"All set, boss!" Larry Dale said, sporting a satisfied grin. "H.D. Diggers sounds a bit like he has a nasty head cold, but he said he'll be by in about thirty minutes. What shall we do while we wait?"
"Well, we could gather all these dimwits together and lead them toward a cliff, and hope they all go off like a bunch of freakin' lemmings," Mick Daniels said, as he surveyed the offerings of the break room vending machine.
"Jeepers, when you have a bad day, boss, you have a bad day," Dale remarked. "Try the Skittles, boss. It says they make mouths happy."
Daniels turned away from the vending machine and headed toward the lockers.
"Whatcha lookin' for, boss?" Larry Dale asked.
"I swear I smell scotch. I figured it was coming from that Faulkner guy's locker," Daniels surmised.
"Really?" Larry Dale asked.
"Let me tell you something, Larry Dale. That Aaron Faulkner is a heck of a guy, but, - and I'm only telling you this because I know you'd like to advance in the company one day - when you got a fellow that drinks and sets stuff on fire, you've got yourself an enormous problem."
"He said the fire was an accident. I was standing right there," Larry Dale said, in obvious defense of the appliance manager.
"I heard him," Mick Daniels said. "Look, Dale. I give the guy a fair shake, but he was in the break room, he was tipsy, and suddenly he was running like Forest Gump, and the break room was on fire."
"Let me ask you this, boss. If you looked to your left and noticed a fire, would you run?" Larry Dale asked.
"I might, Dale," Daniels said with a groan.
"I rest my case," Dale replied.
"Let's go see if my lemming theory might work. You're beginning to irritate me," Daniels commented, with an obvious frown.
Mick Daniels rather stomped from the break room - which was not on fire - and Larry Dale obediently followed. Both sped up when they heard commotion from the front end.
"Great," Daniels said.
Three men in Mad Mike's Electrical Service jumpsuits had gathered at self checkout. Self checkout number five was shooting sparks.
"What is going on here?" Daniels demanded.
Reeve Stockwell was in heated discussion with all three men. One of them waved his hands in frustration.
"That one must be Mike," Larry Dale said, pointing to the hand waver.
"What makes you think that?" Daniels asked.
"He looks mad," Larry Dale said, sounding delighted by his own wit.
"Pretty soon I'm going to ask you to wait in the car," Mick Daniels said, and Larry Dale chuckled again. "Stockwell, what's happening?"
"Well, sir. I was in my office waiting on my lunch, and I heard Bernice scream. I came out and this was happening," Stockwell said, pointing at the still sparking self checkout five. "We've used Mike's guys many times, and they happened to be here getting parts for another job."
"The Universe works in mysterious ways," Larry Dale muttered.
"Dale, put a cork in it," Daniels said with frustration.
"Where might I find a cork, boss?" Larry Dale asked.
"Check Faulkner's locker." Miles Longworth had just sauntered up front, and offered his two cents.
Without warning, the power went out. Almost immediately, it was back. Self checkout five rebooted itself in thirty seconds, and flashed into the "on," position.
"Whatever they did, it seems to have worked," Longworth surmised.
Everyone's head turned as a distinctive whirring became more pronounced. Every ceiling fan in the lighting area was spinning fast enough to launch a Space Shuttle.
"Holy shit," Larry Dale whispered. "That can't be good, boss."
"Mike!" Reeve Stockwell yelled. "Something's not right!"
All the jump-suited guys turned, and one ducked. "Incoming," the man yelled frantically.
The fans had taken all they could and were coming apart at the seams. A pink and white fan decorated with dainty strawberries exploded, and Penelope screamed and dove for cover.
One unit caught everyone's attention. A beautiful special order piece with chrome plated blades was spinning like a helicopter's propeller. "Sweet Mary, mother of God," Daniels whispered, as he began inching toward the door. Mags Davidson was shuffling customers into the vestibule. One blade let loose, missed Mags by a fraction of an inch and hit the door. Glass shattered, and Mick Daniels screamed like a Girl Scout in a haunted house.
"Everyone out!" Daniels yelled when he had composed himself. This insane asylum is closed until further notice!"
"Not bad timing, boss. Diggers just pulled in," Larry Dale said.
"Great. Longworth, get everyone out, then come out back. Stockwell, you find that Kitty woman and Mags, unless she gets killed first, and report out behind the building. Provided we find nothing that puts you all away for twenty-five to life, we may reopen tomorrow. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the second time in less than a month this store had been closed during working hours."
Five minutes later, a forlorn group, some dressed in neon green, was assembled behind the building. With the store closed until further notice, several Tool Towners had shown uninvited. Bernice and Penelope were perched upon a pile of pallets. Daisy Cates was chewing the nail on the middle finger of her left hand.
Those present by request looked far more uneasy. Kitty rocked from one foot to the other, and shot terrified glances in the direction of Longworth and Stockwell.
Stockwell hadn't gotten his burger, and had unsettling thoughts of Toothless Louise banging on the front door of the now closed Tommy's, while her Ford Escort sputtered in the parking lot and further damaged the environment.
Longworth was regretting the third cup of coffee he'd had and desperately needed to find a men's room.
Mags stood quietly with her hands shoved in her pockets. She was still shaken after narrowly escaping "death by fan."
H.D. Diggers had unloaded the backhoe, and approached the group.
"Larry Dale? Is there a Larry Dale here?" H.D. asked in a raspy voice.
"Mr. Diggers?" Larry Dale said, from where he stood alongside a seriously ticked-off Mick Daniels.
"Mister?" H.D. said, sounding suddenly feminine.
"My apologies, ma'am," Larry Dale said, as H.D. slipped out of a Carhart, revealing that Diggers was definitely not a mister.
"The name's Hannah. H.D. Diggers is the company name. Diggin's what we do," Hannah said. "You were brief on the phone. Wanna give me the low down on the purpose of my visit here?"
"One of the staff believes they saw something illegal taking place out here," Mick Daniels said authoritatively. "Ground's been disturbed. If something was buried here, I'd like to know what."
"Seriously? I don't want no monkey business, and no trouble. I left that life behind. I live by the book nowadays. I get the urge to get into somethin' and I go dig somethin' up. Why, I don't even go to Sturgis anymore. Last time I got arrested," Hannah rambled, and Daniels rolled his eyes. His lemming idea was sounding better and better.
Maybe I can get her to dig me out a huge cliff, Daniels thought.
"Did I hear someone say Sturgis?" Daisy yelled from amongst the crowd.
"Color me nostalgic, is that Crazy Daisy?" Hannah yelled.
"Is that Hannah Bandana?" Daisy yelled back.
"You are a sight for sore eyes," Hannah said, pulling Daisy into a fierce hug.
"You are a sight for sore everything. Did you ever think we'd get this damned old? You still ride? I'd like to, but nowadays I can't even swing my leg up over a curb, let alone a bike."
"What the hell is going on here?" Mick Daniels asked.
"We used to ride together," Daisy said. "Believe it or not, we used to be Hell's Angels," she added, and Hannah guffawed enthusiastically.
"We were so hot!" Hannah said.
"We sure were. My God, those were the days. Nothing out in front of us but open roads. Hair blowin' in the wind," Daisy reminisced.
"Dear God," Mick Daniels muttered.
Hannah screeched again, and jumped up and down.
"Now what?" Daniels growled.
"Holy crap, it's Toothless Louise!" H.D. said.
"Thank God. My burger," Reeve Stockwell mumbled.
"She's a Hell's person, too?" Daniels said.
"Sure as shootin'," Hannah remarked. "It's a Hell's Angel's reunion!"
"Well, this is just grand," Daniels yelled. "It's a God forsaken reunion. Anyone have anything they'd like to add? Is it anyone's birthday? Anyone want to have a freakin' Bar Mitzvah while we're out here celebrating? ANYONE? SURELY SOMEONE MUST HAVE SOMETHING!!!"
"I recently did a cleanse and lost five pounds," Larry Dale said. "I feel pretty great. If I was at Weight Watchers I'd get a pin. Maybe I could get a sticker or something, boss?"
"Shut up, Dale."