The Untold Story of Kris Kringle
The walk to the city hall was a long one. More than once Kris tried to engage the men in conversation, but to no avail. No matter how hard Kris tried, he couldn’t get a word out of the soldiers who had apprehended him and Hannes.
“I acted alone,” Kris argued. “Let the other boy go.”
The soldiers said nothing.
“Come on,” Kris argued, “I’m not from around here. Surely you know that. I’m sorry if I broke some ridiculous law. But it was me, not him. Let him go.”
Finally Kris said, “I know you think the law’s a bad one too. Why are you arresting us when you don’t even believe in the law you’re enforcing?”
This got a reaction from the lead soldier, the one Kris had knocked over. It was a small reaction, just a glance, but Kris saw it and kept pressing.
“How will your burgermeister react when he finds out that you disagree with his stupid law?” A wince. Almost imperceptible, but Kris saw it. “How will he react when he learns that you were complicit?”
“How’s that?” the soldier snapped.
Finally, a reaction!
“You knew where I’d be. You got us just around the corner from where we handed out the toys.”
“We?” the man in charge said.
“I meant ‘me.’”
The soldier gave him a hard look.
“When I said ‘we,’ I meant, you know, like the royal ‘we.’”
“Anyway, look. You obviously knew where I was going to be. It’s not like it would be that hard a deduction: I was in the same place as last year. I gave away the toys on the same date and at the same time. You know, and I know, that it was no coincidence that you just happened to be where you were, and arrested me for what I was doing.” He glanced at Hannes and added, “Me and this totally innocent kid.”
The soldier grimaced at Kris as they continued to walk. “Maybe one of the children came to us with a toy and we were about to get you when you assaulted me.”
“Perhaps,” Kris countered. “But do you think the Burgermeister will see it that way? And I didn’t assault you. I ran into you. There’s a difference.”
The guard glared at Kris again. “Not in Düsterstadt, there isn’t.”
“Look, the other boy had nothing to do with any of this. You know it and I know it. Why not let him go? In the interest of justice. If you do, then I’m sure I would be compelled to tell you the secret way I arrived this year. You showed great skill in finding and apprehending me at all.”
“Kris, shut up!” Hannes scolded.
“No, you shut up … kid. Whoever you are.”
The soldier looked at Kris with a quizzical expression. “Kid, whoever you are? Who just happens to know your name?”
“A lucky guess.” Kris then leaned in close to the guard and said quietly so that only he could hear it, “Just like I might make a lucky guess in thinking that you have a son who wanted a toy soldier … just like his father.”
Straightening up, the soldier said loudly, “Don’t use such language around me boy.” He struck Kris. But to Kris’ surprise, the blow had no real force behind it.
Kris was confused by the soldier’s action. He walked in silence for several minutes trying to figure him out. Finally, the soldier broke the silence as they came into the shadow of the city’s hall. “This boy had nothing to do with anything. Cut him loose.”
“No!” Hannes protested.
Kris leveled a stare at Hannes that stilled him. “Please, Hannes,” he said quietly. “For me.”
Hannes looked like he was going to cry, the conflict bright on his face. Then the lead soldier yelled, “Go now, boy!” and Hannes took off on a tear.
The soldier looked down at Kris. “And if you say another word, so help me, I’ll …” He leaned close, menacing, and whispered in Kris’ ear, “Thank you, Kris Kringle. May God bless you and your family, and protect you from the injustice of the Burgermeister.”
He straightened, expression stern.
Kris had a look of terror on his face … or at least that’s what the other’s saw. They didn’t know him well enough to see that he was struggling to keep his grin at bay.