“Ho, ho, hooo”, Santa bellowed in the elf’s ear. The small boy looked up pleadingly at the man in the fluffy green outfit. Oversized pointed shoes, a big black belt and a red hat with bells that rang happily every time the elf moved his head ever so slightly, completed the suit. The elf cracked a smile when he saw the child’s angel face. “Mooom”, the kid screamed, “it’s marzipan. I hate marzipan. I want something el…” The boy froze and took a step back towards his mother when he saw the elf’s face turn into a thunderstorm.
Santa mumbled through his beard, “come on Blaine, be cheerful and give that kid his candy.” The private detective pushed the marzipan bear in the crying kid’s face and sighed. He looked up at the ruins of the Gedächtniskirche, as if trying to find support from the old building which had stood through bombings and a modern-day rebuilding of Berlin.
‘Have yourself a merry, merry Christmas’ drifted through a few small loudspeakers above the Christmas stalls around them and mingled with the sounds of the crowd which made its way through the small alleys. Even though melting snow had kept no uncovered spot dry, plenty of people had shown up for some Friday evening Christmas shopping. A series of small lights hung above the alley, as a floating red carpet, guiding the people from stall to stall. The light reflected on the wet tiles and moved seamlessly into the blue stained glass of the new church next to the ruins of the old one. With its glimmering walls, it seemed as if the modern church was built specifically to suit the yearly Christmas market. Standing out from the crowd, a man in a reindeer suit was hobbling through the street, waving frantically to any kid he passed and taking every opportunity to pose for pictures.
Blaine the elf is coming to town
“Hi, Mr. Elf, can we have a picture with you?”, three giggling girls woke him out his daydream. Blaine grunted and posed for what must have been his fiftieth picture of the day. From the corner of his eye, he saw Santa grinning. “Watch it”, the chubby man announced, “your boss is coming”. Blaine felt a soft tap on his shoulder. A small, neatly dressed man, not older than twenty-five announced himself. His freshly shaven and oiled chin gleamed in the Christmas lights. It always surprised Blaine how a small man like that still seemed to be so efficient in looking down on him. “My employer is not happy”, he began, carefully avoiding to mention the name of his boss in public, “it has been two weeks now and you still don’t seem to be any closer to finding the person blackmailing him. Not only that but you do not report to us on a regular basis. We’re beginning to think your reputation as a private eye seems to be overrated.” He smirked and wobbled on the balls of his feet, extending himself every time his weight moved to his toes. Blaine let an awkward silence temper the man’s arrogance and shrugged. “Tell your ‘employer’ that if he wants to find the person who stole his phone and blackmails him with pictures of him and his mistress he will have to be patient. And if he wants to find another one for the job… Fine by me. Try to find another ass who’ll put on this suit. If you’ll excuse me now, there are kids who want their candy.” He turned his back towards the small man and continued gazing at the crowd.
Last Christmas, I gave you my phone
Two weeks of undercover work as an elf had delivered nothing but a hefty cold, a love/hate feeling for little kids and marzipan.
It was true though. His investigation was nowhere. For two years now, there had been reports about cell phones being stolen on the Christmas market at the Memorial Church but two weeks of undercover work as an elf had delivered nothing but a hefty cold, a love/hate feeling for little kids and marzipan and many, many arguments with Santa who seemed to be jolly towards everyone, except for Blaine.
He scanned the crowd while mindlessly passing marzipan to whichever grabby hand came within his reach. It was a mixture of young and old which visited the market. A family of four walked past him. The children, well covered with a thick jacket, hat and scarf, goggled at all the food available in the food stands and pointed a gloved hand to whatever they found looked best. A couple strolled, hand in hand, past the many stalls selling trinkets, paper stars, and statuettes. His grey beard and her hunched over posture betrayed their age.
At the other side, the voices of a group of people rose above the Christmas music, temporarily alleviating Blaine’s tortured ears from hearing Wham’s classic for the umpteenth time. A table full of empty Glühwein and Feuersangbowle mugs functioned as their trophy for two hours of drinking. “Hiii”, babbled one of them to the reindeer man, “can we have a picture with you?” Without waiting for a response the man grabbed the reindeer by his shoulder and posed for his buddy, holding a camera. Ten awkward seconds later his friend burst out in laughter, confessing he had been filming the entire time. The drunkard thanked the reindeer by slapping him so hard on the back the reindeer head flew up. Blaine nudged Santa, “I feel his pain”. “Hey buddy”, Blaine’s Christmas boss hollered to the poor reindeer, “get your own spot, this one’s ours” and continued in one breath to his audience; “Ho, ho, hooo and a merry Christmas to you all.”
Please don’t let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
Three hours later, Blaine had lost feeling in his fingers and even doubted he still had any toes left. The sun had set and the night had thrown a shroud of ice-cold darkness over the Christmas market where many people still enjoyed the Christmas magic. Santa threw a glance at Blaine’s candy bag. “Only a few more left. 15 minutes and we’re done here. That was another successful day for you Blaine”, he chuckled, “if ever you give up the detective business, there’s always a nice career for you as my elf. It seems you’re better at that than finding bad guys”. “Hey, you again”, he shouted before Blaine could come up with a good comeback, “get out of here.” The reindeer rushed past them, ignoring the glaring Santa and rubbing his side which seemed to light up from under his costume. “I’ll teach him”, Santa mumbled and grabbed a piece of marzipan from Blaine’s bag. “I don’t know”, cried a panic-stricken girl holding a cell phone to her ear. She must have been in her early twenties and was fashionably dressed. Her beautifully braided hair and clothes were in stark contrast to her face which was plastered with tears and smudged mascara. “Search, damned”, she snarled at the guy next to her, “I keep on calling it”. It was only when the second marzipan polar bear flew through the sky and the reindeer had gone over to a gallop that Blaine put two and two together. He stared at Santa. “It’s him, it’s the fucking reindeer!”.
Jingle Bells Chase
His bells jingled and tingled while he darted left and right through the crowd, trying desperately to gain on his target.
He didn’t wait for a reply and bolted after the reindeer who already had a head start. The deer seemed to know it was not just marzipan ice-bears chasing him and rammed his way through the crowd. Blaine did not have antlers to help him in his chase. His bells jingled and tingled while he darted left and right through the crowd, trying desperately to gain on his target. Meanwhile, a rain of marzipan bears flew over their heads, smashing on stalls, floor, and heads. “Stop it”, Blaine shouted to Santa and went around the corner. A plethora of unchristmassy curses burst out of his mouth when he saw the reindeer was further ahead than he thought. Slipping and sliding on his elfin shoes, Blaine hurtled through the crowd, ignoring the boiling hot glühwein a passerby spilled on his back. He grinned. At the end of the road, the Christmas market ended in a barricade put there after the terrorist attack of 2016. The reindeer slowed down… He got him!
Blaine accelerated to leave his target no time to find a way out when from the corner of his eye he saw a red blur flying over the glittering pavement. “I got him, Blaine”, he could hear someone shouting. Blaine was so close. One more second and he could grab the deer by his antlers. The red blur came into view and at the same moment the reindeer sped up and elegantly but firmly jumped over the concrete barricade, Santa and his 120 kg corpus slammed into Blaine.
All I want for Christmas is a cell phone stealing reindeer
“Er… Sorry?”, Santa Claus stammered as he tried to avoid Blaine’s death stare. “Get off me, Santa”, the detective growled. He left Mr. Claus behind and hurried back to their small stand. All was not lost. “You”, he pointed at the drunk man who, when seeing the ravaged elf with smears and cuts all over his green outfit, instantly regretted his last few glühweins, “the video you made of the reindeer… Do you still have it?”.
That evening, Blaine sat in his office, lighted only by a small desk light. Sober, with a desk, a few chairs, and a chestnut brown cabinet, it was just enough for his needs. Part of the elf costume hung out of the garbage bin next to his desk. He swirled the leftover of a Negroni cocktail in his glass, clicked away the paperwork of his case and connected his phone to the laptop. Savouring the last bit of his cocktail, he emptied his glass and took a last look at the still frame he got from the drunkard: a close up of the face under the reindeer mask. “Got you”, Blaine smiled.
Read the conclusion of this tale in our next story: ‘The Devil’s Mountain’. Will soon be published.