Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 48 - A Whole Lot of Monkey Business Going On

Slick Mitchell sat in his office in the rear of the Tommy store, staring at his cell phone.  The text was from a number he didn't recognize, and he was certain the sender was using an alias.

Mickey Burger?

Who the hell was Mickey Burger?

Why was he watching Slick and his family?

Slick read the text again.

Mickey Burger is watching you.  Mickey Burger is watching your entire family.  You will not escape the wrath of Mickey Burger.

What the hell?

Slick felt something shift in his abdomen and he replayed the doubts that had raced through his mind over the past several weeks.

Something was going on at Tommy's.

Slick had suspected as much for a while.

Slick ran a hand through his hair and thought about the tapes.

He'd locked them in his file cabinet.

Multiple times when the night shift wasn't present, there was time missing from the security tapes.  Slick saw it with his own eyes.  Someone had messed with the security system, had stopped the cameras for an extended length of time.  Someone was up to no good.

And Slick suspected it was an inside job.

Slick groaned.

Tommy's was a family.  It always had been.  It was how the original Tommy ran his business.  Slick had photos of Tommy holding employees' babies, had photos of Tommy hugging his employees at Christmas parties.

Slick didn't hold babies.

He didn't like them.

They smelled, and they always seemed to want to vomit when Slick was around.

Slick didn't hug his employees.

If he did, they'd probably call Corporate, file some harassment suit against him.

Tommy's used to be a family.  Now it was a Corporate conglomeration.  Suddenly, Slick hated Corporate America.  He hated that people no longer mattered.

He wanted to hug his people, care about them, ask about their families and their lives.

But, it was too late.

Now he needed to find out everything he could about them, because no one was above suspicion.

Slick paused for a moment, took a hefty gulp of his coffee, and thought about the likely suspects.

Miles Longworth was one suspicious guy.

He was always lurking about with his head down, and what was up with the guy's obsession with the dumpster?

Was the text from Miles?

Slick didn't think so.  Miles was a good manager, he did his job, but Slick always suspected the guy had some issues outside of work, and he didn't think stalking and manipulation were within Miles' power.  Miles didn't have the organizational skills to pull off anything underhanded and even if he did, he wouldn't be able to live with the guilt and keep it quiet.  Miles' biggest ongoing infraction was probably smoking by the dumpster, and the only single incident was when he'd tracked horse shit all over the flooring department, and then swore up and down he hadn't been at the track during his extended lunch hour.


Miles was NOT Mickey Burger.


He could be Mickey Burger.

He was a wiry guy, high energy, had his hand in everything.  Nobody knew the ins and outs of the Tommy system better than Reeve Stockwell.  He was like the whisperer when it came to figuring things out within the elaborate Tommynet system.  He'd even fixed the security cameras once, when everything tweaked out and went black.

Slick sat up straighter in his chair.

Stockwell knew how to fix the security cameras.

Slick Mitchell remembered the day well.

He'd pulled up in his Mercedes, took his regular managerial parking spot, strolled up to the front door, and found Stockwell on a ladder, messing with the security cameras.  He'd stayed up there for most of the day, only taking a break when some Toothless person showed up with a greasy bag full of fries and a .......

"Burger," Slick said out loud.  "Holy shit," Slick Mitchell whispered.

He'd always found that woman strange, all dressed in black leather.  And, who delivered food on a motorcycle?

No one.

Maybe it wasn't even food in the numerous bags that were carried into Stockwell's office on nearly a daily basis.

Maybe it was something else.

Something illegal.

"Dear God," Slick whispered.  The first piece of the puzzle slipped into place.

Mickey Burger was none other than....


Stockwell stunk like a skunk in this thing.  The police had questioned everyone out back, everyone except Stockwell.  He'd found a way to slip away.  The cops were still out there, and they planned to call in their own company and dig out the hole at first light.  The entire store had been declared a possible crime scene, and was closed until morning.  Thankfully, the local media only reported that an accident had occurred behind the Tommy store and a Tommy employee had been seriously injured, but Slick knew that was about to get worse.

What the hell was buried out there?

Was it JJ Patricks?

JJ was an odd person, even frightening in the glow of dawn, but JJ didn't strike him as someone who would hurt a fly.

Slick knew Stockwell didn't much care for JJ. 

Maybe she was buried out back.

Maybe Stockwell killed her.

Maybe JJ found out something she wasn't supposed to know.

Everyone said it was the quiet ones you had to watch out for. 

Slick felt shame and disgust.  All this funny business was going on right in front of him, and he didn't even see it. 

Tommy Mitchell had built something beautiful, and Slick Mitchell, prodigal grandson, had sat back and watched it all crumble.

He was a dick.

Maybe he could fix it.  Maybe he could go into this thing a douche bag and come out a hero.

It happened.

Not always.

Most times it went in reverse.

Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that idiot, Anthony Weiner.

Most went in as heroes and came out as douche bags, but couldn't it work in reverse?

Couldn't it?

A soft glow of hope ignited inside of Slick, as if a couple of prepubescent Boy Scouts had rubbed two sticks together inside of Mitchell's soul, and finally made a fire.

This could work.

Slick could fix it.

He shook his head.

"I've never fixed anything in my life," the broken Mitchell whispered.

That much was true.  Slick Mitchell had never fixed anything in his life.  If it was broken, he took it to someone who could fix it.  He tried to fix his mother's Panini maker last year and had set the kitchen on fire.


Slick Mitchell couldn't fix this, not without help, but that was okay.  A true hero would recognize his own shortcomings, and call in for reinforcements when necessary.

Slick knew who to call, and who not to call.

Miles Longworth couldn't help him with this.  He'd leave Miles out of it.

Reeve Stockwell couldn't help him.  Stockwell was a crook. 

Slick had never been more certain of anything in his life.

"Larry," Slick whispered.

Larry Dale was the company fixer, and no Tommy store had ever needed fixing more than Slick's place.

Slick Mitchell picked up the phone.

Larry Dale answered on the first ring.


Reeve Stockwell sat across from JJ Patricks at Denny's, forty miles south of the Tommy store.  The place was nearly deserted.

Stockwell picked at his pancakes, while JJ plowed through a deluxe breakfast with all the fixings.  He was too nervous to eat.

"So, what's the deal?" Stockwell asked, once JJ had paused to breathe.

"The deal with what?" she asked.

"The deal with me being an agent," Stockwell said.

"You'll be deputized specifically for this case to transmit information.  You'll be more of a confidential informant."

"That sounds cool," Stockwell said, and JJ smiled.

"I suppose it does," she replied, shoving an enormous pile of food into her mouth.

"Will I have a badge?" Stockwell asked, his voice soft.


"How will I identify myself as an agent?" he asked.

"No one knows you're working for the FBI, but me," JJ responded.

"Can I tell my wife?" Stockwell asked. 

"Am I your wife?" JJ quipped.

"No," Stockwell mumbled.

"Then, no."

"Okay," Stockwell said, his voice sad.  "What if I have to shoot someone?"

"Excuse me?" JJ said, setting her fork down with a metallic plop.

Stockwell repeated the question.

"You're not going to be shooting anyone."

"I can't shoot a suspect?" Stockwell asked.

"No," JJ said, her voice rising.

"What if someone shoots at me?" Stockwell said.

"Shoot back," JJ said.

"With what?"

"A monkey."

"I beg your pardon?" Stockwell asked.

"Are you dimwitted, Mr. Stockwell?" JJ asked.


"You ask some dumbass questions."

"I'm new to this," Stockwell said defensively.

"To conversation?" JJ asked.

"No.  To working for the effing FBI."

"Watch your words, please," JJ advised.

"What?  I didn't use the "F" word."

"You used the 'FBI' word," JJ whispered.  She looked pissed, and Stockwell's shoulders slumped.  He'd only worked for the FBI for an hour and a half.  He didn't want to get fired so soon.

"You'll be issued a weapon.  Do you have a license to carry concealed?" JJ asked.

"To carry a concealed what?" Stockwell said.

"Dear God.  A gun, you idiot.  What else?" JJ asked.

"A monkey," Stockwell mumbled.

"Do you know anyone who has a license to carry a concealed monkey?" JJ said, trying to fight a smile.

"No.  Besides, where would you hide it?" Stockwell asked.

"I would hesitate to comment on that," JJ replied.  She resumed the shoveling of her eggs and meat, and for a moment, Stockwell was mesmerized.

"You always eat like this?  You're pretty small," Stockwell remarked.

"I'm pregnant," JJ said.

"Really?" Stockwell said, without thinking.

"No.  I lied."


"Mary Jo and I are going to have a baby.  In about six months.  I'd like to wrap up my last case before I go out on leave."

"And how do you plan to do that?" Stockwell asked, genuinely interested.

"By deputizing you, Mr. Stockwell.  You are going to help me solve this case, or die trying."

Stockwell shivered, and almost wet himself.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 47 - Stockwell. Reeve Stockwell. A Man with a Badge.

Ada MacKenzie sat in the interview room munching a snack size bag of Orville Reddenbacher's popcorn.  She smiled between chewing.  The deputy sat across from her, wishing he'd gone to medical school.

"Ma'am?  Can we get back to our story?"

"What story is that?" Ada asked, and the deputy frowned.

"The one where you very nearly killed a man with a backhoe."

"Oh.  That one," Ada said.  She thrust her hand into the bag once more, grabbed a fistful of popcorn, and shoved it into her mouth.

The deputy rolled his eyes.

"I saw that," Ada said, through a generous mouthful.

Bits of popcorn flew from the cavern in her face like pieces of confetti.

The deputy grimaced.

"Saw that, too," Ada said, immediately after swallowing the salty cud.

"Mrs. MacKenzie, can we please talk?  I promise, once you tell me what I need to know, I will get you as many bags of popcorn as you'd like.  A lifetime supply, if you wish," the deputy promised.

"Now that is just cruel," Ada said, shaking her head.

"How so?"

"I'm ninety-nine.  How much popcorn do you think I need to last me a lifetime?"

"Well, you plowed through that one like you just got voted off the Survivor Island," the deputy remarked.

"I ain't had a good set of teeth in a few days.  Jello and that slimy shit Helen made last night will only carry an old lady so far," Ada explained.

"Who's Helen?" the deputy asked.  One way or the other, he'd get to the bottom of this.

"She's the Wicked Witch of the North."

"I didn't know there was a Wicked Witch of the North," the deputy commented.

"You ain't never met Helen.  There are days, let me tell ya, I'd like to take a backhoe to that one."

The deputy froze for a moment. 


"Helen.  She's a real piece of work," Ada said.

"Is she alive?" the deputy asked.  Had he stumbled upon the oldest serial killer in history?

"She was this morning."

"Good.  That's very good."

"You wouldn't say that if you knew Helen," Ada said with a frown.

"Tell me about the event at the store," the deputy said, trying to drive the conversation back to the matter at hand.

"Which one?  Those folks are a bunch of nut jobs," Ada remarked.

"How about we focus on the one with the backhoe," the deputy suggested.  He thought of his wife for a moment.  He wondered if he'd ever see her again.

Ada brushed a mountain of crumbs from the front of the get-up she was wearing, and rubbed her hands together.  "So you want to know about the back hoe?"

"Yes.  Ma'am.  I'm prepared to beg."

"No need.  So, a few days back......  Let me see, might have been a month of so, or maybe last week," Ada began, sounding confused.

"You don't remember?" the deputy asked.

"You ever been ninety-nine?"

"No," the deputy whispered.

"Then don't criticize.  Let me think what was on that night," Ada said.

"On what?"

"The television."

"Oh," the deputy said, trying not to groan.

"Pretty sure it was a Wednesday.  Helen was watching the Criminal Minds when I hid in Kitty's car."

"Why'd you do that?" the deputy asked.

"I wanted to know what she was up to," Ada explained.

"What did you think she was up to?" the deputy asked.

"I thought she might have a man friend.  I've been praying for one for years.  You married, son?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Damn.  Okay, where were we?"

"You were hiding in Kitty's car."

"Right," Ada said.  She closed her eyes, and her lips began to move.  "I was in the car for a long time.  Darn near peed myself, but I was prepared for that, so I had the Depends on."


"Not so much.  Those things are uncomfortable as the day is long.  Ain't made to fit a little thing like me.  I could pack a village in those pants."

The deputy groaned in silence.  It was going to be one hell of a long night.  "Mrs. MacKenzie, can we move past the Depends.  Where did Kitty go that night?"

"The store," Ada replied.



"What did she do there?" the deputy asked.

"She buried something," Ada said, and the deputy sat up straighter.  Finally, they were getting somewhere.

"What did she bury, Mrs. MacKenzie?"

"I don't know," Ada said.

"Was it a body?" the deputy asked.

"What exactly are you asking?" Ada said, sounding like someone much more alert than she had just moments ago.

"I am asking if you think Kitty may be involved in something illegal."

"Like what?" Ada said, staring a hole through the deputy, who shifted uncomfortably.

"Something like murder," the deputy said, and Ada didn't even flinch.  "Doesn't that bother you, Ma'am?"

"Not so much," Ada said, her voice calm.

"Why not?  Do you know something I don't know?" the deputy asked.

"Probably lots of things.  I'm older than dirt, ya know."

"So you've said," the deputy asked.

"You don't seem fazed by the fact that your granddaughter might be a murderer.  Why is that?" the deputy asked.

"Because every cloud has a silver lining," Ada mumbled.


"Maybe I can get her to knock Helen off next."


Reeve Stockwell froze at the familiarity of the voice.  "JJ?" he finally whispered.

"Yes, sir," the woman said.  She flipped on a dim light over the bed where Daniels lay.  It illuminated the space enough for Stockwell to see the woman clearly.  He wouldn't have recognized her anywhere.  Her hair was perfect, her makeup like something out of Vogue, her suit, pristine, perfectly pressed.

"What the hell is going on here?  You don't look like my cashier, and you certainly don't look dead."

"I am neither, sir," JJ Patricks said, rising from the chair where she had sat for over an hour.

"Then, what are you?" Reeve Stockwell said. 

"Let's talk outside.  I have a car," JJ Patricks said.  She wove through the hallways of the ER, and Stockwell obediently followed.  The lobby doors opened and the two exited.  JJ led him to a black SUV, and hit a button on the key fob she held.  She invited him into the passenger seat, and he accepted.

Reeve Stockwell sat and waited while JJ circled the vehicle.  He had no idea what was happening, and he wondered if she might kill him.  Something shifted in his colon at the thought, and the cheeseburger and fries resumed their macabre dance in his gut.

JJ Patricks climbed into the SUV, closed the door, and looked at him.

Stockwell found his voice and spoke bravely.

"You're not going to kill me, are you?" Stockwell asked.

"Of course not,"  JJ replied.

"Who are you?" Stockwell asked.  JJ reached for something in her pocket and Stockwell froze.  Maybe she WAS going to kill him.  The street light cast a glow on the object she held.  It wasn't a gun.

"Jean Lynne Jackson, FBI," the woman said.

"Get the hell out of here," Stockwell said very loudly.

"It's my car, sir," JJ replied.

"It's just an expression," Stockwell mumbled, still in shock.

JJ laughed.  "I know, Reeve.  I was just messing with you.  I've been watching you for a long time."

"Really?  Why?"

"To see what you know," JJ explained.

"What did you find out?" Reeve Stockwell asked.

"You should have a glucose test, for starters.  You still play the clarinet, although you don't think anyone knows that.  You should have been able to smell the pot in those brownies, but that was a hoot.  You're a damn good singer."

"Thanks, I think," Stockwell said.  "Anything else?"

"You are a high strung fellow, and you try to be involved in everything that happens in your store, but I don't think you're involved in this."

"In what?" Stockwell asked.  He'd relaxed enough that he no longer felt like he might fill his trousers, but his curiosity was peaked, and he felt excitement course through his veins.

"Something is going on in Tommy's Tool Town.  We're fairly certain the store is a cover for an illegal operation, but we're not sure what, and we don't know who might be the ring leader."

"Miles Longworth," Stockwell said.

"Miles?" JJ asked.

"Maybe.  He's a secretive guy, always has something going on.  He sends his wife on vacations to shop to feed her habit, or so he says, but maybe he just needs her out of the way."

"I didn't get that vibe from Miles, although he needs to stop the horses thing, and the cigars are gonna kill him.  If someone else doesn't get there first," JJ said.

Stockwell's eyes got huge.

"Murder?" he asked in a whisper.

"Could go there."

"We found stuff," Stockwell said.  "We know something's hokey there.  Maybe it's Sonny Brooks.  He thinks the place is haunted.  Maybe he wants us to think that to make sure nobody's around at night."

"He's a chicken shit," JJ said.  "I'm pretty sure Sonny's about as innocent as a newborn baby.

"About as annoying, too," Stockwell remarked.

The SUV grew silent.  JJ looked out the window to her left.  Stockwell stared at his hands.

"I need you," JJ said.

"I'm married," Stockwell said.

"So am I," JJ said.

"You are?  Has your husband ever been in the store?  Does he know what you do?"

"Yes.  To both."

"What does he think?" Stockwell asked.

"His name is Mary Jo, and she thinks I rock," JJ said, smiling.

"Well then," Stockwell said.

"So, back to needing you," JJ said.

"Yeah.  That," Stockwell commented.

"I need a man on the inside.  Someone no one would suspect," JJ said.

"Who?" Stockwell said, running through his staff in his head.

"You, Reeve.  I'd like you to help the FBI solve this case," JJ said.

Stockwell jumped in his seat, whacking his head on the window.  He rubbed his head for a moment and turned to stare at JJ.  "Seriously?" he asked.  Unable to contain his excitement, he began to fidget like a kid who just learned he was going to Disney.  "Seriously?" he said again.


"Will I be like an agent?" Stockwell asked.

"You would be.  You in?" JJ asked.

"I'm totally in," Stockwell said, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 46 - A Sister From Another Mister

Reeve Stockwell sat in the driver's seat of Mick Daniel's car.  He ran his hands over the fine leather, poked and prodded the stereo until he found a station with Taylor Swift, and searched for a full five minutes until he found the headlights.

The car was a thing of beauty.  Stockwell was going to enjoy this.

He'd never drive a car like this again.

Tomorrow he probably wouldn't have a job.

He hit the gas.

He damn near sent himself through the windshield.

He hit the brakes.

He almost broke his own neck.

"Easy does it," he whispered.

He hadn't driven anything other than Ethel, his ancient piece of crap with two mismatched doors and a bad muffler, for over a decade. 

"Come to Daddy," he whispered, and the car took off like a shot.  He managed to make it out of the parking lot without killing anyone - himself included - and then he headed toward the hospital.

Stockwell realized, upon arriving, that he had no idea how to find Larry Dale.  He parked the car, deposited the keys into the right hand pocket of his Sears trousers, and strolled toward the hospital.  He was pretty sure Daniels was in the morgue, but where was Larry Dale?

With little effort, and no trouble, Stockwell found the Information desk.  He had no idea what to ask.

A volunteer, whose age appeared to be somewhere between seventy and two hundred, sat behind the desk.  "May I help you, sir?"

"I'm pretty sure my boss is dead somewhere in the hospital," Stockwell said.

"I beg your pardon?" the old woman asked.

"My boss came in in an ambulance.  I'm pretty sure he didn't make it.  I have his car.  I'm not sure what to do with it."

"What to do with what?" the woman asked.

"The car," Stockwell replied.

"We don't service cars," the woman said.

"What?" Stockwell asked.

"We take care of people, not cars.  You should take your car to that old fella on Route 89, out near the miniature golf place that burned down last year.  Think his name's Ray.  He fixes cars.  Boy, my grandson cried and cried thinking about the burning clown.  Sunk the ball right in his nose couple of years back."

Stockwell just stared at the woman. "What the hell are you talking about?" he asked.

"What the hell are you talking about?" the woman asked, flinching at her own use of profanity.  "I'm sorry," she whispered far too loudly.  "We're encouraged not to swear."

"I don't mind," Stockwell said.

"What were we talking about?" the woman asked.

"My dead boss," Stockwell whispered.

The volunteer looked shocked.  "What's his name?"

"Mick Daniels," Reeve Stockwell replied.  "Is there a visitor's area near the morgue?"

"You wanna visit your dead boss?" the woman asked.

"No.  I'm looking for Larry Dale," Stockwell explained.

"Is he dead, too?" the woman asked.

"He wasn't about thirty minutes ago," Stockwell said. 

"Stockwell?" Larry Dale hollered across the lobby.

"Dale.  What's the good word?" Stockwell crossed the lobby and shook the fixer's hand.  The volunteer was cleaning her glasses and whistling a Frank Sinatra song.  Stockwell was grateful to no longer require her assistance.

"He's in the Emergency Room," Larry Dale said.

"They don't have a morgue?" Stockwell asked.

"They do, but they prefer to only use it for dead folks," Dale explained.

"He's alive?" Stockwell said incredulously.

"He is.  He is tough as nails, that Mick Daniels.  He'll be mighty messed up for a while, probably wanna spend a little time down south, maybe Disney, and I reckon he'll retire, but he's as alive as we are." 

"I was sure he was dead," Stockwell said.

"Nope.  Not dead," Larry Dale assured.

"We're all getting fired," Stockwell moaned, taking a seat on an ugly blue chair.

"Probably not.  He said he doesn't remember anything after we left the Corporate office yesterday morning."

"That's a relief," Stockwell said.

"Yeah, for me, too.  I slept with the guy last night.  I don't mind if he blocks that out," Larry Dale said, and Stockwell blushed.

"Really?  I thought you had a wife."

"She'd understand," Larry Dale said and Stockwell shook his head.  "Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

"Jeez.  I guess," Stockwell said.  He was itching to leave, but didn't want to return to the store until he was sure Mitchell was gone.  He didn't want to go home, because he'd have to explain to his wife why he was probably going to get fired, and she'd probably kill him.  He couldn't stay at the hospital, because he couldn't handle any more talk about Daniels' miraculous survival, Dale's understanding wife, or anyone's escapades at some seedy motel. 

Maybe he'd try to see Daniels.

Maybe he'd try to smother him with a pillow.

"I'm gonna go outside and call my wife," Larry Dale said.  "We'd planned to be home tonight."

"I may head in to see Mr. Daniels," Stockwell said.

"Good idea," Larry Dale said animatedly.  "Perhaps you could help him with his memory."

"On second thought...."

"I was just messin' with you," Larry Dale said, punching Stockwell lightly in the arm, which nearly sent Reeve toppling over.  "Boss got hit so hard he won't ever remember what happened.  He thinks we got into a car accident."

"We very nearly did," Reeve Stockwell mumbled.

"Okay.  I'm going to go call my Sweet Pea.  You tell the boss I said 'hey'," Larry Dale said with a wave.

Reeve Stockwell strolled to the Emergency Room entrance.  A triage nurse sat fiddling with a smart phone.

"Can I help you?" she asked, without looking up.

"I'm looking for Mick Daniels."

"You a relative?"

"I'm his brother," Stockwell said.

"Room 14.  Your sister's already here."


"Thanks," Stockwell mumbled.  He approached the double doors and they swung open.  The ER was ablaze with fluorescent lights, and a flutter of activity.  Room 14 was halfway down on the left.  The door was ajar.  The room, dark.

Stockwell stepped inside.

Daniels eyes were closed.

Stockwell took another step.

Something moved in the corner.


"Hello?" Stockwell said, his voice wavering.  The figure was small in stature and clad in black.

The Grim Reaper?

A man could hope.

"Good evening, Mr. Stockwell," a woman's voice said.  The voice was smooth.  Polished.  Professional.

"Who are you?" Stockwell asked.  He knew it wasn't his sister.

She was in Chicago with newborn triplets and a wicked case of hemorrhoids.

"You don't remember me?" the woman asked.  The voice was almost familiar but Stockwell just couldn't place it.

"Obviously not," Stockwell replied.

 "Want a hint?" the voice nearly purred.

"Why not."

"Meeesssster Stoooockwellll?"


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 45 - Someone's Goin' to the Clink

Slick Mitchell sat at his mother's dining room table.  She leered at him.

"Eat your peas, Peta" she hissed.

"I don't like peas, mother," Mitchell said. 

"Rachel would eat the peas," his mother said, her voice suddenly sad.

"Well, Rachel isn't here, is she?  She ran off with some guy she met on the Internet, isn't that what you told me?" Mitchell asked the woman who had suddenly fallen silent.  "She's always been a mess, Mother.  Why do you think that is?"

Rachel, whose last name Slick didn't know, had had more husbands than Elizabeth Taylor.  She lived on a trust fund Tommy Mitchell had set up for her before he'd lost his marbles.  She frequently disappeared, and her absence was so typical, Slick didn't even blink. 

His mother opened her mouth to make another remark, but before she spoke, Mitchell's phone buzzed beside him.

"I told you not to bring that to the table, Peta," his mother complained.

"And I told you I run a company and can't come to these weekly lunches without it.  How do you think all this gets paid for, Mother?" Slick asked, as his phone continued to dance about on the lace tablecloth.  He waved his hand across the room.  "Do you think money falls from the sky?"

"Your grandfather's fortune paid for this," his mother said, her voice thick with anger.

"It did, and I sustain it by running the family business," Slick Mitchell reminded the woman across from him.  She'd have raised her eyebrows if she wasn't botoxed to the point of looking like a rock wearing makeup. 

"Answer it," his mother whispered.

Mitchell did.

"What?" he nearly wailed as his face went pale.  "I'll be right there." 

"Who was that?" his mother asked, rising so quickly, she bumped the table and sent peas swirling about like little green marbles.

"Why would you care?" Slick asked thoughtlessly.  His mother looked struck.  "I'm sorry, Mom," he said, with a softness to his voice that he usually reserved for anyone other than the woman who stood trembling beside him.  He reached to steady her, and she grabbed for his hand, in a gesture reminiscent of the mother she'd once been.

"I just need to know if it was Rachel," his mother whispered.  She suddenly sounded terrified.

"Why would you ask that?" Slick Mitchell asked.  He needed to leave, but couldn't yet tear himself away.

"I miss her," his mother lied.

"I do, too.  I miss who she used to be.  I miss who you used to be, too, Mom," he added bravely.

"I miss me, too," his mother said.  "Peter," she whispered, and Slick was astounded to hear his name spoken correctly. 

"Yes?" Slick asked.

"Come back later, would you?"

"I can.  Is everything all right, Mom?"

"No.  I'm not feeling well.  I'd rather not be alone today."

Slick Mitchell hugged his mother, something he hadn't done in years.  She felt frail in his arms, and she shook as she clung to him.  If a man wasn't lying in a hole behind the business his grandfather had built, Slick wouldn't have left her.  He was suddenly frightened.

"Give me an hour.  I'll be back," Slick Mitchell said softly.

His mother watched him leave from the porch of the grand home in which Peter Mitchell had lived for eighteen years.  Only when his car was out of sight, did she dial the phone hidden in her pocket.

It rang only once.

"He's gone.  May I please speak to my daughter?"


"Is he dead?" Miles Longworth asked the paramedic who'd strapped a still Mick Daniels to the stretcher.

"He is hanging on," the paramedic said, without meeting Longworth's steady stare.

"No one's ever died here before," Longworth remarked.  "Mags has come close a few times, but this is a new thing for us."

The paramedic threw Longworth a quizzical look, as he and a partner loaded Daniels into an ambulance.

Larry Dale climbed into the ambulance, looking pale and anxious.  Dale was a man unfamiliar with a situation he couldn't fix, and Daniels didn't look as though a band of angels could fix him.

The ambulance pulled away, as the group of Tool Towners stood watching.

"What about the store?" Reeve Stockwell asked.

"I called Mitchell.  He's on his way," Longworth replied.

"And the hole?" Stockwell said.

"That Bandana woman filled it in," Longworth said, with a slight chuckle.

Stockwell shook his head.  His stomach was still churning.  "Are the cops still here?"

"They've got Ada in the backseat.  Looks like they're still questioning Kitty," Longworth explained, pointing a distance away, where a single police car still sat.

"Gotcha," Stockwell said.  "That poor Kitty.  I wonder how she handles everything on her plate."

"'That poor Kitty?'" Longworth repeated.  "How about poor us?  We damn near went to prison today." Longworth quipped, in a voice louder than intended.

"Why don't you shout it from the rooftops, you doofus.  Maybe they can still get us in by day's end," Stockwell groaned, as a few remaining greasy fries did the Macarena in his gut.

"Sorry 'bout that," Longworth said. 

"Can you handle Mitchell?" Stockwell asked.

"Seriously?" Longworth said in astonishment.  "Where the hell are you going?"

"I need to get some Pepto Bismol and take Daniels' car to the hospital.  I promised Larry Dale I wouldn't be far behind."

"Chicken shit," Longworth mumbled.

"Why do you say that?" Stockwell questioned.

"You don't want to face the music," Longworth remarked, sounding angry.  "You don't want to face Mitchell."

Stockwell's face took on a fiery red appearance.  His stomach churned again.  He turned toward Longworth.  "Look it, Miles.  Larry Dale handed me a set of keys and said, 'would you bring Mr. Daniels' car to the hospital?'  I said I would.  How is that chicken shit?"

"All right.  I guess it's not.  I guess it's a good day to be Reeve Stockwell," Longworth whined.

"You wouldn't say that if you had my bowels right about now," Stockwell groaned, and Longworth laughed out loud.

Alejandro, who was standing in a pack of forlorn-looking Tool Towners, shook his head.

"Shouldn't be laughing at a time like this," Alejandro remarked.

"I wasn't laughing about what happened," Longworth replied defensively.

"I shouldn't think so," the young man said.

"I wasn't," Longworth repeated.

"Are we working?" Alejandro asked.  "'Cause if we're not, a bunch of us were thinking about getting a drink."

"Should you be drinking at a time like this?" Longworth said, his tone condescending.

"Can't see any reason why not." the lad replied.  "Someone mentioned Mr. Daniels was a religious sort of a fella.  I think he'd be pleased to know we had a little wine."

"Where you going?" Longworth asked.

"That dive where Toothless Louise works," Alejandro replied.

"They don't serve wine there," Stockwell piped in.

"I think we can all agree if Jesus comes back, he'll be turning water into Coors Light.  I think Mr. Daniels would understand our modern-day take on the whole situation," Alejandro surmised.

Longworth began to speak, but was interrupted.  "Whatever.  Nobody's going anywhere-"

"Except me," Stockwell interjected.

"Let me try that again.  Nobody's going anywhere, except this shithead who won the key raffle, until Slick Mitchell gets here," Longworth explained.

"Good luck," Stockwell said, as he turned away.

His mind raced as he walked.  Longworth wasn't entirely wrong.  There were at least two dozen Tool Towners assembled around the crime scene, and out of all of them, Larry Dale had placed the keys into his hands.  His stomach rolled again, and Stockwell released an audible groan.

As long as he didn't crap himself, it wasn't a bad day to be Reeve Stockwell.


Kitty Richardson dropped her face into her hands.  Aaron Faulkner and Daisy Cates stood close by her side."

"You can't arrest her.  She's ninety-nine years old," Kitty whined to the police deputy.

"I am not arresting her.  I am merely suggesting we take her downtown," the deputy replied.  "She isn't making much sense and I need to get a definitive statement."

"She's stressed," Kitty replied.

"I am not stressed.  I am happy as a clam," Ada said from the backseat.

"You're happy you killed a man?" the deputy asked, his eyes narrowing.

"I didn't kill nobody.  You, yourself said he was hanging on.  And, besides, I'm not happy I clocked him, I'm happy I found my teeth.  You ever try to eat popcorn without half your teeth?" Ada asked.

"No ma'am," the deputy responded.

"Look at me," Ada commanded.  "I don't want folks thinkin' I'm in there because I'm out doing things of ill repute."

"Why would anyone think that?" Aaron Faulkner asked.

"Look at what she's wearing," Daisy remarked.

"Hmm.  Good point," Aaron replied.

"Oh, my God!" Kitty wailed to both Aaron and Daisy.  "My grandmother is going to the clink looking like a geriatric hooker.  This cannot be happening."

"Calm yourself, child," Daisy cooed.  "It's going to be okay.  Let them take her.  She's happy she's got her teeth, so she'll be none the worse for wear for this.  You know she'll be down at the Senior Center in less than a week recounting all of this like some superstar.  Am I right?"

"Yeah," Kitty moaned.

"I'll take you to the station, Kitty.  You don't have to do this alone," Aaron Faulker offered.

"Praise be to God," Ada wailed.  "And when we're all done at the big house, you two can go to the Court House and tie the knot!"

"No, Grandma.  The Court House is closed," Kitty replied.

"There's always tomorrow.  We'll have a party afterward.  I'll pop us up some of that nice Orville Redden Neckers, and bring out the cooking sherry," Ada said delightfully.

"Sir.  I noticed you're packing.  You wouldn't be willing to shoot me, would you?" Kitty asked the deputy.

"If it wouldn't cost me my job, lose me my wife, and get me killed on the inside, I just might," the deputy said.

"That's the nicest thing anyone's said to me in a long time," Kitty whispered with a sigh.