Rose thought it was probably the prettiest gun she’d ever actually seen this close up. She’d seen plenty of guns at pawn shops and had looked at the selection at Cabella’s once or twice, but none of them had caught her eye like this one.
While she knew there was a big difference between different brands, she’d never seen a Sig Sauer P 220. It was a .45 and not a girly gun.
Rose leaned more toward the .38 or a garden variety 9mm.
“This thing is a cannon,” she said and took another drag from her cigarette.
The gun scared her a little and she liked that.
She couldn’t help but be a little impressed with the man. She was still over the moon about how he’d fired a bullet at Ryan’s foot and had been careful enough to neither damage the glass coolers or the floor in a meaningful way.
The baby moved in her belly. She put the cigarette out in the ashtray by the arm of her moth-eaten couch.
“Honest, I’m trying to quit,” she lied to the child and put her hand over the hump.
After the police had gone and she’d talked with Megan and her grandson for almost an hour before they’d come to an agreement about what to do with the money. Megan had been OK with just holding onto the money, for now.
The man on the floor of her store had been very specific about hiding the money and holding onto it for him. He’d also told her to hide his pistol and holster, which was a fancy, custom job that might have cost as much as the gun.
Rose wasn’t sure. She wasn’t expert on the subject. She’d just googled it on her phone, but Rose figured that was good enough.
They also had his phone, an iPhone, naturally, but none of them knew how to unlock it. Megan and Dre were keeping it, along with the suitcase.
Rose’s phone rang. It was, predictably, Matt.
“Hey there,” he said. “How did today go?”
His voice sounded like he was talking through a cardboard box. He had the phone on speaker phone. Margie had made him call and was listening.
“About as well as you can imagine, Matt,” she told him. “The weather got bad and we had a car accident up the hill. The driver walked from the wreck to the store. We got an ambulance for him.”
“Was he hurt bad?”
Rose looked at the gun and wondered what Matt would do if the barrel of it was pointed at his knee.
“Pretty bad,” she told him and then asked, “Why are you calling me at home, Matt?”
The owner of the Shopaminit let out a long, anguished sigh.
“Rose, I don’t think we’re going to make it back by noon,” he said. “Some things have come up here and I don’t expect Margie and me will be back until late afternoon, maybe night.”
“Matt, I told you what I’d do,” she said. “I told you I’d close up at noon.”
“But you can’t do that, Rose. That’s one of our busiest times,” he said. “Look, we have to come to some kind of an arrangement. You work for us, not the other way around. I understand that you working on your day off is an imposition, but you’re a manager and you have responsibilities.”
Rose rolled her eyes and put the gun down on the cluttered coffee table in front of her.
“And you own the store, which is entirely your responsibility. Matt, we had an agreement. If you didn’t make it back by noon tomorrow, I was going to close the store,” she reminded him, adding, “In case you forgot, I’m eight months pregnant. This stress isn’t good for me and it isn’t good for the baby.”
“Your baby is not my fault,” he said.
For a second, just because Margie was listening, she thought about telling him that it was his fault. He’d kept at her for months until she gave in and now look where she was? When was he going to leave his wife, like he promised?
She said nothing of the sort.
Instead, she said, “We had a deal. You agreed to this.”
Then she reminded him, “We’re short-staffed because you hired a drunk and a pothead to work here and he got one of the handful of good workers you have, fired. There was no not firing Kelly. He was seen helping himself to a couple of cold ones by the wife of the local deputy.
“The rest is bad luck. Greg halfway cut off his foot with a lawnmower and everyone else who is on the roster, who could come in to work, was smart enough to not answer their phone when you called them yesterday.”
“Then we’re going to fire you when we get back,” Margie said. “You can’t talk to Matt like that.”
“What? You mean tell him the truth? You mean remind him that he made a promise to a pregnant woman who has worked more than 60 hours and who lost her weekend, so her boss and his wife could go to Dollywood for the weekend?”
“We had an important business meeting here,” Margie fired back. “And it was in Pigeon Forge, not Dollywood.”
“You were looking at luxury condos and taking advantage of a free weekend stay,” Rose said. “You took a three-day vacation and put an overworked and very pregnant woman in charge.”
“Pregnant, pregnant, pregnant, that’s all that comes out of your mouth,” Margie shouted. “That’s just not going to cut it anymore.”
Rose hung up on her.
They called back immediately.
“Did you just hang up on us?”
“Yes,” she said and hung up again.
Matt and Margie called again. Before they could get a word in, she repeated what Matt had agreed to and she told them, again, what would happen if they did not live up to that.
“I don’t care that you feel cheated that your weekend is getting cut short,” Rose said. “You don’t do anything around here except bring around a batch of pepperoni rolls that I think you pay your sister to make.”
They were pretty good pepperoni rolls. Despite Matt wanting them to eat them toward the end of the week, Rose usually got hers five minutes after Margie dropped them off.
“I have no idea what you do with the rest of your time,” Rose said. “I don’t have much of an idea what Matt does with his time, either. He comes to the store for right around six hours a week, most of which he spends in the office playing games on his phone.
“I do know what I do with my time. I manage this store and I’m tired, Margie. I’m real tired and Matt needs to make good. So, I’m sorry if you’re going to miss getting a waffle in the morning or you’re not going to get a chance to look at crap you’re never going to buy at some gift shop, but you need to step up.”
She let out a long sigh and said, “If you want to fire me. Let’s do that now and I won’t even bother to set my alarm tonight. Matter-of-fact, I’ll get up tomorrow and go put my application over at the Pizza Hut across the way. Ryan has taken a real shine to me.”
Working for Ryan would be awful, Rose realized, but nothing scared an employer more than realizing they could be replaced, easily, that they had no power over the people who worked for them.
“You’d do that?” Matt sounded wounded. “You’d leave us in the lurch to go sling pizzas a hundred yards away? After all we’ve done for you.”
At that, Rose snickered. No, she laughed, loudly.
“You think that’s funny?” he complained.
“Shut up, Matt,” Margie said, her voice low and defeated. Then she asked, “Can we come to some kind of arrangement?”
“Margie,” Rose said. “We had an arrangement. Matt and I made an agreement.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” she said. “But now you’re dealing with me. There is no way we’re going to get back before noon. Matt hasn’t taken me anywhere in years and yes, it’s just a crappy free weekend at a condo that we only got because we sat through a six-hour sales pitch, but I’ve lived with this man for 15 years. I deserved this getaway.”
Rose considered. She was probably right. Matt was a piece of work.
“What if Matt comes to relieve you at 3 o’clock?” She asked. “That’s just three hours. What would we have to do to get you to agree to stay until three?”
Rose was silent as she thought about it.
“Well?” Margie asked.
“I’m going to need a minute Margie. I need to decide whether I can trust either of you. If I agree to this and we come to an arrangement, what’s to stop you from firing me the second you get what you want?”
Soothingly, Margie said, “We’re not going to fire you. Why would you even think that?”
Because it sounds like you’ve already discussed it, Margie thought, but that was OK. She had collateral. She had her key and Matt’s key to the gas pumps. She also had the ledger for their suppliers, when they’d been paid last and how much they owed them.
The keys and the ledger would be going in her car after she turned on the pumps in the morning. She’d leave with both, which would keep them from firing her outright. They’d have to get them back from her, which bought her a day.
What could she do past that? She’d have to think about it.
“OK,” Rose said. “I’m going to want a hundred dollars an hour for every hour you are past noon. We will round up. If you show up at 3:01 tomorrow, that’s going to be $400. If you wait until 4:01 to get here, that’s $500. Do you get me?”
“That’s highway robbery,” Matt said.
“That’s the price of your weekend getaway,” she said, though she knew that Margie and Matt might just stiff her on the money.
Actually, that seemed pretty likely.
Margie said, “Fine. We’ll pay it. You keep the store open until we get there, and we’ll pay what you say.”
Rose didn’t believe it now, not at all.
“Don’t let me down,” she said.
“I hate that you think so poorly of us,” Margie said.
Me, too, she thought.