Reeve Stockwell and Miles Longworth crept from their hiding places in the electrical aisle. JJ Patricks stood over them. Stockwell screamed when he saw her, hood up, cadaver still.
“Aargh!” Stockwell screamed.
“Sissy,” Longworth whispered.
“Mr. Stockwell. I believe the situation is under control .” JJ murmured so softly a dog couldn't have heard her.
“Could you speak in a tone meant for human ears?” Longworth suggested, and JJ stared at him. She turned on her heel and shuffled away. “She is weird as shit,” Miles Longworth mumbled and Stockwell turned toward him.
“We generally grade on a curve here. Kitty. Case and point,” Stockwell commented.
“Speaking of Kitty,” Miles Longworth said, and both he and Stockwell stood. “She's just had a meltdown. Should we call someone?”
Stockwell ignored him, and strolled with purpose to where Kitty sat at a discount patio set. Before he could say a word, Ada and Helen burst through the exit doors. “Sweet Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints, please let them be a result of some brain aneurysm,” Kitty prayed, with her hands folded. “Please don't let them be real.”
“Stella! Why didn't you answer your phone?” Ada screamed. It was obvious she'd misplaced her hearing aid again.
“Grandma, I was too busy being held at gunpoint,” Kitty groaned, and Ada covered her hands with her mouth.
“Seriously?” Ada said, when she'd recovered. Helen shook her head but remained quiet.
“Yes,” Kitty whispered.
“Where's the gunman?” Ada asked.
“Gone,” Stockwell said, joining the conversation.
“Are you sure it wasn't this high-strung fella holding the gun?” Ada asked, pointing at Stockwell.
“That's rude,” Stockwell griped.
“Not so much. You're always saying you want to kill people,” Kitty said softly.
“I suppose you've got me there,” Stockwell commented.
“Ooohhhh, is this the gun here?” Ada asked, strolling to the checkout where the gun lay.
“Do NOT touch that,” Stockwell yelled.
“I'll just put it in my evidence bag,” Ada said, and suddenly everyone was watching Ada, JJ Patricks included.
“You have an evidence bag?” Miles Longworth asked.
“Never go anywhere without it,” Ada said. “She popped the gun in the clear evidence bag, walked it over to Customer Service, and laid it on the phone operator's desk. Quincy Warner had resigned from her position the week before to pursue a career in the circus, and the desk was presently vacant. “No one touch that,” Ada suggested, and everyone nodded in unison, so much so it was like the Hallelujah Chorus of head movement. “Now I'll dust for prints,” Ada said, and Helen was on the move.
“Oh no you don't, you old bat. You collected evidence, I will dust for prints,” Helen yelled.
“I have the face powder, and the brush,” Ada said.
Helen reached for Ada's purse, and Ada swung it wide. It connected with the side of Helen's head. Hard.
“Jesus, Grandma,” Kitty shrieked, rising so quickly she knocked two chairs and one Alejandro to the ground.
“I want to live with them,” Alejandro said. “Looks like a riot.”
Helen grabbed the purse, and Ada fell to her knees. Her teeth came loose, skittered across the floor, and came to rest in front of Alejandro's knees. The young man regarded them for only a moment, scooped them up, and rose to his feet. He offered a hand to Ada, who took it appreciatively.
“You're a sweet boy for coming to an old lady's rescue,” Ada said, with a significant toothless lisp. She brushed off the bottom of her flowered overalls and leered at Helen.
“I should have eaten you after you were born,” Ada growled and Helen sneered at her.
“And people wonder why I want to shoot myself,” Kitty whispered.
“I believe these are yours, Ma'am,” Alejandro said in a deep southern drawl. He tipped a hat he wasn't wearing. Ada took the teeth and popped them into her mouth. “I'd very much like to dust for prints, if you'd let me be of assistance.”
“I suppose we could,” Helen said, rubbing her cheek. It was beet red, and had a slight impression of a designer knock-off emblem in it, that in twenty-four hours would become a blue bruise surrounding the letters PRADO.
“I guess someone needs to dust and someone needs to lift the prints. Could we use packing tape?” Alejandro asked, and Helen's eyes lit up.
“Kitty can get us tape,” Helen said. “I'll be in charge of lifting.”
“And I'll do the dusting,” Ada said.
“And I'll just stand here and be the Ada and Helen whisperer,” Alejandro said very softly, and Kitty smiled weakly at him .
Suddenly there was a squawking from a radio on Quincy's desk. It was a storm radio that Sonny Brooks was required to leave at Customer Service.
“This is the Emergency Broadcasting System. The apocalypse is upon us. Grab your Rolling Rocks and head for high ground,” Alejandro mused, and Stockwell glared at him.
“Pipe down. This could be serious,” Stockwell reprimanded.
“The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the following areas....”
Everyone fell silent as several counties were listed, including the county in which Tommy's Tool Town was located.
“I'll be,” Ada said, as all fingerprint lifting activities were forgotten. "And I was planning to do some shopping. Need a replacement bunny for that nice Stella.”
Kitty went pale.
“Gran, I'm Stella. What did you do to my bunny?” Kitty said, looking shaken.
“Oh, shit,” Ada whispered.
“What happened, Gran?” Kitty demanded.
“Well, I was putting those dogs out, and one of them had your bunny. I figured the poor raggedy thing needed a bath so I plopped it in the washer with Helen's unmentionables.”
“And?” Kitty whispered.
“It disintegrated,” Ada mumbled.
“Oh, my God! You killed Ella Bunny?” Kitty shrieked.
“I wouldn't say it was murder. It was more bunny laundering,” Ada said defensively.
Slick Mitchell entered the store with the gunman in tow. Mags followed closely behind, with a Johnny Depp lookalike by her side.
“Mother of God,” Kitty said, crossing herself. He was THAT good looking.
The gunman was all but forgotten until he spoke. “So, you decided not to shoot yourself, eh? You crazy fruitcake.”
“Is this the guy who held you at gunpoint?” Ada asked in a stern voice.
“Yes, Gran,” Kitty mumbled.
Ada hauled off and kicked the gunman's shin with all her might. The gunman howled, and grabbed his leg. “Asshole,” Ada mumbled, and even Helen cracked a smile.
“All right, people,” Slick Mitchell said. “This is serious. We are in the path of the tornado. We need everyone to assemble in the break room. It is the safest place in the store. Stockwell, please lead the way. Longworth, gather all the emergency flashlights. If anyone, customer's included, needs to use a restroom, we'll be passing them on our way to the break room. Please be brief. Don't take a magazine or a newspaper. We don't have that kind of time.”
No one laughed. The mood was somber.
Even Johnny Depp was forgotten.
Two minutes later everyone was assembled in the break room. Ada and Helen stood one on each side of Kitty. “I hope my babies will be all right,” Kitty whispered, and Ada slipped her hand in her granddaughter's.
“God will take care of them. There is a special God for children, drunks, and rescue pets. I think he looks after the rescuers, too.” Ada winked, and Kitty smiled weakly, then wrinkled her nose.
“I was afraid of that,” Ada said, as someone coughed.
“Gran, did you do that?” Kitty whispered.
“My sincere apologies. The catholic church had holupki today, and I've got the bowels of a very old woman. I'm rethinking the second helping.”
“Dear Lord, mother,” Helen groaned.
“Can't even blame it on the dogs,” Ada said, and Alejandro laughed.
Thunder interrupted with a massive voice, and its power shook Tommy's on its foundation. The endless rumble was followed by the sound of a freight train. Ada whispered, “the Lord is my Shepherd....” as everything went black.