If there's one thing I really hate bout crime, it's that it never takes a day off. Come rain, shine, hell or high water, someone, somewhere, will find some way to break the law. Which is why I'm sitting up here, on a rooftop, in the snow, freezing my butt off, on Christmas Eve of all nights. Batman is off handling the big psycho villain holiday hoo-ras, and Nightwing has his own gig in Bludhaven, so I'm stuck with watching for burglars in high rises.
I check my watch, it's 10:30. Right on schedule, a black clad figure repels to the window across from me. He fiddles with the glass a bit and bingo, into the apartment he goes to let the other guys in through the front door. Smart, makes it look like he's the only crook, the other guys look like they're heading to the costume party on the first floor if he's caught. Too bad they didn't count on me, Robin, the Boy Wonder.
I swing over to the window and enter silently, hoping to catch them off guard. There are 4 guys total, all dressed like the Window Man. Strangely, one is arguing with another person in the shadows. "I'm telling ya, old man, this is our bust, so get!"
Well this is interesting. It looks like two groups of possible burglars have run into each other. I frown. Either that or he's talking to an elderly homeowner. Neither of the prospects is really that great, so I decide that firstly, the obvious robbers have to go. I leap out the shadows, tackling the closest one. "Doing a little last minute shopping?"
"What the hell?"
Hoping to take care of this situation quickly and possibly get some sleep, I jab a cluster of nerves in the neck of the guy on the floor. He's down and out. The second guy is really slooooow, one kick sends his flashlight flying and another to the jaw puts him in enough pain to seriously reconsider his current occupation. The third one gets a single shot off before I knock the gun from his hand with a bat-a-rang and hit him across the back, sending him flying into the last burglar. I take a split-second glance at the person they where arguing with and opt with the elderly homeowner theory. He's the last thing I remember before the last burglar hits me in the back of the head with a bat.
"Son? Hey, Sonny, you all right?"
The deep voice is the first thing that breaks through the black fog. I groan, and reach to rub at my eyes, and that huge lump of a Christmas present on the back of my skull. The ceiling and floor get back to their proper places and colors get a bit brighter. My eyes widen, and I blink and try to clear them. That thug must have hit me harder than I thought. 'Cuz the person leaning over me is Santa Clause.
"Uh, I'm fine." I go through a mental checklist. Rosy cheeks, cherry button nose, belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, red and white garb from head to foot, not to mention soot, and the biggest snow white beard I have personally seen.
He cocks his head to the side, and the voice, rumbling and jolly, just adds more proof to what I've already seen. "He hit you pretty hard there. Are you sure?"
No. In fact, I think I'm having a concussion. That would account for St. Nick. I look around, suddenly remembering the other crooks, and find them tied up in the corner with, interestingly enough, Christmas lights. The bat that somebody used on my head, with a red ribbon still around it, is propped in the corner. Santa shrugs. "I really hate to resort to violence, but they've been very naughty, and I couldn't let them beat you to death."
"Thanks," I say. "Do you, um, live here?"
"Ho! Oh, no," he chuckles. "I'm only visiting for a few minutes, doing my job."
I cock an eyebrow. My head is getting clearer, and I'm starting to doubt the authenticity of "Santa." "Right. Can you tell me how you got in here?"
He settles into an easy chair, leaving me standing and nervous, and dives into a plate of milk and cookies. "You city folks with your modern contraptions. It's not as easy as it used to be, with chimneys and all, so I've had to resort to using the air ducts." He extends his gloved hand. "Have a cookie?"
"No thanks." I don't trust the strength of the lights, so I cuff the burglars and place a quick call to the police dispatch. I turn to Santa. "Look, the police are going to be here soon..."
He smiles. "I know. I was going to go anyway. Have a busy night ahead of me." He grunts a little as he pushes himself out of the red upholstery. "Huff. Not in good a shape as I used to be..." He slings a pack over his shoulder and heads over to the vent.
I'm not about to just let him waltz out. This guy may actually be an accomplice, or totally nuts. "Why don't we just use the stairs, or the window, like normal people?"
He shrugs. "If you're really that worried, alright." So he heads for the window. I sigh. I knew it wouldn't be this easy. From his belt he produces an old-fashioned grappling hook, the kind you use to climb glaciers and the like, and hurls it out the window. It must have hooked somewhere, because he swings out and nimbly starts to climb up the side of the building.
All I can do is follow him, so I shoot off a line and climb after him. I am more than a little surprised at how fast he moves up the side of a building, considering his age and physical condition, and he beats me to the roof. When I get there, all my doubts fly out the window as I find myself face to face with a very big, very angry, reindeer.
"Huuuhnhhh..." The reindeer growls, then lowers it's head and paws at the concrete. The other seven shake their heads, making their reigns jingle.
This is too much.
"Down, Dasher." Santa calls, digging around in his sleigh. A _real_ sleigh, on a roof, in Gotham City of all places. He comes back with a small sack of corn. "Don't let him bother you. It's this city air. Makes him sensitive." He gives some of the corn to the reindeer, then puts the sack back.
"You're..." I start, my brain still getting over the fact I am nose to nose with a rather large equine. "You're really..."
"Late? Oh, yes, I know. I have a long way to go tonight, none of the miles easy. Speaking of which, shouldn't you be home right now, young man?" He gives me a mischievous look over his glasses.
"Well, I have a job, too," I say, glancing out over the city.
"Nonsense. It's Christmas. After what you did back there, the least I can do is give you a lift home."
"I think I can manage," I say, eyeing the sleigh, reindeer, and Santa.
He shrugs. "All right then." He settles into the seat, then pulls the reigns forward. "HO!" The reindeer start to attention, then begin to run forward. At the end of the roof, the first pair give a mighty shove with their hind feet and spring into the air. I watch, dumbfounded, as all eight race into the sky, pulling behind them a laughing old man in a sleigh.
"HO Ho ho! Merry Christmas, young man!"
"Merry Christmas, Tim."
I groan and rub the sleep from my eyes. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Mac."
She gives me a smile. "Yea know, when ye was a wee tot ye use't te wake the whole house at the most un-godly hours." She gestures toward the door. "Yer father an' the missus is a waitin' fer ye downstairs."
"Thanks, Mrs. Mac." I give her a quick hug and head to the living room. Halfway down the staircase I decide that last night was a dream. I've seen some weird things as Robin, but last night was pushing it too far. It must have been that blow to the head, I think as I touch it gingerly.
"Merry Christmas, son," my dad greets me while Dina beams.
"Now that yer all up an settled, I'd best be on my way," Mrs. Mac says, pulling her coat closer around her and picking up her bag.
"Have a nice visit with your family," Dina calls. Mrs. Mac smiles again and leaves.
My dad grins like an idiot and rubs his hands together. "All right! Who gets to open the first present?"
Everything goes fine, and Dad and Dina leave for a Christmas party immediately after lunch. So I'm left in the house, all alone, until some time late tonight. No different from every other Christmas, except for one thing. At about one, the doorbell rings, and I open the front door to the grinning face of Dick Grayson.
"Alfred," he says, bowing mockingly. "Extends the invitation for a Mr. Timothy Drake to join the Wayne household for the remainder of Christmas Day."
I laugh. Good old Alfie. "Hold on, let me grab a coat and shoes." Dick follows me into the house and stands looking at our tree while I pull on some boots.
"Hey!" He calls out. "You guys missed one!"
"Huh?" I look over to see him holding a small box wrapped in gold paper with a red bow.
"It's for you," he says and tosses it to me. "Doesn't say who it's from."
I eye the label, addressed to "Tim Drake" in scrolling script. Not a hand that I recognize. I untie the ribbon and lift off the lid. Inside there's a note wrapped around something bulky. I pull it out. It's a bat-a-rang.
"Dear Robin," the note reads in the same scrolling script. "You dropped this. Merry Christmas. S.C."
"Who's it from?" Dick cranes to read the note.
I stare in shock, then a smile spreads across my face. "A friend." I tuck the note and bat-a-rang into a pocket. "C'mon. Something tells me Alfie's got more than his usual amount of Christmas goodies waiting for us."
Outside the air is crisp, the snow crunches beneath our feet, and I can swear that the lone star in the blue sky winks at me.
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