Kitty Richardson had just hunkered down with an almost inedible Lean Cuisine when her phone vibrated. She dropped the forkful of caulking-covered noodles into the convenient serving tray and picked up the device beside her. Ada was learning to text.
LFMT. The text read.
Kitty responded almost immediately. What? Do you mean LMAO?
Kitty set the phone aside and took another bite of the sickening concoction. Ada's response took less than 30 seconds.
I'm looking for my teeth.
"Dear God," Kitty whispered.
The phone vibrated again. Kitty reread the text three times before reacting.
What the hell???
The horror of the Lean Cuisine was momentarily forgotten.
I am locked in a freezer. I'm afraid I am going to die. Can you come get me out?
Kitty threw the disgusting entrée into the trash, let the dogs out, and quickly typed.
Who is this? Grandma? Is this you? How did you get yourself into the freezer, and do you really think you left your teeth in there?
The phone buzzed ten seconds later.
It's Aaron Faulkner. You texted me the directions to your house when I delivered your Grandmother's stove. That's how I got your number. I snuck into Tommy's to get my scotch, Faulkner lied. Someone else is inside the store, so I hid in a freezer. Now I'm trapped.
In nobody else's life could this possibly happen. Kitty laughed out loud, and looked down at her choice of evening wear.
She supposed she should rescue Faulkner, but her Winnie the Pooh pajamas were not appropriate for rescuing anyone, save Christopher Robin. She let the dogs back into the suite, and rushed to the bedroom closet. Ten minutes later, she was on her way.
She should have checked the rearview mirror.
Reeve Stockwell held the weapon in front of him, and felt adrenaline surge through his veins. He grinned like a teenage boy. He couldn't believe it. He'd been deputized. For all intents and purposes, he was an FBI Agent. His dream had come true. In an instant, his life had a purpose. He was no longer just a guy who managed people who sold nuts and bolts, and lawn tractors, and commodes. He was working for the FBI.
He'd lied to his wife, something he rarely did. He'd told her he had a meeting, an important meeting, a meeting to talk about a promotion. He knew that would get his wife into an agreeable mood, and buy him some time.
The miraculously transformed JJ Patricks had left him in the Tommy parking lot, but Reeve was smarter than most gave him credit for. He'd driven to Mort's Hardware, Tommy's closest competitor, left a few Tommy flyers in Mort's mailbox, just for fun, and then driven to a deserted park.
He'd left his beater parked out of sight, and hiked back the mile or so toward the Tommy compound.
The last quarter mile took him through a residential area. He heard a clang to his right, and hit the ground like a soldier. The gun bounced along the sidewalk and skittered out of sight.
"Shit," Stockwell whispered. He'd only been an agent for an hour and he'd already lost his weapon.
Something clanged again and he froze.
He'd been made.
He crawled silently toward a row of shrubbery, moving through something slimy in his travels. The pungent odor assaulted his nose.
He'd crawled through dog crap.
This wasn't going well.
He'd been made, he'd lost his weapon, and now he was covered in shit.
Reeve Stockwell had seen every James Bond movie ever made. Bond never hid in the shrubbery, covered in crap. Bond drove around in an expensive sports car, gun in the console, and a beautiful woman in the passenger seat.
Stockwell peeked through the shrubs. A heavyset man in a bathrobe was desperately trying to cover his metal garbage can with an ill-fitting lid. Maybe Stockwell should leave a Tommy flyer. Garbage cans were ten percent off, now through the end of the month. It looked and sounded as if the guy could use an upgrade.
So, he hadn't been made.
He breathed a sigh of relief.
That left two problems.
The missing gun, and the shit all over his trousers.
Stockwell waited until the bathrobe-clad homeowner went back inside, removed the penlight from his pocket, and shined around his immediate vicinity. The gun was nested inside a group of yellow tulips, two feet from the pile of crap.
He reached for the gun and sighed.
One problem down, one to go. He wrinkled his nose. He smelled like an outhouse.
It was garbage night. Stockwell was confident he could find something to cover himself with. He stood upright, and his slacks stuck to his knees. He had to find something.
At the end of the third driveway, Reeve Stockwell struck gold. Someone had discarded an old pair of waders, and a battered rain slicker. Stockwell peeled off his trousers and his jacket, and threw both in the trash. He climbed into the waders and shrugged into the slicker. He looked ridiculous.
The waders were significantly shorter than he'd hoped, leaving his white tube socks and black dress shoes clearly exposed. The slicker was almost as long as the waders.
He looked like an idiot, and he was pretty sure somebody knew what he'd done last summer.
He slipped the gun into his pocket and it hit the ground with a plunk.
The gun fired. The bullet hit the garbage can with the ill-fitting lid. One by one, lights came on in the houses that surrounded him.
Stockwell ran like hell.
Sonny Brooks sat in the desk chair in Miles Longworth's office.
He felt like a thief.
How was he to know what was incriminating and what wasn't?
And where was Mitchell?
Slick had left him alone in the locked office. He'd told him to confiscate anything that looked suspicious, but to make sure it didn't look as though the office had been tossed.
Mitchell was a moron.
How could Sonny confiscate anything that looked suspicious and still make it look like no one had confiscated anything that looked suspicious?
Did Slick Mitchell really think Longworth was so stupid that he wouldn't notice half his stuff was missing?
Sonny Brooks shook his head.
This was ridiculous.
He wanted out of the deal.
He ran his hands through his hair, and gritted his teeth against the frustration he felt.
His tooth began to throb.
He couldn't get out of the deal. He needed the dental.
He opened the drawer to his left, and began to rummage through Longworth's things. It felt dirty. Sonny hated how it felt.
He pulled out a book.
Gambling for Dummies.
That seemed suspicious.
Unless you knew Longworth.
Sonny pulled out a small notebook.
He opened the front cover.
The first page was filled with notes, notes about horses, and money Longworth seemed to owe someone. Someone who Sonny hoped he'd never know.
Again. Not suspicious.
Sonny flipped through the notebook.
One entry caught his eye.
Dumpster money - $88,720.00
What the hell was that?
What was dumpster money?
The next entry was equally disturbing.
Stockwell's box of guns.
What the hell was up with that?
Reeve Stockwell was the one guy least likely to have guns. The world at large wasn't safe if Stockwell had one gun, let alone a whole friggin' box of them.
Sonny faced a conundrum. He couldn't take the notebook, but he certainly couldn't leave it.
He had an idea.
He fired up the small copier in the corner of Longworth's office. He made a copy of the page in question, and put the notebook back where he'd found it.
Sonny found nothing else questionable. He made a quick decision, took a deep breath, and texted Mitchell, as he'd been ordered to do.
Nothing suspicious in Longworth's office.