Welcome to The Great Chocolate Conspiracy!
Chocolate Digestive biscuits have disappeared from the shelves right across the eastern seaboard of the USA, and now the shortage has spread to London. Detective Chief Inspector Sam Adamson and his international team of investigators from the Metropolitan Police's Confectionery Crimes Unit (CCU) have been tasked to solve the mystery.
This is the third installment of a multi-part flash fiction story that originated during a chat between the authors on Twitter. You can read the previous episodes here. (links to all the installments will be added to the author list as they are posted)
The next installment will appear on Friday, September 24th at Grace Motley's (@gracecrone) Crone's Cauldron Publications, and you can keep up on developments in the meantime by following the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter.
The Confectionary Crimes Unit (with the addition of Federal Agent La Paglia) was seated in DI Marier’s room on the acrid, chemical-smelling duvet in the Hampton Inn, Sterling Virginia. It was nicer than their usual accommodations, at least they didn’t have to share rooms or, as on few awkward occasions, beds (Marier was grateful since Juniper kicked like a mule in her sleep). Adamson was taking up most of the room on Marier’s bed, since he needed to elevate his gammy leg
Professor Motley was passing out coffee made in the courtesy coffee maker, it was a crappy generic brand and tasted like motor oil, but it was hot. The crew felt a bit of life coursing back into their jet-lagged bodies.
“Alright, Mo. Let’s hear your theories,’ said Adamson.
“Why? You don’t want to go first?” asked Marier pointedly.
Adamson shifted uncomfortably on his pillows. He mumbled something about feeling poorly and that his ibuprofen hadn’t kicked in yet.
“A’ight,” sighed Marier. “Since we don’t have any eye-witnesses yet, we have a couple of possibilities to look into. ONE: a hoarder who wants all this chocolate for themselves; TWO: a pirate ring that wants to create scarcity before re-selling all the chocolate on the black market for a super-inflated price; THREE: similar to two, a chocolate vendor who wants to eliminate all competition; Lastly, FOUR: someone who simply wants to deprive the world of chocolate.”
“What kind of sick twisted monster would do that?” asked La Paglia in disgust.
Professor Motley piped up here. “There are psychological reasons, like an aversion or allergy to chocolate. Maybe they have body issues that would make them want to get rid of the chocolate. Maybe they just like to see people suffer.”
La Paglia and Juniper visibly shuddered. Adamson and Marier made no comment. After being in the CCU for this long, they’d seen and heard them all.
“Well done, Professor, but you’re forgetting one very important possibility,” Adamson said darkly.
“What’s that?” asked Prof. Motley
DCI Adamson paused for dramatic flair: “They might be a complete and utter loony.”
There was a palpable silence in the hotel room, broken only by the gurgling of the coffee maker.
“Yeah, there’s that,” conceded Marier. “Well, LaPaglia. I haven’t been State-side in a while. Where should we investigate first? I personally want to start checking brands– see if there’s any retailers or chocolate companies that’ve escaped this rash of disappearances.”
“I’m afraid that will have to wait,” said the federal agent. “We’re due at the State Department tomorrow. There’ll be a briefing from representatives of the Food and Drug Administration and Interpol, as well as the British Consulate.
Adamson groaned. He hated briefings. The only thing to look forward to was possibly a snack table; even then, a man could only eat so many doughnuts. The fact that all the chocolate-coated doughnuts would be gone made the prospect even more unbearable. Unless…
“Do I get to meet President Obama?” he asked.
“I hardly think that’s likely. You might pass Hilary Clinton in the hallways, but I think she’s in New York.”
“Oh,” said Adamson, flopping back on the pillows. Yeah. This was going to suck.
“I suggest you all get a good night’s sleep,” said La Paglia crisply. “We have an early day tomorrow. Do you guys know your way around the city, or should I send a car?”
“I’m an old native. We’ll be fine,” said Marier, who had lived in Virginia for half her life.
“Alright. The briefing is at 8am. Goodnight,” said La Paglia, slipping out of the heavy door, which slammed closed behind her.
“Any chance of me being too sick to go to this bloody stupid briefing?” asked Adamson.
“I think you’d be waited upon by INOVA hospital’s finest doctors, which is a fate worse than death. I’ve eaten the food,” said Marier with a grimace.
“Alright then, meeting adjourned. Clear off, you lot. We’ll meet at the cereal bar downstairs at 6:00 am,” said DCI Adamson.
“There’s a six AM now? When did they instate that?” joked Juniper.
“G’night, guys,” said Marier as Motley and Juniper left the room.
Marier glanced back at the chief, standing up stiffly, and leaning heavily on his cane.
“You alright there, Sam?” asked Marier. She only called him Sam when the others weren’t in earshot. Adamson didn’t begrudge her. She’d earned it by now.
“I was about to ask you the same thing, kid,” said Adamson, giving her a penetrating stare.
“Sir?” asked Marier, trying to look confused and failing utterly.
“I got eight months to get over my injury after that bomb, Mo. You barely got a week to get over it.”
“I only suffered, minor lacerations, Sam,” said Marier, avoiding eye contact.
“Some scars don’t heal as easily,” said Adamson quietly as he limped out of the room.
Marier tried to get her mind off of matters by unpacking her suitcase, slamming the drawers closed with more force than necessary. She set her alarm clock for 5:15, and as she fiddled with the buttons the radio switched on. She felt a wave of numbness hit her. It was “their song”– The crumblies’ anthem. The night of the CCU’s very first bust, it was playing on the radio. Sadly it was “We Built This City,” by Starship (considered the nail in the coffin of the Jefferson/Airplane/Starship incarnations and an abomination to rock purists). Still, it evoked those memories of the few happy months with the original crumblies, before it had all been snatched away in a shower of blood and caramelized sugar.
“WHAT’s the name of the station?” asked Juniper, incredulous.
“Foggy Bottom,” said Marier, trying not to crack a smile.
The others erupted into riotous laughter, rocking the train car hurtling through the underground tunnels of the D.C. Metro’s Orange Line.
“What’s wrong, chief? You got heartburn or something?” asked Motley as Sam’s laughter cut off abruptly. He was wearing a sour expression.
“I was hoping something wonderfully exciting and important would happen so we could skip this damn briefing.”
“Oh, right. What are the odds of that happening?” said Juniper with a half grin.
Shameless Plug Time! My Fantasy/Comedy Novel,"MUST LOVE DRAGONS" went on sale this week! Click HERE to order your copy! (Available in both a paperback and e-reader.pdf file!) See y'all next week!