The Tender Peel

“When she breaks the tender peel, to taste the apple in my hand,” Tess said softly to herself.

The federal agent turned a child’s Halloween mask inside an evidence bag. Its blank eyes glared back at her from the mask’s pale face with hard shelled black hair framed in a gold pointy crown. It was the Evil Queen from Snow White, one of her favorite characters. With a collection of crime scene photos, evidence boxes, and neon apple hard candies, the Zeus Public Library conference room was somber as a church.

“What was that?” Jimmy asked.

Jimmy’s face was lined with concern as he patted the back of Tess’ chair. Every news outlet was blasting the story of the outbreak of poisoned Halloween candy in New England. After the smoke of hysteria and false claims, the Boston Bureau of Investigation had narrowed the true cases down to the northeast distributer of Kinder Kitchen Candy headquartered in the tiny town of Sleepy Hollow, MA.

“I didn’t realize I said that out loud,” Tess said. “This is mask here from one of the victims. I had one just like it when I was a kid. I remembered my grandma’s stories about powerful magic. Little witches love the bad ass witches. I was enamored with Snow White’s wicked stepmother. Villains are delicious, at least they are in fairytales.”

Jimmy felt Tess’ memories in his head and they shared the briefest smile. Twenty seven children, all girls and all shifters or witches, had fallen sick in the New England region after trick or treating. The girls suffered with severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and abnormally low body temperatures. Nine of the children were in comas; their outcomes grim. When the BBI realized the poisoning was witchcraft the case was passed to the Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. Police Chief Quinn Pride reached out to his sister Bailey, admin to the newly formed FBSI Task Force, when three girls from his town were stricken.

“Who could do this to our children? This spell was diabolical.” Bailey said.

Usually poised and calm, Bailey was skittish. Tank bolted from the conference table and began to pace. None of this made sense to the small town law man. He could understand anger and jealous, malice and murder, but random violence against children that was not the way of his people. His team, Bailey, his two officers, Tess, and Lee had reviewed the evidence. The witch or witches behind this attack had to be found for any chance to repair the damage.

“The spell was precise but the victims were random, any juvenile supernatural with a penchant for those BitterApple Lollies. I didn’t know they still made those damn jawbreakers. This makes no sense,” Tank said with a growl.

With his heavy fist, Tank banged on the conference table.

“My head’s muddled. Does something link the victims that we are missing? Did the perpetrator hate girls or Halloween or kids in stepmother masks. I was into sports more than Disney but I thought Cinderella had the evil stepmother or am I thinking of Sleeping Beauty?” Teddi asked shuffling a pair of plastic enrobed children’s masks. Lady Tremaine and Maleficient masks sneered at the task force. Bailey gently lead a still pacing Tank back to the conference table.

“Fairytales are lousy with evil stepmothers,” said Jimmy. “Magical hitmen. What are you thinking of Doc?”

“Grimhilde, of course,” Lee said.

The Librarian had his eyes closed as he rubbed his temples. He began to hum to himself. Teddi gave him a cautionary growl. Lee’e eyes snapped open.

“Sorry I’m so used to talking to my books. Grimhilde was the villain in Snow White, the Evil Queen. In the original low country folktale she was the child’s mother, cold and cruel and powerful. But bad mommies hurt book sales so published fairytales were sanitized and thus the evil stepmother characters created. I was thinking why so random and why so precise?” Lee said. “Why not enchant KitKats? Why not boys? or human children? Choosing an obscure niche candy was a deliberate methodology for the unsub.”

Teddi added, “So you’re saying this poisoning was personal. The witch behind the spell was attempting to destroy one particular victim hidden in a cloud of victims.”

Surrounding her face, Teddi held up several masks. Tess’ eyes narrowed.

“Mother. People are usually hurt by someone they love. Parents poison their children. Bailey let’sstart cross referencing all of the victims against supernatural girls with life insurance policies,. Or large settlements or inheritances,” Tess said, gripping Grimhilde hard. “Let’s go over every victim’s past with a fine tooth comb and stop a murder.”

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s