Flapping her wings in time with a Christmas carol she hummed, Pam, the Sprite of Pamlico Sound, flew along the shoreline of Hatteras Island. Cheery seasonal lights on houses glowed from below. It was only three p.m., but the island was wrapped in a cozy blanket of fog, prompting many residents to turn on their lights early. Sugary smells emanated from the snug beach houses, cabins, and cottages below and wafted on the air currents. Pam’s stomach rumbled.
A few cookies and a shot of whisky would suit her needs well. She licked her lips, thinking of the snack. Which cookies would best complement her beverage? Gingerbread men, sand tarts, jam thumbprints? No matter. She’d stop by Dare County Deputy Sheriff Sue’s house. Last year when Pam had completed her missions, Sue had seemed a bit miffed. Couldn’t be helped, and Pam had fulfilled Sue’s wishes . After a year, she would have forgotten, and if not—she could just get over it already.
Rounding the bend in the island at Buxton, Pam continued south to Frisco, heading toward Sue’s Sound-side house. As she neared Frisco, a sulphurous odor assaulted her nose. Her demon meter shot up and along with it, a foreboding sensation, the antithesis of a Merry Christmas greeting. What nerve! A demon encroaching on her territory wouldn’t do, especially at this time of year.
Homing in on the demon took her to a shop in Frisco. Pam peered in the window. Two children, tween girls, peeked around the aisle at the clerk manning the cash register. Through an open doorway to the stockroom, the demon upset boxes, which crashed to the floor. The clerk jerked in surprise and rushed to the source of the noise. As the clerk disappeared, one of the girls slipped earrings into her pocket. The other girl took a bracelet and necklace off a stand and slipped them into her hoodie.
Pam shook her head. Damn demons—their goal of tempting and abetting humans into doing wrong seemed cowardly—like terrorist bombers sneaking up on unsuspecting innocents. Weenies. Demons made her mad. She put her hands on her hips. A scowl formed on her face. Assessing the situation only took a second. Sue and Woody, another Deputy Sheriff and Sue’s boyfriend, were in the store, too. The scowl on her face turned into a smile, and the trouble she’d cause the demon put a glint in her eyes. She flew into the stockroom.
On the desk, a pen lay. Pam threw it to the back of the stockroom, making a clatter when it hit a metal shelf. The clerk followed the sound—again.
The demon hovered along the stockroom ceiling, glaring down at her. “What are you supposed to be?”
“Your worst nightmare, Goth-boy.” Pam felt a zing of light zip through her arms and legs, increasing her quickness and sharpening her wits. Like exercise, do-gooding increased her power.
“You must be joking. You’re nothing but a gnat I could swat in a second.”
“I’m a spirit. Killing me isn’t possible. Like I said, I’m your worst nightmare so you may as well leave Hatteras Island now.”
The demon laughed, an unpleasant sound, which caused Pam to grit her teeth. “Being a do-gooder doesn’t have any power that can stop me,” the demon said.
If he didn’t know of sprites and the falseness of that statement, he must not be a very mature demon. Pam assessed his goth attire, black paint mask on his pockmarked face, and tats. She looked into his eyes, determining his path to demonhood. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw the past in the windows of his soul. A young girl dragged away from a 1990s concert—raped, murdered. The cops and the state of North Carolina had done their jobs—arrest and conviction. Too bad violent prison inmates killed him, whooshing him straight to hell. He’d never repented.
Pam released the tension in her shoulders and sorrow in her heart. Her countenance hardened. “Go to any Korn concerts lately?”
The demon’s eyes enlarged. He swallowed as if suffering from a dry mouth. “How did you know?”
“Underestimate me, did you?” Pam flew in a circle. The demon’s eyes followed her movement, but then he dismissed her. His mistake.
“I know what you’re doing, and it won’t work.” The demon expanded and pumped up his sagging muscles. The tat on his arm of a snake wrapped around a pitchfork pulsed. The snake’s tongue wagged at her obscenely.
Revolted, Pam asked, “Whatever do you mean?” The carol, What Child Is This, came to mind. Pam hummed its melody.
“I asked you a question. What are you? Your belted trench coat makes you look like a sack of potatoes. Booties? You should know better. You’re no babe.”
“Oh dear. Do you really think insults will deter me? My fellow sprites of Albemarle and Currituck Sounds voted me “Best Dressed Sprite of 2016.” Pam preened, fluffing her wings and straightening the belt of her sequined trench coat.
Goth-boy raised one eyebrow. “Cut the crap. Those kids are going on the downward spiral to evil. Got to start them young. We need some fresh blood.”
“Pick on someone your own size.”
“Like you, pipsqueak?” The demon looked through the stockroom wall to the kids. “Hurricane Matthew took what little their parents had and turned their possessions into moldy trash. They deserve to take a bit back. Stealing what should be theirs.”
Listening to a demon rationalize was a waste of time. Rules were rules. Pam wondered if the demon engaged in games. Was he a player? Many demons were. “I bet you those kids won’t steal that jewelry, and if I win, you’ll leave this island without tempting anyone else.”
“And if you lose and I win?”
“You can stay on Hatteras and tempt people all you want. But don’t think inducing sin will win those youngsters’ souls. If they repent, they’ll still be safe.”
“If they die before they repent, they’re mine.” The stench of the demon intensified. His condemned soul ballooned to menacing dimensions. He towered over her.
Pam doubted a first offense of shoplifting would damn the girls, but she wasn’t about to get into a theological argument with a demon. In mid air, Pam widened her stance, squared her hips, and faced the demon like an old western gunslinger. She pulled her fairy wand from her coat, twirled it in her fingers, and pointed it in the demon’s face. “You’re on, dude.”
Sue stopped searching through the video games, looking for a present for Jared, her son. Something had alerted her senses. Had she seen something out of the corner of her eyes or was it a sound? Her memories of a year ago came to mind. She shook her head. Couldn’t be. Shouldn’t have been. The crazy memory—if it were a memory—still confounded her.
Woody walked toward her. Hunting presents for his daughter, Cindy, he had shopped in a different aisle. “You okay?”
Sue chomped on the last of the candy cane and turned to him. “Did you see a flash of light? Hear a high-pitched zing?”
Woody lifted one eyebrow. “Nope, but I saw two girls lift some jewelry into their pockets.” He shook
“Shoplifting?” Sue’s shoulders slumped. Bad news.
“Yeah—I think they’re from the village. Two girls, at the end of the next aisle.”
Hurricane Matthew had hit Hatteras Village hard. Sue knew the timing of the October storm hadn’t allow enough time for people to recover before the holiday season. Families didn’t have money for gifts. They struggled to replace roofs on their homes, insulate their walls, and rebuy the basic necessities of living—like beds, refrigerators, and stoves. A deluge of two-feet high water had flooded the village. FEMA money hadn’t covered the losses. There were deductibles, shifty insurance agents, who closed claims too fast before all the bills from contractors were submitted enabling them to get their commissions, and limits on the payoffs.
Sue let out a sigh. Dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, Woody and she weren’t in uniform, but that wouldn’t stop Sue from giving the girls a good lecture. She started toward the next aisle.
“Wait a minute, Sue,” Woody said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Is intervening the right thing to do?”
“You want them to get in trouble, have a juvenile arrest record?”
“Of course, not. But if it’s their first offense, the judge would give them a good talking to, scare them, and put them on the right path.”
“I don’t know. What if they were Jared and Cindy? I never know when as a parent to be hard or soft, and if I correct too much, Jared stops listening. Whatever I say goes in one ear and out the other. There’s no way to know what tactic to take.”
“I know. But at middle-school age, I wonder if our letting them off the hook will impress them.”
“Maybe not, but as a parent, I’d hope someone would give my kid a break.”
Woody smiled and planted a kiss on her lips. “You’re a softy. Okay—if they don’t stop—they’ll get caught again and learn the hard way. Just in case they bolt, I’m going outside and waiting by the door.”
Sue watched Woody leave the store and then strolled around the corner of the next aisle. The girls looked at her and turned away. Sue approached them. “Girls, I’m a Deputy Sheriff, and I know you shoplifted some jewelry. Put it back—“
“Run,” the taller girl said, before Sue could grab them.
The girls ran to the front door. Sue followed. The shop door opened. Woody dove inside pushing the girls back into the store. He landed on top of them. Sue thought Woody’s dive was over-the-top.
An abrupt crack of wood and glass sounded behind the trio sprawled on the floor. Glass and splinters flew into the store. A car’s back bumper appeared in the door opening.
“What the hell?” Sue said to no one, looking at the carnage. The clerk ran from the open stockroom toward the wreckage.
From Sue’s vantage of the stockroom, Pam, Sue’s sort-of fairy godmother, was beating some blackened beast about the head with her wand. Sue looked away in disbelief, but the demolition of the front door didn’t restore normality.
A woman appeared, perching on the trunk of the car, and peered into the store. “I’m so sorry.” Her mouth dropped open when she saw Woody get up from the floor and offer assistance to the two girls. “Oh my God, is anyone hurt?”
Back on their feet, the girls appeared unharmed. Sue addressed the girls. “Are you two okay?”
“Yes ma’am,” they replied in unison.
Sue spoke to the woman, “Everyone seems okay. We’re Dare County Sheriffs, Ma’am.” Sue gestured to Woody. “What happened?”
The woman waved her arms. “I don’t really understand. I was backing out of a parking space, and the car accelerated. I pressed the brakes, but the pedal slammed to the floor. I just had the car inspected. They were fine.” She seemed to experience her own disbelief.
“We’ll make a report and file it with our office. It will be available tomorrow if you need it for your insurance company,” Sue said. “Woody, get her info.”
Sue turned toward the girls, who were looking at the car blocking their escape. “You two—back here,” Sue said using her strict-mom voice and pointed to the back of the store. When they were alone, Sue said, “Do you know how lucky you are? If you had gotten out the door of the store, not only would I have been forced to charge you with shoplifting, but you also could have been killed or injured by the car. I’m still tempted to bust you, but if you put the jewelry back, I might not remember the incident.”
The girls walked to the jewelry aisle. Sue followed them to ensure the jewelry’s return. The shorter girl looked up at Sue. “We’re sorry. We just wanted something nice for our mothers for Christmas, and we don’t have any money.”
“You can always work to get the money.”
“We were working after school cleaning up at a restaurant, but it closed. Flood damage,” she shrugged her shoulders, “you know.” Continuing, the girl held up her hands. “We’re not old enough to drive, and most of the other shops in the village are closed now, too.”
“I noticed all the jewelry you stole was made of sea glass.”
“Mom loves it,” the taller girl said.
“I happen to know someone who makes sea-glass jewelry. Would you like to make some to give to
“Wow, that’s really nice. The colors make it look Christmasy,” the shorter one said. “Yeah—we’d love to know how to make jewelry. That would be fun.”
“Yes, we have all afternoon,” the shorter one said.
“Okay, it’s a date then. I’ll get your addresses, arrange with your parents for you to attend a private class,” Sue winked, “and pick you up.”
The girls were all smiles and excitement.
Woody’s lesson had gone well. The girls showed a flair for design. While Woody taught, Sue had baked cookies with Jared and Cindy. After completing bracelets and eating cookies, Woody promised to drive the girls home. The girls thanked Sue before they left.
“Wish I could stay,” Woody said, kissing Sue goodnight at her door.
“Wish you had a babysitter for both kids, and we could have a night to ourselves.” Sue waved goodbye to them from the door.
With Jared in bed and the house quiet, Sue walked out to the dock overlooking Pamlico Sound. She
“For Heaven’s sake, Sue. Every time I see you, it seems as if you’re in the depths of despair. What’s wrong now?”
Sue looked at the fairy and rolled her eyes. The fairy’s presence made her question her sanity. “Nothing, except I’d like an explanation for what happened at the shop.”
“I’ll tell you, but first, is that Irish Coffee you’re drinking?” Pam said, raising her eyebrows.
Sue got up. “With a cut straw, like last year?”
“Of course, and if you have a miniature candy cane and some cookies that would go well, too.” Pam smiled, folded her wings, and sat down ready to be waited on and pampered.
Sue shook her head and disappeared into the house, reappearing a few minutes later carrying the fairy treats on a small green depression-ware glass plate. Jam thumbprint crumbles, bits of gingerbread men, and red sugar-sprinkled sand tart pieces were arranged next to a small chocolate cup, meant for liqueurs, filled with Irish Coffee, a miniature candy cane, and a cut straw.
“Thank you. You know how to make a gal feel welcome. I knew we’d be the best of friends.” Pam popped some cookie bits in her mouth and took a swig of coffee.
Sue wallowed back a groan. “You’ll have to drink that fast before the chocolate melts.”
“No problem, and then I get to eat the cup. What fun!”
“The shop,” Sue reminded Pam, who dipped the candy cane in her coffee and licked.
“Yes, just a pesky demon.”
“A demon—that was that dark thing I saw you beating in the stockroom?”
“Yep. He tempted the girls to steal the jewelry and gave them the opportunity by creating a diversion to get rid of the clerk. After they stole and evaded you, he tried to kill them by tampering with that woman’s brakes.”
Sue’s jaw dropped. “Could he have done that?”
Pam waved her arms. “Not to worry—he’s off Hatteras Island now.” She laughed. “I wish I could see his reception in Hell when he comes back with fairy dust all over him.” Pam wiped some crumbs off her chin. “Oh, I heard your wishes and made arrangements, but I need to dress you. Woody will be so appreciative.”
An internal alarm went off in Sue’s head. “What are you talking about?”
Pam whipped her wand from her coat. “Better than a Christmas box, now you look like Megan Fox.”
“No!” Sue closed her eyes and hung her head. She knew when she opened her eyes she be wearing a black stretch lace bustier with black leggings, the most revealing outfit she’d ever worn. “Pam, you have to stop this.”
“Stop trying to put some romance in your life? Are you kidding? Besides—I’m just fulfilling your wish. I’ll transport Jared over to Woody’s house and go supervise the babysitter—after I finish my snack.” Pam tilted the chocolate cup, finished her coffee, and bit into the warmed chocolate. “Delish!”
“Why do you have to supervise the babysitter? Who did you get?”
“Short notice, but he’ll do fine.”
“Buck, the deer buck you changed into a human last year?”
“He got acclimated twice as fast this year. But I do need some Chex Mix. Not to worry, I’ll pick up some on the way.” Pam twitched her wings. “Woody’s here, dear. Got to go.” Pam flew off into the night.
Sue stood up and wobble-walked on the high black wedges into the house. She peeked into Jared’s room. Sure enough, the bed was empty. The doorbell rang. Sue opened the door. Woody wore a black tux—she’d never seen him look so handsome. He pawed at his clothes. “I’m confused but happy.” He looked at her outfit and grinned.
“Don’t think about it. It will make your head hurt. You found a babysitter?”
“My sister dropped by, and then this guy showed up. My sister thought he was a friend of mine. I thought he was a friend of hers. He said he knew you and was there to babysit for us. When I left, my sister and he were watching TV and eating snacks.”
“I’m sure she’ll have an interesting evening with Buck.” Woody held out his arms and Sue walked into them.
“Wishes can come true, especially at Christmas,” Woody said. He wouldn’t tell Sue about his other wish concerning a little black box with a ring inside until later. He patted his pocket to make sure it was there. He’d also wished she’d say, “Yes!”