Miles Longworth cut out shortly after the meeting. He wore his Tommy golf shirt under a suit jacket. He told Mags he was meeting a vendor.
She smiled and mouthed something.
Miles was pretty sure it was....
So, Mags didn't believe him. Miles didn't really care. Miles did his job, did what he had to do to fulfill his job as a manager, but in his spare time he didn't meet vendors. He looked up weird videos on YouTube.
He smiled as he thought of the Honey Badger.
He should have watched it before he left.
It might have calmed him, quieted the tremor in his hands, and the apocalypse in his gut.
He was sweating like a man about to have a vasectomy by a doctor with a Fisher Price medical kit. His car felt like it was a million degrees, and sweat dampened his brow. He would have liked to turn back the clock, turn it back to the moment when he thought coming clean was the way to save his soul.
He should have hit the On Demand button and had a burrito. That would have calmed him.
Oh, no, but not Miles!
Miles had to grow a conscience and call the police.
"What the hell was I thinking?" Miles whispered to the inside of the car.
His phone rang, and the car woke up like Night Rider. The Bluetooth went wild, and his wife's name flashed on the mini screen.
"Crap," he whispered.
This was all he needed.
"Hello," he said in a small voice.
"Did you go?" his wife asked.
"I'm going now," Miles replied.
"How close are you?" she asked.
"About two miles," Miles said.
"You're still in the parking lot, aren't you?"
"Yeah," Miles whispered.
"Coward," his wife said.
"Please don't," Miles said softly. "Please just say something nice."
"I believe in you," Mrs. Longworth said, sounding like the wife Miles had known for years, sounding like the wife who still thought a wad of cash was tucked away in a college fund.
"Thank you," Miles said.
"Now go," his wife said. And she hung up.
Bernice sat in the break room, gobbling down a bag of Twizzlers. She held her iPhone in her hand, and eight fingers flew. The other two held a long, red piece of licorice.
"What are you doing?" Penelope Ross asked.
"Eating," Bernice said, brandishing a mouthful of red goo.
"Gross," Penelope retorted. "What are you doing with your phone?"
"Googling human trafficking," Bernice said.
"Dear God! Why?" Penelope asked.
"Maybe that's what is going on," Bernice said casually.
"You think so?"
"I think I'm on the right track. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people disappear and are sold into human trafficking?" Bernice said in astonishment.
"Really?" Penelope asked.
"Yeah. JJ disappeared. She disappeared right from this store. She could have been sold."
"You think someone sold JJ?"
"I think so," Bernice said.
"Who would buy her?" Penelope asked.
"Now that is a very good point," Bernice said, as she shoved another Twizzler into her mouth.
"Do you think there is retail human trafficking?" Penelope asked.
"How do you mean?"
"Do you think people are sold into human trafficking and made to work retail?" Penelope asked. She looked horrified.
"My God. I think you might be onto something."
"What if JJ is parked at some filthy cash register right now ringing out a bunch of people sold into trafficking. Do they end up working on the highways?"
"Who?" Bernice said. She looked puzzled, and her fingers had finally stopped.
"These trafficking people?" Penelope asked. "Are they somewhere writing traffic tickets?"
"That isn't funny. Did you ever watch Parking Wars? Those people go batshit. They get booted, and they start going after the traffickers, and throw shit at them." Penelope looked haggard. Worried.
"You have no idea what human trafficking is, do you?" Bernice asked.
"I don't think so," Penelope said, helping herself to a Twizzler.
"I don't think it's trafficking," Penelope whispered.
"Because Stockwell would have been sold first. He's so high strung, he could do the work of five guys."
Bernice looked struck.
"What?" Penelope asked.
"You're right," Bernice groaned. "Guess we ruled that out."
"Guess we did," Penelope agreed.
Miles Longworth sat in an interrogation room clutching his briefcase. He checked the clock. He'd been in the room for three minutes. It felt like a lifetime.
The door opened.
Miles didn't move.
"Mr. Longworth?" a male voice said.
"Yes, that's me," Miles said.
"I'm Officer Lowell. Thank you for coming in."
The officer sat across from Miles. He seemed relaxed, but there was an intensity about him that frightened Miles Longworth.
"Your story is really something," Officer Lowell said.
"I know," Miles whispered.
"You've brought the money?" Lowell asked.
"Most of it," Miles said.
"And the rest?" Lowell asked.
"There may be a little bit left in the ceiling of my office."
"Why didn't you report finding the money immediately? Why didn't you tell your superior?" Lowell asked.
"He's a douche bag," Miles said.
"Pardon?" Lowell said, although the corners of his mouth turned up into a smile.
"He isn't an approachable man," Miles said.
"I gathered that."
"Besides, I had designs on keeping it," Miles whispered.
"Oh?" Lowell said.
"I'm in a little trouble," Miles said softly.
"With a female?"
"Mostly males," Miles said.
"Oh," Lowell said.
The silence in the room settled like a rock. The room was warm, but Miles still shivered.
"Tell me about the men," Lowell asked.
"What men?" Miles asked.
"You said you're in trouble with men. I thought you mentioned a wife."
"I have a wife. I'm not involved with guys. I'm involved with horses."
"Jeez Louise, man," Lowell said.
"Good grief!" Miles said, finally catching up with the class. "I bet on horses, and I'm not very good at it."
The density in the room cleared, and the space felt immediately lighter.
"Okay. You wanted to keep the money, but you decided not to. I'll need a paper trail on it. I need to know everyplace this money has been since you found it," Lowell said, taking a note pad from his shirt pocket.
"Oh, Lord," Miles moaned.
"Problem?" Lowell asked.
"The money was stuffed in my shorts one night for like an hour," Miles whispered.
Lowell stood and paced for a minute or two. His phone chirped, and he paused to look at it. "Okay, Longworth. I need ten minutes. I am going to get you a coffee and a notepad. I want you to write down every place this money has been since you first found it. Can you do that for me?"
"I can," Miles said.
"Good. Stay put," Lowell demanded.
The door opened.
Miles mopped his brow, and looked through the glass toward the hallway.
A woman walked by.
Looked in his direction.
Miles inhaled sharply.
It couldn't be.
Miles Longworth would have sworn on a bible that he'd just seen JJ Patricks.