Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 61 - Two Men in Crisis

Reeve Stockwell felt the blood drain from his entire body.  For the second time in a few hours, he was being arrested.

He thought back to a few weeks prior, back to when his biggest problems were misdemeanor theft, the fictional stories he got to defend an associate's absence, and the chronic mess in the men's room.

Those were some damn fine days.

He supposed he'd wanted this.

He'd wanted to work for the FBI.  He'd wanted to be a part of something bigger than nuts and bolts, and neon-clad Tool Towners, some of whom were dumber than bricks.

He relaxed as best he could and felt the cool metal of handcuffs clasped to his wrists.

"Not so fast," a familiar voice said.

Officer Lowell?

Stockwell could only hope.

"Release him," the voice said.

Stockwell turned.  The voice belonged to Officer Lowell, the Snickers offering officer who'd arrested him the first time.

"Hello, sir," Stockwell said.

"What you up to this time, Sponge Bob?" the officer asked.

Stockwell grimaced, but said nothing.

"Open container and resisting arrest," the arresting officer stated.

"Resisting arrest!?!" Kitty yelled.  "There was no resisting.  That is absolute bullshit!"

"This your wife, Sponge Bob?" Officer Lowell asked.

"My assistant," Reeve Stockwell whispered.

"Boy oh boy, you got bigger problems than I ever thought.  What you doin' messing around with your assistant?  Do you know how clichĂ© that is?" Lowell asked with a sharp tone.

"She bailed me out.  I am not involved with her.  Look at us.  Does this look like a romantic encounter?  Do you find the Hello Kitty business appealing?  Would you be wearing Tinkerbell sweatpants if you were messing around with your assistant?" Stockwell nearly yelled.

His wrists were still cuffed, and his shoulders jerked as he tried to wave his arms unsuccessfully.  He looked like he was having a seizure.

"Uncuff this man for crying out loud," Lowell barked.

"Yes, sir," the arresting officer replied.  He did as asked, and Stockwell rubbed his wrists violently. 

"Now, get lost, Dan.  I got this," Lowell said.  The arresting officer, now known as "Dan," slinked back to his police car as if he'd just been grounded by an angry father. 

A newly free Reeve Stockwell shook his head and groaned. 

"Get in my car," Lowell said.

"What?  I thought you said I could go," Stockwell whined.

"You are going.  You are going home.  I am taking you there," Lowell insisted.

"I got this," Kitty said.  "He's fine with me.  I'll get him home."

"I won't sleep tonight knowing this guy is on the streets.  I will take him home," Lowell persisted.

"Go home, Kitty.  I'll see you tomorrow afternoon," Stockwell said softly.  "Thank you for everything.  I could never repay you for what you've done."

"You got cash, Sponge Bob?" Lowell asked.

"No, why?  You charging me for the lift?" Reeve Stockwell asked. 

"I'm taking you into WalMart for a shirt and a pair of jeans," Lowell said.  "You've got a far better chance of ironing things out with your missus if you're not wearing the Tinkerbell get up."

"You make a valid point," Stockwell replied.

Kitty shrugged and walked to the Chevy.  She returned a moment later. 

"I thought you were leaving," Stockwell said.

"I wanted to give you this before I left." 

Stockwell reached for Kitty's Visa and slid it into his left pocket.

"Thanks," Reeve Stockwell said.  "I owe you."

"That's great, because I owe everybody else," Kitty said.


Miles Longworth slinked into his house like a cat burglar.  His wife was asleep, and for this, he thanked every saint he could think of.  He crept into the guest bathroom, flipped on the light, and dropped his pants.  Money flew everywhere, and he dropped to sit on the closed toilet and lowered his face into his hands.

When had it gotten to this point?

How had he let it get so out of control?

He was a junkie, a glutton, a gambling fool, and not the cool kind, hanging out with Kenny Rogers, knowin' when to hold 'em, surrounded by pictures of cigar-smoking dogs, painted on velvet.

He wasn't that kind of guy.

He was a dick.

He scooped up the money and threw it into the empty bathroom garbage can.  He tied up the bag and crept to his bedroom. 

His wife lay supine, her arm above her head across the pillow.

She was lovely in sleep.

Her hair splayed over the pillow, and time had been kind to her.  She looked only slightly different than when they'd met.

She was beautiful,

Miles looked like a thug.

He had a bruise on the side of his face where he'd hit the pile of ceiling tiles.

His hair looked like he'd just auditioned for a very bad, aging boy band.

His shirt was torn.

He was a mess.

He'd robbed her of the kind of life they could have had if he could have just stayed away from the damned horses.

He knew what he had to do, but he could barely face it.

He had to stop.  He had to sit in a church basement that reeked of old lady perfume, and Pine Sol, on a cold metal chair, and tell his rotten story to a roomful of strangers.  He had to, but there was one thing he needed to do first. 

Actually, there were two, but at present, he chose to let sleeping dogs lie.  He'd come clean to his wife in the morning.

He left the bedroom, the money still held in his left hand.  It wasn't his.  He needed to give it back.

He descended the stairs into his man cave.

He took the house phone from its base, and dialed the number.

His call was answered on the first ring.

"Sergeant's desk, Officer Lowell speaking."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 60 - When Walking the Fine Line Between What is Lawful and What is Not, do NOT Wear a Tiara

Reeve Stockwell stared out the window of Kitty's shitty Blazer.  He wasn't sure he remembered a more difficult night.  To his left sat his own crappy beater, and it seemed a lifetime had passed since he'd left it in the park.

"I should go," he whispered, and he heard Kitty sigh in the dark.  "My wife's going to kill me," he added.

A few moments of silence ensued.

"Maybe she won't," Kitty commented.

"She will," Stockwell replied.

"Maybe she'll just be glad you're okay," Kitty said.

"I don't think so," Stockwell commented.  "Everything I touch turns to absolute shit.  It's amazing, Kitty.  Absolutely amazing.  Did I ever tell you I once blew up my backyard?"

"No," Kitty said.

"Well, I did.  I was grilling hamburgers.  Seems innocent, right?  I couldn't get the damn burners to stay lit.  They just wouldn't, so I had this great idea, spray a little lighter fluid.  Heck, maybe they're old and worn out, maybe they just need a little help.  So, I went to the garage and got it.  I sprayed just a little, I swear, this miniscule amount of fluid, and BOOM!"

Stockwell really emphasized his last word, and Kitty jumped and whacked her head on the Chevy's ceiling.

"Sorry," Stockwell mumbled.

"It's okay.  At least finish your story."

"Sure.  I should have turned on a light.  I didn't realize how much I'd sprayed, and the flame came right up the stream, and singed all the hair off my arms.  I screeched like a bunch of menopausal women at a Chippendales show, and threw the can of fluid right at the grill."

"Good Lord," Kitty remarked.

Stockwell smiled.  "I don't think the Lord was anywhere around that night.  People say there's a special God for idiots, but I don't think so.  I was on my own."

"Is there more to this story?" Kitty asked.

"Am I 'Reeve Stockwell?'  Of course there's more.  So, the can hits the half cooked meat with a plop and the damn grill blew up.  Just exploded.  Meat flew everywhere.  I had about a half pounder on there for myself, and suddenly, my wife's rhododendron went up in flames.  Seems the old half pounder had landed at the base of the plant, and it was a particularly dry season, and that thing went up like a Singlewide.  The appearance of fire seems to act as a 'wife activation system,' and she comes out of the house screaming about how her aunt planted it like a lifetime ago, and her aunt's dead, and the plant is burning like a fraternity bonfire, and she's holding a paring knife with the devil in her eyes."

Stockwell trailed off, as if the memory was too painful.

"What happened next?" Kitty asked softly.

"She chased me through the yard for ten minutes.  She finally caught up with me."

"And?" Kitty said.

"She stabbed me."

"Jesus," Kitty whispered.

"She was wild.  Kept on stabbing until she just wore out.  Thankfully she only hit me twice, but I was bleeding up a storm, and I'm not a big fan of blood, in case you hadn't figured that out about me.  I'm not the manliest guy who's ever lived."

"Stop putting yourself down," Kitty said, looking at her boss.

"My life sucks, Kitty," Stockwell said, looking down at his hands.

"Everyone's life sucks," Kitty replied.

"THAT IS NOT TRUE!" Stockwell practically yelled, and Kitty recoiled against the driver's side door.  "Sorry," Stockwell mumbled again.  "Your turn."

"My turn?" Kitty said.

"Share a story."




"We're bonding, Kitty.  This is what people do, especially after an awful night like tonight.  They share stories about their lives.  They crack open a beer and they tell stories about their lives, and the people around them laugh, or offer a hug or some girlie thing, and they feel less alone."

"We don't have any beer," Kitty said.

"Let's go get some," Stockwell said.  His eyes lit up and his voice sounded less listless.

"I am not going into the store like this," Kitty said.

"Let's go to a WalMart," Stockwell said.

"And end up in a YouTube video?" Kitty quipped.

"Aw hell.  Let's just go," Stockwell nearly begged.

"Your car?"

"Who cares.  Maybe someone will steal it."

"Have you looked at it lately?"

"You have a good point.  Let's just go," Stockwell nearly demanded.

Kitty turned the key and the Chevy started with a distinguishable groan.  Five minutes later, they sat in the WalMart parking lot.  Neither seemed inclined to move.

"Rock, paper, scissors," Stockwell said suddenly.

"What?" Kitty said.

"If I win, you go in, and I'll pay," Stockwell offered.

"And if I win?" Kitty asked.  "You already owe me bail money."

"I'll go and you can pick what we drink, and....." Stockwell trailed off, seemingly wanting to raise the stakes.  "I've got it!  I'll wear this Barbie tiara."  Stockwell grabbed a pink tiara that sat on the dash of the Chevy's dashboard.  It was a reminder of a better time, a time when Kitty had spent more time on stage, and less stalking the aisles of Tommy's Tool Town.

"Deal," Kitty whispered.

Seven minutes later, Stockwell was crossing the parking lot in Tinkerbell sweatpants, wearing the tiara, and carrying a six pack of Woodchuck Cider.

"I'm going to have to leave town after this," Stockwell said, as he climbed into the truck.


"My wife's best friend's kid just rang this up for us."

That did it.  Kitty started laughing and couldn't stop.

Stockwell cracked open a cider, took a long pull and gagged.  "Dear God, how can you drink this?" he asked.

"It's good," Kitty said.

"If you say so." 

The second cider tasted better than the first, and halfway through it, Stockwell reminded Kitty she owed him a story.

"Crap," Kitty whispered.

"You owe me," Stockwell said.

"Okay.  I had this one boyfriend...," Kitty began.

"Only one?"

"Shut up.  Do you want to hear this story or not?"

Stockwell fell silent.  Kitty finished off what was left in her bottle.  Finally she spoke.

"I fell hard and fast for this guy.  He was perfect for me.  He loved theater, and all this weird stuff, and he was cute with fabulous hair, and I was in love with him for five years.  I was sure we'd get married one day."

"What stopped you?"

"His wife."

"Crap," Stockwell said.

"No kidding."

"He had a wife?"

"He did.  That wasn't the worst of it, either.  It seems he was involved with someone else the entire time he was supposedly divorcing her, and pledging his undying love for me.  He is getting married again."

"Jeez, Kitty."

"I know."

"What's his fiancé's name?"


"Her name is 'no'?"

"No, I am not going to tell you," Kitty said softly.

"Why not?"

"You'll laugh."

"I might not."


"So, what's her name?" Stockwell asked again.


"Shit," Stockwell said.

"I know," Kitty whispered.

"No, I mean, shit, here comes cops," Stockwell said, trying to hide the cider.

The officer knocked on the window.  "Get out," he demanded.

Stockwell did.  Kitty followed.

"You can't drink in the WalMart parking lot.  There are open container laws," the officer said.

"We're like the only car," Stockwell said defensively.

"That makes no difference," the officer said.

"We're not hurting anyone," Stockwell said.  He could feel three ciders coursing through his veins, and it was almost midnight.  He had almost survived the worst night of his entire life.  Something in that realization made him reckless, more reckless than usual.  "There are rapists, and pedophiles and murderers on the loose, and people who toss bombs into crowds, and kids who shoot babies in schools, and dog fighting rings, and you are seriously going to give us a  hard time for having a drink in a truck in WalMart parking lot?  Seriously?" Reeve Stockwell's voice rose, and while he had an excellent point, the officer was unmoved by his performance.

"Sir, put your hands behind your back, please," the officer said.

Kitty just stared as Stockwell did as asked.

"You have the right....-"

"To remain silent," Stockwell whispered.

He was still wearing the tiara.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 59 - Fashion Faux Pas - A Felony in Their Own Right

Reeve Stockwell stared out the rear window of the police car.  Never in his life did he ever think he'd do such a thing.   Home Depot disappeared into the shadows, and he turned and faced front.

"You all right back there, Sponge Bob?" Officer Lowell asked.

"I'm hungry, but otherwise okay," Stockwell mumbled.

"I've got half a Snickers, one of those miraculous 2-to-go bars.  You want the other half?" Lowell offered.

Stockwell's stomach growled.  He accepted graciously.

He ate the bar in three bites, and licked the wrapper.  He was ravenous.  He figured later on, after he called his wife, and she served him his business on a plate, he'd rent a hotel room, scan the Classifieds for divorce attorneys, and order Room Service.  He'd have to act fast, before his wife canceled all the joint credit cards.

"Feeling better, Sponge Bob?" Officer Lowell asked, after a few more miles had passed.

"The name's Stockwell.  Please don't call me Sponge Bob.  If you knew how emasculated I've been inside of just a few hours, you'd call me Mr. Stockwell, just to be polite."

"Rough night?"  Deputy Briggs asked, glancing in his mirror, at Stockwell.

"The worst.  It started out okay.  Actually, this afternoon, life looked pretty good," Stockwell said nostalgically.

"Oh?" Lowell remarked.

"Yeah.  My crazy assistant has this crazier grandmother, and for a bit there, I thought she killed my boss.  That was one fine hour, let me tell ya.  Turns out the guy's not dead, but he's got this amnesia, and he probably won't ever remember what happened today, which will bode very well for all involved."  Stockwell rambled, and the inside of the car grew very quiet.  "A bit later, all my wildest dreams came true.  I was finally the man I knew I could be."  Stockwell sighed.

"I assume this was sometime before the moldy waders and that nasty slicker?" Briggs inquired.

"A bit before.  Yes."  Stockwell sighed, then continued on. "I made my way back to the store, but dropped something in transit.  That was pretty much right about when things went to shit.  The dog kind.  I'd crawled through it.  Let me tell you, whoever owns this pooch must feed it Hormel chili, because that was the nastiest thing I've ever smelled, and it had the consistency of that nasty crap you get from a baby on formula."

"Ewww.  I know about that.  Barfed on my own son once,"  Lowell commented.

"That shit stops the clock," the deputy agreed.

"Go on, son," Officer Lowell said, although he wasn't much older than Stockwell.

"I ditch the pants, but now I've got a new problem.  I'm in a residential area in just my underpants.  Not a good scene.  Garbage picking proves to be fairly fruitful and I find the waders and the slicker.  It's gross, but it's better than being half naked.  I finally got my bearings, made my way back to the store, and all hell breaks loose.  I think I see a ghost, but it's this grandmother person I mentioned, and she's wearing a nightgown, and I trip, get all wrapped up in satin and bony old legs, and bam, she nails me in the jewels."

"Sheesh," Lowell said.

Stockwell could see Briggs grimace in the rear view mirror.

"All right.  Pull over,"  Lowell said.

Briggs slowed the car and rolled to a stop in front of a brightly lit convenience store.

"You letting me go?" Stockwell asked hopefully.

"No can do, bud.  But I'll tell you what I can do.  I'll get you another one of those Snickers.  You've earned it," Lowell offered.

"Thanks," Stockwell mumbled. 


An hour later, Slick Mitchell arrived at his mother's house.  He'd promised he'd returned, but hours had passed since he'd given his mother his word.  He figured she'd just about given up on him.  He was, as such, surprised to see the lights on in the front parlor.

His mother retired at nine, unless she was going out.  She watched prime time shows on a television the size of the state of Connecticut, holed up in her bedroom like a pampered mole.  She was a creature of habit.  Why was she still awake?

Slick knocked softly, then used the key he had in his pocket.

His mother was in the parlor, in her favorite Queen Anne's chair, holding a wine glass.  She didn't look at him when he walked into the room.

"Mother?" Mitchell said softly.

Slick Mitchell's mother held a note pad in her right hand.  She carefully set her wine glass aside, onto a beautiful mahogany table.  When she failed to use a coaster, Slick figured the apocalypse was upon them.

Something was seriously wrong.

"Sit quietly with me for a moment.  Pour yourself a drink, Peter," his mother said.  He did as told, helping himself to an expensive scotch.

He took the chair across from her and crossed his legs.  Finally she looked up.  She'd been crying.

She held up a single sheet of paper.

Do not speak.

Slick didn't.  He just stared.  He had no idea what was happening, but his heart raced.  His mother was not one for games.  She said what she thought, and although she was usually wrong, she held herself in the highest regard.  Her opinion mattered to everyone, or so she thought, and Slick didn't think there was a single sound she loved more than that of her own voice.

Why wasn't she speaking?

She dropped the first sheet of paper into her lap.  It fluttered to the floor, soundlessly.  She held up another, then another, and another still.  Slick felt cold, colder than he'd ever been.

Someone kidnapped Rachel.

This is real.

I talked to her.  She's afraid.

They said no police or they'll kill her. 

I believe them.   

They told me not to tell you.  They said your name.  They know who you are.

They left that on the porch, after you left.  

It has your name on it.

His mother pointed to the table behind him.  On it sat a Styrofoam box, the kind you got from a greasy spoon, the kind that held the uneaten half of your heart-attack breakfast, or your sister's ear.

Slick Mitchell shivered. 

He didn't want to open the box.

He turned back toward his mother.  Tears slid down her face, and he crossed to her and took her hand.   She held one more sheet of paper.  Slick took it from her.

Please open the box.  I have to know if part of my child is inside.

Slick did.  He practically ran across the room, but not before tossing the entire double shot of scotch down his throat.

He popped the tabs, and the box sprung open.

Inside was a single item.

A burger.


Reeve Stockwell was booked at 11:30 PM, the evening of November 4th.  He was fingerprinted and photographed.  In his photo, he looked like a madman.  What hair he had was disheveled, his eyes were wild and red, and he had a streak of ink on his left cheek.  He was pretty sure that pic wouldn't be going into his wife's scrapbook, although he could see the cover now.

My husband, the felon.

Stockwell had been given a prison orange jumpsuit.  He still wore the boxers, but the waders and slicker had been booked into evidence.  He sat quietly  in an interrogation room, empty, with the exception of an old dial phone and the second half of his Snickers.

He stared at one.  Then the other.

He picked up the phone.

She answered on the first ring.

He was brief. 

To the point.

She hung up.

Ten minutes later, she was in the lobby.

Two minutes after that, she was standing outside the door.  Lowell let her inside.

She wore the hint of a smile.

"Hello, Kitty," Stockwell said.  "Thank you for coming.  You have no idea what this means to me."

"What the hell happened?" Kitty asked.  She looked different.  She had showered, understandably, since she'd peed herself in the Plumbing Department.  Her hair was still damp.  She wore no makeup, which made her look younger, more innocent, and deathly pale.  She wore Hello Kitty pajamas, and flip flops, despite the cold weather.

"I can't tell you.  I want to, and someday I will, but tonight I just can't.  I need you to post bail, just until I can get this sorted out.  I need you to take me home, and hug me goodnight, only because my wife is going to kill me, and although you drive me insane, I like you, Kitty.  I cannot stand your grandmother, but I like you."

"I like you, too, Mr. Stockwell.   That said, orange isn't really your color."

"What did you bring?"

"My choices were limited," Kitty said softly.


"Pink sweatpants and a gray sweatshirt," Kitty said.

Stockwell took the bag.  The sweatpants had Tinkerbell on them.  The sweatshirt was logo free, but still sent a powerful message.

No Nuts is Better.  Please Spay and Neuter.

Stockwell found the shirt fitting.  He'd been practically castrated by Kitty's grandmother.  The pants were absurd.

"Seriously?" Stockwell asked, holding up the pink pants.

"They're my mother's," Kitty whispered.

"Your mother wears Tinkerbell sweatpants?" Stockwell asked.

"Of course not.  They bind when she rides her broom.  I never got around to returning them."

Stockwell chuckled.  The sound was almost foreign, and it seemed to linger in the empty room.

"Can you post bail?" Stockwell asked.

"Do they take Visa?" Kitty asked.

Stockwell smiled.  "I'm sure they do."

Kitty left the room.  Lowell returned ten minutes later.  "You're free to go, Mr. Stockwell.  Have your attorney call me tomorrow.  If she can make this all go away, like you said she could, I'll be impressed.  What did you say her name was?"

"JJ Patricks," Stockwell said softly.

Kitty was waiting out front when Stockwell emerged in the pink pants.  She smiled, but said nothing.  They exited the building and walked side by side to the parking lot.

"You're number three," Kitty whispered, when they'd climbed into the old Chevy.

"Number three?"

"You're the third guy to use this Visa," Kitty said sadly.

"What were the other two like?" Stockwell asked.

"Let's just say you're my favorite of the bunch, all of this notwithstanding," Kitty said. 

Stockwell smiled again.  "I have something for you," he said.

He handed her the candy.

"It's your favorite," Kitty whispered.

Stockwell shook his head, his eyes full of sympathy for the pathetic creature at the wheel.  "You need it more than I do," he said.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 58 - Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do.....

Miles Longworth and Slick Mitchell stood outside Tommy's Receiving Bay door, awaiting the police.  Miles tried to pace, but the numerous bills packed into his trousers made it uncomfortable to move.

Slick Mitchell stared at the ground.  He looked seriously ticked off.

"There's a sink hole in the corner of the parking lot," Mitchell said, out of the blue.

"You don't say," Miles replied.  He fidgeted, certain a crisp hundred was poking him in the butt.  He wasn't sure where the conversation was going, but he wished Mitchell would look away, giving him the opportunity to relocate the Franklin to a more preferable position.

"The strangest ideas go through my head," Mitchell said to the air, as if he'd forgotten Miles was present.

Miles was okay with that.

"Someone is coming from the city to probe this sinkhole, see how deep it goes.  You want to know what would make me feel lucky, Miles?" Mitchell asked, looking at Longworth.

"A winning horse, sir?"

"Shut up.  I'm trying to be serious here," Mitchell quipped.

"Me, too," Longworth whispered.  "What would make you feel lucky?"

A hundred up your butt?

Mitchell fell silent for a moment.  When he spoke, he sounded like a different man, a somewhat broken man.  It was a tone Miles knew well.  He'd used it on his bookie every week for two years running.

"Miles, I'd feel like the luckiest guy in the world if I pulled into the parking lot tomorrow, and this whole damned place had been swallowed up, burned to a crisp down in the core of this cesspool of a planet."

"What about the night crew?" Miles said softly.

"No night crew tonight," Mitchell replied.

"That's good.  Wouldn't want to see anyone hurt," Miles said, sounding horrified.

"This is hypothetical, no one is going to be hurt," Mitchell remarked sharply.

The men fell silent again. 

Finally Miles spoke.  "Say that did happen, boss.  Say you came in tomorrow and it was all gone, vanished as if it never existed at all.  What would you do?"

"What couldn't I do with a wad of insurance money like that?" Mitchell asked.

"Good point."  Miles Longworth stood deep in thought.  "What would Tommy think?"

"There you go wrecking my fantasy."

"Sorry," Miles Longworth mumbled.

A siren pierced the night, and both men saw flashing lights approaching.  Miles froze.  He had a wad of cash in his trousers, cash that wasn't his. 

Two men stepped from the police vehicle.

"Gentlemen," the older officer said.

"Thank you for coming," Mitchell said demurely, as if he were hosting a dinner party.

"It's kind of what we do," the younger officer said, and Mitchell leered at him.  He introduced himself as Deputy Robber, and Miles fought the urge to laugh. 

Cops and robbers?

"What seems to be the problem here?" Robber asked.

"We were in the store, working late, and we heard gun shots," Slick Mitchell explained.  He saw no reason for any excessive storyline, so he got right to the point.

"Where were you?" the older officer asked.  He introduced himself as Clarke.  No one found that funny.

"In there," Miles Longworth said, pointing to the store.

"We gathered that.  Where inside the store were you?" Robber man asked.  He seemed to be losing his patience, and Miles imagined that somewhere there was an enormous glazed donut with this jerk's name on it.

Mitchell answered the question.  "My office is in the back.  Miles Longworth here, he was in his office in the front of the store."

"How'd you get the shiner?" Officer Clarke asked.

"We waited it out until we were sure the gunman was gone.  I came face to face with him on my way out.  He hit me with his gun," Slick Mitchell explained.

"You just happened to leave at the same time?" Robber asked. 

"Not exactly," Slick Mitchell replied.

"Then what?" Robber inquired.

"The guy was out here when we exited," Mitchell said.

"Who's 'we'?" Clarke asked.

"Mr. Longworth here, and myself."

"You see anything, Longworth?" Robber asked.

"I did not," Miles replied.

"How come?" Clarke asked.

"Don't know.  I was a few paces behind Mr. Mitchell here.  I was still inside while he was getting his clock cleaned," Miles said.

"Nice," Mitchell asked.  He was getting as frustrated with Miles Longworth as the deputies were, so he decided to have some fun.  "I thought you said you saw him."

"Did not," Longworth said.

"Did to," Mitchell quipped.

"Did not!" Longworth repeated.

"Gentlemen, please.  You want a basketball, some background music, wanna duke it out like a little High School Musical?" Robber asked, looking enormously pleased by his wit.  "Mr. Longworth, did you see this perpetrator, or did you not see him?"

"I did not," Longworth whispered.

"All right.  Sir, what's in your pants?" Robber asked.

Miles paled in the lamplight.

"What?" he squeaked.

"You got something in your pants?  Looks like you got something stuffed in your pants," Robber said.

Mitchell, Robber, and Clarke all stared at Longworth's pants.  Longworth tried to inhale, but found he could no longer breathe.  He was up the creek, with nothing more than a bunch of dead guys on green paper.

"I'm incontinent," Miles whispered, alternately embarrassed, and seriously impressed with his ability to think fast on his feet.

"I beg your pardon?" Clarke asked.

"I'm wearing an adult diaper.  Would you like to see it?" Miles asked.

"NO!" All three men said in unison.

"All right then," Miles said, exhaling in a rush.

"We're going to search the store.  Mr. Mitchell, we'd like you to wait in your vehicle.  Lock the doors, please.  Mr. Longworth, you are free to go, but I'd suggest you not leave town, and you should seriously think about consulting a urologist.  You seem a little young to be hitting the Depends."

"Thanks for the advice," Miles said.  He smiled as he waddled away, secretly hoping the Franklins and Grants would stay put.


When Reeve Stockwell opened his eyes, two police officers stood over him. 

"Mr. Stockwell?"

"That's me," Stockwell squeaked.

"I'm Officer Lowell, this is Deputy Briggs.  Where is the truck?"

"I flew out the back," Stockwell said, finding the strength to sit upright.

"How'd that happen?" Briggs asked.

"Burger gunned the thing after it stalled.  I flew right out the back."

"You okay?"  Lowell asked.

"I don't know.  I don't think anything is broken, but I feel like I was in a train wreck, and I'm really cold.  Maybe I've got internal injuries or something," Stockwell surmised.

"You've split your pants, sir," Briggs said.

Lowell laughed out loud.

"I did, didn't I?" Stockwell remarked.

"What the hell are you wearing?" Briggs asked.

"Fishing trip," Stockwell said.

"You went to work dressed for a fishing trip?  Where were you planning to fish this late at night?" Briggs asked.

"May I change my answer?" Stockwell said softly.

"This isn't Who Wants to be a Millionaire," Lowell said.

"I know.  I'm just confused.  It's been a really bad night," Stockwell said.  "My wife is going to kill me, if you guys don't, or that Burger maniac doesn't get me."  Reeve Stockwell whined like a teenage girl.

"Is that Sponge Bob?" Lowell asked.  Stockwell hung his head.  He'd dressed in the dark that morning, and a lot had happened in fourteen hours.  He felt like it had been fourteen years since he'd reached into his dresser and grabbed a pair of clean boxers.  How could he have known he'd grab the Sponge Bob underwear?

"It is.  My son got them for me.  For Christmas.  It was a joke," Stockwell said defensively.

"No one actually wears that shit.  You do know that, right?" Lowell said.  The laughter the officer was clearly fighting broke free, and Reeve Stockwell began to understand why everyone hated cops.  These guys were douche bags.  "My kid got me some Winnie the Pooh boxers a few years back.  I wrapped those things in what had to be about a week's worth of newspapers, and shoved them in a trash can half a town away.  You don't keep that stuff.  It always comes back to bite ya," Lowell explained.

Reeve Stockwell scowled.  He could never have done that.  His son rode his bike in sub zero weather to deliver newspapers to old people who griped no matter where he left the paper.  He took that money and bought the Sponge Bob drawers.  How could Stockwell have thrown them out?

"I really don't care what you think of them," Stockwell barked.  "My son is a teenage boy who worked hard for the money he used to buy them.  I'm proud of them.  You want to know what happened to me or are we gonna hang out here and talk underpants all night?"

Reeve Stockwell struggled to his feet.  The waders were split from stem to stern, and had pretty much disintegrated.  He stood in his fiercest competitor's parking lot in his Sponge Bob drawers, and the moldy slicker.  The night had grown cold and he shook from the chill.  This was NOT how Stockwell pictured the life of an FBI agent, and he had to figure he was doing something seriously wrong.

He tried to pull the slicker tighter around him, and his weapon hit the ground with a plunk.

"What's that?" Lowell asked.

"What's what?" Stockwell replied.  He wasn't really a praying man, but he found himself sending messages to his maker at the speed of a texting adolescent.

"Is that your weapon, sir?" Briggs asked.  Both men took on a very serious tone, and Stockwell figured they'd turned the corner from underpants to things going very, very bad.

"It is my weapon," Stockwell admitted.

"You have a license to carry concealed?" Lowell asked.

"I don't, but I can explain.....," Stockwell said shakily.

Here we go....

"Reeve Stockwell, you have the right to remain silent-" Briggs began.

"Shit," Stockwell whispered.