|As ten P.M. approached,
Hannah filled out the produce area cleaning chart, chucked her apron
into the laundry bin and headed for the time clock at the back of the
store. Halfway back a familiar but unexpected voice came from the
open door of the grocery freezer.
". . . not going to be any goofing off tonight, I can tell you that! You're going to do what I tell you to do and I'm not putting up with any of your crap!" The frozen foods department manager glanced out and saw her, frowned and rolled his eyes. She stopped for a second to talk.
"Hey, Filbert! Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Filbert -- Hannah had never heard his last name. In this big store, where people were identified by their job titles, he was known as "Frozen Filbert". Filbert was a small balding man with a fringe of light-colored hair and pale blue eyes behind coke-bottle glasses. He came to the door, pushing aside the plastic cold strips to talk. Behind him Mitchell, the overnight frozen stocker, worked in sullen silence.
"I'm a department manager," Filbert explained, as if she didn't know. "All department managers have to work one overnight per month. This is mine. Lucky me."
"Gosh, that's too bad. Did I mention I'm on way home to goof off now?"
"Ha ha. Very funny. So how's your day been?"
"Great!" she bubbled. "I finally finished chapter eleven!"
He blinked. "You're going bankrupt?"
Hannah sighed. "Not that kind of chapter eleven. Chapter eleven in my murder mystery!"
"You're writing a murder mystery? Am I the victim?"
"Well, not yet."
He snorted. "That's reassuring. So how would you kill me, if you were going to?"
She considered. "Well, I'd want to do it on one of your overnights. And I'd want to kill you in the freezer probably, and make it look like an accident." She stepped in the door and looked around. The grocery freezer was a big, rectangular room lined with high steel shelves. The top shelf was probably ten feet off the ground. It was also bitterly cold.
Hannah stepped back out into the warmth of the hallway, rubbing her arms to get rid of the goose bumps. "The first thing I'd do," she said, "is wrap a wire around that box of frozen fish sticks on the top shelf there. It's about to fall as it is. Then I'd run the wire behind the shelves, trap it under that case of enchiladas and edge the fish sticks forward so that the wire was the only thing keeping them from falling.
"I'd find an excuse to leave, closing the door behind me, and stay away for the next hour or two. You'd be in here griping about having to do my work. You'd move the enchiladas, the wire would be released and the frozen fish sticks would fall on your head. Now, if I was lucky it'd break your neck or fracture your skull and that would be that, but I'd have to consider that it might not kill you outright. So I'd leave a bottle of water with no cap sitting where the falling fish sticks would knock it off and make it spill along the door. The water would freeze and the door wouldn't open when you staggered over, dazed and bleeding, to try to make your way to safety.
"By the time I came back you'd have frozen to death. I'd retrieve the wire and hide it and then run out into the store yelling for help."
Hannah stopped talking and looked up. Filbert was regarding her with horror, blue eyes goggling behind his glasses. "I can't believe you'd think of that!"
"Well," she said calmly, "you did ask."
"Yeah, but I didn't expect you to actually come up with a plot to kill me! That's . . . twisted and sick and evil and not normal!"
"I'm a writer," she told him. "What do you expect? Don't worry," she added kindly. "It wouldn't work anyway."
"You mean it wouldn't kill me?"
"Oh, it'd kill you. But I'd get caught."
"How do you figure that one?"
"Simple. If someone who's obnoxious and generally disliked dies in a freak accident, any cop worth his salt's going to take a close look at what happened."
"Hey!" he squawked. "You think that I’m obnoxious and generally disliked?"
"Well," she answered reasonably, "you'd have to be wouldn't you? Or I wouldn't be plotting to kill you."
"Oh," Filbert considered this, not sure if he should be happy with that answer or not. "I guess so," he finally agreed uncertainly.
"Right. So the cops are going to look closely at what happened. The wire would have cut the edges of the box and left a mark in the frost on the shelving, so they're bound to figure out how the trap was set. Since only the person who found the body would have had a chance to get rid of the wire, they're going to know immediately that I'm the killer. Case closed."
Hannah glanced at her watch. "I need to go back and time out. If you got me in trouble for staying late I might have to kill you."
"Ha ha," Frozen Filbert snorted. "I've gotta go that way myself. I'll walk with you." He turned to speak again to his assistant. "I want you to get that cart loaded and stock ice cream. And no sneaking off for a cigarette either!"
Not giving the young man time to reply, Filbert turned away and strolled with Hannah towards the back of the store.
Mitchell walked to the freezer door and peered up and down the hall. He went back in, closed the door behind himself, and dragged the ladder over. He climbed up, sighed in disgust and very carefully began unwinding the wire from around the box of frozen fish sticks.