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Day #301: Like A Box of Chocolates…

The Story:

When Gwyneth saw the box of chocolates sitting on her desk, she was not surprised when there was no note attached.  Depositing her coat and purse on her desk, she plopped unceremoniously into her ergonomic desk chair and took a closer look at the heart-shaped mystery gift. Double-checking for a note from the sender without finding one, Gwyneth shook her head as she unwrapped the cellophane, “Oh Keith…”

In typical style, Keith- Gwyneth’s boyfriend of five years, had stuck to their ‘no notes, no fanfare, no showboating’ rule for today- also known as St. Valentine’s Day. Neither Keith nor Gwyneth especially liked the holiday, feeling it was mostly a dedicated day for couples to demonstrate how much better they were than every other couple on the planet. Usually Keith would do something a bit understated and very personal for Gwyneth and she in return would cook a fancy meal or drive an hour out of town to pick up some of his favorite beer from a microbrew that didn’t distribute to their area.

Look how amazing we are... seriously, LOOK AT US!!!

Come to think of it, chocolates, especially the kind you could find in any grocery store, were not really Keith’s style. Gwyneth rolled this thought over in her mind, much as she did the orange-centered chocolate she had already popped into her mouth. “Maybe it’s the beginning of some elaborate scheme he has cooking for tonight”, she thought excitedly. If that were the case, she had better come up with something else than just the dopey card and specialty ice cream she was planning on giving him. Blindly reaching for another chocolate, Gwyneth decided she’d better comb the internet for a few more ideas for Keith before she got entrenched in her work.

Scanning through a recipe for homemade heart-shaped ice cream sandwiches, Gwyneth almost didn’t hear her cell phone ring from where it still sat inside her purse. Digging through her purse to find the stupid thing, Gwyneth was surprised to see an hour had passed before accepting the call from Keith.

“Hey sugar britches, Happy Valentine’s Day!” Keith said in his best Rhett Butler voice.

“Oh my, you know I can’t resist you when you talk Butler to me,” Gwyneth replied coyly. “And before I forget, daaarliiing… thanks for the chocolates, they were apparently very good- I’ve somehow managed to eat half the box before ten o’clock,” Gwyneth laughed at her overindulgence but stopped suddenly when she didn’t hear Keith laughing with her. Thinking the call had been dropped, she looked at the display of her phone and saw the call was still in progress and returning the device to her ear said, “Keith? Did I lose you?”

“No, I’m hear… sorry, babe. And I hate to tell you, but it wasn’t me who sent you those chocolates- looks like you may have a secret admirer,” the digitized words struck Gwyneth like a punch to the gut and she immediately let the caramel-filled dark chocolate fall out of her mouth in a gooey glob.

“Wha… What do you mean, they aren’t from you? You are they from then?!?” A note of panic was rising in her voice and she struggled to regain her composure. She needed to think. Feigning a need to return to work, she hung up with Keith and tried to focus. Wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead, she noticed her hands were trembling- as were her legs. A wave of nausea washed over her seconds before she felt her throat begin to close.

__

In their modest apartment near the park, Keith set out the wine and began to grate the cheese as he half-listened to the six o’clock local news. Gwyneth was due home any second and he couldn’t wait to see her expression when she found him cooking for once. He began to daydream about the night he could imagine them having when something from the broadcast caught his attention.

…that’s right, Tina, I’m here outside of the Pentagon where police are still interviewing witnesses and aren’t giving us many details at this early hour but sources claim that at least ten people are dead and over fifteen are in critical condition. Reports are that the poison was laced in the anonymous valentine chocolates delivered to each of the victim’s offices sometime last night. Already being dubbed as the Death by Chocolate murders on the internet, police are still in the process of contacting the victim’s families before releasing their names to the media. We’ll have more on this disturbing story as it develops…

Time had stopped for Keith as he hunched over the 14 inch kitchen TV, cheese grater still in hand, the chunk of aged Gouda forgotten on the floor. The newscast disappeared and a commercial for Corvettes and a jumping dog came on the set. It couldn’t be real, it was a dream, Gwyneth was fine, she would be walking through the door any minute. Keith looked up towards the door as if the mere suggestion of her walking through it would cause her immediate manifestation.

Instead, his phone began to ring.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Ah, Valentine’s Day…. Actually, I had a pretty good one. I was greeted by a mystery box of chocolates on my desk that were waiting for me at work this morning, made some yummy cookie ice cream sandwiches for my honey and got one of the best Valentine’s gift’s I’ve ever received from him in return. The only loose end for this day of love is still not knowing who left the box of chocolates for me. I have my suspicious, but whoever you are, thanks bunches (glad it wasn’t poison!)

My mystery chocolates...

Love & Squirrels.

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Day #283: Killer Cake

The Story:

“We got another one, Harry,” Marci called over her shoulder to the hulking bus boy coming up behind her. “At least this time they had the good sense to pay first,” she grumbled as she snatched the ten dollar bill off the table and quickly pocketed it.

Grabbing the patron from under the armpits, Harry hefted him out of his seat and began to drag them to the back. “I never will understand why these people insist on eating all of it,” he thought to himself as he deposited the man’s dead weight in a heap next to the dumpster. “At least I only have to bring them this far,” Harry thought to himself. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for Dan-O, whose responsibility it was to take them the rest of the way, usually to the city dump or the river.

It had been like this for years, patrons would come in for a bite, some would leave with a doggy bag, some would leave in a body bag. Harry had a sneaking suspicion that the ones who ended up toes up were not as random as the rest of the restaurant staff would have him believe. No, Harry had been paying attention and those who unknowingly ordered their last meal followed a certain pattern. Take the woman last month at table 14. She had given Marci a hard time about her soup being too cold. Her last words had been, “I want my soup to be scalding hot, do you hear me! Scalding!” Then there had been the man two weeks ago who had only spoken Spanish and somehow still managed to argue with Marci over the onions in his salad. He should have just said “gracias” and eaten the damn things. Too late now.

Both customers had received gracious apologies from the restaurant manager and a complimentary dessert, their specialty in fact- a slice of the Killer Cake. And, just like the dozens before them, their eyes had bugled greedily as the giant slice of chocolate cake arrived, glistening with rich and ooey sweetness… and just enough poison to choke the life out of them.

Enjoy your complimentary dessert... it'll be your last you turd wad

Back inside, Harry tried not to think as he cleaned up after the restaurant’s latest victim. Bussing the table he thought back to the first sorry sucker he had the misfortune to watch die. It was a quiet night, they usually were, and Harry had only been 16 at the time. He remembered being so terrified, so paralyzed with disbelief all he could do was stare at the dead man doubled over in his booth, he hand still clutching the fork that had fed him his own demise. He had wanted to run to the police, he had wanted to tell his dad but guessing at his thoughts the manager, Derek and Marci had gotten to him first. Next thing he knew he was in cold storage, his head pounding and a simple message written in ketchup on the floor next to him- Talk and you’ll get your just desserts… and clean this up when you’re ready to get back to work.

Dumping the last of the night’s trash in the dumpster, Harry tried not to look at the distorted mass of the dead man and quickly returned inside to lock up. Pulling the locked door closed behind him, Harry began to walk to his car, turning once to look up at the florescent letters of the restaurant sign. Flashing boldly beneath the sign was smaller one that read “Home of the Killer Cake!”.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      I always thought it was amusing, the names some establishments gave their ‘signature’ desserts. “Death by Chocolate” and “Killer Cake” are two of my favorites, for both their terrorizing names and their pure yumminess. Tonight Andy and I decided to share a slice of the Killer Cake and I’ll be honest, I felt like dying on the ride home thanks to that little overindulgence. The thing is still sitting like a chocolate brick in the bottom of my stomach, like consuming a delicious paperweight.

TWO:    While at dinner, there were several interesting patrons sitting around us, including the woman who wanted her soup ‘extremely hot’ as she mentioned over and over to the server in a not-so-nice-tone. Then there was the couple across from us who had to bail early thanks to what I assume to be morning-sickness for the woman who we all know is pregnant thanks to her over-excited boyfriend.

Then again... she might have just had some of the cake...

Love & Squirrels.

Day #281: You’ve Got Mail…And Trouble

The Story:

“Ok Chauncey, let’s run through this one more time, and no more lies. I want straight answers, dammit.” The detective slammed his fist on the scarred wooden table dramatically and it took every ounce of self-restraint not to burst out laughing. Poor man, I couldn’t really fault him for being upset, if I were in his poor-fitting loafers I’d be mad as hell too. And if it were me, there wouldn’t be the slightest chance I would believe one word I had just said. This last thought instantly sobered my mood, and I wondered if there was any way of loosening this web I had somehow managed to get tangled up in.

Looking around the interrogation room, I knew my chances of getting out of this unscathed were as likely as my detective friend here suddenly belting out a few bars of a Spice Girls song.

“I’ve got all night, pal,” the detective said, interrupting the amusing image of his imaginary self singing next to Posh and Scary Spice. Man, this guy was really taking a page out of “Interrogations: 101, A Detective’s Guide”. Next he’ll start putting cigarettes out on my forearm. Ok, time to stop screwing around…come on Chauncey, baby, think!

“My apologies detective, should I run it from the top, then? Right. Ok, well, like I told you and the officers before you, I was at work, in my office when I received the message.”

“The email from another ‘time’, you mean?” the detective interrupted me and made silly little quotation marks with his fingers as he said the word ‘time’.

“Yes. That was when I received the email. As I normally do each morning after grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room, I sat down at my desk and started going through my email. That’s when I saw it. It was time stamped as being sent yesterday around 6pm or so and it was from an email account I know to be inactive,” I rubbed the bridge of my nose and tried to remember the exact phrasing of the email. It wasn’t difficult. Then again, it wasn’t every day you received an email from your best friend who you knew to be dead for a year now.

“And you’re sure it wasn’t somehow sent by someone else who had access to the account? Maybe someone playing a practical joke?” the detective almost seemed like he believed me.

“No, impossible. The email account was deleted after his death; I was the one who deleted it, at his wife’s request… Judith was never very good with computers. I know it sounds crazy, but it sounded like Tom. It was an email reply to a message I sent him a year ago, the day he died actually. It had the same writing patterns, made references to things only he and I knew and the same stupid sign off he always used at the end, TTFN,” I couldn’t help but smile at the memory.

“TTFN? What in God’s name is that, some kind of weirdo code or something?” the detective had reverted back to his ‘ball-buster’ persona.

“No, nothing like that. Tom was big into Winnie the Pooh, ever since his days of working at the Magic Kingdom as a teenager. TTFN stands for Ta Ta For Now, it’s something Tigger would say, kind of like saying goodbye in cartoon land,” damn it, Tom, you’re still getting me in fixes and you’re worm food.

“And you want me to believe that this email from your dead friend told you to go to the Wildwood Cemetery and chop down that tree where the remains of little Suzy Day, missing these ten years now, just happened to be buried? Is that really the story you’re sticking to, guy?” the detective was past ‘ball-buster’ and was borderline irate. His right hand twitched and I could feel the tension as he struggled to keep from smashing my face in.

This wasn’t going well, and if I kept telling the truth it was bound to get worse. I couldn’t very well tell him that Tom had replied to an email I sent the day he died from beyond the grave. And to do what? Find a missing girl’s remains, someone I only knew from news headlines and MISSING posters? None of it made sense. Maybe I was crazy.

“I don’t know what else I can tell you, detective. That is the truth, I’m sorry to say,” I felt a growing knot in my lower intestine. Worst case scenario I was going to be charged and tried for the heinous kidnapping and murder of an innocent 10-year-old girl. Best case scenario, I was insane.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      I received an odd email today at work. It was from our former office assistant, who’s been retired now for almost six months. As I read the email, I was completely mystified. Why had she sent it? Was she still checking her work email account (which I had assumed was disabled once she left) and if so, to what end? And what the heck was she talking about? None of it made sense. After scrolling down, I saw that her email was actually a response to an email sent from my account… one year ago. So was she just now getting to that email? Had it been sent a year late? Was she just tying up loose ends? Did she think that I had sent it yesterday, instead of year ago? Did someone else send it from her account? Or was email becoming the new snail mail? Strangeness abounds.

Love & Squirrels.

Day #232: The Christmas Killer

The Story:

Fiona looked through the prison bars at the first snow dancing in its decent, reflecting the cheery twinkle lights beyond and heaved a giant sigh. Another Christmas season was here, as if Fiona needed the reminder- it was this time six years ago when her life had jack-knifed off the road of normalcy and left her stranded in this jail cell- deemed a criminal, a murderer. She knew that’s what she was, despite the occasional morning when she would wake up believing for a few precious minutes that she was still in her bed on Green Briar Lane. It had been in that house, on Green Briar Lane, that it had happened.

Fiona had always loved Christmas, the decorating, the baking, the search for the perfect gift. But then, something changed. And the killings began. Fiona still claimed to this day that she cannot recall those early killings, and who knows, maybe she’s telling the truth. The killings were always random- an elderly woman suffocated with her pillow as her husband lay sleeping beside her one week, a college student stabbed outside the campus library two weeks later followed by a prominent pastor found floating face-down in his baptismal the following week. Soon, the media caught wind of the bizarre homicides and almost overnight “The Christmas Killer” was born, so dubbed thanks to the poinsettia found at each of the crime scenes.

The Christmas Killer strikes again...

Over three years passed, and the killings continued- oddly only around the holiday season (lending even more credence to the moniker “Christmas Killer”. Fiona was aware of the headlines and the general details of the story but had no more of a passing interest, until December 24th when her home was swarmed by SWAT and she was suddenly whisked away. It took three days, chipping away at her around the clock for them to break through the mental wall Fiona had built around the truth; but finally they did. In a moment of terrorized clarity, Fiona began to remember. Agreeing to cooperate, she recounted all the bloody details of her killings, each and every one laid out as if it had just happened. In all, Fiona had brought 24 lives to an early end in the span of three years. The only detail not explained in the hours of confession- why had she done it? That Fiona would not reveal, some believed her mind had simply gone or a traumatic event had pushed her over the edge.

A different kind of Christmas killer

The state prosecutor did not need to know the ‘why’ he had enough to lock Fiona and throw away the key- and that is exactly what happened, eventually. Fiona spent the first two years in a high security facility for the criminally insane before being found within her sound mind, at which time she was tried by a jury of her peers and found guilty. Facing a life sentence, Fiona felt a strange calm from incarceration, at least now she couldn’t hurt anyone. That thought, and one other, kept her going day to day, despite the tedious redundancy and loneliness of her reality. The other thought? Knowing she would never have to see another poinsettia for as long as she lived.

56 years later, as they were cleaning out prisoner 556832’s cell, the housekeeping staff came upon a small diary tucked inside the mattress. Taking the item to the warden before moving on to the other cells, housekeeping didn’t give the matter another thought. Leafing through the diary, Warden Dexier found mild interest in some of the writings which were mostly accounts of life inside the prison’s walls before flipping to the last page-

“I always found great amusement in the name I was given by the public, although I hesitate to find anything slightly humorous about the actions that led to it. I suppose it was inevitable, given their need to believe there was some obvious reason I killed the people I did, but they missed the point entirely. It was not me who left those foul weeds after the deed was done, for as anyone who has known me for any amount of time could attest to my absolute hatred of poinsettias. It was, in fact, these toxic plants that marked my victims for me. Poinsettias have long represented death in my mind, first when my beloved pet  Jingles died after consuming the leaves of beastly weed and again at my dear father’s funeral as his  grave was littered with the plant. Despite my abhorrence of the plant, my mother, in yet another example of intuitiveness, forced me to carry a plant to his grave, and, just as I was walking from the church to the car, a stranger stopped me and said, “Strange, I’ve seen so many poinsettias today, I’d swear everyone was going to a funeral”. I suppose something in me just ‘snapped’ years later when I began to see the plants pop up in people’s homes, in store fronts, on TV sets each holiday season. More later, it’s lights out…”

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Don’t you love walking into a room to find a surprise is waiting for you? That’s how I entered my office this morning where I found a 9” poinsettia sitting on my desk. Well, come to find it’s an early Christmas gift from my boss, along with a very lovely gift certificate, thanking me for ‘all that I do’. Can I tell you how nice it is to work for someone who appreciates and respects the work you do, and then demonstrates that appreciation? It’s nice (there, just told you).

TWO:    So on my way out after work, as I’m waiting for Andy to come pick me up (more car trouble, yay!) an older gentleman sees  the poinsettia I am precariously balancing in my arms, along with my laptop and oversized purse and made the oddest comment (at least to me, maybe someone can shed some light on what he could have meant). He said, “Wow, I’ve seen so many poinsettias today, you’d think there was a funeral”. Wha??? I didn’t get it but gave him the obligatory uncomfortable head nod/chuckle as he continued on his way. Weird.

Love & Squirrels.