Christmas Mystery Short Story: Santa’s Helper

Dec 14, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by John M. Floyd

This never before published Christmas mystery short story will be featured in an episode of Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast next Christmas.

Sheriff Lucy Valentine was waiting outside the hospital room when her mother Fran appeared, her cheeks rosy from the cold. Fran was a retired schoolteacher, an amateur crime solver, and to Lucy, a sometimes-pain-in-the-rear-end. Not necessarily in that order.

“Merry Christmas,” Fran said, as she took off her coat and gloves. “You done with your shopping?”

“Haven’t started yet. Thanks for coming.”

“Thanks for telling me about it.” Fran looked at the closed door. “How’s Al?”

“Better. His nurse says we can have ten minutes with him.”

santaInside the room, a five-foot-tall and bandaged Al Wilson looked too small for his bed. His brother Ernest, standing nearby, was a giant dressed in a red-and-white Santa suit. The sheriff knew the two brothers regularly played Santa and his helper at holiday gatherings. Al often joked that he was a subordinate Claus with low elf esteem.

It was eerily quiet in the room. Through the frosty window they could hear the merry sounds of bells and Christmas music.

“Tell us what happened,” Lucy said to the small patient.

snowAl, it turned out, had been in costume on his way to meet Ernest at a seven-thirty children’s party at the city park and was carrying a bagful of donated toys across the Long Creek footbridge. It was already dark, and he remembered hearing the loud clocking of oncoming footsteps and meeting three men walking in single file across the bridge, heading east as he headed west. The men were ten or fifteen feet apart and didn’t seem to be together. Al got a good look at all three because of a bright streetlight behind him: the first was tall and thin and wore a cowboy hat, overcoat, and boots; the second was average height, with a ball cap, jacket, jeans, and sneakers; the third, tall and heavy, wore a sport coat, sweater, and dress shoes. None of them spoke as they passed him.

A minute later, as the sound of footsteps faded and all was quiet and he neared the west end of the bridge, Al realized somebody was right behind him. He whirled to see one of the men looming over him, and the two others walking away in the distance, unaware of what was happening. Then something whacked him on the head.

“When I woke up, the bag was gone,” Al said. “Why would anyone steal a bag of toys?”

“Maybe someone didn’t know it was toys,” Lucy said.

“I was dressed as Santa’s elf. Would an elf be carrying a moneybag?”

“Who knows? The good news is there’s been vandalism at the park lately, so there’s a night-vision camera mounted just west of the bridge. We’ll have images of the three guys before they ever got to you, so, since you saw their faces, you can pick out your attacker.”

Al shook his bandaged head. “That’s the problem. I saw their faces before the attack. When it happened and I turned around, the streetlight was shining in my eyes. I don’t know which of the three came back and mugged me. I just glimpsed a hovering shape, and then BAM.”

Everyone in the room fell silent again, pondering that. Even the music outside had stopped.

Lucy turned to the others. “Any ideas?”

“More than an idea,” Fran said.

Lucy blinked. “What?”

“The mugger was the second man of the three. He’s the one who did it.”

The others in the room just stared at her.

“How do you know that?” Lucy asked.

“Al said it was quiet during the attack,” Fran said, “and the second guy was the only one who wasn’t wearing hard-soled shoes. Otherwise, Al would’ve heard the approaching footsteps.” Smiling, she put her coat on again, walked to the door, and turned to look at Lucy. “When you look at the video—since they were all walking in line and separated a ways from each other—your mugger’ll be the guy in the middle.”

Lucy’s mouth was hanging open, and so were Al’s and Ernest’s. After a long pause, she said, “That makes sense.”

“Of course, it makes sense.”

“So … where are you going?”

“Christmas shopping,” Fran said, grinning at the two brothers. “Since it looks like I can’t depend on Santa and his elf this year.”

Outside the window, the holiday music cranked up again.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories including more Christmas short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new Christmas episode went up this week.

John M. Floyd’s work has appeared in more than 350 different publications, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, three editions of Best American Mystery Stories, and the Lee Child-edited Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021. John is also an Edgar finalist, a 2021 Shamus Award winner, a five-time Derringer Award winner, and the author of seven collections of short mystery fiction.


  1. Love this simple, yet intriguing, and entertaining Christmas story!

  2. Nice story, John. Do you have enough to put them all together in a Christmas Book?


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