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       Christmas Jack-o'-Lantern, p.1

Christmas Jack-o'-Lantern


  CHRISTMAS JACK-O’-LANTERN

  By Subhajit Waugh

  Copyright 2013 Subhajit Waugh

  [This eBook is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real persons, whether living or dead, events or locales are purely coincidental. Characters are legendary or imaginary, and used fictitiously. Views expressed are those of the Author and not of G.O.I.]

  Thank you for downloading this eBook.

  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1: Seeds of Christmas rivalry

  Chapter 2: The Prophecy

  Chapter 3: Jack’s legendary story-the genesis of Halloween

  Chapter 4: Tick-tock; time flies so fast

  Chapter 5: The Conference

  Chapter 6: Devil’s Plans

  Chapter 7: Devilish Blackmail

  Chapter 8: Jack joins service

  Chapter 9: The unbreakable vow

  Chapter 10: The Second Vow

  Chapter 11: Special Training

  Chapter 12: Punishment

  Chapter 13: Life is a rough journey

  Chapter 14: Vagaries of fate

  Chapter 15: Prisoners

  Chapter 16: Restricted Tours

  Chapter 17: Jack’s Plans

  Chapter 18: Startling Revelations

  Chapter 19: Baba Yaga

  Chapter 20: Horns of Dilemma

  Chapter 21: The Christmas Parole

  Chapter 22: Appointment of Koschei and Belsnickel

  Chapter 23: Operation ‘La Befana’

  Chapter 24: The secret deal

  Chapter 25: Witch’s Sabbath

  Chapter 26: Rise and fall of ‘United State of elf-land’

  Chapter 27: From bad to worse

  Chapter 28: The Trial

  Chapter 29: Look east policy

  Chapter 30: Adventures in China

  Chapter 31: Swayambhara in India

  Chapter 32: Baba Yaga’s demand

  Chapter 33: Devil’s loans

  Chapter 34: Birthday Party

  Chapter 35: Money matters

  Chapter 36: Caribbean Plot

  Chapter 37: Mousetrap

  Chapter 38: Winds of change

  Chapter 39: The End…Or…The Beginning?

  Chapter 40: Coup Attempt

  Chapter 41: Devil’s scheme

  Chapter 42: The hunting party

  Chapter 43: The ransom letter

  Chapter 44: Crisis Hours

  Chapter 45: Deadly Dilemma

  Chapter 46: Gearing for confrontation

  Chapter 47: The final clash

  Chapter 48: Turning point

  Chapter 49: Devil’s demands

  Chapter 50: The betrayal

  Chapter 51: The handshake

  Chapter 52: Surprise

  Chapter 53: Coronation

  Chapter 54: Hallowmas

  About the Author

  * * *

  Prologue

  Jack offered his hand for a handshake. Devil glanced at his hand with deep contempt and ignored it. “Never even dare to think of shaking hand with me” Devil said. His pockmarked face had turned grim. “We aren’t equals, Jack. Shall I have to remind you of our master-slave relation?”

  He gave Jack a hardened look and said “We have rules here. Obey them, and your life will be tolerable. And, I demand blind obedience!”

  Devil scratched his own neck with the handle of the whip he was holding and continued “I will not…I repeat…I will not tolerate disobedience”. He shook his index finger at Jack as he spoke. “Is that clear?”

  “I shall obey all your orders” Jack nodded helplessly in meek submission.

  “Is it so?” a naughty smile broke out on Devil’s face. “Well then! Let’s see-” Devil pointed his finger at a spade lying on one corner of the stable. “Now Jack, pick up the spade and start cleaning up the mound of horse-dung over there”.

  Jack looked around him to find Devil’s henchmen grinning at him. Jack’s face and ears had flushed red at this deep insult. He stood there, hesitating and adamant.

  Devil was speaking to his pet horse in a low voice and rubbing it gently on the neck. “It seems, Jack require some training” Devil spoke softly as he patted his horse. He offered a carrot to his horse. The horse munched the carrot and neighed loudly. “This is my favorite horse” Devil announced with a proud look and rubbed the horse’s neck with great affection. “When I met this horse for the first time, it was so wild that it won’t even allow a saddle or a bridle-it was so wild! Now look…how tame and obedient it has become”.

  Devil continued caressing his horse “I love this horse. But first one has to break the horse” Devil turned his head slowly; looking at everyone’s faces in turns, and then focussed back at his horse. “I know how to break a horse!” Devil screamed with eardrum bursting loudness. He lifted his whip and struck the horse with such ferocity that flesh tore out of its body and blood squirted out. The horse neighed violently and sprang forward, leaping in the air. As it was tethered to the ground, it lost its balance and fell down. Devil kicked it mercilessly with his iron-spiked boot. Twice! Thrice!

  He turned to his henchmen and shouted, “Jack needs some training. Drag him to the underground dungeon, and bind him in chains. Not a morsel of food or a drop of water for two days!”

  The henchmen sprang upon Jack and started dragging him away. Devil threw his whip at one of his drunken attendant and shouted “take this with you. And use it well!”

  * * *

  Two days later, Jack’s head hung down from his shoulder in extreme exhaustion. He moaned feebly with excruciating pain; his voice was dried with thirst. His hands were chained from the top of two pillars, about six feet apart. His toes barely touched the ground.

  Jack's back was scarred with whip marks, with black clots of bloods. Occasionally, a few drops of blood oozed out from his wounds. Jack was so weak that he could barely stand. He fainted repeatedly, murmuring “water…water” almost inaudibly.

  Two dungeon guards entered the torture chamber and started removing the chains from Jack’s hands. “Looks too bad, buddy” one of them addressed to the other guard “seems like he can't even drag himself, leave alone walking. Let’s carry him outside to his waiting friend”.

  “You are right, chum. If we had arrived here another hour late, we might have wrapped him in shroud, and delivered him to his friend as a nicely packed gift” the other guard replied with a brutal laughter.

  Back to top

  Chapter 1

  Seeds of Christmas rivalry

  “What is your intention in delaying?” Mrs. Santa Claus protested “Are we not getting too old?”

  “Has my lady grown old?” Mr. Santa Claus said. He looked over his eyeglasses and smiled at her.

  “Stop teasing me!” Mrs. Santa reacted harshly “Just look at the mirror and see for yourself, how old you have become!”

  “Well, five centuries is already an unnaturally long span for someone to start ageing...” Santa Claus said. “Mary dear, when I migrated to this continent, I had hoped to discover ‘the fountain of eternal youth’ here at Warm Springs in Georgia. I learnt later that it lies somewhere in Florida or maybe in the Bahamas. I never found it!” Santa sighed with deep disappointment. “So, we are doomed to grow old”.

  “Now don't change the topic!” Mrs. Santa snapped in a caustic tone, trying to bring her husband on track “You must create the ‘Santa and Mary Claus Trust’ at the earliest to take care of our Christmas empire”.

  “My worker Elves are going on frequent strikes and closing down my toy factories and workshops” Mr. Santa replied “They are demanding better pay, less working hours, job securi
ty, retirement benefits….Hell! The list is endless. They have started whispering ‘Santa is growing plump at our sweat and blood’. I already have lots of headache to deal with!” Mr. Santa sighed. “Don't you think it is not a suitable time to discuss about ‘Memorial Trust’?”

  “That only argues in favor of forming the Trust, to transfer your headache”.

  “We have come here on vacation, to escape tensions” Mr. Santa Claus said with a decisive tone “So, I really don't want to consider all these things now. Remember what the doctor said, when I had a heart stroke last week?” He glanced at her and continued, “The doctor said ‘no tension and complete rest’. Yes, those were his exact words”.

  Mrs. Santa kept her mouth tight shut and grinded her teeth in rage. She was not at all prepared to hear ‘no’ for an answer from her husband. She was breathing heavily and seething with anger.

  Santa Claus ignored his raging wife, looked outside through the window and said calmly “look, how beautiful the pine trees on the mountain look! This ‘Santa Lodge’ here in ‘warm springs’ captures my heart. Ah, I believe this place is really good for my heart. All I want is to relax”.

  Mr. Santa Claus reclined himself on the soft-cushioned easy chair, and took out a Havana cigar from his cloak.

  Mrs. Santa pounced on him instantly, snatched away the cigar, threw it on the floor, squashed and crushed it under her shoes, and spit on it. Then she pulled Mr. Santa’s white hair really hard, as if to verify it wasn’t a wig.

  “Oouuchhh…!” Mr. Santa screamed. “What was that for?” he demanded in a protesting tone.

  “Don’t you remember what the doctor said? He said ‘no smoking!’ It is absolutely forbidden for a heart patient!” She waved her finger threateningly at Santa and reminded, “It is time for your daily dose”.

  Mr. Santa's face became pale; he nauseated as if he was about to vomit.

  “Oh honey, can't you pour it through a funnel directly into my throat?” Santa pleaded, “The medicine tastes so horrible!”

  * * *

  It was midnight, when an unidentified person appeared at the gate of the building adjacent to ‘Santa Lodge’. On the massive Iron Gate, a nameplate was hanging: Knecht Ruprecht, Personal Secretary-cum-Manager of Santa Claus.

  The security personnel informed Ruprecht that the person was absolutely adamant to meet him, to deliver an urgent message to him, personally.

  Ruprecht ordered the security to search him thoroughly for any hidden weapons, and then send him to his door.

  A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. On opening the door, Ruprecht found a man wearing white hood. The man requested that he should be allowed to come inside immediately, and the doors be locked.

  Ruprecht asked him to take a seat and offered him drinks, which he politely refused. Equally politely, yet firmly, he refused to remove his hood.

  The man began “Under the guise of a clerk, I worked as a spy for Santa’s supposed Russian ally ‘Ded Moroz’. I have defected from comrade Moroz’s camp with many valuable documents”. The man pointed at his briefcase, but held it tightly, as if someone would snatch it.

  “So you worked as a spy for Moroz!” Ruprecht said like a lawyer cross-examining a witness. “Tell me truly” Ruprecht said “Did you pass on any valuable documents of Mr. Santa to Ded Moroz as well?” From Ruprecht’s voice, it appeared that he was not only determined to trace any leaked secrets, but also confirm that the person’s claim of being Moroz’s spy was true. “You must tell me!” Ruprecht persisted in a firm tone.

  “I didn’t pass any important secrets to Russia” the man replied.

  Ruprecht didn’t seem to be satisfied with the answer, but didn’t grill him further.

  “These documents will prove beyond doubt that Ded Moroz is carrying out spying activities on Mr. Santa Claus” the man continued “he is hatching secret plots against Father Christmas, the British ally of Mr. Santa. In fact ‘Ded Moroz’ is Mr. Santa’s worst enemy under the guise of a friend”.

  “Judging by your voice, you seem to be very frightened” Ruprecht said.

  “My life is in great danger.” the man replied “Moroz’s agents must be searching madly for me. I seek refuge here, and I am ready to disclose all my secrets”.

  “Now calm down” Ruprecht assured him “You need not be afraid anymore. I assure you full protection”. Ruprecht paused and corrected his own words “but only if you spill all the beans. You must sing the full song; not in parts to suit your own interest, whatever it is”.

  Ruprecht sipped his soft drink, softened a bit himself, took a deep breath, and said, “You have indeed done a praiseworthy and heroic job, by trying to expose what you believe is wrong. You need not feel guilty of betraying your camp. Now tell me what you want to tell”.

  The hooded man began “Ded Moroz has been placing spies among Santa’s elves for spreading dissatisfaction and rumors and creating rift among dark and light elves. He has been bribing union leaders and high ranking elves of Santa’s toy factories to slow down production”.

  Ruprecht stared at him with his eyes widening, as if he had just been awakened from a deep sleep with a rude surprise. The man observed Ruprecht’s reaction keenly through the opening of his hood.

  “Besides, Moroz has been stealing other corporate information of your master’s factories”. He paused for some time and spoke hesitatingly “Ded Moroz plans to steal vast amount of money from Santa’s secret vaults and Swiss bank accounts. He has already bribed top level gnome bankers for this purpose”.

  Ruprecht listened with keen interest, till the man took a long pause.

  “Is that all?” Ruprecht said.

  “Ded Moroz plans to finance many of the dissatisfied elves, who are on the verge of revolting, with those Santa’s own money”.

  “Is there anything else left which you should disclose?” Ruprecht said “or do you want me to keep interrogating you incessantly?”

  The hooded man came very close to Ruprecht and whispered something in Ruprecht’s ear.

  “God! These are serious issues” Ruprecht said “needs immediate action”. Ruprecht said excitedly in fragmented sentences. Then he spoke firmly “I shall inform my boss, Mr. Santa, immediately. But I shall require all your documents in original”.

  The hooded man bowed down his head and silently handed Ruprecht his briefcase.

  * * *

  Next morning, Ruprecht pushed the door and stormed into Santa’s room excitedly, without even knocking. Without any greetings or compliments, he exclaimed, “Sir, a ‘terrible thing’ has happened”.

  Santa put aside his newspaper, glanced at his face calmly and asked, “What’s it?”

  “Sir, these documents! Just have a look at these!”

  Santa glanced through those documents, and to Ruprecht’s great disappointment, he showed no excitement. Not even a frown!

  Ruprecht pressed on that Ded Moroz has placed spies in Santa’s ally, Father Christmas’s office. Besides, Ded Moroz has also bugged Santa’s cousin Sinterklaas’s castle in Southern Spain.

  “How can you believe an anonymous person?” Mr. Santa said dismissively “Huh Ruprecht! It is just a hoax by some trickster”. Mr. Santa almost tried to get rid of Ruprecht and continue with his newspaper. “Ruprecht dear, he might have just taken advantage of your child-like gullibility and narrated a cock and bull story”.

  But Ruprecht was adamant. “Moroz has already made detailed plans to disrupt toy supply from your workshops and factories to your cousin Sinterklaas” Ruprecht said.

  “Leave me alone” Mr. Santa said, trying to focus on the paper.

  “Sir, we must take immediate action” Ruprecht said, “Needless for me to tell you that your cousin Sinterklaas is immensely rich but lack production facility. He depends solely on you for supplying toys and gifts to Netherlands and adjacent countries. And once he gets ousted, Ded Moroz can easily gain monopoly in all those regional markets”.

  Mr. Santa looked deeply irritated a
nd remained silent.

  Ruprecht pulled out an envelope, and said “Sir, just have a look at these photos……….”

  Quite unwillingly, Mr. Santa Claus pulled out a black and white photo and glanced at it casually.

  He stared at it for a long time, as if trying to recollect something. Moments later, he blurted rather excitedly “Ruprecht..............Oh my God! This seems to be-”

  Before he could complete, Ruprecht sighed, and continued, “Yes Sir, you are right! Sir, this photo was developed from microfilm provided to me. It clearly shows the interior of your cousin’s steamboat ‘Tjesboot12’. I am so worried to think what Ded Moroz’s plans can be: to place an explosive or to hijack the steamboat or God knows what!”

  “Are you sure?”

  “Sir, I have an earnest request” Ruprecht ignored Santa’s question and continued, “The spy who has defected from Ded Moroz and provided all these proofs, should be provided immediate protection”.

  “I don’t think so. I shall talk with Ded Moroz and try to find out a diplomatic solution” Mr. Santa replied. “After all, Ded Moroz is my Russian counterpart and my ally. I don’t want to strain my relation with him. If we should provide shelter to that spy, it will certainly spoil my good relation with Ded Moroz”.

  “Excuse me Sir!” Ruprecht snapped “But, don’t you suppose, you are making a grave mistake in believing Ded Moroz is still your friend?”

  Ruprecht stared hard at Santa’s face and said with a grave tone “Sir, the spy who asked for shelter is threatening suicide if you refuse asylum”. Ruprecht’s tone grew more apprehensive as he continued “I came to know that he attempted to chew his cyanide capsule yesterday night in a state of mental depression”.

  “But providing him shelter will only irritate Ded Moroz” Mr. Santa said “I really don’t want to get into bitter relation with Ded Moroz. I am too old now to desire trouble; so old that, I have even stopped counting my age long ago” Santa Claus said, while rubbing his hand lazily on his fat belly, “So let the spy find shelter somewhere else. However, I shall meet Father Christmas and my cousin Sinterklaas, and show them all these documents”.

  “There is something more” Ruprecht hesitated as he spoke “Moroz had a secret affair with your wife in the distant past. He always had a deep grudge in his heart for losing her hand in marriage to you” Ruprecht’s hesitation was turning into a stammer “Now Ded Moroz eyes her with deeper interest and wants her in his harem to make up for his past loss”.

 
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