Ah, Valentine’s Day. Hearts, flowers, candy…happy couples strolling hand in hand under a moonlit sky (or on a beach, at a ski lodge etc.) stopping to exchange loving gazes. Bliss. Well, not always. Personally, I think there is something rather suspect about a day devoted to love that features a diapered mascot flying through the air shooting arrows at unsuspecting people. As it turns out, from scams to murders, there is a dark side to this lighthearted day.
Everyone wants love, especially on Valentine’s Day. For criminals it’s an opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable people. Romance crimes using online dating sites are big business, cheating people out of $15 billion per year. (That’s a whole lot of love.) Here’s how it happens. A con artist sends an attractive photo--usually stolen from a modeling site--to the victim, pledges undying love and even sends gifts. The scammer then suffers bad luck, needs money and the unwitting victim obliges.
Flower scams are in the air everywhere you go. Take care when using the internet or calling 800 numbers to order flowers. Your order may be filtered through several florists; each one taking a cut. This leaves little money for the actual flower arrangement. Another scam is rather ingenious. A courier unexpectedly delivers a floral and wine basket on Valentine’s Day to the surprise and delight of the recipient. He then charges a few dollars as proof that alcohol was delivered to an adult. Of course, he will only accept a credit card...stealing your credit card information and with it, your joy.
One noteworthy thief, dubbed “the bouquet bandit,” robbed New York banks using a colorful bouquet to hide his threatening stick-up note.
Death by chocolate has a long and sordid history. Due to its strong flavor, chocolate is a good vehicle for delivering poison. (I thought this was fascinating although rather disturbing since I just ordered my husband a box of his favorite chocolates.) Among the many deaths attributed to this method, was Pope Clement XIV. More recently, a woman killed her husband after he prevented her leaving and taking his chocolate cake. I guess some people love chocolate more than their spouses.
Of course, there is the infamous 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre thought to be perpetrated by Al Capone (even though he had an alibi). It was one of the first major crimes where the science of ballistics was used. Ultimately, nobody was charged and the case officially remains unsolved.
So, anyone who has ever had, or is having, a bad Valentine’s Day, take heart! You are not alone and your experience might have been worse. However, for the mystery writer, this day can offer a variety of unique ideas. As Forrest Gump famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.