The psychiatrist from the hospital had told him that he needed to get involved with the people in his community. It wasn’t healthy for him to stay locked up in the enormous mansion he had inherited from his parents. Wandering the halls like some earth-bound spirit was no way to spend his life. It would only lead to another suicide attempt and another extended stay on the locked-down ward if he survived.

He had taken the psychiatrist’s advice. Now he was locked up in a jail cell instead of a mansion or a hospital.

“What were you thinking, Bryan?”

Sheriff Roger Gomes opened the door to the cell and handed his prisoner a cold soft drink.

“Don’t want you dying from heat exhaustion. It’s ninety degrees outside. Want to tell me what you’re doing dressed up in a Santa Claus suit in the middle of July?”

Bryan drained the soft drink and studied the sheriff. He and Roger Gomes were unlikely friends. Gomes had grown up in a trailer park, the son of poor white trash. His mother was a low-end prostitute and his father cooked meth. Bryan, on the other hand, had been the richest kid in a small town. That, and the fact that he was socially awkward, had set him apart. He had become invisible.

Their freshman year of high school Gomes had approached him for help with the bewildering world of Algebra, and Bryan had come through for his new friend. The mansion had become an after school sanctuary for Roger, a brief escape from the hellish trailer and his parents’ depravity.

“I’m trying to help people, Roger. I’ve got more money than I’ll ever need. I came up with the idea of Christmas in July, going door to door in the poorest neighborhoods to hand out presents.”

The sheriff shook his head.

“That’s crazy. You’re scaring the crap out of people. If you want to help, why not just write a check to the homeless shelter or volunteer with a local charity?”

Bryan laughed.

“Writing a check doesn’t get me out of the house and involved with people, and nobody would take me on as a volunteer. You know that as well as I do. It’s a small town, and I’m still the rich, crazy guy that lives alone in his parents’ house.”

Gomes nodded.

“I found a dreidel and some Wiccan calendars in your bag of presents. Has Santa lost his mind?”

“No, it’s called outreach, Roger. In case you haven’t noticed the world is turning to shit. What you believe or don’t believe can get you killed. I’m trying to bridge the gap and educate people, let them know you don’t have to hate or vilify people because they’re different. This is important work. I wish I could recruit an army of Santas to do what I’m doing. Maybe I will.”

“All right, Bryan. That’s fine. Take off the suit and I’ll give you a ride home.”

“That’s not going to happen, Roger.”

The sheriff shrugged and turned away.

“Maybe a night in jail will change your mind. If not, you can call your lawyer and take it up with the judge. I’m trying to give you a break here.”

Bryan watched his so-called friend, the ungrateful son of a bitch. Gomes was going to walk away from him, just like everyone else in this miserable town. Bryan rolled up his pants and pulled the gun he carried for protection.

“I’m leaving, Roger.”

The sheriff turned and Bryan shot him through the eye. He stepped over the body and retrieved his bag of toys from Roger’s office. The dispatcher screamed. Bryan silenced her with two rounds to the throat.

He slung the bag over his shoulder and started down the street. It was getting late and he still had houses to visit.