“Please, Mr. Midas. I have an interview for a third job on Monday. If you just give me a little time, I can get you the money for rent.”
“I’m sorry Ms. Winston–”
“Uh-huh, right. Ms. Wilson, the terms of your lease are clear. This isn’t the first time your rent has been delinquent, and we can’t afford to keep giving out handouts in this market. We’ve already graciously extended your eviction day to Friday.”
“That’s Christmas Eve! Please, just let us stay in the house through the holidays. The shelters are full and I want my son to have a roof over his head.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Winslow. The lease is clear. Friday is the best I can do. Best of luck to you both.”
And with that, Montgomery “Monty” Midas ended the phone call. A flicker of realization that he may have been too brusque flashed in his mind before quickly being pushed into the deep recesses of unrepentance. After all, Monty didn’t rise to the position of Manager of Tenant Relations at Tantalus Property Management by holding the hand of every would-be squatter with a sob story and a pipe dream. Besides, he had a very fancy dinner to attend with a very delicious piece of arm candy, and he couldn’t afford to dawdle any longer than he had already. Monty fastened the final button of his white collared shirt and went to work tying his plain black tie to go along with his plain black suit. He checked the line of his well-maintained stubble in the mirror, made sure his thinning, brown hair was gelled just right to hide all proof of aging, and flashed himself a gray-eyed wink and smile.
With one final glance in the mirror, Monty grabbed his keys, phone, and wallet and stepped out onto the portico of his modern Greenwich SmartHome that he snagged for a paltry $2 million – half of what the home would be worth in a pre-pandemic economy, If there’s one thing Monty Midas can’t resist, it’s a good deal. Dressed for the evening, he was looking forward to dinner at The Olympia with his girlfriend of a year, Valerie. He was less excited to see her and rather anticipated the stares of the other diners as they ogled the paradigm of beauty that is Val. They would be preemptively celebrating his promotion to Senior Managing Director of Tenant Relations with a rather hefty tab. Before he would be confined to a restaurant, Monty chose to have a quick smoke before getting into his brand new Edison electric car with all its bells and whistles. As he took his first drag, he heard a whirring noise off in the distance.
From over the cedar trees that dotted his front lawn flew a rather unwieldy contraption that had a package dangling securely from its undercarriage. As it came closer, Monty could tell that it was a drone. The first thing he noticed about the drone was its festive attire. It was decorated with felt antlers and a glowing red nose akin to the cheesy holiday trappings people chose to place on their vehicles, to Monty’s disgust. The package the drone carried was wrapped like a Christmas present, complete with a red bow and green wrapping paper covered with jolly Santa faces. The drone flew to the portico, lowered the package to the ground, and released the box at Monty’s feet. A delivery chime to the tune of “Deck the Halls” played before the drone flew off into the crisp December night.
Monty was confused, but he was also never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe it was a gift from his company for his upcoming promotion. Monty unwrapped the gift and tossed the Santa paper aside, lifting the lid of the box only to be met with disappointment. Inside the box was a piece of aged cardstock covered in swirly script. He read the short letter to himself.
I see you when you’re sleeping.
I know what you do when you’re awake.
I’ve judged you to be Naughty,
so this life from you I’ll take.
“Absolute nonsense,” Monty muttered to himself. He lifted the card to reveal a small lump of coal. Irritated, Monty tossed the box toward his door. Expecting a gift, it appeared he had instead been the victim of a prank. It was probably one of the guys at work – perhaps someone who had been overlooked for his promotion. Monty took one final drag from the cigarette he’d been holding in his mouth and dropped it onto the concrete. As he squished out the last of the embers, his phone went off.
Mr. Cratchit. What is the President of the company calling about at this hour? Monty quickly answered.
“Mr. Cratchit! What can I do for–”
“Monty, what the hell did you do?” Mr. Cratchit snarled into Monty’s ear.
“I–” Monty was truly at a loss for words. He had just seen Mr. Cratchit before he left work for the evening and everything was fine. He didn’t know how he had earned his ire in a couple short hours.
“I received an emergency call from our auditors tonight about some ‘disturbing’ findings they had made. Apparently, someone has been skimming money from our coffers, and financial tracing has linked the missing funds back to you!” he roared.
“Tha–That’s not possible, sir. I don’t even have access to the accounts! How could I have taken money off the top?” Monty stated frantically, trying to rationalize with the furious man.
“I don’t know, Midas. Maybe you had help. Frankly, I don’t care at this point. This investigation is being handed over to the authorities. You can come into work tomorrow to collect your things, but after that, your access to the building and our web services will be revoked,” Mr. Cratchit replied.
“But–” before Monty could get another word out, the call ended.
Monty’s head spun and his heart raced. He couldn’t understand what was happening. Monty raced back inside and pulled at his tie, feeling as though he couldn’t breathe. He tried to call Mr. Cratchit to sort things out, but the calls went straight to voicemail. He tried his other coworkers as well to no avail. Before he could place another call to Mr. Cratchit, the surround-sound speakers in his living room kicked on and began to play at full volume.
He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice–
Monty scrambled for the remote to the speakers. He pressed every button he could get his fingers on, but the Christmas tune wouldn’t stop. Suddenly, as abruptly as it had begun, the music stopped. A heavy silence fell over the house and Monty like a collapsed circus tent of which Monty was the lone clown remaining at the center of the catastrophe.
Before Monty could get his bearings and begin processing what just happened, his phone went off again. Without looking at the caller ID, he immediately answered.
“Mr. Cratchit! Sir, please–” he began with a start. But the voice over the phone was not Mr. Cratchit; it was as feminine as it was deadly.
“How could you, Monty?!”
“Listen, Val,” Monty began, “I don’t know what the crisis du jour is this time, but I don’t have time to deal with it. Crazy stuff has been happening with work and I–”
“I saw the pictures you sent everyone. The private pictures. How could you embarrass me like this?!” she interjected before he could finish.
“What pictures? I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I didn’t send anyone anything!” he replied frustratedly. Monty felt as though he had stepped into The Twilight Zone. Everyone had collectively lost their marbles.
“I have the receipts, Monty – the proof. Did you know that sharing those kinds of images without my permission is illegal? You’ll be hearing from my lawyers. Trust me,” Valerie replied with venom.
“Wait, Val, just listen to me–” Monty countered calmly, trying to soothe the scorned woman on the other line.
“No, Monty. I’m done listening. If you want to tell me something, you can go through my lawyers. And if it wasn’t already clear, we are through!” again, as it had with Mr. Cratchit, the call ended.
Monty was truly at a loss. Within the span of a few minutes, it felt like his entire life had unraveled. He sank to the living room floor in a stupor, leaning against the cushions of the couch just to keep himself upright. He had not only lost the promotion he had put hours of overtime into earning – he had lost his entire job. He would be blacklisted from working in property management ever again. Hell, he’d probably never be able to work again – at least, not in an industry that required references. That’s if he even managed to stay out of prison. Monty had also lost his girlfriend. He wasn’t heartbroken in the sense that he had been in love with Valerie, but it’s nearly impossible to find a woman who checks all the boxes that made her man the object of envy in the circles in which Monty ran. He had also poured a lot of time, money, and disingenuous acts of affection into keeping that trophy of a woman polished and present over the last year. This wasn’t right.
Feeling the anger building inside of him, Monty brought himself to his feet. Someone was messing with him. He knew he hadn’t embezzled money from the Tantalus accounts – he didn’t need to. Monty was one of the top earners in the company. But Mr. Cratchit had said that there was proof and that financial tracing had linked back to him. Likewise, Monty knew he hadn’t sent any obscene images of Valerie to anyone, but she, too, had intimated at there being evidence of his guilt.
The box. In the tumult of the last few minutes, Monty had forgotten all about the wrapped box and the reindeer drone who had delivered it, but he wasn’t one to believe in coincidences. He ran to the front door and flung it open, stumbling onto the portico to look for the box he had haphazardly discarded in the hopes that it contained some clue as to the identity of the sender. But… the box was gone.
In the black and chilly December night, Monty felt his blood run cold in his veins as he came to several realizations at once. The drone likely hadn’t come back to collect the box, so how did it disappear? On the same token, most drones can only be flown within a small range of the remote that controlled it. That could only mean one thing: whoever had sent the box had been nearby the whole time. And that person had come to his doorstep.
Monty slowly walked backwards into his foyer, keeping an eye on the dark exterior as he retreated to what he hoped was safety. All the events of that evening raced through his mind. As scared as he was of the unknown package sender and his or her intentions, each passing moment only served to fuel the fire of rage that grew from deep within his chest. Alongside Monty’s anger grew a sense of indignation, followed by one of determination. He was going to make this right. He was going to prove his innocence. He was going to take back the life that he had lost in one fell swoop.
With a deep breath, Monty patted his pockets to ensure he still had the wallet and keys he had grabbed earlier. He slowly made his way back to the foyer and peeked through the windows that framed the front door. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see in the sheer darkness, but not noticing anything amiss, he opened the door, stepped out onto the portico, and locked the door behind him. Monty then scurried to the topline Edison electric car that sat parked in his driveway. He got inside, immediately locked the doors, and turned the car on, making sure to illuminate the surrounding darkness with his high beams as he pulled out of the driveway.
Monty wasn’t sure how he was going to go about solving all of his problems, but his gut instinct told him to drive to work first. While he still had access to the building, he could go inside and try to find evidence that someone was framing him. From there, he would swing by Val’s apartment to explain the whole situation to her. Monty knew he could get Valerie to see reason if he could just speak to her face-to-face and relay the events of that evening.
Fortunately, the roads were deserted that evening. People probably didn’t want to be out in the biting cold. Monty was able to make good time as he sped toward the bridge that would take him to his office building in the city. Apart from white-knuckling the steering wheel, the ride was going well, and Monty slowly started to convince himself that all could be made right. But the encouraging thought left just as soon as it had come. The headlights on Monty’s Edison started flashing from high beams to low beams, and the lights inside of his car began to flicker on and off like some sort of great value rave. Monty moved to hit the brakes so he could pull over to the shoulder and troubleshoot the problem, but as he hit the brake pedal, nothing happened. The car continued to drive without slowing. In fact, the Edison was starting to speed up. Monty turned the wheel toward the shoulder, hoping that getting onto the rougher terrain would cause the car to decelerate, but the wheel wouldn’t move in the direction Monty turned it. He let go of the wheel in shock only to watch the wheel turn on its own, guiding the flashing, accelerating vehicle through the desolate roads with no driver. Monty frantically attempted to disable the autopilot feature on the Edison, but he quickly realized that the autopilot wasn’t on in the first place. Of all the epiphanies Monty had that evening, he was quickly coming to his most terrifying one: his car had been hijacked.
The wheel of the Edison took a sharp turn to the left, and with that, the car was going off-road. As the wheels kicked up dirt and grass and the possessed lights continued to flicker, Monty was blind as to where the ghost car was driving until the car drove off the grass and onto a wood platform that he quickly recognized to be a dock. The Edison flew off the end of the dock and was airborne for but a second before it hit the icy waters of Rye Lake. The inertia from the sudden stop at a high speed launched Monty forward and into the airbag that had exploded into his face. With a scream of pain, a shocked, dazed, and injured Monty attempted to get his bearings. The lights had stopped flickering and remained on, and as he felt cold water seep into the car and saw the water rising outside, Monty knew he was in trouble. The Edison was sinking, and it was sinking fast. Monty tried to unbuckle his seatbelt to no avail. He tried to open the car door and was equally unsuccessful. As Monty fought for his life and the car sunk further into the lake’s depths, the car’s radio began to play a familiar tune:
You better watch out.
You better not cry…
With the water now coming up to his chin, Monty did just that. He cried.
At a ramshackle home on the opposite side of town, Theodora Wilson packed up the last of her and her son’s belongings into her older model Honda Civic. Homeless and unsure of where to go, Theo planned to use what little money she had to find somewhere warm for her and 8-year-old Trey to sleep for the evening. With Trey buckled up in the car, Theo went to the door of her former home one last time to put the keys in the lockbox. On the welcome mat sat a box wrapped in green Santa wrapping paper and tied with a red bow that she could have sworn had not been there just minutes prior. Tentatively, Theo opened the box to reveal a set of papers and a key ring. Upon further inspection, she realized that the papers were a quit-claim deed. The deed was notarized, and by all accounts, legitimate. Accompanying the deed was a photo of the property that had apparently just been transferred into Theo’s name. It was a beautiful modern home on the nicer side of town with a sleek exterior and a beautiful portico. On the back of the photo were several lines of gorgeous script.
Enjoy your new house.
May this make everything right.
Happy Christmas, Trey and Theo,
and to you both a good night.
“Where are we going, Mom?” Trey asked Theo impatiently from the open car window.
Theo smiled for the first time in a long time and replied, “Home, baby. We’re going home.”
About the Creator
I am a new aspiring writer with much to learn. I am excited to share my worlds with you and more so the receiving knowledge and feedback from this lovely community. Thank you to all who read, Enjoy!