56

“Why are you here?” Madison asked Bryce, while simultaneously scanning gift receipts for a customer. “Things are crazy with all these returns.”

“Nobody returns sunglasses,” Bryce said. “And they don’t buy them in the middle of winter, either. I got bored and closed the hut for a break.”

“Well am super busy,” she said. “Pretend you’re browsing so I don’t get in trouble.” Madison finished with that customer and started helping the next in line.

“Yikes,” Bryce said, looking at the shirt the woman handed Madison. “Good call returning that one.”

Madison glared at him. “Never mind him, he’s just kidding around,” she told the customer. “She’s purchasing this,” she whispered to Bryce, who grimaced.

“I get that you are on break,” she said when things had calmed down a little. “But why are you here?”

“Jackson and I had a fight,” he said.

“Shocking,” Madison deadpanned. “What now?”

“He was insufficiently effusive when he opened his present,” Bryce said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“The nerve,” she said. “Is that it?”

“Well he didn’t appreciate being told that, and so it sort of snowballed into a whole thing.”

“Whose turn is it to apologize?” she asked.

“I think it’s mine. I’m not sure.”

“You should tie that to the calendar. He apologizes in even weeks and you apologize in odd weeks,” she suggested.

“That wouldn’t work, because I’d just wait until it was his week, and then make him do it. Actually, that’s perfect. He’ll never figure out that’s what I’m doing. Ima suggest that.”

Madison laughed. “So I think I’m going back to see Mr. Black,” she said. “Confront him with what I know about the scale of the operation, and the fact that the Red Cross has never heard of Consolidated Logistics Partners.” She walked over to a display and started to tidy it up. Bryce followed.

“It makes me nervous when you go there,” Bryce said. “Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Yeah, I think so. Judy didn’t follow through on her threat, so I guess she was just trying to scare me.”

“Hell of a way to find that out. What if she had followed through?” he asked. “You’d be dead.”

“Oh, they’re harmless. I still don’t know what they’re up to. But he’s a lawyer, and she’s… well I don’t know what she did before this. But she isn’t at all scary when she isn’t pointing a gun in my face. She just seems kind of… what’s the word… exasperated.”

“With?”

“With everything. With me poking my nose where it doesn’t belong. With the olds for doing things like meeting at IHOP. She read them the riot act in that meeting I watched on Cindy’s webcam. It’s like she’s the only one who knows how to properly do whatever it is they’re doing.”

“I bet she’s a retired spy,” Bryce said.

“It’s possible. She certainly knows how to handle a gun,” Madison agreed.

“Do you think they’re a couple? Mr. Black and the old lady slash spy?”

“I don’t get that vibe,” Madison said. “I just think they’re coworkers.”

“That’s too bad,” Bryce said. “A romantic angle would be good for the story.”

“Your brain is weird, Bryce,” she said.

“Thank you.”

“Anyway, I think I’m going over there. I’ll leave location sharing on, so you can keep an eye on things. In case they kidnap me or something.”

“Oh, that’s a comforting thought,” he said. “You mean tonight? After work?”

“Yeah. Now you better go. Karen just gave me the evil eye,” she said.

Bryce sighed. “Fine. Love you,” he said as he flitted out of the store.

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