December 2012 completed January 2015
Murdoch was frustrated and ready to haul his younger son to the wood shed and apply belt to butt. Scott had volunteered, “I’ll hold him.”
L * A * N * C * E * R
For the last week Teresa, Maria, and Scott had been complaining non-stop to Murdoch about Johnny’s antics. “You have to do something, he is getting out of control.” The usually tolerant big brother had had enough. The harried elder Lancer was fast approaching his breaking point and was wondering about the worth of having his younger son home? A question he asked himself several times a day.
The Pest, formally known as Johnny Madrid Lancer, was driving everyone crazy. Said pest was stealing cookies, sampling cakes based on finger prints found in the icing, and scooping out the filling from the pies. The most heinous crime was snatching Maria’s still warm tamales. An angry Maria snuck up behind the thief and mid bite, “Niño, no more stealing,” swatted him with her wooden spoon. He yelped and rubbing his injured butt backed out of the kitchen. However, Maria’s wooden spoon didn’t seem to daunt him and the crime wave continued unabated.
Then there was the constant pestering about what he was getting for Christmas and the location of said gifts. “Johnny you will have to wait for Christmas.” Murdoch clasped his hands behind his back to keep from strangling the pest.
Much to the younger son’s dismay the gifts remained safely hidden. He had searched the barn, attic, tower, and even snuck into Scott’s room but no presents. When he tried to search Teresa’s room she caught him. The entire ranch heard Murdoch’s yelling, “YOU WILL STAY OUT OF HER ROOM, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
When Murdoch caught Johnny trying to sneak into his room he was barely able to control his anger as he pinned his errant son to the wall. Jabbing his finger into Johnny’s chest, “I HAVE HAD IT WITH THE PRYING, THE STEALING, AND IF THIS DOESN’T STOP AND I MEAN NOW… “ The threat left hanging made it abundantly clear that someone would be in serious trouble if he tried entered his father’s room-again.
That ultimatum only served as a challenge to Johnny Madrid Lancer. However, for a few days calm reigned at the Lancer hacienda. Everyone was starting to relax. Unfortunately for his new family, they failed to realize they should have gone to high alert.
Madrid was at Lancer and he was plotting.
L * A * N * C * E * R
On the third day of calm Murdoch decided it would be safe to keep an appointment in town with the banker. “Scott, I want you to check the North pasture’s lake level.” Then turning to Johnny, “You will check the fence line bordering the road to Morro Coyo.”
Johnny, the picture of innocence, made the appearance of riding out to check the fence line. Once he was out of sight, he dismounted and waited for his father and brother to leave so he could sneak back the hacienda.
When the coast was finally clear, Madrid slipped in the front door and up the stairs to Murdoch’s room. After glancing over his shoulder to make sure he was alone, he slowly opened the door and slipped into the room. Madrid looked everywhere in the room, but nothing, he didn’t even find gifts for the rest of the family. He shook his head and plopped down on his father’s bed, throughly frustrated.
Then a thought popped into his mind, he would finish his earlier search in Teresa’s room. After checking under every lace and frill, still nothing.
Then he figured, why not check Scott’s room again but as with the other rooms there were no gifts to be found. He was now beyond frustrated.
Since he hadn’t been able to search the kitchen with the women around, he would make that his next target. First, he needed a diversion since all the ladies were on high alert against the cookie thief.
Madrid stood at the top of the back stairs and listened to Maria and Teresa talk about the supper menu. Slowly he made his way down the stairs and out the side door without the women noticing him. His next stop was the chicken coop and Teresa’s beloved hens. Once he was in position he propped the gate open and waved his arms until the frightened chickens squawked and flew into the yard. Maria and Teresa heard the racket and ran out of the kitchen, worried about what might have frightened the chickens. Maria tried to calm the distraught Teresa, “Niña, don’t cry, it will be alright.” Then she called to some of the ranch hands, “Please help.” Thankfully, Walt and Hank rushed over and corralled the terrified fowl.
Behind the coop Johnny smothered his laugh and headed for the kitchen. He checked in the pantry, the cupboards, and in the boxes under the prep table. Again, nothing was found. When he heard the women return he ran into the Great Room and out the front door.
Madrid looked around, the coast was clear so he headed for Jelly’s room. After another fruitless search Johnny was being to wonder if these gifts even existed.
While he stood empty handed, he remembered Murdoch reading the story about Santa Claus delivering gifts on Christmas Eve, but it was just a story. “Wasn’t it? I’ve searched everywhere.” Then he remembered the story also told about a bad list, he was sure because of Madrid that he was on that one. “Guess I should be searching for switches and coal instead of gifts.”
Resigned to the fact he wouldn’t be finding any Christmas presents, Johnny left Jelly’s room.
He thought he was in the clear, but his luck had run out when Murdoch and Scott rode into the yard and caught him coming out of Jelly’s room. “Dios.” Johnny knew he was in for it now.
The master of Lancer sat at his desk facing his two sons. Scott was sure he saw smoke coming out of Murdoch’s ears while Johnny was trying to be invisible. It wasn’t working.
The rafters shook from Murdoch’s explosion. “THIS HAS GONE ON FOR LONG ENOUGH. GO TO YOUR ROOM. IF YOU EVEN TRY TO LEAVE IT…”
Johnny backed up, then turned and headed for his room, there was no way he was going to push the big man into physical harm to his backside.
Scott couldn’t resist the temptation and followed his brother from the Great Room. “Johnny, Santa isn’t going to be happy.” Disgruntled, Johnny just snorted and announced he didn’t believe in Santa as he stomped up the stairs.
L * A * N * C * E * R
Much to the relief of everyone on Lancer; Johnny had been keeping a low profile. All the while he continued to claim, “I don’t believe in Santa.” But figured he should stay out of trouble, just in case.
Maria and Teresa had prepared a special Christmas Eve meal with Val and Sam joining the family. Sam had agreed to spend the night to share Christmas morning with the family. Val had to get back to town but promised to come by the next day, if possible.
All was quiet at Lancer with everyone in bed, that is, everyone but Johnny. His curiosity had overcome his good sense, again. He listened at the door then opened it and peeked into the hallway. All clear. He snuck into the Great Room and gasped at the sight before him.
L * A * N * C * E * R
There by the tree stood a hairy, black, creature with cloven hooves, and the horns of a goat. His long pointed tongue lolled out, and his curled clawed finger indicated Johnny should come to him.
Madrid had just met Krampus.
“I am here to discuss your actions this December.” The creature’s tongue flicked back and forth, “You have been a bad boy, Johnny Madrid Lancer.”
Johnny gulped and nervously took a step backward, “Who are you?”
“I am Krampus and I am here for you.” The creature leered at him.
Johnny rubbed his eyes and looked again, yep the creature was still there. “What do you want with me?”
“Well, young man, where Santa serves the good children, I,” he pointed to himself, “Come to punish the bad ones.” The creature cackled, “And you by your actions have placed you among the bad ones.” He reached into the sack he carried and pulled out a birch branch which he smacked against his outstretched hand.
Johnny took another step back and was regretting the fact that he had left his gun hanging on the bedpost.
Krumpus growled and moved toward his victim. “You can’t run from me.”
“I ain’t running, you’re not real.”
“Oh but I am Johnny boy.” Again he smacked the branch against his hand as he advanced on miscreant . Then he raised the branch and was about to strike when Johnny ducked to avoid the hit.
Unfortunately Johnny wasn’t paying attention to where he was and tripped over the ottoman. On the way down he hit his head on the arm of Murdoch’s leather chair. The last thing he saw was the monster advancing on him… then blackness.
L * A * N * C * E * R
Johnny jolted awake to find Sam leaning over him. “Dios Sam, what are ya doing?”
“I am checking you after the fall you took last night.” Sam released his patient’s wrist. “From the way you are acting I guess it is safe to say you have recovered.”
Johnny bolted upright in bed and looked around his room, “Did you see it?”
“See what?” Sam reached for Johnny.
“That thing in the Great Room.” Johnny rubbed his forehead. “It was big, furry, had horns…”
Sam tried to calm his patient. “Johnny you were alone. We heard a crash and found you on the floor.”
“It was there, I saw it.” He leaned back against the headboard.
Murdoch and Scott had been waiting in the hallway, per Sam’s orders. Hearing Johnny’s voice they decided it was time to find out what happened last night.
Murdoch sat on the bed and Scott stood at the foot of Johnny’s bed.
“Son, just what do you think you saw last night?” Murdoch reached out to rub his son’s leg.
“It was big, hairy, had horns, and a really long tongue.” He stopped when he saw the doubting faces. “Give me a piece of paper and a pencil and I draw it for you.”
A few minutes later three heads were bent over the drawing.
Scott cleared his throat to hide the laugh fighting to erupt. “Actually Johnny, I have seen this creature before.”
Johnny almost jumped out of bed, “See I told ya.” He was feeling vindicated.
“Actually Johnny,” Scott held up his hand, “He is from Alpine folklore, and is seen as a companion to Santa.”
“I know he told me. Said Santa was for the good kids and he was for the bad ones.” Johnny crossed his arms and pouted.
“Johnny…” Scott wasn’t sure where to go with this. “Listen brother, he’s not real.”
“I saw him.” Johnny shook his head then held it with both hands.
“Johnny, that is not a good idea.” Sam put his hand over his mouth to stop the grin.
“I think that’s enough, we have presents to open.” Murdoch looked to Sam. “Can Johnny go downstairs?”
L * A * N * C * E * R
The contented Lancers sat in the Great Room basking in the glow of the fire and the candlelit tree. Everyone was happy with their gifts, especially Johnny who had worried about birch branches and coal. The cooks really outdid themselves with the meal, and Maria even made more of her special tamales.
Finally everyone headed for bed. Johnny couldn’t sleep, he waited in his room until all was quiet. When he was sure everyone was asleep he snuck back down to the Great Room.
He sat in Murdoch’s favorite chair and watched the embers glowing in the fireplace. It had been an amazing day, this Christmas thing met all his expectations and then some. Scott and Murdoch had been right, it was a wonderful time. The warmth of the room and the tequila lulled him to sleep.
Jelly was headed for his room when he notice someone sitting in the Great Room. He peeked in the window and smiled, the boy was okay.
“Guess Krampus didn’t hurt him after all.”