The middle of October, everyone’s thoughts are turning to the inevitable: what do my kids want to dress up as this year? What do I want to dress up as? Which party will be “the one” to be at this year? And my favorite, who’s bringing the best candies to work this year?
So far it’s Lucy and her small packages of M&M’s that seem to be the odds-on favorite. And the proof is that the little black dish holding these treasures is empty more often than not. At first, we all thought it was because Lucy left the dish on the open table on the outskirts of cubicle land. It was in the main thoroughfare and sat high enough so that anyone could just grab a packet without breaking stride.
But then something interesting happened. There was an all day workshop we were all expected to attend except for a small skeleton staff (excuse the Halloween pun) that had to stay behind and carry on with the humdrum of answering calls and typing reports.
And the M&M’s continued to disappear at the same rate!
The next day we were all gathered around the empty dish in a moratorium for the candies we would never taste. We cast suspicious looks at those who had been left behind, throwing lightning bolts of accusation at them that dared deprive us of our sweets. For some reason, the guilt I think, this band of thieves was all clustered on the same side of the table.
“Screw it,” Lucy said. “If you guys can’t share I’m not doing this anymore.” And she glared at everyone, including those of us throwing lightning bolts.
“They are your candies,” a brave soul spoke up, from behind me, the coward. “I guess you’re allowed to eat as many as you want. But…” He filled the dish with his innuendo.
“But what?” Wendy asked. “Do you think those of us who were here yesterday ate them all? I’ll have you know that we all went for lunch together and toasted the schmucks who had to go to the workshop.” The others nodded their agreement and folded their arms across their chests, daring us to attack this story.
Our Team Leader, bless his leadership, spoke up, “Of course we’re not blaming you. And even if you did eat them all that’s fine.” Unfortunately, his crooked smile didn’t help his case.
“I filled the dish before we left and when we got back, all the candies were gone. We think that some of you slipped over on your lunch break and helped yourself.” Lucy’s eyes dared them to dispute this theory. Now I understood why they grouped themselves together; it was no casual thing; it was them against us.
I should have been sucking on an M&M instead of opening my big mouth, but there weren’t any, and the answer seemed so obvious. “There’s a thief amongst us.” Oops, all eyes were on me to explain further. Oh the hell with it, I thought, it’s Halloween, let’s make it a good one. “Think about it you guys; the office is totally empty during lunch. The bowl gets filled with candy.” I paused and leaned over the table, my hands resting on each side of the dish. “It’s a perfect crime of opportunity.”
That did it, and we became one! There was someone else, and that person was likely bouncing off the walls and ceilings as we spoke; they should be easy enough to find.
“Really Ted? Do you think someone broke in here? It’s a call center for crying out loud.” Lucy’s sarcasm dashed my dreams of marrying her someday.
“Hold on,” Wendy said. “The cleaning staff and maintenance staff are always coming and going. I don’t think they have lunch at the same time we do.”
My hopes rose when Lucy relaxed her arms to her side, possibly thinking that maybe I wasn’t full of crap after all.
Mr. Team-Lead again, “I’m going to speak to their boss!” My competition for Lucy’s hand turned quickly to leave, which was fine by me until he realized that he would be leaving Lucy in my capable hands. Coming back he stopped in front of her and asked, “What kind of M&M’s were they again?”
“The chocolate kind. Duh!” A point for me.
The warm blush told everyone he knew he was a bonehead. But the man was persistent – you don’t get to be Team Lead without covering up your screwups. “No, I mean, were they the little orange bags or the brown ones? M&M’s come in different flavors.”
Point number two for me. This guy was walking Lucy down the aisle into my waiting arms. And then, crap…
“Really?” My blushing bride betrayed my love. “I thought they put them in those colored packs for Halloween?”
“Oh no,” he had the floor and the girl I thought was mine in the palm of his hand. “They come in chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut, and even pretzel flavors. And of course, we all know they have different colors.” Can’t pay these guys too much, I figured. Maybe if I was a Mars Bars encyclopedia I could become Supervisor…and squash these M&M know-it-alls.
Start up the wedding march; she was falling for it, and I would be lucky if I would be the usher at their ceremony. Hold on, I started this charade and needed to take it back. “It doesn’t matter what flavor they are, Mike.” Dork would have been better, but he was my boss, for now. “The point is that they are missing and we have a thief amongst us who knows when we’re not going to be here.” That should grab their attention. It did, Lucy looked apprehensively over her shoulder, and the church was mine for the taking.
And help came from where it wasn’t needed. “Ted’s right.” Wendy’s eyes told me who should be walking towards me. “They’re gone, and we need to find the thief.”
The unexpected crashing of a cleaner’s cart into the wall caused us all to jump clean out of our skins, what with our talk of thieves and danger. Whirling towards the sound, we all spotted the thief! Pulling her homemade sweater tightly around her, the housekeeper closed the hallway door she had let herself through and glared at us from blue eyes made bluer by the color of the wool. Clutching a mop in her gnarled hands, she looked quite prepared to knock us all back on our keesters or, at the very least, summon her winged monkeys to rain M&M’s on our unprotected heads.
“Whaddya all starin’ at?” she shrieked (she actually had the Wicked Witch of the West’s voice.) She grabbed her cart and charged at us, hell-bent to cause havoc within our tightly knit group. We moved, but a few toes felt the weight of her cart as she pushed by us looking neither right or left.
Our circle rejoined, staring after the waddling caboose, half expecting to see a trail of M&Ms following in her wake. Now that’s too much information, except for Mike apparently. I happened to look at his scrunched up, drooling face pondering the disappearing woman’s backside like a cat about to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse.
Cusses and injuries were still being expressed from the victims around the table when Mike told them to “Shush, I’m thinking.” Oh, oh. Not good. They fell silent, letting him churn things over. I half-expected to see smoke blasting from his ears, he thought so hard.
Turning to the group our Team Lead prepared his flock to jump over the cliff with him. “I have it figured out, you guys.” He paused for effect and was rewarded with more silence. “We need to follow her and see where she has her stash.”
Lucy, God bless her, with hands on her hips looked at this clown and could only sputter, “What are you talking about?”
Convinced of his wisdom, and preening in front of her, Mike answered. “Don’t you see? She has the means to get in. She can come and go when she pleases. And,” a long pause for, “she looks like she has been living on M&M’s all her life.”
The silence that greeted this last conclusion was delicious. This guy was such a schmuck. Lucy and that Supervisor job were looking better all the time. Why not help out a bit?
“You might be onto something there, Mike. She’s been here longer than the building, and I’ve caught her eyeballing the leftovers in the fridge.”
I’ve never seen so many heads snap in the same direction so fast when they looked down the aisle she had disappeared. Is there such a thing as group whiplash?
“I’ve seen the same thing,” Wendy chimed in with her support for me. “One time I caught her putting a Tupperware dish back in the fridge.” She smiled her love at me.
“Great work, Ted and Wendy.” He must have paid attention at his latest team building class. “Let’s go!” Without waiting to see if his flock would follow he headed off in pursuit of our criminal. This was bordering on the absurd, so I was the first to follow so I would be sure to hear the goofball’s next revelation.
Moving lighter than feathers on the wind, twenty-four feet followed our dumb-ass leader to his doom. Creeping quietly around the corner leading into the kitchenette we all witnessed my revelation, the woman had her face buried nose-deep in the common fridge while her ample bottom wiggled its sack of captured M&Ms back and forth.
“Caught ya!” Mike scared the pants off of most of us and made the woman smash her head against the metal shelf in the fridge. Tupperware, water bottles, and ketchup packages poured out as the rack banged to the floor and the woman screeched in pain. Oh, that wasn’t ketchup on her forehead, the idiot scared her so bad she had a gushing welt on her forehead that was turning her sweater to an accusing shade of red.
“Ow, ow, ow,” she cried, clutching a withered hand to the wound. Another screech when she saw the blood on her sweater and, pulling her hand away to stare at the blood, she dropped dead!
Her body slammed to the tiled floor, and she lay still, blood running from her head to the floor. And then Wendy swooned, the carnage too much for a tender woman such as she.
Mike was in shock, like a murderer should be. But Lucy, dear Lucy, my M&M angel, sprang into action. Racing to the woman’s side she knelt down and placed two lovely fingers on the hag’s throat.
“I don’t feel a pulse.” Looking over her shoulder in fear her mouth drop in disgust at our frozen leader but whispered up at me, silently asking for my help. How could I say no?
Marching my all-knowing self to her side, I bent down and gently eased her fingers to the side of the woman’s neck. “Try here,” I coached, removing her fingers from the woman’s throat and placing them to the side of the woman’s neck. She didn’t notice the blood trickling underneath, that was payment for considering Mike’s advances over mine, I decided.
“Ooo,” she murmured when she felt the pulse. “She’s not dead.” Elated, she shared her discovery with the others.
The vultures descended, sure that Lucy was mistaken and that they would see an actual dead body and know that their M&Ms were safe. Too bad for them, the sweater suddenly expanded out and then collapsed in as the woman took a deep breath of air. I looked at her face and into her glazed eyes, not realizing they had been fixated on me while I knelt foolishly over her.
“We’re so sorry. Are you OK?” Why was I apologizing when I wasn’t the one who did this. I looked over at Mike, hoping she would divine that it was the knucklehead over there that had done this to her. It didn’t work; she was still looking at me when I looked down at her again. Only now her eyes weren’t glazed but crazed.