When Frank Johnson opened his door, he was surprised to find two three-foot tall men in suits holding notepads and pens and speaking to him in high pitched voices.
“Sir, I am Agent Cane and this is Agent Snow. We are investigating a complaint we received and will need a few moments of your time to interview you and your family.”
Frank was confused, but he complied. He, his wife and their son all gathered around the front door, answering the agents’ questions. Frank left his littlest one, Minka, in her crib.
This was the 986th house “Agents” Cane and Snow had been to this morning. At every single stop, the two men pretended to jot down notes from their “interviews” while asking vague questions and never quite revealing what the “complaint” was that they received.
While they distracted the families, their boss snuck into the people’s houses and began snooping around. He came in through the chimney, but he wasn’t dressed in his normal red satin suit. Instead, Santa Claus was wearing gray sweats, sunglasses and a wool knit cap.
Normally, at this time of year, Santa was on a beach in Cancun taking a few well-deserved days of R&R with Mrs. Claus before beginning preparation for next Christmas. But he couldn’t in good conscience go on vacation until he tracked down the item he lost – a gold necklace with a mistletoe pendant on it that Mrs. Claus had given to him the first Christmas they spent together.
It was a prized possession. One he wore every Christmas as a good luck charm as he delivered presents around the world. But somehow it had come loose during this year’s deliveries. He noticed it was gone during the run, but on Christmas Eve there was no time to backtrack. He had to just keep plugging along in order to make his deadline.
On Dec. 26, he was able to isolate a small window of time when he believed the necklace went missing. But even that only narrowed it down to a possible 28,346 houses. This was only 986. He and his elves, Mr. Cane and Mr. Snow, could be in for a long day.
He checked around the chimney. Then under the tree. He carefully dug through the kitchen trash while overhearing “Agent” Cane ask Frank Johnson if he or anyone he knew had a peanut allergy. Santa lifted a few pieces of furniture. He looked behind the fridge. Then he shook his head in disbelief. The bottom floor was a bust.
Santa made his way upstairs and began checking the bedrooms. It was looking like another waste of time until he made his way to the nursery. That’s where he saw Mika in her crib with the mistletoe necklace in her mouth.
He carefully approached Mika, cooing and talking sweetly to her as he walked to the edge of the crib. Then he reached in and attempted to take the necklace out of her hands. She immediately began whimpering, threatening a full-on tantrum.
Santa hadn’t planned for this. He had expected to simply find the necklace in some forgotten corner. He hadn’t considered that a child would have found it.
He wanted to trade Minka something for the necklace to distract her, but his magical present sack was sitting in the sleigh, which was hidden in the woods two blocks away. He couldn’t risk leaving and coming back. He doubted the whole mysterious agent distraction would work twice. He had to figure this out now or risk losing the necklace forever.
He went for the stuffed animals around the room. He started with an adorable plush pink elephant. Santa threw his all into it, doing an adorable elephant voice while walking the stuffed animal up to the crib and dancing it around the railing. Then he gently bopped Minka on the nose with it, which elicited a huge giggle. Minka reached out her hand to grab the toy. Santa handed it to her. But her other hand still tightly clutched the necklace, which she continued to suck on.
Santa tried a few more stuffed animals, but he got the same result. She wasn’t letting go of that necklace. Downstairs, he could hear Frank getting annoyed with the agents asking to see his feet for any signs of fungus and knew his window of time was running out.
He could grab it and run … oh, who was he kidding? He was Santa Claus. It wasn’t in his nature to make children cry. Maybe if he thought the necklace was a choking hazard, he could talk himself into it, but it was too big and the corners were too rounded to pose any real harm. Besides, she looked so happy and so adorable with it in her mouth.
Santa sighed. Mrs. Claus would understand. She’d have to. He kissed Minka on the forehead and started to leave. Then he heard her speak to him in adorable baby gibberish. He turned back around to see Minka looking up at him, her arm extended to offer him the necklace.
He grabbed it tentatively, unsure if she would cry the moment he took it. But she didn’t. She just smiled and giggled. It was a Christmas miracle.
For years, Frank Johnson would tell the story of the two short, eccentric FBI agents that showed up at his door asking a series of bizarre questions.
And he would always end the story with the apology note he got from the FBI, the one that came with a giant box of toys for Minka.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.