Magnifying glass image element courtesy Hv-Designs.co.uk
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 first 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, September 10th at Mari's Randomities, and you can keep up on developments in the meantime by following the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter.
'What do you mean, there's no bloody choccy biccies?' thundered DCI Adamson, banging his mug down on the desk. 'I ALWAYS have choccy biccies with my morning cuppa,' he scowled, mopping at the puddle of tea soaking into the reports littering his desk. 'Oh, never mind. Just get out.' WPC Fox turned on her heel and almost sprinted for the door.
Out in the main office, DI Monica Marier rolled her eyes. Yes, she thought, the boss is well and truly back.
'Don't worry,' Marier consoled the sniffling WPC, 'The DCI's not himself. This is his first day back off sick leave after that terrible cinder toffee business last year, but,' she paused, 'You weren't with the Unit then, were you?'
WPC Fox shook her head and blew her nose productively into a tissue. No, thought Marier, I'm the only one of the original team left. She remembered the case vividly, it was the first major investigation for the Met's newly formed Confectionery Crimes Unit, someone had rigged a batch of cinder toffee chocolate bars with explosives and iron filings so they exploded when the packets were open and had then attempted to blackmail the manufacturer.
DCI Adamson had got very close to catching the perpetrator, until that fateful day he'd received a package of the bars and had absent-mindedly opened a jumbo sized one. The resulting explosion gutted the unit's office and left the DCI deaf in one ear and his left leg full of shrapnel. He'd been off work eight months and still needed a cane to get around, which had done nothing for his usually volatile temper.
The Unit had been re-housed in temporary offices above an Asian grocer's in Camberwell, for a time it had seemed they would be dis-banded, but recent events had seen the Unit reinstated, it's meagre staff bolstered by the addition of a couple of new members seconded from overseas forces.
Marier had overseen the office move and settled in the new staff, Vice Ispettore Mari Juniper of the Italian State Police, all designer suits and fine fragrances with a penchant for espresso, but an expert in all matters gelato-related, and the Unit's new forensics officer, Professor Grace Motley, formerly of UCLA, a crotchety woman of middle years, what the professor didn't know about US confectionery, or candy as she insisted on calling it, wasn't worth knowing.
Then there were the two uniformed PCs, Fox and Bournville who acted as runners, investigators' assistants and general dogsbodies. Both straight out of the Met's training college at Hendon, Marier presumed neither had actually volunteered to work for a unit run by a DCI passed over for promotion for “procedural irregularities” with the Assistant Chief Constable's daughter. She wondered just what they had done wrong to earn the assignment.
Her reverie was broken as the main office door flew open, heralding the arrival of DI John Hawthorne of the Met's Special Branch, Adamson's long time sparring partner.
'Morning Crumblies! Is he in?' Hawthorne didn't wait for a reply and marched straight into the DCIs office. Marier winced at Hawthorne's use of the Unit's unofficial nickname, the Crumbly Cake Squad.
* * *
'What the hell do you want?' barked Adamson.
'Charming,' remarked Hawthorne, nochalantly throwing his long raincoat over the back of a chair. 'Actually, I've got a case for you.'
'I've got a case for you, sir,' Adamson emphasised the “sir.” 'Just because you're Special Branch, don't think you can ignore proprieties.'
'Err, yes...sir. Sorry, sir.'
'Well, what is it then?' Adamson eyed the packet of chocolate digestives and the report in Hawthorne's hand.
'It's these,' Hawthorne indicated the biscuits. 'Every last one has vanished from shops right along the eastern seaboard of the USA. There've been riots, apparently.'
'So? What's that got to do with CCU? Unless it's escaped your notice, we're a British police unit.'
'Ah well, here's the thing,' Hawthorne warmed to his explanation, 'It seems the shortage is spreading.' He set the biscuits and the report down on the edge of the DCI's desk. 'There's not a chocolate digestive to be had anywhere in London as of last week, and reports of the same have come in from Manchester, Cardiff and Newcastle. The manufacturer's output remains constant, and the delivery firms have plenty in their warehouses, but any time they send stocks out to the shops, they've vanished by the time the truck arrives.'
Hawthorne watched in horror as DCI Adamson leaned casually over the desk, picked up the packet of digestives, opened it and proceded to dip one into the remains of his tea.
'But, but,' spluttered Hawthorne, 'Those are evidence!'
'Bollocks, John, they're biscuits, and they go lovely with my tea.' Adamson beamed. 'Anyway, what's this got to do with Special Branch? Oughtn't you be out catching terrorists instead of bringing me presents?'
Hawthorne fought to retain his composure. 'My boss had a call from Homeland Security in Washington D.C. last night. They don't have anyone with your, err...expertise over there, so my boss cleared it with ACC McVitie.'
Adamson shot him a sour look.
'And you're all off for a jaunt over to sunny America. I have plane tickets for you here,' Hawthorne fumbled in his jacket pocket, 'You leave for Washington D.C. tonight.'
As if on cue, the soggy half of a chocolate digestive detatched itself from the biscuit Adamson held and dropped into his mug with a dull plop.
'Shit!' muttered Adamson. 'See yourself out John, seems I have work to do. Oh, and on your way, ask Monica to step in for a moment, she'll be handling the logistics so I'd better brief her.'
* * *
It was a pleasant summer evening as the 747 lifted off from Heathrow bound for Washington D.C. Having pulled rank for an upgrade, DCI Adamson settled back in his first class seat, sipped his champagne and pondered the dinner menu. Secretly he was quite excited, not that he'd let any members of his team know it, he'd never been to America.
I hope you enjoyed the first episode. Don't forget to check out Mari's episode next Friday (Friday, 10th September) over at her blog, Mari's Randomities, and keep up to date with developments by following the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter.