Reeve Stockwell crept through the darkened aisles of Tommy's Tool Town. He was certain he heard voices, and he felt a deeply rooted terror that no agent of the FBI should feel.
He steadied himself against a rack of PVC pipe, which in hindsight was a very bad choice. The pipe shifted and before his mind could process what was happening, thirty pipes crashed around him.
"Sonova.....," Stockwell whispered, hiding himself far behind the seventy-some pipes that miraculously hadn't fallen.
Pounding footsteps approached, and Stockwell held his breath. He wasn't visible, and as long as he wasn't an idiot, he probably wouldn't be discovered. He dropped to his knees, and a plethora of dust bunnies took flight.
He was disgusted.
What did his Tool Towners do when he wasn't around?
They sure as hell didn't clean.
He crouched in the center of a veritable dust bunny snow globe, as the filth spun around him like a funnel cloud.
He felt the tickle.
It was unmistakable.
Oh, no. Oh, no. Do NOT sneeze.
Stockwell held his nose and willed the sneeze to pass.
He managed it soundlessly.
His head damn near exploded.
He was momentarily deaf, and he'd nearly passed out from the pressure inside his head. He heard voices, but the sounds were muffled, the speakers unrecognizable.
Reeve Stockwell suddenly recalled his youth.
He remembered warm summer days, nearly forgotten. The clear blue water of his grandmother's pool.
He'd spent hours in the pool, until the day his cousin's tacos had come back to haunt the poor lad, and the pool was ruined forever.
He remembered skimming the bottom, as the adults sat by, talking and laughing.
The muffled voices inside the store took him back to that nostalgic time, to the wonder he'd experienced as the water shielded him from the noise of his family, to the beauty of the cool water, before Cousin Wallace had crapped his swim trucks.
Stockwell wondered if he'd always be deaf, and although the thought horrified him, he'd never ever have to listen to the endless gripings of fifteen estrogen-filled cashiers, the outlandish and presumably fictional stories of that wacko Kitty Richardson, or the piercing screech of Tommy's antiquated paging system.
He could navigate a soundless world.
He taught himself sign language in college.
He remembered little of it, and only enough to navigate the freeway during rush hour traffic.
Stockwell got to his feet and patted himself down. He was rewarded with nothing but contact with the slimy old waders. His gun was missing.
For the second time in less than an hour, he'd lost his weapon.
He'd been rendered incapable of defending himself.
And he was deaf.
Reeve Stockwell was the worst FBI agent in history.
He heard nothing.
He wasn't sure if it was because he was deaf, or if the voices existed only in his imagination, or if whoever had spoken was gone.
He crawled through the mess, careful not to make contact with the pipes surrounding him.
He peeked from inside the plumbing aisle.
Something caught his eye.
He reached for the gun, knowing it wasn't there.
Besides, what would he do with it?
Shoot a ghost?
The ghost was already dead.
Stockwell almost flew out of the waders.
He wasn't deaf, but he was scared shitless.
Someone was shooting.
A man screeched, screamed as if in agony.
Someone had gotten killed.
Reeve Stockwell suddenly became someone else. He became a stronger man, a braver man. A man worthy of the title of....
Reeve Stockwell did something he'd never understand.
He ran toward the danger.
He hoped it wouldn't be the last thing he'd ever do.
The intruder stood in silence, in the shadows, visible to no one.
He moved nary a muscle, registering only slight surprise when he saw Stockwell run past him.
Stockwell ran toward the point of impact from the gunshot, instead of fleeing from it.
What was he doing?
And what the hell was he wearing?
Stockwell was a spineless weasel.
The type to flee from danger.
The first guy gutted on Elm Street.
This behavior was unexpected, a kink in an otherwise perfect plan.
This could be a problem, the stranger thought.
Stockwell was like the cowardly lion, after a visit to the Great and Powerful Oz.
When had that happened?
The intruder frowned, his face twisted into an expression of hatred and disgust.
So, Stockwell wanted to be a hero?
This plan had no room for a hero.
The intruder fingered the gun in his pocket, as a new plan formed in his mind.
Reeve Stockwell would have to be dealt with.
Reeve Stockwell faced a new and certain fate.