Costa fumed. He didn't want this assignment. Being the new, younger partner of the law firm he was given all the dirty work no one else wanted. Or so it seemed to him. Just because his family bought the partnership and didn't have to slave to earn his position. He's worked hard to receive top marks in his chosen career. Each partner whispered, and jeered, behind his back when he walked from the conference meeting. Costa shivered. There was something about this case he didn't know.
He brought his Lotus sports car to a squealing stop a few hundred meters from the edge of the slum area. No way was he taking it any further to have it stripped to be carted away as spare parts, while he searched and asked questions.
“I'll be lucky to make out of there alive. May have to run for my life if they want my clothes,' Costa mumbled, flicking a speck of fluff from his new suit.
A couple of grubby teenagers stumbled into his path. “Where do you think you're going?” growled one.
“We don't want people like you in our territory,” stressed the other, swiftly producing a knife.
Costa stepped out of range of the knife. “Hey, man. You could hurt yourself with that. I'm not here to cause trouble.”
“Then head back to your side of town. You risk your like, and limb, to pass this point.”
“Yeah. Heed the warning. If you don't want to be beaten.”
“Look, dudes.” He raised his hand in front of him to show he understood their meaning. “But my boss has sent me here to do his dirty work for him. Do you happen to know a girl named Helena?”
“What do you want with her? She's too sick to turn tricks these days.”
“We can find you a younger, more beautiful girl.”
“Yeah. One who doesn't shot up.”
“Hold it there, bros. I'm not here wanting to score a woman. What's wrong with Helena? How long has she been here?”
Both boys tried to work out the answer. Scratched their long tangled hair of their head. Looked at each other for an answer. Counted on their fingers. Then gave up to tell what they did know.
“Liza is five, or six,” suggested one boy.
“Helena was here before she was born.”
“Who is Liza? What's she to do with Helena?”
“You don't know?”
“Man! You're way out of touch.”
“So tell me. What don't I know?”
The knife was pocketed. Each boy took an arm on either side of Costa to lead him to where Helena lived.
They took him to a collection of wooden crates stacked to make a shelter. Liza sat huddled on the ground outside of her box home, crying.
One of the boys knelt beside Liza. “Hi, baby. What happened? Did someone hurt you?”
Liza sniffled. Wiped the back of her dirty hand across her running nose. Lifted pleading eyes to the boy. “My mumma won't wake. And I'm hungry.”
Both boys rushed to the end box with Costa hot on their heels. All three squashed into the box. Costa reached for Helena's neck feeling for a pulse. Moments later he sat back on his heels.
“Sorry, bros. Helena has found her peace.” The boys cast puzzled looks at him. “She's dead.”
“But she can't be. Helena promised to take Liza for a Christmas surprise.”
“Whose to take care of Liza?”
Costa reached for his mobile. Both boys panicked. “What're you doing, man?”
“Making sure Helena is looked after. And find someone to care for Liza. I want you two to go bring the to me here. Wait where you found me.”
“What will happen to Liza?”
“Don't worry, bros. I'll make sure Liza has her Christmas promise.”
Costa followed the ambulance to the hospital, with Liza in his car, to be given a health check. He stayed close to her while she was bathes, checked, and given a clean bill of health. She was given a healthy meal.
By the time Liza was ready to leave the hospital, Costa's parents arrived to find him both in a state of stress.
“What are you doing here? Are some of the family sick?”
“May be you should sit down, son.” His father lead him to a chair.
“Where's Liza?” asked his mother.
“How do you know about her?”
“There's no easy way to explain. Liza is your niece. Our granddaughter,” answered his father.
Costa shook his head. How could Liza possibly be related to him. “How?”
“Helena was your sister,” said his mother. 'She was kidnapped when she was a baby. Recently, we received information where to find her. The woman died before she was questioned.”
“How come the rest of us never heard of Helena? Why did you keep this from the family?”
“We lived in hope,' sniffed his father. “But we were too late to find her. Thanks for bringing her home. We'll treasure our newest grandchild.”
“Where is she?” asked his mother. “I must see her. And Helena. Then I want to take Liza home. This Christmas will be sad. But we'll make it special for Liza.”
Liza was asleep by the time they arrived at their mansion. Costa carried her up the stairs to place her on the bed which had been prepared for her. Costa settled in the room in a large chair to watch over her during the night. He wanted to be the one friendly face Liza spied when she opened her eyes. Somewhere near morning, Costa dozed. He was woken by a sleepy voice.
“Where am I? Why am I here?'
“Hi. I'm Costa. I took you for a drive in my car.”
“Did my mumma wake? I need to go to her.”
“Sorry, sweetie. Your mummy didn't wake. She had to go to heaven. But Santa brought you a new family. And a new home. And a big family, with grandparents, to take care of you. You can call me Uncle Costa. Want to go down to meet the rest of the family?”
Liza's eyes widened at the site of the giant Christmas in the family room. Then her eyes searched the faces of the people in the room before her eyes sort all the gaily wrapped presents under the tree.
“What happened to my other friends? They have no one to share Christmas with.”
“We'll find some fare for her friends, won't we Mother?”
“Sure. We have more than enough to share with Liza's friends.” His mother, and other family members rushed out to the kitchen to produce food to be taken to the homeless. Once the food was ready, Costa drove Liza to see her friends, and his family came with to share their food with the people who had lived with their daughter, and granddaughter. Then took Liza home to open all the present they had bought for her to make up for all the years they had lost.