Troy was a frog-like man. He looked like a frog. His repulsiveness was worsened by his eerily nonchalant mannerisms and the fact that he smelled like an old litter box. This made Carl uncomfortable. But Troy was a prominent therapist and the other four participants were putting their slips of paper in the box. He figured he would too.
"Many of us are burdened by secrets. After years of carrying these burdens, we can feel depressed. We must give up these burdens to feel happy again. Yes, we must share our bitterest secrets. By the end of this retreat, I hope we will be able to talk about our secrets openly and without shame." Troy used his fingers to put quotation marks around the word secrets. "For now, we'll stick with anonymity."
Troy shook the secret-filled breadbox and pulled out a slip of paper, "I spend more money than I make so that the neighbors will think I'm better off than them," he read. He tilted his head as if in deep thought and then said, "These are the secrets that keep us down. We must come out from under them." His fat, sweaty hand into the breadbox again.
"People think I've stopped lying. I'm just better at it." He nodded, "Good." He pulled another secret out.
"I am a murderer."
Troy nodded and looked around the room. The air suddenly felt heavier than it had before. Troy leaned forward as if he were going to confide one of his secrets to the group, "Let's just hope he only has mosquito blood on his hands."
Troy smiled a big smile. No one else did. Carl stared at his clasped hands. His left thumb was over is right one. Dangling from his wrist was the watch his ex-wife had given him. It was a little too big now and was bouncing around his thin wrist. That's when he realized he was shaking.
"Okay, we're all here to help each other," Troy said, taking a step back, "Now, trust me. We're in a safe environment. I'll take good care of you and no one will get hurt."
But Carl knew he couldn't trust Troy the second he realized he smelled like aged cat excrement. "Can't hotel security just escort me to my room?" he asked. This was followed by a few people mumbling in agreement.
"I understand everyone's concern," Troy said, "so, I'll call hotel security. But we will reconvene tomorrow just as your schedule states. Remember, everyone deserves a chance to heal, even those with more" he paused searching for the right word, "uncomfortable secrets." Troy walked to the hotel phone on the nearby table and held the receiver up to his ear. "No dial tone," he said, "Anyone got a cell phone?"
A large African American woman stood up, "You said no cell phones. Remember?"
"Anger won't help anyone, Nanette," Troy said, furrowing his eyebrows, "We'll just all go up together."
Everyone got up and walked toward the closed door. Troy attempted to push it open. "Locked," he said.
"Well, unlock it," Nanette rolled her eyes, "You can always unlock doors from the inside of the room."
Troy twisted the lock and pushed again. The door didn't budge. He twisted again. Now he twisted it the other way. He started twisting with both hands.
"Let me try," Carl pushed Troy out of the way. Two minutes of fiddling with the lock later the door was still closed. Everyone took a try. Some took two or three tries.
"Someone just knock on it then." Nanette said. They knocked continually for nearly an hour, each taking a turn to pound on the door. No one heard them.
"Custodial will find us soon," Troy said. They sat and waited. No one talked. Every once in a while Carl would make eye contact with another retreat member. That's probably the killer. But he could never be sure. The only one who made him uncomfortable enough for him to suspect was Troy and, being the therapist, Troy didn't put in a secret in the breadbox.
The breadbox. Where was it? Carl scanned the room. Of course, it was on the table where Troy had left it. Did it just move? Carl shook his head and looked again. The breadbox looked like it had moved just slightly. It shook again and then started floating above the table. As it floated, purple smoke came out of it.
Carl rubbed his eyes, "Troy?"
A giant purple genie had formed out of the smoke. He floated just above the breadbox and folded his arms over his broad chest. Where his legs should have been there was a cloud of dark purple smoke that connected the genie's torso to the breadbox.
Slowly, the genie floated toward Nanette. He blew a stream of smoke into her face. When the smoke stream, stopped and the whole room was still. Suddenly the genie took in a large breath of air. The room became cold and breathing became more difficult. Carl's peripheral vision was getting fuzzy but he knew he had to work his way to the breadbox. Perhaps breaking it would fix the problem. Now all his vision was becoming fuzzy. He blinked. He blinked again, this time shaking his head as well.
"Another breadbox? What'd he want in there?" Officer Johnson opened the breadbox Carl's hand was resting on and read the slips of paper inside. "Whadda these mean?" He handed six pieces of paper to Officer Song.
"Oh, I've heard of these things. Honesty clinics or something like that. Everyone shares their secrets. Or something like that; I don't really know." Officer Song opened a piece of paper, "I am a murderer," he read aloud.
"Dang. We found out who wrote that, we find out which of these dirt bags killed the other dirt bags." Officer Johnson spat on the floor.
Officer Song threw up his arms, "You'll ruin evidence."
Officer Johnson shrugged. He looked over his shoulder at the other bodies behind him. "Song, you think the guy running the clinic usually shares his secrets?"
"Dunno. Probably not."
"Then who wrote the sixth secret."
Johnson chuckled, "Something in the breadbox maybe."
"I'm sure it did," Song rolled his eyes and poked Carl's stomach with a pen, "Now, time to get serious, Johnson. Captain will kill you if you turn in another hokey report."
"Hey," Johnson stepped back and held up his hands, "I'm just saying this isn't the first breadbox in a crime scene like this. Gotta notice patterns."
Song stopped poking at Carl and looked up at Johnson, "Just start bagging evidence, mmkay?"
"Alright, alright," Johnson smiled, "But you bag the breadbox."