Trey and I talked about the possibilities for a while and I decided that I needed to give Mrs. Clos a call first thing in the morning. We went through our usual tug-of-war over my unwillingness to sleep with him and finally, Trey settled for a kiss and a blanket for the couch. I had to give him an “A” for effort.
I didn’t sleep well at all. I kept dreaming about the house and the animals outside. Again, I saw the red Suburban and the man in the Santa suit. When my alarm clock finally woke me at seven-thirty, I sat up and shook my head to make sure that I was really awake. Before I even got out of bed, I picked up the phone and dialed Mrs. Clos’s number. I listened as the phone just rang and rang. No answering machine picked up. I hung up the phone and sat down at my kitchen table. I was stuck, I was cranky, and on top of everything else, I was hungry.
I trotted down the hall to the bathroom and noticed that Trey was still asleep on the couch. Quietly, I shut the door and went about my business. I was trying to decide how I was going to approach Mrs. Clos with my findings. After talking with Trey last night, I was fairly convinced that none of Santac’s employees were stealing from the company. I was even more convinced that Mrs. Clos might, in fact, be up to something. Thinking back to her visit to my office and the bruises she’d had on her face, I wondered if they might have been related to what was happening with the missing consoles. It didn’t make sense, but stranger things had happened.
I got into the shower, ever watchful of the bathroom door. It didn’t lock and I really didn’t want to be ambushed by Trey in the midst of my lather-rinse-repeat cycle. I didn’t think he would come in if he heard the shower running, but you never know about him. Sometimes, he catches me off guard. When I finished showering, I grabbed my towel and dried off and then wrapped the towel around me to go back to my bedroom. When I opened the door, Trey was sitting up on the couch. He turned and smiled at me, no doubt getting ready to say something stupid about the towel.
“Good morning,” I said.
“It’d be a better morning if you’d drop your towel,” he said, chuckling. See, I told you he couldn’t resist saying something stupid.
I smirked at him and then headed back down the hall to my room to get dressed. “I’m going out to get something to eat,” I yelled back to him, “wanna go?”
“Sure,” he said. I heard him walk across the living room and go into the bathroom. A few moments later, I heard the door open as the toilet was finishing a flush. The next thing I knew, Trey was standing in my doorway. I was still in my towel trying to find something comfortable to wear.
“Hey,” I said, “I’m trying to get dressed, here.”
“I know,” he said, “I almost missed it.” He moved closer to me and put his arms around me. Looking down at me, he brushed his lips over mine. He tasted like my toothpaste.
“Trey, I can’t,” I said.
He kissed me again. Obviously he hadn’t comprehended my previous statement. This time, his kiss was a little longer and just a little bit more involved.
“I can’t do this,” I said.
“Why not?” he asked.
This is where I made my mistake. I thought to myself as he was kissing me, “Why not, indeed?” The next thing I knew, the towel had hit the floor and I wasn’t thinking so much about breakfast anymore.
A half an hour later, I was headed back to the shower. This time, Trey promised that he would leave me alone so that we could get dressed and go get some breakfast. Times like these made me wonder why the two of us hadn’t stayed together. Though I knew the answer, I always came back to the fact that we had such good chemistry and the sex was just so good between us that it didn’t make sense to be with anyone else. I really didn’t need this confusion right now, but here it was again.
I got out of the shower and finished getting myself ready to go. When we were both ready to face the public, we went out to the Jeep and I drove us toward the IHOP.
We went in, sat down and ordered our coffee.
“So, are you going out to that place, today?” he asked when the coffee had arrived.
I emptied a couple of packets of sugar into my cup and stirred it, “You mean, Santac?”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said, “Wherever you’ve been working?”
“I think so,” I said, “I can’t get her on the phone and to tell you the truth, I want to wrap this up.”
“I could go with you,” he said, “I don’t have anything planned today.”
Trey never had anything planned. He just kind of showed up here and there, waiting to make something happen. “I guess you could go,” I said.
We talked as we ate our breakfast and when we were finished, we paid the check and headed out to Santac. When we arrived, I saw that there were no lights on in the building and there were no cars in the parking lot. I told Trey to stay in the Jeep and I went inside to see what was going on.
No one was in the main lobby, so I headed towards Mrs. Clos’s office. She was sitting behind her desk with her hands behind her tiny head. She looked so tired that I almost hated to disturb her. I knocked softly on the door.
“Hello,” she said when she saw me there. “How are you today?”
Her voice was shaky and she seemed distraught.
“Hi, is something the matter?” I asked.
“Oh, well, yes,” she said, “one of our stockers has passed away. He was sick in the hospital and he died in the middle of the night last night.”
“You’re not talking about Tony Albertson, are you?” I asked.
She nodded, “That’s the one.” She sighed deeply and then said, “I’m sorry I forgot to tell you that he couldn’t have been involved with the thefts, either. I’ve been so flustered by all of this that it completely slipped my mind that he’d been sick.”
“That’s alright,” I said, “No problem. I just came by to see if you had a moment to talk.”
“Well, yes, I guess I do,” she said, “We shut down today out of respect for Tony. What is it that you need?”
“I wanted to let you know that I have talked with all of the employees and none of them seem to be the type that would steal from you,” I told her. I swallowed hard before launching into my next statement, “I was wondering if you might have been somehow…mistaken about what was going on?”
She looked down at her desk and tapped a white, gloved finger on her blotter. “Mistaken?” she asked, “How so?”
“Well, what I mean to say is, that…well, are you sure someone is stealing from you?” I said. That came out about as smooth as a gravel road.
“Of course, I’m sure,” she said, “Why else would I pay someone to come in here and look around?” Her tone was even and she didn’t seem angry. She seemed genuinely confused.
“Maybe I’m not being very clear,” I said, “Okay; could there be some other reason why the consoles are coming up missing?”
She still didn’t seem to know what I was getting at. “Not that I’m aware of, dear.”
“Okay, well, I don’t know how much more I can do on this case,” I said, “I could come back later and see if I notice anything strange, but for now, I’ll take a break.”
“Makes sense to me,” she said, “We’ll be open again tomorrow.”
I offered my sympathy for Mr. Albertson and we said our goodbyes. When I got back into the Jeep, Trey was sitting there staring in the direction of the warehouse.
“What’s up?” I asked him.
“I saw something weird over there while you were inside,” he said, “We ought to take a look.”
“When you say weird, what do you mean?” I asked, realizing that weird was fairly normal in this place.
“Well, I don’t really want to say this, but I guess I have to,” he said, “I think I saw a reindeer running around over by that building.”
“A reindeer?” I asked, “Over there?” I pointed to the warehouse.
“Yep,” he said. “It was very strange.”
“I’m sure,” I said. We both got out of the Jeep and headed over to the building to see if we could find the animal. I looked down as we approached the warehouse and sure enough, there were some kind of hoof prints or something like that in the mud.
I wasn’t sure why there was mud in this part of the yard, but I assumed there was a good reason.
“See,” Trey said, pointing to the ground. “This is where I saw it.”
I didn’t know what to make of this. There wasn’t an animal in sight and I knew what the warehouse looked like inside. It wasn’t a place where a reindeer could roam about freely without doing a lot of damage to the décor.
“I don’t see where it could be,” I told Trey. “The warehouse is full of stuff and I know it could not possibly fit in there.”
We went back to the Jeep and that’s when I remembered the kennels that were on the other side of the house. I punched Trey in the shoulder and told him to follow me.
I headed across the parking lot and towards a row of short buildings that lined the opposite side of the yard. We walked up to them and I could hear something rustling around inside. I peeked through a crack in the building and saw a huge, hairy beast that I couldn’t readily identify. I asked Trey to take a look. He did so and then looked at me, “That’s what I saw!”
“That’s a reindeer?” I asked.
“Yep, that’s a reindeer,” he said.
“What the hell does a company like this need with reindeer?” I said.
Trey shrugged. I needed to think about this. We decided to head back to the Jeep and get the hell out of this place. I wanted to do some background checking on Mrs. Clos and her husband. That was the one thing I hadn’t done and now, I was sure that it should have been the first thing on my list.
I’ll post more later today!
Until next times…
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