"Stockwell?" Miles Longworth said.
"Longworth?" Stockwell whispered.
"Busted," Kitty mumbled.
"What the hell are you doing?" Stockwell asked, hugging the box of guns to his chest.
"I might ask you the same," Longworth said, as a breeze lifted a wrinkled hundred-dollar bill from his hand, and the money took flight. "Drop the gun, Kitty," Miles suggested, and Kitty arched a brow at him and looked at Reeve Stockwell.
"You're still maintaining the position," Stockwell whispered.
"Oh," Kitty said, looking down at her hands. Sure enough, they were still folded to appear as if she were armed. She relaxed her fingers and shrugged. "I suppose this is what we call an impasse," Kitty added, looking at Stockwell, at Longworth, and then back at Stockwell. "Who's gonna speak first?"
"You," Stockwell said, holding Longworth's gaze.
"What the hell. I never could keep a darn secret, and this one's giving me more grey hair. All right, I'll spill it. I was out here one day, hiding from Mitchell and sneaking a cigar. I was bored, my mind miles away, and I was kicking at this here debris pile. Underneath the mess was an envelope of money. This money," Longworth said, and this time a fifty took off in the wind.
"And you kept it?" Kitty asked softly.
"Initially, I honestly thought I would, but this kind of thing picks at you, wakes you up in the middle of the night, and stops you dead in your tracks as you're lifting a piece of Mike's Mama's Pizza with extra cheese to your gaping mouth. This kind of a thing nags at you until your gut's in a knot, and you're carrying around Pepto like it was a lifeline. I've been trying to put this money back for days." Longworth hung his head and cleared his throat.
Stockwell just stared.
"Where did the money come from?" Kitty asked.
"I have absolutely no idea," Longworth replied. "Been wondering the same thing. I was out here poking around about a week back, after the store had closed, and this big black car shows up. I figured my number was up, I was about to buy the farm, kick the bucket, take a one-way ride to the pearly gates-"
"We get it," Kitty interrupted.
"Anyhow, the car did a one-eighty and sped away. I just about fainted," Miles Longworth said, being not quite truthful.
"Maybe it has something to do with this," Stockwell said, setting his box at Longworth's feet.
"What is it?" Longworth asked.
"Guns," Stockwell replied. Longworth went pale and shot Kitty a perplexed look. Kitty nodded.
"It's guns," Kitty whispered.
"Well hell's bells, where the heck did they come from?" Longworth asked.
"Receiving," Stockwell replied.
"We sell guns now?" Miles Longworth asked, regretting his words almost instantly.
Stockwell laughed. Kitty smiled.
"No," Kitty said. "We don't sell guns."
"I'd say something stinks around here, big time," Miles Longworth said.
"I'd say you're right," Stockwell said, feeling a surge of James Bond-ness surge through his veins.
"What do we do?" Kitty asked.
"I say we hide this stuff, and the three of us band together to see if we can figure this out. Maybe Mitchell's up to something hokey," Miles Longworth said.
Stockwell opened the box of guns, and Longworth looked inside. He whistled loudly. "Some good looking pieces," he said.
"You know guns?" Stockwell asked.
"No. I know remotes, and I channel surf. A lot. I get a little bit educated on just about everything, guns included," Longworth said, placing the money on top of the guns, and closing the box.
"Now what?" Kitty asked.
"We hide it," Stockwell said.
"Where?" Longworth asked.
"We could bury it," Kitty said.
"With what?" Longworth said.
"Well, if we went to the Garden Center, we'd have our choice of about one-hundred different shovels," Stockwell said, and Kitty giggled.
"And until we do this burying?" Stockwell asked.
"We can put the stuff in the back of my truck," Kitty said.
"What if someone sees it?" Stockwell asked.
"Who would see it? I go to work, I go home. I walk dogs, and shovel up perfectly round balls of kitty litter, and watch television. The last person in my Chevy was a mechanic. Who's gonna see the stuff?"
"She has a point," Longworth said.
"Well?" Kitty said, looking at Stockwell.
"Here," Stockwell said, handing Kitty the box. "Do not take your eyes off it."
"Do you expect me to sleep in my truck with it?" Kitty asked, and Longworth laughed.
"No. I expect we'll meet back here after the store closes, and bury it," Stockwell said.
Kitty sulked. There was a good Lifetime movie on at nine. She'd miss it playing James Bond with her boss. "Oh. Okay, boss."
Kitty disappeared around the side of the building, box in hand. Stockwell and Longworth stared at one another. Suddenly, Stockwell's phone rang, and both men jumped.
"Stockwell," Stockwell practically roared into the phone.
"Mr. Stockwell?" a small voice said, elongating each word until it sounded like "Meeesterrr Staaaackwelllll."
"Who is this?" Stockwell asked.
"JJ," the voice said.
"Holy crap," Stockwell whispered. Until that moment, JJ Patricks had never spoken to him. "You sound really far away, what's wrong?" Stockwell asked, feeling ridiculous. He didn't know how JJ normally sounded, so how did he know she sounded far away?
"I'm hiding," JJ said.
"Where and why?" Stockwell asked.
"I'm in the cabinet under my register," JJ mumbled.
"How the heck did you get in there?" Stockwell asked.
"I'm really small," JJ said.
She has a point.
"Why are you in there? Are you stuck?" Stockwell asked, and Miles Longworth arched a brow at him.
"We're being robbed," JJ whispered, and Stockwell stood suddenly straighter.
"Jeez, JJ. Why didn't you say so?" Stockwell nearly roared.
"I just did," JJ said defensively.
"What is going on?" Longworth asked, sounding anxious.
"We're being robbed," Stockwell said. "JJ, stay on the line. We're coming."
"We should get those guns," Miles said.
"Shit. Kitty's got 'em," Stockwell said.
"Life is all about timing, isn't it?" Miles asked, reaching for his phone. "I'll call 911."
Both men moved at a brisk jog, through Receiving, and into the bowels of Tommy's. When they got within ear shot of the front-end registers, both men stopped.
"Now what?" Stockwell asked.
"What?" a small voice whispered, and Stockwell jumped. He forgot JJ was still on the phone. "JJ, what can you see?" Stockwell asked, as years of watching FBI shows began to pay off.
"Darkness," JJ whispered.
"Terrific," Stockwell said. "What can you hear?"
"A man's heavy breathing," JJ said.
"Um, that's probably me," Stockwell said, rolling his eyes.
"Wait. Someone's yelling," JJ whispered.
"What did she say?" Longworth asked, getting fidgety.
"She said someone's yelling," Stockwell said.
"I hear it, too," Longworth replied.
Both men could hear a woman yelling. It sounded like Kitty.
Reeve Stockwell and Miles Longworth slunk down the Electrical aisle. They could see the hold-up in process. A young man stood at register thirteen, holding a gun. Penelope was the unlucky cashier, and she was obviously not enjoying herself. Kitty was standing beside her, yelling up a storm.
Stockwell and Longworth both crept toward the registers, on hands and knees. Finally, they could make out what Kitty was saying.
"Put that gun down, you are scaring my Penelope," Kitty raged.
The gunman did as asked, and then pointed the gun at Kitty.
"Shoot me," Kitty yelled, and Stockwell and Longworth both gasped. "Do it, you effing coward. Don't ask me what will happen if you do, because Helen and Ada will starve to death, arguing over who should get the last package of Ramen Noodles. Yup, just shoot me. I say it all the time, but today I absolutely mean it. I live with my mother and my grandmother, so you don't scare me. You know what scares me? When the smoke alarm goes off at four o'clock in the morning, and there's my ninety-nine year old grandmother in a sheer nightgown, no teeth, hair like she's been through a hurricane, asleep in the Barcalounger with a Malboro Red in her fingers. That's the shit that scares me, not a hair-brained scheming dumb ass like you with a friggin' squirt gun."
The gunman laughed, but Kitty was not to be thwarted.
"Now you're laughing at me, you little shit? Are ya? Is this how things are gonna go, you're gonna be a punk who won't shoot me, and then starts laughing at me? I like to laugh," Kitty said, shrieking like the Wicked Witch of the East. "How's about a little fire, scarecrow," Kitty shrieked, and the gunman looked like he might be losing composure. "Oh yeah, I love a good laugh, which is good, because in ten years every time I laugh I am gonna piss myself. I'll be getting new knees, and need new hips, and my boobs will start swinging like a couple of wrecking balls, so why not save me the Helen, and the Ada, the busted bones, and the sagging, and JUST FRIGGIN' SHOOT ME!"
Stockwell and Longworth were frozen to the floor. Neither was sure if he was more afraid of a gunman or of Kitty. Kitty was THAT frightening.
The gunman jerked, but Kitty never blinked.
"Here," the punk said, handing Kitty his gun. "Shoot yourself," he said, storming through the front doors.
Kitty picked up the gun and held it, as JJ emerged from the cabinet beneath her register, and customers began getting to their feet, or emerging from their hiding places.
Everyone applauded and Kitty bowed, still holding the gun.
"Drop the gun, Kitty," Reeve Stockwell said, as he approached the woman of the hour.
"Now, where have I heard that before?" Longworth whispered.