Once home, they both had a nap. Albert awoke to a noise of something being dragged on the floor. He came downstairs to find Hilda pulling a similar trunk to the one they found in the workshop. She undid the latch and opened it up.

Inside, there were more ledgers and laying on top was a suit bag. Hilda pulled it out, coughing from the musty smell coming from the inside of the trunk. She unzipped the bag and took it off. Underneath was a see-through plastic wrapping. She pulled that off as well to reveal what looked like a Santa suit.

“Look Albert, this was my father’s. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Albert, still groggy from sleep, rubbed his eyes and took a closer look at the suit. It indeed looked like a Santa outfit. “Why did he have that?” Albert asked yawning.

“Because he was Santa, of course!”

Albert laughed. Hilda looked at him crossly. “Why are you laughing?”

“Well, it was a funny statement. Your father was Santa, ha ha.” Albert chuckled again.

Hilda looked daggers at Albert but didn’t say anything. She got a suit brush from a drawer and began brushing the fur. Dust and bits of fur floated in the air as Hilda brushed. Albert started coughing. “Can you leave that; it’s getting into my lungs.” Albert sputtered some more.

“I’ll take it upstairs and freshen it up.” Hilda walked purposely with the suit and brush. She made a wide berth around Albert.

Albert sat down on the couch, shaking his head. The uneasiness he felt at the workshop was coming back and he didn’t like it. Albert wasn’t normally an anxious person, but his stomach started churning; he felt a cold shiver down his spine.

He put on a CD with some spa type music. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply to calm himself.

“Albert, can you come up to the bedroom, please?” Hilda called.

Reluctantly, Albert got up and made his way upstairs. Hilda was dressed in an old-fashioned outfit; a red checked pinafore over a white ruffled blouse. Her hair was done in her usual bun, but it was covered by a mop hat. Small square glasses were perched on the end of her nose. Her feet were covered with black-laced boots.

“What’s all this?” Albert asked anxiously.

“This is me, Albert. I’m Mrs. Claus.”

She held up the Santa suit, “Now it’s your turn. Put your suit on.”

Albert backed away. “Hilda, what’s going on. You’re scaring me.”

Hilda laughed. “Don’t be silly, Albert. You’re Santa now; you have to wear your outfit.”

“Hilda, this has gone far enough. It’s all well and good to pretend, but…”

“This isn’t pretend, Albert. This is real.” Hilda looked menacingly at him.

Albert turned to walk back downstairs. “This is ridiculous. We’re going home.”

Hilda pulled a gun from her pinafore pocket.

“Turn around, Albert, and put the suit on.” She pointed the gun in Albert’s direction.

Albert froze. “Hilda, please, what are you doing? Put the gun down…” He started to walk towards her.

“Stay there or I’ll shoot you. Strip down now and put the GOD DAMN SUIT ON.”

Albert, terrified, did as he was told. He was shaking as he stripped down to his undies and socks. He put on the suit. Hilda still holding the gun, gestured Albert towards a full-length mirror. She made him stand next to her with the gun pointed in his back.

“Smile, Santa,” she said sweetly.

Albert had a difficult time trying to smile, but he did his best.

“There, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Hilda said. “We make a wonderful couple, don’t you think?”

Albert slumped forward in a dead faint.

Nearly a year later, Albert stretched out on a lounger near the pool of the 5-star resort in Puerto Vallarta. His newly shaved head was covered by a Tilley hat and his clean-shaven face almost white from sunscreen. He sighed contentedly. He looked admiringly at his slimmer body. He knew he had a ways to go, but he had lost 50 pounds and his diet was much healthier than before. Albert was swimming every day and walking.

Albert took this vacation on the advice of his therapist. He was suffering from PTSD. He still experienced nightmares and he was on a low dose anti-depressant/anxiety medication. His therapist said it would be good to go where there was sun and warm weather so as not to be reminded of the winter snow and cold. It wasn’t cheap, especially with the health insurance, but he felt it was worth it.

Albert was just dozing off when he heard someone saying, “Excuse me; excuse me.”

He opened his eyes as he became aware of someone standing in front of him. He took his sunglasses off. A woman dressed in a red skirt and white blouse was standing in front of him. She had grey hair, a mop hat, and bifocal glasses on.

Albert sat up suddenly. “No, no, no…” Suddenly, a pain shot through his heart. He slumped back, shouting, “Aaah…my heart…” He then lost consciousness.

Albert woke up to find himself in a hospital bed with monitors beeping all around him. Tubes were attached to different parts of his body. He could barely lift his head and he felt like he had been run over. An elderly woman sat next to him. She was looking at him with concern but smiled as he opened his eyes.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re awake. I felt just terrible. I had to come in to see how you were.”

Albert looked at her with confusion. She had short brown hair (dyed probably considering her age); a bit on the chubby side and wearing a long-flowered sundress.

“Do I know you?” he asked

“Oh no, not really; I mean, no, you don’t know me. Do you remember what happened?” she asked kindly.

“No, I don’t. Why am I here?”

“You had a heart attack. They had to operate. You had bypass surgery….”

“Oh my…”

Albert closed his eyes trying to remember. He was sitting by the pool; someone was calling him.

“You! Was that you?” Albert looked closer at the woman.

The woman blushed. “Yes, it was. I’m not sure what happened; I was saying excuse me and then you just fell back…”

“But your dress…”

“Oh yes, that. I was dressed up as Mrs. Claus for an upcoming children’s party. We were looking for a Santa. They had all the gear, the suit, the wig and stuff. I don’t know why, but I thought you might be interested…I’d seen you in the hotel; you have a nice face…” Again, she blushed.

“What’s your name?” Albert asked.

“Sorry, my name is Margaret, Maggie. I felt so bad about what happened and I had to see how you were doing. Would you like me to leave?”

“No, no, not at all. It’s nice to have someone who’s interested in my well-being.”

Just then, a nurse came in to see Albert.

“Hola, señor, nice to see you awake.” The nurse picked up his chart and looked at the machines, writing down the information. “This is your wife, si?” she asked, looking at Maggie.

“No, no,” Maggie said.

Albert said, “She’s a friend of mine.”

Maggie smiled but said nothing.

“You had a bad heart attack. El Doctor te hablara en breve.”

Both Albert and Maggie looked confused.

“Lo siento, the doctor speak soon, with you,” the nurse translated.

Albert nodded.

“Adios. Por favor, do not stay long, si?” The nurse looked at Maggie.

“Oh, yes, of course. Thank you, gracias,” Maggie said.

“Look, I’d better go and let you rest. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” Maggie got up to leave.

Albert reached out his hand to Maggie. “Please, can you come back?” he pleaded.

“Well, yes, if you’re sure?”


“Okay, I’ll call the nurse’s station in the morning and make sure it’s okay. I’ll visit tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Albert said.

As promised, the doctor came and spoke with Albert. The medical team felt it necessary to do the bypass as the main artery was blocked. The heart was looking good now and as long as Albert responded to treatment and therapy, he could leave the hospital in a week, but he would have to convalesce at the resort for another 6-12 weeks before flying home.

Luckily, Albert was booked to stay at the resort for three months. He had to call his insurance to make sure all the medical bills were covered. Thankfully, he had taken out a comprehensive health insurance plan for travelling and he had no prior health conditions that were evident.

As promised, Maggie returned the next day. She didn’t stay long so as not to tire him and get in the way of his rehabilitation. When Albert finally returned to the resort, they began to seek each other out and have meals together, go for walks and sit by the pool. Albert had to wait a bit for swimming.

Sitting by the pool one day, Albert felt the need to unburden himself to Maggie and give her a proper explanation about why he was so shocked at seeing her dressed up as Mrs. Claus.

“I wondered if it had something to do with me dressing up?” Maggie said

“It’s a long and painful story. Are you okay to listen?”

“As long as you don’t stress yourself.”

“I think it will help me,” Albert said.

Albert told Maggie about Hilda, the name change (Albert changed his surname back to Rogers), the cabin, the workshop, and about how Hilda pulled a gun on him, demanding he put the Santa suit on.

“Oh my goodness.” Maggie was shocked.

“It gets worse, I’m afraid. I passed out after I had tried the suit on and found myself in bed without the suit on. It must have been tough for Hilda to get me in bed and stripped down as I was a lot heavier than I am now. She was a very determined lady and strong, so she did it somehow. She had handcuffed me to bed, so I couldn’t get up. I pleaded with her to let me go and we could go home and I would get her some help, but of course she wouldn’t hear of it. She then started to tell me about her father: ‘He was a wonderful man, you know, Albert. My mother died when I was young and he looked after me. He told me he was the real Santa Claus. We would come to the cabin a lot and he showed me how he made the toys and decided on who was good and bad. I was his elf to start with, you know, his helper, but when I turned 18, he said it was time to become Mrs. Claus.

“‘I had taken dance classes all through my teenage years and danced in local groups, some theater, but I would always be there for him from September to December to help with his toymaking. I’m afraid being Mrs. Claus involved some intimacy with my father…

“’I didn’t want to, of course, but I loved him and would do anything for him. I finally persuaded him that Santa didn’t engage in sexual activity, which made it easier for me…

“’My father lived until just short of his 100th birthday. His last ten years were in a care facility.

“’His body had broken down, but his mind was sharp. He asked me to promise him I would find the perfect Santa, which is you, Albert. I was hoping you would see things the way I see them, but it doesn’t appear to be, so, so I’ll have to make sure you’re watched at all times, until, well, until you agree with how it has to be.’”

Albert was shaking a bit as he was telling Maggie about his ordeal. “Understandably, I was scared for my life, but also devastated to hear how Hilda’s father had abused her, brainwashed her. I can’t imagine what she went through. I was determined to help Hilda, get her the help she needed and get her and myself out of that damn cabin.

“After a few days of pleading with her to let me go and for us to go home, I realized it was futile, so I came up with a plan. I told her I wouldn’t struggle anymore and I would be her Santa; well, not her Santa, but ‘the Santa.’ After a week of dressing in the Santa suit, making new ledgers of children’s toys, pretending to be Santa and her Mrs. Claus, Hilda let her guard down. I don’t mind telling you, Maggie; it was awful pretending, acting, whatever you want to call it. I felt sick every day; my nerves were shot. Hilda finally agreed that we could go to the workshop and start making the toys. It hadn’t been used for quite some time, so we needed to bring wood for the fire and the snow-blower. I brought along the gas can on the pretext of filling up the blower if it ran out of gas. Hilda was so excited. We arrived at the cabin, and as expected, it was freezing. It took a long time to heat it up. Hilda happily got the tools ready and after our lunch, we began making toys. I confess I wasn’t good at assembling the toys, plus my mind was on my next move, so I was distracted. Hilda was very patient, and really, she did most of it.

“I did have to blow some snow around the cabin and I made sure the gas can was inside the workshop. When we were ready to leave, I told Hilda I had forgot to get the can and I’d be right back. It was then that I splashed gas all over the workshop floor and lit it. Flames went up immediately and I ran out. Hilda saw the flames and looked horrified.

“I told Hilda it was for the best and we were going home. It was as if she was frozen to the spot. She wouldn’t move. We watched the workshop being engulfed in flames and I pulled her back away from the danger. It was then that she, she…” Albert stopped to wipe the tears falling down his cheeks, “she screamed and ran inside the workshop. I tried to grab her, but she broke free and I couldn’t get her, the fire, the fire was so intense…” Albert broke down. Maggie held his hand, tears in her eyes as well. After a short interval, Albert continued. “I, I really, truly wanted to help her. I didn’t think for a moment that she would go back inside. If I did, I would never have done that. But I couldn’t think of another way to escape…anyway, there was an investigation; I was cleared of any wrongdoing. There were a few witnesses who testified that Hilda did go to the cabin with her father and that he made out he was the real Santa. There was suspected sexual abuse, but as Hilda denied everything, nothing happened. Once the police saw the handcuffs, the gun with Hilda’s prints on it, and I passed a lie detector test, I, well, I, was exonerated. I had a breakdown; I was a mess. I was in hospital for over a month. I’ve been under psychiatric care since it happened. The therapist recommended I come here for a break.”

Albert and Maggie sat in silence, Maggie still holding Albert’s hand.

“What happened to the cabin, Albert?” Maggie asked.

“Well, that’s the strangest thing. I wanted nothing to do with it, but as Hilda and I were married, the cabin should’ve gone to me, not that I wanted anything to do with it. I sold Hilda’s house as well and I would’ve sold the cabin, too, but I found out the cabin wasn’t even hers. It belonged to a company called Northern Expeditions. Hilda had been renting it while we were there. I was glad as it proved I wasn’t trying to obtain it for any gain. I’m not even sure if Hilda’s father did even own it. It was all so crazy, I can’t even think about it. I don’t want to know.” Albert shook his head. “I just want to move on and leave all that horrendous experience behind me. I didn’t expect to come to Mexico and have a heart attack, but I’m glad I met you.” Albert looked at Maggie and smiled. Maggie smiled back.

Albert and Maggie continued to meet up every day and it seemed to Albert that they were developing a deeper bond, so it came as a shock when a week later Albert was given a letter by the receptionist. It was from Maggie.

Dear Albert,

By the time you get this letter, I will be on the plane back home. I am unable to stay any longer due to other commitments I have. I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed our time together and I’m so happy to see you are on the mend from your heart attack and operation. I feel perhaps that you may have wanted to take our relationship further but that isn’t possible. Take care of yourself.

Best wishes,


Albert’s heart lurched and he felt slightly dizzy. He sat down in the lobby and re-read the letter.

Albert felt like a broken man; so much had happened to him. He broke down crying. A pain shot through his chest and he cried out. Some staff from the resort came running to him, but it was too late…

Maggie opened her laptop while on the plane; sitting in first class, she was enjoying a buck’s fizz. She opened her webmail and composed an email:

Dear members,

After spending some time with Albert Rogers, I now have the facts about what happened to Hilda and can positively state that Hilda died in the line of duty and for our cause.

Albert will not pose a threat to our organization. He is not a well man.

The workshop is being rebuilt as we speak and the next operation should be up and running before the next Christmas season. I know we have had a setback, but we need to remain diligent. Please send the information about all your candidates and we will take it from there.

Just then, a text came through about Albert’s demise. Maggie sighed and took a deep breath. She did genuinely like Albert, as did Hilda, and he would have made the perfect Santa if it wasn’t for his stubbornness. In any case, Maggie arranged and paid for Albert’s cremation in Mexico and for his ashes to be brought back. She would contact any friends or distant relations about his death. Now, back to business…

Continuing on with the email:

I have just had confirmation that Albert Rogers has since died from his bad heart. This is most unfortunate, but we carry on. Keep calm and Santa on, as we say. Any questions or queries, please direct them to Elf Jeremy. Thank you.

Maggie signed off with the organization’s name:

PSS Inc. (Perfect Santa Search Inc.)!!!


For all installments of “The Perfect Santa,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2