Sigfried took a picture of the note and cookie on his elfone and texted it over to me. After I left the coffee shop, I drove back down First Street, and pulled into the bakery to pick up Claus and Tallymaker. I looked across the street where Owens Meats had installed the first meat vending machine in the region. I pondered the note, punching this, punching this … and what did the cookie have to do with drumming up a … wait a minute! Twelve drummers drumming, the 12th Man, did it have something to do with the number 12? I walked over and took a closer look at the vending machine. The jerky, pepperoni and other meat snacks looked tasty and my stomach was growling, so I put in my money and went to punch in my selection, and froze. That’s it! Punch in number 12! When I punched in the sequence of one then two, the packet of spicy pepperoni fell to the tray. Taped to the back of it was a key tied to a tag that said simply “KF.”
KF. KF. KF. Hmm, I pulled out my phone to look up KF in our Elf.B.I. database, when the screen went blank. No, no, no, no, not now. I looked around for the rest of the elves only to find them lined up in front of the meat vending machine taking Elfies to post on Glitter, our North Pole social media site. “C’mon guys” I barked, my patience with their silly antics growing thin, someone get me a phone.”
Tapping around the screen of the borrowed elfone, I found a K & F Storage off Oakes Street. I called the managers who met us there. We stared at the thirty blue units of varying sizes, wondering where to start. Claus handed me the 12th Man cookie. With a shrug I approached unit #12 and tried the key. It stuck at first, and I nearly gave up, when the internal tumblers suddenly turned and the lock fell open. When I pulled up the door, we all peered in with anticipation of what it might hold. The 10’x24’ space was packed nearly full with mining equipment, sturdy timbers, lanterns, and a map of the No. 9 Coal Mine. Alright! The tiniest elf, Pippy, squeezed in and searched the scene for additional clues, coming back with a business card for a mining supply store in the area. “Good work, Pippy!” I said with genuine gusto. My Merry Elf Coach would be proud, for once.