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.
"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.
"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?"
"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."
"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.