Little Collectibles


By David Wright



It began with a toy, something from her childhood that over the course of time had appreciated in value past the point of all reason. To put it bluntly, the nerdy little geek behind the counter wanted a hundred dollars for a Star Trek doll that cost $9.95 in 1974.

"Are you crazy?"

"But it's Mr. Spock."

"I don't care who it is. A hundred dollars is a lot of money."

Eleanor examined the shrink-wrapped package, weighing the object in her little hands.

"Not really. It's a rare collectible, only 5000 ever made. And besides, I used to watch this show every day when I was a child. It brings back good memories. That has to be worth something."

She gave Darren her most winning, child-like grin, something that used to melt his heart like butter when they were first dating. But after thirty years of marriage, it only irritated him.

"Do what you like, but I'm not paying for it. If you want it, you pay for it."

Eleanor studied Mr. Spock intently. He was sure she would drop it. He was wrong.

"I'll take it," she said eagerly, and the geek behind the counter grinned.

This was the beginning of the end as far as Darren was concerned. Now that Eleanor had the Enterprise's most famous Vulcan science officer, she would not rest until she had the entire bridge crew, right down to the red-shirted security officer who was killed half-way through the first season.

But her obsession didn't stop with Star Trek action figures. She soon expanded into other collectible toys as well — Sailor Moon dolls, Wacky Packages, the Simpsons Pogs, Aliens and Predator figurines, many still in their original packaging. The bedroom became a cluttered warehouse of Santa's forgotten toys.

After three months of this insanity, it was time for an intervention.

"Honey, you know I love you, but this has got to stop. You're out of control."

Eleanor took her husband's hand and looked into his eyes. She had the deepest brown eyes, like little pools of muddy water.

"But it makes me feel good, Darren. And ever since mom died..." She left the sentence unfinished, but her point was made. She'd dropped the "dead mom" card and Darren would have to be a complete cad to push her after that.

He squeezed her hand tenderly. "I know, dear. But it's just that your stuff is everywhere."

She glanced down at the piles of boxes in their shining, plastic, shrink wrap, and sighed.

"You're right, dear. I'll try to do something about it."

Her solution was not what Darren expected. By the time he came home from the lab the next evening, his living room had been transformed into a virtual museum of 20th century memorabilia.

Gone were his grandmother's antique cupboards with their hand-embroidered lace doilies, the 100-year-old oak piano and the 24 by 30 inch framed wedding photo. In their place stood four massive glass cases like the ones used to display the crown jewels in the Tower of London. Except, there were no jewels in these cases, only toys.

"What on earth is this?"

"The bedroom is yours!" she declared enthusiastically.

Darren shook his head in exasperation.

"Not that. This." He pointed to the living room.

"Oh that," she said, dismissing the question with a derisive snort and a wave of her hand. "I ordered some new furniture from IKEA to display my little collectibles."

That's what she called them, her "little collectibles." The salesman who thought up that slogan must have been a genius. Take an old toy that even a child won't play with anymore because it's too out of date, slap the words "little collectible" on the front of the package and then charge ten-times the original price. Genius!

"Look, honey. I appreciate all the work you've put into this, but this isn't going to work. We simply can't afford this kind of expense for your hobbies."

Eleanor bristled at the mention of money.

"We? What we? I paid for all this with my own money out of my own account, just like you said."

Darren was baffled.

"You did? How? Surely you can't afford all this." He gestured towards the jewelry cases with their expensive, albeit useless, merchandise.

"Mother left me a little something in her will. But that's none of your business. You wanted me to pay for my own hobby and I am. End of story."

But that wasn't the end. Eleanor went on shopping, combing through every toy store, comic shop and collecting card dealership within a hundred-mile radius. She learned how to use the internet which broadened her reach a thousand-fold. She became an expert in her field, hosting on-line chat sites and local conventions. She even quit her part-time job at the post office to devote herself full-time to her meaningless hobby.

Meanwhile, Darren still put in forty-hour work weeks at a job he despised and faced another ten years of the same until his retirement, or his death, whichever came first.

Needless to say, he was at the end of himself.

He thought about staging a robbery and selling off the worthless toys to the highest bidder. He wasn't too concerned about how much he could get for them, as long as they were gone. But as it turned out, the IKEA jewelry cases were not only climate-controlled, dust-resistant and LED back-lit by automatic timer, but also bullet-proof, shatter-proof and laser-alarm protected. Nothing short of a stick of dynamite would crack those babies open, and not without causing considerable damage to his living room.

Next he considered divorce, but that would do little to improve his situation either. Not only had he demanded separate bank accounts when they first married thirty years ago, but an iron-clad pre-nup as well. Eleanor was his second wife. His first had taken him to the cleaners in the divorce. And there was no way he was going to let another woman take his hard-earned cash, unless she pried it from his cold, dead hands.

So where had Eleanor's spending money come from? As far as he knew, old Mrs. Cranmeyer, Eleanor's eccentric mother, had nothing but a few stray cats and a shoebox full of old stamps when she died. Hardly a windfall. Like her daughter, she had been a collector — a collector of worthless junk.

But was that all she had? Was sweet little Eleanor hiding something from him?

He waited until his wife was off on one of her many road trips to the toy store before digging into her files. She had kept every bill and every receipt since the beginning of time piled up like kindling on her desk and in her drawers. She even had a stack of movie stubs from every movie they had ever seen together over the past thirty years. Some people might think this romantic, but Darren just found it frustrating.

Just more paper to push through.

He would have to be careful to put everything back just the way he found it. Although the receipts may have appeared to be filed in no particular order, his wife had an eidetic memory when it came to her own junk. Nevertheless, after several hours of meticulous but careful digging, he found what he was looking for — a check stub from the Philately Foundation of America made out to Eleanor Ward in the amount of $200,000. Apparently old Mrs. Cranmeyer's stamps were worth a lot more than Darren had guessed.

So Eleanor was keeping something from him — a whole lot of money. But what did it matter? Thanks to his iron-clad pre-nup, he would never see a penny of that money — not unless he pried it from his wife's cold, dead hands. And he could never do that, never.

Over the next few months, Darren said nothing more about his wife's ever-expanding catalogue of little collectibles, and certainly nothing about her enormous windfall. Instead he seemed content to while away the evening watching his wife at work in her elaborate toy workshop.

Eleanor had added curator to her list of hobbies, and often spent long hours repairing and refurbishing old toys for future display in her toyland museum. But lately, she had not been feeling well. Perhaps it was just a cold or a persistent case of the flu. Her delicate fingers shook as she struggled to apply just a pin-prick of dark red paint to Mr. Spock's lips with a paint brush the size of a needle.

After a few agonizing tries, she at last gave up, dropping the needle-sized brush onto the table. Pushing aside her head-mounted magnifying glass, she glanced up at her husband and sighed.

"I just can't get my hands to work properly anymore."

Darren shrugged.

"Why don't you give it a rest. I don't know why you do it at all." He wanted to say more — how she was wasting her time with this stuff, and her money — but he'd been down this road a hundred times before.

Eleanor gazed down at Mr. Spock lovingly and then smiled.

"They tell a story, you know, each one of them. Most of us just forgot how to listen. Long after we're dead, buried and long forgotten, Mr. Spock here will keep on telling his story to whomever will listen, probably to children. It's almost like he's alive." She laughed. "He is alive."

Darren shook his head sadly. Maybe it was the sickness talking. Or maybe she'd just never gotten over her mother's death. Whatever the case, one thing was certain. His wife of thirty years had finally lost her mind.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving now."

"What? So soon? I thought we were going to have some quality time together before you go."

Quality time? Is that what she called these past few months? Him working like a dog and her just playing with her foolish toys?

Eleanor's eyes opened wide and Darren could see how bloodshot they'd become. He found it hard to look at them, and turned away.

"Yes. I have to drop by the lab on my way to the airport. I'll be back in a few days," he said quickly as he walked out the door. And that was that. No kiss good bye. No fond farewells. After thirty years of marriage, it was over.

Eleanor died the next day of natural causes. Darren had his alibi. He was in Bangkok at a pharmaceutical conference at the time of her death. He rushed home for the funeral, like the devoted husband he was, and after a week, Eleanor's small circle of family and close friends forgot all about him.

There was no autopsy. Why would there be? The small drops of radioactive uranium glucides that Darren had carefully and methodically added to Eleanor's paint supplies over the past few months were virtually undetectable unless you really looked. And nobody was looking.

Or so Darren thought.

He walked into the living room, his wife's monstrous museum of little collectibles, and a thousand little painted eyes glared out at him from their transparent, bullet-proof cases.

"Murderer!" they said in silent accusation, and for a second, Darren almost thought he heard them.

"I'll deal with you tomorrow," he said aloud, but the experience was so unsettling that he hurried up to his bedroom, his one safe sanctuary in a house gone mad, and closed the door.

Tomorrow he would meet with the lawyers and read the will. Tomorrow he would get his $200 000, or what was left of it after Eleanor's three-month shopping spree. Tomorrow he would get Eleanor's key to those indestructible cases and get rid of those cursed toys forever.

It was well past midnight when he awoke again — awoke, but did not move.

"Darren Ward, you have been brought before this court to stand trial for the murder of your loving wife of thirty years, Eleanor Ward. How do you plead?"

His arms and legs were bound tightly with electrical tape, his head and torso tied to a chair with thick, sharp wire that dug into his skin.

"How do you plead?"

The living room was dark, obscuring the speaker, but the voice was somehow familiar, not a friend or associate, but familiar just the same.

"What's going on? What are you talking about?"

"How do you plead!?!" the voice insisted.

"Not guilty. I didn't do anything. I don't know what you're talking about."

"Call forth the first witness."

The lights came on, or at least one light came on, a single LED spotlight above a single action figure in a tall, bullet-proof, display case.

"Mr. Spock, do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?"

"I respond in the affirmative," the action figure said with cool efficiency.

And so the trial began.

One by one, Eleanor's little collectibles, so beloved by their curator, stepped, jumped or flew into the little circle of LED light, and one by one each told his, her or its story.

The hideous toy aliens had seen him digging through Eleanor's private files and uncovering the check for $200,000. This provided the court with motive. The Pogs and Wacky Packages, with their cute cartoon faces and warped, juvenile sense of humor, had seen him book the airline tickets, but not before he'd brought home the uranium poison from his pharmaceutical lab. This provided both means and opportunity.

But the most damning evidence came from the bridge crew of Star Trek and Mr. Spock who not only tested Eleanor's paint pigments for traces of uranium, but also personally witnessed Darren administering the lethal dosage to the red pigment. He was caught both literally and figuratively red handed.

Blast that green-blooded, Vulcan, science officer!

"Darren Ward, you have been found guilty of murder in the first degree. Do you have any final words?"

"I didn't do it," he screamed, tears flooding down his eyes. "Oh, why is this happening? This can't be happening."

"The sentence for your crime is..."

Darren's screams drowned out the verdict, and the little LED spotlight went out. He was trapped in a dark room filled with hideous, vengeful creatures. He felt the terror overwhelm his senses. He called for help, screamed like a frightened girl, pleaded desperately for mercy.

When the little light came back on, he was looking at a six-inch-tall Darren Ward, an exact, plastic, toy-version of himself.

And then it came to him — the disembodied voice that had seemed so familiar. Of course it was familiar, because it was his own, only smaller and slightly higher in pitch, like a toy's voice. All this time, throughout this whole nightmare, he had been trying his own murder case as a six-inch, plastic, action figure.

He was mad, truly mad.

When the police showed up at his house an hour later, they found him still sitting in the living room raving like a madman. They had been alerted by an anonymous caller who had heard his screams and feared a robbery was in progress, but there was no signs of foul play — no helpless victim bound in wire and duct tape — only a bewildered, middle-aged widower raving like a madman.

He was still raving when they hauled him into the station for questioning. When he finally did calm down enough to make his confession, the detectives just shook their heads in disbelief.

"Funny."

"What? Killing his wife for money?"

"Not that." The lieutenant glanced up from his desk at his portly captain. "It's funny what people will spend their money on. His wife had like a million toys in that house. She even had a very life-like doll that looked exactly like her husband. That's where we found the poison he killed her with, almost like the toy was keeping it safe for us — you know, so we'd be sure to find it. Weird, huh?"

"Yeah, weird." The captain sipped his stale coffee. "So who gets all her money now that he's off to the loony bin?"

"That's the really funny part. She left all her money and toys to some museum in Seattle. The House of Little Collectibles, it's called."

"So even if he hadn't gone batty, he never would have seen a dime of his wife's money."

"Not a dime."

"Now that really is funny." He sipped his stale coffee again and frowned.


David Wright is a writer and teacher living on Canada's majestic west coast. He has a lovely wife, two sparkling daughters and 40 published short stories in a dozen magazines including Neo-opsis, MindFlights and eSteampunk. David's latest eNovels, CODENAME VENGEANCE, FLIGHT OF THE COSMONAUT and ELF LORD are available at Smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle.


Copyright 2014 David Wright. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


Return to Over My Dead Body! Online.