Article Of Death

Bestselling Author Justin D. Lambe is from Southwestern Virginia. He loves a good cozy mystery, so that is how his writing began. Along with his family, they reside in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Image of Short Story
The sound of typing rang out throughout the New England Times newspaper office. Reporters knew stories had to be written before the companies annual Christmas Party, only two days away.
Mattie Stone, Senior Reporter, sat in her office and thumbed through her notes. She’d been given a special assignment to highlight the businesses in town and how they were celebrating the Christmas season. It was a big task, but Editor Billy May knew she was perfect for the job.
She’d interviewed local Bakery, New England Delights and the storefront was decorated with red and gold lights with little green ribbons. Their Christmas tree sat in the corner with little cupcake ornaments that owner, Kelly Joe’s Mother had made three years ago.
Mattie whispered under her breath, “Oh, I can still smell those chocolate chip cupcakes Kelly was making this morning.” She held up her notepad and smelt the pages. She didn’t like chocolate but changed her mind the first time she took a bite of one. The smooth texture of the chocolate to the hint of vanilla, and not to mention the buttercream frosting on top.
She struggled a little with the article name, but knew with a little thought she’d come up with one that would grab readers and make them want more. If they didn't like what she wrote, they’d be fascinated by the pictures she’d taken.
New England had eight businesses in their downtown district and two outside town limits. That town had its struggles, but with everyone binding together and holding each others hands high, they made it through the good and bad. It was like one big family, and no one was a stranger.
With a little thought, Mattie came up with an interesting title: Christmas in quaint New England Town. Having grown up in New England, Mattie knew the history and heritage that made the town what it is today.
As Mattie started typing the first paragraph, Billy May walked by and stood in the doorway.
“Got a story, Stone?”
Billy was a retired Army Vet that served fifteen years in Iraq. His personality was cut and dry and referred to people by their last name only.
She turned around and looked him in the eye. Working for him for six years had taught her to not be afraid of his personality, but to be herself and keep it short and sweet. Mattie learnt that lesson the hard way the first week on the job talking about her cats in the break room. That conversation didn’t end on a good note, because he didn’t believe in sharing your personal life on the job.
“May, I do. Here’s the article title, Christmas in quaint New England Town. Will readers buy it?”
He rubbed his head a minute and a small grin appeared on his face. “Yes!... I’m counting on you Stone for the best holiday article in the paper next week. Oh, don’t forget our Christmas party. I say I’m not going each year, but Ms. Jones, my secretary drags me by the arm downstairs and orders me to attend. That lady reminds me of a Sargent on my force back in the day.”
Mattie held back a laugh and fought her inward emotions. She knew if she smiled or showed any type of expression to Billy’s conversation, he’d explode like an army cannon. She’d only seen Ms. Jones a couple times because she worked in a different department. She was four foot tall and was a miniature version of Major Payne. You didn’t cross that lady or she’d whip your butt.
“I won’t disappoint you May. I should’ve brought back some chocolate cupcakes from New England Delights for an afternoon snack.”
He folded his arms against his chest, “Don’t care much for chocolate or sweets in general. If you want some, buy ‘em, but focus on your story first.”
“Yes, sir. When I’m finished, I’ll send it to you.”
“Thank you,” Billy replied, and walked down the hall.
He wasn’t a pleasant one to be around, but Mattie knew she needed this job. She’d finished college a year ago and needed to pay back her student loans, so she was very appreciative of the promotion to Senior Reporter from regular journalist two months ago.

Mattie got in the elevator and went upstairs to the sixth floor. The panel dinged and the door opened. She nodded to Peter Blankenship, newspaper printer, as she walked by his cubicle. He’d been running the press for fifteen years and you could tell he loved his job by his facial expressions each day.
She walked further down the hall and saw the monthly board meeting taken place in the conference room. Boy, that meant more changes on the way for the entire office staff. Mattie wasn’t looking forward to that, because with change came headaches, in her opinion.
Down the hall, she entered the mail room and could see the postage machine running in high demand. It was printing the labels on freshly printed newspapers to be mailed out to subscribers for tomorrow’s delivery. She walked over to her mailbox and pulled a stack of envelopes out.
“Gosh, I must be the only person in this building getting mail today,” She muttered to herself, thumbing through each piece.
Mattie spotted the pictures for a case she’d been working on, and a few more mailed police reports that out-of-town agencies wouldn’t fax over. One piece of mail caught her by surprise and had her curiosity jumping. It was a small box wrapped in red wrapping paper. Had someone sent her an early gift? How strange?
She placed that in her customized mailbag she’d ordered online that read, ANYTHING PIECE OF MAIL COMING DOWN. She’d open it in private because certain staff members were peepers and liked to spread the news around the office.

Downstairs in Mattie’s office, she kept looking at that package. What could it possibly be?
Whoever done this was a professional wrapper and could be a seasonal employee at the department store; The way the ends of the present were tucked into the sides with extra tape to keep it from busting loose with handling. One thing that caught Mattie out of the corner of her eye was the gift tag. It read: To: Mattie From: Secret Santa. Surely someone wasn’t playing this game? She thought it was childish and so in-mature to play yourself as Santa during the holidays.
She placed the gift on her desk and pushed her hair back. “Why in the world would someone do this? I only hope what’s inside isn’t something stupid, or I’ll scream.” The frustration was building. She didn’t have time for silly games, because she had article deadlines to meet.
Mattie picked up the package again. Nervousness built in her body. Her hands shacked, and one part of her wanted to throw this box in the trash, but the other part wanted to see what it was. Heck with it, she’d tear it into pieces. She couldn’t stand it anymore and had to know what was inside.
A brief pause, silence filled her office, as she ripped the paper off and found a gray cardboard box. So someone had given her a gray box? Oh, great... what she always wanted, not.
A rattle came from the box, so Mattie pulled the scissors out of her desk drawer and opened it. Inside was a Bowen wrist watch and pearl necklace and underneath she saw drops of blood.
Mattie sat back in her chair. Drops of sweet formed on her forehead. She recalled back to the murder story she was working on and the police report mentioned about a pearl necklace used as the murder weapon. Gosh, wonder if the police know about this necklace? Could it be someone in this building is the killer? Secret Santa could be the next New England Murderer. She’d get on the phone right away and contact the investigators. Now the hard task was hunting down who was responsible for committing this crime, but Mattie might know who the person is...