"I know it's Christmas Eve!" Cynthia Reed shouted into the phone. "But that order isn't finished. If they want to be with their kids tell them to get off their lazy asses and finish their work!"
The reply on the other end of the line was the expected complaint of understaffed, overworked and underpaid. "Harold, I swear, if you don't hang up that phone and solve this, yours will be the first ass I fire tonight! I'm still here and you don't hear me complaining! Tell those ingrates that! They should be happy for the chance to make double time pay."
That is a pathetic, useless waste of a man. The processing plant manager thought, leaning back in her office chair. Short, dumpy, balding and no backbone.
She pushed her chair back, swiveling in the seat to look out her window, far removed from the plant for which she makes so many decisions. Ten stories down, a heavy blanket of snow covered the ground. Cynthia looked at the people below her; on the move making their final preparations before their Christmas celebrations. She could be out there, trudging through the snow on a quest to find that last gift, but she thought the whole thing foolish.
And it has nothing to do with me not having anyone to shop for. She added firming her resolve. Cynthia pushed herself up from her chair stretching every inch of her long, lean 5'11" frame. The three inch heels she wore had her looking down on most men. She was very grateful for her Norwegian heritage and loved the fact that it came with a hint of Irish providing the bright red highlights to her shoulder length blond hair, and the fire which elevated Cynthia to her current position.
Crossing the room, she picked up a package that had been sitting on a small table she used for private meetings. She'd been expecting this for a while, but felt no urge to open it. Now, she'd like to know what it held. Opening the package she smiled, flashing flawless pearly white teeth. She'd used that smile to lure many men into making deals with her. But now it was genuine. That short, dumpy, balding weakling she was just on the phone with was trying again. Harold would never learn.
This year it was a champagne flute with the same note attached as the last three years "I have its match, let's have a drink together some time." Cynthia held the flute by its base and lightly thumped it with her fingernail.
Hmmmmmmmmm the vessel sang proving for the fourth Christmas straight, Harold bought her crystal. Cynthia placed the flute in a cabinet along with the crystal red wine goblet, white wine goblet, and brandy snifter. The cabinet also contained the set of shot glasses he bought her to congratulate Cynthia on her promotion.
It was a strange gift for two reasons. One, because she was his competition. Her getting the job meant he didn't. There was also the note attached, "I know you're barely old enough to drink, but here. Enjoy them, you've earned them." She was 29 at the time. Harold was only eight years older than she was, but sometimes he did tend to treat her a bit like a child; despite her being his boss. She tried to return the gift, telling him she didn't have any drinking friends. That year, the wine goblet arrived.
Cynthia closed the cabinet still smiling. The man was persistent; at least when it came to drinking. If he'd shown this kind of tenacity in his professional life she'd be working for him. She wondered what kind of boss he'd be like. She'd seen him looking at her. Would he make her spend long nights alone in his office...
"God what is wrong with me?" she asked aloud. This was Harold after all. But when she thought about it more, if Harold was aggressive enough to get promoted he'd surely be a better dresser. He'd take care of himself, be more fit. Cynthia adjusted the image in her mind to a clean cut maintained Harold, twenty pounds lighter and toned. The image was not at all unappealing. Plus Harold was smart, actually brilliant. That kind of intelligence in a position of power would be very sexy.
She let her mind wander again. What would this powerful, intelligent, fit, virile Harold make her do to earn her place in the company? She imagined him calling her into his office, this office, sitting her down and detailing his plans for the plant. She could see him pacing back and forth as he walked behind her, always keeping himself just out of her line of sight. Then, maybe he would see she was tense and offer her a shoulder massage; highly inappropriate, but he was the boss. Would he look over her shoulders and down her blouse? Of course he would. And when she was finally relaxed he would walk around and finally let her see him again. But the first thing she would notice is the bulge in his pants. Oh and now I'm nervous again! She would try to turn away, but Harold would keep moving always keeping his barely concealed arousal in sight. Finally he would walk up in front of her, his hardness right before her eyes; hidden only by two layers of cotton and a zipper. He would slowly rub his index finger along her upper lip and tell her he had a project... beep beep beepbeep beep beep
"What?" Cynthia shouted as she pressed the button on her phone's intercom.
Madeline, her secretary, was slow to answer, "Um, Ms. Reed, Mr. Bates is on line one again."
"Fuck." Cynthia whispered under her breath. Then to Madeline, "Put him through." When she heard the click she spoke first. "What is it Harold?"
"Just thought you'd like to know we got the New Years shipment complete. Pulled the cafeteria staff and the janitors in to speed things up. I promised them a bonus for their help."
"A bonus? They're already getting double time!" The tall blond had to take a deep breath to calm herself. She was more upset at having her fantasy interrupted than at the promised bonus. "Fine. Give them a twenty dollar gift certificate to our plant store."
"Twenty bucks?" The plant supervisor replied, anger evident in his voice, "These folks were doing someone else's job Cindy, they deserve more than twenty lousy dollars."
"How many people did you pull in?" Cynthia asked dispassionately. Harold had that edge to his voice that made him sound like he was talking to a child. She decided to show him exactly who was in charge here.
"Uh, twenty, actually." He answered a bit of humor returning.
"OK you decide Harold." She answered smiling. "We can give them the twenty dollar gift certificates, OR we can split your bonus among them. Send me your decision and I'll sign off on it." The manager looked up at her clock and quickly added. "Oh look at that, it's almost seven. Gotta go Harold. Bye, bye." Before the supervisor could protest she cut the line.
That made Cynthia feel much better. And now that she was in a good mood, she was ready to go home. As she was donning her scarf, the intercom rang again.
Cynthia strolled back to her desk and gently pressed the button this time. "Yes Madeline I realize it's seven. You can go home now."
The secretary's response was not at all expected, "Ms. Reed there's someone here to see you."
Before the manager could inform her secretary she had no appointments and was done for the day, her office door opened. And in walked a nightmare and a dream all rolled into one.
He stood well over six feet tall and had the build of your more fit construction workers; broad shoulders, wide back and thick arms. It wasn't a gym build though; this muscle wasn't just for display. Despite it being winter he had a natural tan. None of the orange-brown from spray-ons, or the dim, dull lifeless brown of a quick fry; no he was sun bronzed, vibrant, alive and nearly shining. He was the epitome of the word silvermane. His long straight locks reflected the light as though it was spun from the precious metal.
A hard mouth with lips just a bit on the thin side hovered above his firm masculine chin. His strong straight nose lead to piercing eyes of a gray so pale it seemed as though his gaze was made of smoke and fog.
That image alone was alluring, but what made him fearsome was the skin tight red leather he wore. Top and bottom were all one piece, a single zipper over the left pectoral came halfway down the torso. The outfit was obviously custom made; it hugged his contours like a second skin. Two black leather straps were cinched around each bulging bicep; three more were wrapped around his left forearm. A similar, but thicker, band was tied around his right thigh. Tight black gloves and black leather boots offset the red even more. Cynthia couldn't help but smile at the red leather Santa cap with a black iron bell at the top that completed the outfit.
Whoever sent him had interesting tastes. Cynthia decided to delay her departure and enjoy this gift a bit. "You're a little – mature to be doing stripper-grams aren't you?" she teased. Better to take the power position now and let him know she was running his show.
"You've been naughty Cynthia." Was all he said, but in those four words was power and knowledge of ages untold. Cynthia's jaw dropped, her eyes grew wide, and she suddenly felt small in front of this mysterious man.
Seeking to regain her power position she mocked him. "If I've been naughty, why are you the one in the gimp suit?"
The leather clad man took three steps so agonizingly slow they seemed to meld into one another. It was as though both feet dragged across the floor. Then in a flash, he was there less than an inch away from her. "You speak on things you have no understanding of child."
Cynthia felt she was being challenged and never one to back away from a challenge replied, "Perhaps. But I do know one thing; Santa doesn't visit the naughty kids."
There was a brief flash of anger in the man's eyes, quickly covered by an amused and twisted grin. "Wrong Santa." He answered, and the plant manager realized she might be flirting with a mad man.
Cynthia dared to blink and suddenly the leather clad Santa was back across the room again, "But I understand your mistake. No one remembers me. After all, who would you rather talk about? The jolly, happy guy who brings you toys and only asks for cookies in return; or the guy who leaves you lumps of coal, or worse, to let the world know what a little brat you've been."
"The guy who brings me toys I guess." Cynthia replied edging around the desk to put some distance between herself and this man. "But I've never heard of Santa leaving anything worse than coal." Then pressing the button on her intercom said, "Madeline, call extension 512." The number for security.
"Right away Ms. Reed." the secretary answered as though everything was fine. Good girl. Cynthia thought. I may have to give her a raise.
"Of course not." The stranger said sitting down in one of her chairs. "Who would brag about the pile of intestines they found under their tree? Or the box of maggots and flies they opened Christmas morning? I remember one nasty little cuss who developed a habit of defiling young girls with a spinning top my brother had given him some years earlier..."
"Your brother?" Cynthia interrupted; intrigued, but also trying to introduce as many topics as possible to keep the man talking until security arrived.
"Yes, Klaas." Seeing Cynthia's confused expression the man smiled and stood, "Where are my manners? I am Koert. Santa Koert. It was my job to punish naughty children. My brother, twin brother in fact, though you wouldn't know from the looks of us, is Santa Klaas; Or Clause at you people are wont to call him."
Cynthia couldn't help but laugh. "You're Santa's brother?"
"I'm Klaas' brother; yes." the man corrected, seating himself again.
"The real Santa?" Cynthia asked making quotation marks with her fingers.
"Ah yes." The man calling himself Koert replied, "You no longer believe. You have no idea how much it pained my brother to learn he'd become a child's story to be tossed aside at a certain age. But he still tried to do right by you; he still tried to do his duty." Koert turned his nightmare gaze directly onto Cynthia, "Until you people started doing it for him."
In one magically fluid motion the fierce tower rose from his seat, "It was all he had actually. Once a year he would ride out and deliver gifts to all the deserving children. Trains and dolls were his specialty. Those were always made by his hand. The elves would handle the rest of the load." Koert began idly fingering different items as he slowly made his way through the office, "But that all changed as this world became what it is now; this corporate monstrosity that gives gifts to children whether they are deserving of them or not. For the first time in ages Klaas found himself without a purpose. Now he sits in that magnificent home of his in the North, forlorn and wishing for the days of old."
"I, however, am of a different mind. If I can't punish the children for their bad behavior I can chastise adults for their wickedness. Which brings me back to you."
Seeing her distraction had come to an end Cynthia once again punched the intercom button. "Madeline, were you able to get through to extension 512?" she asked controlling an unexpected rise in her voice.
"Oh sorry Ms. Reed," the secretary responded sounding like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, "I got a little distracted."
Distracted? Cynthia thought amazed. I call for armed security and she gets distracted? To Madeline she curtly replied, "Don't let it happen again."
"She won't call them you know." Koert volunteered picking up a glass miniature of a wolf in mid stride, "She's in a trance."
"You know; a trance, a hypnotic state; the lights are on ... you get my meaning." The strange Santa placed the wolf figure back on the table, this time placing the wolf behind a glass doe; creating the appearance the wolf was running down its prey.
While this Santa was busy with the wolf Cynthia pressed the button on her phone for security. She wasn't sure what Madeline was thinking but she would be fired once this was over.
"Oh, we can't have that now." Koert spoke suddenly, turning his attention back to the manager. "Firing poor Madeline for something beyond her control. That's another naughty mark for you Cindy." Cynthia cringed at the name. Her father used to call her Cindy and she hated the man. "And calling security wasn't very nice either."
As he spoke the words the door to Cynthia's office burst open and in rushed three tough looking security guards. Behind them stood Madeline looking terrified, "I told them you were in a meeting, but they refused to wait!"
The smallest of the security guards, a handsome Latina, stepped forward. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, her features sharp, hinting at a well developed musculature underneath her unflattering security uniform."Something wrong Ms. Reed?"
"Yes." the plant manager answered sounding much relieved, "This crazy man refuses to leave my office. And worse, I'm starting to think he's drugged Madeline."
With a flick of her wrist the Latina extended a hidden baton. A second security guard, a tall blond male, followed her example. The third, however, looked on confused as though afraid to take action. "All right buddy, time to move on." The tiny woman ordered matter of factly.
Koert turned his cold gray eyes toward her, "A bit of a fall from grace isn't it Marianna?"
"How... ?" the security guard asked looking down at her nametag which clearly read Cristobal. "Who the fuck are you!" she asked loudly plucking up her courage.
The leather clad stranger continued on as though he hadn't been interrupted, "After all, the shock baton was so much more impressive. But then you got a little carried away and got banned from the prison system. A man's testicles just weren't made to take that much electricity." Koert's attention moved on to the other guard wielding a baton. "And you Danny, 'Assault with a friendly weapon' I believe you called it. If your fellow officers hadn't intimidated the witnesses your ass would be putting in more overtime than Cindy's plant workers. Trust me, solitary only offers so much protection."
"Shut up you son of a bitch!" Daniel Nielsen screamed; Koert's words striking too close to his greatest fear. Raising his baton the guard rushed the red leathered menace. Ms. Cristobal followed suit with an angry cry of her own.
Koert did nothing as they closed the small distance between him and them; or as the guards' batons came crashing toward his skull. Both guards wore grim smiles eagerly awaiting the feel of this stranger's head cracking beneath their blows. Those smiles turned to stunned silence as their blows fell and their batons shattered. The guards looked at their hands and at their partner's. Each now contained the broken end of a red and white striped candy cane.
Ms. Cristobal was the first to recover pulling and uncapping her pepper spray/mace. Without hesitation she pressed the trigger only to cry in frustration as pink silly string shot from its end. Instead of covering her target the string dropped to the floor and snaked around her ankles tying her feet together. Mr. Nielsen proved himself dimwitted as he followed the Latina's example to the same result. Having failed to learn his lesson the guard continued to press the trigger until he and his partner were thoroughly trussed. Marianna Cristobal struggle with her bonds which secured her hands and ankles to the floor. Danny Nielsen twisted and jerked and fumed trying to break his trappings which left him hung in the air as though on a hammock; strings around his ankles and under his shoulders secured to the ceiling. Koert smiled. He hadn't come here to punish these two, but the fools made it so easy.
The red clad menace took off his leather cap, holding it just under the bell at its top. Ting, ting, ting The bell chimed from the slight jerk of Koert's hand. Three small, multicolored figurines fell from the hat onto the cheap carpet of the office. Ting, ting, ting The bells chimed again, followed by three orange figures falling to the floor.