Thumbprint, chocolate mint, pfeffemusse, petri salju, spritzgeback, speculaas, cuccidati, and other cookies were part of the exchange. It was an amazing spread of shapes and colors. And the gathering of people from Dave’s office building were equally as diverse.
This was the first time that Dave had decided to host such an event, and he couldn’t wait for it to be all over. He wasn’t a good baker or even a baker at all. But his wife was very excited for Dave to go outside of his comfort zone and organize such a large get together. There were only a few people in Dave’s life outside of the house and this was a perfect opportunity for him to get familiar with new people. Little did his wife know that Dave had made the acquaintance of a couple new people.
It was early October when Dave met his new friends while walking his dog in the late evening. Dave made it halfway around the block when he bumped into a woman jogging towards him. The collision caused his Collie, Duke, to break free of his hand and made a rare dash away from him. Dave wanted to chase after Duke, but the beautiful, Latin woman that he bumped into was now on the ground. Dave quickly started to help the woman up.
“Thank you,” the woman said. “Sorry for,” but Dave cut her short.
“Sorry, I have to get my dog.” Dave half shouted as he started to run down the sidewalk to follow Duke.
“Let me help,” and the woman started to jog behind Dave.
A couple blocks ahead of him, in the shadows ahead of him, Dave could see Duke sitting in the grass. A shadowy figure of a person was knelt down in front of Duke.
Dave slowed to a walk and panted with his hands high on his waist as he walked through the grass towards Duke and his savior. The woman slowed and stopped when she made it past Duke.
“Tha-, tha-, thanks,” Dave said through his breath that was still chopping its way in and out of his chest. He reached down and picked up Duke’s leash and continued to try to catch his breath. As he did, the man that was with Duke stood up and extended his hand to Dave.
“Austin.” The man’s voice was deep and clear. It wasn’t necessarily friendly, but it was comforting.
“Dave,” Dave said, taking the man’s hand and giving a proper shake.
“I’m Sunita,” said the jogger, reaching out towards Dave. He took her hand and gave one short dead fish of a shake.
“Nice to meet you,” said Dave. “Thank you both for helping me with Duke. He’s never really does that. I owe you one.”
“It’s fine,” Austin replied. “But I may hold you to that.”
Dave laughed briefly and gave them a wave and started back towards his house.
The next day, Austin decided to cash in on Dave’s debt and reached out to him as he went into his garage and climbed into his car. When he did, there was a sticky note attached to the steering wheel. The note said to expect a call before lunch and had no signature.
Dave was distracted during the first half of the day. As it became closer to lunch, there was no call. He decided to wait a little longer before going to the lounge for his lunch. But as he sat there for several minutes, his belief in the note had dwindled. Dave stood up and took a step away from his desk when the phone in his pocket rang. It didn’t make it to the second ring before Dave answered.
“Hey David, this is Austin,” the voice was that of his dog’s savior, “I need your help with something.”
“Wait, what?” Dave knew he didn’t give Austin his number. “How did,” but his question was cut short by Austin.
“Head down to the lobby,” Austin interjected. “I’ll tell you there, not on the phone.” And then Austin hung up.
Dave stopped at the lounge and grabbed his lunch and then headed towards the elevator. While on the elevator, he took a large bite out of his bologna sandwich. Before making it to the bottom floor, Dave took another big bite. When the doors open, Austin was nowhere in sight, Instead, there was a beautiful olive skin woman in a blue business suit complete with a skirt that stopped just above the knee and a briefcase which seemed too large for such a petite woman. It was this that caused Dave to choke on the bite of bologna sandwich which was one bite too big. Before he could exit the cab, the woman made her way into the elevator and then punched Dave in the breadbox, helping the sandwich to find its way out of his mouth and onto the door as it closed.
When Dave finally stood up, the door of the elevator was opening again. The woman was now standing beside him and grabbed his arm and helped him out.
“David,” the woman said in a familiar voice. “Austin and I need you to do a favor for us.” She waited for Dave to turn around and look at her. When he did, Sunita had such a serious look on her face that it made Dave flinch. “Here,” Sunita said and handed the case over to him. Dave noticed how warm her hands were when she passed it to him. “We need you to pass these out to every person in this building. There is an envelope with one special invite that needs to go to the man named in the envelope. We will be in touch.” And with that she stepped back into the elevator just as the door was closing.
Before doing anything, Dave decided it was best for him to finish his lunch at his desk before his sugar levels dropped. When he finished his lunch, Dave decided to peruse the briefcase which he secured under his feet while he finished his food. He looked around before placing the case on the top of his desk. Carefully, Dave popped the clasps, and the briefcase released its grip and opened ever so slightly like the mouth of the recently deceased. Slowly he opened the case to see a stack of beautifully glossy flyers. On the flyer was all different holiday décor and in glimmery foil writing was the words “Cookie Exchange.” Below that was a comment that said some free gift and then Dave’s name and address.
“What the, what?” Dave was for a loss for which word would fit best. He then grabbed the envelope. When he opened it, he recognized the name at once. On the top floor of the building was a law office. The main lawyer was a man named Scott Francis. Dave didn’t even think that the man ever left the building. He was that person that had a commercial on every channel and an ad on every bus.
Dave took the rest of the day and walked around his floor, passing out the flyers to everyone there. Then he went to the bottom floor and handed some out to everyone he could find. He did that to every floor except the top two floors. They both had separate passkeys to get to them. He also tried the stairs but the door to access the interior was locked. By this time the day was almost over, so Dave went back down to the elevator and climbed in but didn’t push a floor. A second later it went down to the second floor, and a couple people got in. They went to the lobby and Dave stayed inside and waited. The elevator began to go up. And to his surprise, it went all the way to the top floor. Dave Exited the cab as a man in a three piece suit boarded the elevator. There was a receptionist sitting there but she paid no mind to Dave.
This wasn’t uncommon, Dave was nearly invisible to many people. He walked past the receptionist and down the hallway. Every door that he found was locked, but he slid a flyer under each of them. At the end of the hall was a door with the name that matched the name on the envelope. He took the bottom flyer and held it in his had as he knocked on the door, the flyer flipping back and forth through the air.
Much to Dave’s surprise, the door opened and the face of the man that he had seen a million times stood in front of him. Dave was almost starstruck.
“Can I help you?” Scott Francis said with a hypnotic tone.
“Uh, uh, Yes. Sorry. I am hosting an event and I’m inviting everyone from the building to a cookie exchange.” For some reason, the man’s eyebrow rose when Dave said cookie exchange.
“Is that for me?” the man gave a half-hearted point to the flyer.
“Yes,” Dave said with a nervous chuckle behind it. Sweat was beginning to appear on his forehead. He handed the flyer to Scott Francis. “I hope we see you there.”
Without another word, Mr. Francis shut the door in Dave’s face. Dave made sure to hand a flyer to the receptionist on the way to the elevator. Once there he noticed there was a passkey needed to call the elevator. He looked back at the receptionist and she pointed to where the stairwell was. For the second time that day, Dave had to walk down the stairs.
A couple days before the cookie exchange, Dave ran into Austin while walking his dog. Dave was getting nervous. He passed out over two hundred flyers and most of them said that they would be there. Scott Francis did not respond. He had never had more than ten people in his house and that seemed like a lot to him. Austin told him that in the next couple days, there would be people coming to his house to set up for the party. Austin also said that they would have people there to park cars, if needed. This was what Dave needed to hear to help him relax.
Over the next two days, tables were set up in several rooms in his house. As tables came into his house, some larger objects were removed. In the backyard, there was a large tent that was being set up within a short walk from his back door. In the process of putting the tent in the yard, at least two trees were removed, the ground was leveled, and artificial grass was installed. Dave thought that his wife would freak out, but she seemed to like the changes.
The day of the event, Sunita and another woman came over to Dave’s house earlier in the day and brought twelve dozen boxes. Inside each box was a cookie. Before leaving Sunita handed Dave one additional box. She pointed to the bottom of the box and revealed a green dot on the bottom.
“This one is for our guest of honor.” Sunita gave Dave’s wife a little smile and turned to meet her partner at the door before disappearing down the sidewalk.
An hour before the cookie exchange was to start, Austin showed up with a group of guys that may have been felons. Most had hair pulled back into a ponytail. All of them, except Austin, had some visible facial hair. They were all wearing black pants and white t-shirts. A minute later, a young man in a suit pulled up and dropped off a case the size of a footlocker. Austin opened the box and handed jackets to each of the convicts with him. Then he put one on himself. Once fully outfitted, Austin grabbed the box and turned it on its side. He picked it up and gave it a flick and legs slid out and locked an inch from the ground.
“We’re all set.” Austin gave the guys he was with a thumbs up, then he gave one to Dave.
An hour later, the first car pulled up. Austin directed one of the guys to help that car and the people exited and the man drove off with the car. A minute later, he returned. This continued for a while and at one point, Sunita pulled up and Austin took her car as she brought a box of lemon-flavored Polvorones. Dave worked his way throughout the house, greeting his guests and giving directions on what to do. People were getting their cookies and few of the earlier patrons started to make their way out of the house to the valet stand. Dave made sure that they each received a box before they left.
Half the people had already left before Sunita made her way to Dave and told him to be ready. It was only seconds later that Dave saw the statuesque figure of Scott Francis. He immediately went over to the litigator.
“Thank you for coming,” Dave said with a nervous voice. ‘I didn’t think you would make it.”
‘I normally don’t go to events,” Scott Francis said. “But homemade cookies are a weakness of mine and they’re nearly impossible to have delivered.” Each word seemed carefully prepared before piercing through the air. “Would it be reasonable for myself to begin looking at what delicious snacks have been prepared?”
“Of course,” Dave said, and from behind Scott Francis the receptionist popped out with a box of obviously store-bought cookies. Mister Francis wasted no time going around to every available tray of cookies and broke a piece of one cookie and gave it a taste. When he pointed to a tray, the receptionist would grab one and place it in a box that seemed to appear from nowhere. He made his way around every available batch of cookies and took more than his share. Wasting no time, Scott Francis began to make his way back to the front door.
Dave almost missed him. But before he made it to the valet stand, Dave made it outside with two boxes. He handed one to Scott Francis and the other to his receptionist. Francis took his box and opened it immediately. He broke off a piece, took a taste, and gave a disapproving shake of his head. His receptionist took the box with the crumbled cookie inside and handed it back to Dave. Then as Austin pulled up with their car, Scott Francis and his assistant climbed in and pulled away.
“Did he get it?” Austin asked with a touch of excitement in his voice.
“He did,” Dave said holding up the box, “but he didn’t keep it.”
“Wait!” Sunita shouted even though she was squatting down directly behind Dave. “You didn’t even give him the correct box. There’s no green dot on that one.”
“I know I had that box when I ran outside.” Dave said with disappointment in his voice now. “I must have given the box that was for him to his receptionist.”
Austin smiled at both Sunita and Dave before pressing his finger to his ear and whispering something into the lapel of his jacket. And in the near distance, a ball of fire lit up the sky.