Bad Little Boys and Girls
How do super-villains celebrate Christmas? See a rare glimpse into the “off-duty” hours of the most dastardly do-badders of all at the Bar Sinister! Meanwhile, who is the mystery man masquerading as Santa Claus?
The Martian Manhunter sat at the communications console in the JLA Satellite, watching the monitors and stifling a yawn. He had been on duty nearly six hours, and nothing had happened worthy of his attention. It was always like this on this one night of nights. A blinking light on the console told him that the transporter tube was being used. He spied the readout, which scanned the molecular pattern of the being or beings teleporting into the satellite. Aquaman. Excellent. He was just in time to relieve him.
“Hi, J’onn,” the king of the seven seas said warmly, stepping into the communications center. “How’s it going?”
“Slowly, my friend, slowly,” the green-skinned Martian said, smiling. “Have you ever noticed that it’s always like this on Christmas Eve?”
“I have,” Aquaman said. “Sometimes we get a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack, or some ordinary crime. But it’s like super-villain activity comes to a halt.”
“If they pick one night a year to act sensibly,” J’onn J’onzz said, rising from his chair, “let it be this one. The console is all yours, my friend.”
“Want to stay for a game of chess or two?” Aquaman offered.
“Tempting,” J’onn said, smiling. Aquaman was just about the only Leaguer who would play games of skill with him; only another telepath. “But Nubia has made plans for this evening. Something involving a midnight madness sale, whatever that is.”
Aquaman chuckled. “Enjoy yourself.” He watched his longtime friend walk out of the room, heard the hum of the teleporter, and sat back in his chair. He dialed up a Clive Cussler novel on the Justice League’s electronic text library and settled down to a quiet evening of reading.
Somewhere in the American Midwest, a grand hotel building stood dark and quiet. In the 1930s, the hotel had been a lively place, full of laughter, music, and gaiety. For the last two decades it had stood empty, ownerless, and condemned. It was situated so far away from the new super-highway, it was considered undesirable commercial property; no one had any interest in it. Had anyone looked closely enough tonight, they would have noticed the basement-level windows covered with black paper from the inside.
“…and then Flash says, ‘Eww! I thought Green Arrow had better aim than that!'” The little group standing around the Calculator burst into laughter at the joke.
“Cal, you’re a scream,” Poison Ivy giggled.
The basement of the condemned hotel was filled with laughter, music, and gaiety. Lights blazed from every corner. One wall was lined with a long buffet table filled with sumptuous food and drink. Music poured from two huge speakers mounted in the corners of the room. Over it all was the din of people talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.
“It’s a shame Phil didn’t make it this year,” the Cavalier said, frowning into his mint julep.
“You know he’s retired,” one of the Sizematic Twins said around a mouthful of crab puff. “Shacked up with Darklight and living the life of a gentleman on the Outer Banks.”
“I know, but we’re still his friends,” Cavalier said. “Why couldn’t he join the party?”
“Maybe he’s afraid someone would try to talk him into one last grand scheme,” the Marine Marauder offered.
“Or that the Crumbler would pick a fight with him, for running out on us,” Calculator offered. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Secret Society of Super-Villains: Don’t Try Anything Funky.]
“Isn’t he still in jail?” Poison Ivy asked.
“Sure, but maybe Phil doesn’t know that.”
“Well, the party’s early yet,” Brain Storm said. “A lot of people still haven’t shown up. Maybe he’ll turn up.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Cavalier said, and took another pull at his mint julep.
“Sister Agnes, when is Santa coming?” a little boy in Transformers pyjamas whined.
“Soon, Andrew, very soon,” the middle-aged nun said. “He has a very busy schedule tonight, you know.”
“I know,” the boy said. “But he’ll be here, won’t he?”
“Of course he will,” the nun said. She believed it, too. In seven years, he hadn’t missed a Christmas Eve yet.
“Ho-ho-ho!” a robust voice suddenly boomed. “Merry Christmas, everyone!”
“Santa!” the children shrieked, and raced to the portly figure in red and white that was suddenly standing inside their door. Sister Agnes smiled. He did that every year. One year, he was going to have to tell her how he did it.
“Hey, Key!” the Prankster called. “We need one more at the piano for carols. How about it?”
“No thanks, Prankster,” the Key said. “Bad Penny and the Silken Spider asked me to help them make popcorn balls. And the Key never turns down a lady’s request.”
“A lady’s request?” Prankster giggled. “What’s that got to do with Penny and Spider?”
“I heard that, you low-rent whoopie-cushion peddler!” Silken Spider snarled. “If it weren’t Christmas Eve, I’d use your game-show-host jacket to hang you with!”
“Ladies, ladies!” the Key said, taking the two villainesses by the arm and leading them away. “‘Tis Christmas, after all. Come on; who’s got the caramel syrup?”
“Same old Key,” Prankster said, shaking his head. “A sucker for the fairer sex. It’ll be his downfall someday. Oh, well, you can’t sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in three-part harmony! Hey, Quakemaster!”
“And what would you like for Christmas, Debbie?” Santa asked the dark-haired little girl sitting on his knee.
“Barbie Corvette!” the little girl exclaimed happily.
Santa’s eyes widened as he stared at her. “Barbie Corvette? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have a wooden rocking horse?”
“No!” the little girl said firmly, sticking her lower lip out in a pout. “Wanna Barbie Corvette!“
“I see,” Santa said, reaching into his big red sack. “Well, I knew there was a reason I brought one!” He hauled out the brightly colored cardboard box, and Debbie squealed with glee as he handed it to her.
“What do we say, Debbie?” Sister Agnes asked.
“Fank-oo,” Debbie burbled, shyly. She slid off his knee and raced away to open her present. “Who’s next?” Santa asked.
“I give up,” the Fisherman said, throwing up his hands. “Where are you always going, but never get to?”
“There,” the Riddler said, smugly.
“There?” Weather Wizard asked, raising his eyebrow in confusion.
“Sure,” Riddler said. “Because when you get to it, it’s here!“
“Ouch,” Cat-Man groaned. “Eddie, your riddles are getting worse.”
“Critic,” Riddler sniffed.
“Hey, you guys,” Ten of Spades from the Royal Flush Gang called, “over by the tree! Secret Santa exchange in ten minutes!”
“Is everyone here?” Weather Wizard asked, looking around.
“Almost,” Ten called back. “Just about everyone who RSVP’ed this year, anyway. You know we always get a few stragglers.”
Felix Faust looked at one of the paper-covered windows, as if he could see through it into the night sky. He was late again this year. He was at it again.
“I hope I don’t get Doctor Polaris as a Secret Santa again this year,” the Executrix grumbled. “I’ve got enough magnetic healing bands, thank you very much.”
“You should complain,” Phobia said. “Last year I drew the Rainbow Raider. Know what he gave me? A multi-colored stained glass sun-catcher.”
“That sounds cute,” Executrix said.
“In the shape of the Flash with an arrow through his head?”
“Oh. I see your point.”
“Santa has to be going now, kids,” Santa Claus said to the many boys and girls clustered around his feet. “I’ve got a lot more stops to make all over the world!”
“Aw, come on!” one little girl whined. “Just read us one more story?“
“Yeah, read us the Grinch one!” a blond little boy piped up. “Sister Agnes doesn’t do the voices like you do!”
“Now, children, no monopolizing Santa,” Sister Agnes chided gently. “Besides, it’s way past your bedtimes. Come on, now, up to bed.”
Muttering their disappointment, the children turned to go. One angelic-faced little girl turned and cried, “G’bye, Santa!” And the other children took up the cry until it filled the room. Santa beamed under his white beard and waved goodbye to the children.
“I know I say this every year,” Sister Agnes said with a warm smile, “but there aren’t words to express my gratitude at what you do for us.”
“My pleasure, Sister,” Santa said. “Believe me, my pleasure.”
“God bless you, Santa,” Sister Agnes said.
“And you,” Santa said, touching two fingers to his forehead in salute, and then he turned to leave. Santa stepped out into the night. There was no snow, but it was bitterly cold, with a howling wind whipping through the bare branches of the trees.
“You’re incorrigible,” a voice from the darkness said to Santa. He turned his head to behold an old friend leaning against a tree.
“You knew I’d be here, Felix,” Santa said to the sorcerer.
“You missed Secret Santa exchange,” Faust said.
Santa shrugged. “I had Multiplex this year. How’d he like the book?”
“OK, I guess,” Faust said. “He didn’t seem to be much of an Andre Norton fan.”
“Philistine,” Santa snorted.
“Why do you do this?” Faust asked. “Dress up as Santa and hand out toys to these orphan kids every year?”
“I’ve explained it to you before, Felix,” Santa said impatiently. “I grew up in this orphanage. Every Christmas I felt forgotten, abandoned, unloved. Sister Mary did all she could, but there was never enough money in the budget for toys. We’d watch Christmas specials on the beat-up black-and-white TV in the community room, watching other kids open presents and have fun with their families, and we’d feel like there was something wrong with us, like we didn’t belong. That probably had a lot to do with my turning out the way I did. If I can keep that from happening to one kid in there — ahh, but you wouldn’t understand.”
“Better be careful,” Felix said, grinning. “You’re starting to sound like the people we fight.”
“Yeah, well, the world doesn’t need another one of us, Felix,” Santa said. “There’s enough of us right now. Come on, let’s get back to the party. I’m sure there’s still some hors d’oeuvres left.”
“Don’t be too sure,” Felix said. “Killer Croc showed up this year.” Laughing, the two men walked off into the night.