Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Great Chocolate Conspiracy - Part 5

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 fifth installment of this multi-part flash fiction story that originated during a chat between the authors on Twitter. You can read how it all began
here (links to all the installments will be added to the author list as they are posted).

The next installment will appear on Friday, October 8 at
Jim Bronyaur's site. You can keep up with developments in the meantime by following the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter.

Trying to pass through the gate to the State Department was another matter. The Crumblies stared out the windows of the SUV at the hundreds of protesters lining the street, their picket signs carrying messages such as 'Save our Chocolate' and 'It's a Government Conspiracy.'

DCI Adamson spotted one bloke with a sign reading 'It's All Your Fault' who seemed to lock eyes with him, even though the windows were heavily tinted. He shivered and tried to reposition his bad leg.

"Are you feeling well?" DI Marier asked.

"I'm fine. Don't coddle me."

Marier rolled her eyes and Juniper smirked.

Adamson turned to La Paglia. "Is there any damn coffee in this State Department of yours?"

Agent La Paglia sighed and reached into her pocket, fingers wrapping around the Snickers bar still waiting for her. What she wouldn't give for a taste right now, but that would be rude.

"There's a coffee shop inside. Since I moved the time for the briefing, we'll have a few minutes to spare—that is, if we ever make our way through this crowd."

Professor Motley drummed her fingers on the armrest as the car inched forward. "Are we sure they still have coffee?"

"I've been assured that they do. Please be patient everyone." La Paglia wondered if she'd still have a job tomorrow if the Crumblies behaved badly in the briefing, not that she could blame them.

Once they passed through security, the team sat down at a table in the corner while La Paglia fetched coffee for them.

"I'm still bothered by the perpetrator being one step ahead of us," Juniper said. "Wouldn't that suggest someone at this table is a spy?"

"Speak for yourself," Marier said. Her face reddened as she stared at Juniper.

"I'm just saying it would be logical to look at all possibilities. I know it's not me, as I can write a better rhyme than that."

Professor Motley spoke up. "It is something that can't be dismissed."

She turned to Adamson. "How much do you really know about DI John Hawthorne, for that matter?"

"He's a bloody thorn in my arse," Adamson grumbled. "But I can't believe that any one of us could be the culprit. None of us are loons…are we?"

Marier patted her boss on the shoulder. "Of course we're not. And as much as I hate the implications, Juniper's right, we can't throw anything out."

La Paglia walked over with a tray of little styrofoam cups, setting it down on the table. She sat down with a weary sigh.

"This is the last of the coffee, I'm afraid. This morning's delivery truck arrived empty."

The team grabbed their cups and drank in unison, grimacing at the burnt flavor. La Paglia's beeper went off and she excused herself from the table, walking over to a house phone. She ran back to them a minute later.

"Hurry up and finish your coffee."

"Why?" Adamson banged his fist on the table. He wasn't in any rush to get to the briefing. "Can't a man enjoy a cuppa, even if it does taste like boiled socks?"

"The briefing's been cancelled—"

"That's the first good news I've heard all day."

"—and we're on our way to the airport." La Paglia gave Adamson a stern glance for interrupting her but he only raised his cup in salute and smiled.

"Where are we going now?" Juniper asked.

"To a small town in Texas called Tumbleweed Junction."

"Why there?" Marier replied.

"Crumblies, I mean, CCU, if you'd all be silent for a moment I'll explain. The sheriff there found a full box of chocolate bars sitting on his desk when he came in this morning, with a card addressed to the CCU."

"Has anyone touched the box at all?" Professor Motley asked.

"Yes, unfortunately. When he stepped out of the office to make the call to us, one of his deputies removed a candy bar. Apparently, the man is addicted to chocolate."

Adamson's stomach churned, knowing what happened next. He'd have to live his bloody nightmare all over again.

"And it exploded, right?"

La Pagila nodded at him, her mouth set in a grim line.

"We don't have any details yet, only that he's in the hospital."

"Why is the perpetrator leading us to Texas?" Marier mumbled.

"Yes," Juniper said. "It sounds so dusty."

"I've asked Agent Bronyaur to meet us at the airport with your luggage. I hope you don't mind."

Juniper and Marier shared a glance, each thinking of the lacy thongs they'd left lying on the floor. Professor Motley caught the exchange and smirked.

"That'll teach you both to pick up your underwear."

"There's no time to waste." La Paglia looked at her watch. "We'll just make it as it is."

They hurried out the door, Adamson realizing he hadn't seen so much as a glimpse of D.C. before being whisked to another part of the country. He crawled back into the SUV with a sigh. Maybe if they solved the case in Texas, they could go see one of those rodeos while they were there.