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What She Deserves

From the perspective of the police officer surveilling him, Mark Hampton looked like he was probably regretting purchasing a love potion.
The thin, blonde man was visibly struggling to remain interested while across the restaurant table, his wife eagerly promised him that she was willing to do anything--anything!--to make his upcoming birthday special. Did he want to take a day trip? A whole vacation? A second honeymoon?
"Say the word," the woman urged around a mouthful of spaghetti, "and I'll do it." She reached across the white linen tablecloth to grasp his hand. "You're worth it, Mark."
The man winced almost imperceptibly.
"I'm telling you, April," he said, "I just want to go out for a nice meal and spend the night with you. You don't owe me anything fancy. Hell, I almost forgot your birthday last year, remember?"
"Oh, never mind that," April replied, waving her fork airily and beaming at her husband. "I gave you a little nudge and it all worked out. You've been so busy! You deserve a break!" Mark forced a smile.
"Classic," muttered Clarissa Plymouth, a three-year veteran of the police department's Illicit Substances department. From her position in an adjoining booth, she could covertly listen to every word exchanged between the couple. These guys think they want a brainless, devoted bimbo hanging onto their every word until they gotta live with it all day, she thought dourly. Then they realize that women are more fun when they're allowed to think for themselves and have their own opinions.
There was a reason that possessing the drug known as "love potion" was a felony. Spiking a drink with a few drops could induce temporary feelings of powerful infatuation in an unsuspecting victim. A whole glass could make the effects permanent. Luckily, April didn't have the dilated pupils or flushed cheeks characteristic of someone under the influence of a permanent dose, but that didn't mean that Mark wouldn't try upping the dosage if he wasn't satisfied. Clarissa's source said that Mark had bought an entire bottle of the stuff.
When Clarissa arrested a love potion dealer the week before, she had been thrilled when he had sold out his customers, including Mark Hampton. Now if she could just catch him dosing his wife's drink, he'd be sunk.
"I need to use the bathroom, sweetheart."
Clarissa heard April drop her napkin to the table, rise, and plant a noisy kiss on Mark's cheek. The police officer pretended to be deeply involved in her bowl of soup when April walked past, then chanced shifting around to get a better look at Mark. If he was going to dose his wife, this was his moment.
Mark swallowed nervously and dipped into his bag, emerging with a small capped bottle. Clarissa exhaled and rose. Finally. If she had to listen to April's drug-induced fawning much longer, she was going to go insane.
"Mark Hampton. You are under arrest on suspicion of possession and usage of the Schedule 1 Narcotic known as 'love potion.' If you could--"
"No!" Mark recoiled, clutching the bottle closer to his chest with both hands. Clarissa squinted at the bottle. If she didn't know better, she could have sworn it was still full. "You can't take it," he said fiercely. "She needs this."
"Your wife deserves better than this," said Clarissa flatly, relaxing back onto her heels. That was a confession, more or less. Case closed.
"That's what I mean," Mark said. His gaze was feverish. He twisted off the lid of the bottle with an audible pop. It hadn't been opened yet.
Mark pressed the bottle to his own lips.
"She deserves this," he said, and before Clarissa could reach him and knock it away, he drained the bottle before her stunned gaze.
"Mark? What's wrong?" April had returned. She stared at her husband and the police officer opposite him, frozen midway through her fruitless lunge at the man.
When Mark turned to face April, his cheeks were flushed so brightly they glowed and his pupils were flooded wide-open.
"Nothing, sweetheart," he said, and leaned in to kiss her sweetly. "Nothing's wrong at all."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 8th, 2018
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