Note: The challenge by writing coach was, someplace in the story, to include the phrase "she couldn't help herself from planting the seeds of doubt."
“When I was little, we’d leave cookies and milk out for a Santa, and on Christmas Day there’d be nothing but crumbs.” Sitting across from her 9 year old niece, she couldn’t stop herself from planting a seed of doubt. “Anyone can eat cookies and drink milk, Aunt Jane.” Fiona countered dismissively. Though Jane never expected the kid to bite, it helped reinforce the career CIA operative’s belief in what she was up against.
Jane Davis accepted her situation and she really felt like she was growing into the role. Guardian to her niece, Fiona Davis, daughter of her only sibling, Jeffrey. She wasn’t able to make it back for the funeral, but knew the circumstances meant that her career would take a sudden turn.
At 40, she wasn’t holding her breath about marriage, but she never really saw herself as a mom. Just not something those of her gender did in this line of work.
She’d spent the majority of the last 15 years on various overseas assignments, all where she served as an Operations Officer in the Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency. Her official job description included “establish strong human relationships resulting in high-value intelligence.” She recruited and ran sources, paying people to spy for the United States, and she excelled at it.
None of that meant much now. With her brother and sister-in-law dying in a car accident, and their will naming Jane as Fiona’s guardian, Jane was on indefinite leave from The Company. Money from life insurance policies allowed her to focus on Fiona.
In just under a year, she’d grown to adore the child. It was why she was pretty sure her CIA career was over. Fiona didn’t need to be uprooted from the only home she’d known, and Jane had little interest in working out of DC.
With their first Christmas less than two months away, Jane got a feel for Fiona’s beliefs, or in this case, disbeliefs, and Jane decided, “Operation Save SC” was on. One of the great CIA spooks would leave no doubt as to the existence of Santa Claus. “Besides,” she thought, “this kid is growing up too fast already. She could use Santa in her life.”
With the cookie story failing to impress, she knew she needed to plant seeds of Santa in other ways. She had about a month to pull this off. As long as on 25 December, Fiona believed in the miracle of St. Nick, the Op would be a success.
She asked herself what things convince, or dispel, a child that Santa exists? Where were her exposures? So Jane started making her list, and she laughed, “Hell, yeah, she wouldn’t need to check it twice.”
So Jane created an employment application for the local mall, including the disclaimer that “the employee will respond as Santa Claus during all work hours”, and agrees to represent the true Santa Claus, listing specific traits of the man himself.
Santa getting down the chimney presented a few issues. She could hear it, “Auntie, some people don’t even have a chimney.” Fiona would also question anyone fitting down their’s. Jane would simply point out that, in the old days chimney’s were bigger and everyone had one to heat their house. Though Santa prefers a chimney, he can use a window or door. Sometimes he has to use a door because the toys are so big.
Next issue: time zones. Santa makes time stand still on Christmas? He’s so fast, he moves at the speed of light, and presents magically appear? This was a tough sell. She knew all the words in the world wouldn’t convince her of this one.
She needed to blow the kid’s mind. Luckily, she had connections with the greatest deceivers in the world.
When the time came, no one noticed when two vans, of various disguise, parked on Jane’s street and two on the street behind, forming the corners of a large square perimeter around her house. The technology inside so advanced that when operational, you’d never notice. Gone where the days of antennae or satellite dishes.
So when Christmas Eve came, Jane was glad Fiona slept soundly. Gifts were in place. Santa’s cookies were eaten. Feet wiped on the white rug, mimicking good manners the Christmas legend would certainly possess. Remnants of devoured carrots strewn on the roof, appreciated by his flight crew. Attention to detail. Doubtful Fiona would want roof access, but if she did, Jane had her.
Jane leaned into her sleeping marvel, “Fiona….Fiona, he was here. Santa was here!”, she whispered with tempered elation as she rubbed her back, her adrenalin surge reminded her of when she infiltrated Hezbollah with a prized, high-level informant.
As they looked over the evidence and gifts, there was a clatter on the roof, that on any other night would make you think a repairmen where working overtime, but perfectly fitting for the night. “What the…is he still here!” Jane said, crouching eye-to-eye, then taking Fiona’s hand and charging out the front door.
The roof agent lay flat on the roof, out of view. When agents in the vans heard the Go word in their earpieces, they lit up the sky. The four holographic beacons projected perfectly on the roof .
When Fiona and Jane turned to look at the roof, they saw a sight that baffled the child for years to come. With a pull of the reins, a sled pulling by eight reindeer vaulted into the sky. Santa Claus looked to the side, saw Fiona, smiled and blew the girl a kiss. Jane, tears pooling in her eyes, smiled, then the agent in her kicked in. “Please God, don’t let her ask about Rudolph.” Noticing a certain red nose not guiding the sleigh tonight.