A short story in 4 Episodes by A.W. Rock
I was walking up Wardour Street when I saw him.
He was dressed in a Father Christmas outfit and had been imbibing Christmas spirit or was affecting a jovial spirit, chuckling and weaving around people. The large white beard and large red hat obscured his face.
It was not too cold considering it was dusk in December and the neon lights were beginning to take over from the remaining daylight.
There were three tables on the pavement outside the bar and a man sat on his own at one of them. He was on his mobile and seemed agitated.
Father Christmas had his hands in the large patch pockets of his blood-red coat and as he drew level with the seated man he bent over him. I thought he was going to kiss him under the mistletoe hanging from the awning; instead he whispered something in his ear and pulled a small pistol with a silencer attached.
He pressed the silencer down into the side of the man’s neck; then I heard the ‘phutt’ as the bullet left the chamber and entered the man’s body.
Instinctively I stepped back into a doorway as Father Christmas, who was singing Jingle Bells, passed by. I caught his eye and he gave me a look that said ‘mind your own fucking business’.
The man at the table was slumped forward but since the bullet had gone down the centre of his body, for now there were no external signs of blood.
The killer was obviously a professional and since I had my own health to consider I decided to let him go.
The dead man was still slumped on the table and any passerby would have assumed that he was a sleeping drunk. I knew it would be some time before one of the bar staff came out and tried to wake him up so I decided to carry on with my day as though nothing had happened, but the killer had made me change my itinerary.
I had planned on going into that same bar but the police would be interviewing everyone in there so I thought better of it.
There was also the CCTV surveillance to consider. Most of Soho was covered by cameras and looking around without making it obvious I noticed a camera high up on the wall in Old Compton Street at the junction with Wardour Street.
When the Old Bill checked that out I would be in the foreground of the shot when Father Christmas appeared. Even if I had been filmed from behind when I turned into the doorway they would have a profile shot, but unfortunately not from my best side.
I was curious but not curious enough to have to make a statement to the police so I moved on.
Costas’s Lounge was further up Wardour Street. He was an old friend and I decided to stop off there for a whisky and water and bring him up to date; not much went on in Soho that Costas didn’t know about but for once I had some local news for him.
How unusual it was that Costas was in the corner of the bar in deep conversation with two young women. He looked up when I entered and tried to ignore me; he didn’t want me getting involved.
I sat at the bar and Jack, full-time struggling actor and part-time bar person appeared from below the bar, sniffed, wiped his mouth and looked at me and over at Costas, then raised his eyebrows.
I nodded and he brought over a large whisky and a small jug of water.
“He’s old enough to be their grandfather..”, said Jack, “..I wish they’d never invented Viagra.. there’s no stopping him and it reduces the field for me.”
I looked around. Charlie was sitting in his usual seat that looked as though it had been designed by a couturier to mould to his buttocks. He raised his glass hoping that I would offer him another but I wasn’t in the mood.
The assassination was occupying my mind when Father Christmas came through the door. He came up to the bar and ordered a large brandy, turned to me and lifted his glass, “Cheers and happy Christmas”, he said, holding my stare.
“Some people won’t get to enjoy this Christmas”, I said.
He was a big man in a big costume, “That’s probably because they didn’t deserve to.”
“Who gets to decide who deserves what?” I asked.
Father Christmas said, “Don’t jump to conclusions. You have no idea what this is all about. When I saw you I knew that you have seen things and experienced things that most people know nothing about.. that’s why I’m here.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“I have had to deal with fear.. I have seen terror in people’s eyes too many times. I have learned to understand people.”
“You didn’t show much understanding earlier on today.”
Father Christmas jumped as Costas broke in, “Christmas isn’t on my agenda and I don’t know you..”
“I’m no threat to anyone..”, said Father Christmas.
I looked at him with disbelief.
“.. I’m celebrating having removed a cancer from the past and looking forward to spending Christmas with my kids.”
Costas was a Greek Cypriot and family life and traditions were part of his culture so he let it go. He turned to me, “You don’t usually have a snorter this early.. what are you up to?”
“It’s been a fascinating day so far, Costas, and I’ve no idea how it is going to end.”
Jack jumped in, “Well knowing you it’s either a fuck or a fight.”
“You don’t know me”, I said.
Charlie suddenly woke up and waved his glass in the air, “Get me another fucking drink, will you? Where’s that useless barman?”
Jack had moved over to be with the women in the corner.
Costas checked him out, “There’s too much testosterone in this place… Jack, get Charlie a drink.”
Jack, “Doing my best, Boss.”
Costas went over to the optics and poured Charlie’s drink.
I turned to Father Christmas, “So now what?”
“People put presents in stockings at the bottom of their children’s beds. That man violated many children and he got away with it.. and there is more, much more.”
“What do you think I’m going to do about it?” I asked.
Father Christmas didn’t answer. He got up and walked out. He knew I was no threat to him either.