Kitty Richardson practically threw her arms around Miles Longworth when he walked through the door, but she didn't want to push it.
Miles stood just inside and looked around.
"Who's in charge in this dump?" Miles grumbled, not sounding like his usual self.
"Me," Kitty whispered.
"Seriously?" Miles asked.
"Yeah, and don't say it like that," Kitty replied, sounding offended.
"Like you can't believe no one died," Kitty mumbled.
"No," Kitty said.
"Then it's not a bad day."
"Is something wrong, Miles?" Kitty asked.
"Where should I begin?"
"You could begin by looking outside," Kitty said, taking a step back.
Miles did. Flashing lights could be seen in the distance, and as they grew closer, Miles felt his Moe's burrito spinning around like a carnival ride in his gut.
"Shit," Miles whispered when two cop cars pulled into Tommy's parking lot.
They didn't slow up and Kitty wondered if they were going to crash through the front doors. "I really hope my grandmother doesn't have anything to do with this," Kitty mumbled.
"For once, I doubt she's involved," Miles said, looking pale.
Both cars stopped just short of the door. Officer Lowell stepped out of the first car, and Miles began looking for a garbage pail he could toss his cookies into.
"You okay?" Kitty asked.
"I have a feeling I am not," Miles whispered.
Lowell plowed through the front door, and the chicken shit in Miles wanted to run, but he held his ground. He was going to the clink. He accepted it as an absolute truth, like knowing the world was round, and knowing that burritos gave you the runs, and knowing that a bird will fly miles out of its way to crap on a freshly washed automobile.
"Mr. Longworth?" Lowell said, sounding like he meant business.
"Officer," Miles said, praying to the intestinal Gods.
"I'd like you to come with me," the officer said.
"Oh, crap," Kitty whispered.
"Why?" Miles asked.
"I wasn't done with you," Lowell said.
"I came forward voluntarily," Miles said, and Kitty arched a brow. This was getting interesting.
"I didn't give you permission to leave," Lowell barked.
"Are you going to arrest me for leaving?" Miles asked.
"You could not. That isn't a crime. It's not like I left the scene of an accident."
"Didn't you?" Lowell asked.
"No," Miles mumbled.
This was going somewhere, and Miles had a feeling it was nowhere good.
"You left your notepad. It was blank," Lowell said.
"I didn't mean to," Longworth said.
"So you left it by accident?" Lowell asked.
"So, you left the scene of an accident," Lowell said.
"That is asinine," Longworth complained. "You're going to arrest me for leaving my notepad?"
"I am asking you to come back to the station of your own free will," Lowell said.
"And if I don't?"
"This is going to get ugly," Lowell advised.
"Kitty, you're in charge. Clearly I have to go," Miles said, sullenly.
"No," Kitty whined.
"You'll be fine. You are a competent woman. I know you can handle this," Miles assured.
"Are you coming back?" Kitty whined.
"I have a feeling I am not. At least not tonight. I'm sure this officer has some unsolved murder he can charge me with," Miles said.
"I heard that," Lowell quipped from near the door.
Lowell held the door for Miles Longworth, despite the fact that it was an automatic door. Longworth followed. He looked back, and his eyes met Kitty's. He looked like he might cry. "Behave, kiddo," he whispered.
And then he was gone.
"Shit," Kitty whispered.
At first she'd been intrigued, but suddenly she was frightened. The Tommy compound was mammoth and there was no telling what might go wrong on her watch. She dialed Stockwell's cell phone. He answered on the first ring.
"JJ?" Stockwell said.
"Why would you think I was JJ?" Kitty asked.
"Sorry. Wrong number," Stockwell said. And he hung up.
Kitty immediately redialed. Stockwell answered.
"Why would you think I was JJ?" Kitty asked.
"That's what it says on my phone when the store calls," Stockwell said.
"Why?" Kitty asked.
"Because JJ used to call me all the time," Stockwell said. "She was almost the only person who called me, so it was just natural for me to label it JJ."
Kitty totally bought it, but she wasn't entirely satisfied.
"Why would she call you?" Kitty asked.
"Because you guys missed her break, or sent her to lunch late, or asked her to sweep. Dear God, why wouldn't she call me?" Stockwell asked.
"Oh, right," Kitty mumbled.
"Why did you call me?" Stockwell asked.
"I am pretty sure Miles just got arrested," Kitty explained.
"Seriously?" Stockwell asked.
"Yes. You need to come back," Kitty begged.
"I am an hour away." This time, Stockwell was being truthful. He was waiting for JJ at the same restaurant they'd had dinner at the night she'd asked Stockwell to be her CI. Gutz was inside, probably talking to the waitress about a salt and pepper shaker conspiracy. He had to get back inside.
"Kitty. I can't make it back much before closing. You'll be fine. It's only a couple of hours. I have to go, but I have faith in you. I'm sure everything will be fine."
Stockwell hung up. He couldn't have imagined how wrong he'd been.
Bernice Lord was skulking about the receiving area when Kitty paged her. She sulked and picked up the nearest phone.
"Hey, Kitty," Bernice said.
"I need some help up front with closing duties, Bernice," Kitty said.
"Okay, can I bring Penelope?"
"From where would you be bringing her?" Kitty asked. It wasn't uncommon for Bernice and Penelope to wander off.
"From wherever she is, I suppose," Bernice said.
"Bernice. You couldn't be more elusive if you tried," Kitty declared.
"Thanks," Bernice said, hanging up.
Three minutes later Bernice and Penelope arrived on the front end.
"Where were you, Penelope?" Kitty asked.
"In the toilets," Penelope responded.
"Oh? Are you ill?" Kitty asked.
"No. I was selling this old fart a toilet," Penelope said. "He said his wife had too much wine and stepped on the lid of the toilet to get some aspirin from the shelving unit above the toilet. Turns out the lid was up. Her foot got stuck in the bowl in he had to use a shovel to break the toilet and free her."
"That sounds like a noble guy," Kitty said, wishing she could find one for herself.
"Not so much. He looks at me dead serious and says, "'I should have hit that old bat with the shovel years ago when I had the chance. I wouldn't have to buy the toilet, and I could throw all those ugly Hummels away.' You should be glad you're single, Kitty," Penelope said.
"Yeah. It's a blast," Kitty said. "Okay, speaking of plumbing, I need you guys to take those long gray pipes back to plumbing. Guy didn't want them."
"We have to put plumbing stuff away?" Bernice whined. "Plumbing sucks."
"Yes, but I can sweeten the deal. Two of the electric carts have to be serviced tomorrow. If you behave and take the plumbing stuff back, you may each ride a cart back to receiving."
"Deal!" Bernice said.
The two girls left, and took the plumbing parts back. Along the way, they hatched a diabolical plan. They were both grinning widely when they returned for the carts.
"What are you up to?" Kitty asked suspiciously.
"Nothing," Bernice assured.
"Keep it that way," Kitty demanded.
Bernice and Penelope headed deep into the store, and when they were out of sight of the front end, both stopped. "Get them," Bernice said.
"Let the jousting begin!" Bernice said delightedly.
Each girl picked up a long gray pipe, at least twelve feet long.
"You know how, right?" Bernice said.
"Okay, the first one to fall off the cart is out. The other one wins!" Bernice declared.
"Falling off sounds painful," Penelope said, frowning.
"You should be more worried about being impaled. I could be Vlad the Impaler."
"Who?" Penelope asked.
"Vlad the Impaler. He used to impale people and hang 'em on sticks," Bernice explained, giving a less than historical account of Vlad's barbaric deeds.
"Jeez. Why? This Glad guy sounds horrible."
"He wasn't Glad!" Bernice said.
"I wouldn't think so," Penelope said. "He must have felt bad afterward."
"Nevermind," Bernice said. "You ready?" Bernice asked.
"I think this is a bad idea," Penelope said.
"Nonsense. On your mark.....," Bernice said, not waiting. She began to approach Penelope, pipe held like a jousting stick.
Penelope, feeling cowardly, drove her cart forward, pipe held high, with her eyes closed. She felt the pipe hit her cart, and hung a sharp left.
The sound of seven-hundred PVC pipes falling could be heard almost half a mile away.