getting impatient, boy. Come on."
"I I don't believe it. No. Absolutely not. Buck, you want to explain that?"
"Not particularly. Where'd you find that thing, Mister?"
"Little place up north. Best second-story partner I've ever had."
"Buck, you gonna cuff that thing, or should I?"
"You go right ahead, kid. I'll cover you."
"You're a real friend, Buck, you know that?"
"Just get the cuffs on them so we can call the local PD to come pick 'em up."
"Okay, okay, give me a minute."
"You boys are going to spoil Christmas for some kids, doing this."
"You hear that, Buck?"
"I still have a few more stops to make before dawn."
"Not this year, you don't. JD, you finished?"
"Yeah, I'm done, but I'm not looking forward to explaining this to Chris."
Later that morning, back at the ATF office
"You know, I didn't believe him, but he was right, Buck. There are seven more kids on this list he was carrying."
"Yeah, I know. And I feel bad about it, but what he was doing was illegal."
"Technically, maybe, but it's for a good cause."
"That doesn't make it right, JD."
"What are we gonna do, Buck?"
"Those kids. We can't ruin their Christmas like this."
"Oh, all right. We'll go pick up a few things and drop them off. Satisfied?"
"Buck, JD, I'm glad I caught you."
"What's up, Chris?"
"You know that guy you brought in this morning?"
"Yeah, what about him?"
"He made bail."
"Yes, that fast, JD. A friend at the DPD called me. A nice old lady came in and got him. He thinks it was his wife. He left this for you."
"Buck, you gonna read that note, or just stare at it?"
"Give a man a minute, JD Okay, it says: Dear detectives, I just wanted to tell you that there's no hard feelings. I know you have a job to do, and so do I. I won't forget you next Christmas. S."
"That is one crazy old coot."
"JD, listen to this. P.S. the remaining seven children will be taken care of, so you don't have to worry about them. Merry Christmas."
"Great! I don't know about you, Buck, but I'm going home to take a hot shower and try to get warm again."
"Wait a minute. You two forget about the get-together at my place?"
"Shit. Yeah, I did, Chris. Okay, JD and me will swing by our place, grab showers and change, and we'll meet you and the others out there."
"All right. Oh, Buck?"
"What happened to his, huh, 'partner'?"
"Oh, we called animal control to take care of him."
"The pound? Buck, That's terrible! You didn't tell me you were calling the pound!"
"Of course I did, kid, it wasn't like we could ask the DPD to take him. Now, come on, let's get a move-on or we're gonna be late."
Back at Buck and JD's Apartment
"Hey, Buck, the door's open "
"Careful, we might have visitors."
"Right What the ?"
"What is it?"
"Over there, on the coffee table. You think it's a bomb?"
"I don't hear any ticking."
"Maybe one of your lady friends dropped it by?"
"You gonna open it?"
"Uh, okay, but at the first sign of anything strange, I'm calling the bomb squad Hey, look at this!"
"What is it?"
"Chocolate chip cookies! Oh man, you've gotta try these, they're great. My mother used to make chocolate chip cookies every Christmas Wait, there's something else in here It's for you."
"That's what the tag says. Go on, kid, open it."
"Oh my God!"
"Gingerbread cookies! They're just like my mother used to make, Buck. Who? How?"
"I don't know, kid, and right now I don't think I want to know. You think maybe that guy really was"
"No. Come on, Buck, there's no such thing. It's like you said, he's just an old second-story man who's been hittin' department stores every year at Christmas for years and years and we finally nailed him. And, even if he was stealin' things for the orphans at St. Anthony's Home, it's against the law."
"But what about that"
"I don't know. He probably special ordered it from some pet store on line somewhere Canada, or maybe Siberia."
"Okay, but how'd he get it up on the roof?"
"It's small enough to carry."
"I don't know, JD "
"Well, I do."
"This is just like the cookies my mother used to make, but she's been dead for"
"And my mom's gone now, too, I know. But I'm telling you, Buck, there is no such thing as"
"You hear that?"
"Bells, kid, up on the roof."
"Bells ? Yeah, yeah, I do You don't think he's here, do you?"
"Oh, I think he was here, but we won't find him now."
"Oh please. Go get a shower, Buck. I've had enough of this. We're gonna be late as it is."
"Sure. But what?"
"Okay, kid, have it your way."
"You're welcome, but I think it was."
"I suppose you'll be telling me the tooth fairy stopped by for a cup of coffee next Mmm, these do taste just like the ones my mom used to bake at Christmas Naw, it couldn't be "
Author's Note: This story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #7, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than two years old, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Mary Fallon Zane is the primary author of this story, she had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Story lasted edited 7-24-2006. Art by Shiloh (firstname.lastname@example.org)