"Why did they send a message to Queen City?" asked Nicholas.
"I know why!" said Gregory. "its because White Owl lives here, isn't it?"
"No," I said calmly, suppressing a smile. "There's a much better reason. May I continue?" The boys sat back in their beds and nodded agreeably.
In police headquarters, Commissioner Jordan held the communication from the North Pole in her hand. Beside her, Chief Linseed rubbed his face. Worry crossed both their visages.
"I can't commit men to this Commissioner," said Chief Linseed. "We've barely enough as it is with these budget cuts and furloughs."
"I know Chief," said Commissioner Jordan. "Besides, this request is for someone besides us. I don't know who she is behind that mask, Chief. But if there was ever a time for her, this is it." The commissioner crossed the room and lifted a small glass cover from a velvet cushioned table. She picked up the cell phone and pressed one on the speed dial.
"Wait a minute! White Owl has a cell phone?" asked Nicholas.
"Of course she does," said Gregory. "How else are the police going to get in touch with her? Its not like they have a big searchlight on city hall."
"But its not included in her action figure!" insisted Nicholas.
"Calm down Nicholas," I said. "Would you grant that they might not list EVERYTHING White Owl has in her tool belt?"
Nicholas nodded. "I think so. It would be too small, and might cause a choking problem." I beamed. At least Alex and Beth's safety lectures were getting through.
A few moments after the call, White Owl landed in the commissioner's office. "Good afternoon, Chief, Commissioner. I assume the situation is dire, the fate of the world is at stake and I'm the only one who can stop it?"
"Now how did you..." began Chief Linseed.
"You're absolutely right White Owl," said Commissioner Jordan. "In fact, it could be far worse. We have a communique from the North Pole that indicates Santa Claus has been captured and is being held hostage. The communique requested you specifically."
White Owl took the sheet and studied it. "I don't think I have a lot of time. Christmas is in three days, and if Santa isn't free before then, then Christmas isn't coming."
"Surely you can't get there flying, White Owl?" said Commissioner Jordan.
"I don't have to fly Commissioner. I just have to get to Casey's" And with that, the dauntless heroine flew out the window leaving the Police Chief and
the Commissioner staring agape at one another.
"Well you heard her, Chief! Let's get to Casey's!"
"Why did they have to go to Casey's?" asked Gregory.
"I know this one!" said Nicholas. "They had to go there, because that's where Santa is!"
"But there's Santa's all over the city," protested Gregory. "They're in the Tri County mall, out in Sylvania and on the West Side too."
"But the REAL Santa is at Casey's" said Nicholas solemnly. "They even advertise that."
"Nicholas is right, Gregory," I said. "In fact, didn't we see the parade this year?"
"Oh yeah," said Gregory. I smiled and continued.
Casey's department store was crowded, but it was warmer in the manager's office. Mr Throckmorton was not being very cooperative. "No, I forbid it. I can't have the police traipsing through all the departments during my busiest time. Ye cats! No one would be able to buy anything!"
Commissioner Jordan replied, "Mr. Throckmorton, I have a warrant signed by your good friend Judge Hooker. Now I would prefer not to exercise it, but I CAN."
Throckmorton turned red with rage. "Now see here, Commissioner! I pay my taxes to keep you from running roughshod over me."
White Owl stopped him at that point. "Mr. Throckmorton. I think you misunderstand. Santa Claus is in trouble. Have you seen him today?"
"No," said Throckmorton. "And he's never late. I can't understand it."
"We just want to find him. Could I maybe have a look at the dressing room Santa uses?" She smiled and Throckmorton smiled back.
"Weeeellll! I can hardly refuse such a lovely lady now, can I? Walk this way please." Throckmorton pushed through his office and onto the floor. A short escalator ride later, the four of them were on the second floor and headed toward Santa's chair. The chair sat empty, with a note that said, "Feeding the Reindeer"
"OK White Owl," said Throckmorton. "Normally this is just another storage area, but we do make a dressing room from it at Christmas. You know, a few lockers, a chair or two--just a place to get away from the kids every so often."
White Owl entered the room. It was so small that one might have to go outside to change his mind. The room held four lockers, a chair and the miscellaneous debris of people who eat fast food and work retail. White Owl studied the lockers, which seemed to be randomly placed. They all seemed identical except for the numbers: 836 837 1130 and 1224. She gave a tentative tug on the locks of each, and was surprised when the door to 1224 opened. She felt a swirling breeze from inside and could see a bright white light blinking. She stepped into the locker and fell flat on her face in a snowbank.
Looking back up, White Owl couldn't see the locker anymore. She shivered, and was glad for the ski jacket she wore over her leotard. Turning back, she saw the gleam of a small city ahead of her, the light rising above the thick pine forest in front of her. Tucking her hands into her pockets, White Owl trudges slowly toward the city, deciding to save herself the wind chill of flight.
She entered the forest, and was awestruck by the fact the trees were decorated with ornaments, lights, tinsel and garland. White Owl stared in amazement at the sight and missed the two little elves rushing by on either side. Suddenly, her ankles were tugged together and White Owl fell into the snow once more. "Hey!" she cried. "I'm White Owl! One of the good guys! I think you sent for me."
There was a rustle from the pine boughs and a small cadre of elves poked their heads out of the trees. An older elf, with thick glasses stepped forward and studied a sheet of paper. "Hmmmm, you seem to be who you say. OK guys, let her go." The ribbons fell away and White Owl staggered back to her feet, brushing the cold snow from her tights.
The elf held out his hand. "I'm Doc Blinky. I run--er used to run--Santa's Records and Files. I guess now you'd say I'm the leader of the resistance."
White Owl took his hand and shook it. "What's happened here, Dr Blinky?" She listened intently as the elf explained Jingle Belle's arrival.
"And now, she's got Santa locked up in the only room in the castle with no chimneys, windows, or mirrors. And it only has one door, guarded by one of the Outcast. Jingle Belle rounded up a whole lot of the elves who were unhappy under Santa and put them in charge."
"What about the rest of them?"
"They're still in the workshops. Belle disabled the World Watch, and turned it on us instead. No one can go anywhere in the compound without her seeing and knowing." White Owl filed this knowledge away.
"But we have a plan, White Owl! We're out of the compound now, so Belle isn't watching. We need YOU to spring Santa, while we cause a big enough diversion to bring Belle to us. You'll break in through the big window in Santa's great hall and get to him while we reconnect world communications and overthrow Belle."
"I'd hate to destroy the window in this cold," said White Owl.
"It's OK. We have the best collection of carpenters, glaziers and putty men this side of a union hall. We'll have it fixed in no time. Besides, there's a weather control over the compound." Doc Blinky smiled and White Owl could see the pride in his twinkling eyes.
"All right. When do we go?"
"Give us an hour to get back into the grounds. You'll see fireworks over the toy factory. That's your cue. Oh here, this should help you while waiting."
He handed a silver flask to White Owl and she took a drink of strong coffee. Then the elves disappeared into the dark forest.
White Owl shivered in the cold and sipped the coffee. She went over the layout of Santa's castle in her mind and was ready when the fireworks display erupted over the workshop. "Showtime," she muttered and jumped into the air, flying over the castle. A large rosette window with frosted glass loomed beneath her. White Owl took a silver ball from her pouch and threw it at the glass. The ball hit once, bounced and exploded, sending glass shards into the empty great room. White Owl covered her eyes and followed into the gaping hole.
She followed Doc Blinky's instructions and took the hall to her left. The hall ended at a small alcove where a snaggle-toothed elf sat. He looked up at White Owl and got a shocked look on his face. He picked up a tin can, with a string attached and shouted, "Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert!" White Owl threw a steel ball at him and the elf yelped as the ball knocked the can out of his hand.
"A tin can intercom?" she asked, incredulous. "You'll have to do better."
Snaggle-tooth ran toward the heroine, tiny fists of doom raised. White Owl stepped to the side, grabbed his arm and dropped the elf on his head. The small figure lay still. White Owl patted him down, and found a key. She went to the door and slipped the key into the door. "Forgive me Santa, I may have wound up on your naughty list for that," she said as she opened the door.
"I wouldn't worry about that, White Owl," said a feminine voice. White Owl looked up to see a red haired woman with a deep green outfit in front of her.
The woman was holding one end of a rope, the other was looped into a noose around Doc Blinky's neck.
"Jingle Belle I presume?" asked White Owl. "You should know I'm going to stop you."
"I don't think so Miss Snooty Heroine." She tugged the rope and Doc Blinky's eyes bugged out. "Now if you'll just surrender to me, I MIGHT let you go home."
White Owl watched in horror as Blinky kicked and struggled, clutching wildly at the rope. He was trying to be defiant, but White Owl also saw him looking past her, trying to warn her about something. She turned and saw Snaggle-tooth with a funny looking slingshot in his hand. He released the sling, and a small purple sweet hit White Owl in the nose, leaving a sugary residue on her face. White Owl shook her head, and turned to Jingle Belle.
"Your silly little games aren't going to stop me. Now put Doc Blinky down or...or...." She attempted to charge Jingle Belle but found herself blocked by a giant Candy Cane. Dodging left, she found a large taffy impeding her...
"Or what, White Owl?" asked Jingle Belle. "Finding it hard to stay awake?"
"What...what was that?" asked White Owl. The room was reeling...she could feel her knees buckling.
"That was the Sugarplum bomb. Sweet dreams White Owl."
The great heroine's knees buckled, and she dropped to the floor, a pleasant look on her face. Jingle Belle released the noose and Doc Blinky dropped to the floor, then stood and smiled. "She fell for it Milady Belle! That was so Tinsel!"
"Of course she fell for it you oaf. All heroines have a need to believe they're helping the oppressed. Now Blinky, I need you and Snaggle-tooth there to get her to the packing room. I think our heroine is in for a little surprise...
(to be continued...)