It was snowing again.
He sighed through clenched teeth, narrowing his eyes as he stared out the window of his forty second level office window. The Empire State Building had always given the best view of New York City in every season, but he found winter to be the most depressing one to oversee. The gray skies blanketed a city coated in thin, white layers of frost that surrounded the hundreds of thousands of little, insignificant people hustling around Midtown, Manhattan, desperately rushing through the last of the Christmas shopping that pleased the hordes of stores offering scandalous deals for limited times.
Oh, yes. Christmas.
'Guess Pam will be wanting me home early tomorrow. And probably with a present for Jax.'
He rubbed his hand across his face and spun his black leather swivel chair back to his desk, swiping a hand across the fat folder he had been given a half hour ago. Wealthy parents looking to adopt a kid five years old or younger. Money was no object. That was always nice to hear, especially considering his situation. He narrowed his eyes again, carefully studying the picture of the kid they were hoping for. A beautiful girl with round cheeks and soft blonde hair pulled into two high pigtails in mismatched hairbands. Her eyes were unbelievably round. Slowly, he nodded to himself. She looked like she might be worth fighting for, and, if these potential parents were wealthy enough, they might not even put up a fight.
He eyed the number given on the dashed line as he lifted the phone to his ear, dialing the number at the same time. Comfortably, he leaned back in his chair, listening to the monotonous buzz of the ringing on the other side.
“Hello!” Roger had always told him he had a talent for putting a smile in his voice when there was none on his face. That was why he tended to prefer dealing with people over the phone. “Have I reached Lee Ann Dwight?”
“You have. Who is this?”
“This is Frederick Gringham from Open Hearts Adoption Agency! I got your request for little Nia from the Uptown Orphanage.”
“Oh, thank God! It’s been three weeks and I was going to call you back after Christmas if I didn’t hear anything before then.”
“I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, but with the Christmas season, we’ve gotten extremely pushed back,” he replied easily, scanning his otherwise empty desk.
“Of course, that makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for contacting me.” He listened to her breathe in, her gasp shuddering with obvious excitement. “So, Mr. Gringham? How does it look? Are we able to go get her soon?”
This was where the magic happened, like clockwork. Frederick drummed his fingers on the glossy desk.
“Under ideal conditions, yes.”
“Oh no.” He felt her deflate over the telephone line. “What happened?”
“I’m afraid the birth mother has stepped forward and threatened to reclaim Nia if her conditions are not met. She’s perfectly established now and, legally, the orphanage would have to comply should she actually carry out her threat.”
There was a long pause. Frederick supposed she was crying. Hopeful mothers who saw their dreams run just a little farther away tended to do that.
“I’m...Um, what are her conditions? If it’s money, please, that’s no issue. My husband and I, we’re willing to recompense her what she wants. We just want Nia.”
Frederick nodded to himself. Perfect. “That’s very good of you, and I know that Nia will have a good home with you. Money is what the birth mother is demanding, and I’m afraid it’s no small sum.”
“What is she asking?”
“She’s demanded one hundred thousand dollars.”
He heard her gasp. “Oh! Wow. Well, I can only assume she is desperate. The poor woman. We’ll...we’ll do it. I’d like to talk to my husband when he gets home, if you don’t mind. May I call you back?”
“Of course. The office and telephone lines are open until six tonight, then three tomorrow. We’ll be closing early for Christmas Eve.”
“All right. My husband gets home around seven, so I’ll call you tomorrow. Have a merry Christmas, and thank you so much for doing this. For helping us get Nia. She’s the best Christmas present we could have hoped for.”
“It’s my pleasure. A merry Christmas to you, Mrs. Dwight.”
He hung up.
Roger poked his head through the door, grinning through his puffy brown beard and shaking a finger with a knowing chuckle.
“You, captain, are on fire.”
“Well,” Frederick groaned modestly, stretching. “I figure if they’re willing to pay it, there can be nothing wrong with it. Can you create a mother for…” He glanced down at the file again. “Nia? A desperate one?”
“Sure. Lost her job, maybe had another kid she has to support.”
“Yeah, that’s good. You are the master, after all.”
“Learned it all from you, boss.”
“Get back to work.”
“You got it, boss.”
It was pitch black when Frederick turned the key in the front door lock and shoved it open. It was dark inside. Pam would be just leaving the catering company Christmas party, and he anticipated it taking roughly half an hour for her to get home. The traffic this time of year was horrendous. He briefly wondered where Jax was. He shrugged as he dropped his briefcase on the bench by the door. The teenager was probably at his friend’s house in Uptown. He would be home before curfew.
It was actually nice to have the house to himself for a little bit.
He shrugged off his overcoat and kicked off his shoes on the way to the kitchen. There was some of the leftover chicken parmesan from the night before. The kid had better not have taken it to school for lunch.
Frederick flipped on the LED light that glowed underneath the cabinet and his heart stopped.
The man leaning against his island counter rose perfect, dark eyebrows over the edge of his large mug, the steam distorting the image of his fantastically contoured face. Frederick’s mind instantly replayed all the News channels, tv shows, and magazine covers he had seen, trying to decide whether or not this perfect face was famous or not. His ruggedly chiseled face glowed ethereally in the underglow of the white light from the cabinets, reflecting sharply off of his clear, dark blue eyes. A dark grey overcoat was layered over a pristine, black Italian suit, complete with Italian tie draped over his lean chest. He nodded to the coffee pot gurgling in the corner by the refrigerator.
“I put on enough for two. There’s plenty for you.”
Frederick finally swallowed and blinked. His skin was clammy.
A complete stranger was offering him his own coffee.
“How...how did you...get in here? The locks…”
“Are hardly sufficient for someone of my caliber.” He shrugged, splaying one hand helplessly while the other hugged his mug preciously. “I’d suggest going Homeland Laser Security; higher ratings, keypad with no lock to pick, and I know you can afford it.”
His walls went up and he straightened. This was getting sensitive.
“You broke into my home and now you’re accusing me of-”
“Whoa,” the stranger burst, waving a dismissive hand. “I haven’t accused you of anything yet, Mr. Gringham, so don’t go saying anything you’ll regret later!” He set his mug down on the granite counter top and slipped his hands in the pockets of his dark grey overcoat. He nodded to the coffeepot. “You sure you don’t want any?”
Frederick yanked his cell phone out of his pocket. “I’m calling the police.”
“Not unless you want me to interject with my immense knowledge of your history in adoption scams.”
He froze. Wow. When he had discovered the lucrative possibilities of lying twenty years ago, he had had a gut feeling that it would come back to bite him where it hurt later on. Of course, he had been young and impetuous then. Here it was.
“Put the phone on the counter.”
Slowly, Frederick complied, the soft click deafening in the sudden silence of the house. The stranger nodded.
“Good. You may be twisted, but at least you’re not stupid.” He smiled wryly, pushing himself away from the counter and turning his shoulder to Frederick, slowly swinging to pace into the other room. “There may be hope for you yet.”
Frederick clenched his jaw. His stomach was threatening to betray him, but a situation like this required him to keep his head about him. Tightening his hands into fists, he followed the stranger into the living room.
“What are you? PI? NYPD? FBI?”
“Nah, nothing quite so acclaimed as all those.” The stranger pivoted to face him, spreading his hands in the pockets of his overcoat. “Those initials are aimed at law enforcement. My…” He shrugged thoughtfully. “Well, corporation, I guess, is definitely purposed for the overall return to justice, though not in your conventional manner.”
“What in the world is all that supposed to mean?” Frederick exploded, throwing his arms open in incredulousness. “Why can’t you give me a straight answer?”
The stranger chuckled softly, shaking his head. “Because most people, especially those in your social cast, tend to completely dismiss the possibility of my existence!” He leaned a shoulder against the stucco wall of the living room, the LED lights dancing across his face in distracting shadows. His visage was set in serious lines, but his eyes danced. “What if I told you that I am an Elf?”
Frederick felt an intense deluge of relief flood through his system. So this guy was not an authority; he was just crazy. He nodded with his customary smirk.
“Ah, if you told me that, I would wonder briefly where all your cosplay is, then I would call the police to come pick up the nut they let slip through their fingers.”
He reached for his phone again. The stranger rose his eyebrows as Frederick’s finger hovered over 9.
“I won’t let Nia slip.”
Frederick released an animalistic growl, sweeping forward with clenched fists. “Okay, that’s the part I don’t get! How can you possibly know this? And how can you prove it? Who have you been talking to?”
The stranger shrugged. “I told you, I’m an Elf. I’ve got connections.”
Frederick scoffed harshly, throwing his hand wildly in emphasis. “With what, the Dwarf King of the Hobbit or something?”
“Oh!” The stranger laughed, shaking his hand dismissively. “Not that kind of Elf! Though, I can see the confusion there. I’m a Christmas Elf.” He grinned, cocking his head with a wink. “You know, ho ho, jingle kringle.”
Frederick rolled his eyes. “That would make you, what, three feet tall?”
He sighed through pursed lips, dropping his chin to his chest. “An unfortunate misconception. Most of us are quite average height. I’m no anomaly.” He rose his eyes again, his head still steeply inclined. “Unfortunately, though, neither of us have the time to discuss the biology of the inhabitants of the North Pole-”
“But your involvement in these extremely lucrative, pernicious scams bear enough gravity in the eyes of the Big Man to merit me paying you a visit.”
Frederick scoffed, rolling his eyes as he fiddled with his cell phone. His thumb was itching to dial for the police yet again.
“The Big Man? Who, Santa Claus?”
The intruder nodded matter-of-factually, spinning to pace in a slow circle around the con man.
“Yeah. I mean, he prefers going by Mister Kringle, but the kids tend to have a hard time pronouncing that, so,” He shrugged helplessly with a grin. “What can you do?” He extended his hand and Frederick glanced down at it warily. The young man nodded encouragingly. “I’m York the Christmas Elf, and Santa Claus sent me here to help you.”
And...that's it :) If I remember correctly, this was based off of a dream of regular sized Christmas elves who were more like Secret Service agents with crazy skills in everything than holly jolly sprites. As for the actual story, I haven't a plan, so if anyone sees promise in it, go for it. If not, hope you had some fun reading!