Slick Mitchell stood outside the Receiving Bay door and waited for his confidant to exit his vehicle. Sonny Brooks stepped out of the behemoth car and walked to the building with all the swagger of an inmate on his final walk to the death chamber.
Perhaps Slick was mistaken. Perhaps he shouldn't have taken Sonny into his confidence. All that said, Sonny nearly shouted with glee when Slick assured him Tommy's wasn't haunted, and that alone made him a good candidate for the job.
"Ain't haunted?" Sonny said as he approached.
"I am absolutely certain," Slick assured.
Sonny had stopped ten feet from the door and Slick was sure he'd seen the grown man shiver.
What did Sonny think?
Did he think ghosts would come flying out of the closed door?
"And what is the basis for this air of certainty?" Sonny asked, and Slick arched a brow.
Sonny spoke with such finesse, he'd seemingly evolved from a frightened adolescent to someone who ought to be auditioning for Jeopardy.
"I might ask you what your basis was for determining the building is haunted," Slick said.
"Off the record?" Sonny asked.
"Consider the events of the next hour or so off the record," Slick replied.
"I saw something disappear before my very eyes," Sonny said.
"What?" Slick asked.
"A Dunkin Donuts cup," Sonny whispered.
Sonny did. He repeated himself and Slick smiled. "I saw it, too," Slick quipped.
"And you don't think the place is haunted? Stuff doesn't just disappear. When stuff disappears on TV, it means the place is haunted," Sonny explained.
"And on TV, a bunch of teenagers would go into the basement and get hacked up by a madman wielding a chainsaw," Slick commented. "It's just TV."
"They probably stole those chainsaws from Tommy's. Do you think that's why so many are stolen? I mean, if you were gonna hack up a bunch of unfortunates with a chainsaw, you wouldn't want to be linked by a receipt." Sonny seemed to be in deep pondering mode and Slick groaned.
"Sorry," Sonny mumbled.
"Besides, the cup didn't disappear," Slick said.
"What do you mean?" Sonny asked.
"Someone moved it," Slick suggested.
"Yeah. Someone dead," Sonny said, again with the almost unnoticeable shiver.
"No. Someone who'd shut the security cameras off," Slick said.
"You don't say. How'd you figure that out?" Sonny asked.
"I zoomed in on the clock," Slick explained.
"Seriously? That's brilliant."
It wasn't, but Slick smiled anyway.
"So, as I explained on the phone, something underhanded is going on here. I need an inside man to help me investigate my staff. You in?" Slick asked.
"Does it pay?" Sonny asked.
"I suppose. How much do you make now?" Slick asked. He supposed he should know, but he didn't.
"I made about 37 on my taxes last year," Sonny said. "How much does this pay? This "inside man," business?"
"About 37," Slick said.
"37 more?" Sonny asked, his pupils like saucers.
"No. About 37."
"So, still 37?" Sonny said softly.
"And what if I say no?" Sonny asked.
"You get paid zero."
"I'm in," Sonny conceded.
"Good," Slick quipped.
"Why'd you choose me?" Sonny asked. Slick was hoping he wouldn't have to explain himself. He couldn't respond honestly.
I chose you, Sonny Brooks, because you are basically an idiot who thought, based on a disappearing cup, that my store was haunted. You didn't do any research.
Sonny was like a book with a few missing chapters.
A harmless nincompoop who wouldn't steal a penny if he was alone on a deserted island.
No. The truth would definitely NOT work.
Slick paused for another ten seconds. "I chose you, Sonny Brooks, because I believe I can trust you, and I think you're smarter than you appear. Perhaps smart enough to pull off something underhanded, but honest enough that you'd never try. That said, I am concerned by how quickly you jumped to the conclusion that the store was haunted.
"I didn't notice the clock," Sonny whispered.
"How could you not?" Slick asked, without a hint of the frustration he felt.
"I could use new glasses," Sonny admitted.
"Don't you have the vision insurance?" Slick asked. He checked his watch. He had to get busy. He promised his mother he'd return, and the day was waning away quickly.
"I couldn't afford it," Sonny said softly.
"I'll throw it in," Slick offered.
"So, 37 plus vision?" Sonny asked.
"How about dental? I got this one tooth that bugs me from time to time," Sonny admitted.
"Okay," Slick said in a huff. "Dental, too."
"How about two extra vacation days?" Sonny asked.
"To go to the eye doctor and the dentist."
"Do it on your own time," Slick said, his tone terse.
"Okay," Sonny mumbled.
"We done?" Slick asked.
"Are we square? Is the deal now sufficient?"
"I guess," Sonny said in a near whine.
"One day?" Sonny asked.
"All right!" Slick barked. "37, plus dental and vision and one extra vacation day."
"Thank the Lord above," Slick said.
"So, what are we doing here?" Sonny asked.
"We're going to search Stockwell's office and Longworth's office," Slick advised.
"That feels wrong," Sonny complained.
"You in this or not?"
"Look it. Shit rolls down hill. Always has-" Slick began.
"What does that mean?" Sonny asked.
"If you'd let me finish. As I said, shit rolls down hill. We start investigating at the top. Stockwell and Longworth are at the top."
"So are you," Sonny whispered.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You own the place," Sonny said timidly.
"What are you suggesting?"
"It could be you," Sonny suggested. He felt like a Chevette at a stop light. He'd gone from thirty-seven to zero in about two seconds.
"It isn't me," Slick said.
"How do I know? How do I know you aren't asking me to help investigate everyone else to keep the suspicion off of you?" Sonny asked.
"Because I told you so," Slick said.
"You sound like my dad," Sonny said.
"Dear God above. Forget it. Go home and forget the whole damn thing, Sonny."
"What did you say?" Slick asked. He was nearly shaking with rage.
"I said 'no.' I'm in. I believe you," Sonny lied.
"Okay. We're going in. For the next hour we're going to investigate Stockwell and Longworth. You'll stay by my side and do what I ask, and if anyone asks you what you did here tonight, you were never here. Got it?"
"Yeah. Because if I say anything I'm fired."
"If you say anything you're dead. Deal?"
"Deal," Sonny whispered.