By the following afternoon, the miracles were stacking up the likes of the Virgin Mary appearing on the side of a Troy Bilt.
Stockwell's wife didn't kill him.
Longworth's wife didn't kill him.
Kitty still had the chance of becoming someone's wife.
Kitty Richardson and Reeve Stockwell arrived ten minutes before the regularly scheduled afternoon meeting.
Stockwell made a bee line for his office.
Kitty followed. She knocked timidly.
"Come in," Stockwell mumbled.
Kitty heard scurrying inside the office. When she opened the door, she found Stockwell with a fritter in one hand, and a King Size Snickers in the other.
"Back to this again, are we?" Kitty asked softly.
"Shut up, Yoda," Stockwell said through a mouthful of chocolate.
"What happened at home last night?" Kitty asked cautiously.
"A miracle of biblical proportions," Stockwell replied.
"My wife had a migraine. She took four Advil PM, and slept for twelve hours."
Kitty smiled gently. "You're a lucky man."
"You have absolutely no idea," Stockwell said. "How's everything with you?"
"My mother is inquiring about the status of her Tinkerbell sweatpants."
"She's a corker," Stockwell commented.
"I took those things from a pile of clothes the height of the Eiffel Tower. How could she know they were gone?" Kitty asked rhetorically.
"I'm sorry you have to cope with that."
"Is it very bad?" Stockwell asked after a long pause.
"What? My credit card balance?" Kitty asked.
"Being you?" Stockwell asked.
"Wow. Thanks. You really know how to cheer a girl up," Kitty said.
"I just meant taking care of two old ladies."
"Ever see movies about people in prisons in Mexico, Turkey, places like that?" Kitty asked.
"I'd trade with them."
"All available associates to the meeting room please." The paging system was malfunctioning again, and Stockwell almost flew out of his chair. The volume was deafening.
"Think the HD crew from six miles away heard that?" Kitty asked.
"I wouldn't be surprised," Stockwell said. He ripped the fritter and offered Kitty half.
"Thanks," Kitty said.
Kitty and Stockwell emerged from the office looking like chipmunks, faces stuffed with fritter. They chewed frantically, swallowed, and made it to the meeting room in time to find it filled with Tool Towners. Normally it was like pulling teeth to get Tool Towners to meetings.
"Everyone please sit down," Slick Mitchell said. He looked like he'd been on a two-day bender, and his clothes were wrinkled. Something was seriously wrong.
"Is he dead?" a voice yelled from the back of the room.
"That's rude," Slick Mitchell said. "Mr. Daniels has survived his fall. He is recovering at present, and updates on his condition will be provided to all interested associates."
No one looked interested.
"We have a lot of business, so if there's nothing else," Mitchell said.
"I have something, sir," Wilton Scott said, standing and addressing the crowd. Mitchell rolled his eyes, but said nothing. Wilton proceeded. "I think this is a miracle, something we should be grateful for. The human body is amazing. Why, people have fallen out of airplanes and their chutes haven't opened and they've still survived. Miracles happen every day. Look at that fella who landed the plane on the Atlantic after it was hit by aliens."
"It was the Hudson, and the plane was hit by geese," Mags Davidson said.
"Right. I was merely trying to make a point," Wilton said, sounding hurt.
"Sit down, Wilton. Might I mention that trivia night might be a pleasant outlet for you," Slick Mitchell suggested.
"Thank you, sir," Wilton said politely.
"Okay, let's get the light stuff out of the way, then get into the heavy stuff. I trust you all have ample coverage in your department," Mitchell said.
"Barbie is watching the front," Mags said.
"Is there anyone else on the floor?" Mitchell asked.
No one spoke.
"Terrific," Mitchell said. "All right, people. I need to address a situation in the Garden Center. Whomever is leaving all the Blair Witch shit out there needs to stop it. The night crew is starting to get freaked out, and one guy wants to have a priest do a blessing. I don't need anything else to deal with. If I see you hanging something out there, it better be a bucket of petunias. Anything else, and your butt is fired. Everyone got it?"
"I think I sold one of those the other day," Bernice said. "It was shaped like a star."
"Good going," someone said.
"That's terrific, Bernice. Nobody else sell any of those. Got it?" Mitchell said.
Murmurs of understanding went up from the group.
"Second order of business. I got another complaint about one of our delivery trucks. The neon green is a little hard to miss. It seems we're replacing some kids Motocross style bicycle, because one of you idiots ran over it," Mitchell said, sounding tense.
"The kid wasn't on it, was he?" Mags asked.
"Thankfully no!" Mitchell barked.
"No harm, no foul," Bernice said.
"THAT IS NOT THE POINT!" Mitchell raged, and everyone jumped. "We have to remember that our customers have a choice, and they choose us. Running over their kid's bikes is not the way we want to thank them."
"Maybe we should start carrying bikes. Perhaps we're missing an opportunity," Wilton Scott piped in.
"People, please! You cannot be as idiotic as you all sound. There has to be someone in this room with an ounce of sense." Mitchell stood still. No one moved. "No one? No one with an ounce of sense? No one smart enough to kidnap my sister??"
The room fell quiet.
"I beg your pardon, sir?" Wilton Scott said.
"I've been watching soaps with my mother. She enjoys the company. I wanted to get your attention," Slick Mitchell lied.
He looked rattled, and no one was convinced.
"You all right, sir?" Reeve Stockwell asked.
"I'll deal with you later," Mitchell said.
Stockwell fell silent, and wished he'd brought the Snickers bar.
"All right. On to the hard stuff. Something is going on in my store. Something I believe is illegal in nature. Someone in this room might be guilty, although I suspect most of you are innocent, but you might know something you don't realize you know. Has anyone heard of Mickey Burger?" Mitchell asked.
Alejandro nearly flew from his seat, and Mitchell felt a glimmer of hope. Alejandro raised his hand with all the enthusiasm of a third grader who suddenly remembered who invented the cotton gin.
"Yes, Alejandro?" Mitchell said.
"I know Mickey Burger. It's this place out in the Midwest, in Iowa I think. Has these huge burgers with this secret jalapeno sauce that'll give you the squirts, but man that stuff is good. My dad and I were hoping they'd make it a franchise. Did you buy a Mickey Burger, sir?"
"No," Mitchell said, sounding defeated. "Mickey Burger is a person, a person with something to do with what's happening here. Anyone else know this person?"
No one spoke.
"I am going to make all of you an offer. I want you all to become my eyes and ears. It may even be one of our customers who is involved in this, or it may be someone in this room, one of the people who have today off, or one of the four people I suspect are managing our store at present. I will pay one year's salary to anyone who helps me solve this mystery," Slick Mitchell said, and an audible gasp went up from the crowd.
"Whose salary, sir?" Wilton Scott asked.
"Pardon?" Mitchell said.
"Whose salary? Mine or yours?" Wilton inquired.
"Yours, Wilton," Mitchell said.
"What if I make more?" Bernice asked.
"What?" Mitchell said, sounding pissed.
"What if I make more than Wilton? Do I get mine or his?"
Mitchell stared at Bernice, and the young girl shivered. "I WILL PAY ANY ASSOCIATE WHO HELPS ME SOLVE THIS MYSTERY THE EQUIVALENT OF HIS OR HER ANNUAL SALARY." Mitchell yelled.
The room was eerily silent.
Everyone was deep in thought.
Wilton Scott's eyes glazed over. He wanted to take a trip into space. A year's salary would be a good start to saving for such an adventure.
Miles Longworth was grateful that for once, he'd attended a meeting. He needed the money. He had to solve the mystery. Maybe if he brought home a year's salary, his wife would forgive him for ruining everything, as she'd told him at dawn, that he had.
Kitty Richardson smiled. A year's salary would be enough to buy a small cabin in the mountains, and a bunch of goats, and a home health care aide to deal with the wackos back at home.
Aleandro fidgeted. Everyone knew what he was thinking. He'd buy a Mickey Burger, and a year's worth of Pepto.
Reeve Stockwell felt confident. Regardless of his arrest record and his choice of boxers, he was a bona fide FBI agent.
He'd get that money!