A Valentine's Day story
by Judith Freudenthal
2000

Natalie arrived back at her lab after doing the preliminaries on a gruesome double murder. Someone had brutally executed a husband and wife on Valentine's Day. Natalie wearily took off her tan winter coat and hung it on the hook on the wall.

Before she could do anything else a deliveryman entered carrying a long thin white cardboard box. Natalie noticed the red ribbon wrapped around the box and tied into a beautiful bow.

"Can I help you?" Natalie asked.

"I'm looking for a Natalie Lambert." The deliveryman was noticibly uneasy being in the coroner's office and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

"I'm her." Natalie smiled, wondering who had sent her flowers.

"I need you to sign here." The man handed Natalie his clipboard, pointing out where she was to sign. As soon as she had scribbled her signiture on the proper line, he handed her the box and fled.

Natalie set the box on her desk when Grace entered. A grin spread across Grace's face, especially when she saw the smile on her friend's face.

"Who sent you the flowers?"

"I don't know." Natalie undid the ribbon and lifted off the top. "I don't think we'll need water for these." Natalie's smile increased as she lifted out the dozen dark chocolate roses. They were perfect imitations of the real thing.

"Very nice," Grace said. "At least you don't have to worry about these dying on you."

"No, just melting. And with the temperature, I don't think that's a real possibility." Natalie spotted the card, tucked into the flowers. She carefully set the roses back in their box before pulling the card out of the envelope.

She knew if she didn't read it outloud, Grace would pester her to see the card. "To Natalie, Happy Valentine's Day! Nick."

"That's so sweet of him." When she realized her pun, she grinned, "no pun intended."

Nick entered the room, pleased to see his delivery had been timed perfectly.

"Nick, thank you!" Natalie beamed.

"I'm glad you like them," Nick said as he walked over to Natalie. "Don't eat them all at once," Nick teased and was rewarded with a playful slap on the arm.

"I think I'm going to have one right now. Grace, would you like one?"

"No, thanks. Let me know how it is."

Natalie removed the "skin tight" celephane wrapper from one rose and bit into it. A huge smile crossed her lips as the semi-sweet chocolate melted in her mouth.

"Mmmmmm," was all the sound she made until she swallowed the heavenly mouthful. "That has to be some of the best dark chocolate I've ever tasted." She quickly finished off the rose.

Before Natalie could make any further comments, her phone rang.

"Lambert. Forensics."

A moment later she scribbled something down on a scrap of paper and hung up.

"It's back to work." Natalie said with a frown. Her good mood completely ruined by the call.

 

Later in her shift, near the end of it, Natalie entered her office, having just retrieved some test results. A smile crossed her face when she saw the single artificial rose, wrapped in a clear plastic cone like the real thing, laying right smack in the middle of her desk. As she approached the rose, she saw the note on the wrapper telling her to push the button on the stem. A curious grin spread across her lips as she picked up the rose and followed the instructions. A strictly musical version of "Love Me Tender" resulted, causing the grin to become a full fledged smile.

Nick entered just as the song finished. She heard him enter, and looked up with her smile still as bright as before.

"Thank you."

"You ready to go?" He asked as he helped her into her coat.

"Yes."

They left the morgue together. She had the dozen chocolate roses in her hand, with the musical one right in the center.

The end.

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