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.
Son of a bitch, Kitty thought.
They were so, so screwed.