Excerpt for Santa by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Santa

J. Meverington


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Text copyright © 2017 by J. Meverington

Cover design © 2017 by ActionSnappers.com


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.




Christmas Eve

Snow drifted down outside the window as darkness settled in at the Phillips’ farmhouse in the country. Inside, heat radiated from an open fireplace. The sweet smell of pine wafted from a tree dressed up in its finery; tinsel scarves adorned its body and baubles dangled from scrawny limbs. Gifts of varying shapes and sizes lay underneath, waiting patiently for their turn to shine.

It was Christmas eve and Mr and Mrs Phillips and their two children sat around the piano, singing carols. Mrs Phillips fingers flittered across the keyboard as the family sang Silent Night. She had just started the chorus, belting out the words in a loud operatic manner when there was an almighty crash and a bang outside. Her ‘Silent Night’ was followed by a ‘Holy Crap’ and the children gasped at her profanity.

Mr Phillips raced to the front door, opened it and was confronted by a sight he would never have expected to see. He told his wife to take the children to their bedroom and to stay with them until he found out what was going on. If he didn’t come back within 30 minutes he instructed her to call the police, but he wasn’t worried. His six foot four physique was enough to deter most burglars.

Mr Phillips stepped out into the cold night, closing the door behind him. He stood for a second, taking in the scene in his front garden. A sleigh lay on its side attached to a bunch of reindeer in a crumpled heap, and gifts were strewn across the lawn.

A man dressed in a red coat, red trousers, and black boots stood up and brushed the snow from his clothes. He looked at his reindeer lying dormant and a scowl crossed his face. He walked towards one with a pale red nose and kicked it in the bells. ‘How many times do I have to tell you to put new batteries in your nose you useless piece of junk!’

Mr Phillips couldn’t believe his eyes or ears. He raced over and towered over him. ‘Oi, what do you think you’re doing, kicking that poor defenceless animal.’

The man spun around, a surprised look in his face. ‘Ah... hello...ah... don’t worry, he’s not real.’

‘What do you mean? He looks pretty real to me.’

‘Um... no... its a robot. They’re all robots.’

Mr Phillips took a closer look. They looked real, but lay unmoving like inanimate objects.

‘So why were you telling this one off?’

‘They’re supposed to be self-maintaining robots, but stupid Rudolf here is always forgetting the batteries for his nose, which is why we crashed.’

Mr Phillips stepped towards one of them and touched it with his foot and sure enough, it wasn’t real. The old man looked shaken.

‘Are you ok? What happened?’

‘Well, because his nose had gone out, I didn’t see your shed, and we clipped it and took a bit of a tumble.’

It looked like a massive crash landing to Mr Phillips, but he didn’t mention it. He looked at the gifts strewn all over the lawn. ‘Do you want a hand tidying this lot up?’

‘No, leave it with me, we’re not allowed to let anyone else touch the gifts.’

‘Well come inside out of the cold first and have a cuppa.’

‘No, I’d better be on my way. I have a lot of work ahead of me tonight.’ He bent down to pick up one of the gifts, but he could barely hold it in his shaking hands.

‘I insist, come inside and have a short rest.’

The old man looked at his crumpled sleigh and reindeer, took a deep breath and agreed he could do with a break.

Mr Phillips led him inside and pulled out a chair at the dining table for him to sit on, then held out his hand. ‘I’m Mr Phillips.’

The old man shook it. ‘Nice to meet you, I’m Santa Claus.’

Mr Phillips tried not to laugh at the strange old man.

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘Have you got anything stronger?’

‘Coffee?’

Santa screwed up his nose. ‘I’m thinking of something to calm my nerves. Whisky perhaps?’

Mr Phillips was stunned. They never drank alcohol in the house apart from a glass of sherry on special occasions. He looked inside the cupboards. There was an unopened bottle of brandy that someone had given him a few years ago. He held it up for Santa to see. ‘Will this do?’

‘Perfect.’ Santa’s face lit up in a smile.

Mr Phillips flicked a switch on the kettle and put a teabag in his cup ready to make his tea, then poured a small glass of brandy for Santa and handed it to him,.

‘I’ll be back in a tic,’ he said and left him alone. Mr Phillips entered the bedroom where his little angels were fast asleep, his wife sitting next to them.

‘Is everything ok?’ she asked.

‘An old man has had an accident. He seems a bit shaken, so I’m offering him a drink. You get some sleep and leave it with me.’

Mr Phillips went back into the kitchen. The kettle clicked off, he made his tea and turned to sit down when he noticed the old man’s glass was empty. He must’ve been thirsty.

‘Top up?’

‘Oh yes please,’ Santa replied.

Mr Phillips poured him another glass, but fuller this time. He sat down opposite, intrigued by the old man.

‘So, tell me, what is the story behind the reindeer and the sleigh?’

Santa took a deep breath. ‘They’ve started automating everything at the North Pole. I much preferred having the real animals, they were good company. That’s why I was so mad with Rudolph, causing us to crash. Automation doesn’t always work. Things are changing and I don’t like it.’ A tear slid down the side of his cheek.

Mr Phillips felt sorry for him. The poor man actually thought he was Santa Claus.

Santa continued. ‘It’s only a matter of time before they replace me. You see, everyone is shopping on the internet these days. Children no longer believe in me. I’m just a stupid dumb old man with a big belly.’ He put his face into his hands and started sobbing.

Mr Phillips didn’t know how to react. His family rarely showed emotion to one another, considering it a sign of weakness. And now, in his kitchen, sat a sad old man, crying his heart out over something he had made up. Mr Phillips tried to lighten the mood.

‘So, all the gifts scattered on the lawn, are they for your family?’

Santa looked up, his eyes red. He sniffed and wiped his nose with the sleeve of his coat before replying. ‘No, they’re not. I have no family.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry. Are they for a charity or something then?’

‘Oh no, I’m delivering them to all the good boys and girls.’

Mr Phillips had to admit, the old guy was acting his part well. Playing along he said, ‘So some of them are for us?’

‘Unfortunately not,’ Santa replied, no hint of amusement in his eyes.

‘Perhaps you don’t know that we have two children, tucked up in bed.’

‘Oh I know all about them,’ he replied.

Mr Phillips started to worry. Who was this old man who thinks he knows his children? A shiver ran down his spine.

‘So why aren’t my children getting any gifts?’

‘Because they haven’t been good.’

‘Of course they have, they’re little angels.’

Santa took a sip of his brandy. ‘Mr Phillips, I’m afraid you don’t know your children at all.’

‘What do you mean, of course I know my children.’

Santa continued. ‘Your boy is a bully. He takes the smaller children’s lunches, and their money, and threatens them if they say anything.’

‘Why would you say that when you haven’t met him. He wouldn’t do that, he’s well-spoken and polite and excellent at his school work.’

Santa continued talking, not taking any notice of Mr Phillips. ‘And then there’s your daughter. She does the other children’s homework in return for money.’

Why was he saying such awful things. He may be a sad old man, but he had no right coming into his house and telling him lies.

‘I’m sorry, but I think you’d better leave.’

Santa stood up, wobbled a bit, then sat back down. ‘Oh, I think I’ve drunk too much.’

Mr Phillips watched and a wave of compassion flooded him. Santa must be at least 90 years old, his face etched with wrinkles and his hair as white as the snow falling outside the window. He was probably just a lonely old man seeking attention. What if he sent him out into the cold and something happened to him? No, he couldn’t have that on his conscience.

‘Hey, why don’t you stay here. You can sleep on the couch.’

‘I might take a nap for an hour if that’s ok, then I’ll be on my way. I still have a lot of gifts to deliver.’

Mr Phillips led him into the lounge and showed him the couch. Santa lay down, snuggled under a blanket, and immediately started snoring. Mr Phillips grabbed a torch and sneaked outside to take a closer look at the reindeer and the sleigh. How dare Santa say his children had been naughty. He picked up two of the gifts that had been scattered across his lawn, took them inside, and hid them under the tree before heading off to bed.

The next morning the children bounced out of bed. Christmas day had finally arrived and they couldn’t wait to open their presents. They ran into their parents’ bedroom and woke them by jumping on their bed. Mr Phillips told them to go downstairs and open one present each, and he and their mother would be down shortly. The two children rushed out of the door, pushing and shoving each other, eager to be the first downstairs.

Mr Phillips used the opportunity to snuggle into his wife while his children weren’t there. His snuggle was short lived however as the two children soon returned, screaming and crying.

‘The gifts have gone,’ they screeched.

Mr Phillips wiped the sleep from his eyes as he crawled out of bed. What on earth were they talking about?

He donned his dressing gown and a pair of slippers and made his way to the lounge. Sure enough, all the gifts that had been under the Christmas tree had disappeared. That damned Santa, were the first words that sprung to mind.

His wife joined them, wondering what all the commotion was about. Mr Phillips explained the evening to her, about Santa and his sleigh and how he allowed him to sleep on the couch as he was too drunk to drive. Mrs Phillips became animated.

Are you crazy? Don’t tell me you thought he was actually Santa Claus?’

Of course not. It’s just... well... I don’t know how to explain it, but he seemed to know things.’

What sort of things?’

Well, you know... like how Rupert’s teacher said he had been bullying some of the children at school. Santa seemed to know about that.’

Probably just a lucky guess,’ she said.

Then he mentioned how Claudia has been taking money for doing assignments for her friends. She does seem to have a lot of money to spend on herself.’

Mrs Phillips’s face glowed bright red.

What?’ he asked.

One of the other mothers did mention that Claudia was doing her daughters homework for money. I didn’t believe her, and we had a falling out over it,’ she said.

But how would a con-man know about them?’

I guess its his job. Or perhaps he really is Santa.’

You really think so?’

Of course not!’

While they waited for the police to arrive, Mr Phillips checked the news on his laptop. A breaking news article caught his attention. As he read it, the blood drained from his face.



A Christmas Miracle or a Case of Robin Hood?


There have been multiple reports of Santa Claus having been spotted flying through the sky last night. Many families with no money have woken up to the miracle of gifts appearing underneath their Christmas trees. Meanwhile, some wealthy families have reported their gifts have been stolen. Is this a case of Robin Hood? Or has Santa delivered on his promise of only letting children who have been good receive gifts this year?

If you have been affected by this, please contact the news centre.


The End




The Secret Community



A Novel by J. Meverington

A page turning mystery full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end.

Terri wakes up with no idea of who she is, where she is, or how she got there. The worst thing is, nobody seems to take her memory loss seriously.

With a stroke of luck, she bumps into Damion, a London bar owner, who takes her in and is determined to help her.

As he investigates, he uncovers a horrific secret. Does this have anything to do with Terri’s memory loss? He has no idea, and worse still, he doesn’t know who he can trust.


What is The Secret Community?

Please read on for the first chapters of:

The Secret Community











Chapter 1


The sun streamed through the bedroom window, intensifying the agony in her head. Feeling dizzy and disorientated, she had no idea where she was or how she'd got there. Her eyes struggled to open against the bright light. She tried to recall what had happened last night, but her mind drew a blank. The throbbing in her head had affected her ability to think.

After a moment she managed to open her eyes to a squint. Luxurious silk sheets and pillows enveloped her naked body. Sitting up, she used her hand as a visor to shield the sun and surveyed the scene around her. A dramatic view of a city skyline dominated the floor to ceiling windows. She had no idea which city.

Where am I? Am I dreaming? She pinched herself. It wasn't a dream, more of a nightmare with decadent sheets. She racked her mind for memories, but none were forthcoming. Even her name eluded her. A toilet flushed. Her heart thumped as she realised she wasn’t alone. A shower started to run. Who's behind that door?

Instinct told her she needed to get dressed and get out. She clambered from the king-sized bed and searched for something to wear. A black cocktail dress lay discarded on the floor. That'll have to do. The tight little number got stuck on her head and smothered her face. A battle broke out between herself and the dress as she tried to pull it over her head, but it stuck fast. Her breath became short and ragged as she yanked the dress this way and that, but it wouldn't budge.

The shower stopped running. She froze. Oh my God, what if they see me like this, face stuck in a dress with my bottom hanging out. Panic overwhelmed her, terrified more by her appearance, than the person in the bathroom. With one foul yank and a terrible ripping sound, she managed to pull the dress over her head, albeit in a torn kind of fashion, but at least her body was mostly covered now. What she saw next caused her to gasp with surprise.

Standing in front of her was a person she could not have imagined in her wildest dreams. She was the most exquisite creature. Dark hair framed a pretty face and cascaded down her back, partially obscuring a tattoo on her left arm. The bronzed beauty who stood before her was tall and athletic, yet lean and feminine. Intense blue eyes stared back at her, eyebrows contorted into a puzzled expression. And she, too, was wearing a torn black cocktail dress!

The sound of gargling broke her trance. Apprehension fluttered in her chest. She wanted to run, but curiosity got the better of her. Perhaps whoever was there would jog her memory, remind her of who she was and how she got there. The door opened and a man stepped out.

‘Oh honey, you've ripped your dress! You poor thing. You okay? You needn't worry, you have plenty of others.’

He walked towards her but she shrank away from him, trembling with fear. She continued to retreat until a cold hard wall stopped her in her tracks. Her eyes darted around looking for an escape route, but she was cornered. Her heart pounded as he took a step closer. She pushed herself into the wall as if it might give way, allowing her to escape, but it stood its ground.

The man reached out for her. She stiffened, paralysed by fear as he pulled her into his arms. He had the fresh soap smell of someone who had just showered. Even though she was terrified, she sensed he wouldn’t harm her.

‘Honey, are you okay?’ As if sensing her unease, he released his embrace and stepped back, holding her at arms length. His brown eyes bored into her soul trying to connect with her thoughts. He looked confused, like a child struggling to understand. She almost felt sorry for him as he stood there, staring at her, his eyes moistened with emotion. His voice cracked as he spoke. ‘I know you've been through a lot, but it’ll get better, I promise.’

He continued to stare, a longing look in his eyes. She stared back at him, wondering who he was. He was quite old, perhaps in his late 40s; his greying hair cropped short and gelled at the front for a trendy look. He had a kind face and was rather handsome. Just not her type. I have a type?

He turned away from her as if to hide his feelings and stepped away. He opened the wardrobe door. ‘I'm sorry you ripped your dress, but there are plenty more here. See?’

Too afraid to move or talk in fear that he would try to touch her again, she remained silent. As if reading her mind he said, ‘I've got to get changed and go to work now, but I’ll see you later this evening.’

She stood there, bewildered. As if aware of her confusion, he added, ‘We'll talk then. Love you, honey.’



***


After an agonisingly long time she heard the front door close. Tentatively, she stepped out of the bedroom to make sure he had gone. A wave of relief washed over her as she realised she was now alone. Who was he? What does he want from me? What is the 'lot' I've been through? And why's there a wardrobe full of black dresses?

She stepped into the lounge and gasped at the sheer opulence. Light filled the room through the floor to ceiling windows. The room had raised levels on either side. In the left wing, three steps led up to a platform, with a grand piano taking pride of place in the corner. The right wing was another raised level of the same height where a giant spa bath sat, strategically placed to take in the incredible views. A lounge suite, a coffee table and a television formed the only furniture in the middle level. She attempted to open a door leading off from the lounge, but found it was locked. Too tired to even wonder why, she continued to snoop around the apartment.

The kitchen sat aside from the lounge. She held up her hand to shield the sun as it reflected off the dark glossy work top. Her eyes adjusted and she took in the stainless steel fittings and granite floor tiles. A high tech oven and hob caught her attention and her stomach grumbled. Grabbing the handle of a glossy white cupboard, she pulled the door open searching for food. It was empty and looked like it had never been used. She checked the other cupboards and also the fridge but got the same result. Empty apart from a few glasses and plates. There appeared to be no food in the house.

The kitchen extended into a dining area. The room was dominated by a square dining table with eight chairs placed around it, each chair a different colour. She thought this was odd, but it did brighten up the otherwise stark decor.

She gazed out the window seaching for inspiration. Anything that might remind her of who she was and why she was here. The sun had now disappeared behind some clouds and the day had turned dull and overcast. Black clouds loomed in the distance. Below her, a brown river wound its way past a mixture of middle-aged buildings and modern glass structures. The scene outside made no sense to her.

She wandered back into the lounge and sat herself down on a white sofa. Why can't I remember anything and how on earth did I get here? And who was that strange man? Thoughts throbbed around in her head so she closed her eyes to try and ease the pain. Before she knew it, she had floated off into a dreamless sleep.

A knock at the front door jolted her from her slumber. What? Where am I? What's going on? There was another knock, this time a little louder.

A highly strung voice screeched out from behind the door. ‘Terri? Are you home?’

She stayed put, stunned, unsure what to do. Another knock, louder again. She stood up feeling dazed, like a rabbit caught in headlights, not sure which way to go.

‘Terri, it’s Laura, I can hear you shuffling around in there. Open the door will you! I haven't got all day.’

A glimmer of hope sprung in her. Maybe this person can help me. Maybe they have the answers I’m looking for. Tentatively she opened the door.

A lady carrying a Harrods bag barged in, almost bowling her over as she strutted into the lounge. She placed some Danish pastries and a bottle of champagne on the coffee table and sat herself down on the sofa.


***


Laura threw her head back and roared with laughter. ‘Are you telling me you don't remember a thing from last night?’

‘Um…yes, correct. I woke up this morning with a shocking headache, in a strange bed, with a strange man in the bathroom. I can't remember a thing about myself or anything else for that matter.’

Laura laughed again, this time snorting like a pig, which caused her to laugh even louder. ‘Oh Terri, you are hilarious, so what did this 'strange' man look like?’

‘Um…’ she took a moment to recall his features, ‘I'd say he’s about 20-25 years older than me. His hair is grey…,’ she paused, ‘…Oh, and he's average height.’

This brought on another episode of psychotic laughter. ‘Sounds like Martin to me. Terri, you should stop drinking.’

‘Who's Martin?’

‘You know, the guy you married about a year ago. Rich, famous and until you married him, Britain's most eligible bachelor!’ Laura picked up a Danish pastry and took a bite.

Terri's brain struggled to process this new information. So it seemed the stranger is my husband? I guess that’s why he hugged me, but it doesn't explain why I don't remember him.

‘You called me Terri - is that my name? And my husband is Martin? And I live here?’

‘Of course you do darling. You are in a bad way. How much did you have to drink last night?’

‘Haven't you been listening to a word I've been saying? I DON'T REMEMBER A THING. All I know is what you've told me. Apparently my name's Terri, I live in this apartment and I am married to a man called Martin. I don't even know my last name!’

‘Towley.’

‘Pardon?’

‘Towley, your last name is Towley.’

‘Are you serious? My name is Terri Towley?’

‘Yup.’ Laura took another bite of her pastry.

Terri shook her head in bewilderment. How do I not know any of this? She continued to question Laura. ‘Don't you think it's weird I can't remember anything? What do I do for a job?’

‘Oh darling, you don't work. You're a lady who lunches.’ Laura took a slug of champagne, and dug into another pastry.

‘A lady who lunches? What does that even mean? I don't want to be a lady who lunches with a name like a bathrobe. This is insane.’

‘It means, darling, you married Martin for his money.’

‘Oh my lord, this keeps getting worse.’ Terri struggled to come to terms with what Laura was telling her. Why would she marry someone for their money? What sort of awful person was she? She wasn't sure she wanted to find out.

‘Have you seriously lost your memory? I told you not to take those drugs at the party last night.’ Laura took another mouthful of food.

‘Party? Drugs? Tell me more.’ Terri leaned forward, intent on hearing what Laura had to say.

‘Last night at the party. You got drunk and took a tablet some guy offered you.’

‘Which guy? What drugs did I take? Oh my God, this is my worst nightmare.’ Terri hoped it was a nightmare she would soon wake up from. So far all she knew about herself was she was a drug taking, money-grabbing lady who lunches with a name like a bathrobe. She shuddered at the thought of who or what she might be.

‘I don't know the details, but I saw you talking to a guy I'd never seen before. He handed you a tablet and you swallowed it. After that, you were anybody's. I bundled you in a cab and sent you home,’ Laura said dismissively, as if this was the last she wanted to say about the subject.

Terri was beside herself with worry and confusion.

‘So, you think the drugs I took caused me to lose my memory? What sort of drugs would do that?’

Laura sighed. ‘Darling, I'm afraid this whole losing your memory thing is becoming a bit of a bore. I have to be going. Things to do, people to see. You know how it is.’ Laura got up and walked out of the apartment as swiftly as she had entered, leaving Terri in a state of bewilderment.






End of Sample. Book available on Amazon.
























Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-16 show above.)