Valentine’s Day hadn’t brought her any cards in the post, nothing unusual there then. But this one was different because for the first time ever she had sent one, a special one.
She’d bought the card with care, just for the envelope. The card didn’t matter, that was just something to bulk it out. It was her way of showing him how she really felt that was important. He’d hurt her with his indifference. He needed to know that she’d loved him. .
They’d been working at Bio-tech together for over a year now. For most of that year she’d been crazy in love, while he, if he noticed her at all, was cool to the point of being rude.
She tried hard not go stare at him because sometimes he caught her and then it was awkward and embarrassing. She’d quickly drop her head back to her work but it was always too late.
He never smiled. She’d day dream about him smiling at her.
She took him a cup cake once. She’d baked it herself and iced the top with a pink heart. She got into work early and left it on his bench, knowing that he never rushed in until the last minutes before nine. He’d been with Jason Hargreaves, they saw the cake and looked over at her. Jason had whispered something to David and they’d both started laughing. David had picked the little cake up and had smeared it in Jason’s face and then they’d chased each other round the lab like a pair of schoolboys. She had felt small.
She always felt small.
David Adams picked the mail up from his welcome mat. He had the obligatory pieces of rubbish that companies will inflict on people but there was also a card in a silly pink envelope with two animated dogs kissing. He was confused for a second before remembering that it was Valentine’s Day.
Ahhh, he mused, a card from the lovely Vicki. He’d only been out with her a couple of times so hadn’t even given sending one to her a thought. He felt that it was way too soon for that sort of thing and wondered if he should back off a bit, nothing worse than a pushy bit of skirt but then, at least, he speculated, it showed that she was keen for a replay.
He turned the envelope over. More stupid dogs, Dave thought that it would at least have been funny if they’d been humping. Written in small sprawling writing was a little message on the back it read, ‘A scented gift, with love from me to you. He slid his finger underneath. He’d never seen Vicki’s handwriting but he recognised this. He saw it everyday at work. She always dotted her I’s with an open circle. David suppressed a shudder as he realised it was from that awful fat girl at the lab. First stupid heart cakes and now this. At least the lad’s wouldn’t get wind of this one.
He was going to throw it straight in the bin, but he felt something stiffer than just a greeting card in the envelope. He opened it anyway out of curiosity. What a bloody odd message, he thought …if only you’d smiled.
Inside the card was a square piece of what looked like cork. In black marker pen it said ‘sniff me’. David brought it to his nose dubiously. ‘What if she’s rubbed it on her fanny, she’s crazy enough?’ he thought, and this time he did shudder. That was an unpleasant thought that he could well live without at eight o’clock in the morning.
He needn’t have worried, when he sniffed tentatively at the piece of cork it didn’t smell of anything.
“Crazy cow,” he said aloud as he picked up the card, envelope and piece of cork and put the lot in the bin. Just my luck to get a nerdy psycho stalker, eh puss,” he remarked to the cat, who inclined her head but neither agreed nor disagreed with him.
Ten minutes later he felt pins and needles begin in his fingertips. He shook his hand out to stimulate his circulation. He was hot. Two minutes later he doubled up in agony as the first stomach pain caused him to gasp with its suddenness. He reached for the phone but was dead before he had the chance to place a call.
It didn’t take the police long to determine a diagnosis of anthrax poisoning. After an investigation they might have closed the case as ‘accidental death’. The way they dealt with bacterial spores would have been scrutinised at Bio-tech and stronger safety measure enforced. But they found the card, crumpled in the bin with a little piece of cork. It didn’t take them long to tie the card in with Karen Smythe.
She’d been off work that week. They said. Most unlike her, they said, no telephone call to report her absence or anything.
The police found her at her flat after breaking the door down. The flies buzzed loudly as the police officers burst in mob handed.
She was sitting at the table … dead.
And that would have been an end to it, apart from the fact that a yellow pages lay in front of her. Little pieces of cork were scattered around the table, and an empty packet of a hundred envelopes and the detritus of a hundred first class stamps completed the scene.
That was the day that people in town began to die.