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Death by Chocolate - a short story
Back in the day, three friends and I co-wrote a story. This piece was a side bit for Romy (my part) that I did for fun, and it had nothing to do with the bigger story. I had just seen Man from U.N.C.L.E and felt inspired, so came up with this...
Death by Chocolate – a short story
Turning off the radio that I had been listening to as I worked, I had an urge to throw up. The station had been playing a classic from the 90’s when a bulletin broke in with the news that Senator John B Whippersnapper; who had been found dead inside his luxury mansion a week earlier; had in fact been poisoned.
My sudden desire to clear the contents of my stomach in a most unladylike fashion had nothing to do with the fact that the man was dead but rather the means of his demise. Although I had never been unfortunate enough to meet the man in person – he was horrible politician and an even worse human being - it would seem I was the reason he had died.
“No, no, no” I mumbled as I put my head down and between my knees. All that did was heighten the sense of light-headedness I felt so I sat back upright. The last thing I needed was to pass out and hit my head on the table as I hit the floor. Although in the grand scheme of things, it was probably the least I deserved for taking another person’s life; even a soul-sucking predator like Whippersnapper.
Ten minutes later I still hadn’t moved from my spot at the table. I was trying to go back over in my mind all that had happened last week when those two men had approached me, in my own kitchen thankyouverymuch, and I had played along with what I had thought for sure was another little surprise the girls had set up for my birthday. Turns out it hadn’t been a game.
There I had been, working away on some new creation – chocolate covered corn (hey, if the candy people can do it, why not me?) – when two men walked in. The fact that they had come in through the rear door of the store and not the front should have been my first clue that this was going to lead to trouble.
The second clue was the way they were dressed. The shorter of the two was decked out in a vintage but still very classy suit that had probably come from Seville Row, while his friend was more casually outfitted in dark slacks and turtle neck, topped off with a dark tan suede jacket and a hooligan flat cap. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought it was the 60’s.
In a voice just as velvety as the chocolate I was working with, the one in the suit stepped forward and offered me his hand. “Ms Daniels, my name is Napoleon Solo and this is my...friend, Illya Kuryakin.”
“You’re !@#$ me, right?”
The guy in the suit looked at me. “Excuse me? What do you mean !@#$ you?”
“You know, taking the piss, pulling my leg, having a laugh at my expense – !@#$ me.”
“I don’t see how giving you our names can be construed as making fun at your expense.”
“You do know that the names Solo and Kuryakin were the names of characters in a show from the 60’s, don’t you? Man from U.N.C.L.E. ring any bells?” They both looked at each other and back at me, no doubt thinking I was the one who was nuts. “The girls sent you, right? This is an early birthday present. I gotta say; the costumes are pretty spot on. What’s the bet that tall and handsome here has a Russian accent?”
The indeed tall and handsome man smiled. Although he spoke in perfect English, his accent was very much Russian. “It would seem Ms Daniels is not believing we are the real deal.”
I had to laugh. “Real deal? Exactly what is it that you are here for; aside from giving me a bit of a laugh for my birthday.”
‘Mr Solo’ gave an exasperated sigh. I didn’t understand why he was getting huffy. They had been here barely ten minutes and I was having a blast. Maybe he was having an off day. “Ms Daniels” he emphasized a little more forcefully than was probably necessary; “I don’t know who you think we are but we know nothing of girls and birthday fun. We are here to recruit you to do a job for us; nothing more.”
Clearly explaining to him that they would have been better served using different names was pointless so I decided to quit questioning everything and to play along. This was what it was and if the girls wanted to pay good money to hire people to cheer me up, then I needed to stop looking a gift horse in the in mouth – so to speak.
“Fine, whatever it is you need, count me in.”
“I know I said you could count me in but I do have to ask; don’t you have anyone back at U.N.C.L.E who can melt chocolate and add the stuff for you? It’s really not all that hard to do.”
The plan, should I choose to accept it (sorry, wrong spy thriller lol) was to make a batch of my mint flavoured chocolate hearts, only the mint filling was to be laced with something that was clear and came in a small vial, provided to me by the men. Even so, it could clearly be done by anyone so I had to ask why me, although I had already planned to play along.
Being surly hadn’t won me over so now Solo decided to put the flirt on and be all charming. Unfortunately for me, I was easily led. “Because the person these are meant for is a fan of your work. This is why we have sought you out. Giving this person chocolates made by anyone else is not an option. Our recipient will know the difference and of course he deserves only the best.”
“So why am I adding an as yet unidentified liquid to his chocolates? It’s clearly not just a flavour enhancer or you wouldn’t be here.”
“Perhaps it is best if you do not ask what or why” Illya, as he asked me to call him, replied. “Let it just be enough to know that you are helping your country in a big way.”
Ooh, the game had just taken a turn. National security type stuff; awesome! I took the offered vial but before anything could be said or done, the doorbell out front rang out. Illya headed in that direction, even going so far as to stealthily put his right hand inside the left side of his jacket, as though he was reaching for a gun. These guys were too much! I couldn’t to tell the girls all about it!
A couple of days later I ran into the girls and they told me they didn’t know anything about guys, mystery vials, national security or anything else I had just told them about. Of course I insisted it was all true and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t admit to what they had done. It had all been a bit of a laugh and despite all my protestations and inane questions it had been a great afternoon. A week after it happened I found out it hadn’t been a game at all.
Of course it could be very possible that I hadn’t in fact been the reason for the death. Just because he had been poisoned, it didn’t mean it had been my chocolate that had done the deed. Did it? What exactly had been in that vial the guy pretending to be Solo gave me? I had assumed it was water, although when I uncorked the vial it did have an odour to it I couldn’t place.
I had played along in the end because it was fun. I mean, if the guys were legit spies and really wanted me to do something nefarious, why would they use the names from a spy thriller set in the 60’s? I had never seen it but I had heard of it and they had to know this coming in. Maybe that had been the plan all along. Get me to do their dirty work by having me believe it was all part of a birthday gag.
All this conjecture was doing my head in and making me feel worse. Enough so that I had to close up shop early and head home. I clearly wasn’t going to be able to work, not knowing for sure if I was indeed the guilty person or if it had just been some random piece of kismet that Whippersnapper died a day after I had made some hinky chocolate.
Just as I went to set the alarm and close the door, two men in suits (who weren’t my spy friends) came in and flashed badges at me. !@#$ – !@#$ just got real!
“Ms Daniels, you were read your rights as I understand it? Do you wish to wait for your lawyer?”
The interrogation room had to be a cool 20c and yet I was sweating bullets. Seriously, I felt like I had a fever of 110. If this was all part of the game then I didn’t want to play anymore. Not having a lawyer on retainer, I had used my call to ring the girls to help me. CeCe had been the first one I had been able to reach and so I asked her to find me one. That had been a good hour earlier and still no sign of either her or the lawyer. I was screwed.
“No, I guess we can start. Can you at least tell me why I’m here?”
Detective Collins continued with a steely glare, no doubt the one he used to get confessions from criminals. I wasn’t exactly sure why I was here but it was enough to make me want to confess just to get away from it. I gulped audibly but his stare never wavered.
“Just some routine questions; for now.” He shuffled the papers in his hand, seemingly looking for something. “As I understand it you own the store ‘Death by Chocolate’?”
“Yes. I opened it up about three months ago.”
“Rather an odd name for a store wouldn’t you think?”
“No, not really. It’s a funny story, actually. I got...” When he just looked at me, clearly not caring either way how I got the name, I stopped.
“I also believe you have quite a few well known clients.”
“Any of them you have a problem with?”
“No. My customers are what keep me in business. Of course I have a lot that don’t come into the store personally but I know they enjoy my work.” Trying to be a little more proactive, I decided to ask “Exactly what it is you want to know, Detective.”
“Was Senator Whippersnapper one of your clients?”
“Yes but I never met him. He always had one of his aides come in to the store.”
“So you didn’t have anything against him then?”
“No more than the rest of the people in this town. The guy was an A class creep.” Oh, !@#$...
“It would be fair to say then that you might have had a grudge against him then?”
I was well and truly screwed. Where the hell was that lawyer!
“Ok, I want you to repeat what you just told me, for the benefit of Detective Wilson here.”
Lawyer or not I had told Collins exactly what had happened. His reaction had been to get out of his seat and leave the room, only to return several minutes later with his partner. Now I had to tell it all again.
“I was working in my store when two men came in. They introduced themselves as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin and asked me to make them a batch of the mint chocolate hearts I specialize in, adding that I needed to include a little something to the mint filling.”
“And you didn’t find any of that strange?” Wilson asked.
“Of course I did. I might be blonde but I’m not an idiot” I snapped, almost immediately regretting it. I was only making things worse by being snippy. “I even questioned the names when they arrived. They never stepped out of character once. I just went along with it, thinking it had all been part of same game set up for my birthday by some girlfriends of mine. We do things like this to each other all the time so it wasn’t like it was a random thing. As it turned out, they knew nothing about it.”
“So why didn’t you come forward when it happened? Or even after hearing about the death of the senator?”
“And say what exactly? Oh, excuse me officer but two guys claiming to be agents of U.N.C.L.E. just came to me and asked me to make some poison chocolate? They would have laughed me out of the station. And had I known it was real I would never have gone along with it. I most certainly wouldn’t have put the poison in something that could identify me, would I?”
“Of course there is always hiding in plain sight” Wilson added.
Collins had clearly had enough of hearing what he deemed fairy tales. “I put it to you that you wanted to harm the Senator only things went a little too far. In order to cover yourself, you have come up with a story – ridiculous at best – to make it seem like you were innocent in the murder of a well known politician. Romany Cayla Daniels, you are officially under arrest for the murder of John Benson Whippersnapper.”
I passed out.
Waking up with a start, my heart going like the clappers I had no idea where I was. The room was dark but I was in a bed that felt familiar and there was a warm body beside me, snoring away softly.
It took several minutes for my breathing to return to normal as I tried to acclimate myself and get my bearings. The overwhelming feeling I had in that moment was relief. It had all been a dream! Of course it was and it explained so many things, least of which was the name of the spies and the organization they worked for.
“Thank you god” I half whispered, choosing that moment to actually believe she was up there. “I promise not to eat pizza before bed ever again.”
“Speak for yourself” mumbled a voice in the dark, coming from the man beside me. A voice that was heavily accented and it wasn’t in the Irish of my David.
What the hell..?
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."
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