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.
The next installment will appear on Friday, November 26th at Adam Byatt’s (aka @revhappiness ) A Fullness in Brevity, and you can keep up on developments in the meantime by following the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter.
Adamson was huddled in the corner of the room, hands over his eyes, rocking back and forth as the coffee’s aroma stretched across the room like a lover’s perfume.
“They’ll be poisoned,” he told himself. “Or stale. Yes, that’s it, stale biscuits. They’re tempting me by making me think they’re crunchy and fresh, then when I eat one, it’ll squish instead of crunch. They think that’ll make me crack, yes, that’s torture; the promise of the perfect choccy digestive built up, then dashed.” He rubbed his head. “And as for that coffee, that’ll taste like dishwater. With lumps in it. And stale biscuits. Stale. So don’t go over there. Don’t pick up that coin. Don’t ram it into the machine faster than you can say ‘Give me the bloody biscuits’.” He nodded to himself for all of five seconds before crying out “Oh God give me the bloody biscuits!” He broke down, letting the heaving sobs fill the room.
He didn’t know how long he wept, but by the end of it, he’d reached a new conclusion: he should test them. If something had been added to the coffee and chocolate, better that a highly trained professional find out its effects, rather than the populace at large.
“Yes,” he sniffled, getting to his feet. “I’m a highly trained professional.”
Just as he was about to take the first step, there was a terrible bang which knocked him to the floor. His ears rang and the air was filled with smoke, but as it cleared, he saw a large hole in the door where the handle had been.
It swung open and a woman stepped in, looking like she was coughing but all he could hear was the awful buzzing ring.
He didn’t recognise her. She had blonde hair swept back into a neat chignon, a deliciously figure-hugging trouser suit made from a tweedy material and a chiffon scarf tied at her neck. She was attractive enough to make Adamson forget about the coffee and biscuits, and worry more about what she’d make of his tear stained cheeks and grotty stubble.
She picked her way through the bits of broken door that scattered the floor between them, as she reached him he could just make out the clip of her high heeled boots.
“Good afternoon,” she said, peering down at him. Her voice sounded tinny and far away, but at least he could hear her. She was most definitely British. “Sorry about the door… might have misjudged the amount I needed to blow the lock. Never mind, no harm done eh?”
He just blinked at her.
“Can you speak man?”
“Are you Detective Adamson?”
He managed a nod.
“Good. I’m-” she stopped, her nose wrinkling slightly. She sniffed the air, following the scent of the coffee to the machine on the table, now covered in a layer of dust. She grasped the handle of the glass jug and thrust its contents at the wall. Sam’s coughing reached a new pitch.
“Did you drink any?” she asked, dumping the jug and hurrying over to him.
“No,” he said, trying to say the word rather than whimper it. The coffee stain on the wall looked like a giant squashed mosquito.
“Thank heavens for that. On your feet now, there’s a good fellow, we need to leave.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh, I do apologise.” She held out a leather gloved hand. “Agent D. Ling at your service sir.”
She wrinkled her nose again, he found it quite becoming. “Goodness me, of course not. I’m from the T.E.A. Foundation. That stands for Tea Eternally Available, before you ask.”
He hadn’t even realised it was an acronym. “Never heard of it.”
“Good. That’s the way we like it. Come on, I’ll fill you in on the way out.”
She led him out of the room into a dingy corridor.
“Where are we?”
“No, really, where-”
She stopped and turned to face him, a stern frown disturbing her perfect eyebrows. “Detective, I never quip when on a mission. This is indeed Grimsville Idaho. Population 259 and a half. Don’t ask about the half, there’s no time.”
She set off again, he limped after her, wincing.
“The Foundation has one purpose; to ensure that the supply of tea to her Majesty’s Kingdom is never interrupted.”
“FRAPPÉ haven’t done anything to tea, it’s the coffee and chocolate supplies.”
“Ah, but perhaps you don’t appreciate the impact their shenanigans have had on our glorious national beverage? People have been turning to the superior option in a vain attempt to achieve the same levels of caffeination as they enjoyed whilst drinking coffee. It’s put a strain on supplies, but we’ve risen to the challenge. We cannot, however, deal with their latest devilish scheme.”
“Nishida said something about never buying another brand again. What does that have to do with tea?”
“She added an ingredient that is so addictive, with such an irresistible smell, it’s even turning tea drinkers to coffee and healthy eaters to biscuits and chocolate. We predict that within the month, sales of tea will drop to zero. No demand, no money to pay producers, growers… the fine institution of tea drinking will go the way of the Dodo, and with it, civilisation as we know it.”
“But that’s not the worst of it. The additive has terrifying side effects.” They’d reached the end of the corridor, a ladder led up to a trap door. “Here, rub this on your upper lip, it counteracts the smell, the rest is willpower. Grimsville was their testing ground. You’d better prepare yourself for a shock.”
“What kind of a shock?”
“Have you seen Night of the Living Dead?”
Sam’s throat constricted as he rubbed the bitter smelling ointment under his nose. “Yes.”
“Grimsville makes it look like a Disney.” She put a boot on the ladder. “Shall we?”