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.