Nick temporarily lost his hearing after the first shot. Tiny, high-pitched bells rang in his ears. He closed his eyes and saw his wife running toward him, the shooter close behind, bearing his teeth, biting down on his bottom lip, aiming the .22 at her head.
After the second shot, the young mother fell to his feet. Blood puddled around his boots. The baby wailed, reached down for the dying woman, pulling Nick down with him.
The third shot slowed time. Nick saw the flash of light each time the man fired at anyone too close— man, woman, child. His wrist violently flicked back when he pulled the trigger. He twisted his wide open mouth— bottom lip pulling left, upper lip pulling right— as if he’d been punched in the jaw. He stopped and pointed to Nick, laughing at the child in his arms.
“There’s no such thing as Santa!”
Nick laid the baby in the chair, reached into his waistband for his weapon. He swung his arm around, his finger slipping, firing twice before he could aim at the perpetrator. The little girl who stood next in line to sit on his lap crumpled to the floor— in the line of fire.
“Freeze! Put down your weapon!”
The uniforms surrounded both men. Helmets down, shields up.
The man raised his hands, dropped the gun onto the green and red carpet. He was still smiling at Nick, that same straight-line grin his wife’s killer gave as officers handcuffed him. With one hand holding his wrist in place, Nick aimed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger.
The bullet shattered his heart.
* * *
On the evening news, police named two suspects. Both dead. One, a drunken department store Santa Claus, shot by officers on the scene. Motive yet to be determined.
Day 6 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans