A Visit To The North Pole, short story by Tim Law at Spillwords.com
Eleatell

A Visit To The North Pole

A Visit To The North Pole

written by: Tim Law

 

Carol and Steve thought it clever to take their daughter Stephanie to Alaska for a family holiday. Everyone always commented on just how much their little girl resembled Santa’s little helpers, from her rosy cheeks, button nose, and icy blue eyes, right down to her tiny features and slightly pointed ears.

“Our little Christmas helper,” Carol would always exclaim and her husband Steve was never short of a hearty laugh in reply.

The almost four thousand miles from Miami to the North Pole took the best part of a day, flying in to Fairbanks and then driving the sixteen miles. It cost a lot more than driving all the way, but Carol had convinced Steve early on that such an excessive road trip with a toddler, even a perfect one like Stephanie, was not something that she, nor Steve, and definitely not their daughter needed as the way of beginning their time at the home of Santa Claus.

Again Steve agreed, he had learned quite quickly that a happy wife meant a very happy life. What’s more, money was not tight at that stage, Steve’s company was doing well and the current boom did not look like slowing down anytime soon. And so the Fiat hired from the airport purred into the home of Christmas and every member of the Green family were in high spirits. Snow was falling and the city was bustling. Everyone was out for Christmas Eve, attending church, skating, socializing, and trying to finish off their preparations for the following day.

Steve eased the Fiat into the carpark for the North Pole Hotel and stifled a yawn.

“I’m sorry honey, I should have offered to do some of the driving,” Carol suggested.

“Nothing a quick coffee won’t fix,” laughed Steve.

“No, I insist,” Steve’s wife said to her husband. “Once we are settled in the room you take a nap and I’ll take Stephanie shopping for a few last minute things.”

“That sounds great, darling, thanks,” said the ever agreeable Steve.

It did not take long for Steve to unpack the car, a suitcase of clothes, a suitcase of presents, Stephanie’s bag, and a backpack of knick-knacks that Carol insisted come with. The Green family packed light, Carol’s suggestion, to which her husband agreed.

A quick peck on the lips from Carol and a kiss on Stephanie’s forehead and then Steve found himself stretched out on top of the covers of the king bed.

After what felt like an hour Steve woke up to the buzz of his phone.

He stretched and yawned, rubbing sleep from his eyes, and checking the mobile’s screen discovered he’d just missed a call from his wife as he’d tried to pick up. Checking his phone Steve was surprised to discover that it was already six and there was a long list of at least ten missed calls from Carol.

“Carol, babe, what’s the matter?” Steve asked when he called his wife’s number and she immediately picked up.

“I’ve been trying you for hours!” Carol accused. “What the hell took you so long?”

“You told me to take a nap after doing all the driving,” replied Steve, not sure what he had done wrong.

“So you’re soundly sleeping, while our daughter goes missing?” asked Carol, but the tone of her voice was full of poorly disguised anger.

Steve was about to reply with a kind word to try and defuse his wife’s mood when he suddenly realized what she had said.

“Wait, what?” he asked instead. “Did you say that Stephanie is missing?”

“Yes, I lost her in the mall after we saw Santa and I got her to pose for a picture,” explained Carol, her voice high pitched and panicky.

“Where are you now?” asked Steve.

“I’m at the local police station TRYING to report Stephanie’s disappearance,” stated Carol, the frustration and fear becoming steadily more evident. “But THEY insist she needs to be gone longer… Stephanie is a toddler far from home for Christ’s sake…”

“Come back to the hotel and let’s both go to the mall to ask around,” suggested Steve. “Maybe someone there has seen her, or we could ask about security cameras.”

“This is a waste of time, anyway,” announced Carol, down the phone to Steve, but loudly enough that anyone and everyone in the station would be able to hear her.

Half an hour later Carol was in the passenger seat, guiding Steve back toward the mall.

“The carpark is up ahead,” she murmured, deflated now, after initially shouting at her husband for not being there.

“Here?” Steve asked, just as deflated, feeling guilty he had been sleeping when he should have been watching Stephanie.

“It was much fuller when Stephanie and I got here,” Carol said. “Oh God Steve, I hope we find her.”

“I hope so too,” said Steve.

“I’m sorry,” whined the staff member of the toy store where Santa’s Workshop was erected.

“I’m sure this was where we had the picture taken,” said Carol.

“Are you sure?” asked Steve, trying to be helpful, trying not to let his own rising anxiety make his wife’s mania any worse.

“How can I be sure of anything!” screamed Carol.

“We don’t take pictures, we ask the parents to do that,” stated the staff member. “It used to be big business, especially this time of year, but it’s all illegal now.”

“The elf, Santa’s helper, I’m sure he took photos,” mumbled Carol.

“Any chance we could look at the camera footage?” begged Steve. “You’ve got security cameras right?”

“Please?” Carol asked while Steve handed over a fifty.

“I guess?” said the staff member, uncertainty obvious, but giving clear signs he was close to caving to their request.

The camera footage was grainy, but Carol and Steve could both just make out the four-foot helper taking a candid snap of their toddler while she sat smiling upon the store Santa’s knee.

“Wait, who is that sitting on Santa’s throne?” asked the toy store manager who was also reviewing the footage. “That’s not Jameson.”

“Jameson?” asked Steve as his face went white.

“Craig Jameson is the usual guy we get from the agency each year to be our Santa,” said the store manager. “He has all the checks, knows you can’t have the kids on your knee no more, legit.”

“So who is that?” asked Carol pointing to the screen.

“I don’t know,” muttered the store manager, over and over as the footage continued rolling.

The elf could clearly be seen following after Carol and Stephanie as they left the toy store. Craig Jameson could then be spotted having a brief altercation with the other Santa Claus before one got off the Christmas throne and the other hopped on.

Carol dared not breathe as other cameras picked up images of her, Stephanie, the elf, and the Santa.

“What the hell…” gasped Steve as the camera image showed Carol looking over and smiling at Stephanie who was trying on earrings. The image of Carol turned to speak to the girl behind the perfume counter, that was when Santa and the elf grabbed little Stephanie.

In a scramble, the mall manager who was with the distraught parents phoned the local police.

***

It took two days to find the little girl, Alaskan police working with other state officials. Dave George and Fredrick Redmond, both wanted for child trafficking were picked up at LAX, just before they left for Germany, little Stephanie with them. She was shaken up, but otherwise unharmed. Although a little late a gift, Steve and Carol were happy to receive the best Christmas gift they’d ever been given. Stephanie was safe, and would never leave their sight again.

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