“Tools in a Candy Store”
Manny and the tools wasted no time in getting to Mr. Lopart’s Candy Store. At the entrance they saw that the lights in the main part of the store were out, but looking further back, Manny could see the glow of lights. He opened the door, and the jingling of the bell that hung overhead startled him and the tools. When a few of them gasped in surprise, she made a shushing gesture, and grabbed the bell so it made no more noise.
Stepping inside, the store was quiet, with a display or too having toppled over and spilled onto the floor. Manny and the tools had to be careful not to slip on the spilled candy. Venturing deeper into the store, Manny finally sees Kelly, who notices him right away.
She is bound with heavy nylon cord, and gagged with tape over her mouth. She had a gash on her forehead, blood from the injury drying on her face. Manny and the tools rush over to her, and he beings to untie her bounds. As he’s about to remove the gag, he hears Pat call out, “Manny! Look out!”
Manny turns to see that Mr. Lopart has captured Pat the hammer, and is brandishing him as a weapon, threatening to hit Manny with his own tool.
“Don’t move a muscle!” Mr. Lopart warns Manny and the other tools. Pat struggles in Mr. Lopart’s grip, to no avail.
“Now, there’s no need to hurt anyone else, Mr. Lopart.” Manny said calmly, raising his hands and backing away from Kelly. The remaining tools followed suit.
“Now, you just stay over there, with the jawbreakers,” Mr. Lopart said, his voice shaking slightly.
“Si, Mr. Lopart.” Manny said calmly. “No one is making any sudden movements. Why don’t you put Pat down? I’m sure he’d be more comfortable and calm over here, too.” Pat was still struggling in Mr. Lopart’s grip.
“I don’t think I’ll being doing that, just yet, Manny.” Mr. Lopart tightened his grip on the hammer, holding with both hands. “You see, I don’t trust you or your tools, now that you know my secret.”
“Si, I understand.” Manny said. “But were not here to hurt you. We were all just concerned about you. After what happened to your mother.” Manny hinted that he knew about Mrs. Lopart.
“Oh Manny, I hated to do what I did. But it had to be done.” Mr. Lopart confessed. “I was never really good enough, you see. I was Mother’s bumbling son, always messing up.” He sighed. “I became weary of it all.”
“Your mother, she loved you very much. I’m sure she was very proud of you and your candy business.”
“I only figured that out by accident!” Mr. Lopart was exasperated! “My life is a series of accidents! Always screwing something up! I couldn’t even shush my mother without leaving evidence behind! Poor Rusty was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“But, Rusty was in the repair shop! With us tools!” Pat said, confused. Manny and the other tools shushed him, but Mr. Lopart didn’t notice.
Mr. Lopart looked at the hammer in his hands. “I just meant to borrow him.” He said, his nervous grip tightening. “We had a leaky pipe, you see. I meant to fix it myself. So I borrowed Rusty.”
“Kidnapped in the night, you mean,” Turner said under his breath, but Mr. Lopart heard.
“BORROWED.” He said firmly. “I borrowed Rusty to fix the pipe, but Mother kept insisting. “Call that Manny,” she said over and over. “He’s quite handy. He could fix it in no time!” He repeated, mocking her womanly voice. “I tried to tighten a washer and the pipe busted! I was so angry! And then Mother said, “I’ll call Manny.” And walked away without even thinking of letting me try it!” He paused as if remembering the moment. “Next thing I knew, I was swinging the wrench, and Mother’s face got in the way.” Mr. Lopart made slight jerking motions, without realizing what he was doing. His thinning hair was waving breezily with the movement, and Manny noticed a twitch developing in his right eye.
“I couldn’t think,” Mr. Lopart continued without prompt. “So I wrapped Rusty, who wasn’t moving anymore, in a cloth and put him behind the repair shop.” He sighed. “I’ve been hiding here ever since.”
“When Kelly came knocking on the door,” he looked at Kelly and then toward the entrance, “I knew she knew. When I didn’t answer she gave up and left.” He paused, staring dazedly at his captive. “But I couldn’t let her get away and tell what I did. So I followed her back to the hardware store.” He paused, sighed again. “She put up a good fight. But she’s still alive! That’s good right?”
“Mr. Lopart. She didn’t know it was you that had done all of these things.” Manny informed him.
“What’s that now?” Mr. Lopart asked, confused.
“Kelly, the tools, and I went to Mrs. Lopart, because I found a white hair in the repair shop. Knowing she was one of those who have white hair here in Sheetrock Hills, we wanted to ask her about it. To see what she knew.” Manny said. “That’s when I found her in the kitchen floor. Kelly was just coming because she thought a friend she be the one to tell you that your mother was dead.”
“Oh, oh my.” Mr. Lopart said. “Well, I appreciate the thought, Kelly.”
Kelly, still bound and gagged, just stared at Mr. Lopart with a combination of fear and disbelief on her face.
“I only realized that the hair wasn’t human when the detective told me it belonged to a cat. It was then that I thought of Fluffy.” Just at that moment, as if the overly confident kitty knew they were discussing him, he sauntered into the room, in all is white haired glory.
Mr. Lopart looked longingly at his beloved pet, momentarily distracted by the feline’s presence. Manny took advantage of the interruption, and he reached out and began to free Kelly.
Mr. Lopart’s grip on Pat loosened, Fluffy having eased his nerves, and the hammer wiggled free enough to take a brave swing at his captor. Mr. Lopart called out in surprise, tripping over Fluffy as she attempted to pounce on the tools.
Kelly, now free, shoos the cat away from the tools, who then began to pin Mr. Lopart to the ground. Manny steps up to Mr. Lopart, whose lying in the floor shielding himself from the tools’ sudden aggression. Using a bit of the rope used to tie Kelly, Manny secured Mr. Lopart’s wrists together.
Moment’s later, the sounds of sirens near as the current occupants of the candy shop await their arrival.
“Thank you for saving me, Manny.” Kelly said with a whisper.
“We tried to get him to call the police instead.” Felipe said, looking bashful.
“Yeah, we thought it’d be dangerous.” Turner said.
“Well, I’m very grateful you came to my rescue, Manny.” Kelly said again. “You’re my hero.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Manny blushed, suddenly shy. “Well, I always try to do the right thing.”
“You know, if you think about it, Kelly wouldn’t have gotten kidnapped if we hadn’t went to Mrs. Lopart’s and found her!” Pat said. “And that was Manny’s idea!” Everyone but Mr. Lopart laughed awkwardly at Pat’s revelation, as the police arrived.