Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 30 - Things That Go Bump in The Freezer.

Winnie Robins was grateful the damage to the plumbing department was minimal.  She'd spent half an hour cleaning up a massive box of tiny PVC parts that Penelope Ross had knocked over diving into the bathtub.  All in all, Winnie wasn't having a bad day at Tommy's.  Just after the lights came back on, Winnie had popped a turbo espresso into the company Keurig, and the surge in her enthusiasm was coming in handy.  She'd juggled five PVC parts to her normal four, and not one had hit the floor.  Until she'd seen him.  When Winnie saw her latest customer,  five parts flew in every direction. 

Winnie grabbed her phone and pounded in Stockwell's digits.

"Stockwell," Reeve Stockwell whispered, sounding muffled.

"Mr. Stockwell?" Winnie asked.

"Yes, Winnie."

"Doesn't sound like you, " Winnie commented.

"It's me.  I just ate a chunk of the most disgusting health food bar ever made.  It's coated my mouth, and I think I'm going into anaphylactic shock."

"Oh.  Well, as sympathetic as I am to your impending death, I need you in Plumbing," Winnie begged.

"Can you pump my stomach?" Stockwell asked.

"Perhaps later.  Right now I have a customer who seems to have forgotten his pants."

"Dear Lord," Stockwell said, his words sounding like dare loud, compliments of the caulk.  "I'm on my way."

Stockwell looked at Kitty and Miles Longworth, who were still holed up in his office.  Longworth was still licking his lips like a German Shepherd who'd just snacked A La Carte from the cat box, and Kitty looked deep in thought.

"There's a naked guy in Plumbing," Stockwell said, and Kitty seemed to snap out of it.

"Is he cute?" Kitty asked.

"Well,  my dear Kitty, it seems I've forgotten to ask.  Let me just call Winnie back and ask her what the guy looks like, because I'd be really happy to delegate this one to you," Stockwell barked.

"I'm punched out," Kitty reminded him.

"How convenient," Stockwell complained.  "Longworth?"

"I took the stain lady and the Deliverance guy with the pickynick table.  I'm full up on crazy lately," Miles Longworth commented.

"Terrific.  You boneheads stay here and let me handle it," Stockwell said, leaving the office and slamming the door behind him.

"Call me if he's cute," Kitty yelled.

Stockwell stomped off to plumbing.  He heard Kitty yell, and stifled the urge to flip the bird to his closed door.  He needed a vacation, a big one.  Maybe he'd fake losing it and go off to some nice rehab facility somewhere.  They always looked so nice on Intervention.  Maybe he'd get a bunch of his friends together, have them stage an Intervention, and then he'd fly off to some beach-side get-well center, and eat complimentary peanuts, and watch The Smurfs movie in coach while on his way.  He could fake crazy for ninety days, of that he was certain.  He worked with Kitty every day.  He saw crazy first hand.  Maybe he could stay at Kitty's for the weekend, hang out with Helen and Ada.  Then he wouldn't have to fake bat shit.  He'd be certifiable.

He rounded the corner of the Plumbing aisle, as a surge of admiration for Kitty coursed through him.  No wonder she talked to pens.  He had no idea how she handled it all.

Maybe he'd find Kitty a husband, a nice fella to take Kitty away from it all.  That's what Kitty needed, and he'd probably get a Humanitarian award if he made it happen. 

The customer in aisle thirteen wasn't going to fit the bill.  Not by a long shot.

The customer wasn't completely naked.  He was wearing a shirt, socks, and dress shoes.  He wasn't wearing pants, and either went commando, or had lost his shorts somewhere along the way.

"Sir, may I help you?" Stockwell asked as he approached, and Winnie Robins exhaled as if she'd been holding her breath long enough to swim the English Channel.

"I'd like to talk to someone about my hose," the customer said very loudly.

"Seriously?" Stockwell whispered, looking at Winnie.

Nut Job!  Winnie mouthed back.

"Sir, you're not wearing any pants," Stockwell said, and Winnie covered her mouth to conceal her laughter.

"Great Scott, you're right," the customer said, looking down at his nether region.  "Last time I was in, you folks wouldn't serve me because I wasn't wearing a shirt.  Pointed out a sign that said 'No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.'"

"We have no such sign, sir.  That said, we do require that customers wear pants.  You can't come in here waving that thing around.  It's offensive to the ladies," Stockwell explained, and Winnie Robins had tears rolling down her face.

"I was so focused on the shirt and shoes, I guess I forgot about the rest.  You see, I drink.  A lot.  I get so shnockered I can't see straight.  Truth be told, I'm about seven-eighths of the way into the bag right about now."

"I'd have never guessed," Stockwell said, and Winnie playfully punched him in the arm.

The customer ignored them both and rattled on endlessly.  "Angeline, that's my wife, she worries about me.  I used to be a fine gentlemen, real fine.  Had me a terrific job, good benefits, and a nice Cadillac.  Then this recession thing hits, hits us mortgage folks hard.  Nowadays, you can't get a mortgage if you donate a kidney to the dying wife of the bank manager.  No way, no how, so we mortgage folks, we're in dire straights.  Most of us lost our shirts."

"And your pants, too," Stockwell commented, and Winnie leered at him.

STOP, the stare said.

"Anyhow, Angeline gets her brother Milton, who's a little whacked in the head already, to siphon out my gas so I can't go anywhere when I'm one-hundred sheets to the wind.  Milton done gagged on the hose last night while I was pounding the Rolling Rocks.  Hose slid about halfway down his throat.  Angeline pulled it out, and Milton's not much the worse for wear, but she flung the hose so hard, none of us can find it anywhere.  So, I stopped by to talk to someone about my hose."

"Winnie, would you have Daisy store use out some Carharts, get the guy something to put on, and help him with a section of hose?" Stockwell said.

"Certainly, sir,"  Winnie said.

"Thank you.  And, sir?" Stockwell said.


"Might I suggest an Intervention?  I've seen them done on television.  Of course, you're not supposed to know ahead of time, but I'd put a Hamilton on you not remembering anything that happened today anyhow.  Get yourself some help, man.  You can't be walking around in public with your privates exposed.  You'll get arrested, and who'll take care of Angeline?" Stockwell asked, feeling like a true public servant.

"That shithead Milton, I suppose," the customer replied.

"You can't be letting that happen, can you?" Stockwell asked.


Winnie returned with Daisy and the Carharts.  Daisy was fifty shades of red.  Winnie handed the Carhart pants to the customer, who took them with a nod.

"Get your act together, man, " Stockwell whispered, before walking away.  He hadn't taken ten steps before his phone rang again.  "Now what?" Stockwell said, not realizing he'd already hit the button to answer.

"Fine way of answering the phone," Sonny Brooks said.

"Look it, Sonny.  I cannot tell you how much I hate this place right about now.  Unless there's a fire, I'm not interested, and I'm not sure I'd care if this place were about to be burned right off the map."

"How about a dead body?" Sonny asked.  "Would that interest you?"

"Who died?" Stockwell said, stopping and steadying himself against a rack of - WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT - hoses.

"No one is sure.  The delivery guys brought back an old freezer.  It's been out here about three hours.  The guys who pick up this junk got held up in the storm.  There's an odor, and there's definitely something clunking around inside," Sonny explained.

"So open the damn door!" Stockwell barked.

"Well, a crowd's gathered back here, and a bunch of people think it might be JJ Patricks inside," Sonny said softly.

Stockwell went pale.  "JJ.  Shit!  I'd almost forgotten about her."

"Maybe I should call 911," Sonny said.

"Hold off.  I'll get Longworth and Kitty.  We'll be right there," Stockwell nearly yelled.

Reeve Stockwell hung up his phone.  He'd dreamed of being an FBI Agent, of being MacGyver, or Magnum P.I. or Jason Bourne, someone who did more than sell nuts and bolts, herd associates like cats, count widgets, and sell plumbing parts to madmen, some of whom had the audacity to come to Tommy's with their ding-a-lings hanging out.

Stockwell had had a dream, like all dreamers before him. 

Martin Luther King.


Nelson Mandella.

Kermit the Frog.

Stockwell longed to bust bad guys and solve crimes.

He had a wad of cash from an unknown source.

A box of guns.

A body in a freezer.

Reeve Stockwell's dreams were becoming reality.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 29 - The Best Laid Plans

Sonny Brooks was in his office when the twister hit.  So secure was the Loss Prevention office, that the weather event was over long before Sonny even knew it had begun.

The only tip that something was wrong, was when Sonny had been disconnected from the call he'd been absorbed in when the twister hit.  Immediately after being disconnected, Sonny redialed.  His call was answered on the first ring.

"Mr. Brooks?" the woman's voice said.

"My apologies," Brooks said.  "No idea what happened."

"Could be paranormal," the woman said.

"Indeed," Sonny responded agreeably.  "So, explain to me again, Agent Gonzales, exactly how you got into this."

"No problem.  My career in law enforcement ended when I punched a suspect in the balls," Gonzales explained.

"Ouch," Sonny replied, cringing.

"He deserved it.  I'd chased him around the Chuck-E-Cheese for damn near an hour.  Thought he could blend into his kid's birthday party, and he did, until another parent, a colleague of mine, recognized him and called the precinct.  I responded.  He gave chase, around those groundhog things, around and around the Chuck-E band, finally diving into the balls for cover.  He kept throwing balls at me, and I got pissed, so I clocked him.  I clocked him good."

"Oh, those balls.  Now I gotcha," Sonny said, trying not to laugh.  "So, what got you involved with ghosts?"

"I have one," Agent Gonzales replied.

"Like a pet?" Sonny Brooks asked.

"No, not like a pet, you bonehead," the agent replied, and Sonny sensed the edginess of the investigator he'd been warned about.  "I have a ghost in my house.  My apologies for calling you a bonehead.  You may not be a bonehead at all, and that was presumptuous on my part."

I'm a bonehead, all right, Sonny thought.  He was about to spend his own money to hire a paranormal investigator, and sneak into his place of employment in the middle of the night.  He was a bonehead, all right. 

"How much is this gonna set me back?" Sonny Brooks asked.

"How about if we do this.  You got a night crew?" Agent Gonzales asked.

"Usually, but the truck got held up today because of the the threat of bad weather, which is crazy, being that it was clear as crystal out there last time I looked.  Night crew is off tonight due to no freight," Sonny explained.

"I'll come by around midnight or so.  I'll do a walk-through.  We'll see how that goes, and it will give me an idea of the size of the space I'll be investigating, and amount of crew I'll need, and equipment.  Tonight I'll just bring a night vision camera and an EVP recorder."

Sonny had no idea what an EVP stood for, and imagined it was "Everything's Very Pricey."  He knew it was gonna cost him a kidney or his left --- to pay for it all.  But, he had to know.  He had to.  He knew what he'd seen, and he couldn't unsee it. 

"I guess I'll see you at midnight, then," Sonny said.

"Sounds good," Agent Gonzales replied.

"What do I call you?  Agent Gonzales seems like a mouthful.  What's your first name?" Sonny asked.


"Well, all right then, Agent.  I'll meet you at Tommy's receiving door at midnight.  I'll be here a few minutes before if you're early," Sonny said, as something shifted in his abdomen.  He'd have never admitted it openly, but he was scared shitless.  He hoped to God that Agent didn't find anything, because if she did, Sonny Brooks was leaving on a gurney.


By evening, JJ Patricks was still unaccounted for. 

"I don't get it," Longworth said, in the privacy of Stockwell's office.  Kitty, who'd punched out an hour before, sat nibbling the caulking bar.  Stockwell eyed her peculiarly.

"We've done all we can," Stockwell commented.  "If she's here, I sure as hell can't find her."

"Me either," Kitty said.  "Should we call the police?"

"Again?"  Longworth replied.  "They were already here once today."

The police had responded to a call from Ada McKenzie, who'd phoned in to report her missing teeth, and to see to it that the barely-post-adolescent thug who'd held her granddaughter at gunpoint was dealt with accordingly.  He was.

The cops had hauled him off in cuffs, after Daisy had secured him properly with a zip tie, and strapped him to a chair with her tool belt. 

Chewie was the last associate to be found.  He'd hidden in a garbage can, secured to a display.  Chewie, unlike a cat, who can usually get out of any predicament it gets into, could not release himself from the can.  It took three associates, and a tool Daisy produced from her arsenal.  Chewie was shaken, but not so much he was unable to finish his shift.  He was covering Electrical and Plumbing.  The plumbing associate couldn't make it in for his evening shift.  Seemed a tree had fallen and cut the guy's SUV, 'bout in half.

Bubba Brenda towed Mags' car to his body shop, or her body shop, no one was sure.  JJ Patrick's mostly-totaled vehicle was out back behind the dumpster, shrouded with a tarp taken from Tommy's shelves.  Bubba had towed it out of the ruined shed, an hour after the twister, during the great clean-up.

The shed was the only casualty resulting from the unexpected twister, and was at the core of the meeting between Kitty, Miles Longworth, and the still-buzzing Reeve Stockwell.

"I can't stop thinking about JJ," Kitty whined.  "We have to do something."

"We did.  We searched all over, and Mags is sure she'll hear from her later this evening.  JJ is a grown woman.  If she found a way to duck out during a natural disaster, we have to give her credit for getting out while she could.  Frankly, I'm a little surprised that more associates didn't disappear when the lights were out.  Seems to be about the only way to get free from this place," Stockwell said longingly. 

"Okay, so we're pretty sure JJ will turn up," Longworth said, not unsympathetic to the woman's disappearance.  "We have our own issues to work out here.  There is the little matter of the box of guns in Kitty's trunk, and the wad of money hidden in my desk.  The shed idea is kaput.  Now what?"

 "We bury it," Stockwell said.  "It's the only way."

"When?" Kitty asked.

"Tonight.  Let's put it behind us.  There is absolutely something odd going on here, but we need to distance ourselves from it.  I'm not suggesting we forget, we'll still look for clues, but we don't want to be holding a wad of money, or a box of guns, if someone else figures it out before we do," Stockwell said.

"Let's make a pact," Kitty suggested.

"With what?"  Longworth said.  "I'm not doing the blood thing, because people get sick from that kind of thing, with all the diseases and such, and if I'm this guy's blood brother, I could end up with Diabetes, or ADHD," Longworth whined.

"That's swell, Miles.  You're a real pal," Stockwell said.

"Well, look at you, trembling like a heroin addict.  Get yourself a cheeseburger or something.  You're twitching so much, just looking at you makes me feel like I'm having a stroke," Longworth chastised.

"Stop!" Kitty said, breaking the remaining caulking bar into three pieces.  Both men groaned.  "We'll each eat a piece and this will be our pact."

"I'm not eating that shit," Longworth complained.

"Then it's blood," Kitty said.

Both men took a piece of the caulking bar and popped it into their mouths.  Kitty did the same.  Three faces contorted into displeasure, as the silence was broken only by the sound of Longworth gagging.

"Okay, that's over," Stockwell said, with a frog in his throat, compliments of the caulk.

"What time tonight?" Kitty asked.

Miles Longworth checked his watched, and looked at Stockwell, and then Kitty, before responding.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 28 - Oh Where, Oh Where, Has Our Little Cashier Gone? Oh, Where, Oh Where, Could She Be?

An audible gasp filled the break room when the lights went out.  Miles Longworth was the first to speak.

"Nobody panic.  I have plenty of flashlights," Longworth said.  A general scurrying was heard, followed by the rustling of large heavy objects, followed by more scurrying, followed by....

"SHIT!" Longworth hissed.

"What's the matter?" Stockwell replied, doing a bit of scurrying of his own.  He shuffled through the dark and - BAM - Stockwell made contact with the corner of the table.  "Son of a -"

"Young man, there are ladies present!" Ada McKenzie yelled, cutting off Stockwell mid sentence.

"My apologies, Ma'am," Stockwell muttered.  "Can I get some light before I kill someone?"

"There he goes, mumbling about killing folks again," Ada said, and PLUNK, something else hit the floor.  "Damn ill-fitting teeth," Ada slurred.

"None of the flashlights work," Longworth said, and the crowd groaned.

"Don't nobody step on my teeth," Ada said, or everybody thought she said.  Her toothlessness made her sound like she was talking in a fish tank.

"No one move," Alejandro said, sounding like someone from the old west.  "The fair lady has lost her choppers."

"Mother of God," Kitty mumbled. 

"Are we praying?" Ada asked.  "Dear Lord, please don't let anyone step on my teeth.  I just got them from that nice dental clinic downtown, and even though they don't fit these withered gums right, they surely cost me almost as much as four cartons of the Lucky Strikes."

"Gran, they don't even make Lucky Strikes anymore," Kitty chastised.

"Do too.  I just bought them last month from that nice Harold at the pharmacy," Ada remarked.

"Harold died in 1988, Gran.  From lung cancer," Kitty reminded.

"For criminy sake.  I'm getting dumber than shit, pardon my French," Ada whined.  "I thought that was just a few weeks back.  Dear Lord, please help me find my marbles," Ada added.

"Amen," Helen growled.

"Shut up," Ada mumbled.

"Mary, mother of God, please give me strength, Kitty whispered.
"You got your wife's gloves, Longworth?  Maybe you could lead the group in some prayer," Slick Mitchell suggested.

"Like that's helping?" Longworth growled. 

"EVERYONE STOP!" Stockwell yelled.

"Is he always this angry?" Ada whispered, very loudly.

"Gran, please," Kitty begged.

"I got something," Ada chimed in.  "It's in my purse."

A flicker of light was followed by a tall flame from a fireplace lighter.

"What the hell?" Kitty whispered.

"Carry it all the time, I do," Ada announced.  Toothless and backlit by the flickering flame, Ada McKenzie looked like something better intended for Halloween.

"Boo!" Ada said, turning toward Reeve Stockwell.

Stockwell screamed and banged his knee again.

"Gran, why do you have that?" Kitty begged.

"Never can tell when you'll come across a bunch of Boy Scouts rubbing sticks together, and besides, ever since I saw that movie Castaway, I always carry it.  That movie could have been half that long if Tom Cruise had a Bic.  Old folks were darn near peeing themselves that movie was so long.  I made it three quarters through and I had a Big Gulp.  Bladder was stronger back then."

"It was Tom Hanks, Mother," Helen complained.

"Hanks, Cruise, who cares.  Sure was odd that fellow carrying on with that tennis ball."  Ada rattled on relentlessly.  Longworth stood shaking flashlights, while Stockwell massaged his injured legs.  Everyone else prayed for death.  Anything to get free of Kitty and the representatives of her seriously mucked-up family tree.

"Volleyball, Gran," Kitty said, sounding pained.

"Right," Ada replied.

"I got the generator working!" a female voice said, as the room filled with half light.  Daisy Cates, Tommy's own Tool Goddess, appeared in blue coveralls, with a substantial amount of grease smeared on her face.

 "Thank God for Daisy," Kitty said.  "We might have all perished back here."

"Don't be dramatic, Stella," Helen chastised.

"STELLA!" Alejandro yelled, and Helen jumped.

"What's wrong with that one?" Helen asked.  "Is he special?"

"He is, indeed," Kitty said, "and that's a rotten thing to say, Mother."

"What was the problem with our generator, Daisy?" Slick Mitchell asked, trying to look official.  He sidled up to Daisy, but not so much as to get grease on his million-dollar jeans.

"Years of neglect," Daisy said.  "That can do something to a machine.  Can do something to a woman, too," Daisy said philosophically. 

Kitty smiled and mumbled.  "Amen to that."

"You were outside, Daisy?" Stockwell asked.  "Don't you think that was reckless?"

"I wasn't worried.  I'm a sturdy old gal.  Take more'n wind to move me any farther than I want to go," Daisy said.

"Okay, folks.  Carefully, let's get everyone out of the break room and assess the damage.  As soon as it's safe, we'll let customers go, and associates, we'll start putting things back together.  What's the place look like, Daisy?" Stockwell asked.

"Couldn't say, sir.  I made short work of getting back here and checking on all of you.  I did see some flying debris out back, and I'm pretty sure that twister may have even hurled a car at the height of its fury," Daisy explained.

"It wasn't a Buick, was it?" Helen whined.

"I couldn't say, Ma'am," Daisy said politely.  "It was moving mighty fast."

"Is everyone accounted for?"  Slick Mitchell asked.

"I don't see Penelope!" Bernice Lord shrieked, sounding panic striken.  "Penelope?  You in here anywhere?" Bernice yelled.  "Kitty, give me your phone.  Please," Bernice begged.

"Of course," Kitty replied, handing Bernice the Tommy phone.

"Penelope, please call Kitty.  Right now.  I am worried," Bernice paged, staring at the phone.  "Oh.  And this is Bernice," Bernice added, and Kitty smiled.

The phone rang.  Bernice put it on speaker.


"Yeah?" Penelope replied.

"Where are you?" Kitty asked.

"In plumbing," Penelope explained.

"Why?" Bernice asked.

"The news guy said to get into the bathtub.  I'm in the fashion bath display," Penelope said.

"Um, I think that only works if you're actually in the bathroom," Bernice stated.  "Maybe not so much in Tommy's plumbing department with thousands of parts that could fly around and tear your ears off."

"That's gross," Ada whined.  "Where would you put your earrings?"

"Stop, Gran," Kitty chided.

"Seems to have worked out all right.  I'm okay," Penelope said.

"Stay there.  I'm coming," Bernice demanded before hanging up the phone.

"Take a flashlight," Miles suggested.

"You said they didn't work," Kitty replied.

"They don't.  I could use some help lugging them all back up there," Miles Longworth quipped.

Bernice took a flashlight and disappeared through the break room doorway into the store.

"Dear Gods of Worker's Comp, please tell me Mags is okay.  I'm twenty-four hours away from the clear," Slick Mitchell muttered.

"Your compassion is mind blowing," Kitty remarked.

"Hey, somebody's gotta take care of the bottom line," Slick said.

"Mags!" Kitty yelled.

Mags was unscathed.  She'd been hiding in the Ladies Room with Bubba, who turned out to have been born Brenda, and still had a lot of Brenda parts. 

Everyone was accounted for with one exception.

No one could find JJ Patricks.

An hour later, everyone was still looking.

"I don't get it," Kitty said.  "Where could she have gone?"

"I have no idea.  I've checked every nook and cranny of this store, and unless she's gotten herself small enough to fit into a drawer, or a pencil can, she is not here," Slick Mitchell said.

"She wasn't in her car, was she?" Stockwell said, sounding shaken.

"Hope not," Mags said.  "Bubba Brenda just pulled it out of the old shed out back.  If she was in it, she's not in it now."

"She was in the line of people who filed out back," Kitty said, sounding equally worried.  "I am positive she was there when the lights went out, but she was gone when they came back on."

The power had already been restored, Daisy had washed her face, and the store was lit up like Christmas.

"Maybe she went back to where she came from," Alejandro offered.  "She always seemed rather other-worldly," he added.

"She did, at that," Wilton Scott offered.  "Perhaps she wasn't JJ Patricks at all.  Perhaps she was a shape shifter, or a time traveler."

"Who would time travel to go to work at Tommy's?" Stockwell said.

"Come on.  This isn't helping.  I think someone took her," Kitty said.  "I think JJ was kidnapped."

Miles Longworth was standing three feet away.  He made eye contact with Kitty, and then Stockwell.  They all had the same thing on their minds.




What the hell was going on?