Harry Jensen ran a tight ship. She knew everything a human could know about appliances, including whether or not the light in the fridge stayed on when the door was closed.
One night, a few months back, exhausted by the ever-present, and massively stupid question, Harry plugged in a side-by-side Frigidaire, grabbed her cell phone, set the video to record, and stuck the damn thing inside the refrigerator. She opened and closed the door approximately fifty times. The result looked like a Lady Gaga video, but she successfully proved what she always believed.
The light went off when the door was closed.
Why wouldn't it?
Were vegetables afraid of the dark?
Harry, born Harriet Jean, something she'd like to have hacked her parents to bits for, and shoved them into a freezer, had a tough exterior. She ran a tight department, and things got done. Sure, she told stories over cocktails, about crazy customers, but didn't everyone?
Harry hadn't had a completely bat shit customer in some time.
That was about to change.
The morning passed without issue. Appliances were dusted, deliveries were arranged, and one customer asked about the light in the fridge. Harry whipped out the video, like she always did, and the customer looked at her like she was David Copperfield.
"I would have thought it stayed on," the man had said.
"Why?" Harry asked.
"Just made sense," the man had replied.
It didn't make sense, but then again, a lot of what happened in retail didn't make much sense at all, and that thought, that very philosophy was about to be proven by a middle-aged woman, with a horrid dye job, and a sense of style that made Ada MacKenzie look like a geriatric fashion model.
Harry spotted the customer from half a store away. It wasn't hard to do. The woman had bleached blond hair that looked like it would fracture if someone touched it. She wore a leopard print scarf, a paisley jacket, and plaid pants. It was the fashion disaster of the century, and Harry forced herself to breathe deeply, and avert her eyes, just enough, as the woman approached.
"I need to have a carpet cleaned!" the woman screamed, and Harry jumped.
"I'm right here, ma'am," Harry replied. "You don't need to yell."
"I'm sorry. I don't see well," the woman said. "You looked further away."
Six hours separated Harry from a two-day break. She had a feeling she was really going to need it after she finished up with this whack job.
"You said something about carpet cleaning?" Harry asked.
"I have a stain," the woman whined.
"A stain? Of what particular kind?" Harry asked.
"The dead kind."
"I beg your pardon, ma'am?" Harry said.
"Someone died on my carpet, and crapped all over."
"Dear God. I'm so sorry," Harry offered with compassion.
"Thank you. It's a lovely rug," the woman replied.
I am standing face to face with a complete sociopath. Harry pondered this for a moment, as the woman toyed with her ugly scarf.
"How can I help you?" Harry asked.
"I need something to remove the stain, and I'd like to clean the sofa too, so I'll need some hand tools, but I can't get Ralph off the sofa, and the old bastard never bathed, so maybe I could get something to clean him too, while he's parked there."
Harry felt herself go pale. "Ma'am, this is a bit beyond the scope of my job, but shouldn't you call someone to remove the body?"
"Oh, Ralph ain't dead. Carolyn was dead. They already came and got her. Just in the knick of time, too. If I had to watch one more rerun of Criminal Minds, I was gonna kill her myself."
"Are these people friends of yours?" Harry asked.
"Distant cousins. I was rather hoping Ralph would kick it, too, but I checked right before I left. He's still breathing."
Five hours and forty-five minutes. I am not going to live through this, Harry surmised.
"Ma'am, I am not sure what you'd like me to do," Harry offered.
"I'd like you to help me pick out a cleaner that would clean up Carolyn's crap, and give Ralph a good scrubbing. If I have to replace that rug and sofa, there's gonna be hell to pay. It's nice stuff. You could probably have guessed that by how I'm dressed."
"That very thought was going through my mind, ma'am," Harry said, wishing she'd been kidnapped and stuffed in the trunk of her car at the Dunkin Donuts drive thru, just before dawn. Anything would have been better than this.
Harry grabbed her phone. "Reeve Stockwell, please come to the appliance department for customer service," Harry paged.
Stockwell didn't come.
He was tied up elsewhere.
Harry Jensen checked her watch again. Five hours and forty minutes remaining. No way she was going to survive.
From a distance, she saw the lanky form of Miles Longworth. Harry was about to do what she did best.
Reeve Stockwell stared into the cardboard box at his feet.
"What the hell?" he whispered.
He scanned the area. He was still alone. Thoughts of another career in a parallel life, a career in which Stockwell was an FBI agent, picked at his mind. Six matching items filled the box. He lifted one free, and held it in his hands.
He had no idea why it was in an unmarked box in Tommy's receiving department, but Stockwell allowed himself a moment, just a moment, to slip through a worm hole, into that other life, that life where he was the man he imagined himself to be.
"Stockwell. Reeve Stockwell," Stockwell whispered, holding the weapon in his hands, and carefully stalking an invisible perpetrator.
Stockwell heard Harry Jensen's page, but he ignored it. He was busy. Somebody else was gonna have to lug a chest freezer. Stockwell had perps to apprehend.
He panned across the receiving bay. A single refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, stood before him.
"Drop your weapon," Stockwell whispered.
The refrigerator remained silent.
"Drop your weapon or I'll shoot," Stockwell said, louder this time. He was still alone, and the forklifts droned on, drowning out any words he might speak.
The plastic on the fridge shifted, and Stockwell jumped a bit. "Do that again, and I WILL shoot you," Stockwell said to the unarmed appliance.
Stockwell's phone chirped, and he lost his grip on the weapon. It hit the floor and fired six, maybe eight times, narrowly missing the special order refrigerator. Stockwell screamed, his voice disappearing into the sound of power equipment being operated two aisles away.
His body slick with sweat, he grabbed the weapon, shoved it back into the box, shoved the box back under the rack where he'd found it, and reached for the package of oreos.
Kitty Richardson found him thirty minutes later, holding the empty package.
"Reeve?" Kitty said, kneeling beside her boss. "You all right?"
"Go away, Kitty," Stockwell slurred.
"What's wrong? What happened? What did you take?"
"These," Stockwell said, holding the empty oreo packaging, which shook and rattled in his right hand.
"All of them," Stockwell admitted.
"Why? What happened?"
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," Stockwell said.
Stockwell took a deep breath, and prepared to tell Kitty everything.