A Visit From St Nick
By Kit Tinsley
‘Daddy?’ My son, Pete’s voice stirred me into consciousness.
I opened my eyes to see him stood next to the bed. His eyes heavy with interrupted sleep. His blonde hair is tussled from hours of tossing and turning. Four years old and perfect.
‘Come on.’ I said, motioning for him to get into bed with his mother and I.
Most nights he would join us at some point in the early hours. It surprised me he wasn’t wanting to go right downstairs. It was now Christmas morning after all, and a mountain of presents was awaiting him by the tree.
‘I think, our chimney’s blocked.’ He said. Anyone who has ever had a four year old will tell you that they can come out with the strangest things. This was a new one I thought, pulling him up into the bed.
‘What makes you think that?’ I asked.
‘Santa couldn’t get in.’ He said, starting to drift off to sleep in my arms. ‘I heard him break a window downstairs. ’
In an instant, I was alert and listening.
‘What’s wrong daddy?’ My son asked.
‘Nothing.’ I said in a soothing tone. ‘Go back to sleep.’
I looked over to my wife, Gloria. She was sound asleep.
I was trying to tell myself that he had been dreaming, or had not heard what he thought he had. I listened and heard the creek of someone coming up the stairs.
I shook Gloria until she woke.
‘What?’ She said, groggy and annoyed at the disturbance.
‘There’s someone in the house.’ I whispered.
I saw her eyes widen as the news brought her to the same state of wakefulness I was at.
‘A burglar?’ She asked.
I shrugged. I had no way of knowing what the intruders intentions were. However, in all the things playing in my mind, being robbed was the best case scenario.
She fumbled on her bedside table.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘Looking for the phone.’ She replied. ‘We should call the police. ’
I shook my head.
‘The phone is downstairs.’ I said. She had taken it down with her that morning, and neither of us had remembered to bring it back up.
‘Shit.’ She said. ‘What are we going to do? ’
I got up from the bed and crept to the door. Our son had left it ajar when he came in, and I peered through the crack. I saw a hunched shadow on the wall of the stairwell. A silhouette, illuminated by the multi-coloured hue of our Christmas lights.
‘He’s coming up the stairs.’ I whispered. ‘You stay here, I’ll have to deal with this. ’
I saw fear cross her eyes. She shook her head.
‘Please, Mark. Don’t go. ’
I could understand her fear. We had no idea who this intruder was, or what they wanted. They could be armed with God only knew what, while I was stood there in nothing but my lounge pants. I didn’t even have any shoes on.
‘I can’t do nothing.’ I said. ‘What if he’s here for you? Or him? ’
She looked down at Pete, who was now sleeping next to her. She looked back at me and nodded.
‘Be careful.’ She said.
I smiled and slipped out of the room.
They had made it so easy. A house this size with so little security. Not even an alarm. I guessed that burglars targeted them all the time. Yet, if the burglars had been successful I’m sure they would have some sort of alarm system.
As I checked the perimeter of the house, I thought maybe they had a dog, some big brute of a guard dog. Something like that and you don’t need an alarm. Nine out of ten burglars would leave it at the sight of a dog. I’m not nine out of ten burglars, hell I’m not even a burglar.
I broke a window round the back of the house. It was the side furthest away from the road. I was also assuming that the bedrooms were most likely at the front, for the view.
I waited before going into the house. Listening for any sound of movement. And hint that someone had heard me and was now coming to investigate.
It was all clear so I pulled myself up onto the window ledge and climbed into the house. I found myself in a large kitchen. You never know what you’re in for when you break into a home. Even one this size. A kitchen is a good room to begin in. It gives you a sense of the people who live there. For example, a tidy kitchen, without a dining table is a sign of a single man, or a couple without kids. A messy kitchen with a table is the sign of a larger family. A kitchen like this one. Ordered, but with a small table and kids drawings on the fridge. That is the sign of a professional couple with only one or two kids.
I always like to prepare before I head upstairs.
I placed my case on the kitchen table and opened it up. Inside was the selection of tools I had picked out for tonight. I left the gun in the bag. I didn’t like using guns. It wasn’t intimate enough for me. Shooting someone took away all pleasure from their death. I was cheating them, and cheating myself.
I took out the hunting knife my father had bought me all those years ago. It had a thick blade, slight curve at the tip, like a hook. One side was smooth and sharp. The other serrated for sawing through wood or bone.
It was this very knife I had used my first time. Despite all the other toys in my collection the hunting knife would always be my favourite. It always brought back that rush of nerves and excitement I had felt that first time, all those years ago.
With that decided, I pulled out the note. The calling card I left every year. The one the police were desperate to learn something from. Some hint to my identity. Of course, I gave them none.
It always made me smile when I read the note. My own little melodramatic twist of that old Clement Clarke Moore festive favourite.
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
For I slit all their throats and watched them bleed out. ’
The words scrawled in the craziest handwriting, I could muster. Red ink. The media wanted a monster. A twisted bogeyman that could sell their papers, or keep their ratings up. I was more than happy to play that part. They had dubbed me ‘St Nick’ after my choice of poem. I liked it.
I put the note down on the kitchen table. I always left the note downstairs. It could be too easy to lose or damage in the carnage that would occur upstairs.
With it neatly in place I headed for the stairs.
I crept across the landing. Keeping close to the wall. I hoped that the deep pile of the carpet muffled the sound of my movement. I just wanted to get to the other side of the stairs. I wanted to be in a position to surprise the intruder. For all I knew this was nothing more than a burglar. Someone who meant no more harm to me or my family than stealing our well insured possessions. Yet, it was Christmas Eve and that meant it could be him. The ‘St Nick’ killer. Every year for the last nine he had butchered a whole family in their home, on this night.
My heart raced as I got to the other side of the landing. I could see over the bannister. I saw the intruder mounting the steps. He stopped on each one to examine the family photo’s we had hanging on the wall. He extended his hand and I saw the blade of the knife glinting with the reflection of the Christmas lights. He traced the blade across the pictures.
It was him. It was St Nick. The sick son of a bitch was even wearing a red jacket hemmed with white fur. His hair was long and grey, and he had a bristly beard. He was trying to look like Santa Claus. Only a nightmarish version of that genial character.
He reached the top of the stair and I saw him begin to turn. He was about to look around and see me standing there watching him. I hadn’t thought to grab anything I could use as a weapon. I dropped to the floor. I peered around the corner and saw he was looking away from me again. He was looking in the direction of Pete’s bedroom.
When he had got up to come into our room, Pete had left his door open. The glow coming from his night light spilled out onto the landing. It drew the intruder towards it like a moth to a flame.
If Pete hadn’t have heard him, if he hadn’t come into our room, this monster would have gone for him first. He would have killed our son while we slept.
Paternal rage filled every fibre of my being. I looked behind me. On the windowsill was a large vase made of heavy pottery. I grabbed it and charged towards him.
I sat there on the bed listening intently after Mark left the room. One hand gently stroked Pete’s hair as he slept beside me. For what seemed like an eternity, there was nothing. The only sound I could hear was my own heartbeat, thumping fast.
Why hadn’t I brought the phone upstairs with me? If I had been able to ring them when Mark woke me, the police would be here by now. It was Christmas Eve. They didn’t hesitate when it came to intruders on Christmas Eve, in case it was him. St Nick.
I thought about all the awful stories I had heard about the things he had done. He liked to make his victims suffer before he killed them. Torture and mutilation were what they said. This would be his tenth year and the police were no nearer to catching him than they were when it all began.
This wasn’t supposed to be our Christmas. We were meant to wake up tomorrow and see the joy on Pete’s face when he saw all the gifts that Santa had left for him. He had been so good this year. It had been difficult for him to control his problem. He had done so well. Mark and I had gone to town to spoil him this year and show him how proud we were of him.
Our parents were going to come over, and I was going to cook everyone the best goddamn Christmas dinner they’d ever had.
Now what was going to become of that?
I heard running across the landing. There was a roar of anger. It was Mark. Then all hell broke loose.
I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye as I stood in the child’s doorway. He was charging towards me holding something above his head. He screamed as I turned to face him. He was younger and quicker than me, but he was also half my size. He tried to bring the pot down on my head, but I turned away from the blow just in time. It hit my shoulder, hard. It hurt like a son of a bitch, but it bounced off me and shattered against the wall. Seeing that his attack hadn’t worked the way he wanted to he began punching out at me. A couple connected with my face. Despite his rage though, this man was not a fighter. His soft businessman hands did little more than annoy me.
I reached out with my left arm and grabbed him by the throat. I lifted him from the ground. Pain shot through my shoulder, perhaps the blow had done more damage than I first thought. I swung him around and threw him against the wall.
He let out a grunt from the impact, which was fierce enough to dent the plasterboard. I kept hold of his throat but let him slide down until his feet were on the floor. I grinned at him.
‘Ho, ho, ho.’ I said as I thrust the hunting knife towards him.
He was a wiry bastard though. He slipped from my grip and side stepped the blade. It connected with the wall.
The man turned and ran towards the stairs.
I followed. Everyone in the house was probably awake by now. This year was going to be a fun game of hide and seek.
As he reached the top step I threw the knife. The hilt connected with the back of his head and sent him off balance I watched as he tumbled down the stairs. I thought to myself that he would be unconscious. That would give me time to gather up the other members of the family. This guy was tougher than he looked though. When he hit the floor at the bottom he pushed himself up on his hands and knees and looked up at me. He had a black eye and a bloody nose, but he smiled and got to his feet.
I was going to have to follow him downstairs and deal with him. I’d cut the phone line to the house, but if he got outside he could alert a neighbour. I wasn’t prepared to have my fun interrupted by the police. I began to descend the stairs.
One of them had fallen down the stairs. The other was following them down. I prayed that Mark was okay, but I had to do something. I remembered that I’d left my mobile phone in Pete’s room when I put him to bed. If I could get it, I could call for help.
I looked at Pete asleep on the bed. I couldn’t just leave him here defenceless on the bed. What if the intruder came and found him before I got back. I had to make him safe, without waking him up. If I was to wake him, he may panic and that could bring on another bout of his illness.
In a rush I gathered up the quilt and my pillow and put them inside my walk in wardrobe. I put them on the floor to make a comfy little bed for him. Then I carried Pete, still sleeping and rested him on top of it. I kissed his forehead as he murmured. Then I shut the door behind me.
Back in the bedroom, a searched for something I could use to protect myself. At first, I couldn’t think of anything. We tended not to keep sharp things accessible because of Pete was in to everything. Mark had a set of golf clubs, but they were in the garage.
Then I remembered that the leg on the stool of my dressing table was loose. It was a heavy piece of oak. I snapped the leg free. A nail poked out of it. This gave me extra reassurance. I opened the door. There was a sudden sound of a struggle downstairs.
I caught up with him at the front door. He had the phone in his hand jabbing the call button.
‘I cut the phone.’ I said.
He yelled in distress and threw the phone at me. I batted it away with ease. He turned and went for the door. I moved quickly and grabbed his head and rammed it into the door. Then I let him fall back to the floor. He hit it hard. The tough little guy was still conscious, though I could tell from the look in his eyes that he was dazed. I knelt down beside him.
‘So, I’ve been making my list.’ I said. ‘I’ve even checked it twice. Your name came up as naughty. ’
‘Fuck you.’ He said, spitting blood in my face.
‘You see, that’s the kind of language that gets you on the naughty list.’ I said. ‘Now you, and your wife and son are going to have to pay. ’
I grabbed hold of his hair and began dragging him back away from the door. He screamed and grabbed at my hand, but the blows to his head had taken most of the fight out of him. I dragged him from the hall, through the lounge and into the dining room. There I picked him up and set him down in a chair.
I pulled the roll of duct tape out of my coat pocket and began strapping him to the chair.
‘Look at it this way.’ I said. ‘you’re number ten. You’re going to be famous. ’
I laughed. He didn’t appear to share my good cheer.
‘Where’s your Christmas spirit? ’
He looked at me.
‘I’m going to watch you die. ’
I finished taping him to the chair. I knelt down in front of him.
‘No, you’re going to watch me disembowel your son, and flay your wife alive. Then I’m going to cut your eyes out and feed them to you. Then all you’ll have is the sound of their screams to try to guess what I’m doing to them next.’
He looked over my shoulder and smiled.
‘Not tonight.’ He said.
I felt a lightening jolt of pain explode across the side of my head and face. Everything went dark.
I ran from our room to Pete’s. I found my phone. I began to cry as I saw the battery was dead. I fell to my knees. It seemed like our fate had already been sealed. Like the universe had conspired on this most sacred of nights to end us.
I heard Mark screaming downstairs. I had to do something. I ran back to our room and opened up my wardrobe. Pete was still sound asleep. I closed the door gently on him once more and moved towards the stairs. The commotion had died down a little. Now I could hear a deep voice talking in the dining room. I crept along through the lounge and saw a giant of a man taping my, bloodied and beaten, husband to a chair. This man must have been at least six foot five tall and almost as wide. He had long, matted grey hair and a messy looking beard. He wore a red, suede coat trimmed with white fur. He looked like a monstrous Father Christmas.
‘No, you’re going to watch me disembowel your son, and flay your wife alive.’ He said. His voice was full of menace. ‘Then I’m going to cut your eyes out and feed them to you. Then all you’ll have is the sound of their screams to try to guess what I’m doing to them next. ’
I crept into the room behind him. I raised the broken stool leg like it was a baseball bat. Mark’s eyes met mine and I saw his look was telling me to do it.
‘Not tonight.’ Mark said to the man with a weary smile.
With all my strength I swung the heavy piece of oak. It connected with the side of the man’s head. The nail that had been poking out dug into the side of his skull. I felt the soft crunch as that side of his face caved in. The sound of his bones cracking was audible. He didn’t scream. He gave no sign of pain. Then he collapsed.
I dropped the stool leg and rushed over to Mark.
‘Is he dead?’ Mark asked. His voice was weak. It was clear he was in a lot of pain.
I began trying to get the tape off him to free him, but it was too strong.
‘I need to cut this.’ I said.
‘Is he dead?’ Mark repeated.
‘I don’t know.’ I said. ‘ I have to get the scissors, or a knife to cut this tape. I’ll grab the phone and call the police. ’
Mark shook his head.
‘He cut the phone line.’ He said.
‘Where’s your mobile?’ I asked.
‘In the car. ’
‘I’ll get the scissors and then we can get Pete and get to the car. ’
The man on the floor groaned. He was alive, and he was coming to.
‘Gloria.’ Mark said. ‘Get Pete, get out of the house. Get help. ’
I shook my head.
‘I’m not leaving you like that.’ I said.
‘You are. I’m not going anywhere. He’s going to come after you.’ He said.
The man began trying to get up. Each time he pushed himself up a little and then fell back down. His face was bleeding and starting to swell where I had hit him with the stool leg.
‘Gloria.’ Mark said. ‘Go! ’
With one almighty heave the man got to his knees.
He looked at me, his eyes piercing through his ruined face.
‘I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.’ He sang then laughed.
‘Go!’ Mark screamed at me. I turned and ran for the stairs.
I watched as my wife ran from the room. Then I turned to face St Nick.
‘That looks like it hurts.’ I said.
He shuffled across the floor and recovered his knife. He attempted to pull himself up to a standing position. Pulling himself up on a chair like a toddler. The first attempt failed and he fell back to his knees.
‘It stings.’ He said laughing. ‘But the things I’ll do to her are going to be so bad, the cops who find you are going to have nightmares about it for the rest of their lives. I swear to you she’s going to live long enough to feel every pain I can inflict on her. ’
Rage filled me again and I fought to free myself from the tape. It was pointless of course.
‘You touch her and I will tear your fucking heart out.’ I said.
He started pulling himself up again and this time some of his strength had returned. He got to his feet, but seemed unwilling to let go of the chair just yet.
‘I could kill you now.’ He said, ‘but, I want her to see you die. ’
He staggered away from the chair and went to the door.
‘Gloria, he’s coming!’ I yelled at the top of my lungs.
He turned around to me.
‘Don’t spoil the game buddy.’ He said and winked. Then he turned back around. ‘Ready or not here I come. ’
Then he was gone.
I ran as fast as I could to our bedroom. I shut the door behind me and heard Pete’s voice from the wardrobe.
‘Mummy? Daddy?’ He sounded scared.
I rushed and opened up the wardrobe door. He was rubbing his eyes and still half asleep. He looked confused.
‘Why I am I in the cupboard?’ He asked.
It was a reasonable question, after all he had fallen asleep on our bed and woken up on the floor of my wardrobe. I didn’t want to panic him. If he got himself worked up, there was no way of knowing what might happen.
‘We’re just playing a special Christmas game of hide and seek.’ I said comforting him.
‘Has Santa been yet?’
I shook my head.
‘No Santa has definitely not been yet.’ I said, thinking of the madman downstairs. ‘Come on let’s find somewhere good to hide. How about daddy’s car? ’
He nodded, still not totally with me
I heard Mark’s voice from downstairs.
‘Gloria! He’s coming!’ He screamed
A deeper, more booming voice followed.
‘Ready or not, here I come. ’
Pete looked confused, then wide awake. And full of wonder.
‘Is that Santa?’ He asked excited.
I shook my head.
‘It’s daddy being silly.’ I said.
I scooped Pete up into my arms and ran for the door. I could hear loud slow footfalls heading for the stairs. There was no way we could get down them without him catching us. I ran for the bathroom. I locked the door behind us. Not that I thought the little lock would stop that beast for more than a few seconds before he knocked the door down. I set Pete down on the toilet seat and rushed to the window. I knocked everything off the deep sill. Shampoo, razors and tooth brushes went crashing to the floor. I opened the window as far as it would go. I would be able to lower Pete down onto the garage roof, and then jump down myself. From there, I could smash the skylight and drop us down to the car. We kept the spare keys in a biscuit tin in the garage.
‘He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice.’ The man sang as he stomped up the stairs.
‘Mummy, I’m a bit scared.’ Pete said with tears in his eyes.
I went to him and smiled.
‘It’s just a game baby.’ I said. ‘Come on, let’s get to the car. ’
I picked him up and took him to the windowsill. I felt his little heart beating fast, and his temperature was rising up. This was not a good sign. He was heading for one of his episodes.
I lowered him down to the roof below. He dropped the last few feet and landed with a thud.
‘Are you okay baby?’ I called down.
‘Yeah.’ He said back to me.
‘He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice.’ The man was at the top of the stairs. Heading straight towards us.
I jumped onto the sill and began trying to squeeze myself through the gap. I got my legs through, but then felt like I could not go any further.
‘Santa Claus is coming to town!’ He was outside the door.
I saw the handle turn and he realised the door was locked. There was a loud thud as he attempted to knock the door down. The first blow didn’t succeed in opening the door. I shimmied as hard as I could. At first, it felt like I was going nowhere.
A second, louder thud hit the door. It remained shut, but I could see that this time the lock had started to come loose. The next hit would open the door.
I thought all was lost, then, I moved just right and I slid out of the window and landed with a thump on the garage roof. Pete came running over to me and hugged me tight, I didn’t like how pale he looked.
There was a crashing noise from above and I looked up to find St Nick staring down at us furious.
’Santa?’ Pete said.
The killer tried pushing the window open further. He soon realised that there was no way he was following us out that way. He disappeared.
I walked over to the skylight. It was ajar, enough for me to pry it open and lower Pete down into the garage. I jumped down after him.
‘Was that Santa?’ He asked.
‘No Pete, it wasn’t Santa.’ I said. I rummaged around looking for the biscuit tin that contained the spare key. Where was that fucking biscuit tin?
‘It looked like Santa.’ He said. ‘Is he angry cos I’m not in bed? ’
Where was that fucking biscuit tin?
‘It wasn’t bloody Santa!’ I yelled. I didn’t want to. All the fear and emotion, and the frustration of not being able to find the tin came out in one sentence.
Pete stared at me with a look of shock and hurt. He started to scream. Then bolted for the door.
‘Daddy!’ He yelled as he ran out of the garage. I charged after him.
I heard the thudding upstairs. I heard the commotion in the garage and there was nothing I could do to help any of it. I struggled against the tape. I tried pushing the chair over to see if it would break. I was convinced I had seen people do that in movies. However, St Nick had secured me too well, I couldn’t get enough momentum to tip the chair. I wept in frustration. I heard the killer running down the stairs. He was tearing through the house trying to find a way into the garage.
I heard Pete screaming for me and feared the worst.
‘Pete!’ I yelled.
My son came running in. Something about the four year old mind meant that he didn’t even question why I was taped to the chair. He was more concerned with his own problem.
‘Mummy shouted at me!.’ He screamed. He was looking pale, and I could see he was soaked with sweat. He was verging on being hysterical. The shakes would start soon.
‘I’m sure mummy didn’t mean it.’ I said. ‘There’s a bad man in the house. Mummy is frightened. ’
With that Gloria came rushing into the room. She threw her arms around Pete and kissed his forehead.
‘I’m so sorry baby.’ She said.
I saw Pete’s eyelid start to twitch.
St Nick appeared in the door way
‘Merry Christmas fuckers!’ He yelled.
Pete looked at me.
‘Daddy, I think it’s going to happen again. ’
Gloria let go of him and stepped back.
‘It’s ok baby. You’ve been good all year. ’
Pete began to convulse and fell to the floor.
The kid hit the floor hard. He twitched around and a puddle of piss formed where he lay. At first, I thought he was having a seizure. That was ok. It gave me time to secure his bitch-whore mother. I wanted her to suffer worse than any of them before.
Sometimes I would spare the mothers the pain of seeing me cut their kids to pieces. Not tonight though, if she even tried to look away I was going to cut off her fucking eyelids.
The boy stopped twitching and his arms shot out in front of him. There was an audible snap as his bones came out of their sockets. I watched him, wondering what the hell was happening. He screamed in pain as his limbs appeared to lengthen. Blood erupted from his nail bed as long, black claws poked through.
‘What the fuck?’ I said, taking a step back.
The boy raised his head and his jaw broke and lunged forward. His face elongated into some sort of snout and thick black hair began to poke out of his pale skin.
The mother rushed to the father. She didn’t want to look. Neither did I. I wanted to run. This shit was way beyond anything I had ever seen before, but I was transfixed.
The boy’s teeth popped out one by one and scattered across the floor. Blood poured from his mouth as the teeth were replaced with vicious looking fangs. Pointed and curved, meant to kill and tear flesh like the hunting knife I held.
His eyes rolled up in his head. The pupils disappearing. When they popped back down they were no longer blue. They were amber and glowing like they were ablaze.
He charged at me. I tried to knock him away, but he was too strong. Those vicious jaws clamped around my throat and the teeth pierced my flesh.
Pain filled every fibre of my being. And as he ripped my throat out with his teeth my final thought was. I’m not really a monster after all.
© Kit Tinsley 2015.
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