I left Santac, still a little confused about the whole operation but slightly more enlightened than I had been before I went. My first inclination was to think that the thief had to be someone other than Violet Tooney. She seemed way too mild-mannered to steal from anyone. That and she didn’t have two nickels to rub together. If she were making any money off of these consoles, she would be able to take more trips or at least take the one trip she usually planned on each year. I’d been wrong before, many times as a matter of fact, but I had a hunch that Violet wasn’t the bad guy in this case.
I didn’t have a good reason to stop in at the office today and I was in the mood for a burger so I drove through the In-N-Out Burger and picked up a couple of sandwiches on my way back to the apartment. I planned to do background checks on all five workers when I got home. This would at least give me some insight into the type of people I’d be running into later.
With sandwiches in hand, I trotted up the steps to my apartment and let myself in. I set the bag down on the counter and went over to my desk to turn on the laptop. As I waited for it to boot up, I went back over to the counter and pulled one of the sandwiches out of the bag. It was a double cheeseburger and it smelled damned good. I grabbed a Coke from the refrigerator and took the can and the sandwich back to the desk. I pulled the list of Santac employees names out of my pocket. As I unwrapped my sandwich with my left hand, I clicked on the icon for background checks with my right hand. I’m a multi-tasker. While the page loaded, I took a couple of bites of my sandwich and then opened my Coke and took a sip.
The page loaded and I quickly entered the names into the search engine. Violet Tooney brought no hits. She had no phone number listed and there was nothing substantial coming up under her name. I tried Jordan Sinclair next. I wasn’t sure if Jordan was a man or a woman, so I looked at both names to see if anything connected. There was a male, age 39 who lived in Crystal Ridge just a couple of apartment buildings away from mine. He had no criminal record, but he had recently filed bankruptcy. There was no employer listed, so I couldn’t be sure if this was the right person.
I tried the female Jordan Sinclair. She was 36 years old and lived just outside of Crystal Ridge in a town called Berger. Again, she had no criminal record and no employer was listed. She hadn’t filed for bankruptcy and there was no other information about her that seemed to matter. She was married to a man named Roger, but he also had no criminal record. Feeling deflated, I finished my burger and sat there thinking for a moment.
After crumpling up the burger wrapper, I tossed it into the wastebasket. I typed in Monte Bergman’s name and waited for the information to come up on the screen. When it did, I had to smile to myself. My third shift worker was a convicted felon. He had no known address and he, too had recently filed bankruptcy. His employer wasn’t listed, but I figured there weren’t many people around here named Monte Bergman so he had to be the right one.
I tried Dirk Morris and Tony Albertson but came up with little to nothing on both. Bergman seemed like the best candidate for my culprit, so I decided that I had seen enough for the day. It was coming up on six o’clock and I was tired. I closed the laptop and headed to the couch with my Coke. I’d save the other sandwich for later. Right now, all I wanted was a nap. I stretched out on the couch and stared at my ceiling. Boredom usually makes me so tired that I can fall asleep standing up if I so choose. Today, with the exception of the déjà vu stuff had been outstandingly boring so it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. As I drifted off, I began to dream again. I pretty much picked up where last night’s dream had left off. This time, I was at the house in the snowy field again. I was standing outside watching the man in the SUV. I could make out now that the SUV was in fact, a red suburban. I chalked this up to my subconscious filling in the blanks with what I’d seen earlier.
I saw the man in the Santa costume again and this time, he had a bag full of something that he was putting in the back of the SUV. The last time, it had been boxes. In the distance, I could see the animals running around again. I still couldn’t figure out what kind of animals they were. I looked in the window of the house again and saw several people standing around an oven. After a few moments, a bunch of cookies started rolling out on a conveyor belt. That was odd. The conveyor belt hadn’t been there last time, either. I watched for a few moments and then someone came up behind me. When I turned around, I was standing next to Trey. He put his finger to his lips telling me to stay quiet and then he kissed me. It was one of those long, slow dream kisses that you don’t want to wake up from.
Unfortunately, this was about the time that I was awakened by a knock at the door.
“Shit!” I said as I sat up. I looked at the clock. It was almost ten. I needed to get up and get moving if I was going to get to Santac on time to meet with the workers before they left for the day. I jumped up and ran over to the door to see who was knocking. I looked through the peephole and saw no one. Again, weird shit.
I hurried into the bathroom to straighten myself up and then grabbed my bag on my way out the door. I got into my Jeep and headed out toward Santac again. In spite of catching about ten red lights, I made it there in less than fifteen minutes. I got out and walked up to the front door this time. I opened the door and went inside. No one was there to greet me, so I made my way through the house until I reached the workshop. There were two people working; one was at the Move ‘N Shaker station and the other was hovering around it with a cart waiting to pick up any finished consoles. I headed over to the table where a woman was putting together consoles. She was working hard to get the pieces to fit together, but she was obviously struggling. As I approached, she put one finished console up on the corner of her table for the young man with the cart. He snatched it up and quietly rolled it over to the conveyor belt. She picked up some more parts and started trying to put together her next console.
“Hello, are you Jordan Sinclair?” I asked her.
“Yes, I’m Jordan,” she said, shakily. “What’s wrong? Who are you?”
I put my hands up in front of me, “Oh, no, nothing is wrong. Didn’t Mrs. Clos tell you? I’m here to talk with you about the Move ‘N Shaker,” I said.
“Mrs. Clos?” she asked, “No, she didn’t say anything about anyone talking to me.”
“Well, she must have forgotten,” I said, “I’m Jenny Herman, I’m working on some market research for Santac and I just need to talk with you for a few minutes about the Move ‘N Shaker.”
“What about it?” she asked, sneering.
“I just need to know a little bit about what your experience has been working on the Move ‘N Shaker?” I said, “That’s all.”
“My experience has been that it sucks,” she said, “I can never get the damned things to go together right.”
“Really?” I asked, “It looks like you’re doing fine with it.”
“Well, after a bunch of messing around with it, I eventually get it together,” she said. She looked tired and unhappy.
“So, it’s not been a good experience for you, I take it,” I said.
“No, it hasn’t Sherlock,” she said, “it’s a job, but it drives me up the wall.”
Sherlock, I thought. If she only knew.
“Okay, well, I really don’t need much more than that from you,” I said and I started to walk away. She reached out and grabbed my arm to keep me from leaving.
“You’re not going to tell Mrs. Clos what I said are you?” she asked. She had this desperate look on her face and for a moment, I almost felt sorry for her.
Come back a little later today for Chapter Six!
Until next time…
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