The perfect gift, p.1
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       The Perfect Gift, p.1
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           Michelle Birbeck
The Perfect Gift


  The Perfect Gift

  A Short Horror Story by

  Michelle Birbeck

  Copyright 2013 Michelle Birbeck

  Discover other titles by Michelle Birbeck by visiting her website www.michellebirbeck.co.uk

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  Cover Image © Phillip Birbeck

  Cover design © Michelle Birbeck

  ~***~

  Dedication

  To Alice, for putting up with my ramblings all these years.

  ~***~

  The Perfect Gift

  As Jake stared at the mass of text on his screen, he idly wondered if anyone had ever read it all. Just one word matter to him: the one leading to a private login page. A few clicks and a password that changed daily, and Jake was in.

  The boards were quiet, but the post he wanted sat blinking at the top with two edits under the large New sign.

  Third name down was the group’s ‘Secret Santa’ list was Matt. The man had specific interests, and gifts for Matt were always a challenge. The thought of it tugged at Jake’s lips, twisting his face into a grin. He had three weeks to get everything in place. Rent a car, pack, find presents for everyone, and drive the couple of thousand miles to the cabin.

  As Christmases went, celebrating in the middle of July was the way to go. No herds stampeding to get the last stuffed animal. One that would end up abandoned on the floor of some unappreciative brat.

  Jake knew, however, that the purple octopus he had in mind for Phyllis would be well cared for and never tossed aside.

  “Is this for your son?” the cute blonde inquired.

  Jake smiled like the caring father he was. “No, it’s for a friend. She collects them.”

  “Oh, well, better than coins or stamps, I suppose.”

  “Cheaper, too.”

  The pair parted on a smile, the purple toy peeking out the top of its bright gift bag.

  Jake had always enjoyed shopping for other people, often spending hours working out the perfect gift for each of his friends. But this was a special group of people that required the utmost attention to details. Every one reflected the commitment the group had made to each other. A deep knowledge of each other that went beyond simple friendship.

  With the final gift wrapped and secure in the car boot, Jake took to the road for the four day trip.

  Miles of road flew beneath him as the car ate away the distance. This was the part he hated most. Each stop tightened Jake’s shoulders. Overnight stops being the worse. Nowhere with drunken holiday makers. Nowhere with kids. Privacy and quiet were his top priorities.

  Jake went out of his way to find off-the-beaten-track places to pitch his tent.

  Every night he tended to the only living gift he carried. Water, food, a bit of fresh air. Its conspicuous nature meant it had to remain in the boot for most of the journey.

  Surprise and presents went hand in hand. Showing up at the cabin with the main gift on show would spoil all the surprise.

  As Jake approached the cabin, he saw that everyone else was there. Four shiny rentals lined up outside the wooden building, each as identical as the next. The precautions they took to keep this meeting secret, extended, as always, to every detail. Identical rentals was the tip of an iceberg large enough to sink any ship.

  The solid wooden door swung open to reveal a slender brunette in shorts, a vest, and hiking boots.

  “Jakey boy! Glad to see you made it.”

  “Did I have you worried, Phyllis?”

  She stepped off the porch and wrapped her arms around Jake. “Never. So what did you bring me?”

  Jake winked. “Wait and see.”

  The pair sauntered into the cabin where Matt, Bill, and Steve were lounging around a roaring fire.

  “Am I that late?” Jake asked.

  Steve rose in a lithe movement that brought him up to his almost-ceiling-reaching height. “Nah, mate, we got here early’s all. Ya need a hand with ya stuff?”

  “Just this.” Jake held up his one packed bag. “Presents are in the car.”

  “Give it ‘ere then. Ya sharing with me this year.”

  The guys paired up every year and took turns sharing with each other, leaving Phyllis the third bedroom.

  Jake took Steve’s seat, whilst Steve strode off with the case.

  “How’s life?” Jake asked.

  “We’re all here.” Matt’s grin split his face in two. “Doesn’t get better than that.”

  Bill raised his beer in agreement. “Must say, I haven’t seen any of you in the news this year.”

  “Ah, Bill, we don’t all have your flare for the dramatic, you know,” Jake jibed.

  “Speaking of. Presents? We’re all here, and I’ve been looking forward to this since last year’s fun and games.”

  “Just waiting for an opening, weren’t ya, Bill?”

  Bill grinned at Steve. “You know me!”

  “Not as well as you’d like, mate!”

  “You’re not my type.”

  “Boys, boys!” Phyllis said. “We going to flirt or open our gifts?”

  Matt slapped his chair arms as he rose. “Gifts!”

  The group rose and filed out into the late evening sun. Long shadows like dark fingers stretched out from the forest.

  “Right, who’s first?” Phyllis asked.

  The four men chewed over who got to give their gifts first. Matt spoke first, “Last here, first gifts?”

  Jake didn’t understand the logic, but he wasn’t one to pass up the offer. Not when it meant he could get all the worry out of the way and enjoy getting his presents.

  He rubbed his hands together and flung open the back door. Three gift bags in matching shades of blue lined the backseat.

  “Ladies first,” he proclaimed, handing the first bag to Phyllis.

  She grinned as she peered into the bag and pulled out the stuffed octopus.

  “I hope you’ve never had one before.”

  She clung the toy to her chest and glanced up at Jake. “This is fantastic.”

  When she looked back, she began pulled the tentacles this way and that, seeing in which positions she could hold them.

  “It will take pride of place on my shelves,” she commented. “When I’m finished with it.”

  Bill’s gift was next. Nothing quite as exotic.

  “Damn,” Bill said, pulling the small, curved blade from the bag. “Never seen one of these before.”

  “Child-size, fully functioning Persian sword. Or so I’m told.”

  Bill grinned. “Cash payment, I assume?”

  “On a day when the cameras were down and they had a sale on the whole shop. I know the rules.” They all did.

  Last small gift went to Steve. The bag pulled at its handles; Jake’s hand hovered under it as he handed the weight over.

  Steve peered into the bag. “Is this…?”

  “Hand-polished slate, meant for water features and the like.”

  “Damn, mate, this is like Christmas all over again.”

  “Yeah, but postage on it’s going to be a bitch.”

  Steve nodded. “Yeah, but I do love seeing their faces in the news.”

  They shared a laugh before Jake moved on to the final gist that remained in the boot of his car. He tossed the keys to Matt and swept his arms in an help-yourself gesture.

  Matt approached the car with wide eyes and slow movements. He slid the key into the lock as carefully as if it was a virgin. His breathing quickened enough that Jake could see the breaths shuddering out of his chest as Matt flung the boot lid open.

  Laid out inside was a very special gift of a very specific type. Twenty-four years old. Shoulder length black hair. Wide set eyes. And a
figure any model would be jealous of. She stared up, blinking in the sudden light.

  Matt reached down and stroked her cheek, making her flinch away from him.

  “She’s perfect,” Matt whispered with reverence. “Just my type.”

  Jake watched Matt’s admiration of his present and thought to himself, Some things are better than Christmases.

  His wife and daughter always enjoyed the presents he got them, but never the way his friends did.

  From Phyllis and her need to strangle abusive fathers with the ultimate image of childhood—stuffed animals.

  To Steve, who enjoyed bashing in the heads of cheating girlfriends and then posting the murder weapon to their family.

  Bill, whose preferences were limited to weapon of choice instead of victim.

  And Matt, with a type so specific it took weeks to find the perfect gift.

  Most would say Jake and his friends were sick in the head, twisted for their love of torture, torment, and death. To Jake, they were better than family.

  ~***~

  Books by Michelle Birbeck

  The Keepers’ Chronicles:

  The Last Keeper

  Last Chance

  A Glimpse Into Darkness

  Short Stories:

  Consequences

  Isolation

  Survival Instincts

  Coming Soon:

  The Stars Are Falling

  Playthings

  About the author

  Michelle has been reading and writing her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read, by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them. Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.

  You can find more information on twitter, facebook, and her website:

  Facebook.com/MichelleBirbeck

  Twitter: @michellebirbeck

  www.michellebirbeck.co.uk

 
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