Fruit Baskets Part Two
Date Unknown – Author Unknown
The basket with the note in it really got the attention of the secret service. It was discovered by cleaning staff and removed before it could be seen by Jackie Kennedy. That fourth basket marked the beginning of almost four decades of effort by the service to identify the individuals responsible for delivering the fruit baskets. Records were searched, security was tightened, and some of the greatest forensic examiners of the time were consulted. And, pardon the pun, all these efforts proved fruitless. The baskets appeared at varying intervals, always in the Lincoln Bedroom. They always contained the exact same varieties of fruit, all of the highest quality, and always in season, regardless of the time of year. The baskets always appeared while the room was empty, even if it was left unattended for no more than a few minutes.
There were no fingerprints to be found on the baskets, or their contents. There was in fact no physical evidence to suggest that the baskets had not merely sprung into existence fully formed. First it was interesting, then it was frightening, then it was a state secret. The staff who had seen the baskets were slowly replaced, the rumors were discredited, and the records were sealed. To everyone outside the service, the baskets were wiped from the pages of history as suddenly as they had appeared. This secret was kept most of all from the first family. It simply would not do for the President to learn that the most competent security force of the most powerful nation in the world could not secure a room against a regular delivery of fruit. For the next eight years, two months after the previous basket had appeared, the service would regularly check the Lincoln bedroom between the hours of dusk and dawn, catching the basket before anyone else could. Eventually, after nearly eight years and thirty-one baskets, an agent was assigned to watch the room full time. This agent was the late James Francis Bell.
James Bell was, despite his position in the United States Secret Service, a remarkably ordinary fellow. He was born in 1934, tolerated his schooling, loved his country, and worshiped the memory of FDR. He ended up in the secret service not through any internal impetus or uncommon effort, but by the vagaries of fate and the friends of his father. In short, he was as average a man as can could be expected to be tasked with guarding a world leader. It was this overwhelming lack of interest or talent that landed Special Officer Bell with the unenviable task of guarding a generally empty room against hostile baskets.
When, after four months of continuous observation, a basket appeared on his bathroom break, Special Officer Bell took it rather personally. He astonished his supervisors by displaying, for perhaps the very first time in his life, an actual interest in his duty. He never allowed the room out of his sight for the next three months. He delivered reports at his post, and refused to sleep or relieve himself unless a replacement could be secured to watch the room. The basket appeared anyway, this time inside of a closed wardrobe. And Bell took it extremely personally, treating this eighth basket was the very physical avatar of all that was evil in the world.
For the next half decade, Bell organized an increasingly effective system of surveillance. Special Officers made random patrols through empty rooms, doors were given unobtrusive seals to keep track of when they were entered. It was completely ineffective. The baskets appeared in increasingly bizarre places, in bathtubs, beneath sinks, atop canopies. It was impossible to watch the entire house without alarming the ordinary stuff and the first family. And the increasingly worried and frightened leadership of the service steadfastly refused to even consider admitting the existence of the baskets to the President. To do so would be tantamount to admitting they could not hope to secure the White House against an unknown intruder.
This growing atmosphere of paranoia and insecurity culminated in the 1972 purchase of a system of security cameras that would cover the entire White House. Video surveillance was a relatively new technology at the time, and the cost of storing video for the entire house was almost prohibitive. The tapes were reviewed and wiped each night by whatever junior agent had the misfortune of being on his superior’s shitlist at the time. Or Officer Bell, if he was on shift. And sometimes when he wasn’t.
It wasn’t until 7 months, and three baskets, later that video surveillance bore fruit. At 3:14 am on January 7th, 1973, Lincoln Bedroom Camera #3 captured a short clip of a basket being delivered. A blurry figure crosses into the frame from a part of the room not covered by the camera. The figure wearing some sort of cloak, but clearly either a very small man or a child, crosses the screen, lays a basket produced from beneath it’s cloak on the bed, then turns and walks back out of the frame. The service spared no effort or expense in the analysis of this short video, the first real evidence they’d ever had in the matter of the baskets. All they determined was that there was no way the figure could have entered from the angle the camera suggested he did, at least not without being able to walk through walls. And that the figure was probably a short, young, effeminate, European man with long hair. And there was some dispute on that second fact, settled only by the certainty of senior officers that a girl in her early teens wasn’t regularly breaking into the White House.
In short, the video was all but worthless, though it did help some agents remind themselves that they weren’t crazy.
The service attempted to gather more information on the figure in the cloak for four more years. The baskets continued being delivered on schedule during that time. Usually the cloaked figure dropped them off, though several other “figures” were eventually seen. They included the well dressed man, the man dressed like a priest, and the woman in a mourner’s dress. White House rumor suggests that one was in fact delivered by a figure who bore a remarkable resemblance to traditional tales of the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. I regret to say that I have not personally seen this video, and so am unable to corroborate this fact.
After four years of fruitless surveillance, there were many who regarded the videos and baskets as some sort of internal prank. Officer James Bell, did not share that opinion. During the 2nd week of July in 1976, Officer Bell reportedly claimed he was coming close to discovering the identity of the person or persons responsible for “Making a mockery of the sanctity of our nation’s highest office.”
The body of Special Officer James Bell was found on the morning of June 11th, 1976. Officially, James Bell was killed in a hit and run accident after finishing his shift the preceding day. Unofficially, Officer Bell was discovered some four hours after his death, in the Lincoln Bedroom. He was found standing over the bed, his wrists tied to the top of the front canopy poles with scraps from the curtains. All of Bell’s fingers and toes were removed, all of his toes and nine of his fingers were found scattered around the room. His eyes were gouged out sloppily and placed inside of a nearby vase. Bell’s chest had been cracked open, his ribs pried outwards, and his intestines were tied to the bedposts. On the far wall, facing the eyeless Bell, two words were written in his blood.
Every camera in the building had been wiped clean. The baskets were no longer generally regarded as an internal prank.
Three months later, a basket appeared at the foot of the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. It contained two dozen bing cherries, three blood oranges, thirty five red grapes, five red-delicious apples, and four slices of red grapefruit. Another note was attached, lodged between two apples. It read as follows.
You don’t want to know. But you should never forget.