The Severed Head: Part 4

by

Terran Boylan

 

The thing about microwave burritos is that they're the kind of food that you don't really have to think about very much. People in general have very different ideas about food and in their early years they form a certain relationship with food. This is not something people necessarily think about very much, but it forms the basis for a number of diet programs. There are not, as of this writing, any published diets based around microwave burritos, but perhaps it's only a matter of time before there are.

Some people love food and take great delight in trying different kinds of food. For some, variety of food is important. For others, however, eating is just a necessary evil and they are the kind of people who would gladly subsist on "food pills," as described in many 1950's science fiction novels and short stories.

Henry fell quite soundly in the category of people who didn't really need or even want dietary variety. Sure, he occasionally craved a pizza or take -home sweet and sour pork from the cheap Chinese fast food restaurant, but for the most part he ate the same things over and over. For him, simplicity was key. He wanted food he didn't have to think about. That's why he ate microwave burritos every day at lunch.

The freezer in the Mighty Games cafeteria was always kept well stocked with a variety of "easy foods," including frozen burritos. This was an employee perk and, in addition to the catered lunches on Fridays, was one of the benefits of working at MGI.

Henry generally went to the cafeteria at about a quarter to twelve. He did this to beat the "noon rush." Opened the freezer door and took out the steak and cheese burrito, opened the wrapper, slid the burrito onto a paper plate and opened the microwave door. He was quite surprised to find the severed head inside.

Henry didn't freak out exactly. He didn't lose control of his body and drop his burrito or anything. Actually, one of the first thoughts he had before vomiting was that the burrito he'd unwrapped was going to go to waste, since he would obviously not be using the microwave.

Within a half hour, the microwave and the area surrounding the microwave was considered a "crime scene." The police arrived on the scene. Because of the large number of people who worked in the Mighty Games building it was not possible to question everyone. And so they limited their subjects to anyone who had been in or near the cafeteria within the hour preceding Henry's grisly (life-altering?) discovery at approximately 11:45am CST.

The police were able to ascertain that the last person to use the microwave before Henry had done so at somewhere between 10am and 10:15am and had used it to heat up a bowl of instant oatmeal as a nutritious part of a somewhat late breakfast. This gave the killer a full hour and a half window to enter the Mighty Games building and leave his little surprise for Henry to find.

MGI had a security system that was based on badges that the employees carried with them. The comings and goings of these badges were recorded by a data-recording device that was connected to the security system. They had only needed to access these records on a couple of occasions before, both due to short-lived periods of equipment theft. The data-recording device was a stand-alone system, but it could be connected (via a serial cable) to a portable computer and the data could be reviewed. The facilities director and one of the production assistants transferred the data that had been collected that day and, since it was compact in size, copied it to a floppy disc, which they gave the police detective in charge. They told the police they would be more than happy to cooperate with the investigation in any way they could.

The raw data, unfortunately, revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The traffic into and out of the MGI building was quite heavy. There was no evidence to suggest the killer was an employee of MGI. The FBI profile had certainly indicated that it would be unlikely that the killer was employed in a professional capacity. But of course criminal profiling was only a high-tech tool. It was not an exact science.

And what effect did all this have on Henry, the burrito-eating man who had found the head in the first place? Although he had felt perfectly calm at the time immediately after his grisly discovery, he would find that his appetite for microwave burritos would never quite be the same, and he began to eat his lunches instead at the nearest Burger King, where he ate the number three value meal with a large fries and a Diet Coke more or less every day.