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Alfie and the Case of The Missing Map

Alfie and the Case of The Missing Map
R. Brian Campbell

“Alfie. I could use your help.”

Anything to put off trying to figure out why this silly robot won’t walk, Alfie thought. He set the toy down, pasted a grin on his face, and turned around. “Sure, Santa. How can I help you?”

Santa didn’t look his usual, jolly self. In fact, he looked worried, and that made Alfie worried. “Alfie, do you know Doodles?”

“Doodles the mapmaker? Sure. He’s been here forever.”

A booming laugh exploded from Santa’s chest. “OH HO! That’s one way of looking at it. And you aren’t far off.  Doodles was among my first elves, when I first opened my workshop, before I even met Mrs. Claus.”

“WOW! That long ago, why that must have been-”

Santa’s face darkened. “Careful, Alfie. You are treading on dangerous ground.”

“Oh.” Alfie paused, then started again, slowly. “I was just thinking, you know, that must have been a good two, maybe three hundred years ago.”

Santa nearly choked. “Two or three hun-” A sly look crossed his bearded face. “Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that.”

“So, how can I help you and Doodles?”

Santa looked at Alfie seriously. “As you have already guessed, Doodles has been with me a very long time.  He was the one who came up with the idea of creating a magical map to help me get to all the children’s homes on Christmas Eve. He designed the original map and has been updating and upgrading it ever since.  When the sleigh became computerized and added a GPS system, Doodles formatted the map into a USB drive that could be plugged right into the sleigh’s navigational system.”

“That’s wonderful,” Alfie exclaimed. “So Doodles is the one who makes sure that the children get their presents every year. He’s a genius. That’s great, Santa. But what do you need me for?”

The concerned look returned to Santa’s face. “Well, you see, it’s like this.” Santa sighed and his shoulders slumped. “This is hard for me to say.  Doodles is a very good friend.  But, unfortunately, after all these years, his memory isn’t quite what it used to be. I’m afraid that he has lost the map.”


Santa nodded, sadly. “I’m afraid so. And he can’t seem to find it.  Worse, he can’t remember how he made it, or if he ever had a back-up.”

“Oh, My!” Alfie’s mouth hung open.  He had no idea how to respond.

Santa nodded, sadly. “I see that you understand the depth of the problem.”

“Poor Doodles,” Alfie responded.

“Alfie,” Santa sharpened his tone slightly, to get Alfie’s attention. “As bad as I feel for Doodles, we have bigger problems to deal with, than how he is feeling.  If I don’t have that map by Christmas Eve, I won’t be able to get presents to the children.”

Realization dawned on Alfie. “Oh, yeah. That is serious. What can I do?”

Santa looked Alfie in the eye. “You have been a tremendous help in crisis before. What I need from you is one of two things. Either find the original map, or, failing that, create a new one before Christmas Eve.  Oh, and one more thing.  Please keep the lost map to yourself. I don’t want the other elves to panic.”

Alfie tapped his chin, thoughtfully. “I can try, but I’ll need some help.  Is it okay if I get Rupert involved? He is a whiz with computers.  If anyone can find the electronic file for the map, or make a new one, if necessary, it will be Rupert.”

Santa thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Okay, but swear him to secrecy. No one else must know.  Mrs. Claus knows, of course, so if you need to get a message to me and can’t find me, you can pass it to her.  Other than that, just us. Well, Doodles, of course, but…”

Alfie snapped to attention and saluted. “Yes, Sir, Santa. I’m on it.  Fortunately, it is only October, so we have over two months to solve this problem.  I’ll keep you posted.” Alfie turned and rushed out of the workshop.


After briefing Rupert on the situation, they headed to Doodles’ tiny workshop.  While Rupert attached a scanning device to Doodles’ computer, Alfie sat and talked with Doodles.

“It’s the craziest thing,” Doodles told Alfie.  “I can remember the names of every Elf in Santa’s workshop, currently, as well as all of those I’ve worked with through the years. I know all the reindeer, both the front-liners and the back-ups. I remember when Santa first opened the workshop, and when he met Cyndi, uh, I mean, Mrs. Claus. But the map, my life’s work…” He held up his hands, helplessly.

Alfie listened, not sure how to respond. “Don’t worry, Doodles. We’ll fix everything.”  He looked over at Rupert, who shrugged, and continued searching Doodles’ computer.

Doodles shook his head, sadly. “All that I can remember is that the secret to the map is the magic of Christmas.”

“The magic of Christmas?” Alfie repeated. “What is that?”

Again, Doodles looked helpless. “I can’t remember. Sorry.”

Alfie put his hand gently on top of Doodles’ hand.

Finally, Rupert stood up and began disconnecting cables. “I can’t find the map, but I’ve copied the memory cache. I want to take it back to my workshop for further study.”

As Alfie stood, he grasped Doodles’ hand.  “We’ve got this, Doodles.  Don’t worry.  Take care.”

Doodles looked up at him. “Remember the magic of Christmas.  It’s important, somehow.”

“I will.  Thanks, Doodles.”


It was the middle of November, when Santa joined Alfie and Rupert in Rupert’s tech workshop.

“So, gentlemen, what have you accomplished in the past month?”

Alfie smiled. “Me? Very little, sir. Rupert, on the other hand… Well, why don’t I let him tell you, himself?”

Rupert blushed. “Well, I searched Doodles’ computer memory cache, but couldn’t find the map anywhere.  However, I did find some design residue; things like locations, distances, weather charts, estimated travel times, and so on. I then cross-referenced it with the information that I gathered from the sleigh’s navigational system and the trackers on the reindeers’ harnesses.  By doing that, I believe that I have recreated Doodles’ map.  I need to do some crosschecking, but I believe that is should be quite accurate.”

Santa beamed from ear to ear. “You’ve solved it! That’s wonderful.  Thank you. Thanks to both of you.”

“Uh, Santa,” Alfie interjected, hesitantly. “The problem isn’t exactly solved.”

“What do you mean? Didn’t Rupert just say that he’s recreated the map?”

“Well…uh…it’s like this…” Alfie looked down and scuffed the floor with his feet. “Rupert made a map.  Just a map. It has no magic.”

 “How do you put the magic into it?” Santa asked.

Alfie shrugged. “We don’t know. Doodles said it was the magic of Christmas, but we don’t know what that means. Do you know?”

Santa frowned. “No. Sorry boys. I have no idea.”

Alfie forced a smile. “Fortunately, we still have over a month.  I’ve sent a message to the Sugar Plum Fairy. Maybe she can help. If not, we’ll try something else.  If the magic of Christmas is here, we’ll find it.”

“Keep at it boys.  You’ve come this far, I have faith that you can do it.” With that, Santa left them to their work.


On December 23rd, Santa, Mrs. Claus, Doodles, Alfie and Rupert were all crammed into Rupert’s tech workshop.  “Time is running out, boys. What have you got?”

Alfie shrugged helplessly.  “We’ve tried everything. The Sugar Plum Fairy’s magic didn’t work, so next we tried to use the magic that allows the reindeer to fly, but that didn’t work either.  Then we went to the snowman village, but their magic couldn’t help. I even contacted the Snow Queen, but…” He shook his head, sadly. “Nothing.  I don’t know what else to try.”

“It’s the magic of Christmas,” Doodles repeated. “It is the only thing that works.”

“I know, Doodles,” Alfie replied, exasperated, looking wildly about the room. “But what is the magic of Christmas? If it isn’t sugar plums, or snow magic, or reindeer magic, what exactly is the magic of Chri-” Alfie’s eyes came to rest on Santa.  “Wait a minute! Rupert, connect that USB drive with the map on it to the scanner.  Quick! Santa, could you come here?”  He led Santa to the scanner.

“What is it, Alfie?” Santa asked, Alfie’s excitement becoming contagious.

“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.  Santa, please place your hands on the scanner. Yes, exactly like that.  Rupert, fire it up.”

Rupert tapped the keyboard and the scanner began to glow.  The glow encompassed Santa’s body, then flowed down the cable into Rupert’s computer.  The USB drive began to glow, softly at first, but then as brightly as the North Star on a winter’s night.

Alfie jumped up and down, excitedly. “I knew it! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I knew it!” Finally, he calmed down and looked Santa in the eye. “Santa, you are the magic of Christmas.  You are the one who makes all this possible.”

Santa smiled back and put his hand on Alfie’s shoulder. “No, son, I am not the magic of Christmas, I’m just a carrier.  It took me a while to remember myself, but the magic of Christmas, the ingredient that makes everything here work, the thing that inspired me to do this in the first place, is love.  Sometimes it just needs a focus point.  For our purposes, I guess that’s me.  But I am not the only one, nor am I even the first.”

“Yes,” Doodles whispered, his eyes gleaming, tears running down his face. “That’s it.”

Alfie looked confused. “I don’t understand, sir.”

“You will.  Someday you will. But for now, it looks like you’ve solved our problem.  We’d better get ready. I have a long ride tomorrow.”

A look of panic crossed Alfie’s face. “And I have a robot to fix!” He turned and rushed out of the workshop.

Merry Christmas!