Gibbons knew trouble when she saw it, and it was right there in aisle four.
Born and bred in Sweet Home, Oregon, she knew all nine thousand eight hundred
and fifteen souls in town, and the man standing in front of the hammers wasn’t
from around here. She did know that he’d been standing there way too
long. Professional carpenters who treated their hammers with the same reverence
that her second husband, Jimmy, lavished on his prized jigsaw didn’t take this
long to make a decision. There were only four models to choose from for god’s
But that wasn’t all. There was
something about the way he acted that made the fine hairs on the back of
Sadie’s neck rise. He stood there like a zombie, totally zoned out, as her
grandkids would say. It just wasn’t right.
he was pretty enough. The oversized sweatshirt, ball cap, and sunglasses he
wore couldn’t hide the fact that he was a good-looking man. Hell, her first
husband had been pretty too, and he was a sneaky sonofabitch, god rest his poor
departed soul. Like this guy. He avoided eye contact at all costs. And what was
worse, he moved like he knew where the security cameras were placed and avoided
This wasn’t one of those fancy Home
Depot’s where there were more security cameras than potted plants. That said,
they weren’t entirely without eyes. Half a dozen cameras were placed at high
traffic points providing a bird’s eye view of the store because in this day and
age, you couldn’t trust anyone. Especially strangers. Why just a few months ago
they caught a guy stealing a chainsaw. A goddamned chainsaw. Not exactly
the kind of thing you could hide under one of them hoodies.
Sadie kept her eyes pinned on the
stranger, not wanting to miss a single thing. But then the telephone rang. She
heaved a heavy sigh. The phone was on the other side of the counter, and she
couldn’t very well answer it and still keep the hammer guy in her sights. Where
the hell was Jimmy? Probably out for a smoke or fooling around in the paint
aisle. Never in her life had she met a man more obsessed with paint.
A few rings in, it became obvious
that Jimmy wasn’t gonna answer. Swearing under her breath, Sadie crossed to the
end of the counter and picked it up. Apparently, her old bones didn’t move fast
enough. By the time she answered, the caller had hung up. What was wrong with
people anyway? Always in a rush. Like she didn’t have better things to do than
stand by the phone waiting for a call.
Slamming the phone down, Sadie
hurried back to her post, where she’d spent the last fifteen minutes watching
the hammer guy, only to find that she was too late. He was gone. Her gaze
ricocheted off the mirrors perched in the corners of the store, checking the
aisles to see if she could catch sight of him, but as her father would have
said, he disappeared like spit in the wind.
Sadie hustled her bulk around the
corner of the counter and down the aisle where they kept the carpentry tools.
Sure enough, a hammer was missing—one of the twenty-ounce Eastwing rip hammer
jobbies with the leather grips. Just yesterday morning, she had refreshed stock
in this aisle and knew that since then, not a single one had been sold.
Where in the blazes was that man?
“Hold your horses, woman,” Jimmy
Sadie shook her head impatiently. With
a stir stick in one hand and paint swatches in the other, Jimmy emerged from
the rows of paint cans.
“Jimmy, the guy in aisle four.”
Jimmy craned his head around toward
the front of the store. The white strands in his caterpillar eyebrows caught
the light, and Sadie huffed out a breath. He was clueless. The hammer guy was
Frustration rose from the pit of
Sadie’s belly and clawed its way up her throat. She let Jimmy have it.
“He walked right by you. Didn’t you
Jimmy lifted his ball cap and
scratched at the stubborn tufts of white hair that clung to his freckled crown.
That man was useless. Worse than useless. If it weren’t for her, she didn’t
know what would come of him or the store. Jaw clenched; Sadie marched down the aisle
as fast as her arthritic knees would carry her. She grabbed the phone and
“What’s the nature of your
“We’ve been robbed.”
Sadie tersely relayed the details to
the 911 operator and slammed the phone down, wondering how long it would take
the local yokels to arrive. Jimmy wagged his head at her, as if she’d lost her
“Woman, you’ve been watching too
many true crime shows. You think everyone is the Son of Sam.”
“That guy didn’t look any more like
David Berkowitz than I do, and I sure as hell didn’t need any barking dogs to
tell me that he was a thief. Besides, I placed an order for those hammers just
last week. There were three of them in Monday’s order and now, there’s only
two. I may not have graduated high school, but I sure as hell can count.”
For once, Jimmy didn’t argue.