Reeve Stockwell went pale. Notwithstanding the fact that an armed crazy person lurked about the store, he couldn't let Mitchell call the police. Stockwell had a gun, a weapon issued by the FBI. A weapon he knew nothing about, a weapon that might exactly match the shooter's weapon. How did he know? Were weapons like Garanimals? Match the zebra gun to the zebra ammo? Did he have a zebra gun? Did the shooter have the same one?
Oh, my God!
Stockwell's thoughts spun about the like the final phase of a shiny new washer, appropriate given his proximity to the appliances. He felt the weight of the piece, hidden somewhere in the numerous pockets of the crappy waders.
He couldn't even try to hide it. Mitchell was watching him like a hawk.
If he was discovered with the gun, he might go to jail. He couldn't go to jail. His wife got mad if he put the dishes in the dishwasher the wrong way. What would she do if she found out he got arrested? He could see her now, standing in front of the courthouse, as he was led out in his best suit. He could see her raising a weapon of her own, and shooting him dead on the spot.
Why did I ask for the gun?
JJ Patricks hadn't wanted to give him the weapon. He'd basically begged for it. He had no intention of shooting anyone, but if he'd been recruited to go after a madman with a weapon, it seemed only right that he would be able to defend himself if the situation called for it.
But could he?
It looked so different on television. It looked cool. No one on Criminal Minds showed up at a crime scene in moldy waders.
He wasn't cool.
He was Reeve Stockwell.
Perhaps he could redeem himself.
Solve the whole darn thing.
But could he?
Could he take on a madman?
Could he shoot someone?
He gazed around him.
Aaron Faulkner sat at his desk, sweating up a storm. Stockwell figured he probably had the shakes from withdrawal.
Kitty Richardson held the hand of the near octogenarian who'd practically castrated him. Ada winked at him, and he recoiled.
He could definitely shoot her.
Sonny Brooks looked terrified, and picked at his nose.
No one would miss that idiot.
He looked smug.
Stockwell had no doubt.
He could definitely use the gun.
As much as he felt disgust in his gut, these were his people. He couldn't shoot them, but he'd protect them if the need arose.
He glanced at Kitty.
She looked like hell, poor thing. Her makeup had run, and she looked like a failed attempt at replicating The Crow. She smiled weakly at him, and he tried to message her with his mind. Hadn't she laid claim to some kind of sensitivity? Some minimal ability to read minds?
He concentrated, and held her gaze, and - in the single moment of his life when he needed a miracle more than he ever had - it seemed to work.
"Don't call the police," Kitty whispered.
"What? Why not?" Mitchell retorted, clearly angry.
"Let us leave," Kitty replied.
"What? Why would I do that?" Mitchell quipped.
"It's been a hell of a night. My grandmother needs to go home. Poor Aaron nearly suffocated in a freezer, and look at him," Kitty said, pointing at Reeve Stockwell. "We can't let anyone else see him like that."
Mitchell glanced to his left, where Stockwell sat on the desk. He looked like a maniac, and smelled like rotten fish.
"What about the shooter?" Mitchell asked.
"I'm willing to risk it," Kitty said softly.
"I'm damn near dead already," Ada remarked. "I'll go for it."
"I'd already made peace with dying tonight," Aaron Faulkner whispered.
"I very nearly did die," Stockwell offered, glaring at Ada.
"All right," Mitchell said. "I'll lead you out, call the cops, and wait for them here."
"Thanks, sir," Reeve Stockwell said, offering his hand to Mitchell.
Mitchell shook it reluctantly. "You're welcome, but this isn't over, Stockwell. I know you lied. You and I are gonna have a "sit down." You are going to tell me exactly what happened tonight, and I am going to check your story."
"I understand, sir," Stockwell said.
Slick Mitchell leaned in close. He held his breath against the assault to the senses that being this close to Stockwell provided.
"I'm on to you, Burger," Mitchell whispered.
Fear flashed in Stockwell's eyes. He didn't know why Mitchell had called him "Burger," or how Mitchell knew about the FBI thing. Maybe "burger," was some FBI code word. After all, Stockwell's experience with all things FBI was still in its infancy.
Stockwell said nothing, but he shivered inside the old slicker.
Mitchell walked away, stopping a few feet from the appliance desk. "All right, gang. We're going to walk. Slowly. Stay together," Mitchell suggested.
"We should hold hands," Kitty said.
"It's not Kindergarten," Mitchell commented.
Mitchell took the lead, and the veritable chain of freaks made its way through the darkened aisles. The first two minutes went well until Ada let one rip.
"What was that?" Stockwell whispered.
"Sweet Mary," Sonny Brooks whined. "Smells like something died."
"Put a sock in it. I'm nervous. I get the gas when I'm nervous," Ada explained.
"Everyone shut the hell up!" Mitchell said from his position at the lead.
The posse stopped in the middle of rough plumbing, approximately halfway through their journey to freedom. The sharp crack of a gunshot sliced through the silence, and a toilet shattered behind them.
"Shit! Run!" Mitchell screamed.
Mitchell held tightly to Kitty's hand, and practically dragged her through the plumbing department, in the direction of the lumber aisles. Another gunshot pierced the silence, and something crashed at the front of the store.
"They're tearing the place apart," Mitchell whined.
The group finally reached Receiving, and one by one they exited the store. Faulker had carried Ada the final fifty yards or so, and he was pretty sure he'd be losing his spleen.
Kitty burst into tears, and clung to Sonny Brooks, who stood mumbling like someone in a severe state of shock.
Stockwell kept running. Faulkner took chase. Mitchell reached to stop him.
"Let him go," Slick Mitchell whispered. "Is everyone okay?"
Miraculously, everyone was. For the most part.
Sonny Brooks had been hit with a piece of flying toilet, and blood ran down the side of his face.
Ada MacKenzie was exhausted, but had miraculously held on to her teeth.
Kitty was shaken, and had wet her pants in aisle twelve. Nonetheless, she was thankful to be alive.
Aaron Faulkner mopped his brow, and vowed to quit drinking. Just not tonight.
And, Slick Mitchell?
He was raving mad.
"Go home. Everyone go home. None of you were here tonight, got it? I was here alone. That's what I am going to tell the police," Slick Mitchell said.
He watched the group disperse. They looked like a bunch of apocalypse survivors, bloodied, but alive. He had no idea where Stockwell had gone, and frankly, he didn't care. He'd get to the bottom of the Mickey Burger thing, but first, he had to deal with his store.
Miles Longworth was an idiot. He knew the ceiling tiles were crap when they began disintegrating in his man cave. He knew better than to expect them to support his weight.
The entire ceiling gave out just after a single gunshot killed a perfectly good, water-conserving, high efficiency, commode.
Longworth lay on his office floor, surrounding by debris from his ceiling, and a pile of twenty, fifty, and hundred-dollar bills.
He was surprised he was alive, but he was in serious trouble. He was almost certain he was paralyzed, completely unable to defend himself against whoever was shooting up the place.
Maybe he could buy his way out.
He had plenty of money.
Then again, he supposed he didn't care if he got killed.
After all, he couldn't imagine spending his life as a paraplegic, riding around the racetrack on his Hoverround.
His habit had gotten the best of him.
If he'd been a bad man, a greedy man, he'd have taken the money and spent it.
He'd wanted to. He'd hid it, figuring eventually he'd have the guts to just take it. He'd only had a few thousand in the envelope when he'd set out to bury it with Kitty and Stockwell. The rest he'd kept hidden in the shitty ceiling in his office.
He tried to move his arm, amazed that he could. He scooped up most of the money and shoved it into his pants. Only a few twenties were now visible.
His heart rate returned to normal and his breathing slowed. He'd just begun to feel a sliver of hope when his office door opened. A formidable form, little more than a shadow, stood in the doorway.
Miles closed his eyes.
He didn't deserve this. He wasn't a bad guy. He'd just made a lot of mistakes, mistakes born of stupidity, and foolish wanting.
Now he was going to die.
Stockwell wasn't sure why he kept running. It just felt right. He didn't feel an ounce of cowardice. He felt free, liberated, like a man running toward something.
Moments later, he tripped, and plunged into a hole.
He'd forgotten the damn thing was there.
Kitty's crazy grandmother had dug it earlier in the day.
Daniels had nearly died in it.
The adrenaline he'd felt moments before faded away, and idiocy replaced it.
He sat upright. The rubber waders had little give, and he found himself with the wedgie of a lifetime.
"Good Lord," he whispered, and he tried to wiggle about in the muddy hole. Something poked his hip.
Daniels' cell phone. He held it tightly to his chest. He was certain a mountain of secrets lay within the phone, but it wasn't why he felt victorious. The phone was top of the line, not at all like the crappy Track Phone his kids had gotten him for Christmas the year before. This kind of phone could do anything, and more than anything else, Stockwell needed a technological ally.
He clutched the phone to his chest, and fell silent, but the silence lasted only a moment. It was broken by a voice, a voice he didn't recognize, a voice only a few feet away.
"Burger," the voice quipped harshly. "What's up with all the yelling? Well, keep her quiet. Shoot her if you have to."
Stockwell shivered. He was witnessing one side of a conversation, and from the sounds of it, not a very nice one. Bravely, he raised his head from the safety of the hole. A man stood several yards away. The clouds had shifted just enough to allow a sliver of moon to light the otherwise blackened night. A large black pickup truck, which had almost disappeared into its inky surroundings, was parked not ten feet from the hole where Stockwell hid.
"I'm calling him now, and then I'm headed out. Keep her quiet until I get there."
Reeve Stockwell made a split-second decision, one he prayed he might live to regret. He hoisted himself out of the hole, and crawled to the truck. The clouds shifted, and the moon disappeared. He was bathed in the safety of darkness once again.
Stockwell peered into the back of the pickup. It was cluttered with junk, and little room remained. There was just enough for a man in fishing waders, with an FBI issued weapon, and the world's most advanced smart phone, hidden deep in his pockets.
With all the grace of Baryshnikov, Reeve Stockwell climbed inside.