Here Comes Santa Claus
by Bill Pronzini
Page 5 of 6
There were three of us in the football coach's office at the
rear of the gym: Markey Waters and me and one of the security
guards. It was fifteen minutes later and we were waiting for the
arrival of San Francisco's finest. Waters was dejected and
resigned, the guard was pretending not to be amused, and I was in
a foul humor thanks to a combination of acute embarrassment, some
bruises and contusions, and the fact that I had no choice but to
keep on wearing the gravy-stained remnants of the Santa Claus
suit. It was what I'd come here in; my own clothes were in
On the desk between Waters and me was a diamond-and-sapphire
brooch, a fancy platinum cigarette case, and a gold money clip
containing three crisp fifty-dollar bills. We had found all three
items nestled companionably inside Markey's jacket pocket. I
prodded the brooch with a finger, which prompted the guard to
say, "Nice haul. The brooch alone must be worth a couple of
I didn't say anything. Neither did Markey.
The owner of the gold clip and the three fifties had reported
them missing to Security just before Waters and I staged our
minor riot; the owners of the brooch and cigarette case hadn't
made themselves known yet, which was something of a tribute to
Markey's light-fingered talents--talents that would soon land him
back in the slammer on another grand larceny rap.
He had had his chin resting on his chest; now he raised it
and looked at me. "My kid," he said, as if he'd just remembered
he had one. "He get away?"
"No. One of the other guards nabbed him out front."
"Just as well. Where is he?"
"Being held close by. He's okay."
Markey let out a heavy breath. "I shouldn't of brought him
along," he said.
"So why did you?"
"It's Christmas and the papers said this shindig was for
kids, too. Ronnie and me don't get out together much since his
mother ran out on us two years ago."
"Uh-huh," I said. "And besides, you figured it would be
easier to make your scores if you had a kid along as camouflage."
He shrugged. "You, though--I sure didn't figure on somebody
like you being here. What in hell's a private dick doing dressed
up in a Santa Claus suit?"
"I've been asking myself that question all night."
"I mean, how can you figure a thing like that?" Markey said.
"Ronnie comes running up, he says it's not really Santa up there
and the guy pretending to be Santa threatened him, said he'd
shove a pillow down the kid's throat. What am I supposed to do?
I'd done a good night's work, I wanted to get out of here while
the getting was good, but I couldn't let some jerk get away with
threatening my kid, could I? I mean, I'm a father, too, right?"
He let out another heavy breath. "I wish I wasn't a father," he
I said, "What about the wallet, Markey?"
"The wallet and the two hundred in cash that was in it."
"This stuff here isn't all you swiped tonight. You also got a
wallet belonging to a Mrs. Randolph Simmons. It wasn't on you and
neither was the two hundred. What'd you do with them?"
"I never scored a wallet," he said. "Not tonight."
"I swear it. The other stuff, sure, you got me on that. But
I'm telling you, I didn't score a wallet tonight."
I scowled at him. But his denial had the ring of truth; he
had no reason to lie about the wallet. Well, then? Had Mrs.
Simmons lost it after all? If that was the case, then I'd gone
chasing after Waters for no good reason except that he was a
convicted felon. I felt the embarrassment warming my face again.
What if he hadn't dipped anybody tonight? I'd have looked like an
even bigger fool than I did right now...
Something tickled my memory and set me to pursuing a
different and more productive line of thought. Oh, hell--of
course. I'd been right in the first place; Mrs. Randolph
Simmons's wallet had been stolen, not lost. And I knew now w ho
had done the stealing.
But the knowledge didn't make me feel any better. If
anything, it made me feel worse.
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