Happy Thursday, Christmas fanatics! Welcome to the eighth official installment of Another Christmas Story!
This week, Todd Killian, of the always excellent Christmas Clatter, will read to all of you Chapter Seven of our tale, entitled “Step Into Christmas”. Within this chapter, you’ll meet two longtime partners in the NYPD, Seamus Dwyer and Andrew Lee, as well as their beleaguered boss, Lindsey Pendleton.
We hope you like it! If you do, make sure to share this episode and our website, upon which the text of this installment is posted, to get it in front of as many eyes as possible!
Make sure to check your podcast feeds for your regular weekly episode on Monday, in which the elves will be joined by Matt Eurich of TGI Podcast to cover the four Christmas episodes of Boy Meets World, and next Thursday for the ninth official chapter of this story – “Chapter Eight: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, which friend of the podcast, Craig Brewer of Weird Christmas Podcast will be reading to y’all!
Chapter Seven: Step Into Christmas
December 24th – 6:30 a.m. EST
“Dwyer! Lee! Would you two pay attention?”
Officers Seamus Dwyer and Andrew Lee – two middle-aged patrolmen who’d been with the N.Y.P.D. for over a decade – immediately stopped laughing at the joke the former had been telling the latter and snapped back to attention at the direction of their commanding officer. They were sitting at the back of a large group of policemen who were gathered for a precinct-wide morning meeting. Lindsey Pendleton – the commanding officer of the N.Y.P.D.’s Midtown North Precinct – was staring daggers at the partners from where she stood at the front of the room. “Is there something you would like to share with the rest of the group?” she asked condescendingly, like a schoolteacher reprimanding two young children, as mingled snorts of laughter and exasperated sighs emanated amongst her assembled underlings.
Dwyer and Lee exchanged a glance out of the corner of their eyes, doing their best not to laugh and not daring to look at one another full on. Given that the mumbled joke had been a dirty one involving the woman in charge of them, neither were particularly eager to share it. So in unison, like the good little soldiers that they were supposed to be, both men replied, “No, ma’am.”
“Are you sure?” Pendleton asked sardonically. “You know me, I love a good joke.”
Seamus Dwyer bit down hard on his lower lip, desperate to prevent a laugh from escaping his throat. Lindsey Pendleton, with her bosomy figure, red hair, and sexy, freckled face had never so much as chuckled in front of the men and women she commanded; she sure as hell wasn’t going to start now by allowing herself to indulge in a joke at her expense. Luckily, he didn’t have to answer her, because Andrew Lee did it for the both of them. “We’re sure, ma’am.”
“Then pay attention,” Pendleton instructed. “This is important.” She smacked an enormous map of Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs that took up the entire wall behind her. Brightly colored pins were stuck into it, marking strategic locations, while multi-colored arrows, Xs, and circles were drawn all over it to denote information such as routes, checkpoints, and everything else that the commanding officer wanted to convey.
“As you know, it’s going to be a very long, busy day today,” Pendleton explained to her subordinates. “In addition to maintaining our normal counterterrorism initiatives, such as see something, say something, Winter Storm Elsa is expected to pummel our city hard. As such, we can expect a higher-than-average amount of traffic incidents and – if power goes – crime. I know the commissioner has been trying to convince the mayor to issue a state of emergency so that we can keep all vehicles, minus emergency personnel, off of the roads, but it’s been a no-go so far.” Her nostrils flared in annoyance as her shoulders slumped slightly. “Apparently the amount of money the city would lose by effectively shutting down on Christmas Eve is too great to even consider doing such a thing at this juncture.”
Seamus and Andrew exchanged a covert look at the words, and they weren’t the only ones; knowing glances were being exchanged all over the room. It was common knowledge amongst the police officers gathered that the current mayor of New York City – Robert De Bellis – was less concerned with local issues directly affecting his constituents as he was setting his sights on creating a national name for himself. Commanding Officer Pendleton either didn’t notice the sneaking looks, or didn’t care, for she plowed on without taking a breath. “As if that alone weren’t enough, as you all know, the President of the United States will be in town today hosting two foreign delegations, which will include the Prime Minister of Canada and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Due to security concerns, you’ve all been called into work to ensure that we can keep them safe, not only from the wackadoos out there, but also from the severe weather we’re expecting. The eyes of the entire world will be on Manhattan today, ladies and gentlemen. There is absolutely no room for us to make errors.”
Seamus thrust his hand high into the air, and without waiting for his superior to acknowledge him, asked, “Snowstorm aside, is there a reason she had to fly into the city on one of the busiest tourism days of the year?”
Pendleton pursed her lips, clearly annoyed at having been interrupted, but she answered the officer calmly nevertheless. “Her staff maintains that it’s purely a social visit, but given the fact that our efforts to have the trip postponed due to Elsa have fallen on deaf, stubborn ears, something tells me it’s more than that.” She shrugged. “It’s not our responsibility to question the president, it’s our job to protect her. As such, the commissioner, myself, and the other precinct commanders have been closely coordinating our efforts with the secret service in order to do exactly that. Speaking of which, the secret service wanted us to pass along their thanks at allowing us to pull you away from your families this Christmas Eve to serve your country.”
Seamus sulked silently. He had not originally been slated to work that day, but – like Andrew and many others – had been called in for mandatory overtime. It was certainly an inconvenience for him, not least of all due to the fact that he and his wife, Ashley, were going through a rough patch at the moment. Things were so strained, in fact, that they had even been contemplating divorce. They had agreed to wait and see how the holidays went first, however, before pulling that metaphorical trigger. Unfortunately, the fact that Seamus was sitting in a meeting at the precinct at that very moment instead of boarding a plane to Massachusetts with his wife and kids to spend Christmas with his in-laws probably didn’t bode well for his standing in his wife’s eyes. He didn’t know what the woman expected from him though – she knew that this was all part of the job, which he had already been working for a few years when they had met for the first time.
Despite this fact, he was still annoyed at having been called into work; he always took the holidays off! It was supposed to be a perk of seniority! He saved his vacation days all year! Still, he reasoned with himself that it would be worth it in the end. After all, how many people could say that they spent the day helping the secret service protect the first woman president of the United States?
“The officers of the 113th precinct will escort the president’s motorcade from JFK into Manhattan, but the moment they hit FDR Drive, the precincts within the island’s boundary will take over security duty,” Pendleton explained, as she pulled a piece of paper out from the folder she held in her hands. “Judging from the schedule the secret service has provided us with, the president and the two prime ministers will be spending the majority of the day in midtown, which is our jurisdiction. As such, we’ll be doing the bulk of the work when it comes to aiding the secret service in protecting all parties involved, in addition to keeping the streets within our borders safe, as per usual. So, here is the itinerary for the day, so we are all aware where the commander in chief will be at all times…” She passed the folder in her hands to an officer in the front row of seats, who withdrew an itinerary for herself before passing it along to the policemen sitting next to her who did the same. While the folder circulated, Pendleton continued, “Now, listen closely while I hand out your assignments.”
As the commanding officer began calling out names and partnerships, assigning them various responsibilities and locations for the day, Andrew Lee allowed his mind to wander somewhat as he received the folder being passed around. After withdrawing a sheet of paper from within it and passing the folder along to Seamus, he scanned the schedule with interest. Whether or not the president was coming to town to show her foreign guests a good time or not, for all intents and purposes, it appeared as though she would be keeping up the appearance of a social visit for the benefit of the public and the media. According to the schedule, she would be making a stop to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, visiting Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes perform, and would be laying a wreath at the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral before partaking in a private prayer, in addition to embarking on a driving tour of the island. Andrew thought that it was a bold move for a woman whom people criticized as facilitating a new cold war with Russia to seemingly be taking a very public vacation in the midst of the crisis, but what did he know? As Lindsey had stated moments earlier, it wasn’t their job to criticize the president, but to protect her.
Frankly, Andrew couldn’t be happier with the president – whom he proudly voted for – for planning a last-minute Christmas Eve trip into his city. It got him out of a family dinner that he wasn’t particularly looking forward to due to the fact that it had the potential to be extremely awkward for him. His parents – strict, Christian, Asian-Americans – were hosting a meal at their house that night for all of their kids, their spouses, and their grandchildren, and that included Andrew and his current partner. The only problem was, his parents didn’t yet know that he was gay and had been living with another man for the past year-and-a-half. He had been planning on breaking the news to his entire family that evening, arm-in-arm with his boyfriend, Barry, and had been making himself sick over it. His parents, whom he loved dearly, were extremely old-fashioned, and he didn’t anticipate them taking the news very well, so he was glad when his commanding officer had informed them of the president’s impending visit and the mandatory overtime that it would involve. It only delayed the inevitable by another day at most, however, as Barry would be attending his family’s Christmas day celebrations with him. And there was one major downside to the mandatory overtime as well – Barry was now annoyed with Andrew, convinced that he had planned to back out of Christmas Eve all along, as if he had any say over his schedule at the precinct when the leader of the free world decided to swing by Manhattan for a last-minute visit.
“What the hell?” Seamus’ exclamation shook Andrew from his own thoughts, causing him to turn in his seat to face his partner curiously. “What’s wrong?”
“Weren’t you paying attention?” Seamus hissed so quietly that only Andrew could hear him. “We weren’t assigned to the detail that will be shadowing the president all day!”
“So?” Seamus repeated, his eyes wide in disbelief at the nonchalance that his partner was exhibiting. “This is bullshit! We were forced in from our holiday vacations, and we can’t even say we got to be around the president all day?”
“Well, we can’t all be—”
“Alright!” Lindsey Pendleton clapped her hands loudly at the front of the room in order to command the attention of all of those gathered before her once again. When the various voices around the room had all quieted down, she said, “I just want you to remember to be extra vigilant today. You’re all excellent members of the force, and our precinct has a fantastic record. Let’s not screw that up today of all days, okay?” After she received some quiet muttering and vague reassurances in response, she nodded her head curtly. “Well then, off you go.” She jerked her head at the door leading out of the room.
As their fellow officers began scrambling to their feet around them, talking excitedly as they made their way toward the exit, Seamus elbowed Andrew hard. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?” Andrew asked warily as his partner sprang to his feet.
“Officer Pendleton!” Seamus called loudly, eliciting a small groan from Andrew as their superior turned to face the two men.
“What is it, Dwyer?” Pendleton asked before sarcastically adding, “Did you want to tell me the joke that had Lee in a fit of hysterics earlier?”
Andrew grinned guiltily at the words as he and Seamus came to a stop in front of the woman. Though they both loomed large over her, there was something about her presence – her professional, almost icy demeanor and confidence that intimidated the two men, making them feel like little boys when they stood before her. “Actually,” Seamus began. “We were just wondering why we weren’t assigned to the cavalcade of officers joining the secret service in shadowing the president.”
“Because I assigned you to patrol work instead,” Pendleton replied without missing a beat, seemingly confused as to why she needed to provide an explanation to begin with. “Be happy with that. I could have given you traffic stops and had you stationary all day inspecting cars and bags at one of the checkpoints in the area. Instead, I’m giving you the freedom to roam around midtown. You should be grateful.”
Andrew nodded his understanding and was dismayed to see that Seamus remained indignant. “But why didn’t you assign us to the president’s detail?”
“Because I’m the boss?” Pendleton shrugged before turning her back on the two men and making her way toward the door of the room.
“Come on!” Seamus exclaimed, his voice nearly a whine now. “Lindsey—”
“That’s Officer Pendleton to you, Dwyer.” The commanding officer whipped around, irate that her subordinate was still questioning her authority. She stared up into his eyes, her own flashing dangerously, and Andrew eyed both of them warily. They were standing close, barely an inch apart as they glared at one another, and he could see the sparks of sexual chemistry flying between the two of them. Smirking to himself, Andrew was convinced that the two could be poster children for the saying, ‘there’s a thin line between love and hate’. “I am your boss, and you would do well to remember that. Do you understand?”
“Come on,” Seamus replied, the corners of his mouth turning slightly upward in the hint of a smile. “We’re your two best officers!”
“Exactly!” Pendleton rolled her eyes, taking a few steps backward from the man in order to survey both him and Andrew at the same time. “Why do you think I assigned you to patrol work rather than protecting the president? Because the areas surrounding where the president is scheduled to be at any given time will be in the most danger, not her exact location where she’s surrounded by hordes of secret service agents and members of the N.Y.P.D. That’s why I’m assigning you to patrol work. You need to prevent anything bad from happening that has the potential to cause enough chaos that it could possibly extend to the president and her guests themselves. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with such an important responsibility, alright?”
Seamus and Andrew exchanged a surprised look, both taken aback by the woman’s candor and confidence in them. The former, however, didn’t seem fully satisfied by the answer. “But—”
Pendleton groaned loudly, drowning out whatever he was about to say. “The other reason that I didn’t want you on the president’s detail was because you can’t follow instructions, and I will not have you embarrassing me or undermining me in front of her! Get better at obeying orders, and I’ll consider putting you on her personal detail next time she’s in town.” She turned on her heel and marched toward the door of the room, calling back to both men without glancing over her shoulders at them. “Now get out on the streets and get to work! Don’t let me down!” And without another word, she disappeared from the room, leaving Seamus and Andrew alone together.
“That went well,” Andrew said brightly, only somewhat sarcastically. “Who knew she had so much faith in us?”
Seamus glared at his partner before relenting and conceding, “It’s nice to know, I suppose.” He flashed him a small grin. “We can use that to our advantage in the future.” Andrew rolled his eyes at the remark; typical Seamus, always looking for an angle to exploit. “But still, I’m none too pleased with being called away from my family to perform patrol work on Christmas Eve! I mean, come on!” He glanced around the empty room, frustrated. “It’s going to be all petty crimes and traffic-related incidents today due to the snow – everyone else is going to be inside staying warm. We’re better than this!”
“It’s all part of the job,” Andrew gently reminded him. “We have to take the bad with the good and the mundane with the exciting.”
Seamus glared at him. “I hate it when you’re right.”
Seamus groaned loudly. “I’d still rather be on a plane out of here with my family right now. There’s no way I’ll be able to get a flight after our shift ends tonight! Not if Elsa is really going to be as bad as they say it is.”
Andrew nodded sympathetically before gently asking, “Things still not the greatest with Ashley, I take it?”
“You could say that again,” Seamus muttered darkly before asking, “Come on, you’re not upset about missing your family’s dinner party tonight? Weren’t you finally going to introduce them to Barry?”
“There’s always tomorrow. What’s one more day?” Blushing, Andrew shrugged nonchalantly.
Seamus surveyed his partner suspiciously through narrowed eyes, immediately sensing that he didn’t want to discuss the matter further with him. So deciding not to push it, he checked his watch. “Only seventeen-more-hours until we’re off duty.”
“It’ll fly by like that.” Andrew snapped his fingers with a smile before jerking his head at the door of the room. “What do you say? Shall we hit the streets?”
“We may as well,” Seamus replied with a sigh, as he followed Andrew toward the door. “At least the snow should help put us in the Christmas spirit, if nothing else.”