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?