It was Christmas Eve, and Whitney Turner’s children were getting ready to receive their presents from Santa in the morning, though what they didn’t know was that their mother had very little for them to open. It just didn’t seem like Christmas this year. She had been living on what wealth her late father had bequeathed to her, and now that money had run out, forcing her back on the job.
There were five children in all, the litter of a monster slayer named Hunter O’Heslin, now dead seven years. He had left his home and belongings to Whitney when he’d died, and the new owner of the property on which the house stood had simply allowed the transition to take place, as the previous owner’s sister, simply called The Witch, took over.
The shack on The Witch’s property was too small for Whitney and her brood, but she didn’t have the money to add on to the house. She was hoping that some of her old friends from work would pitch in financially. She had only just recently returned to her old job as a secretary at the police department. She had once worked for Captain William Sage, who unbeknownst to Whitney was her own father, but now the man she served was Captain Lou Abbott, a ruddy man known for his wild Christmas parties… something the other police captains looked down on.
Her old friend Helen had given her a cash gift, but alas, it had only been enough for one small gift for each child. Helen had once turned her back on Whitney out of fear of the vampires in the police department, but was now accommodating as a friend once more. Whitney only took the money because she had decided that life was too short to hold grudges. Besides, after seven years, the vampire presence on the police force had been completely wiped out, in no small part due to Whitney and her werewolf associate, Bobby Brinkley.
Her relationship with Bobby had always been tense. It had started when the werewolf killed her old boss… who turned out to be her father. Bobby had then kidnapped her and introduced her to the world of what he lovingly referred to as “otherworldly beings.” She had met Brinkley’s monster-slaying partner, Hunter O’Heslin, along with The Wizard, several mad scientists, a voodoo priest named Reverend Moonlight, another werewolf named Vince, and a yeti called Jargosh. After these characters had helped save her from a fate worse than death at the hands of a supreme vampire known as Bart Draxton, she slowly let them into her heart. One that she had not accepted so readily, however, was an angel of death called Worm Face.
Whitney had initially been terrified of Worm Face, as nobody could explain the angel’s fascination with her. She had dodged fate’s bullet by killing her would-be murderer, the vampire detective Jason Beauregard, whom she had foolishly fallen in love with. She found out then that Worm Face was not a threat… but he was still not welcome in her life. A walking image of death with the moniker “Worm Face” wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a best friend.
On this Christmas Eve, the employees of the police station were getting ready to party, but Whitney’s financial worries kept her from joining the crowd. She approached her boss, who was downing a large mug of spiked eggnog, and asked, “Captain Abbott? May I talk to you about my Christmas bonus?”
“Please,” he said with a belch. “Call me Captain Lou. Everyone does.”
“Okay, Captain Lou. May I talk to you about my Christmas bonus?”
“I don’t feel comfortable with that, Ms. Turner. The other employees who have been here a while know you. But I’ve only been here a few years, and I don’t. You work for me, not them. And I need you to earn your keep. You’ve only been here a month, after being absent from the work force for seven years, and you want a bonus?”
Her pleasant demeanor was gone. “Do you have kids, Captain Lou?”
“No, and I don’t want them. Why?” He asked with a lascivious leer, “Are you offering?”
She scoffed. “No. If you had kids, you’d know that kids are a job and a half. Even though you say I was absent from the work force, I was busy working as a mom to quintuplets. They’re a lot of work. And as a single mom, it’s been particularly hard. I’ve been gone for seven years, yes, but I’m trustworthy here to my co-workers, and I’ve proven my worth here. I don’t think it’s too soon to talk about a bonus, no.”
“Step in my office, Ms. Turner.”
“I’d rather not, Captain Abbott.”
He grabbed her arm. “I insist.” He pulled her into the dark office and slammed the door, then pinned her against the wall.
“Sexual harassment suits are expensive, Captain Abbott,” she replied calmly. “I’m not giving up my job here, but maybe you are.”
A cold voice filled the captain’s ears. “Your heart is working overtime, Captain Abbott. Too much liquor so early in the evening, I fear. It’s become… the death of you.”
Captain Lou turned pale as he saw the worm-eaten corpse approach him. “What the fuck is this? Ms. Turner, is this Ghost of Christmas Future looking motherfucker with you?”
Whitney nodded. “Merry Christmas, Worm Face. Is this asshole on your short list?”
Captain Lou laughed, drool running down his chin. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this drunk before. Am I really seeing this?”
Worm Face leaned in and caressed the offensive captain’s cheek, which automatically caused Captain Lou to piss his pants. “Is this man bothering you, Ms. Turner?”
“Not in the least. I was trying to get a bonus out of him… Maybe a raise.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me.”
“I hope you’re not here to kill him. I need this job. Losing two captains in one decade would look really bad on my resume.”
“I find it unfortunate that you’re standing up for this man. He hasn’t done many good things in his time. Would you care to see?”
“What, like a highlight reel?” Captain Lou slurred, dazed from Worm Face’s touch.
“Shut up, Lou,” Whitney said. “You’re lucky to be alive. Worm Face, what are you doing here?”
“I’m not here for him, Whitney…. Not entirely, anyway. You see, I’ve been reassigned.”
“So… you’re not a reaper anymore?”
Worm Face cackled dryly. “Oh, I am that, Whitney. However… you can think of me as your guardian angel.”
“So… you’re pulling double-duty now?”
“You don’t seem surprised.”
“I’ve seen a lot over the past seven years. Not much surprises me anymore.”
Captain Lou looked at her and said. “You’ve seen a lot? Like what, dirty diapers?” He then laughed callously before she slapped him.
“I’ve about had enough out of you, buster,” she snarled.
“Easy, Whitney,” Worm Face cooed. “I am here about your… lack of what people call the Christmas spirit.”
“It’s not Christmas spirit I lack, Worm Face. It’s money.”
“Money can’t buy happiness, Whitney. You have made do with what you have for so long, but now it is not good enough. Why?”
She let out a flustered breath. “It’s my kids, okay? They’re seven. They’re growing up so fast. Captain Sage’s money has run out, their father is dead, and… I can’t keep doing this.”
“Can’t keep doing what?”
“Raising them on The Witch’s property. I want out. Sometimes I wish I’d never even been brought into this world I’m living in.”
“Do you wish you had never been born?”
“No. If I had to word it more simply, I’d say I wish I’d never met Bobby Brinkley.”
“Ah. You blame him, as usual.”
Captain Lou tottered on his feet. “Bobby Brinkley? The murderer who killed my predecessor? He’s a wanted man.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to shut up?” Whitney asked.
“It will do you no good,” Worm Face replies. “This one is stubborn. I could show you what your life would be like had you never met Bobby Brinkley… but it wouldn’t be pretty.”
“That’s okay. I know I’d be dead without him. I was only kidding, anyway. I’ve been thinking of that old Capra Christmas movie.”
Captain Lou leaned closer to Worm Face and said, “See, buddy? She has Christmas spirit, after all!”
“I was not talking to her, Lou Abbott. You have always lacked the Christmas spirit. Whitney, do you want to see this?”
“Are you going to kill him?”
“Not now… though by the end, he may wish I had.”
She smirked. “Then count me in.”
The three of them rose from the floor as the room vanished around them. “This is your life, Lou Abbott. Every Christmas you’ve ever had was full of misery inflicted solely by you.”
Whitney and her boss saw a spoiled boy who had driven his parents mad become a teen who bullied others in the same way, until he reached his sexual peak, when he would rape several girls who looked just like Whitney Turner. “What the fuck, Lou?” Whitney asked.
His eyes rolling around in his head, Captain Lou replied, “I’m sorry. I have a type.”
“Wait a minute,” she said. “Worm Face, you said this is just his Christmases? He’s done all these horrible things during the holiday season? That’s awful.”
“Yes,” Worm Face replied, staring deeply into the captain’s face with his dead eyes. For the first time, Captain Lou seemed truly afraid of the specter. “He used this joyous time of year when we celebrate the Savior’s birth as a time for selfish revelry and sexual dominance. He truly is the lowest of the low.”
“Stop,” the captain whimpered. “I’m sorry. I’ll change. I’ll… I’ll be a better boss. A better person! I’ll keep the Christmas spirit! Yeah! I’ll start by giving Ms. Turner here her bonus. And a raise!”
“Having friends in scary places has its benefits, after all,” she said to herself. She then realized that this was the first time she had considered Worm Face a friend.
The room became Captain Lou Abbott’s office once more as Worm Face vanished and Whitney slowly touched down on her feet. Lou hit the floor, face-first. He slowly stood up and looked around. What had happened in an instant had seemed to go on forever for the man. He grabbed Whitney by the shoulders and said, “I’m sorry for what I said! Here, I have something for you.” He reached into his desk and pulled out a check with her name on it. “This… was your bonus handed down by the superiors. I was gonna spend it on booze. Sorry. You, uh… have a merry Christmas. When you come back, you’ll have a new boss.”
“You’ve changed that much?”
“I… I don’t know. I’m going to get you transferred to a different department. You just scared the shit out of me and I’d rather not deal with you and your freaky friends anymore. No offense.”
“None taken.” She took the check and asked, “Can I get an advance on that raise before you shove me off on someone else?”
He pulled a fat wad of cash out of his pocket. “Sure. I was gonna spread this around at the titty bar, but… you deserve it. Merry Christmas.”
She smiled. “Thanks, Lou. Now go out there and show the force a Christmas party they’ll never forget.”
He grinned. “Yeah!” He opened the door and screamed, “Merry Christmas, motherfuckers!”
Taking her money, Whitney decided to exit. Once she was outside, Worm Face was there, waiting for her. “Now that you’ve seen the Christmas spirit in full effect, what are you going to do?”
She stopped. “You did all that for me, didn’t you? I thought you were showing him the Christmas spirit?”
“An added benefit,” Worm Face replied. “You can now think about moving your children to a bigger space. Or perhaps just adding on to the house on The Witch’s property?”
“I have a lot of friends over there on the otherworldly part of town,” she said. “And I just realized how lucky I am to have them.”
“So I don’t have to show you what the world would be like if you’d never met Bobby Brinkley?”
A car sounded its horn as it stopped in front of them. Bobby Brinkley hopped out and, ignoring the reaper, said, “Your kids are finally asleep. You want to go out, celebrate the holiday?” He then nodded. “What’s up, Worm Face?”
She smiled, then looked back at Worm Face. “Are you kidding? I love that mutt… especially on the holidays.” She then sat down in the passenger seat of Bobby’s car and closed the door.
Bobby returned to the driver’s seat and said, “What’d I miss?”
“I have the money to do what I want with the house… but it means stiffing the kids tomorrow. What should I do, Bobby? Go to a toy store, or the hardware store to get some home improvement things?”
Bobby smirked. “Is that what you wanted for Christmas? Give me that money and you let me take care of the renovations. And don’t worry about the kids. I’ve got Jargosh planning to surprise them tomorrow. He’s got gifts.”
Whitney raised an eyebrow. “What kind of gifts does a yeti give children? Or do I want to know?”
“I have no idea, but I damned sure want to find out. Can we count on you to bring them by The Witch’s in the morning? The gang’ll all be there.”
She smiled. “Yeah, we’ll be there.” She then looked back at Worm Face. “How about you, Worm Face? Is my guardian angel going to be there for me tomorrow?”
Worm Face laughed a hollow, unnerving noise. “I am no one’s guardian angel, Ms. Turner. I just wanted you to get a more secure position before I claimed the soul of that wretched excuse for a man.”
“So… he is on your short list?”
“He is the short list.”
Thinking about all that had conspired, she said, “Take it easy on him. After all, it’s Christmas.”
“Are you saying I should spare his life?”
“Oh, hell no. He deserves it. Just try not to scare him too bad. He thinks he’s been given a second chance, after all.”
“He is not acting like it,” Worm Face replied.
“Then fuck it, take him however you please. Merry Christmas, Worm Face. I hope I will see you tomorrow.”
“You may, Whitney. You may, indeed. Merry Christmas, Bobby Brinkley. Be nice.”
Bobby nodded slowly, not understanding what had taken place. “Sure. You too, Worm Face.”
Once the reaper was gone and Captain Lou’s distant scream was heard from inside the building, Bobby asked, “What was that all about?”
She smiled. “I made a new friend tonight, Bobby. Let’s go home.”
“Your home or my home?”
“My home, Bobby. I want to see my children.”
And with that, he drove off toward the Enchanted Forest, where Christmas dinner would happen the next day for Whitney and her children, as well as the otherworldly beings they had grown so fond of.
It was still dark outside the next morning when Whitney’s children surrounded her sleeping form on the couch. “Merry Christmas, Mommy,” they shouted.
Once their mother’s eyes were half-open, the burliest boy asked, “Can we open the gifts now?”
She yawned. “Okay, Hunter. But I want you to keep in mind that The Witch’s magic makes it hard for Santa to bring a heavy load for five kids. You may be down to one gift each. I’m sorry.”
Roberta, the runt of the litter, asked, “What are you talking about, Mommy? Look at all those gifts!”
Sitting up on the sofa, Whitney stretched and looked under the tree, where she saw a mountain of gifts. She remembered that she had given Bobby a fat wad of cash for the renovations, and was now angry, thinking he had spent all the money on gifts.
The sound of sleigh bells suddenly stopped in front of the shack, and the sounds of “Ho, ho, ho!” came from outside.
“Hunter, would you please let Bobby in?”
The boy opened the door, but instead of Bobby, a grotesque yeti appeared, wearing a fake beard, a Santa Claus hat, and nothing else. “Merry Christmas, norms,” the fake Santa cried.
“Merry Christmas, Jargosh,” the children shouted back.
“Aw,” Jargosh whimpered. “How did you know it was me?”
Bobby slipped in past the yeti and hugged the children all in one massive crowd. He then stood up and walked over to Whitney. “Merry Christmas.”
She glared at him. “Did you spend all that money on presents?”
Bobby noticed the gifts. “Wow. That’s a lot of gifts. Jargosh, were those all yours?”
“Nah,” he said. “Mine were the yeti dolls made from my old fur that came out in the summertime. Oops! I guess I spoiled the surprise.”
“That’s… sweet of you, Jargosh,” Whitney said unconvincingly.
“Thank you, woman,” the yeti replied with a sense of pride.
“Bobby, do you mean to tell me you didn’t buy those gifts?”
“They’re not mine. I buried that money you gave me for after the holidays. If they’re not yours or mine or Jargosh’s, who could have bought them?”
“Maybe we’ll know when they open them. Go for it, kids.”
The quintuplets ripped through the wrapping paper and pulled out gifts. They weren’t toys, but rather school supplies. Stationery, pens, and other things found in an office. In fact, Whitney recognized some of these things from Captain Lou Abbott’s office. Hunter opened a present containing the late Captain’s baseball cap, and one of his brothers had a tie.
Roberta held up a bowling trophy, which now had the boy’s name on the gold plate. “Look, Mommy! I won a bowling tournament!”
Whitney stifled a laugh. “That’s great, honey.”
Bobby leaned in and whispered, “Where’d this shit come from?”
“I think Worm Face paid us a visit in the night. If it weren’t so damn morbid that he gave my children the possessions of his latest victim, I’d say it was sweet.”
Upset that the yeti dolls were quickly discarded, Jargosh slipped outside… and tripped over his sleigh, causing the bells to shake once more. “Listen,” Roberta said. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!”
Bobby chuckled and muttered, “Atta boy, Worm Face.”