Back to the Dumpsters
Velvet arrived at work that night toting bits and pieces of gossip in her head, all of it juicy, but none of it definitive. She put her cell phone and her purse in her glove box, locked her car, and hurried against the whipping autumn wind to the backdoor. Once inside The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road, Velvet quickly navigated the maze to the security room, not pausing to think about what might be lurking in or around that new crate (or the other side of that wall). She found the atmosphere in the security room an odd mix of boiling and icy.
Cami and Trey sat hunched in their chairs while Otis stood behind them, arms folded across his thin chest, absolutely fuming.
“Hey, guys, how’s it going?” Velvet asked hesitantly, looking around the room as she spoke, trying to figure out what the hell had happened.
“Otis is in a mood,” Trey said, getting to his feet.
“He’s always in a mood,” Velvet said, casting a glance at Otis, who was definitely in a mood.
Cami stood up, too.
“Where are you going?” Otis asked, his voice gruffer than usual. “You still got ten minutes.”
“I’ll take the cut,” Trey said, scooching past Velvet to get out of the door. Cami followed right behind him.
Velvet stared at Otis, who stared back. She listened for Trey and Cami to clock out, gave them a second to flee, and then walked back out of the security room to clock in. Otis followed her. The two of them clocked in and went back in the security room to start their shift.
“What did you do?” Velvet asked.
“I didn’t do anything. It’s what Kobel did,” Otis said, sitting heavily in his chair, the damn thing screaming like an overacting victim in a cheap horror movie.
“What did Mr. Kobel do?” Velvet asked, sitting down in her own chair a little more delicately. It still squeaked horrendously.
“Left a message for us.”
Otis sat back in his chair, ignoring the noise, and glared at the monitors. Velvet stared at him for a moment, waiting. With a roll of her eyes, she prompted him, speaking slowly, enunciating every word.
“What is the message, Otis?”
“He said that the next time we need to call the police, we’re supposed to call him first,” Otis said.
Velvet waited and when Otis said nothing more, she picked apart the sentence, looking for the insult.
“So?” she said.
“So?” Otis scoffed. “I’m not deferring my judgment and my responsibilities to that man.”
“It’s his warehouse, Otis,” Velvet said, shaking her head at Otis’s wounded pride.
“And it’s my job.”
“I thought you were retiring.”
“And until I do, this is still my job.”
Otis shut down, going into full pout mode, his whole posture a frown. Velvet sighed, and leaned back in her chair, looking up at the monitors. Why did men have to be so impossible?
Normally, Otis would have walked the first round, but he was in such a fiercely foul mope over his job and retirement that he didn’t even make an attempt to get out of the chair when Velvet told him it was time. So, she walked the first round, her own mood souring over Otis’s behavior and his impending retirement (which she was still not sure he’d actually be able to go through with, but was afraid that he would), her brain rolling over the bits of gossip she’d acquired during the day in an attempt to keep the dark shadow of fear at bay. Because against all logic, Velvet was a little afraid. The killer was long gone. Those shadows were just shadows and those noises were just noises. There was nothing to be afraid of. Yet she was. Just a little.
Velvet completed that round in record time, coming back to the security room to find that Otis’s mood hadn’t improved
“It’s going to be a long night,” she said as she sat down.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re in full grump,” Velvet said. “You’re no fun when you’re in full grump.”
Otis grumped loudly in reply. “I’m not here to have fun.”
“Yeah, but it’s only when you’re in full grump that it makes it impossible for me to have fun.”
Otis ignored her. Velvet reached over and gave him a nudge.
“You’re not really going to retire, Otis. Right?”
“My mind is made up, Velvet, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.”
Velvet crossed her arms in a huff. “You’re a real pain, Otis.”
“Well, you won’t have to put up with me for much longer.”
“But I want to put up with you.” Velvet paused. “Except when you’re being a grump.”
Otis didn’t respond.
Velvet left him be for a bit. Her eyes drifted over the monitors in a pattern, starting at the top and working across, then down and across again, back and forth. It was a soothing sort of thing, even if she did end up suffering from eyestrain after a couple of hours. But it was also an easy way to pass the time. It didn’t require much thought.
“I’m going to walk rounds.”
Velvet jumped, her chair squeaking loudly and preventing her from pretending that she hadn’t. Otis looked over at her with a raised eyebrow before his own chair squealed as he got up.
“So nice of you to participate,” Velvet said. “I was wondering since you were retiring if you were going to walk rounds at all.”
“I always do my job,” Otis said, deadly serious.
“Really? You didn’t walk the first round.”
“You didn’t ask.”
“I never have to!”
“I’ll be back.”
Otis stalked out of the security room, flashlight in hand and radio on his belt.
“Maybe it would be better if that old grouch did retire,” Velvet muttered to herself, knowing full well she didn’t really mean it.
She went back to the monitors, watching Otis disappear and reappear as he walked through the maze. Something on another monitor caught her eye. It moved quickly, but Velvet was a little quicker, seeing it before it vanished.
A shadow in the parking lot.