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usually one of the more ….

usually one of the more …. usually one of the more ….

usually one of the more sugar plum jobs in the office, had gotten tedious with the ho-hum incidents of children not cleaning up their toys, arguing with siblings and attempting to feed their homework to their pet eel filling up the reports.

As I sat sipping my steaming cup of cocoa, reading a report about some nice-lister who helped his neighbor rake his yard, I wished for the 73rd time that I had taken the transfer to GIFT — the covert operations field division that dealt with the really juicy stuff. GIFT is so secretive that you have to be a level nine operative before you even find out what the initials stand for. If anyone on GIFT’s radar was caught raking leaves, it would be to hide the scene of a crime.

I had passed up the transfer because of Ted, my ne’er-do-well ex who I caught under the mistletoe with Beatrice from accounting at last year’s office party.

It is not that being a Santa Inc. elf operative stationed at a forward listening base isn’t satisfying, it is just that sometimes I wish it was a little more exciting.

I need to learn to be more careful of what I wish for.

Moments later the door to my office slammed open and there stood Norman soaking wet and looking like he had come out second best in a wrestling match with a polar bear.

In a hoarse voice he called out “Code Jingle” and sank to the floor of my office.

“Code Jingle” are the two words that are enough to chill even the steamiest cup of cocoa. It is the mobilization code putting us on high alert and under the direct authority of any GIFT operatives in the area. The last time it had been issued was the 2009 Puffin Incursion where Christmas came perilously close to being canceled due to the market manipulation of a band of rogue North Atlantic waterfowl.

The protocols for a Code Jingle are very precise. In field agent academy they were pounded into us so that we could do them in our sleep. I went into auto pilot, using a handy candy cane to break the glass shield over a large red button, smashing down on it.

I could here the tinkling of sleigh bells in the distance and the recorded voice of the Big Guy himself saying “This is a Code Jingle. Report to duty stations. This is not a drill.”

I could hear the thud when the blast proof shields crashed down over all the windows turning our forward listening base into an impenetrable fortress. I trusted the holographic image projectors around the perimeter of the building were working, otherwise we would have a lot of explaining to do to our neighbors.

By the time I got to Norman, he was starting to rouse himself.

After fortifying it with some peppermint from the emergency stash in my bottom desk draw, I handed him my still warm cup of hot cocoa and urged him to drink.

Norman’s clothes were dirty and torn and he had scrapes and bruises, but did not appear to be seriously injured. I would be forced to wait to hear what brought him to my office door and what prompted the Code Jingle.

In the hallway, I could here the patter of slippered feet as the rest of the elf operatives made their way to their stations, headgear on tying us into Santa Inc.’s global satellite network.

I got Norman on his feet. By the time we had walked the few yards to the briefing room where the senior operatives were waiting, he had regained his composure and looked like his old self. I knew it wouldn’t last and he would sleep for hours after the peppermint wore off.

For now, though, we needed to hear his story.

see NORMAN’S STORY on page 6

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continued from page 3

Norman is not my real name. It is just the latest in a series of identities I have used since I was recruited into GIFT more than 40 years ago after I came to the agency’s notice during a brushup involving a reindeer trafficking scheme. Although the Mouse King was taken down in that incident, there were hints that someone above him was actually pulling the strings, someone known only as Dr. Snow.

I have been on Dr. Snow’s trail for a while now. While he seldom comes out of the shadows, he has had his mittens on just about every major case GIFT has dealt with for decades. I had been placed here in FB 1459 three years ago to keep an eye on things.

We had reason to suspect that his next big target would be this area. His goal, it appears is a simple one, to shut down Santa Inc. and in the process end Christmas as we know it.

Last year’s “accident” with the release of the nanotechnology augmented snowpeople was no accident. It was was only due to the quick work of the operatives and sharp-eyed area residents that we were able to find and contain them all.

Last spring I saw my chance and went undercover. I managed to infiltrate Dr. Snow’s organization, posing as a disaffected elf tired of being passed over for promotion and tired of my career in dentistry.

I learned that something big was brewing. Dr. Snow planned to hijack all of Santa Inc.’s warehouses and steal the presents destined for the homes of good little girls and boys.

I was barely able to get out a warning to GIFT before I was discovered and captured in Dr. Snow’s command center and locked in a cell. I sat in the cell for months before a henchman got too close and I was able to snatch the keys and make my

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