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Undercover Christmas Escape

Duncan’s booming baritone voice rang out. “Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas!”

He was really getting into character. Taking her cue, she gestured to the photo booth. “Line up for a picture with Santa. These are a free gift from your host. All photos will be downloadable.”

Laughing, several of the guests hurried for the photo op.

She had to give Duncan credit. She could only imagine how much the white facial hair glued to his chiseled jaw prickled. Not to mention the layers of padding beneath the heavy jacket, matching pants and black knee-high boots. He had to be boiling. She was sweating beneath her dress. But he kept the crowd entertained with his jolly quips. The man was charming and competent. She appreciated the latter, but the former annoyed her for some reason.

“Mrs. Claus? Paging Mrs. Claus.” Duncan’s voice rang loud in her earpiece, cutting through the party’s revelry.

Shoulder muscles bunching, Sera stretched her lips back into her fake Mrs. Claus smile and moved to stand in front of the people waiting for their chance to get a picture taken with Santa.

Duncan’s chuckle in her ear caused her to raise her eyebrows at him. He grinned, put his finger to his big, bulbous nose and winked.

Barely refraining from rolling her eyes, she said, “Say Rudolph.”

The gaggle of women, ranging in age from thirties to seventies, surrounded Santa. “Rudolph!” the women said in unison.

Click, click, click. Sera snapped several pictures. She really hoped not all of these people were criminals. But a jaded part of her was fully aware that most people had something to hide.

As the flow of guests slowed down and the party was going strong, Sera bounced on the balls of her feet to alleviate the ache in her back from standing for the past several hours.


Tired and disappointed—so far, Ramon was a no-show—she moved to the table draped in red linen and poured herself a glass of water.

The elevator chimed, indicating another load of late arrivals. Maybe he’d be in this group.

A disturbance behind Sera had her stiffening. Duncan rose from his seat.

“Bogies on your six,” Duncan’s voice announced in her ear.

Ramon? Anticipation revved her blood.

Sera turned and found herself facing eight, well-armed masked intruders, dressed from head to toe in black. Each had on a backpack—no doubt carrying extra ammo and any other assorted methods of destruction. Steeling herself, she sent up a prayer of protection. This could get ugly.

A collective gasp sounded from the guests. A few screams echoed through the room. The music stopped playing.

The man at the front of the new arrivals spoke in a loud tone, “Merry Christmas, everyone.” His voice had a deep, Eastern-European accent. “If everyone cooperates, no one will get hurt.”

“I’ve got the four on the left,” Duncan murmured as he stepped to her side.

Assessing the situation and quickly concluding there was no way to take out the bad guys without endangering the civilians, she stopped him with a hand placed on his protruding belly. “Stand down, Santa. Those AK-47s could blow holes in everyone in the room before you could even take two steps.”

The last thing she needed was Duncan playing the cowboy.