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SANTA'S SOLILOQUY

"Maybe the whole idea's no good anymore," Santa comments unhappily. He and Anya are seated by their fireplace at their house. And obviously, the situation is not a merry one.

"What are you talking about?" asks Anya. "What idea?"

Claus can only struggle to simply breathe the word. "Christmas," he says simply.

"Claus!"

But Santa is oblivious to his wife's disbelief and shock. "The world is a different place now, Anya," he sighs. "You don't get to see it. Consider yourself lucky." He shakes his head. For he knows that Christmas has a meaning far larger and even more significant than simply the day Santa Claus delivers his presents. It has long existed to remind the human race of just how much unconditional positive regard it is truly capable of. It is not a fad, it is not a thing so shallow and bare that it has lost its very meaning because someone finally got tired of it.

"The people just don't seem to care about giving a gift," Claus comments, "just so they can see the light of happiness in a friend's eyes. I mean, it just doesn't feel like Christmas anymore." And here, Anya struggles to prevent herself from crying, as tears trickle down her cheeks. "Maybe this fella B.Z. is smarter than I am," Claus wonders. "Maybe I'm ..... maybe I'm just an old fool."

"Old-fashioned, perhaps," replies Anya, despite her muffled sobs. "But never a fool!" Her husband only shakes his head in silence, never answering her.

DARK CLOUDS

Back in New York, a harsh winter's rain soaks the streets. Scurrying across the pavement that leads to his favorite alley, a completely drenched Joe struggles in vain to stay dry. Stopping beneath the light at the alley entrance, he gazes across the street toward Cornelia's townhouse. Whistling out loud twice, he successfully arouses his favorite little girl from her slumber. Turning on the light in her bedroom, Corny comes to the window and leans out. "Hi! Come up, quick, " she says.

Needing no second bidding, Joe shimmies up the drainpipe and, as sure-footedly as a cat, darts across a ledge to Corny's window. He then climbs in over the sill, and marvels at the very thrill of standing in the girl's room, a real Romeo inside Juliet's pad for the very first time.

Meanwhile, at B.Z.'s factory, Patch sits behind the controls of his state-of-the-art control panel, checking out the endless metal forest of robotic arms and automated machinery which produce more candy canes in one hour than he himself could were he to take on the job. Suddenly a loud toot interrupts Patch's thoughts as the monitor on a gauge registers EMPTY. Leaping from the control board, the Elf opens a nearby door, and starts down a flight of metal stairs leading to the factory sub-basement. Soon he reaches his destination: a dank, empty room littered with old machine parts and other junk. Patch now strolls toward a metal file cabinet, into which he has placed his old sack --- still filled with the magical reindeer feed! Climbing up a nearby box, Patch now scoops out just a handful of the stardust. Then, carefully climbing down again, he shuts the drawer, making certain that not one single sparkle shows.

Back in Corny's room, we see her feeling Joe's forehead with one hand, as her mother did so long ago. "You're burning up!" says she, for she knows a high fever when she sees one.

"I'll be alright," says Joe. Though he won't admit it out loud, he secretly finds himself loving all this warmth and tenderness which has been missing from his life for so long.

"You stay out there and you'll be dead is what you'll be. You're staying here," replies Corny adamantly.

"I'm what?"

"There's an empty room in the basement near the furnace," Corny explains. "Nobody ever goes down there. I'll set it up so you can sleep on my rubber raft from last summer, and this house has lots of blankets and pillows ---" She breaks off, noticing Joe's apparent uncertainty. "Oh, please, Joe, just till you get better," she finally pleads.

"Well, all right," says Joe, "but just till I shake this....." Corny goes off to collect a few blankets, some pillows, and her rubber raft.

And at North Pole Headquarters, Santa's depression intensifies with every passing moment. Seated in his chair, unmoving before his fireplace, he stares listlessly into space. At that moment, a reluctant Puffy steps forward, prodded on by Anya, Dooley, Boog, Honka and Vout. "It's a new doll," Puffy says, holding out the cutest, cuddliest, most adorable doll he has ever designed. Santa barely notices the darn thing.

"A doll...."

"Children ought to like it," Puffy tries again.

"Does it fly?"

"It .... er, .... wets," answers Puffy, thoroughly embarrassed. And once again, he knows that he and his colleagues have failed to raise their leader's spirits. Their only hope now ..... is a miracle.

KIDNAPPED!

Meanwhile, back at the townhouse, someone is knocking on the main entrance door. It is Towzer. His boss, obviously grumpy, quickly opens it. "Towzer!" he bellows. "Good Lord, man, it's three o'clock in the morning! Haven't you ever heard of the telephone?"

"I couldn't use the phone," Towzer replies.

"Oh it's perfectly easy, Towzer. You pick up the receiver and dial all those funny little numbers ---"

"I didn't dare use the phone, B.Z.! I couldn't risk anyone hearing."

"Hearing WHAT?" asks B.Z., but Towzer quickly silences him. "Hearing what?" the toy mogul repeats again, a little lower this time.

"Are we alone?" asks Towzer with some urgency in his voice.

"My niece and her nanny are fast asleep."

"All right, good. C'mon!" says Towzer.

B.Z. is half right. Oh yes, Miss Tucker is snoozing peacefully in her bed, but down in the sub-basement, Cornelia, wearing her nightclothes, is tending to her temporary patient. Joe is positioned on her rubber raft, which she has set up as a makeshift bed. "99," the girl observes, removing a thermometer from her friend's tongue. "You still have a temperature."

"Four dopey points! Big deal!" mutters Joe.

"More liquids, that's what you need --- more Vitamin C. C'mon, let's go get some orange juice," Corny suggests. They start for the stairs. There's still a little ice cream left in the freezer, too.... But at the top of the stairs, Corny freezes, motioning for Joe to do the same. For her ears detect the presence of men's voices. B.Z. and Towzer are in the kitchen. Joe and Corny stand perfectly still, listening.

"Oh, Towzer --- with you, it's always some new melodrama," they can hear B.Z. grumbling. "Well, lemme tell you, my friend, tonight nothing can upset me. The money's coming in so fast you'd think we were printing it ourselves!" he laughs like a madman. "But, B.Z. ---" Towzer begins.

"Do you realize what this means, man?" the toy mogul smiles. "Santa Claus is FINISHED!" Almost from the moment he'd gotten into the toy business, he'd hated the very concept of Santa Claus -- a man who dared to give away his gifts at the most profitable season of them all. Now, however, having met Patch --- who by his very presence represents the closest evidence possible to the reality of Santa Claus --- B.Z. has in his power the means to eliminate his biggest competition once and for all!

And in their temporary hiding place in the stairwell, Joe and Corny react in silent horror to her stepuncle's declaration. "I'm taking over Christmas!" he continues to gloat. "By next December, they'll be writing to me --- B.Z.!"

Just at that moment, a new horror fills Joe's face: he's about to sneeze! Frantically, Cornelia rushes to press her finger against the boy's upper lip --- a sure-fire sneeze-stopper, if ever there was one --- but it's too late! The two adults instantly sense our young friends' presence.

"Towzer, take that way!" shouts B.Z., as the two children rush back down the stairs. Joe pushes Corny forward into the only hiding place he can immediately spot: the wine racks. In desperation, he tries to scope out his own hiding place. But just at that moment, B.Z.'s shadow looms above him, Towzer and Grizzard right behind. "How did you get in here anyway? Who are you?" the toy mogul screams all the while. Valiantly, Joe bites down hard on B.Z.'s hand. "Little brat!" B.Z. growls again as Joe attempts to wriggle free, but Grizzard is already on top of him! "Who is this kid?" gasps the human gorilla.

"Some damn little sneak thief!" B.Z. snarls.

But Joe is nothing if not determined. "I heard what you said!" the boy screams defiantly. "You ain't never gonna beat Santa Claus! NEVER! I'll tell him, and he'll beat you! He'll be gettin' his guys ---"

"PUT THIS KID ON ICE!" B.Z. orders Grizzard menacingly. No little punk is going to ruin his hostile takeover! "I'll deal with him later."

Tucking the boy under one arm like a sack of flour, one hand clamped firmly over Joe's mouth, Grizzard carries him to B.Z.'s limousine, and locks him up in the back of its trunk. Grizzard then drives off toward the factory.

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