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.
"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.