Agent Freely brushed away glass fragments and retrieved the red menace. Outside the shattered window, the elderly couple and their bloodied accomplices were already being lined up to face their penalty. A crowd watched silently, mesmerized by the blue strobes and terrible weaponry of the Response Team.
“A right jolly old elf,” muttered Freely as he bagged the doll as evidence. He quickly cursed himself: speaking the words of the old poem could end his career, or worse.
Nowadays, the saint’s red suit, white beard, and blue eyes symbolized the subversives who clung to the excesses of the past, before the Disturbances. Before “holiday” became a watchword. Before the Authorities forbade open celebration. Such was the price of safety.
Yet a few remained defiant, mainly stubborn elderly and children.
Gunshots shattered the night. His stomach tightened. “Peace on Earth.” Eyes shut, he wondered how many crackdowns, arrests, and executions would be necessary to make it so.