VLADIMIRS JULKALENDER 22 december: Joel and the Santa Claus Mystery (Not much mystery there, said Joel!) del 4

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Omslag till Joel and the Santa Claus Mystery av Vladimir Oravsky och Kurt Larsen

“Yeah right, whatever.” The woman was already on her way. Hurry, hurry, hurry!
“Good luck with him and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family, madam!”
That was the last thing Joel heard from the salesperson before he found himself going down in the elevator, again getting a little giddy in his stomach.
“Hmf!” he said inside his transporter, but apparently nobody heard. Oh well.
He couldn’t see much out of the small grated window but did manage to hear that ‘his’ Santa on the ground floor had in fact been replaced by another ho-ho-ho-ing away and clanging perhaps even worse than his predecessor.
What incredible luck to be getting out of this noisy place! The only thing Joel was going to miss was the steady supply of food, but why worry about that when your stomach is full?
Just how lucky Joel was he found out a few moments later when he got out on the sidewalk in front of the department store and his transporter was put down while the woman waited for a taxi.
Almost as soon as he had arrived there a number of police cars with screaming sirens screeched to a halt right beside him, and among others Joel’s friend the policeman jumped out already giving orders to his colleagues.
Before the policemen could go into the store however the manager came out and as per her routine started to tear into the poor policeman:
“You can’t do this to me! This is our busiest day! You have no right!”
“I’m afraid I do. I’m sorry, but the store has to be evacuated immediately.” The policeman said this as calmly as he could.
“You might as well kill me right here!” The manager screamed hysterically.
“That is precisely what we want to avoid. You have a very poisonous snake in there who has already killed once. We don’t have any choice.”
Joel was impressed. This policeman was some kind of detective after all: A few hints here, a clue there and he had actually drawn the correct conclusion! If Joel had had a hat he would have tipped it in appreciation. The manager wasn’t as impressed:
“This is so unfair! You’re persecuting me personally!”
“Not at all. It all fits: The poison in Santa’s blood, the bite marks in his neck, and when I saw his picture in a book I instantly recognized him!”
“What do you mean? You recognized whom? Santa Claus?”
“Never mind whom. We have to stop him before he kills again. Now stand back please.”
Just then the woman’s taxi arrived, and the last thing Joel saw and heard was the manager jumping up and down, screaming in frustration on the sidewalk and being held back by a number of policemen.
The next thing of any importance that Joel could remember afterwards was waking up (sort of, he was still quite full from the two mice of the day before) still in his transporter, but he could tell the transporter was in a different place from where it was been put down earlier by the SMELL of real fresh wood!
Joel could hardly believe his luck. Was he back in his beloved park already and was it already spring?
There was nothing to see through the grated window that had been covered by some kind of material that only let in a little light. However he didn’t have to wait long before that material was torn away rather roughly letting in not only light and air but also the sight of yet another familiar face as Joel might have known: The pointing kid from the department store of course!
This time he wasn’t pointing though, only grinning stupidly at Joel as if he’d never been so happy to see anyone in his life.
“It’s him! It’s him! It’s him” the child screamed with apparently uncontrollable glee.
Of course Joel was Joel, who else would he be? Was that something to get so excited about? “Hmf!” Joel remarked a little annoyed.
“Well, you wanted a snake so bad so of course I got you a snake. Am I a good mother or what?”
Joel recognized the woman from the department store by her tired voice although she did sound a bit more relaxed now.
“Oh thank you, oh thank you, oh thank you, mom! You are the best mom ever!” the kid kept ranting running to his mother to hug and kiss her.
“You’re welcome, kid, and Merry Christmas.”
“Oh yeah, Merry Christmas, mom. This is the best Christmas ever!”
“I certainly hope so. He cost enough your snake. Aren’t you going to open your other presents?”
“They can wait!” The kid lifted the transporter into the middle of the room, and when he opened the lid so Joel could stick out his head he saw the tree the transporter has apparently been standing under: A REAL green tree in a room in a house! What would these people think of next, Joel wondered, although of course this was much better than the phoney stuff at the department store.
“Isn’t he beautiful” the kid enthused to his mother.
“Well, he’s something alright,” she admitted, but moved back a bit when Joel slipped out of the transporter to go exploring in his new environment.
“Just keep him away from me, will you kid?”
“Okay mom, but he wouldn’t hurt you, would you, Buddy?”
What was this with the names again?
“Tell him that. He looks hungry to me.”
“No he’s not. See that bump on his belly? That’s his last meal.”
The kid obvious wasn’t a total fool after all.
“Well, I still don’t want to be his next meal, so I’ll just…” The mother backed out of the room.
“Silly, isn’t she?” the kid laughed to Joel who couldn’t agree more. It was ridiculous in fact: She was far too big for him to swallow and probably tough to digest at that.
The kid suddenly picked up Joel in his hands.
“Come here, Buddy, I’ll show you my room!”
Joel was perfectly capable of going by himself, but if the kid insisted on carrying him Joel wasn’t going to put up a struggle simply on grounds of principle.
The kid’s room wasn’t much to look and sniff at (no mice or guinea pigs alas), but at least it was nice and hot which as we know always counted big in Joel’s book.
“What do you think, Buddy?”
Joel decided to set the kid straight about one thing:
“The name’s Joel. Not Buddy, not Noel, not Jack. Get it? Joel.”
“Okay, Joel,” the kid said while he sat Joel down on the bed still nice and warm from the kid’s body heat.
“Good, just so you remember.”
“I wasn’t really naming you Buddy or anything. I just thought that since we’re going to be buddies you and I…” These humans had explanations for everything!
“Well, we’ll see about that,” said Joel curling up on the bed. He was a little tired after the morning’s excitement and also had a bit of digesting to do.
“I know all about you!” the kid announced proudly but also rather annoyingly even if a bit flatteringly too.
“Well, I am pretty famous, in certain circles,” admitted Joel modestly.
“No, I mean I’ve been reading up on you, about your eating habits and digesting and so on.”
“Oh, that.” First the policeman and now the kid. This reading business and books was definitely getting out of hand. If he wasn’t careful pretty soon everybody would know about him. Was there no privacy and personal space in this world anymore? “Hmf!” Joel said.
“I just thought I’d tell you,” the kid reassured him while Joel settled down for a nap.
The mother came to the door.
“How are you guys doing in there?”
“Fine. His name is Joel, not Buddy,” the kid informed her.
“That’s nice. Rhymes with Noel.” Not that again!
Joel stuck his tongue out which instantly made the woman shy away from the doorway.
“Maybe you should play with some of your other presents now, eh?”
“Okay mom,” the kid said and as he was leaving: “Sleep tight, Buddy, I mean Joel! Sorry.”
As far as sleeping tightly was concerned it wasn’t really something that Joel had never done, except of course during winter. He was of the opinion that in a world such as this one the best policy was to sleep (so to speak) with one eye and both ears open in order not to allow your enemies to sneak up on you, enemies who most likely would try to kill you, or at the very least catch you and put you in a cage.
Joel of course would have none of that. On the whole he preferred life to death and freedom to captivity and therefore he was always on his watch.
That’s why he was a little worried when he woke up several hours later and for a minute couldn’t remember where he was, that’s how tightly he had slept apparently.
A quick trip to the next room where the real tree was still standing smelling of spring brought it all back to him, and while he was at it he decided to complete the exploration he had been interrupted at earlier.
Not very surprisingly there was nothing very interesting to report about the rooms he visited, that is to say there was no ready supply of food anywhere that he could see or sniff out. Oh well, he could come to that later.
Having gotten up quite early today both of Joel’s new roommates were sound asleep on the two sofas in the biggest room.
The kid lay in a heap of what Joel supposed must be the aforementioned other presents with a happy smile on his face. His mother looking unusually peaceful attracted Joel’s attention for some reason.
Perhaps it was something in her smell, but before he knew what he was doing he had crawled onto the sofa and was exploring first her body and then her face sticking his tongue out all the while, in other words minding his own business as peacefully as he knew how.
It was therefore all the more surprising when the woman suddenly screamed unreasonably loudly and Joel found himself flying through the air.
“Hmf!” he said when he landed on the rug with no great harm done. These people.
While he was composing himself the woman kept screaming making desperate gestures as if she had any number of snakes crawling all over her body still which of course was ridiculous.
The kid had woken up now too.
“What is it, mom? What’s happening?” he asked.
“It’s that damned snake! He’s crawling all over me!”
The kid quickly located Joel on the floor a good distance away.
“No he’s not. Look, he’s right over there!” he pointed.
“Well, he was! He was creepy-crawly all over me! He’s disgusting! He gives me the creeps!”
Joel would like to know what was so disgusting about creeping and crawling. After all it was the way snakes moved around in the world.
Joel of course didn’t need it but the kid came to his defence:
“I guess Joel was just checking you out. He likes you, mom, I know he does.”
Joel himself probably wouldn’t go that far, but…
“Yeah right, he likes me alright! Look at him, licking his lips as if he’s wetting his appetite the next dish being me!”
“Snakes use their tongues for sniffing, not for licking,” the kid tried to explain but to no avail.
“I don’t care what he’s doing! He isn’t doing it to me!”
“But I told you, he likes you, mom…”
“Well, then he can like me from your room! Go on, off with the both of you! I don’t want him anywhere near me! I must have been crazy to buy a snake in the first place! Out! Now!”
The mother was pointing in the direction of the kid’s room. More pointing. Joel decided this must be the Pointer family.
“And make sure you keep the door closed at all times!” To be on the safe side the mother then went into the bathroom locking the door behind her.
“Don’t worry about it, Buddy, I mean Joel. She’ll come around. She always does in the end,” the kid assured Joel as he picked him up.
Joel wasn’t as sure, but didn’t really care one way or the other. He was more concerned about a slight twinge of hunger that had just begun to manifest itself. A nice iguana-egg would sit well right about now, but apparently none was forthcoming. Oh well.
Over the next few days Joel and the kid spent nearly every waking moment (and sleeping for that matter) in each other’s company, actually becoming, to Joel’s surprise, some kind of ‘buddies’ as the kid had said.
Curled up on the bed Joel would tell his ‘buddy’ about his life so far, about his various adventures and experiences with human beings and other creatures, but most of the time he would talk about his beloved tree in the big park in the middle of the big city.
“But don’t you like it here?” the kid asked a little worried.
“I like it fine here, kid, but there’s nothing like your own home.”
“I guess,” the kid admitted.
“Just lying around on your own favourite branch, waiting for whatever comes along or taking a small trip around the park, looking in on friends and neighbours, having a little snack once in awhile. I tell you, kid, that is the life! And speaking of snacks…”
“I swear I’ll get you something to eat tomorrow,” the kid promised.
“I’d prefer it today, but today or tomorrow make sure it’s alive and tender.”
“Of course. I know all about it from my book.”
“Oh yeah, your book.”
Joel had taken a look and a sniff at this famous book. He wasn’t impressed. It smelled like old fallen leaves, and when the kid proudly had shown him what he said was a picture of Joel himself he had had to “hmf!” disgustedly: No smell at all! These people really were too easy to fool. You had to wonder sometimes how they had managed to become so many with so little good sense among then!
There was a knock on the door. “Dinner!”
“Okay, mom,” the kid shouted back.
“Don’t bring a friend!”
“I won’t, mom, don’t worry!”
“Is that the TV you’ve got on?” the mother went on still not daring to open the door to check herself.
“No, mom.”
“Good.”
The kid had received strict orders: No TV, apparently as a kind of punishment or something. As it turned out the two of them, Joel and the kid, had been far too busy to watch any TV even if they had wanted to, which perhaps was good thing. That way they missed the news-reports about a citywide so-called ‘snake-hunt’ for an apparently deadly escaped poisonous wild killer-snake who had several lives on his conscience already. A big reward was offered for the snake’s capture, and especially one policeman in an old coat was being interviewed again and again about just how dangerous this particular snake was.
All that Joel and the kid knew nothing about, not until much later, and certainly not that same night when the kid had long since gone to sleep and Joel was trying to sleep which isn’t easy when your stomach is as good as empty.
Perhaps that was why Joel’s normal healthy suspicion wasn’t properly aroused when he noticed that the door to the kid’s room was slightly ajar and right there in the crack a good-sized guinea pig appeared.
Joel could hardly believe his luck, but wasn’t that the way it had always been for him? Whenever he needed something in the worst way it invariably presented itself to him, so why should this time be any different?
He therefore didn’t hesitate to follow when the guinea pig turned around in the door and ran into the next room, the room with the fresh green tree in it.
“You can run, little fellow, but I’ll catch you just the same,” Joel informed the guinea pig running a bit ahead of him.
“That’s right, little fellow, you take a good long run, I like my food lean!”
The guinea pig ran into the kitchen as if that would do him any good, and there (Joel couldn’t believe it) the guinea pig jumped stupidly into a kind of box-thing or something.
“Bad move, little fellow. Don’t you know you can’t escape from there?”
Apparently the guinea pig didn’t know, but all the same Joel followed him into the box where he soon stood face to face with the guinea pig cowering in a corner.
“Hello there, little fellow, did you miss me?” Joel said before he put and end to the rodent’s misery with an expert bite.
No sooner had he done that than at least three things happened almost at once. First Joel noticed that the hole at the top of the box, the one he had crawled in through, suddenly closed over his head. Next the lights went on in the kitchen, and that was finally followed by the woman coming out of nowhere shouting “Gotcha!”
Oh well. Obviously you can’t trust anybody in this world, but that Joel knew already. At least he still had his guinea pig to swallow and digest (a self-killed dead guinea pig at least you can trust) whatever else was going to happen, so that was what Joel proceeded to do calmly inside what he, somewhat belatedly, recognized as his own animal-transporter from the department store. Oh well, you live and you learn, that is except if you’re a guinea pig.
Meanwhile the woman was jumping up and down and shouting so loudly into a telephone that she woke the kid up.
“That’s right, I got him! Right here! Yes sir! Shall I bring him in right away? Okay, I’ll just do that then! Alrighty! See you soon!”
She sounded very excited for some reason. “By the way, do you have my reward for me there?”
The kid wasn’t quite awake yet:
“What’s going on, mom? Who are you talking to? What is Joel doing in there?”
“Okay,” the mother said into the phone, “we’re on our way!”
She put the phone down.
“What’s that, dear? Did you say something?”
“Yeah, why is Joel…” The kid pointed, a true member of the Pointer family.
“He’s just having his dinner, dear. Now, go on, get dressed. We’re going downtown.”
“But the lid is locked, mom.”
“That’s okay, he can breathe and everything.”
“But, mom…”
“Hurry now, the taxi is coming!”
“Mom, I don’t understand.”
”That’s alright, kid, you will soon enough.”
“Okay, mom.” The kid went off to get dressed while his mother looked in on Joel through the grated window in the transporter.
“Not so cocky now, eh? You killer!” she told him.
As if that was a bad thing. Of course you had to kill, that is if you wanted to live which Joel certainly did, so what was the woman’s point?
Apart from that Joel didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on around the transporter. He was too busy swallowing of course.
The guinea pig was as it turned out a bit on the big side for a snake of Joel’s moderate size, so he had to push the limits of his jaws’ capacity for opening wide a little farther than he normally would have been prepared to, but when you’re hungry enough you don’t mind making a small extra effort, at least Joel wasn’t, and Joel was, or rather he had been, hungry enough, but with a guinea pig inside him he wouldn’t have to think about food for a long time.
The guinea pig having passed successfully between his jaws and moving down his throat, Joel burped.
“Hmf!” he said by way of apology.
“Disgusting!” the woman said and then she showed Joel a piece of string.
“This is how I got you, my fine friend Joel or whatever you call yourself! It’s easy when you use your head, and it only cost one guinea pig! You thought he ran there ahead of you on his own accord, didn’t you? Well, he didn’t! I was the one pulling him in this piece of string the whole time, and you fell for it, you monster! You think you’re so clever, don’t you? Well, look who caught whom, so who’s the cleverer! You disgusting BEAST!”
All very interesting if not very useful information right now, and if Joel was to draw any conclusions at all from this it would have to be that the kid probably was wrong after all: His mother didn’t in fact like Joel very much.
“That’s right, you creep! At least now I’m going to get compensated a little for all your creepy-crawliness when I pick up my reward!”
“What reward is that, mom?” The kid had just now come back dressed for going out.
“Never mind that, dear. You’d better put on your scarf and cap too. It’s begun to snow again out there.”
“Okay, mom,” the kid said while his mother lifted up Joel’s transporter and accompanied her son out of the kitchen.
“Is Joel going too?”
“Of course he is. I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s part of the family now, isn’t he?”
“Yes, but before you said…”
“Never mind what I said before. Now we’re going on a lovely family picnic all three of us. Isn’t that nice?”
“Yes, but in the middle of the night and in the snow?”
“I’ll soon be morning, and you know the snow in this town, it never stays for long.”
“Okay, mom,” the kid said putting on his scarf and cap, and then they were all on their way.
Joel found that you could digest as effectively in a taxi as anywhere else, it was all a matter of having the right attitude. If you set your mind to something you could do whatever you needed to do whatever the circumstances, and as we know digesting was something that Joel took very seriously.
He wasn’t surprised either when after awhile the ‘family’ arrived at a big tall building and he was carried inside through a number of doors.
“Why are we going in here, mom?” the kid asked. “It said ‘Police’ in the first door.”
“That’s right, kid, and aren’t you glad I taught you how to read?”
“Yes, but mom…” They were moving down a corridor now.
“This is quite near the park, isn’t it?”
“So what if it is?” the mother asked suspiciously. Joel liked that.

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