Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 41 - Patty Cake, Patty Cake, Back Hoe Man, Dig me a Hole, as Fast as You Can.

Larry Dale picked up his smart phone and began tinkering away, as Longworth, Stockwell, and Mags Davidson filed out of the conference room.

When they were gone, Mick Daniels audibly groaned.

"Are they for real?" Daniels asked.

"Seem to be," Larry Dale replied, without looking up.

"It's like someone turned on the ding bat magnet, and they all arrived here by some mystical force," Daniels said with awe.

"There are forces at work we don't understand, boss," Larry Dale commented.  "Ah, here we go.  There's a back hoe operator not far from here.  Shall I give him a call, sir?"

"Not quite yet.  Let's take a walk out back.  I could use some air, and if the ground isn't visibly disturbed, I'm not taking this any further," Daniels decided.

"All righty, boss.  Let's take a look," Larry Dale said, sounding as enthused as an eight-year-old boy with a Tonka truck, heading out to a dirt pile.

This was not lost on Daniels.  "Dale, let me ask you something.  Is there anything that riles you?"

"Not much, sir.  Personally, I have to admire these folks for being brave enough to be themselves."

"Even though you've met them?" Daniels asked.

"More so," Dale replied.

"Larry Dale, you are a strange man, but I like you,"  Daniels admitted.

"I like you too, sir," Dale said, standing and approaching Daniels, as if he intended to hug him.

"That's close enough.  Let us not forget we shared a bed last night," Daniels said.

"You are quite right, sir.  We did at that.  How's about we head out back and see what's what," Larry Dale suggested.

"How's about we do," Daniels replied without thinking.  He grimaced, and fully expected to be shot dead by the grammar Gods.


Twenty excruciating minutes later, Ada MacKenzie had finally selected a new stove.  Aaron Faulkner was exhausted and really needed a Bloody Mary.  Kitty Richardson, out of an unexpected compassion for the new addition to the Tommy staff, stayed close at hand.

"You're sure, Grandma?" Kitty asked.

"Absolutely!" Ada exclaimed.  "This one is absolutely perfect.  Self cleaning, for all those kitchen mishaps we seem to have."

"Does that happen frequently?" Aaron Faulkner asked Kitty.

"I'm on a first name basis with the volunteer fire squad," Kitty groaned.

"Ouch," Faulkner replied.

"Yeah.  And, to make matters worse, SHE-" Kitty said, pointing to Ada - who was busy sticking her head into yet, another oven - "always asks every fireman if he's single."

"She's just looking out for you," Aaron Faulkner said thoughtfully.

"I know," Kitty said, smiling at Ada, who was singing Patty Cake, and had made her way to the part about putting the cake in the oven.  "She's disappearing before our eyes," Kitty surmised, as her eyes moistened. 

"I'm sorry," Aaron Faulkner said softly.  "At least she's doing it in style."

Kitty laughed out loud.  "You ready, Grandma?" she asked.

"I am.  Let's go," Ada suggested.

"Um....," Kitty began.  "How did you get here?  Is Mom in the car?"

"That MC Hammer brought me.  That nice fella from next door," Ada replied.

"Seriously?" Aaron asked, looking impressed.

"It's hammer time," Ada said, breaking into a dance that made her look like she was having a seizure.  She lost her balance and fell against Aaron, who caught her with grace.

"Grandma, dear God.  His name isn't MC Hammer.  It's Mike Handler, and he's kind of a creep.  I told you to stay away from him.  He's not right in the head," Kitty warned.

"He has a brain tumor.  He sees stuff sometimes, like dead presidents and shit," Ada said, before apologizing for her language.  "I like his wife.  She's nice."

"Miss Ada, darling, why don't you sit here by my desk for a moment," Aaron said, guiding his customer to a rolling chair.  Kitty watched but said nothing.  "It's none of my business, Kitty, but I don't feel comfortable putting her in a car with a guy with a brain tumor," Aaron Faulkner said when he'd returned.  Ada was spinning wildly in the chair.

"Neither do I.  Between the two of them, they could end up in Mount Rushmore, shooting the breeze with a rock," Kitty said.

Aaron paused for a moment, as if deep in thought.  Kitty figured it took a bit to chisel through the alcoholic fog.  "I am heading to lunch.  I'd be glad to follow them home, and although it's against the rules, I could pop the stove in a delivery truck and get her cooking by nightfall," Aaron said.

"Great!  I should probably change this shirt before the fire department arrives," Kitty said, looking down at the Tommy shirt and the coffee stain that had not faded a bit.

"Hang tight.  Let me see if I can get Alejandro to help me get the stove loaded, and we'll be on our way.  She can pay for it up front,"  Aaron suggested.

"Sounds like a plan," Kitty said.

Aaron Faulkner picked up the phone and dialed three numbers.  He mumbled a bit, delivered an audible "thank you," and promptly hung up.  "All set," he said.

From the corner of her eye, Kitty saw Mick Daniels and Larry Dale approaching.  Daniels reached out and stopped the chair from spinning.  Ada stared up at him with the focus of a Mardi Gras participant.  She'd been spinning for nearly four minutes. 

"She get a stove?" Mick Daniels asked.

"She did indeed," Aaron Faulkner replied.

"You been drinking, son?" Daniels said with suspicion.

"Not today, sir," Faulker replied.

"FAULK!" someone yelled, in a slightly Irish accent.

Daniels stood straighter.  His eyes narrowed.  "Who is that?" he asked.

"Tis me Alejandro, sir," Alejandro said.

"And what did you say before that?" Mick Daniels asked.  Aaron fidgeted.  Alejandro didn't miss a beat.

"I said Faulk, sir," he replied to Mick Daniels, who had taken the stance of a high school principal.

"And you say that frequently in the store?" Mick Daniels asked.

"Every time I see this fella here, I do," Alejandro said, pointing at Aaron Faulkner.

"That language is not acceptable here," Mick Daniels chastised.

"Tis only the man's name, sir," Alejandro said.

"Your name is fuck?" Mick Daniels asked Aaron Faulker.  Larry Dale burst into a fit of giggles.  "Stop," Mick Daniels said to Dale, who was unable to comply.  Instead, Larry Dale walked away in complete hysterics.  "I asked you a question," Mick Daniels said, his voice laced with intolerance.  He was glaring at Aaron Faulkner.

"Someone's name is fuck?" Ada asked.  "Who in the world would name their child that?"

"Grandma, stop.  You're not helping," Kitty pleaded.

"You mean to say I just bought an appliance from a man named--"

"EVERYONE STOP!" Daniels yelled.  "What is your name?"

The question was directed at Aaron Faulker.

"There are some who call me....... Tim," Alejandro said, and Larry Dale's laughter went up a notch.

"I am not speaking to you.  You are on the verge of getting fired," Daniels said to Alejandro, before directing his attention back to Aaron Faulkner.  "What is your name?"

"My name is Aaron Faulker, sir," Aaron said.

"Sweet Mary, mother of God," Daniels almost whispered.  "You set the Albuquerque store on fire, didn't you?"

"It was an accident sir," Aaron Faulker said, his head down.

"I set fires all the time.  No big deal," Ada added.

"Grandma, be quiet," Kitty said.

"You are to address him by his first name.  If I hear you say that again, I will fire you.  I can fire you, you know that, right?" Mick Daniels said to Alejandro.

"Yes, sir," Alejandro said.  His tone had an air of seriousness, and all accents had been set aside.

"Good.  Behave yourself.  And, you.  I best not ever find you with any kind of device that makes fire.  No lighters, nothing, and certainly not a pack of matches from some dive bar with the name Betty on it and a chicken-scratch phone number," Daniels directed at Aaron.

"That is cruel," Ada said.  This time Kitty didn't shush her.  She let her speak.  "You don't have to talk to him that way, sir.  And personally, I don't care who you are.  I don't care if you're the guy who invented spandex, which I adore by the way.  You can't fire me.  This young man treated me like gold, when in reality I'm an old lady who dresses badly, has no bottom teeth, and can't remember if I put on a bra.  He might drink and set shit on fire, but you could learn a thing or two from him about how to treat folks."

Kitty gasped.  Alejandro, Aaron and even Larry Dale applauded.

"My apologies, Ma'am," Mick Daniels said.  His face was beet red.  He grabbed Larry Dale by the arm, and turned on his heel.  The two walked away.

Daniels mumbled.  "Let's order that back hoe, and let's do it now.  Let's dig up anything that might be out back, expand the hole about ten feet, and then let's put all these idiots in it."

"That sir, is murder," Larry Dale remarked, his face ashen.

"Shut up, Dale," Mick Daniels growled.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 40 - Something's Always Cooking

Everyone stared at Larry Dale, who produced a cell phone from the inside pocket of his suit jacket.

"You have a back hoe on speed dial?" Reeve Stockwell asked bravely.  Mick Daniels rolled his eyes.

"Of course not, Mr. Stockwell.  I am merely Googling.  I'm sure I can produce exactly what we need.  You all have one of these smart phones?  Why, they're a lifeline.  I have a GPS, I can text my wife from anywhere on the planet, and I can find a back hoe operator in the middle of nowhere."

Larry Dale has a wife.  Crap! Kitty thought. 

A knock sounded at the door to the conference room.  Everyone turned.  Barbie Baxter's torso filled the glass of the door.

"We asked not to be disturbed," Mick Daniels said.  Although it was obvious he was still angry, his voice was gentle and professional.

"I need to speak to Kitty.  Someone is here to see her," Barbie explained.

"Who?" Kitty asked.

"ADA," Barbie mouthed, and Kitty shivered.

"Dear God," Kitty whispered.

"Who is this Ada person?" Mick Daniels asked.  "Is she a customer?"

"She is today.  She needs to buy a stove," Barbie replied.  Ada appeared behind Barbie.

"Stella, I've got a problem!" Ada yelled.  Obviously, she'd forgotten her hearing aide.

"Grandma, don't yell," Kitty said, rising from her chair as Ada plowed into the conference room.

"Stella?" Mick Daniels asked.

"Kitty's real name," Reeve Stockwell said.

"Grandma, what happened?  You can't keep barging in here.  I'm trying to work," Kitty whined.

"Work?  Looks like you're having a party here," Ada said. 

"Well, we're not.  Why do you need a stove?  What's wrong with the one in your kitchen?" Kitty asked.

"I sorta baked your mother's slippers," Ada explained.

"What?" Kitty asked.

"I cooked Helen's slippers.  Those old blue ones with the sole that flops like a swimming fin," Ada said.

Larry Dale laughed.

"How did you cook Mom's slippers?" Kitty asked.  Everyone in the room was riveted.  Even Larry Dale set his smart phone aside to listen.

"She washed them and put them in the oven to dry.  I wanted to bake a cake, so I set the oven to preheat.  Ended up baking us some slippers instead.  Smells just awful, like cooked feet."

"Ewww," Larry Dale said with a chuckle.

"All right," Mick Daniels said.  "I'm going to stay here with Mr. Dale, and we'll work on getting someone to investigate this situation out back-"

"What situation out back?" Ada asked.

"It's store business, Grandma.  Don't concern yourself with it," Kitty said, shuffling Ada to the door. 

"Stockwell and Longworth, I want the two of you to return to your duties, although I shudder at the thought of what that might mean," Mick Daniels said.  "Ms. Davidson, you are also free to return to the Front End, but do not leave the store.  The four of you will be present when we begin our investigation of this situation out back."

"Does this have anything to do with my missing teeth?" Ada yelled from the hallway.

"Why would she say that?" Daniels asked.

"She's a little bat shit," Longworth said. 

"What would you like me to do?" Kitty asked from the doorway.

"Get someone to help your grandmother pick out a new stove, and suggest your mother find another method for drying her bedroom slippers," Daniels suggested.

"I'm on it," Kitty said, not wasting any time with her escape.

Kitty, who'd been holding her breath, exhaled in a rush.  Ada shuffled beside her.  Kitty led her to the appliance department, where new manager, Aaron Faulkner, stood before a computer terminal typing like a madman.

"Hey, Aaron," Kitty said, and Faulkner turned.

"Hey," Aaron Faulkner said, turning his attention quickly back to his computer.

"You busy?" Kitty asked.

"Pretty busy," Aaron replied.

"You're watching YouTube," Kitty noticed.

"You didn't ask what I was busy doing," Aaron Faulkner said defensively.  He slurred slightly, and Kitty frowned.

"Have you been drinking?" Kitty asked.

"Not today."

"You smell like a brewery," Kitty whispered.

"The remains of the day," Aaron Faulkner said.

"What day?" Kitty asked.


Kitty smiled.  "Oh."

"And probably the day before that, too," Aaron admitted.

Aaron Faulkner had a little trouble with the bottle.  He was a lovable fellow with a great sense of humor, who spent a lot of time napping in the break room.  He'd worked in Tommy stores all over the country.  Kitty figured every time the boozing got out of control, Aaron Faulkner got transferred.  He was like an Army brat, without the fatigues.  He'd been everywhere.

"Who's this adorable gal?" Aaron Faulkner said thoughtfully, and Kitty could have sworn that Ada blushed.

"My grandmother," Kitty said, taking Ada's hand. 

"Nice outfit, Granny," Aaron said, and Ada curtsied.

Kitty hadn't even noticed Ada's latest get-up, and for that, she thanked God and all the saints.
Her grandmother looked like an aging cheerleader, Varsity sweater, short skirt, leggings, and her traditional Chuck Taylors.

"Where do you come up with this stuff?" Kitty asked with a chuckle.

"Saw it on Nickelodeon," Ada admitted.

"Well, I don't want to keep you from your fashion show.  What can I do for you, young lady?" Aaron asked, and Kitty smiled.  Alcoholic or not, he sure did have a way with the customers.

"She needs a new stove," Kitty said.

"I done cooked me up some slippers this morning.  Whole house smells like a locker room now," Ada explained.

"Well that's no good," Aaron Faulkner said, finally closing his YouTube app.  "What did you have in mind?"

"It's gotta be gas," Ada said.

"You don't like an electric stove?" Aaron asked his customer.

"I live with Helen.  She's a maniac.  Trust me, if you lived with Helen, you'd want a gas stove.  I think about putting my head in it at least half a dozen times a day," Ada complained, and Aaron Faulkner laughed.

"She's a trip," he commented.

"You have no idea," Kitty admitted.

"You married, sir?" Ada asked, and Kitty groaned.

Here we go again.

"No," Aaron said.

"You wanna be?" Ada asked.

"I'd like to, but I got a little problem with the booze," Aaron admitted.

"I got a little problem with my bowels, and I keep losing my teeth.  We all got problems, son.  Life's easier if you have someone to share the burden.  I sure do miss my old fellow.  Never a day passes that I don't miss him.  Find someone to go through this life with, and hang onto her, or him, if that's the team you play for.  Don't settle for being alone.  You could end up living with someone like Helen," Ada said, and Kitty found herself tearing up.  She rarely saw the serious side of her grandmother.  "My granddaughter is a lovely girl.  Could have a few less pets, but she's a very good girl.  Ain't she a beauty?"

Kitty imagined she looked like she had thanksgiving with Mowgli.  Her hair was a mess, and she'd splashed coffee on her Tommy shirt. 

"She's a cutie, all right," Aaron said, smiling at Kitty.

"I'll tell you what," Ada said.  "You hook me up with a good stove, and get someone to bring it out to me.  Hopefully, you can take the old one, even though it's got slippers melted onto the inside of it.  We'll get it all hooked up right, and I'll make a nice dinner.  What do you like to eat?" Ada asked, and Kitty sighed.

"I'd eat just about anything," Aaron Faulker said.

"How's about some old slippers?" Ada asked, flashing a smile that included only her top dentures.

"Okay, maybe not anything," Aaron said.  The phone rang on Aaron's desk, and he excused himself.

"Grandma, what happened to your bottom teeth?" Kitty asked, when Aaron Faulkner was out of ear shot.

"That's what I was trying to tell you," Ada whispered, all together too loudly.  "I lost them that night we was out back and I fell in the hole."

"Holy shit!" Kitty nearly screeched.

"Stella, watch your mouth!" Ada chastised.

"Grandma, I am in a world of trouble.  Those men in the back, they're getting a back hoe to dig up the back yard.  Mags saw us out there that night.  She thinks we buried JJ out there."

"Who?" Ada asked.

"One of our cashiers went missing during the tornado scare.  Mags is convinced she's dead, and when you rolled into the hole, Mags was watching.  She thinks we killed JJ.  Can you imagine?  Mags actually thinks I killed someone."

"I think about killing Helen at times.  Maybe brew up a pot of morphine tea.  That nice paper boy could probably hook me up with something," Ada fantasized.

"Grandma, stop!  Listen for a minute.  This is serious.  They're getting a back hoe operator out here and they're going to investigate.  When they find guns and money and your dentures, do you know what's gonna happen?" Kitty asked.

"Sure do.  I'm gonna be able to eat fried chicken again.  I can hardly wait!" Ada exclaimed.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 39 - A Deeply Buried Truth

"JJ Patricks has been murdered, and I think she's buried out back," Mags said through a sob.

Everyone stared at Mags.

Mick Daniels cleared his throat. 

Larry Dale straightened his tie.

Kitty Richardson, Miles Longworth and Reeve Stockwell thought about clicking their heels together in the hopes that it would take them anyplace but where they currently stood.

Stockwell's in-law's house.

Clearance shopping with Longworth's wife.

Thanksgiving with Helen and Ada.

Even Turkish prison would have been better.

No one clicked.

It wouldn't have worked anyway.

"Everyone is dismissed," Mick Daniels said authoritatively.

The Tool Towners all regained use of their limbs in unison, and prepared to leave.  Daniels cleared his throat again.

"Not you three," he said, pointing in the direction of Longworth, Stockwell and Kitty. 

The "three" stared at each other.

Mags stared at her feet.  "And certainly,  most certainly, not you," Daniels directed at the forlorn Mags.

"Mr. Dale, I will need your expert assistance.  We will be meeting in Stockwell's office straight away.  We won't be breaking for five, or taking a smoke break, or holing up somewhere to get our stories straight.  We'll be meeting immediately.  Let's go," Mick Daniels said, and Kitty shivered.

Mags hadn't moved.

"Ms. Davidson," Mick Daniels said, taking Mags' arm.


A man stood in the shadows.  He blended with the customers, and his attention appeared to be directed at the tool set in his hands.  He couldn't have cared less about the tool set.  He was watching the scene unfold twenty feet away. 

His plan was working beautifully.  Everything was falling apart, just like he'd been certain it would when he set it in motion so long ago.

He remembered the day he'd found out.

He remembered how angry he'd gotten, how cheated he felt.

At that moment, he had vowed revenge. 

He'd take everything back that was rightly his.

He wouldn't have to wait much longer.


Stockwell unlocked his office and opened the door.  He silently thanked God the mess had been removed.  His office was spotless.

Daniels shook his head.

"Clearly we cannot meet in here.  It's not large enough, and it smells like Doritos.  Junk food is bad for your health.  You work sixty hours a week, Reeve, you should think about taking better care of yourself," Daniels said thoughtfully, although rage still burned in his dark eyes.

I'm going to prison, Reeve Stockwell thought.  Who cares what I eat?  I won't last twenty-four hours in prison. 

I wanted to play football in high school.

I played clarinet.

I don't lift weights.

The last heavy thing I lifted was a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew.  

I'm gonna end up with a four-hundred pound roommate named Earl who likes tall, skinny guys.

I'm as good as dead already.

"Stockwell, you with us?" Daniels asked a blank-looking Reeve Stockwell.

"I am, sir.  We could meet in the conference room out back," Stockwell suggested.

"That sounds fine.  Let's go," Daniels said.

The posse moved through the store with efficiency.  No one spoke, save Larry Dale. 

"If I may suggest, sir.  We should get a team to clean up the pumpkin mess.  Seems you've a speck of it on your shoe, sir," Dale added.

"Good hell, get it off!" Daniels said furiously.

The group stopped to allow Daniels to clean his shoe with a handkerchief Larry Dale produced from his coat pocket.

"Better, sir?" Larry Dale asked.

"Shut up, Dale!" Daniels said, sounding furious.

"Would anyone like coffee?" Kitty asked, when the group was assembled in the conference room.

"That would be lovely," Larry Dale said.

"Everyone, sit!" Mick Daniels said.  "This isn't some damn dinner party.  Nobody needs coffee or tea, or little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts removed.  This store is the biggest thorn in my rear end, and now you've got this crazy woman saying there's a body out back.  Who is this JJ Patricks person, and why in the hell does this woman think she's been murdered?"

"This woman has a name.  It's Mags Davidson," Mags said defensively.

"The Mags Davidson who appears on all the Worker's Comp forms?" Daniels asked.

"One and the same," Miles Longworth admitted.

Mags looked down at her hands.  For several seconds, no one spoke.  Larry Dale broke the silence.

"If I may, what makes you think this Ms. Patricks is buried behind the store?"

Larry Dale looked at Mags, whose stare was still fixed on the table in front of her. 

"I saw," Mags barely whispered.

Kitty almost peed herself.

Stockwell began to twitch beside her.

Longworth prayed for death.

Mags saw them.

They were screwed.

Kitty began to consider a life behind bars, as Stockwell had only moments before.  She looked lousy in orange.  It did nothing for her strawberry hair, and cadaver complexion, and not even the finest tiara could dress it up to make it anything but incarceration wear.

"Shit," Kitty whispered.

"Ma'am?" Larry Dale asked, and Kitty paled.

Kitty didn't know what to say.  Stockwell just stared at her.  Longworth fidgeted uncontrollably.

"Ma'am?" Larry Dale repeated.

"I was just thinking about something I forgot to do," Kitty said, and Stockwell exhaled in such a rush, it sounded like someone had suddenly let all the air out of their inflatable date.

"While I'd love to get your itinerary, Ms. Richardson, what I'd really like to do is have Ms. Davidson recount this event she seems to think she's seen."

Mags shivered, and wrapped her arms around herself.  "I saw someone dump and bury a body out back.  JJ has been missing.  I guess I just connected the dots," Mags said through a ragged breath.

"Well, I can only think of one solution to this problem, sir," Larry Dale said.

"And that would be?" Mick Daniels asked.

"A backhoe."

Son of a bitch, Kitty thought. 

They were so, so screwed.