Mark had brought the box in with the rest of his mail. It looked like another “solve a crime” box that his girlfriend had gotten him for Christmas. He had always been into serial killers and true crime. Not committing it, but listening to the cases unfold, learning more about the culprit and their mental state, the works. His girlfriend was interested, but only in the highlight cases. Not the whole genre, which was where Mark’s interest were, as a compromise and token of affection Kailey had gotten him a monthly subscription to this “solve a crime” game. Every month a new box, decorated with various images and labels was sent to his house. Every month he was supposed to open it, read it, and solve the crime. However, work had been really busy the past month and he hadn’t completed the previous mystery. He had dropped this box on top of the one he was still working on and carried on sorting the mail. Junk, junk, junk, bill, bill, junk, bill, and two statements from his mortgage company – a monthly and a summary of 2018.
After the mail was sorted and thrown out, Mark looked through his refrigerator and freezer for dinner options. He and Kailey had grabbed breakfast together earlier that day, and apart from this breakfast wrap and coffee Mark hadn’t really eaten anything else. In his fridge he found a few sodas, a few beers, eggs, a stack of food he knew had to be thrown out since he no longer remembered where it had come from, a container of Kailey’s homemade frosting, and grated cheese. In his freezer there were ice cubes, pasta leftovers from last year, and vegetables. Mark thought about running out to the grocery store to get some essentials, but it was Sunday. The store would be crowded and the lines would be endless. Mark opted for take out. Dialing his local pizza place by heart, he ordered a Sicilian pie with red pepper flakes. At the very least he could have leftovers for the week if he didn’t make it to the store soon.
Hanging up the phone Mark looked at the time. He had a solid 45 minutes before the pizza showed up. He went upstairs to his bedroom, did a quick shower, and threw on sweats and a t-shirt. Heading back downstairs, Mark texted Kailey about ordering dinner. They had reviewed their schedules for the week and had talked about doing dinner together tomorrow since both bad a busy week. If they ended up hanging out, they could do dinner at his place, enjoying some leftovers. It was plain pizza minus the red pepper flakes, so any ingredients she had that they could make into toppings she was more than welcome to in his book. Mark noticed the time after closing out of his messages app. He still had another 25 minutes to go. He was pretty close to solving the crime from last month, at least he thought he was. Worse case, Mark figured, he could at least reacquaint himself with the case before dinner to work on it more indepthly after.
Moving the new box from the old box, Mark noticed the new one weighed more. He was excited to get back into doing these. He found it relaxing more than anything else. He liked being able to use his brain muscles in a different way than he did at work. It was a challenge. Look for clues, recognize them and be able to apply them. While it wasn’t too far off from what he did at work, it was different. From the application to the subject matter, it was all different. What he liked most was that this activity was of a “pen and paper” variety instead of anything laptop, tablet, phone, television, what have you issue. It was different.
Mark had just finished laying everything out and remembering where he had left off when his doorbell rang. Having a fairly solid idea of what was behind that door, Mark got up and walked over. The smell of pizza hit him before he had even opened it. He had definitely made the right choice. If Kailey was here they probably would have gotten Chinese food, her favorite takeout, but Mark loved pizza. Especially the Sicilian pie from Lanzo’s. After eating 3 slices and watching two of his least favorite football teams, Mark returned to his game. He had just solved it when Kailey called him. Apparently, there was snow due tomorrow enough so that she already had off of work. Mark had the flexibility to work from home, as long as he wasn’t required on site anywhere, which he wasn’t. Kailey had already eaten, but since the snow hadn’t started yet, she would head over for a snow-in fully acknowledging that Mark wasn’t “home, home” just working from home. The two laughed as they hung up.
Mark packed away his crime box and put it in the hallway closet with the others. He knew he would probably never be able to play them again knowing who the killer was, but he kept them because it was a gift from Kailey, and because in case she ever decided she wanted a crack at them they would be there for her. When he was done, Mark returned to the kitchen, packed up the pizza, did the dishes, and returned back to the couch with a glass of water and a glass of iced tea in hands. Mark hated water, but Kailey loved Mark and insisted he at least try to drink a little bit of it. He did his best, while he had grown to tolerate it, it still wasn’t by any means enjoyable.
Kailey arrived as he finished his water. She had come over in her pajamas with an overnight bag and a recycled bag filled with possible pizza toppings. Through laughter over whether or not Mark had actually drank the water or just set it up to look as though he had, they put away the groceries and made Kailey a cup of tea. Within ten minutes they were snuggled on the couch.
“What’s this,” Kailey said as she picked up the game box that had come in the mail, “ooohhh, it’s the crime box I got you, right?” She asked as she shook it.
“That is is,” Mark answered. “I actually finished the one from last month a few minutes before you called me. I have the first two in the closet should you ever want to give it a go yourself.”
“Maybe I might,” Kailey said exaggerating her shoulder movements, “but first I would like to start this one with you.”
“Start with me,” Mark asked as he took the box from her and got up to get scissors, “you mean this isn’t something you can do all by yourself?” A tone of mock horror danced through his voice as he teased his girlfriend. They had been together a few years and there was nothing she couldn’t do herself.
“Obviously, I can,” she sassed him back, “but on the off chance it’s scary I’d rather watch you squirm first.” The two erupted into laughter as Mark walked back over to the couch.
“Since there’s now two of us solving the crime, and not a ton of room left on the couch, let’s sit in front of the coffee table so we can really get our hands dirty,” Mark instructed as he raised his eyebrows at Kailey.
Kailey rolled her eyes as she slid off the couch and scooted toward the table. Pushing a few things aside, Mark put the box down in the center of the table. The area in front of them completely cleared off.
“Okay,” Mark said, “open her up.”
As Kailey began to open the box the smell of lingering pizza gave way to the smell of spoiled meat. Before either Kailey or Mark could begin to process what was happening they were looking at something bloodied and chunky. Mark didn’t get a better look before he slammed the box closed as Kailey pushed off the table and ran upstairs toward the bathroom. It was only after he heard the door slam shut that Mark opened the box again. This was not the game. The box was the same, but as he looked down he could see where it had been repackaged. Someone had known he played this game, and more importantly had replaced it with some type of meat. Mark hoped it was only animal meat, like from a store or a farm, and not harvested from a person. There would be no way for them to tell. The police would have to check. The police. Mark would have to call the police and tell them. The toilet flushed overhead, but the sink hadn’t begun to run and he hadn’t heard the door open. He wanted to look again, for real this time, and before Kailey came back.
It was definitely not a game or a joke. On top of the pile there was a folded piece of paper. It read: “Dear Mark – roses are red, violets are blue, this meat is from me and given to you. All of my love. Forever.” Mark read it once more line by line: “dear Mark,” someone had definitely meant this for him; “roses are red, violets are blue” part of any standard love poem, “this meat is from me and given to you.” Did that mean that someone had cut this out of themselves and sent it to Mark as a sacrificial, token of my affection gift, or had they seen it, thought of Mark and sent it over as a “thinking of you” gift? Mark swallowed hard, neither really made him feel anything other than repulsion. The rest of the note seemed straight forward, “All of my love. Forever.” Apparently whoever had sent this had loved Mark for sometime and intended to do so forever more. Mark closed the box and went to the kitchen. After throwing up a mouthful or two of pizza, which looked far too much like what had been in the box, Mark grabbed a plastic bag and bagged up the box being careful to touch it as little as possible.
Kailey came down from the bathroom and walked over to Mark, snuggling under his armpit as he called the police.
“Yes,” Mark began, “I’d like to report a love letter.”