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Literature / Secret Santa

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A comedic Christmas short story with mystery themes, written by Steve Hockensmith and published in the short story collection Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime. The story was previously published in an edition of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. After a Secret Santa exchange, sleazy office drone Bigelow starts getting embarrassing presents from someone who knows his dark secrets, causing him to self-destruct as he tries to find out which of his coworkers is responsible.



  • The Alcoholic: During Erik's hunt for his Secret Santa, he finds a bottle of Jim Beam in Company Comptroller Peter Jarry's desk.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Chris McCoy, the editor of DVD Now!
    [T]hough McCoy's work area looked like utter chaos, his magazine never missed a deadline, and Bigelow had to assume there was some kind of system involved even if it escaped his powers of deduction.
  • Excrement Statement: Erik gives Sandberg, who he thinks is his malicious Secret Santa, a huge pile of dog poop as a "present."
  • Guile Hero: Erik's Secret Santa Marcy, who drives Erik crazy with taunting secret Santa gifts, causing Erik to retaliate against the person she's tricked him into thinking is responsible with an Excrement Statement. Marcy then arranges for the whole office to witness this so their boss can see Erik for the sleaze ball he is. She also makes her last gift to Erik an innocent one, so he'll look crazy when he opens the present to try and explain himself. It's also implied that Marcy's primary motivation wasn't to get revenge against Erik for being a Mean Boss but to keep him from getting Nice Guy Sandberg fired.
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  • Hufflepuff House: Three magazines operate out of Erik's office, but the staff of Muscles Now! wraps up early and leaves for the holidays before the story begins.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Erik always arrives to work an hour late with "his eyes peeled for anyone as lax and late as he was."
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Erik uses his expense account to watch lots of pay-per-view porn.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Erik quickly agrees with every little thing his boss and former high school crony Dave Crowley says to distract Crowley from Erik's many flaws.
  • Punctuality Is for Peasants: Erik Bigelow is keen on everyone but himself being punctual, although his own schedule is probably motivated more by laziness than a sense of superiority. This serves as his Establishing Character Moment.
    In his own way, Erik Bigelow was a stickler for punctuality. According to the employee manual, everyone who worked for Now! Publishing was supposed to arrive no later than 8:30 a.m. So when Bigelow came in at his usual time—9:20—he had his eyes peeled for anyone as lax and late as he was. Those he caught he lectured on the importance of giving one's all. He gave the same speech to any Now! employees he saw trying to sneak out earlier than his usual departure time, which was 4:50.
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  • Sassy Secretary: Executive Assistant Marcy isn't afraid to call Erik out when he's acting outrageously. She's also the Secret Santa making his life miserable.
  • Secret Santa: Erik Bigelow's secret Santa sends him malicious gifts that imply knowledge of various misdeeds that could get Erik fired.
  • Sexy Secretary: Executive Assistant Marcy is described as "shapely" and "one of Bigelow's favorite sights."
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: Alex Sandberg is Erik Bigelow's one-sided rival and main Secret Santa suspect. To quote Erik, "His image was squeaky clean - never gossiped, worked hard, took care of his staff, blah, blah, blah." Sandberg is innocent of sending Erik malicious Secret Santa gifts. The real Secret Santa is trying to get Erik to self-destruct at least partially to make sure that he won't get Sandberg unjustly fired.
  • Stink Snub: Among the insulting Secret Santa gifts Erik gets are a book about overcoming halitosis and extra-strength deodorant.
  • Villain Protagonist: Erik Bigelow is the POV character and focus of the story. He's also a bullying slacker and thief who gets anyone who might be promoted over him fired and sexually harasses his executive assistant Marcy and the associate editor of Antiques Now!

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