Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #127

Evidence Card 0096: Big Payoff

Evidence Card 0096: Big Payoff

Grace and Matthew weren’t sure why little Abbie had called the family meeting, but they assumed it had something to do with bedtimes or allowances, so they weren’t prepared for the microphone, laser pointer and Powerpoint presentation.

“Mom and Dad, thank you for coming.  Shall we get started?”

“Abbie,” Grace said, “why are we—”

“I’m sorry, Mom: we have a lot to get through, so if you could hold your questions until the end, that would be fantastic.  Okay?  Great.”

The first slide came up.  It was titled, “The Dover Household: Strategies and Efficiencies for Maximum Productive Output.”

“As we’re all well aware,” 9 year-old Grace began, “I won the Pretty Powderpuff Princess Million Dollar Sweepstakes two weeks ago.  In the interim, I’ve taken the time to examine my role in this household, and I’ve identified some key areas where I think better management—i.e., my own—would benefit not only the general prosperity of this family, but society as a whole.”

Her parents were momentarily silent.  The only sound was the cat licking himself in the corner of the room.  Finally, Matthew said, “honey, if you want to talk about allowance, I—”

“Now, Dad,” she interrupted, “while I appreciate your reaching out to me on this issue, I’m not sure you’re still the best qualified person to be making decisions about compensation.  If you’ll just look at this chart—”

She clicked her remote.  “—you’ll see a comparison of earnings over the last six months.  I’ve broken things down by department, and, while you’ll see your line is steady, it just doesn’t reflect the growth in my line here, which shot up a mind-blowing ten-thousand percent!  I extended the graph out six months in the future to illustrate potential revenue growth.”

“Now, I know what you’re going to say,” she said, pacing the living room like a TED speaker.  “‘Abigail Dover, you don’t have the experience to run a seasoned organization such as this household.’  To which I reply, haven’t we had enough stagnant earnings?  Haven’t we had enough staycations?  Haven’t we had enough boring frozen dinner entrees and basic cable?  Yes!  What this family needs is the vision and the courage to invest its newfound capital in bold new ventures.”

The projector clicked through a slide show as she spoke.

“For Mom, our new Director of Operations, a workout room, spa, and personal trainer to improve general health an wellbeing.  For Dad, our new Chief Financial Officer, a shiny red convertible for travel to and from vital meetings with support personnel.  And finally, for our new CEO, a horse paddock and special Powderpuff Princess dream cottage.  We’ll get into the numbers later.  Any questions so far?”

Matthew raised his hand.

“Can I have black interior instead of white?”

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #126

Agenda: Chaos Reigns

Agenda: Chaos Reigns

Mrs. Cooperton couldn’t be certain, but she suspected the man who came in every Tuesday dressed in a cape, purple leotard, and steel helmet was responsible for changing the prices on the canned goods.

The next time he came to the counter with his armload of sardines and popsicles, she gave him a long, careful look before asking to see his ID.

Rather than protest, he smiled and handed her an expired Maryland learner’s permit.

“Doctor Chaos?”

“In the flesh!” he intoned, striking a pose.

“Are you the one changing the price stickers on the canned peas?”

“Guilty … as … charged!” he sang, doing a strange little dance.

“Well … knock it off.”

“Or what?!?

She frowned.  “Or no more popsicles.”

The color ran from his crestfallen face.  His limbs went limp and he slumped, dejected.  He spoke with a sad, quavering voice.

“Alright … it was only a joke.”

She rang up his groceries and bagged them neatly, as she always did.  Handing them across the counter, she shook her head.  “You’re not a very good bad guy, you know.”

His eyes teared up.

“Well … I guess you’re a little naughty.”

He perked up measurably.  With a slight smile, he grabbed his bag and shuffled toward the door.  On the way out, he tipped over a display of gum, sending its contents spilling across the floor.  Cackling, he capered into the night.

Hmm … there are several Portland terrain maps for Cities: Skylines.  Time to rebuild the region as it should be: with a football stadium in the middle of downtown, seventeen more bridges and a space elevator.

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #125

Evidence Card 0095: Mystery Package

Evidence Card 0095: Mystery Package

He was thinking about serendipity when he heard the knock at the door.

Nathan did not remember ordering anything, and stood in the doorway of his apartment, puzzled, holding the paper-wrapped package.  It was light but vibrated faintly in his hands.

There was no return address—only a small warning label stuck on the side.  As he peeled it off to read it, the elevator door opened across from him.

Three large men stepped out.  Nathan recognized the one in front.

“Mr. Gallahad,” Nathan muttered.

“Nathan,” snarled the scar-faced mad in front of him.  His suit was dark and impeccably tailored.  He looked down from six inches above Nathan, and his associates were even taller.

The broken line of Gallahad’s mouth wriggled like a snake as he spoke.  “When you left the casino last week, you took something that wasn’t yours.”


“Buy yourself a little something?” Gallahad asked, tapping the box in Nathan’s hands.  “Something … expensive?”

“Um, yes.  Very expensive.”

Gallahad plucked the box out of his grip and handed it to one of his associates.  “I hope, for your sake, its resale value is just as high.  Of course, there’s also the price of all this trouble you’ve caused.”

Nathan thought quickly and glanced at side table near the door.  A plain paper bag was sitting there.  “There’s the rest, plus a little more.”

Gallahad took the bag and examined its contents.  “Your life savings in here, Nathan?”

He nodded.

“I suppose if we leave you broke and out of a job, we might not have to kill you today.  Make sure you’re out of town by tomorrow or we’ll reconsider.”

He nodded again as they filed back into the elevator.  Gallahad have him one last, menacing glare as the doors closed.

Nathan let out a tightly held breath and closed his door.  His suitcase was already packed, and the money he’d given them was only half the haul he’d taken from his former boss.  He’d be gone in an hour.  Hopefully, before those three returned.  They might not be back for a bit.

He help up the label and read it: “Warning: Live Bees”.

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #124

Evidence Card 0094: Escaped Animal

Evidence Card 0094: Escaped Animal

“Did you hear?”

Kim turned away from cleaning the espresso machine.  “Hear what?”

“It was on the news,” Alyssa said, carrying a case of cups into the back room.  “An animal escaped from the zoo.”

“Wow. I wonder what kind—”

Suddenly, someone was at the counter.  He was a squat, hairy mass of a man under a long trench coat and wide-brimmed hat.  His clothes were unusual on such a warm, sunny day.

“Good morning, sir!  Welcome to Klondike Coffee, what can I get started for you today?”

The customer poked a thick finger toward the menu board and grunted.

“Chai mocha latte?  What size?”

He gestured to the stack of 12 oz. cups.  He must have been wearing gloves, because his fingers were dark.  His forearms were excessively hairy.

Kim rang up the purchase.  “Seven fifty-five, please.”

The man dropped a wad of bills on the counter and waddled away before she could take his name.  She shrugged and began making the drink.  Alyssa reappeared as she was adding the whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

“Do you think,” Kim pondered in a hushed voice, “that it might have been a gorilla?”

Alyssa looked puzzled.  “From the zoo?”

Kim nodded and tilted her head toward the customer, who was lingering at the pickup side of the counter.

“Oh,” Alyssa said.  “That’s just Mr. Cyzerbic.  He comes in all the time.”

“Really?”  Kim walked the drink to the other end of the counter.  “Here you go, Mr. Cyzerbic.  Have a great day!”

The man grabbed the cup, grunted again, then waddled toward the front door.

Alyssa stood next to Kim as he shoved his way out the front door.  “I can see why you’d think he lived at the zoo, though.”

As they watched him through the front windows, his rotund form was suddenly eclipsed by something much larger.  Customers sitting next to the windows recoiled as an elephant—passing with long, heavy strides—took the cup of coffee from Mr. Cyzerbic’s hand.

He watched it go, then turned and went on his way as the sound of sirens began to grow.

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #123

Evidence Card 0093: Rule of Five

Evidence Card 0093: Rule of Five

  • The human hand has five fingers.
  • There are five fundamental forces in the universe: electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, gravity, and the inexorable approach of death.
  • There are five states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, plasma, and candy.
  • The body has five sacred organs: the spleen, the left kidney, the pituitary gland, the appendix, and the phleugma.
  • Human history is divided into five Great Epochs: Deep Antiquity, Near Antiquity, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment, and the Time of the Great Doom and the Dissolution of All Things.
  • Fnord has five letters.
  • Fnord!

Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #122

Evidence Card 0092: War Veteran

Evidence Card 0092: War Veteran

You want the truth?  I mean, you really want to know what’s going on?  I can tell you, man … because I’ve seen some shit.  19 years in the U.S. Army, seven as a Ranger, and you get in the thick of it.  They’re hiding things, man.  Bad things.

On October 25, 1983, 7,300 U.S. troops, with Air Force and Navy support, parachuted into Grenada under the pretext of freeing the tiny Caribbean island after a military coup.  Rumor had it that Cuba was backing the new regime and the country would go communist.  It was two days after the Beirut Marine barracks bombing that killed 241 servicemen.  Tensions were high.  President Reagan gave the order and Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf himself led the ground assault.

All of this was big headlines for all of a weekend.  The shooting was over in less than 48 hours.  The U.N. Security Council voted to condemn the attacks, but the resolution was quickly forgotten.

Lost in all of that noise was the true purpose of the invasion.

What is Grenada’s chief export?  Spices.  Specifically, nutmeg.  Grenada is the world’s largest exporter of nutmeg.

In 1983, stockpiles of nutmeg in the United States were at all-time lows.  It was October: Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  What’s more American than Thanksgiving?  Nothing.  And what’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?… I think you can see where this was headed.

The fear was that military strongman Bernard Coard would leverage his country’s nutmeg-exporting power to force the US. and its partners in the region to abandon military bases in the Caribbean, making way for a Soviet presence.  In covert circles, this was called the “Nutmeg Gambit.”  And it damn near worked.  When Coard threatened to burn the nutmeg stockpiles in the event of an invasion, our hands were temporarily tied.

But thanks to the Navy SEALS who disabled the cargo ships in St. George’s harbor, and Army Rangers like me who captured the silos where the spices were stored, the crisis was averted.  The real mission was covered up and the American public never knew how close we came to having Thanksgiving without pie.  And the government began to build a strategic reserve of nutmeg—and other spices as well—to make sure no foreign power could ever use our love of seasoning against us again.

Anyway, it was a crazy weekend.  I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but … who would believe you, anyway, right?  I should go.  Stay safe and enjoy the pie.