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.
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.
"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.