"Before the crumbs even had a chance to settle on the plates of Stockwell and Gutz, word of Stockwell's involvement with the FBI had already traveled to the back room of Bitsy's. Toothless Louise sat doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, and listening to the monitor on the desk beside her.
Gutz wasn't the only conspiracy theorist on the premises, and Toothless Louise couldn't remember when she'd first thought of bugging the tables. She'd heard some weird shit since she had, normally little more than clandestine meetings between lovers, and once, a conversation between a police officer, and an old fellow who thought his neighbor was messing around with his sheep.
She'd never regretted placing the bugs, and she certainly didn't regret it now. She was on the phone with Hannah Bandana, faster than you could say boo. Hannah answered on the first ring, and Toothless was quick. She hung up and smiled.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kitty was perched by the front door on the lookout for a grandmother in a prom dress. When none appeared, and Miles Longworth was seen sauntering toward the front door, Kitty breathed an enormous sigh of relief. She'd been left in charge and nothing had gone wrong.
It was nothing short of a miracle.
Daisy Cates passed by on her way to answer the bell next to the drill bits.
"Hope it isn't some crazy mother looking to do a lobotomy again," Daisy mumbled.
"Did that really happen?" Kitty asked.
"Twice. This place is an insane asylum," Daisy declared.
"Good luck," Kitty said.
Daisy moseyed onward, toward the shriek of the bell. No one was there.
"Dammit," Daisy mumbled.
"Down here," a voice whispered.
"Daisy. Look down," the voice insisted.
Hannah Bandana was crouched on the floor, between two tool boxes.
"What the hell are you doing on the floor?" Daisy asked.
"I had to see you," Hannah whispered.
"You couldn't just come in the door like a normal person?" Daisy asked.
"Not this time," Hannah said, trying to stand. She unfolded herself like an aging, somewhat arthritic pretzel. Finally she achieved success, and stood beside Daisy. She panted for a moment, then recovered. "Toothless called, had some information for me. I might have mentioned that I was teaming up with you to solve a mystery here."
"You told Toothless this?" Daisy said, cringing.
"Yeah," Hannah said, not quite meeting her friend's eyes.
"She will tell everyone. Are you stupid?" Daisy asked.
"I may have been at that moment. It might be from years of wearing this bandana so damn tight. Do you think maybe it's affected how my brain cells move? Do brain cells need sun, because I wear this bandana almost every damn day."
"I was really just busting you. I don't think you're stupid," Daisy said defensively.
"No? I've done some really stupid things, and it started quite a while ago. Do you remember that one Halloween when I dressed up like Princess Leia and I wore those Little Debbie Honeybuns in my hair?"
"That was great," Daisy said, smiling nostalgically.
"Until we got to the party, realized it was outside, and my head began attracting every insect this side of the Mississippi," Hannah recounted.
"Did you come here for a trip down memory lane?" Daisy asked.
"No," Hannah admitted.
"Then what?" Daisy asked.
"I heard something about Stockwell," Hannah whispered, so softly Daisy couldn't hear her.
"You need to speak at a level that humans can hear," Daisy said.
"Sorry," Hannah said. She repeated herself, and Daisy's ears perked.
"Follow me," Daisy said.
She led Hannah deep into the store, into the break room. Two young associates sat at a single table, munching Doritos like they were in a Frito Lay All You Can Eat contest. "You two. Out!" Daisy commanded. Both left without question.
Daisy crossed the room and pressed every button on the Wheel of Death. Food started spinning like miniature carnival rides. The noise was deafening.
She returned to the table, and sat down hard. "Sit," she commanded. Hannah did as told. "Spill it!"
"I cannot hear myself think," Hannah whined.
"That's the point. Talk!" Daisy ordered.
"Area 51 is real!" Hannah barked, and Daisy sat up straighter.
"Yes," Hannah said. "Toothless heard Stockwell making a deal with some Gutz fellow, some conspiracy theorist who wants to see Area 51. Guy took the deal, so Area 51 must be real. He didn't say anything about aliens, but what else could be there? I don't think there's all that propaganda hidin' a WalMart. Do you?"
Daisy arched a brow. "You said Stockwell made a deal with this guy."
"Do you care to tell me what Stockwell had to offer? I mean, come on, Hannah, this Gutz fella, and I know this guy, he thinks everybody's in cahoots with everybody else, so I cannot imagine why Stockwell would want to wheel and deal with him. This Gutz fella is out there, and I mean, I grade on a curve, so he's really out there. He doesn't see six degrees of separation between any one thing and Kevin Bacon, but I bet he could connect any one thing to Kevin Bacon with six different conspiracies."
"Wow," Hannah said, then frowned.
"There was a question in there. I can't remember what it was," Hannah admitted.
"Sheesh. What was Stockwell offering?" Daisy asked.
"A partnership, and a connection."
"A connection to what?" Daisy asked.
"CBS," Hannah said.
"CBS? The network?" Daisy said. "Stockwell has a connection to CBS?"
"That doesn't sound right," Hannah said, scratching her head. "It was three letters."
"I may have," Hannah admitted. "I'm telling you. I'm losing brain cells to these tight bandanas."
"I don't think that's it," Daisy said, "but you tell yourself whatever makes you happy."
Hannah went silent, and Daisy watched as someone turned on the lights in her gray matter.
"FBI," Hannah whispered.
"What?" Daisy mouthed the word.
"I knew it was three letters," Hannah said.
"Stockwell is in the FBI?" Daisy said.
"I think so. He's a conditional informer."
"Confidential informant," Daisy said.
"Yes. That," Hannah agreed.
"This is amazing information," Daisy said. "Hannah, do you know what this means?"
"I should see a neurologist about my brain?"
"No. You should see an RV dealer. Reeve Stockwell just became my new best friend, and our duo just became a trio. Call Toothless and let her know what's cooking. We need a third man."
"She's a woman," Hannah said.
"I know. I might be time to get an MRI," Daisy recommended.
"Three letters," Hannah said through a sigh.