Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 73 - Boom Chicka Boom

Reeve Stockwell made quick work of disengaging from JJ Patricks.  JJ was still irked, but she hadn't killed him, and that was a good sign.  He was headed back to Tommy's, and driving like a maniac, which was hard work in his old beater.  The thing sputtered and spitted, and backfired.

"Excuse you?" Gutz said from the passenger seat.

"Pardon?" Stockwell replied, not taking his eyes from the road.

"It's customary to excuse yourself when you've broken wind," Gutz advised.

"I didn't.  That was the car," Stockwell advised.

"Are we going to make it back?" Gutz asked.

"We are," Stockwell assured.

They did.  Stockwell and Gutz arrived at Tommy's Tool Town ten minutes past closing.  Stockwell knocked on the door and cringed when he saw Kitty approach.

She looked like she'd come through a hurricane.

"Hey," Kitty said.

"What's happening?" Stockwell asked.

"I rallied the troops, and we have about half the pipes cleaned up," Kitty said.  "A bunch of people stayed past closing."

"Seriously?" Stockwell asked incredulously.  It was difficult getting his staff to stay UNTIL closing.  He couldn't imagine the bribery involved in getting them to stay late.

"What did you give them?" Stockwell asked.

Kitty looked away.

"Kitty?" Stockwell asked.

"Well, Bernice and Penelope had to stay because Bernice lost her keys. Wilton offered to stay if he could have Saturday off," Kitty said.

"He offered to stay an extra hour in exchange for eight hours off?" Stockwell asked.

"Yeah," Kitty mumbled.

"You need to work on your negotiating skills, Kitty," Stockwell complained.

"You weren't here.  You weren't running the show.  I did what I had to do.  Mags came in, and Daisy came back.  Alejandro stayed, and Aaron Faulker came back even though he was out somewhere when I called him.

"And I'm here!" Gutz quipped.

"How did you know about it?" Kitty asked.

Gutz paused.

Stockwell didn't miss a beat.  "I called him."

Suddenly the paging system squealed, then went silent.  The store was filled with provocative music, the kind one usually heard on Saturday night Cinemax.

"What the hell is that?" Stockwell asked.

"Dunno," Kitty mumbled.

"Kitty?" Stockwell asked.

"I don't know!"

"Where is everyone?  I don't see a soul," Stockwell said, as the music blared on.  "Kitty, what the hell is going on in here?"

"They're in plumbing.  Everyone is concentrating on plumbing.  If we can get that cleaned up, we can move more pipes from other areas of the store," Kitty explained defensively.

"Good.  Now you're thinking.  Let's go check on them, and find out where this ridiculous music is coming from," Stockwell said.  "I feel like I'm in a Gentleman's club."

"There were some fine establishments during the war," Gutz said, and Stockwell just stared at him.

"Look it.  I've got my hands full.  Could you not start that war shit again, just for tonight?" Stockwell rather begged.

"I suppose I could give it a rest," Gutz said, as the trio walked.

"What war?" Kitty asked, and Stockwell shot her a look that not only got her to shut her mouth, but made her want to tape it shut.

"That's a story for another time," Gutz said.

"Thank you, Jesus," Stockwell whispered.

No one said a word for twenty steps or so, but as Stockwell rounded aisle twelve, he gasped.

"What the hell?" he whispered.

Granted, some of the pipes had been restored to their rightful place, but one slim, twelve footer had been fashioned into something not normally seen in tool stores.  Alejandro and Bernice were entertaining the others with their pole dancing prowess.

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?" Stockwell roared.

"Shit," Kitty whispered.

"Is this it?  Is this what you offered them?" Stockwell said.


"No, Kit?  You didn't set up some strip club in my plumbing department?"

"We are not strippers, we are exotic dancers!!" Alejandro quipped, gyrating to where Stockwell and Gutz still stood.

"Shut up!" Stockwell demanded.

"May I interest you in a lap dance, sir?" Alejandro asked, in a demurely sounding female voice.

"Get away from me, you freak!" Stockwell roared.

"Stop the name calling!" Daisy Cates yelled, and everyone shut up.  Bernice fell from her pole position, and someone cut the music.  "That isn't necessary.  These kids have been through hell tonight, and if they want to have some fun, I say we let them.  They're willing to stay until midnight to help get this cleaned up, and that says a lot, considering it isn't anyone's fault this happened.

Bernice and Penelope shot each other a knowing and relieved glance, which thankfully, nobody noticed.

Wilton Scott stepped forward.  "Did you know, sir, that pole dancing is considered to be wonderful exercise?  In fact, I once read something about church ladies who were dancing for Jesus."

"That's wonderful, Wilton.  Thank you for sharing that.  Does anyone else have anything?" Stockwell asked.  He seemed calmer, but he was that controlled angry, the kind normally seen right before one went completely insane.

"Did I miss the lap dances?" Aaron Faulkner slurred.

"Dear Lord, have you been drinking?" Stockwell asked.

"What I do on my free time is my business," Faulkner said defensively.

The paging system squeaked and squealed again, as if someone was playing with it.

"Who is doing that?" Stockwell demanded.

No one moved, and no one took responsibility, and everyone in the store was accounted for. 

"Alejandro, is there anyone else in this store, anyone that you know of?" Stockwell demanded.

"No, sir.  There's only thirteen of us, fifteen with you and Gutz, and the gang's all here," Alejandro explained.

"Daisy?  Can you walk the perimeter?  Let me know if you see anyone who shouldn't be in here," Stockwell asked.

"I will," Daisy said, lumbering away.

"Alejandro, Wilton, I am going to give you five minutes to get this damn pole down and back where it belongs.  Anyone who can drive a forklift, get back to Receiving and let's get the machines moving.  If we can get this cleared up by midnight, I'll let you all leave alive," Stockwell said, still sounding a bit like a madman.

"Anything I can do, sir?" Faulkner asked.

"Yeah.  Get yourself back to the break room and get yourself some coffee, and for God's sake, get a sponsor and get your act cleaned up," Stockwell said, and although he sounded pissed, he placed his hand on Faulker's arm.  "Honest to God, Faulkner, you're a great guy, with a good sense of humor, but you smell like a brewery, and you're going to rot your innards with that shit."

"Thanks, boss.  Means a lot coming from someone like you," Faulkner slurred, although not nearly as bad as before.

The paging system crackled again, and everyone turned their gazes toward the ceiling.

Daisy returned a moment later.

"Anything?" Stockwell asked.

"No, sir.  It's just us," Daisy assured.

"Then who in the hell is messing with the paging system?" Stockwell wondered aloud.

The crackling stopped for a moment and the store fell silent, but the silence lasted only momentarily.


Daisy Cates went pale.

"Shit," she whispered.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 72 - Rockin' the Boat, Astro Style

Reeve Stockwell looked down at his feet.  He knew he was about to get a lickin' from JJ Patricks.

"So, let me get this straight," JJ began.  "There are about a hundred thousand people within reasonable distance of where we're standing right now, and you chose that knucklehead for a partner?"

"Jeez.  When you say it like that," Stockwell mumbled.

"Well? I've got a point, right?"

"You do.  He's a good guy, JJ," Stockwell said, defensively.

"He thinks he was at the Invasion of Normandy."

"No one is perfect," Stockwell remarked.

"Are you for real?  That's your defense?  No, no one is perfect, but most people don't think they were killed in WWII, and then floated around in the clouds for a while, before being born into the Gardner family,"  JJ blurted.  She arched a brow and looked curiously at Reeve Stockwell.


"Gardner," JJ replied.

"Who's that?" Stockwell asked.

"Your Gutzenheimer's father.  His name is Richard Gardner.  He had one son, an odd boy, but bright.  He was obsessed with WWII.  They named him Jerry."

"Gutz is Jerry Gardner?" Stockwell asked.

"He is.  Gutzenheimer doesn't exist."

"Wow," Stockwell said in amazement.

"He spent some time in a facility," JJ said.

"How do you know?" Stockwell asked.

JJ smiled.  "I text faster than you walk."

"I didn't think anyone did anything faster than I walk," Stockwell said.

"Your CI partner was institutionalized," JJ said, and Stockwell frowned.


"He believed he was a German soldier in WWII," JJ said.

"Shit," Stockwell whispered.

"He was arrested once, too," JJ announced.

"Dear God.  For what?"

"Trying to break into Area 51," JJ explained.

"Terrific," Stockwell replied, sounding forlorn.

"We have a problem, Stockwell," JJ barked.

"I guess."

"You're stuck with him.  You brought him into this, but I am telling you, keep the reins in on him.  If he starts talking about the FBI, you need to commit him."

"I couldn't do that," Stockwell whined.

"You'll have to.  If you blow my cover, I'll kill you."

"Jeez.  You're vicious," Stockwell said, as a chill ran through him.

Stockwell's phone vibrated in his pocket, and he was reminded of the mess that awaited him back at the store.  He opened the phone and checked the text.

It was from Mitchell.

If you hurt Rachel, I'll kill you.

"What the hell?" Stockwell said.

"What?" JJ asked.

"Now two people want to kill me," Stockwell said.

He had no idea who Rachel was, but if he saw her, he'd steer clear.

"I'm sure that's not true," JJ remarked.


"I'm sure a hell of a lot of people want to kill you, Stockwell," JJ said with a smile.



Daisy Cates plopped down on the upside down bucket in the little barn she found heavenly.  A small goat laid by her side.

She hadn't told Hannah she already had a growing goat family.  She hadn't told Hannah much about her life now, but that was fine.  She'd reveal things when and if they were needed, or she'd just show up at the RV rendezvous spot one day soon with a bunch of goats, a bulging knapsack, and a very ungrateful macaw.

The bird had followed her into the barn.

"Astro!" the bird screeched, announcing its presence by using its name.  His name wasn't really Astro, but evidently, that's what he heard every time Daisy yelled at him when he insisted on singing in the wee hours of the morning.

"Shut up, Astro!" the bird hollered, and Daisy rolled her eyes.

"It's asshole," Daisy whispered, chuckling at herself.

Her phone rang and the bird began to dance excitedly.

"Hello, hello, hello," the bird screeched, and Daisy left the barn momentarily, slamming the door and trapping Astro inside.

"Damn bird," she mumbled, not realizing she'd already answered her cell. 

This had better be good.  I've only been home for thirty minutes, Daisy thought.

"What damn bird?" Hannah asked.

"Never mind.  It's just a crow," Daisy said.

In the distance, she could hear the bird freaking out.

"Astro! Astro! Astro!"

He'd pretty much nailed it.

"What's up?" Daisy asked.

"Louise called.  She's got more dirt.  Wants to see us at Bitsy's about eleven.  She said something's going down at the store about midnight.  Some well-dressed-preppy-looking putz was in the bar, yacking up a storm with some Burger guy, yelling and stuff.  That was all she'd say, but said she'll whip us up some sweet potato fries and homemade ranch dressing if we come on down and hear her out.  She says we have to be there," Hannah rambled.

"I've got stuff going on," Daisy said, knowing she shouldn't leave the goat.  He was new, and she wasn't sure what was going on with him.  And then there was Astro, who'd begun singing Joan Jett songs inside the barn.

"I LOVE ROCKIN' BOATS," the bird hollered, and for a moment, Daisy wished she didn't love animals.  She'd have liked to send the damn bird packing.

"What's that?" Hannah asked, and Daisy moved farther from the barn.

"Nothing," Daisy mumbled.

"I hear singing," Hannah said.


The bird was on a roll.

She had to get off the phone.

"I'll meet you at Bitsy's at eleven.  I gotta go," Daisy said, hanging up the phone.


"SHUT UP!" Daisy screamed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 71 - Blue's Clues

Ten minutes after the failed jousting, the final PVC pipe came to rest just outside the appliance department. Kitty Richardson sat behind Stockwell's desk, staring at the security camera views of the entire store. Nearly every square inch was covered with pipes.

"Son of a ....-" Kitty mumbled. She opened her cell phone and called Stockwell.  He answered on the first ring and sounded distracted.

"I think I should close the store," Kitty said.

"Why?  Is your grandmother there?" Stockwell asked.

"Honestly?  She could be.  She could be buried in a sea of PVC.  I don't know how I'd know," Kitty whined.

"PVC?  What the hell are you talking about?" Stockwell asked, sounding suddenly interested.

"All the pipes fell in plumbing," Kitty explained.

"What do you mean they ALL fell?" Stockwell roared.

"I mean what I said.  Like every pipe fell and is on the floor," Kitty whimpered.

"Where are they?" Stockwell asked.

"The better question might be 'where aren't they?'" Kitty clarified.

"Who did this?" Stockwell asked, although he suspected he already knew.  Someone was trying to sabotage the store, or get everyone out early, but that wasn't happening.  Stockwell was already hatching a plan, and when Gutz was done being interrogated by a severely hormonal JJ Patricks, Stockwell was prepared to bring the conspiracy theorist into his confidence, and share his plans for the hours ahead.

"I have no idea who did it.  I think they just fell," Kitty said.

"How long have we stacked pipe like that?" Stockwell asked.

"I don't know," Kitty admitted.  "At least a hundred years.  That's how long I've been here."

"Nice, Kitty.  Fifteen years.  Fifteen years and this has never happened," Stockwell grumbled.

"I'll get it cleaned up," Kitty groaned.

"With what?" Stockwell asked.

"I don't know.  This shit is above my pay grade.  You need to come back.  You need to fix this," Kitty nearly demanded.

"I'm coming, but I'm still an hour away.  I'll be there in an hour and fifteen.  Don't screw anything else up before I arrive."

"Asshole," Kitty whispered, before hanging up the phone.  She was glad she was alone.  She really didn't feel that way about Stockwell, but he tended to overreact, and spent his wrath on whomever was in hearing distance.  She wondered if she should order a dozen fritters and have them delivered.

She didn't.

She did however, order a pizza and have it delivered to two old biddies who were probably fighting over primetime television.

There was no way in hell she could cope with that bullshit after a day like today.


Mickey Burger was having a hell of a good time.  This was almost as good as the Slim Spin 5000, and that thing hadn't been easy to tamper with.  He was wreaking havoc, and he felt no remorse.

An eye for an eye, or so they said, Burger thought.

The PVC thing was amazing. 

He hardly had to do a thing.

He'd compromised the shelving, making the disaster imminent, but he hadn't planned on those two cart-riding ding bats to help his plan along.

And so well.

Thankfully they hadn't been hurt, although the skinny one looked like someone who'd just dreamed she was naked at school.

Burger made quick work of leaving the scene, pocketing a drill bit along the way, just because he could.  He still had a few hours of screwing with Slick Mitchell and his pathetic mother ahead of him, and he desperately needed something to eat.

Destroying someone's life and livelihood was hard work.

Bernice Lord still had the presence of mind to ask him if he needed help as he passed.

"May I help you, sir?" Bernice asked.

"I was having trouble locating PVC," Burger said, bursting into a fit of giggles as he walked away.

"Douche bag," Bernice said, loud enough that he could hear.

Burger didn't care.  He was having a fine evening.

"Who was that?" Penelope asked, crawling from beneath the PVC pile.

"Some douche.  You okay?" Bernice asked.

"I seem to be.  I may or may not have broken a nail," Penelope said, wrinkling her nose and examining the third finger on her left hand.

"All good?" Bernice asked.

"Yeah.  Just a chip," Penelope replied.

"What do we do about this?" Bernice asked.  She didn't have to explain what this was, not even to Penelope.

"We should call Kitty," Penelope said.

"Nope.  We are not admitting to anything.  As far as she knows, we're in Receiving."

"Are we?" Penelope asked.

"Are we what?" Bernice replied.

"Are we in Receiving?"

"Of course not.  We're in Plumbing."

"Then we're guilty.  They will blame us," Penelope said, sounding panicked.

"Disneyworld," Bernice mumbled.


"It's what I say when I'm stressed," Bernice admitted.


"It's the happiest place on earth," Bernice explained.

"It is?"

"Not really.  It's all smoke and mirrors.  Underneath all the glitter, there's garbage everywhere.  People are rude, and the whole place smells like sweat and vomit, and don't even get me started on the rest rooms.  They all look like a shit bomb went off. 


"No kidding.  I don't know why anyone in their right mind would eat Indian food and then ride a rollercoaster.  Talk about testing your bowels," Bernice ranted.

Penelope turned a slight shade of green.

"Shit," Bernice said suddenly.

"What?" Penelope asked, no less green.

"I lost my keys.  They're gone.  They're in this mess somewhere.  Come on, help me dig!"

"Seriously?" Penelope whined.

"Yeah.  You have to.  You rode with me.  You wanna be stuck here with this mess?  They might expect us to help or something," Bernice said.

"Jeez, Louise.  You're right.  Where should I start?"

"Here," Bernice said, dropping to her knees.

She dug frantically and came up with a quarter, a gum wrapper, a busted pen and a piece of paper with some doodling.  The pen was everywhere, and she found herself covered with ink. She flipped the paper over, trying to wipe her ink-covered hands on it.

"Whoa," Bernice said, standing up quickly.

"You find them?" Penelope asked, without turning around.

"No, but I found this!" Bernice said, waving the paper.

"You're all covered in blue."

"I know.  It will come off eventually.  Look at this."

Penelope grabbed the paper and read it quickly.

"What should we do?" she asked.

"We go.  It's a clue, and we need that money more than ever," Bernice said.

"Why?" Penelope asked.

"Because here comes Kitty and she looks pissed.  Now we're surrounded with PVC pipes, some of which are covered in blue ink.  We're totally fired," Bernice announced, taking the paper from Penelope's outstretched hand.

Bernice read it again before wadding it into her fist.  The clue was clear.

Receiving at Midnight.  If you're late, someone dies.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 70 - I'll Take Complete and Utter Nonsense for Two Hundred, Alex

As an enormous rolling sea of PVC pipes filled every orifice of Tommy's Tool Town, Reeve Stockwell sat blissfully unaware across from a very pissed off looking JJ Patricks.  Gerald Gutzenheimer just stared.

"I thought she was dead," Gutz finally said, once coffee was poured.

"Do I look dead?" JJ asked, her angry expression unchanged.

"You're a little pale," Gutz remarked.

"I'm pregnant," JJ griped.

"Someone slept with her?" Gutz whispered to Stockwell, as JJ drew a sharp hiss.

"I can hear you," JJ growled.

"My apologies, ma'am," Gutz said softly.  "You just never struck me as a man eater."

"I'm not.  It was artificial insemination," JJ said, although she wasn't sure why.

"Oh.  The turkey baster method," Gutz said.

"Yes, and thank you for that most clinical visual," JJ hissed.

"You're welcome," Gutz mumbled.

"Mr. Stockwell, please tell me why you've chosen Gerald for your partner," JJ rather demanded, pronouncing "Gerald," with a long drawn out J.

Gutz spoke before Stockwell could open his mouth.

"Ga," Gutz barked.

"I beg your pardon?" JJ asked.

"Ga!" Gutz repeated.

"Are you choking?  Do you need 911?  The Heimlich maneuver?" JJ asked.

"It's Gerald with a G.  No J.  You can keep your J's," Gutz explained.

"Very well," JJ said.  "You were saying, Stockwell?"

"I never got a chance to speak," Reeve Stockwell grumbled.  Gutz picked up his coffee cup as JJ watched carefully.  He took a luxurious gulp.

"He's occupied.  Speak now!" JJ demanded.

"Gerald is a conspiracy theorist," Stockwell began.

"You chose a conspiracy theorist for a partner?" JJ asked.

"He's occasionally right," Stockwell said defensively.

"I believe the Tommy schedule was created to keep everyone just awake enough to serve, and tired enough to be incapable of questioning that which seems unreasonable," Gutz declared.

"The schedule is bad?" JJ asked.

"Let's just say we're the only company with the words 'chronic fatigue' in our mission statement," Stockwell admitted.

"It may be in ours, too," JJ commented.

"Look it," Gutz began.  "Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but harmless.  I blend in.  No one would be overly cautious about speaking openly around me.  The worst they might expect is I'll attempt to create a conspiracy theory from whatever it is they're speaking of," Gutz explained.

"And this benefits me how?" JJ asked.

"I am a magnet for information," Gutz said.

"How so?" JJ asked.

"Folks like to mess with me.  They'll tell me their secrets just to see how I spin them.  I'm like the Julia Child of conspiracy theorists.  Give me some butter and beans, six taters, and a dead chicken, and I'll whip you up a seven course conspiracy theory."

"Wow.  Is this dude for real?" JJ asked, attempting to hide a smile.

"He is," Stockwell said.

"I'd like something in return for my service," Gutz declared.

"What?" JJ asked.

"A pass into Area 51," Gutz whispered, looking around.


"A pass into-"

"Shut up.  I heard you the first time.  Is he serious?" JJ asked, looking at Stockwell.

"Absolutely," Stockwell said.  He was thoroughly enjoying this.

"There is no such place," JJ said.

"She drank the Kool-Aid," Gutz whispered.

"I heard that, too," JJ quipped.

"You are a liar," Gutz said, looking under the table.

"What the hell are you doing now?" JJ asked.

"Checking to see if your pants are on fire," Gutz said, matter of fact.

"What?  What is the matter with you?  Are you medicated?  Do you drink?  Are you mentally unstable?"  JJ rambled.

"I am all three.  I take one aspirin a day.  I drink two beers on Friday, three on Saturday and none on Sunday," Gutz explained.

"You live by a three-day calendar?" JJ asked.

"She is a genuine smart ass," Gutz whispered.

"I HEARD THAT!" JJ barked, quickly losing her patience.

"You didn't let me finish!" Gutz complained.

"So finish," JJ said, sounding defeated.  She glared at Stockwell, who look away quickly.

"I am likely mentally unstable by definition, but not because of any modern-day mumbo jumbo, like my mommy didn't hold me.  I have suffered a head injury," Gutz said.  "I took a hit to the helmet during the Invasion of Normandy."

JJ dropped her coffee cup.  The amber liquid spread quickly and dribbled onto the floor.  No one moved.  Gutz included.

"What?" Stockwell whispered.

"War wound," Gutz said, sounding incredibly proud.

"World War II?" Stockwell squeaked.

"Yes," Gutz said.

JJ said nothing.

"That was in 1944," Stockwell said, sounding horrified.

Gutz slid a sugar packet across the table in Stockwell's direction.  "You're correct!" Gutz declared, sounding almost exactly like the beloved Jeopardy host.  "Too bad it wasn't a daily double, I'd have given you two sugars."

"May I see you outside?" JJ said, glaring at Stockwell.  She stood quickly, and although she was barely taller than the booth, she looked imposing.

"I wasn't finished," Gutz said.

JJ sat with a thud.

"Go on," she mumbled.

"I know what you're thinking.  Surely a fella of my obvious youthful prowess wasn't in World War II, and you're right, but I was there.  I am confident I was a soldier, not an American, and when I was killed, I went into a holding pattern, and there I waited until I was reborn as tiny, little Gerald Gutzenheimer."

"That's just super.  That's a hell of a lot better explanation than the suggestion that you were actually IN the Battle of Normandy!" JJ practically shouted.  She stood and took several steps toward the door.

"Stockwell!" JJ hollered.

"Coming," Reeve Stockwell responded glumly.

"I think she likes me," Gutz said, sipping at his coffee.

"Yeah.  She seems thrilled," Stockwell said.