All disclaimers apply.

Santa Claus Isnít Coming to Town
by Courtney Felix

The wind rattled the windows of the Sloan house. Outside it was gray and overcast. Dr. Jesse Travis looked out the glass doors leading to the balcony. He closed his eyes and imagined that he was back in Illinois. He could feel the warmth of the fireplace and could see the snow falling outside the windows. He opened his eyes, almost expecting to see the same scene he had envisioned. He sighed heavily when he saw the gray clouds and could once again hear Steve, Mark, and Amanda talking in the kitchen.

The beach house had been beautifully decorated for Christmas, as it was every year. Steve had brought a tree home the week before and he and Mark had decorated it while listening to Christmas songs on the CD player. That weekend, Steve and Jesse were going up to the roof to line the house with hundreds of lights that Mark had bought the year before. The toy train that ran along the tracks, on the edge of the tree skirt, whistled and puffed smoke from the smoke stack on the engine. There were no presents under the tree yet, but it was still two weeks until Christmas.

"Its just not right," Jesse could hear Mark saying. He walked back into the kitchen and found Mark leaning over polaroids of a crime scene. Jesse leaned over his shoulder to get a better look at the photographs. When he saw them, he cringed. The pictures were of Salvation Army Santas. It looked to Jesse, as if they had been killed by a forceful blow to the head.

"It may not be right," Steve began, "but there have been three in the last two weeks. The murderer steals all the money the Santas have collected and then beats them to death."

"Well, you can tell that person is full of Christmas Spirit," Jesse commented sarcastically.

"There were no witnesses?" Mark asked Steve.

"No, all the murders were done late; at almost closing. No witnesses, no videotapes, nothing."

Amanda leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. "So," she began, "how are we supposed to catch the murderer?"

Jesse sat down in the chair between Mark and Amanda and looked at Steve, awaiting an answer.

"Well," Steve said slowly, "we can check their backgrounds to see if they are connected in any other way. If we don't find anything that way, we start from scratch."

After an hour of looking through photos, files, and papers, they were all seeing double and had gotten nowhere. Mark leaned back in his chair and let out a long, slow breath. Somewhere during that hour, the sun had peeked through the clouds and people were starting to gather on the beach again.

Steve stood and walked to the window. He rubbed his eyes so he could see clearly again. "I say we give up for the day. We're not going to get anywhere like this."

"I'm with him," Jesse quickly agreed.

"Can we at least look at the pictures one more time?" Amanda asked. "This guy is too clean, he's going to mess up somewhere."

The next morning as Mark was making coffee, he heard a bulletin over the radio. He turned it up as he leaned in to hear what the broadcaster was saying. "A fourth in the string of Santa Murders occurred last night at a local grocery store in Malibu. There are still no suspects as to who could be committing these horrible murders." Mark turned it back down and called Steve at the station.

"Sloan, here," Steve answered.

"Steve, its Dad. Have you heard about the latest Santa murder?"

"Yeah, I was just getting ready to go down there. You want to go?"

"Yeah, I think I will," Mark answered. "Meet you there."

When Mark got to the grocery store, the place was crawling with press. He weaved his way in and out of people until he caught a glimpse of Steve. He stood on his tip toes to try and get a better look and to find a clear path to get to him. He stood there, planning his route, when a reporter ran straight into him, almost knocking Mark down.

"Oh sir! Iím so sorry. Please accept my apology," said the young reporter.

"Quite alright," Mark said with a smile. He extended his hand toward the young man. "Mark Sloan," he said. "Pleased to meet you."

"Oh!" The young man exclaimed shaking Markís hand. "Bryant Sharp, I work for Channel 17," he said as he held up his press pass. "What do you do?"

Mark replied, "Iím a doctor at Community General, but I do some consulting work with the LAPD. Actually, Iím trying to get to my son, who is up there," Mark said pointing through the crowd.

"You wonít get anywhere the way youíre trying to go. Come on," Bryant said motioning for Mark to follow him, "this way." They made their way through reporters, cops, and bystanders to where Steve was working.

Steve saw his father trying to push through the crowd and tried to clear a way for him to get through. "I didnít know if you were coming or not," Steve said.

"I wouldnít have made it through this mob if it hadnít been forÖ" Mark paused and looked around. "Hey, whereíd he go?" Mark looked in all directions, but couldnít see Sharp anywhere.

"Oh well, Dad. Come over here. Its the exact same as all the others, the money is gone and the Santa has a nasty head wound. We have a definite serial killer here."

Later that day, Mark went to the hospital to see Jesse and Amanda. He found Jesse with a patient.

"OK," he said to a little girl who was about ten years old. "Youíre all set. You take care of that wrist, ok?" She nodded and hopped down from where she had been sitting. She grabbed her jacket and ran out in the hall where her mom had been waiting.

Jesse smiled as he watched them walk away. It took him a minute to realize that Mark was even in the room. "Mark!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here? I thought this was your day off."

"Relax, Jess. It is my day off. I just came here to see you and Amanda."

"Aw, Mark, did you miss us?" Jesse joked.

"Youíre never away from me long enough for me to be able to miss you," Mark replied. Jesse looked at him and smiled. "From the way you looked at that little girl and her mother, Iíd say you were missing someone."

"I was that obvious, huh?" Jesse asked. "Its just that this will be, maybe, the second time I havenít been home for Christmas with my mom. God, I love going back there. Nothing ever changes there," he said with a big smile on his face.

Mark smiled and put his arm around Jesseís shoulder. "Why donít you surprise her and go home this year? I know you want to. I can see it in your face."

"You know," he said with a pause, "I may check and see if I can work out a schedule to be able to. Thanks for listening to me, Mark. I have to get back to rounds," Jesse said as he slowly fell behind Mark. "Oh, tell Steve Iíll be over this afternoon to help him with the lights."

"Ok, no problem. See you this afternoon." He turned and watched Jesse walk quickly down the hall. When Jesse disappeared, he made his way to Pathology to find Amanda. She was hard at work on an autopsy when he walked in. She held up a finger indicating for him to wait a moment while she finished.

He stood by the door and waited until she clicked her recorder off. Amanda sat the recorder on her desk and picked up a few files. "Iím assuming therse are what you came for," she said as she handed them to Mark. He nodded. "Iím afraid its pretty clear cut. Nothing I wouldnít expect."

"Thanks, Amanda," Mark said. "Steve and I can look over these tonight."

"Still no suspects, huh?" Amanda asked as she sat at her desk.

"No, not yet. Youíre right about what you said at the house yesterday. This guy is too neat. Heís going to have to mess up somewhere. I just wish he would do it so we can get him," Mark stated. He looked down at his hands, "That must have sounded awful didnít it? Well," he continued, "I canít help it. I keep thinking about the money that he or she is taking. Somewhere, some little kid isnít going to have a very nice Christmas," Mark looked back at Amanda who was nodding.

Mark said goodbye to Amanda and left the lab. He was almost to his car when he heard someone calling after him. He turned to see Bryant Sharp jogging to catch up with him.

"Hello, Bryant, wasnít it?" Mark asked. Sharp nodded. "How did you find me? I turned around this morning and you were gone."

"Yeah, sorry about that. I got caught between people when your son started clearing a path for you. Anyway, after that, I went back to the station and did some homework on you. Youíre quite the detective, Doc Sloan."

"Thank you," Mark said smiling.

"Are you allowed to talk about the case? I just need to know if you have suspects, proof, anything. See, I just started at 17 and this could be my big break. Its the story Iíve been waiting for. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Iíll beg if I have to."

"That wonít be necessary," Mark said. "Really, thereís nothing to tell right now. There arenít any suspects or any proof. But this guy has to make a mistake somewhere, and when he does, you can be sure weíll get him. Is that all you needed?" Mark asked. Bryant nodded, said goodbye and waved to Mark as he walked away.

"Are you sure this is safe?" Jesse asked as he climbed a ladder to the top of the Sloanís beach house. He had a string of lights thrown over his shoulder.

"It would have been easier to get up here if you would have wound the lights up instead of hanging them over your shoulder like that. Havenít you done this before?" Steve asked as he got to the top of the ladder.

"Of course I have," Jesse replied. "Just not lately."

Steve nodded and pointed for him to walk further up the roof. Jesse took small, timid steps until he got to the top. He stood with one foot on one side of the peak and one foot on the other side. He had never seen such a view. He stood there speechless until Steve brought him back down to earth. "Jesse!" Steve shouted. "Get over here and help me with some of this stuff." Jesse carefully walked across the roof to where Steve was waiting. "Okay," said Steve looking around trying to make a plan. "Weíll start here," he continued, " line the base, then do the peak. When we get done, weíll see if Dad wants us to do any more."

Jesse nodded and helped Steve with a strand of lights. "You tested these, right?" he asked. Steve stopped and looked at Jesse with a strange expression on his face. Then, he relaxed and confidently nodded yes. "So," Jesse began. "Anything new with the Santa case?"

Steve secured a part of the lights, then looked at Jesse. "Not now, ok? This case has me crazy enough."

Jesse nodded and didnít say anything else about it, for about five minutes. "So," he began again. "There are still no suspects?"

"Jesse!" Steve exclaimed. "Didnít I just tell you not to mention it?" Steve said. There was a hint of annoyance in his voice.

"Sorry," Jesse replied.

Steve went back to what he was doing then suddenly dropped his head and let out a long sigh. "Sorry," he said. "This case has me on a short fuse." He started working on the lights again. "Youíve seen the photos and files, right?" He asked Jesse. Jesse nodded. "Then, you know everything the police do. Nothing new has come up," he finished. They worked in silence for a few minutes and finished the base, when the breeze picked up and it began to get colder. Jesse shivered as the breeze hit his back. They were starting to head toward the peak of the roof when Jesse felt drops of water falling on his head.

"Steve," he said. "I think we should get down. Its starting to rain."

Steve stopped what he was doing and held his hand out to his side to see if any drops would fall on it. Sure enough, one splashed on his outstretched palm, then two, and three. He gathered up the lights and headed for the ladder. Jesse was already down the ladder and was waiting for Steve to get down as well. He finally got to the last step and Jesse sprinted for the door. He yanked it open and rushed inside. Steve followed close behind. By that time, it was pouring. Jesse looked out the door. "Where did that come from?" He looked at Steve who was going to say something, but Jesse cut him off. "That was a rhetorical question." Steve just stood there and smiled.

The rain had finally stopped. It had been raining for almost two whole hours. Sharp sat in his office and looked out the window. He had a map of Malibu out in front of him. The places the murderer had struck were marked with blue dots. Sharp sat there and stared at the dots looking for some kind of pattern. It never occurred to him to look for a pattern in the maps until he took a look at one of Mark Sloanís old cases. He found that Mark had known where the next of a series of bombings would be because of the map. Sloan was the one who had solved the Sunnyview Bombings case. Mark Sloan had sent Carter Sweeny, the Sunnyview Bomber, to jail. Sharp had seen the other reporters fight over that story, and now, he had his own chance to be there when Mark solved another huge case.

He sat there and stared at the map until his eyes blurred. After an hour, he came to the conclusion there was no pattern. There was no pattern to anything in the story. The murders didnít seem to go together at all except that they were Santas and they had been beaten. He spun around in his chair and once again looked out the window. Somewhere out there, there was a killer, and neither Mark or Steve Sloan had any idea who to look for. Sharp could tell this story was going nowhere.

He could hear the bell ringing as he rounded the corner. Those stupid bells had annoyed him all his life. He stopped at the corner of the wall. He lit his watch and saw that it was almost eleven oíclock. The store would close in about another five minutes. He would have to hurry if he wanted to do it before someone could come out and catch him. He pulled his mask down over his face and fixed his hood over his head before approaching his next victim. When he was sure no one would be able to identify him he snuck up behind the man and hit him over the head with a pipe that he had found in the street. The bell fell to the ground with the Santa. He had died instantly. Quickly, the masked man grabbed the can that was full of change. People didnít seem to understand how much you could actually get taking from these Santas. He had made over two hundred dollars in the past two weeks. He looked inside the can and saw that it was almost full. He took off sprinting across the parking lot. As he ran, a piece of paper fell out of his back pocket and fluttered to the ground.

Steve and Mark had arrived at the scene together that day. The call had come in while Steve was still sitting at the breakfast table with his father. They had been up and out of the house in less than ten minutes after they got the call. They walked toward the area that had been marked off with yellow tape. They saw the same scene as all the others before. "Ok," Steve instructed, "lets get this cleaned up before the press get ahold of it today."

Amanda came as soon as she heard. Steve had already had the body sent to CG for an autopsy. She promised she would get back as soon as possible, but that she wanted to help them right now. Steve nodded and gave her the details. Jesse pulled up not too long after Amanda and was also given things to do. Steve looked around and saw his father walking slowly around the parking lot. "The first thing I want you to do," he told Jesse, " is bring my father back over here." Jesse nodded and took off after Mark.

"Mark!" Jesse called after him. "What are you doing out here?"

"Hey, Jesse. Nothing really. Looking around for clues. You never know where they turn up, you know." Jesse nodded and helped Mark look around. A breeze blew through and picked a piece of paper up off the ground. "Jesse!" Mark called. "See if you can catch that!" He pointed to the floating piece of paper. It flew for a few seconds then slowly glided back down to the ground. Jesse ran to the paper hoping to get it before another breeze picked it up off the ground. He pounced on it like a cat. He picked it up and looked at it. It was a green press pass with the number 17 on it.

"Mark I donít see how this will help you, but here you go." He handed the paper to Mark who examined it carefully. Suddenly a wide smile spread across his face.

"Jesse," he said. "I think we may have just found our killer."

The press vans started showing up shortly after Mark and Jesse found the pass. They didnít have the chance to tell Steve about it because the reporters were hounding him and asking questions. Jesse watched as Steve tried to fight off the press. "Geez, journalism must be a brutal profession. Look at those people. I just wish we knew who worked at 17." As he finished his sentence, the 17 van pulled into the parking lot.

"You moron!" Sharp yelled at his driver. "Look, just look at how many people are here already! If we would have left when I wanted to we would have been here a long time ago! What took you so long?"

"Iím sorry, Mr. Sharp. It wonít happen again."

Sharp scoffed and surveyed the scene around him. He saw Mark and Steve. He hardly waited for the van to stop before he jumped out of it. He rushed toward Mark who was still standing with Jesse. "Dr. Sloan!" Sharp called. "Anything new?"

Mark turned to Jesse. "Bryant, this is my friend, Dr. Jesse Travis. He sometimes helps Steve and I with our cases." Sharp nodded toward Jesse. "Jesse," Mark continued, "this is Bryant Sharp, he works for channel 17 news." Mark watched as it clicked in Jesseís mind. He turned back to Sharp. "I canít give you any information today, Bryant. Youíre going to have to find another source."

Jesse watched as Sharp walked away from them. "That was, that was!" he exclaimed. "Why did you let him go?"

"He trusts me Jesse. I have to find out more before I can do anything about it. Come on, we have to talk to Steve about getting some warrants."

"Iíll try, Dad, but I donít know. This is awfully flimsy. Donít you have anything more solid? Anyone could have gotten this if they had hung around the scene yesterday. Did this Bryant have a pass on him today?"

Mark looked at Jesse. "But Steve he wasnít here when we found it! None of the press were." When there was no response from Steve, he answered the question. "He didnít Steve, I got a really good look at him. Theyíre supposed to wear them on their coats or something right?" Jesse asked.

"Most do, at least the ones Iíve had to deal with in the last few weeks."

"Then he definitely did not have one on." He suddenly remembered what time he had to be at the hospital and checked his watch. "Oh geez! Iím really late! Mark, tell me what happens!" He called as he ran to his car.

Steve and Mark watched as Jesse sped out of the parking lot. "So, do you think weíll be able to get a warrant?" Mark asked.

"Like I said, Iíll try." Steve stated. "Come on, Iím done here. Iíll drop you off at home before I go back to the station." They both walked toward the truck with their hands in their pockets.

Amazingly, Steve got the warrant and the two were searching Sharpís apartment at about two oíclock. The place was a mess when they walked in. There were things thrown everywhere. "How could someone live here?" Mark asked, amazed. They searched the bedroom and bathroom twice before deciding they hadnít missed anything in the two rooms and moved on. Mark opened the door to the closet in the hall and found five Salvation Army buckets stuck in the back. He pulled one down, but it was empty. "Steve," he said and held up what he had found. "The money has to be around here somewhere. Where would you keep a lot of change?"

"I wouldnít," said Sharp as he entered his apartment. "What are you two doing here?" he asked.

"We had reason to believe that you were the one committing the Santa killings. We have the warrant," Steve said and held it up. "What do you mean you wouldnít?"

"Youíd have to be crazy to keep that much change around. The first thing Iíd do, if I were the killer," he added, "is to cash that money in," his tone suddenly changed to vengeful. He took two threatening steps toward Mark who backed up a step. "I confess, I did do those killings. And you know what?" he asked. "Iím not sorry I did it."

"But why?" Mark asked.

"The first one was personal. He tried to ruin my career. I showed him whose career would be ruined. I got him fired from his job and then killed him. I saw all the attention each murder got and I realized that this would be a great way to jump start my job with channel 17. So, I kept going with them. I had no pattern, I did it where ever and when ever I felt like. As I went, they got easier and easier. I canít believe it took you two so long to find me. I thought you were supposed to be two of the greatest detectives in LA. I was told when you work as a team, or with those other two doctors, you guys are unstoppable. You guys had nothing, and you, Doc Sloan, told me so. Oh by the way, thanks so much for your help. I really appreciated it."

"Iím taking you in," Steve said. He started walking toward Sharp who threw a quick right at Steve and then ran.

"Are you alright?" Mark asked as he stepped to his sonís side.

"Yeah, fine. Come on," Steve said getting up. "We canít let him get away." They ran out the doorway to the elevators. "He took the stairs, so weíll probably beat him down there." The elevator doors opened and the two stepped inside. It seemed to take forever to get to the main floor. As the elevator finally came to a stop and the doors opened they saw Sharp running through the main doors. They ran after him and saw as he jumped in his car. They jumped in Steveís truck and followed close behind.

"I canít believe it," Mark sighed, "I helped him commit those murders. How could I have been so blind?"

Steve tried to comfort his father and tell him that it wasnít his fault. The more Steve tried to convince him, the worse Mark seemed to feel. Steve felt guilty for not being able to do anything. There were so many times in his life when Mark had made him feel like he had done the right thing, and now, when Mark needed to feel better Steve couldnít help him.

They had been driving for a good half hour before Sharp stopped. There was a building in front of them. It was old and was in pretty bad shape. Something told Mark that he had been there before but couldnít remember for what or why he was there. Steve went around the side of the building. He drew his gun and told his father to go inside and look.

Mark opened the wooden doors. Suddenly it all hit him. He hadnít recognized the outside, but the inside brought back vivid memories. He stood there for a second, motionless. He looked all around the room. It was the same as it had been when he had been held there by the Sweenys. He saw the table and all the chairs. He looked out the window and saw the sign for the camp. He studied the room for a few more seconds. There was one thing there he hadnít remembered having the last time they were there: there was a phone sitting on one of the tables.

Steve rounded the corner of the building. Behind it there were dumpsters and lots of trees. Sharp could have been anywhere. He started towards the trees, first. He passed a few trees when he heard a slight rustling in the tree above him. He looked up and saw Sharp perched there ready to pounce on him.

Sharp jumped on Steve and hit him hard over the head. Steve managed to wrestle Sharp off of him before the dizziness set in. He tried not to let it show. He succeeded, at first, but he got worse the longer they fought. Pretty soon, he could hardly stand up straight. Sharp saw that Steve was getting bad and took advantage of it. He swung and hit Steve in the middle of the stomach. That set Steve off what little balance he had and he sprawled out on the ground. "You know what the best part was?" Sharp asked Steve who was gasping for air as he laid on the ground. "Those people had absolutely no idea it was coming. I found whatever I could to hit them and I did it. And it felt great! It got out the frustration of my job and I got a great story out of it, too."

Steve tried to get up but could hardly breathe and he had no balance left after the blow. He tried to yell for his father, but he found that nothing would come out. Sharp stood over him triumphantly. "We will get you." Steve whispered.

"I think not," Sharp said. He waved to Steve and took off running into the woods.

Mark looked around the room seeing if he could find anything that would tell him that Sharp had been there. He found nothing. There was an open window and the slight breeze rustled the papers that were sitting on the tables. There was a creaking in the roof above him, but he couldnít let that bother him. Being back in that building brought back a sense of fear. Suddenly, the phone rang. It rang onceÖ twiceÖ three times. Cautiously, he approached it. He put his hand on the receiver and picked it up slowly. "Hello," he said.

"Having a happy holiday, Doc Sloan?" asked the voice on the other line.

"Who is this?" Mark asked.

"Oh come now, donít tell me you havenít put it all together yet. He was working for me, Mark."

Mark stood in silence as he recognized the voice on the other line as Carter Sweenyís.