A Secret Revealed
By Debbie Tripp
"Where is it you have to go, Chief?"
Blair Sandburg, student, teaching assistant, guide, police observer and friend, just smiled at Jim Ellison, police detective, sentinel and friend. "Oh, no you don't, Jim! It's a well-kept secret. And I don't need the whole city knowing my business."
"Ah you wound me, Chief. You think I'd reveal your secret?"
"C'mon, Jim. I know how you get around the others at the station. All of you sit around and talk. You're as bad as a group of housewives gossiping about the neighborhood."
"Whoa! You're comparing police officers to housewives? Don't let that little tidbit get back to the station or you'll find yourself attacked by officers and I won't be able to stop them."
"You'd let them attack me, Jim? I thought you were my Blessed Protector?"
"Hey, I've got as much survival instinct as the next man. You're on your own if you keep talking like that."
"Then I need you to keep quiet about it, Jim."
"But what could you possibly have to do on Christmas morning that would take several hours to complete?"
"It's a tradition of mine - something I've done since I was an undergraduate at Rainier."
"You know I could just follow you and find out what is going on."
"Whatever, Jim. I promised Simon I'd be at his place by noon, and I will be. I've already prepared the dishes we're taking and I can rely on you to deliver them when you go over early to help Simon set up for when the gang shows up. I can rely on you, right, Jim?"
"Yes, Sandburg. Why won't you tell me where you go every year?"
"Because I want to remain anonymous and not bring recognition and attention upon myself. That's not why I started doing it."
"It's not anything illegal, is it? Before you answer, remember you live with a cop and most of your friends are cops."
Blair sighed and stared at Jim. "Give me some credit, Jim! Would I do anything illegal? Especially on Christmas Day?" Blair only shook his head, still looking at Jim.
"Okay, I'll give you that. But why are you doing anything on Christmas? I thought you were Jewish?"
"And that means I can't do anything in conjunction with Christmas? I'm an anthropologist, Jim. I celebrate and adapt to all cultures and all rituals. No matter the religious basis or background."
"So that's why you were giving us all the crash course of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa traditions over the past two weeks."
"There were several people at the station who appreciated my impromptu learning sessions. Some even looked forward to them. It gave everyone a cross-cultural and religious history."
"I'll be honest - I even learned something."
"I'm glad to hear you were listening, Jim. It will be interesting to taste the variety of recipes everyone decided to try. It may start a whole new tradition with the Major Crime group."
"You could be right, Chief. Well, since you have to leave early tomorrow morning, you best get some sleep. You won't be awake for whatever it is you have to do."
"Good night, Jim." Blair laughed and walked into his bedroom. He closed the French doors and sat down on his bed. As he thought of his obligation tomorrow, a smile came across his face. He had originally done it as an undergraduate for extra money for the holidays. When the hospital personnel first saw him, they thought him too short, too young and too thin. But once he got into costume, adding in additional padding, he was transformed and was a hit amongst both the patients and the employees. He had done the gig every year since he had been sixteen, some fourteen years now. He had to do it. Everyone relied on him. It had gone from just something to do for extra money to an enjoyable tradition he would remember.
Blair woke up early on Christmas morning. He started the coffee brewing, which brought Jim down from his upstairs bedroom.
"You're up early, Chief."
"I've got to be in place by 9:30 AM."
"Do you want to do our gift exchange before you leave?"
"Nah, why don't we wait and do it when everyone else does at Simon's. Oh, by the way, can you take the presents over to Simon's when you go? They're all under the tree, already wrapped. Beside the ones you have wrapped there."
"Sure, Sandburg. I can take the presents along with the food. As long as you make breakfast."
"I'm just getting ready to put together pancakes for breakfast. I've already taken my shower, so feel free to take yours while I make the pancakes."
"Thanks, you're a real pal and buddy."
Jim went to take his shower while Blair fixed the breakfast.
By the time Jim was done with his shower and dressed, Blair was dishing up the first of the pancakes. Jim poured both of them coffee, got out the butter, syrup and Blair's favorite, strawberry preserves.
"Thanks, Jim. Sit down. You can have the first batch."
Jim sat down, loading his pancakes with butter and syrup and savoring the first few bites. "Great job as always, Chief. So, are you sure you don't want to tell me what you've got yourself into?"
Blair sat down with his pancakes, placing strawberry preserves on his. "I'm sure, Jim. Maybe one year, I'll let you in on my secret, but not this year."
Jim smiled at Blair. "Well, I had to give it one more try. You sure it's all on the up and up?"
Blair laughed. "I'm sure, Jim! Sit there; I'll make you more pancakes."
Blair got up and made more pancakes for them both while Jim poured them more coffee. The rest of their breakfast was eaten in relative silence.
When they finished, Jim spoke. "You best get going, Chief. You don't want to be late."
Blair looked at the clock. "You'll remember the presents and the food, right Jim?"
"Yes, Chief. I'll remember it all and I'll even do the dishes."
"You are a prince, Jim. Tell the others I'll be there by noon. I will be at Simon's by noon, maybe even earlier."
"You better be, Sandburg, or else I'll come looking for you, secret or not."
"It's perfectly safe; Jim and I'll be fine. You worry too much sometimes."
"With you, Chief, that's not possible."
Blair laughed, went to get his backpack and a duffel bag and left the loft. He drove towards the hospital. Inside the duffel bag were several pillows to be used as stuffing for his costume. Blair had been able to perfect his image over the years. He was proud of his portrayal as Santa Claus.
Blair reached the hospital and found Angela Ferguson, assistant administrator. She smiled when Blair walked into her office shortly after 9:00 AM.
"There he is - our favorite Santa!" Angela had moved from behind her desk to reach Blair's side and hug him.
"Hi, Angie. How are things going?"
"Just fine, Blair. We're going to start with the elderly this year. If you don't mind."
"Nah, I don't mind. Just as long as I can get out of here before noon. I have another appointment."
Blair laughed. "No, not as Santa. As myself. Major Crime is getting together to celebrate Christmas. At noon. And Jim has promised to come looking for me if I'm not there on time."
"Does he know what you are doing?"
"Nope. I told him it was a secret. I don't want everyone knowing what I'm doing."
"The outfit is in the side office, Blair. If you need help, just holler."
"Thanks, Angie. Stick around. I'll need help once I'm dressed."
Blair went into the side office and saw the Santa Claus outfit laid out there. Blair put his duffel bag and backpack on the couch and got dressed in the outfit. He was able to pad his midsection. Blair finished by putting on the white wig and the white beard and moustache. He looked in the mirror afterwards, amazed with the transformation. He opened the door and called out to Angie. She came over to look at him.
"Will you make sure I'm all tucked in and everything is straight?"
"Sure *Santa*." Angie made a few minor adjustments before pronouncing Santa ready to go. She handed Santa his bag full of presents for the elderly patients.
"Say ho-ho-ho, Santa."
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!" Blair lowered his voice and bellowed out the words.
Angie smiled at Santa. "You're in good voice this year, Santa. I think you're ready to go."
Angie went with Blair to the various rooms, letting Blair know the names. Blair would go into the room in full Santa mode, usually getting a smile from the elderly patients. He would stick around, helping with the unwrapping of the presents and talking with each person. It took just about an hour to finish with the elderly patients.
Angie led Blair to the nurse's lounge at the end of the hall leading towards Pediatrics. She gave Blair a bottle of water as he took a short break while the presents for the children were loaded into his bag.
"How many kids is there this year?"
"A dozen. Seven girls and five boys. Age range from five to thirteen. None of them have life threatening illnesses."
"I'm glad about that. I still remember when I was in the hospital on Christmas when I was seven. The hospital personnel then had a Santa pass out gifts to the kids stuck there and even though I never had a lot of exposure to Santa growing up, it was special to have someone to take my mind off of my broken leg at the time. That's why I volunteered years ago. And to keep doing it. Are we ready?"
"Yes, we're ready, Blair. I mean Santa. Sorry." Angie helped Blair with the bag of toys for the children and he started to hand them out.
Blair spent several minutes talking to each child, listening to their frustrations at being stuck in the hospital on Christmas, sick and in pain, away from their families. Blair had to control his own emotions as he listened to each child, who openly spoke with him.
Blair accepted kisses from the girls and hugs from the boys. He had made a real connection with the kids. And had brightened their days considerably. Most of them were waiting for their parents and family to arrive to give their day a sense of normalcy. Blair remembered his own stay in the hospital when he was seven and how happy it made him when Naomi showed up to spend time with him. Blair understood about having things normal and ordinary.
Blair stood in the hall with Angie.
"What time is it?"
"It's about 11:30. One boy left - George. He's ten years old. He broke his arm in an ice-skating accident."
"Thanks, Angie." Blair took a deep breath and opened the door to George's hospital room. "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas, George!" Blair handed the boy the present.
"Santa! I didn't think you'd find me here! How .?"
"I heard about your accident, George. I wanted to make sure you had something."
"My mom says she's gonna bring my presents later."
"I wanted to make sure you got this one."
"Can you help me open it?"
"Sure, George." Blair unwrapped the present, revealing a remote control truck.
"Wow! Thanks, Santa! It's just like the one I wanted!"
"I was hoping I got the right one --"
At that time, the door to George's hospital room was opened and a man walked in. Both Blair and George looked at him.
"Dad! What are you doing here?"
"I've come to take you home with me!"
"But momma said you had to leave "
"I'm taking you with me!" The man walked towards the bed.
Blair instinctively knew something wasn't right with the whole situation. He stepped between the man and George's bed.
"I think you need to leave. George needs to stay here in the hospital."
Unexpectantly, the man pulled out a knife and then grabbed Blair by the arm. "We're getting out of here *Santa*. You, me and the kid!"
"Dad! No! Don't hurt, Santa! He brought me a present!" George was really upset at seeing his father holding on to Santa.
"I won't hurt him as long as he doesn't try to stop me from taking you from here."
"Its okay, George. We can get out of here." Blair's voice was deceptively calm. He looked at the man. "If we're going to do this, let's do it. But we don't involve anyone else."
"Okay, George. Let's go. We have to get out of here before your mother shows up."
"But I like living with momma!"
"Get ready to go, George! I'm not going to tell you again!" The man was waving the knife around, still holding on to Blair.
Blair looked over at George. "Do you know where your clothes are, George?" At George's nod yes, Blair continued. "Go ahead and get dressed. It will be okay."
Blair was hoping to get Angie's attention when they left the hospital room. She could contact hospital security and stop George's father from leaving with his son. Blair realized he didn't know the man's name.
"So, what's your name?"
The man looked at Blair. "If you really must know, it's Peter. I thought *Santa* knew everyone's name."
"Well, it's hard for me to keep track of the grown-ups. It's much easier to keep track of the children."
Peter laughed. "Oh, you're good, *Santa*!" He turned his attention to George. "Are you dressed yet?"
"I can't get my sweater on over my cast."
Peter pushed Blair towards George. "Help the boy, Santa. We have to get moving."
Blair knelt down level with George and could see the fear and worry in the boy's eyes and body movements. Blair leaned close and whispered to George as he helped with the sweater and the socks and shoes. "It's going to be okay, George. I'll make sure you are taken care of."
George only looked at Blair, complete trust in his eyes. Blair patted George on the knee after he finished helping him. Peter came over and got Blair to his feet, holding the knife against Blair's neck.
"Okay, this is the way we're going to do this. We'll all walk out of here together and if anybody says anything, we're going to have some pictures taken. If you try anything *Santa*, I'll leave you bleeding on the floor."
They walked out of George's hospital room and Angie was waiting right there. "Santa, you need to get going to your next engagement. It's already 11:50 AM."
Blair debated about what to say. He didn't want anyone else hurt. "George and his dad want to have pictures taken with Santa. We're headed to the play room and the patio to get the pictures. Can you call my next engagement and tell them I'll be late?"
Angie frowned at Blair, but nodded in agreement. "How late are you going to be?"
Peter was behind Blair and the knife was poking in his right side - underneath the pillow stuffing.
"I'm not sure. Tell them it's going to be late." Blair felt another poke in his side. "We've got to go."
George had taken hold of Blair's left hand, gently squeezing. Blair held onto George's hand, gently squeezing back. The three of them moved to the elevator, getting on.
Angie got on the phone immediately, calling to hospital security about Santa, a man and a young boy coming down in the elevator. Angie told security she thought the man might have a weapon. After finishing with hospital security, Angie went back to her office and found Jim Ellison's cell phone number and made the call she didn't want to make.
In the elevator, Blair tried to reason with Peter, trying to make him see that he wouldn't be able to leave the hospital. Peter didn't want to listen to any of that.
"They realize something is up, Peter. And you are setting a bad example for your son. If you really loved him, you wouldn't pull something like this on Christmas Day, when families are supposed to be together."
"What do you know? I just want to see my son."
"Then end this before it goes bad and talk with George's mother."
"She won't talk and she won't let me see my son!"
The elevator had reached the lobby and Blair saw the hospital security personnel waiting there when the doors opened. The next few minutes happened in slow motion for Blair.
Peter embedded the knife into Blair's right side and pushed Blair forward out of the elevator car. Two of the hospital security guards caught Blair before he fell to the floor. They immediately called for medical personnel.
Blair also heard Peter yell and George cry out, but he couldn't see them. A few minutes later, Blair heard confirmation that Peter was in custody and being turned over to the Cascade PD. Blair closed his eyes - now Jim would find out. Then there was a tug on his arm. He opened his eyes to see George standing there.
"Are you okay, Santa?"
"I'll be fine, George. You should go back to your room."
Angie was right there at that time. "Come on, George. Your mom is here and she wants to see you."
George patted Blair on the arm.
"Go on, George. I have all year to heal."
"Thank you, Santa." George leaned over and kissed Blair on the cheek.
Then Blair was being whisked away to an operating room, which was close by. He was divested of his outfit and drifted off a short time later.
Jim made it to the hospital in record time. He didn't have all the particulars just yet, but he'd be able to find out. He told Simon and the others he would let them know.
Jim sat in the waiting room while Angie explained the whole story, including Blair's portrayal of Santa Claus. Jim couldn't help but smile, especially when he found out there were pictures.
The doctor came out a short time later. "Blair is a very lucky young man. The puncture missed all vital organs. He wants to be released and I consented, as long as he gets some rest."
"I understand, doctor. I'll get him to rest. Can I see him?"
"Sure, Jim. I'll take you to recovery."
Jim stood by the bed, looking down at Blair. Jim placed his hand on Blair's forehead. Blair opened his eyes and smiled at Jim. Jim smiled back.
"Next year, I think you need to bring an elf along." Jim was deadly serious.
Blair chuckled. "Are you applying for the job?"
"I can watch your back."
"Okay. It wasn't my fault, Jim."
"I know, buddy. The doctor said he was releasing you."
Blair was suddenly more alert. "Can we stop by Simon's?"
"The doctor said rest, Blair. Not a party."
"A-w-w, c'mon, Jim. Just to get my presents?"
"Okay, Chief. For a while. A short while."
Jim helped Blair get dressed when Angie brought Blair's clothes and helped Blair to the entrance of the hospital. Most of the personnel were there to tell Blair goodbye, including Angie.
"Just send me the bill for the outfit, Angie."
"Don't worry about it, Blair. I'm just glad you weren't hurt worse. This didn't scare you off, did it?"
"No, Angie. I'll be back next year. It takes more than a stabbing to scare me off." Blair chuckled.
"Good. Take care of him, Jim."
"I intend to, Angie. He'll be okay."
Jim helped Blair into his truck and drove them to Simon's house. Jim helped Blair out of the truck and up to the house. The Major Crime family was happy to see Blair up and about and not seriously injured.
Jim deposited Blair on the couch in the living room and brought him some food. Blair was pleased to find out that the international theme of the party was a hit with everyone, as was the food offered and served.
Jim sat down beside Blair as the gift exchange started. Halfway through the distribution of the presents, Jim felt a weight against him. Jim looked over to see Blair leaning into him, dozing. Jim couldn't help but smile. He hugged Blair close, whispering, "Merry Christmas, Chief."
Later, after Jim had been able to get Blair home and in his own bed, Jim sat down to watch the news. The lead story was how Santa had thwarted a non-custodial father from taking his son from the hospital. Santa was lauded as a hero and his true identity was kept secret. Jim smiled, turned off the television and went to bed himself, secure in the knowledge that Blair's secret was safe with everyone that knew.